Having a choice is probably one of the most common things we do, on a day-to-day basis and these choices determine how our day goes, our week goes and at certain levels how our future develops.
At the weekend, our footballers certainly made the wrong decisions over a 90-minute period, which could impact on our season, or not, depending on their response in the next home game on Saturday. The Harrogate match was one of the poorest I have watched and there is no excuse they can offer you, the fans, to justify it.
I have spoken to the Manager and the players yesterday to try and understand what happened and whilst they analyse the game on video, not something I want to do again, it is quite clear the players just didn’t turn up and show the ability they have. Talking to them about this, it is certainly in their minds to correct this in the games we have coming up and, if anything is repairable, the fact we have 35 games to go and one within a few days, they have every opportunity to do exactly that.
Neil is focused on the job in hand and, being a local lad, it hurts even more when he loses matches and he needs your support now, more than ever, as we try and produce better performances, which will give us the opportunity to win games and move up the table. He can’t do that without your support and even though he knows there will be times when you vent your anger at him for those poor results, he wants to see the other side of that when we win and that is why he wanted to manage this, his hometown club.
It's not easy at the moment for the club, we don’t have the income to spend under the financial system (SCMP) we are now working under in the league and we have to be sustainable, or we won't survive as a club. We can only spend 50 per cent of our income on wages and our income is down a third so even within an embargo it has no effect on our wage structure, just the number of players we have on the books. That number is within the 26 or so Neil wanted as a first team squad, he has signed and brought to the club the players and characters he wanted and they are good enough. However, injuries and lack of fitness have been major problems and in a smaller squad that has a greater effect on availability. Players are now coming back and we only have a couple of players out with injury, and even they are closer to coming back into the squad to train.
It took us a while to get going last season and the same seems to be happening this time, so even though we have a very difficult game this weekend and we are up against it, we just want a performance from the players and a performance that lifts the fans - that would be a start.
Having less income is worrying, especially with such a small fan base and the last time the club found itself struggling I came in and invested, cleared debt and put my money exactly where I said I would, in the wages, and although we didn’t quite make the Championship, we had a go. We have had to look at balancing the books when we were relegated and I am not going to overstretch the football club financially, but the worry is if our fan base reduces by a third we can’t survive as a league club with a budget linked to fans through the turnstiles.
I am working on a project on our site which would ease that pressure on us, without risking the football club and has meant a temporary move of the ground and assets to its parent company whilst we work on this and I can assure everyone that once all this has been completed, the ground and training facilities will be back in Scunthorpe United Ownership. Please also remember I have invested £8m in shares, so have over 90 per cent ownership in Scunthorpe anyway and I am fully committed to its future, but we need the local community to support the football club to make it all work.
It has also been mooted that we have had lots of offers for the club. I wish that was the case because if someone wanted to invest in the football club, I would be the first to offer open arms. As your previous Chairman stated in the financial year before I turned up: “There is absolutely no person interested in investing in the football club and I hope I can find someone who will do this before I leave the football club in June.” That was on the back of worrying losses amounting to £3.25m in the two years previous to my appointment and a line in his chairman statement warning of administration, debt of £2m and a bank security of £1m secured against the stadium, maxed out overdraft facilities of £400k and a wage shortfall of £1m in the year I arrived. We had poor training facilities, so I invested in the ground adjacent to the stadium and we now have an excellent grass pitch and I have continued to support the Academy, so I believe I have done my bit, by clearing all that debt and just require the fans to come and support the football club, through good or bad times.
The EFL loan was a necessity due to cash flow issues and I am still disappointed our “rescue package” turned out to be a loan and embargo after we agreed to play behind closed doors, what a kick in the teeth that was for any club struggling through Covid. We have covered that loan with a stadium naming right offer from my hotel in Blackpool for the next 10 years, to limit any financial impact on the club.
Plans don’t always work, but if you persist and believe it will work you must keep at it and don’t give up, I could have quite easily given up, but I haven’t and continue to be the proud chairman of this football club, I hide nothing and I have no other agenda but to ensure the financial stability of this football club. In the eight or so years at the helm not one penny have I taken out of the club, in either a wage or transfer fees and even the interest charged on the loan was returned to the club within an investment of over £20m.
If there is anyone out there who wants to invest or buy the club, it's available with all its assets, no lease, but I assure you they are not out there, so you have me until that day arrives. Let’s work together and continue the work which involves fans panels and groups. We are now having our yearly shareholder meetings put back on the calendar and I am available to chat to any shareholder or fan who wants that contact prior to the November meeting and beyond.
Let's hope we can turn things around on the pitch, because we are trying our hardest off it, but we need you to support the team to make this work.