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.