As a replacement for the fans' forum, which was scheduled to take place this week, Iron chairman Peter Swann has answered a number of questions sent in by supporters via email and our social media channels.
He answered on a number of subjects including the stadium redevelopment, ticketing, the effect of COVID-19 on football, the managerial position, the squad and other general questions. Thanks to all the fans who sent them in.
After finally having planning permission granted for the redevelopment of the ground and apartments things looked positive, but we have subsequently been hit by these unprecedented global events, so has this changed your business plan for the club over the next 12/24 months?
PS: “Fortunately, we have been working on this plan since our relegation and next season will see a drop in our playing budget in line with our income. The issue we face is the potential of playing games behind closed doors which will destroy any plans and a further income drop of £1.3m. There will have to be a financial rescue package for all clubs if this happens or we would struggle, as would many clubs, to just survive."
When will work start on redevelopment of the ground or is this going to be cancelled now?
Are we getting the building work done on the stadium this year and when will it be possible to start?
If and when things get to something like normal which will come first; building of the flats, ground renovation or simultaneously?
PS: “For the above three questions, we hoped to begin in the spring but sadly we will not be able to progress until the government remove the lockdown and give us construction guidelines. Of course, with the financial position being completely different to the beginning of the year, we will have to work on a new development plan."
I have asked quite a few times if a part of the ground could be named after the great Barrie Thomas, but not had one reply ever.
PS: “Ray, I haven’t been made aware of this so I apologise, but this probably will continue on the back burner until we can get football back on track following COVID-19.”
How is the club managing financially through these terrible times and what do you think should be done to help the lower leagues? There seems to be a lot of uncertainty coming from the EFL and the Premier League.
PS: “It's an unparalleled situation which has caught so many businesses out and mine are particularly hit being entertainment, restaurant and hospitality-based so cashflow is virtually nil. With that in mind we are working to find various solutions. However, without financial support from the governing bodies to get through these initial few months, most clubs will fall by the wayside. My comments recently show how important it is for our governing bodies to lead and take decisive action. To ask the football clubs to carry the burden of holding the league together is not practical. All the money in the game is at the top and this is the time for the Premier League to help by ensuring a little more money drips down to keep the lower leagues in business."
If games are to be played behind closed doors, meaning unused season tickets, could they be used for pre-season games or will there be a rebate on when you renew for next season assuming everything is back to normal?
Will season ticket holders be reimbursed for the remaining matches if the season is cancelled or completed behind closed doors? Similarly, what is the situation should we buy a season ticket for next season should the season not start on time or certain members of society are not allowed to attend?
As an Iron supporter home and away, will the club be reimbursing the individuals that have bought away match and official coach travel tickets?
You keep advertising next season's tickets for an early bird price. Is this going to be extended due to the current situation in the world? I always buy the early bird, but this season I am going to wait until I know what is happening about the rest of the current season. What will happen to the money for the games we have missed this season?
Do you have any plans to attract casual supporters back when we can start playing again? I think the cost will put many off due to family finances been stretched through the lockdown.
Are you giving season ticket holders a discount for games not played? If so by how much.
PS's ticketing answer to the above questions: “I am not sure giving money back to fans would assist in keeping the club afloat at this moment in time. We really hope we can get back and playing for the remainder of the season and we will review the issue of any unused tickets/coach travel for this season when we have clearer information on what is going to happen. I must thank the fans who have purchased season tickets for next season personally as it is much appreciated at this difficult time and is contributing to keeping the Iron alive. We will do all we can to try and give value for money for those who have remaining tickets for this season, as well as those who have purchased for next season. We are looking at all options to generate more interest in the club and that might be a further extension of the season ticket offer, family offers, steel worker offers, family discounts but to do that and keep the club in business is a huge challenge."
COVID-19 EFFECT ON FOOTBALL
How bad will this outbreak affect Scunthorpe United in the short term?
PS: “The club could lose a minimum of £650k income for the remainder of this season and £1.3m in income between July and January 2021 if football is not played in front of fans. That, on the back of already stretched finances, will mean we have to make decisions sooner rather than later."
What would be your preferred personal solution to finishing this season?
PS: “Initially, I would have liked to have seen the season finished, but looking at the extended lockdown and the logistical difficulties of matches behind closed doors, there may be a justification to finish the season now so we can prepare for a very different type of season in 2020/21. To stretch club finances to breaking point makes no sense and it could result in many teams going into administration before the new season started or even before matches could be finished this season. To work on all the various options and come up with something that everyone agrees on is very difficult, we are however trying to sort that now."
Have the EFL discussed relaxing financial fair play rules due to the current circumstances?
PS: “The relaxation in financial fair play rule will only be to the benefit of clubs who are not affected financially due to the strength of an owner’s portfolio and I do not feel there are many of them to be honest."
What is the plan for the Academy this season? Will it resume as and when we get the all clear from the relevant authorities? Due to the current situation and the financial effects this will have, will this affect the Academy going forward?
PS: “The academy is well run and the work we have done over the last seven years have enabled us to utilise funding and investment to a level where we can continue to provide a platform for young players going forward, even after this virus - as long as the club is intact."
When do we run out of money, and then what?
PS: “If we run out of money I am afraid you know the answer, that however is not on my mind at the moment and I continue to find ways of ensuring the club's survival takes priority over all other decisions. This may mean cuts, selling players, refinancing various assets but I can assure you we will take every option into consideration before we take drastic action."
How close are we to the appointment of a manager?
Will there be a new manager in place before next season? As I and many season ticket holders are waiting before they renew their tickets as people don’t want to watch the negative type of games like the last two seasons.
I would like to ask you what sort of manager are you looking for next. Will it be a young hungry man or are you looking for an older experienced man?
PS: “To answer all the above, we have no plans to look for a new manager at this time with the club’s future so precariously balanced and that will be the case until football resumes in its entirety. I am however delighted to have Russ and his team on board in these challenging times. To have people who know the club alongside me will ensure we can bounce back and secure the club's future. This will be our initial plan and only then will we begin to consider what the club needs going forward."
Why do you sack so many managers? Fans appreciate new managers need time to build a squad but it seems they’re never given time. To me, sacking Alexander and Hurst now look huge mistakes. Do you think your reputation as an impatient chairman means you struggle to attract the right manager from the start?
PS: “I can only say it isn’t easy to get these things right and of course fan pressure can play a part in how the manager does his job. I have not got it all right but any decision on removing a manager is not lightly taken and all avenues are usually exhausted when this happens. Hindsight would be my dream advantage. Even then, it would not please every fan, so we just try to appoint who we feel can do the job. It is only when you work with someone you get a real feel for what they can and cannot deliver, you then make that difficult choice if it does not work."
Will you consider asking Nigel Adkins and Andy Crosby to return as the management team?
PS: “Both exceptional guys and heroes here, it is not our priority at the moment but we will look at many applications and decide what we can afford and what will fit with the club's plans going forward."
What concerns me is if managers want to get on with their job like Paul Hurst and Graham Alexander and they disagree with you, can’t you be the bigger man and just let them do their job and back them. You do not see the owners of successful clubs interfering with the playing side of things – that’s why you have a manager.
PS: “Martin, I do not get involved with any part of the coaching or selection process and leave my managers to manage. I have never interfered with the playing side of things and have supported all my managers financially or with the agreed programme decided on their employment. Paul was employed to do a different job to others, but we did not see eye-to-eye on certain aspects of the job agreed with on his appointment. As with most of the other managers, they received some of the biggest Iron wage budgets in the history of the club and with that comes responsibility. I then have to decide when that has failed due to results primarily and make that big decision, which I will always do and have reason to do.”
I agree with cutting our cloth accordingly financially but does the Chairman agree we need an experienced, strong spine (1, 5, 8, 9) to help develop the talented youngsters we have?
PS: “The squad does need a spine, I agree, but as long as the player is good enough it shouldn’t matter how old they are. We need to ensure we get the best possible player for the money we can afford to fit those positions”
Has the planning for next season's recruitment already started?
PS: “It has been in place since May last year, but unfortunately we didn’t get key targets done within the early months of the season and have had to swim upstream ever since, but we have it all in hand as long as the league remains intact and the clubs can operate financially."
How can we go down the route of our own younger players, given the limited number of academy players we have produced in the past few years that have gone on to become first team regulars?
PS: “You're correct, we need to address this and we are doing that now along with a plan to address utilising more young players into the first team so we can assess their ability."
Are you going to have a special NHS day next season or an offer for NHS staff?
PS: “We are looking at this and I can assure you we are going to try and do this when practical.”
Do you anticipate the transfer market being markedly different this summer, with fewer clubs paying fees to buy players?
PS: “The marketplace will be very different, players wages more affordable and plenty of players available - our recruitment will be vital."
Is it confirmed that FBT will be the kit supplier again next season? If so how long for and any hints or images as to the design? It’s another thing to keep the supporters interest.
PS: “The kit supplier will be announced shortly."
Would you not think it be right to start asking supporters to contribute more to the club financially? Without a doubt, I am sure season ticket holders would be willing to pay more if this money was to be spent on the squad/quality manager?
PS: “I would only ever ask that if I couldn’t contribute to the club or raise the money within the income streams we have or are trying to sort.”
What is the club's targets both on and off the pitch, surely you don't want to see us languish at the bottom end of League Two?
PS: “We always want to be promoted out of League Two but our priorities initially will be to survive."
Are there ways we could be more family-orientated as a club? Have you thought about promoting the club in town with billboards, advertising, or with radio advertising, etc? While we seem strong on social media it does seem to be a case of preaching to the converted.
PS: “The club is looking into its own board opposite the motorway to help in this matter and will be included in the next planning application for the west side of the stadium. We do promote the club within businesses/retailers in the town. We also have our Under-12s-go-free tickets which is not something a lot of clubs do. Also, year-on-year we have received the EFL Family Excellence Award which is awarded via two mystery visits a season from a family who judge us against criteria across all areas of the matchday experience. We continually look to see what other things we can do regarding fan engagement, including other family-orientated initiatives.”
Why don’t you invite a representative from the Iron Trust and the Supporters Organisations to regular meetings so they can communicate firsthand any problems the fans have. Then you could report back any outcomes. One of the most important things in any business is good communications. Please don’t say you have forums, programme, my door is always open... I mean a proper structured minuted meeting. If not with you, then your Chief Executive.
PS: “This is something we are looking at right now but the Trust and SO do not represent all the fans so we are looking at a broader option and possibly in the form of a video conference meeting or something similar.”
Do you still see Scunthorpe United as a shrewd investment?
PS: “I have always seen it as a passion and love first and foremost, but let’s hope the planning and development prove to at least justify some of my investment."
Can we have an honest appraisal of the club's finances? Year-on-year our debt is growing and obviously the lockdown will have affected the club's cash flow so have plans for a new manager and recruitment for next season been amended?
PS: “James, the club’s debt is only with me and that does not put the club at risk. I am working on a plan to work on the cash flow under these circumstances and a business structure to protect the club in the long-term. This will be apparent over the coming months."
What’s been your favourite game since being Iron chairman?
PS: “A football question at last!! I have probably three. Bradford at home on Mother’s Day (26th March 2017) when we won 3-2. Chelsea away in the FA Cup and KVV’s non-penalty!! Sheffield United away on May 8th 2016, which was a great win against a very good side and robbed of a play-off place by Wigan's team selection against Barnsley!!"
Why is the board membership restricted to just your family and the CEO whom you pay?
PS: “The board is made up of the family members due to the financial investment it has made in the club, but open to anyone with a spare £1m! It was important to have a non-family member and having the CEO on the board makes sense.”
What are your goals for Scunthorpe in the upcoming years?
PS: “To still be here answering these questions as your chairman and looking back on this time as a turning point in football's history. Having a stadium to be proud of and a thriving development site the community can utilise.”