Trust in Yellow document for discussion with club board as to how the Trust would like Southport FC to develop in the future.
Page 1. Introduction.
Pages 2-3. ‘Finances’.
Page 4. Improving attendances
Page 5. ‘Community’.
Page 6. Structure and management of the Club + brief final summary
At the end of the document we have also included a letter we have sent to the club outlining some of our members’ responses to the meeting in November.
We also sent the club some ideas for developing a Football in the Community programme. We will also send this to any member who requests a copy
Like supporters of any football club we want our team to rise as far as possible up the football pyramid. For a club of our size we see the Conference National as a minimum level at which we should be playing and would hope that eventually we would regain our place in the Football League. We would like to watch our football in a well maintained ground with good facilities in terms of refreshments, toilets, and accommodation for the disabled, etc;
We would like our club to be at the centre of the local community with strong links with local schools, etc. As supporters we would like to feel valued by the club and to be involved in, and consulted on, decision making and informed of the outcomes of those decisions. .
We want our club to be financially stable with short, medium and long term plans in place to demonstrate clearly how the club would like to progress.
Writing this down is the easy part! How do we bring this about?
We fully understand the constraints in which a club like Southport works. For a start, we are a part time organisation and realise that like supporters, directors and employees have other jobs, businesses and lives outside Southport Football Club that take up their time. This is another reason we believe that it is in the club’s own interests to actively involve as many people as many people as possible in its operations but not merely as passive and uninformed volunteers.
We are also fully aware of the financial constraints. We don’t believe in football clubs relying on borrowed funds and believe the way many clubs have collapsed owing money to local business and individuals is immoral.
We acknowledge and appreciate the considerable financial backing given to the club by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman as well as all of the hard work and time they have put into the club over a large number of years. We applaud their policy of keeping the club solvent. Our criticism would be that we believe that at times this has been achieved by emphasising ‘saving’ at the expense of ‘raising more money’.
Some fans dream of a wealthy outside backer suddenly appearing at Haig Avenue with millions of pounds to invest in the club. The Trust would be very wary of such an individual wondering why they would want to invest such large sums. However, like the Chairman and Vice-Chairman, we would welcome further investment in the club by individuals or groups who could give details of their source of money, their plans for spending it and how they would involve supporters and the community in the future of the club.
What follows is by no means a complete plan for the development of Southport Football Club. The Trust does not claim to have the answers to all the problems facing the club (indeed we may well not have been informed of all the problems). There are, however, some ideas from our members which we believe are worth exploring with the club in our joint aim of taking the club forward.
Like all supporters we have been delighted with the progress made by the first team this season both in terms of results in the Conference North and improved playing performances. We feel that the club is very fortunate to have Liam Watson and his management team and hope that they can be encouraged to stay at Haig Avenue for many years to come. Our hope is that the club can provide them with the support to enable them to continue and progress with their work on the field.
Southport is a town with a population of over 91,000 and even if 40% of those are over 55 and despite the competition with larger clubs, it does compare favourably with league clubs such as Macclesfield (50,000), Crewe (68,000), Burton (64,000), Morecambe (51,000) etc; as well as probably the majority of Conference National Clubs. Ambition to be playing at a higher level than at present on a regular basis is not unrealistic.
We can all think of a wish list of improvements we would like. New floodlights, new covered terraces, refurbished stand and Grandstand club, new catering facilities, increased budget for the manager, etc;
The question is how do we fund these improvements?
An essential part of improving the club finances must be to increase the income obtained off the field by improving the commercial activities. Whilst the demographics of Southport are sometimes given as a reason for low attendances, on the other hand a town of its size and comparative affluence should be able to support commercial activities more than at present.
It must be emphasised that raising money for the parent club is not the primary purpose of any supporters trust. Nevertheless, Trust In Yellow has shown that it is fully prepared to support the commercial activities of the club many of which could not function without the support of TIY members. We would be happy to be in involved in any review of commercial activities within the club. We have resisted the temptation of some trusts to set up their own draws or 100 Clubs etc; as we have felt these could detract from the success of the club’s own fund raising.
a) Coordination of Commercial Activities.
The absence of Haydn has obviously been felt in terms of many of the commercial and community activities at the club. Whilst we appreciate the work since on a voluntary basis, with the best will this cannot replace the efforts of a full time commercial manager. It needs an individual, perhaps on a commission only basis, who can spend the necessary time in developing new commercial activities. A difficult job to find the right person but not impossible.
In preparation for this maybe a group of directors and supporters would be able to put a commercial plan together.
b) Goalden Lottery.
Supporters were surprised to hear that this is no longer a major source of income for the club. We realise the difficulties of running such a venture in the present economic climate and faced with a great deal of competition. The question needs to be asked as to whether it is possible to relaunch it and if that is practical without the presence of a commercial or lottery manager of our own. If not, would the club be better going back to a system where we are under the umbrella of another club (e.g. St Helens R.L.). This obviously seriously reduces the potential of the lottery but would it produce a greater income than at present?
c) Club Shop
The club must be very grateful to the volunteers who work in the shop on match days and sometimes open it on other occasions. There are often large numbers of home supporters and visitors in the shop but comments are made about a lack of suitable merchandise. Whilst it would be pointless making an outlay on expensive items that may or may not sell it is also wasteful having a shop if there are insufficient items to sell. What kind of profit does the shop make? Is it time to have discussions about the stock and how sales and profits could be maximised? Visiting other grounds we could perhaps learn from their experiences when considering the way the shop is stocked.
d) Grandstand Bar.
A potentially major source of income but how profitable is the Grandstand Bar at present?
Those supporters who go to follow the team at away matches will be aware of many other clubs who have attractive and packed clubhouses before a match, at half time and after the game. At Southport many supporters prefer to have their pre match drink at local pubs and the Grandstand Bar has a reputation as a rather dowdy, unattractive venue. Partly this is because of its intrinsic design but also because it is badly in need of refurbishment. Various figures have been given for the possible costs of refurbishments some of which have seemed to be unrealistically high. What are the most recent quotes?
One of the club’s regular supporters owns a shopfitting company that may be able to carry out work on a more competitive basis.
What is the position with regards to opening the bar on match days at half time?
Developing the use of the bar on non-match days depends on:-
i) Probably some refurbishment ii) A sustained effort to develop use of the bar during the week. Are there alternative uses that could be made for the smaller room in particular? We have heard that it is used for a classroom for the SSES students.
e) Alternative uses of ground
Obviously there are restrictions on the use of the ground written into the lease which probably restricts the use of the ground for such things as Car Boot sales, a café, etc;
Are there uses that the Council could make for the ground in terms of rooms etc; either for regular or occasional activities? (We believe it has been used for elections in the past). Uses which may have trouble being allowed within the terms of the lease might be more acceptable as joint ventures with the Council.
In the past other sporting teams have used the ground. e.g. Reserve teams, baseball teams etc;
The official site in previous seasons received a very large number of ‘hits’ every day making the potential for income significant. We were told that the website was to be upgraded this season but since the departure of Haydn nothing seems to have happened. What are the prospects of developing the site to make a financial profit as well as improving communications?
g) Match day activities
Obviously the main source of income is derived on match days. The need to attract increased attendances is apparent and our ideas mentioned elsewhere. Although the admission price is obviously a major source of income there are other sources of income from paying (and in some cases non-paying) spectators which would not only improve the match day experience but also raise more money.
These would include some mentioned already such as the Club Shop and Grandstand Bar but also ‘Refreshments’; ‘Draw/raffles’; ‘Programmes’; ‘Sponsorship’.
As mentioned previously, we agree with the statement made by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman at our November meeting, that they would welcome additional investment into the club. But again as mentioned previously, that would be with the proviso that any offers were transparent and in the long term interest of the club. The question is how we can attract the right kind of investment. Not an easy task but certainly only possible if any potential investor is made welcome and can see that they will have a part in decision making and strategy at the club. Perhaps a statement to that effect in the local press would be a first step forward. A ‘prospectus’ style document could also be compiled to set out the current position and plans of the club, together with the benefits and involvement available to potential investors. This would be aimed at targeted individuals within the area.
The SSES Youth Scheme was an innovative way not only of providing an education for a cohort of young people each year and a supply of young talented players but also of providing an extra income for some 1st team players by tapping into a source of government funding.
There are other sources of money available through grants by which we might hope to refurbish or improve our facilities etc. Admittedly some of these sources are much reduced but nevertheless we need to research any possibility of accessing them. A time consuming process and experience shows that it is often met with initial failure but often persistence pays off.
Again we realise the difficulties of maintaining, let alone increasing, sponsorship whether by shirt sponsorship, naming rights to the ground, sponsorship of matches or of players. We are obviously dependent on the goodwill of our regular sponsors who really do need to be looked after well. But as a Trust we wonder what efforts are being made to approach new potential sponsors whether individuals or companies. We realise that in the absence of a Chief Executive a great deal of work falls on to the Chairman and a few others but believe some sort of planned programme needs to be constructed to increase this critical source of income.
Experience shows that fund raising is always easier when there is a clear target. There is a limit to the success of fund raising just to meet running costs. An advantage of having a clear strategy for ground improvements, for example, would be to make clear where the priorities lay and enable an initial target to be set for which funding could be investigated and for which fund raising could be prioritised.