Introductions from panel members followed by Q & A session. Panel comprising of David Longmuir (CEO SFL) Neil Doncaster (CEO SPL) Fraser Wishart (CEO PFA) Dave Boyle (CEO SD) Gordon Thomson (CEO CLYDE FC)
After a five minute introduction from all the panel members a lively question and answer session followed which actually was permitted to over run by some thirty minutes due to delegate’s eagerness to question messers Longmuir and Doncaster.
As you would imagine the majority of the questions were on the SPL’s reorganisation plans so the following notes I made mostly refer to that question. Initially Mr Doncaster replied saying that revenue generated from the current system amounted to 19 million pounds per season of which 17 million went to the SPL (a third of which goes to the old firm) and 2 million going to division one. Little or no mention was made of divisions 2 and 3 with any reference made to “them” as community clubs and not much else. He then said if the fans preference of a 16 team league were to happen 20 million pounds would be lost to the game.
The only choice was a 10/12/14 structure with his choice very much the 10 team option. He carried on to say if the 10 team option was not adopted then players would leave Scotland to other leagues who would offer them better money. Mr Longmuir then said the main problem with division 1 was that there was only one promotion place and this had to change but went on to say that clubs in divisions 2 and 3 were crucial to the SFL. He said that for each SFL club if they were able to attract between 5 and 10% of their local population that is a sustainable model.
Some SFL clubs he said were thinking of issuing an under 16’s rover tick for £50 which would give them access to any SFL ground. He concluded that piece by saying that in the season just finished SFL attendances on average were down 2%.
Mr Boyle at this point added that there’s not been a time when there’s been more money in Scottish football yet poverty is being pleaded by so many and on the later question raised on the present conduct of FIFA members he said that each member on their executive committee was paid £250k for their 4 year tenure. Mr Doncaster was then asked to comment on the same question (FIFA) but refused to do so on the grounds that there were journalists present. Mr Doncaster then said that as many games as possible, come the latter stages of the season, have to be more meaningful. On a slightly different tack Mr Boyle, in reply to a different question, said that fans representatives on national governing bodies (eg SFA) need more “clout” and the ability to instigate debate. At present they are only able to see first hand how “bad” decisions are actually made. The SD representative on the FA council can also only observe and not instigate debate. To many delegates surprise Mr Doncaster then made comment to the effect that in his opinion fans should be given the opportunity to play a part in the games governing bodies and clubs. Mr Thomson then illustrated how at his club they have 300 members who vote to nominate their board. All members, if they wish, can attend their clubs budget meetings. On a question relating to clubs fiscal health Mr Longmuir said that every SFL club had signed up to HMRC getting an early warning on any financial problems relating to any club.
Ownership session after lunch presented by Clyde FC. The session commenced with the comment that the way Clyde were run prior to the present system was by a single benefactor who was not paying the bills. Examples of well run democratic clubs were given as AFC Telford, Exeter City, AFC Wimbledon and Scarborough. They then went on to say that the time may well come when their budget may not be enough and then what, back to a single benefactor. It is very important to them to have a transparent club where one person one vote is the system. When they changed over previous shareholders became foundation shareholders but still pay the same £30 per year as every one else to be a member of the club. At this time they found the previous chairman had had no management accounts for six months. Their biggest change has been getting away from a reliance on someone coming in and bailing them out with a financial donation. Under the old board they used to identify what team they wanted THEN think of ways to finance it.
They now budget each season to break even but due to previous debts being repaid have to make an extra £50k a season to do so. In their division 1 days they had a wage bill of £400k whilst attracting -1000 gates. Lat season budget was £30k. Everything had been cut. After three years they think they have found their level and even now are in the process of raising their player budget for season 2012/2013 season. They are doing this in part by asking club members to raise money. If someone does approach the club wanting to take over by offering a large amount of money they are unable to do so and they did admit this has the propensity to put some prospective club members of joining.
Their member do receive periodical reports on everything to do with the club. As they put it to get their house in order focus has had to be away from the team on the park with fans helping to take on the responsibility for their own club. They admitted, like other clubs, thoughts did turn to going into administration which would have eliminated all their debts to the council, allowed them to tear up players contracts and get rid of most of their other bills. They could then start from scratch. But they chose not to go down that route and were very proud of the fact that they had faced up to their responsibilities. Two years ago the debt was £500k but in three years time plan to be debt free. They were at pains to stress that morally they chose to do the right thing and pay their debts.
At present they have a fixed cost of between 37%-50% to use Broadwood Stadium and this is unsustainable. The Trust will wind down in the next couple of months when they will be incorporated into the articles of the football club. It will be enshrined in the FC articles that it is due to the work of the trust that has got the club to where it is. In the season just gone they had 300 adult season tickets and 600 in total. They do a voucher book for season ticket holders where 18 businesses have taken a game to offer their products for this they each get a match sponsorship for £10.