Salford don’t need to sell to survive, says Ian Laithwaite

Salford lost a “safety net” with the departure of millionaire owner Marwan Koukash but do not have to sell to survive, according to the club’s new managing director Ian Laithwaite.

The Red Devils on Monday pocketed in excess of £100,000 from the sale of full-back Gareth O’Brien to Toronto Wolfpack, less than five months after accepting £175,000 from Warrington for forward Ben Murdoch-Masila.

The transfers have been completed since Koukash handed the Betfred Super League club over to a four-strong consortium of supporters headed by local businessman Andrew Rosler.

The transfer of O’Brien, the player who kept Salford in Super League by winning the Million-Pound Game 18 months ago, has set alarm bells ringing among some fans but Laithwaite insists there is no need to panic and reveals he has met with the players to offer them assurances about the future.

“We didn’t have to sell him,” Laithwaite said at the launch of Salford’s Club 13 at the AJ Bell Stadium. “He wanted to go and talk to Toronto and they’ve offered him more money, so good luck to him.

“I’m sure we’ve all moved jobs for more money at some point in our lives and he’s no different.

“It was a tough decision but, when the player wants to go, we had to take it.”

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Salford rejected an offer from Hull KR on the eve of the 2018 season for half-back Robert Lui and Laithwaite says they are working on strengthening coach Ian Watson’s squad, particularly after losing winger Manu Vatuvei for the year with a ruptured Achilles.

“We were already lean before Gaz left so we’re doing some work on bringing in two bodies – preferably three – now,” said Laithwaite, whose arrival a month ago saw Ian Blease switch roles from chief executive to director of rugby.

“Ian Blease and Ian Watson are doing some work on that and I’m sure we’ll be in a position to announce something on that in the next few weeks.

“I’ve addressed all the players. We’ve been approached from a couple of clubs who enquired about a few players and we’ve knocked everything back.

“The squad are strong and while there was a little concern when rumours came out about Gaz leaving, I’ve explained to them that he wanted to leave and we didn’t have to sell.

“Financially it’s tight but we’ll be fine.”

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Laithwaite, a former footballer with Bury who worked in commercial roles at Bolton and Wigan, is confident the Red Devils can survive in the absence of the financial clout of Koukash, who bankrolled the club for nearly five years before becoming disillusioned with poor crowds.

“There are some challenges and it’s a bit of a year of transition,” added Laithwaite.

“We’ve gone from a club supported by Marwan Koukash to a club that’s now not – and all of a sudden we’ve got to look at things differently.

“Marwan was the safety net and we now don’t have it. He’s still a sponsor of the club and he still supports the club and we get on with him.

“He’s offered his assistance, too, but we’ve gone to a community club that has to rely on that community to step forward and support that club.

“We’ve a short-term goal relating to this season, then hopefully we can plan a bit further once we get through the season.

“We’ve got a strong squad and a great coach and I think there’s every chance we’ll sneak into those Super 8s and be absolutely fine.”