THE shockwaves of the collapse of Jersey Reds are continuing to reverberate as the rugby world continues to come to terms with the loss of the Island’s premier sports club.
Tom Pittman left Jersey for Cornish Pirates in the summer, despite previously being offered a contract that would have meant he would still be at the Reds.
He was looking forward to playing against his former team-mates, and his former club, on Friday night, before catching up with them post-game, and feels its now surreal that its not happening.
The 24-year-old who was part of the Reds’ glorious Championship-winning season, said: “I can’t believe it: it seems nuts. I woke up to a message from Jordan Holgate on Thursday being like ‘Mate, the club’s gone bust. We’re not coming today’.
“Everyone thought Jersey Reds would be very financially stable, probably more than any club in the Championship.
“It’s strange. I couldn’t believe it. At first I thought Jordy was having me on, trying to get into my head about the game this week – obviously that’s sadly not the case – and then he told me about it, and I spoke to some of the players, and I still can’t believe it.
“Some of them are in worse situations than others. Some have got kids and families, while others will find it easier to move if they’re on their own.”
The former Boroughmuir Bears and University of Bath playmaker, who spent two years at St Peter, fears some of Reds’ stars may be forced to call an early end to their careers.
He added: “I do wonder whether some of them, especially the older members of the club with families, will call time on their career, as this can be so tough to take when they perhaps had an eye on staying on the Island in a coaching or off-field role.
“I chatted to Dan Barnes, Adam Nicol and a couple of others. One silver lining is that most of them are great players who will find other clubs if they want to. Obviously it depends on the clubs. They may have to take a salary cut like I have at Cornish Pirates.
“It’s all pretty strange. I feel very lucky that I’m not there, and in the nicest possible way I’m sure most of the guys who left in the summer feel like that.
“I spoke to Ryan Hutler, who is doing well at Coventry, Will Brown and Hamish Bain, and none of us can truly believe it.”
Pittman believes there are questions which need to be answered as to how a club could reach the heights that it did last season and be on the brink of liquidation a few months later.
He adds: “I feel most for the players, as we were always told that the club was very financially stable, that Reds had numerous investors, and that’s why it’s come as a real shock.
“The fact that the club has shut up straight away – that’s there’s not even a chance – and no talk of 50% wages or anything for a month or two until they find a solution; the fact that no one is getting paid – it just shows that somewhere along the way there’s been a huge error.
“Where has it come from? Everyone at Pirates has just said ‘We thought Jersey had loads of money’. That’s the impression everyone got. No one knew that they were struggling cash-wise.
“I was in the meeting last season after some of the Premiership clubs went bust, when Mark Morgan came in and said, ‘Guys, don’t worry, we’ve got numerous investors, we’re financially stable – I don’t want you to think we’re in a bad place. Just focus on your rugby’.
“Well, it’s just crazy to think that later in the year, that’s not the case. Its just so hard on everyone, because no one knows who has pulled out from investing in the club. That’s never going to be mentioned.
“Over the last three months, the Jersey government have pumped in a lot of money, and I think Mark could have told the staff and players about that, and explained the situation.
“He always said last season that he would be transparent with everyone, but there has clearly been a communication breakdown, and there was an issue with people getting paid late last month.
“I think that’s where there’s been a real problem, that this hasn’t been highlighted in private at all, and I just feel for all the people that have moved their whole life to Jersey, who now have to leave again.
“People like Robin Wedlake, who was here at Pirates, had only ever lived in Cornwall, made that move, and now this has happened. I just feel sorry for everyone, and that’s my overriding feeling.”