Thursday, 30 December 2010

New Year, new era...

Oliver Ash
In the absence of any football to bring excitement or despair we are all focussing on the next few months, which are likely to be amongst the most important in the club’s history.

In the first part of January we intend to announce the details of the fund-raising scheme to raise some £1.6 million. As some have pointed out quite correctly this is a daunting amount but on the other hand we have to be positive and see the glass half full and not empty: if we can raise this money and build the ground, then the club should be able to run profitably in the long run.

It will also have a fantastic asset, a well-located income producing football ground with a cafĂ©/bar/clubhouse. We will go flat out to attract a few investors who share our thinking and philosophy, who believe in the new business plan and who want to contribute to a worthy cause – the county town football club, which means a great deal to at least a thousand people and probably more, and which contributes a lot to the lives of men, women, boys and girls, with varying abilities and disabilities and whose lives would be significantly poorer if due to shortage of funds it were no longer to exist....

As others have pointed out the cost of building even the basic ground (I find it hard to call it a stadium...) is much higher than we had hoped. We have had good advice but the numbers always come back to this sort of figure. We have excluded the option of trying to get the ground built by supporters because it just isn’t manageable. There is also a lot of site preparation due in part to the water table and other costs linked to league requirements as well as the extra cost of the 3G pitch. 

There are lots of arguments in favour of this pitch but I like the one about the fact that the community teams and supporters will become much more a part of the club, sharing the facilities. This in itself could well attract investors who want to feel they are contributing to a good cause and not just a first team.

There is only one (very) good argument against: the problem of promotion being blocked. My reply to that argument is that we will lobby like crazy to change the rules over the next few years. Moreover right now we are struggling to stay in the Ryman Premier after a few seasons of playing above our level due to more money being spent on the team than the club could afford.

So to even imagine promotion yet is being wildly optimistic. And assuming that we do go from strength to strength in the next few years I would hope that in the first instance the challenge, say, of winning three league titles in a row and having some good cup runs (even if we have to play at other grounds) would appeal enough to supporters than the grim alternative...which may be to go shopping on a Saturday afternoon.

Terry, Bill and I wish you all a Happy New Year.

Friday, 24 December 2010

On the eve of something historic

Terry Casey
Under normal circumstances this would be a quiet time of year and with all the postponements there should be even less to write about but there is very little that is normal about running this football club.

There are extra financial pressures put onto to all football clubs when there are so many matches that fall foul of the weather and it means that our already small income is for the month is reduced to almost zero.

The problems caused by the weather have not stopped us moving forward on our ultimate ambition which is to bring Maidstone United Football Club back to the town. In fact we have arrived at a number of crucial decisions regarding the building of the stadium.

We have spent the past three months reviewing the design and build of the stadium and we are now clear on our financial objectives as the costs will be £1.6million. This is the amount of money that it will require to comply with the minimum requirements for the team to continue to play at its’ current level.

In the £1.6 million is the cost of a 3g synthetic surface which has been unanimously agreed between the three directors as the best, and some have said the only way, to secure the long term security of the football club. I know there has been a great deal of discussion and I feel obliged to explain how we reached the decision.

There were two main factors influencing the decision with the first being the financial return that can emanate from the hire of this type of facility. There are very few artificial pitches in the area and they are all booked for many weeks ahead.

The profits from this venture will be channelled through to the football club which will allow the club to improve the stadium and also to improve the playing squad. We all feel that to attract investors we will need to demonstrate that the club will be viable because of the surface.       

The second reason was that the football club must become a community with many of the teams using the pitch for training and matches meaning that the players, parents, friends and supporters will come together on the one site. We will have bar and refreshment facilities available which will add to the financial effectiveness of the project.

The last two winters should force the FA to think more progressively and allow the artificial surfaces or many more small clubs will face extinction. I am of the opinion that the installation of this surface signifies our ambition to progress and to secure the future of Maidstone United Football Club.

The next three weeks could be the most important in the club’s history because we will, by mid January have our proposals ready to present to potential investors. We are looking to put together a package that will attract people to the club with a mixture of good solid business sense and an exciting  opportunity to become involved in something that will ultimately be historic for the town.

Wishing you all a Happy Christmas.

MAIDSTONE UNITED 400 CLUB: Join the club's monthly lottery online.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The great 3G debate

Oliver Ash
It seems the 3G pitch is the hottest topic in town.

Well it’s great to have something that seems to be provoking such a sensible and constructive debate.  There is no easy answer; we will be obliged to compromise. Rest assured the final decision will be based on creating a solid football-business model, to make sure the club becomes as attractive as possible to players, supporters and, of course, investors and sponsors. We aim to build a stable, thriving club without the constant fear of bankruptcy.

Speaking of which, please don’t imagine that just because we’ve now got the ground ‘debt-free’ all our troubles are over...alas it is not so.

As we have already stated we have significant old debts to deal with. If that were not enough we have the additional concerns of losing money every week because until now we have had no commercial revenue to speak of and match postponements reduce the modest gate money still further. It’s a Catch 22 situation that cannot be allowed to go on for too long. That’s why we’re in a hurry to see how much the new ground will cost.

We will be launching some new commercial initiatives in the New Year to help reduce the deficit so please keep an eye out for these. Any help you can give us would be much appreciated.

It’s funny: whether it’s football over here or rugby in my other favourite country, some people are always convinced that we’re in it for the money:  “They’re sensible businessmen, they must know what they’re doing”, or “They don’t care about our club the way we do”.

The truth is that people invest in football or rugby for loads of different emotional reasons, and often simply because by doing so they can make a difference to something they believe is important. In life the only certainty is death and taxes; in football club ownership it's losing money and becoming unpopular.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

A taxing issue

Terry Casey
There has been a lot of interest recently about Welling Football Club turning to their supporters to pay their tax bill.

It appears that not only are Welling asking supporters of other clubs to donate money but they have also initiated a loan scheme asking supporters to lend the club money to pay off HMRC.

The great majority of the posts I have read from Maidstone United fans are clearly unsympathetic to the plight of Welling and also to the people that have so mismanaged the club that they find themselves close to extinction.

I am not sure why there is so much indignation when a football club are asked to pay their taxes. It is one of the irritating but unavoidable facts of life that we all have to pay taxes that are due to the government.

Why should the owners and directors of football clubs imagine that they can work under a different set of rules to everybody else? It is not only the taxman that football clubs can be financially irresponsible towards.

I looked recently at the Portsmouth list of creditors and it was sad to see the numerous decent hard working people and small businesses who were never likely to get paid for their labour and their goods.

The public are losing patience with the fast and loose attitude that football clubs have had for many years with other people’s money. Maybe the hard-nosed realism shown by Maidstone United supporters about the Welling situation emanates from fans that have already seen their team go into liquidation.

Sadly our inheritance as the new owners of Maidstone United also involves huge difficulties with HMRC that could still put the club under enormous pressure. These debts are not the responsibility of the supporters of the club.

Supporters should not be pressurised by being told unless they put their hands in their pockets the club will no longer exist. The simple reason for the debts are poor management and a feeling among football club owners that they are in some way immune from accountability.

Maidstone United Football Club must be run as a business. It must be viable - that is the only way for the club to be safe in the future. To make the club commercially viable we have to play our home games in Maidstone.

It is the duty and responsibility of the owners to run the club with efficiency, integrity and honesty, and make every effort to ensure that the county town has a football club that it can be proud of.

It is not the responsibility of the supporters to bail out a failing business whenever it gets itself into trouble.

There is still a long way to go and after just two months in charge we are all still working hard to secure the future of the club.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The weather is snow joke

Oliver Ash
It looks like we’re already into the ‘match postponed’ season and we’re still in November.

This is bad news for everybody: we lose receipts from matches when cash-flow is tight, the fans get frustrated and travelling to and from matches is tough. I’m planning to come over from France for Saturday’s game against Tonbridge but with the weather warnings this may not be possible. Our commercial strategy meeting may have to be postponed too which is also bad news as we need to start raising commercial revenues as soon as possible.

Of course it’s tempting to dream that if we had an artificial pitch it would all be different, that despite the snow we’d be the only show in town, playing in front of huge crowds of football-starved spectators, generating much needed regular revenues….but the case is still unproven on that one.

However plans for the new ground are progressing and we’re nearly at the stage where we can put a precise cost to the plan. When that happens we will be able to go to investors with a precise proposal for them to join the party. So hopefully we’ll know where we stand on all that by Christmas time. We will of course keep you posted.

In the meantime please remember we depend totally on your support. Just think that in a month of snow-disrupted matches we still have to pay the running costs which amount to about £15,000!

That’s why every £10 on match day, every bit of merchandise, every drink consumed at Homelands, all help the bottom line and show us that enough of you care about keeping the show on the road.

The deficits should disappear when we get the ground built, that’s still the number one priority and, less than two months after the takeover, we’re still on schedule.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Land of hope and glory

Terry Casey
Securing the land at Whatman Way has taken a great deal of time and money but thankfully, apart from finalising the purchase of the freehold, we are now in total control of the land.

We have paid off the loans to a mortgage company that charged interest rates more associated with loan sharks than a building society and we have paid off the entire loan to Maidstone Borough Council. The sub lease that was attached to the borough council loan meant we could not do anything with the land to generate any income. These payments have put the club into a position of power and security and means that we can open up the site for the weekends until Christmas (starting 4 December) as a car park so that we can generate some money that will ease the considerable pressure on our balance sheet.

The Maidstone United car park will be open from 8.30am until 6.30pm each Saturday until Christmas and 9.30am to 4.30pm each Sunday until Christmas. It will also open from 8.30am until 6.30pm on the 23rd and 24th of December. The cost will be £5 per car and we are hoping to bring in some much needed revenue. It will also be symbolic of the fact that the Maidstone United Football Club has once again some sort of presence back in the town. We now intend to utilise the land in any way that enables us to raise money to help secure the future of the club.

After a great deal of time considering numerous different alternatives we have finally decided on the stadium plan that we feel will meet the needs of the first team and the many players that represent Maidstone United. We are being supported by one of the leading developers in the South of England who is providing us with a detailed estimate and invaluable technical advice.

Once we know exactly how much funding is required we will then present this and a detailed business plan to possible investors for them to consider whether they want to support Maidstone United Football Club. The business plan will look at the possible income streams provided by a 3G artificial pitch as the cost of this type of surface is substantially more expensive than the traditional grass pitch and if we decide to use this type of surface it must be able to make sound commercial sense.

Every week has been “crunch time” for all of us since we took over in early October. We started by paying the creditors who were about to close the club down then started paying those who had charges and control over the land at Whatman Way. This next phase of our plan is even more crucial as we must attract enough money to build the new stadium otherwise, as I have said before our efforts will have been wasted.   

I remain optimistic that we can attract enough people to become involved in something that will be truly momentous and historic by bringing Maidstone United back home.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

One for the future

Terry Casey
During our weekly meeting with Andy Ford, Bill and I congratulated the new management team for producing a performance at Carshalton which was, by all accounts, as good a display by a Maidstone team for some time.

We then looked ahead to the match at Harlow and Andy informed us that it would be difficult to find eleven players to start the game. Such is the unfairness of football that we took a great stride forward at Carshalton only to be struggling to find a team for, probably, the most important match of our season.

We are however a small business and we are already losing a great deal of money each week so we are not prepared to make panic moves into the market. Andy and Steve are building a competitive squad within the budget and we are determined to put the business onto a sound footing. My personal concern was that we would not be good enough to stay in this league but I am convinced that we have enough talent and determination beat the drop.

I had the pleasure of watching Maidstone United under 14s two weeks ago. I must say that not only do they have a number of highly talented players they also, as a team demonstrated levels of discipline that would make any Maidstone supporter proud that they were wearing a Maidstone shirt.

I spoke to them in the dressing room and they were polite and well-mannered and a great credit to their parents and to Alan Swift and Marc Gasson who run the side. They won the game as they have won all but two of their games all season. They did it without any dissent or petulance but by skill, determination and teamwork. With continued good leadership and careful handling these kids will become the future of Maidstone United.

Bill and I went to Dover Athletic FC this week and met with Jim Parmenter, their chairman. He showed us around the stadium and gave us valuable ideas as to how a football club can make extra revenue from activities off the pitch. What was interesting was the fabulous condition of the grass on the pitch. It was explained that the grass surface was in such excellent condition because they hardly ever trained on the pitch and did not have a reserve team, therefore only using the surface once every two weeks. We then asked what other ways improve revenue streams and he told us “beating Gillingham in the FA Cup helps!”

Saturday, 13 November 2010

A determination to succeed

Oliver Ash
I would like to congratulate all the supporters who came along to the Cray game on Tuesday last. What a horrible evening for a game of football. It needed a win to warm us all up but sadly it wasn’t to be.

We played some good football at times but were not as sharp as Cray at the end and they deserved to win. We have to get our act together quickly now because when you take into account games played we are stuck right down at the bottom.

Perhaps it’s me transmitting bad vibes because my other teams - West Ham and Brive Rugby – are also down the bottom of their respective leagues…Well I promise to keep away for a few weeks now!

Meanwhile Tuesday was the one month anniversary of our take-over. It seems like a year!

I have to say Terry and Bill are doing a fantastic job. I have been receiving 10 emails a day dealing with writs served, tax issues, legal problems, corporate problems, you name it, we’ve got it. But we’re determined to solve all the problems, pay off what legitimate debts have built up and move forward. We are investing in removing restrictive debt and covenants on the new ground.

We are now working on a new commercial plan to generate new revenues as soon as possible with the support of Goodform Ltd, run by a talented friend of mine Stuart Dalrymple (check them out on

This month we will also decide on a final plan for the new ground, which will show a few minor changes from the permitted plan. This will enable us to finalise the costings so we know where we stand on the amount of capital we shall need. Then we can prepare the share issue scheme which has been much talked about already. We are looking forward to launching this huge challenge.  

We shall do this without the support of the MBC. We met them on Tuesday evening at the Cray game and impressed upon them our hopes, given the investment we and others were making, that they would support us financially and also ease some of the restrictions in contracts signed previously. Unfortunately we then received a very disappointing email. It’s frustrating but it only makes us more determined.

I look forward to returning to Homelands for the Tonbridge game. I only hope it’s more pleasant than my first such ‘derby’. Three sendings off and lots of unpleasant goings-on. Whatever else happens we’ve got to keep cool on these sorts of occasions. And win of course.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Pitching in on and off the field

Terry Casey
The game on Saturday was a magnificent result for the club because we were forced to field a team with three teenagers starting the match in what must have been one of the youngest midfield the club have ever fielded. 

The performance of the youngsters was superb and it was a great tribute to the club's youth system. The youth team and all those who put on a Maidstone United shirt at whatever level should feel that they are part of the club because successful junior teams feeding through to the first team can only be good for the future of football club as a whole.

I have been watching the debate over whether the club should go for a 3g or grass playing surface and I should say that it is not my current priority and although I am enjoying the mini revival that has taken place on the field the harsh reality is that the finances of the club continue to pose a threat to the very existence of Maidstone United. The facts are that we have inherited a business that loses almost £2,000 each week. The £3,000 we will receive from the FA from Saturday's win is very welcome.

We inherited debts that had to be settled such as a loan secured on the land that was carrying a double figure interest rate from a mortgage company that could have repossessed the land at Whatman Way had we not settled. We are also trying to secure the freehold to the land from the the Ministry of Defence. There are numerous other creditors that have to be satisfied to give confidence to all future investors and to restore integrity and credibility to the club.

To save the club it has already cost well over £100,000 and to ensure the club continues until the end of the season it could conceivably cost a further £100,000. Further funds must be directed at advertising and promotional campaigns to attract about £1million to construct the stadium. If we are determined to attract this funding otherwise all the money that has been invested will have been wasted.

Of course discussions and planning for the new stadium must take place in conjunction with the stabilisation of the club and I am convinced that Maidstone United will soon be playing back in Maidstone but there is a long way to go before the decision on which surface to play on becomes the next job on the list.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Clubbing together

Oliver Ash
I didn’t see the Wealdstone game on Saturday (the Ryman is not screened live in France yet unfortunately...) but I hear from Bill the performance was encouraging.

Obviously that is good news. One point is welcome but on the other hand we need a few three-pointers quickly otherwise we’ll be marooned at the wrong end of the table. So please keep backing our boys and they’ll come good very soon, I’m sure.

We’re working as quickly as possible to reorganise the club, deal with the pressing financial issues and agree the new ground plan. It is vital we design the right project before we launch the specific new fundraising and commercial activities because that is the key attraction. We know that we will have to plan a fairly basic design at first simply because of the cost. As and when the club starts to earn revenue we can hopefully extend and improve accordingly.

We have already stated we aim for a budget of £1 million and even this is tight if we want to include all the essentials, clubhouse, stand, car parking, floodlighting and of course artificial pitch. Our preference is for this pitch for all the obvious reasons – it generates revenues, it brings all the club’s teams together on one site, it enables first team games to go ahead in bad weather and it encourages good football.

However we will have to investigate fully the implications for playing at other levels now and taking a view on future prospects before we take a final decision. We don’t know this yet so please be patient.

Next up is Croydon Athletic away on Wednesday, followed by the FA Trophy against Cray Wanderers on Saturday. Here's to wins in both of those games.

Monday, 18 October 2010

A case for the future

Terry Casey
Reading the national newspapers and listening and watching the news I felt a great deal of sympathy for the supporters of Liverpool FC as their American owners seemed to have little understanding of what a football club means to a community.

I strongly believe that a football club can be an important part of a community and the ownership of a club should reflect that importance.

During many of the interviews and news coverage of the Liverpool situation the question “why would anyone want to own a football club” has constantly cropped up. Over the past few months I have wondered myself why I have chosen to invest into a business which history tells us can only bring aggravation.  I will try to explain my reasons and attempt to convince myself that what I am doing makes some sense.

For most genuine football supporters the club they supported as a boy should remain their team forever. It should always be the team whose result is the first they look for every Saturday. For me having been born in Maidstone and having been taken to see them at The Athletic Ground as a boy means that Maidstone United is my team.

Sadly my team has been homeless for twenty years and it means that the sense of community has been lost and can only return once the team returns to Maidstone.  I want my club to play in Maidstone and this explains one of the reasons that I chose to get involved.

Another justification for my involvement was the fact that unless Oliver, Bill and I stepped in there would no longer be a Maidstone United and I wasn’t prepared to let that happen. I couldn’t imagine the town not having a football club and added to the possibility that I might in some way help the team return to the town made the temptation to become involved too great to resist.

Oliver, Bill and I can only promise to try to achieve this ambition as our investments will not be enough to build the stadium but it has ensured the club’s immediate safety. It also enables the three of us to approach local people to try to tempt them the way that we have been attracted to the possibility of achieving something momentous.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Grounds for optimism

Oliver Ash
I did enjoy the game on Saturday although the result was not as good as we had all hoped it would be.

There was a good atmosphere about Homelands in the sunshine and it was tempting to dream of picking up the marvellous main stand and dropping it onto Whatman Way.

As for the team - well you could see the effort was there and that was reassuring; we were unlucky although we didn’t take our chances, particularly in the first half. As for the referee the less said the better……

Thank you to all of you supporters who came forward with their best wishes for Terry, Bill and me. Your support is what we need right now because we are going into the heart of the season with a tremendous amount of work to do on and off the field.

Please come to Ashford and support the team every time you can and bring along as many friends and family as possible. Let’s keep up the positive atmosphere, it’s good for all concerned.

Meanwhile we’re starting to work on the future. The various plans you’ve been hearing about are going to take shape over the next few weeks. Nothing is really set in stone yet, we’ll be taking our time to decide exactly how to: 1. Raise further funds for the ground building, 2. Get you, the supporters, involved more fully in the club through an issue of shares.

Don’t worry if things aren’t clear yet or readymade, please be patient.  We’re doing our utmost to achieve our aims as soon as possible and we’ll try and keep you informed as to decisions.

Thanks again for your support!