Francis heaps praise on the Saints hierarchy for their handling of tough times

Saints centre Piers Francis has praised Mark Darbon and Chris Boyd for their 'transparent' handling of events caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

By Tom Vickers
Thursday, 2nd July 2020, 7:00 am
Piers Francis is happy with life at Saints after signing a new contract at the club this week
Piers Francis is happy with life at Saints after signing a new contract at the club this week

Clubs across the country have found themselves in financial difficulty as English rugby has been halted since for several months.

Saints' most recent game came at Worcester Warriors on March 6, and match action won't return until August at the earliest.

And even when it does resume, it looks unlikely that fans will be allowed into the stadium, meaning money generated from gate receipts continues to be absent.

That has forced clubs to make a series of tough decisions, with 12-month pay cuts, understood to be around 10 per cent, implemented at Franklin's Gardens this week.

But 19 players, including Courtney Lawes and Dan Biggar, have this week agreed contract extensions at Saints, showing their faith in those in charge at Franklin's Gardens.

Francis was one of the players to commit his future to the black, green and gold.

And when asked how he feels Saints have handled these turbulent times, the England back said: "The club have been good.

"I don't speak to a lot of people at other clubs but I know every club's a bit different and I think Northampton have handled it really well.

"We've had some really good, open dialogue with Mark Darbon in particular, particularly around the state of the club and where things are at.

"There have obviously been salary reductions but I believe that at Northampton we sit in a very stable position, which is really reassuring from a player's perspective.

"We've taken cuts like everybody, but I feel like the club have tried to reduce those cuts as much as possible and it is just a natural fact of what Covid has done to businesses and incomes.

"For me, I was a little bit different because I was always out of contract this year so tried to get the ball rolling pretty early with trying to renew.

"I hit a few obstacles along the way with injuries, pandemics and bits and bobs but the club have been good and I'm pleased to re-sign and crack on.

"The re-signing is a small part of trying to secure some employment, making sure it's right for the family and then getting back on the pitch, which we're all excited about."

CEO Darbon has overseen a huge amount of change at Saints since arriving in 2017, drawing plenty of praise for the way he has helped to revolutionise the club's approach.

Boyd, too, has been widely acclaimed by supporters for his attitude off the field, as well as the progress he has delivered on it.

And Francis added: "I've got a lot of time for Mark and Chris, and, as a group of players, Mark's been very open with us around the state of the club.

"He's shown us the black and white of what's there and what's not, and he's not hiding behind anything.

"We understand the kind of hit the pandemic has caused for businesses and particularly in pro sport.

"We've been hit pretty hard and to go and watch sport is a luxury so we sit in that slightly vulnerable bracket, but from what we understand the club has made some really good, stable foundations, and they have always been that way.

"When I signed three years ago, I was always told Northampton were a very steady, stable financial club and they go about things the right way.

"It's nice, it's reassuring and we know they are approaching it correctly.

"They have been very transparent with us in what they are asking us to do.

"We've got no complaints and we're happy to play our part as a playing group because we know there is a bit of an expense there and where we can help out, we will.

"We're just looking forward to getting crowds back in and getting revenue back into the Gardens."