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 www.goodform.info).

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.