There was a good turnout at Berwick Rangers Open Forum in the Black and Gold Club on Saturday ( November 30th ). Club vice chairman John Bell began proceedings with a series of on screen photos of Rangers’ teams from the past, the purpose to emphasise that the club has a long history which predates its membership of the Scottish League, a status, which, because of Berwick’s position in the table, is now under threat.
He began his address with the stark statement that the club continues to operate within an unsustainable financial model. Total annual turnover comes to roughly £300,000. How expenditure is divided up was illustrated on a pie chart. Money on players, including wages and such as National Insurance contributions account for 43% of outgoings. ( He later reported that the club’s general insurance bill had gone up by £4,000 in one season.) At 22%, maintaining Shielfield takes up a further hefty slice of pie. In contrast, the cost of running the Reserve team, at 1%, is a mere morsel by comparison.
Admission prices for next season have been re-set. Normal price for adults aged 18-64 ( not 60 as at present ) will remain at £12 with Concessions for those aged 17 and under, 65 and over, spectators with a disability and full time students at £7 ( down £1 on the present Concessions rate ).
Two new forms of season tickets will be introduced at £50 each; one for Seniors ( 75+ ), the other for Youths ( 13-17 ). Junior Season Vouchers will give free entry to those who are 12 or under if they are accompanied by an adult. A JB Lounge season ticket will be £420 ( £320 Concessions ) but will also cover home Betfred Cup ties.
The club’s chairman elect went on to highlight a list of targets that need to be met simply for the club to break even. These include obtaining shirt sponsorship, increasing the number of adults watching matches, selling all individual match sponsorships and 90 advertising boards around the ground. He next explained how Berwick Rangers is facing increased competition for players from ambitious non-League clubs some of whom can almost match what the Shielfield club can offer in wages. This is on top of being up against what some SPFL 2 rivals are able to pay and cited Peterhead, Clyde and Edinburgh City in particular.When manager Johnny Harvey took centre stage, without naming individual players, he described instances where he had missed out on targeted signings because of such wage differentials.
Towards the end of his contribution, John Bell, who had already described some other promotional activities that are in the pipeline, was asked if the plans regarding admission prices would be revised should the club drop into the Lowland League. He suggested that, with fans’ approval, they would not so as to maximise the chances of getting straight back into the SPFL after just one season out. In addition, a relegated club receives a ‘parachute’ payment of £40,000, comparable to the current level of central funding, plus it would still be guaranteed a Betfred Cup place and would enter the Scottish Cup at the same round as now.
The manager insisted that he isn’t even talking about the Lowland League and believes his team is better that Albion Rovers with whom it is involved in the relegation scrap. He conceded that the performances in the heavy defeats at home to Peterhead and away to Queen’s Park and Annan Athletic were unacceptable but will never criticise lack of quality, only lack of effort.
On the subject of criticism, he no longer looks at social media as it contains too much negativity though one member of the audience suggested that some of this should be more truly viewed as a reflection of supporters’ passion for the club.
Also from the floor, Mr Harvey was asked whether the club has considered recruiting again from the north east of England. The answer was in the affirmative. Scouts were already looking at players with one down on Tyneside on business that very afternoon. As for the logistics of training, he would look for a tie up with a Northern League club with whom any Berwick north east men could train once a week but once a fortnight, they would be expected to travel to Scotland for training. Training would also be held in Berwick once a fortnight. Berwick’s Scottish training base would be moving from East Lothian to Edinburgh. Use of an ‘elite’ complex at Peffermill has been secured, a handier location for players living in Fife or the Glasgow area.
** A couple of hours after the Forum closed, Berwick took on Edinburgh City in SPFL 2. The visitors won 2-0, both goals coming in the first half. In what was about their only serious chance in the match, Berwick saw Daryl Healy’s header hooked off the line in the last minute. They also had keeper Sean Brennan to thank for a number of good saves. Meanwhile, relegation play off rivals Albion Rovers fell to a late Clyde goal in Coatbridge which means Rovers remain just one point ahead of Berwick at the foot of the table with both teams having only five games left to play.