Batley's firm foundation

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The Independent Online


Batley are preparing for the First Division by ploughing their resources into bricks and mortar rather than flesh and blood.

The club, bottom of the League, bankrupt and derelict when the present board took over six years ago, yesterday unveiled a 2,250-capacity £500,000 stand, in readiness for what is now almost certain promotion to the First Division for the first time in their 100-year history.

The stand, largely funded by grants under the City Challenge Scheme, together with another for which plans are already drawn, will bring Batley up to the minimum standard soon to be demanded of First Division clubs.

It is on that, rather than on new players of the calibre being recruited by their Second Division title rivals, Keighley, that Batley will continue to spend their money.

"We do things rather differently," their chairman, Stephen Ball, said. "Our money will go into facilities rather than on a player who might break his ankle in his first match."

Ball believes that it is the club's fiscal rigour that has brought it to the brink of its biggest success since it won the Challenge Cup three times around the turn of the century.

"We are the most financially competent club in the game," he said. "We have no debts and our extra income in the First Division will be just that - extra income."

The stand, which will open for the derby against Dewsbury on Good Friday, is part of a developing multi-sports complex at a ground which was once one of the game's biggest embarrassments. There are, however, no plans to renovate the club's 46-year-old player-coach, Jeff Grayshon, nor to level Mount Pleasant's even more venerable slope.

"The slope is of great benefit to Batley and part of its history and character," Ball said. It also enables the rain, of which Mount Pleasant has seen more than its share this winter, to flow away downhill - a direction in which Ball is determined that the club as a whole will not go.

The game's Council will this afternoon formally discuss a possible move to summer rugby for the first time.

The Featherstone forwards, Steve Molloy and Joe Naidole, will face the disciplinary committee tomorrow after being reported for incidents in the Silk Cut Challenge Cup semi-final defeat by Leeds.

Wigan's prop forward Kelvin Skerrett also faces possible action after being reported for striking a Halifax opponent on Sunday.