With rumours circulating about the future of the club's rugby league section, Rylands benefactor Paul Stretford agreed to sit down with Guardian sports reporter Matt Turner to give an update...

MT: There’s a lot being said about what’s going on with the rugby section at the moment. Can you give us the latest?

PS: First of all, I’ll say a lot of the cut and bluster has come from people outside the club who for whatever reason have gone and done their own thing for their preconceptions of what the matter is.

I can state clearly that on the day I came here to say “I have a vision, I have a dream of what we can do here,” it very much included rugby. I couldn’t have had the remit to do what we’re doing without rugby being a part of it.

The rugby section invited me to a meeting. I made things clear about the hard things that need to be done to make this club sustainable. That meant that the divisions that were there – rugby and football – had to operate in exactly the same way.

We also had within that a number that the committee at that time – and we’re now on the fourth different rugby committee – they signed up to in terms of what they would present.

I told them we would need to ensure that subs were paid to the club. This is not the fault of people who play rugby here but previously, the club pretty much had whatever it wanted for free. They paid their subs to themselves and they enjoyed that for whatever they needed it to be.

That is not sustainable. This club cannot present its facilities to people for nothing.

If we’re going to become a community club, we need to raise money to improve the facilities. I was completely honest and open about that.

I have to say I’ve been really disappointed with a select number in terms of the position they have taken and the brick wall I have come up against in terms of getting them to buy into what it would take.

To this day, the rugby section have been paying money into a bank account that the club don’t control or have access to but despite that, we’ve allowed the facilities to keep being used.

We’ve paid for new equipment – we spoke to one of the team managers two weeks ago and said that whatever happens, we would maintain our commitment to providing equipment for your team.

We’ve paid insurance, for food, and this is all on the back of promises for tomorrow. The problem with promises for tomorrow is that tomorrow never comes.

I needed to make promises happen today and that has meant we’re now looking to find a different solution.

Warrington Guardian:

The main rugby pitch at Rylands Recreation Club, which is now used for football

I want to have a partnership with the rugby team. I want them to be welcome here and I want to help them in terms of moving forward, but they have to do it on my terms and not theirs.

Some people will not like that and some people will be accusatory about that but quite frankly, I haven’t got time to think about that. I have been told about it but I’m not interested in it.

What I do know is that all this trouble has been caused by people who are not actually a part of the club anymore.

Using the club’s facilities without having to pay for them is not acceptable. It can’t go on and it won’t go on.

> Rylands Sharks juniors secure a new home

MT: There is the opinion that people see you as the villain, running roughshod over years of tradition. What do you say to that?

PS: The tradition is for this place is to be at the centre of its community, both socially and in terms of sport.

In my opinion, had I not stepped in when I did, this place would not be functioning.

When I took over this place, the club was in disarray. The processes were in disarray, the bar was not fit for purpose, the committee was not fit for purpose.

It was waiting for the day it was going to be closed down. The landowners were running the lease down on it.

Once that lease had run out, the sporting rights to this place disappear.

Someone needed to come in with a new plan – someone with fresh blood, fresh money and fresh ideas.

I can’t do that all on my own. I need the support of those who want to use it.

If it takes upsetting some former members to make sure this place is here for another 100 years or more, I will be happy when I’m laid to rest.

I won’t be worrying about those in the background on social media not using their own name and who aren’t part of the club.

Warrington Guardian:

Paul Stretford

MT: So the door is not shut on rugby league being played at Rylands Rec again?

PS: No, absolutely not.

We’re still in discussions about what is the best way forward. I want the best for them and what’s best for us.

If we can get to that, great. If we can’t, we’ll come to a compromise that’s suitable to make sure that rugby continues while having some allegiance and alliance to what goes on here.

That’s different from people who want to use rugby as a sport and it’s name to not deliver anything back to the place that allows it to be what it is.

You can’t have one without the other. Rylands company is long gone – back in the 1970s I think.

The funding has long since dried up. The place has been living on whispers of air.

I’m pumping oxygen into it, but I’m pumping oxygen into parts of the club that want it and want to follow the journey. I don’t believe there’s anything wrong in that whatsoever.

MT: There will be people that accept your reasoning on all this and some that won’t. Do you feel like this episode has put you on the back foot with the community in terms of winning them over to what you’re trying to do here? Are you worried that people will forever say “this is Paul Stretford who kicked rugby out of Rylands?”

PS: Well that’s not the facts. The people who took themselves out of Rylands took themselves out because their committee committed to something and they didn’t deliver on it.

Rather than sitting back down and sorting it out, they left with their teams.

I have never told a single team to leave this club – even now as we sit here – but you have to meet certain requirements for the club to move forward.

Warrington Guardian:

Rylands Recreation Club

MT: Was that the case with the cricket and the bowls as well?

PS: No, that was a decision I took because they were not putting anything back into the club.

The bowls was the most expensive piece of grass in the whole of this club and nobody was coming in to even buy a drink, never mind pay a membership or anything else. It’s not sustainable.

With cricket, once again they didn’t use any of our facilities and weren’t paying for the facilities they had.

That’s a decision I made and a decision I stand by because we’re trying to build something for the community. And that’s the greater community, not the minority.

I’m sorry, but I need the space to allow junior football to flourish again at this club.

When I came here there were two teams – a first team and a reserve team – and we’re now upwards of 16 times covering boys, girls, youth and men.

That’s the vision that was laid out when I arrived, so there’s not surprises. Of course it will upset some people, but it doesn’t put me on the back foot.