As we enter Christmas week and after a number of requests on line, I thought I would update you after the business review I have started to conduct.

As we enter Christmas week and after a number of requests on line, I thought I would update you after the business review I have started to conduct.

A number of issues and importantly opportunities have arisen, which I am investigating. Quite clearly these must remain confidential at this stage. I’ve seen and heard of a number of rumours that are way off the mark but I hope to give further details of progress no later than by the end of the first quarter of the New Year. I appreciate this may be frustrating but the long term future of the club cannot be decided in a few weeks and the opportunities are varied and require considerable due diligence with a number of parties. These are both exciting and progressing at great speed having had very positive beginnings.

I’ve met a number of you recently and I’m encouraged by the hardcore support we have that wants the club to succeed and love the club.

I am particularly conscious that many hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent over the last decade on upgrading the stadium with little reward and therefore I am not willing to support proposals that will not best support the area moving forward. The club have finished the fantastic PRE stand, installed a commercial kitchen, upgraded all the bars, opened a cafe and a soft play. The bottom line is that this amazing facility is not being used anywhere near enough and the policy of ‘build it and they will come’ has not worked and this is seriously impacted on the viability of the football side of the business. Our fans need to know that our community need to use the facilities more or risk losing them and this has nothing to do with football. It is this community concept that we must improve and get right moving forward. We have a clean slate now that the CVA is dealt with but we must remember the mistakes of the past that led to debts in excess of a staggering £2m, much spent on players and management with no clear business plan of how to pay the most basic of creditors that all businesses should have.

As for on the pitch this season has already had its ups and downs with considerable criticism particularly for the manager. I reiterate we will not pay out money we do not have and our key loss of income is via sponsors, or lack of them, our catering facilities and to some degree our attendances. We are almost self sustainable without one off expenses such as bonds and investments and run just about debt free on a day to day basis. The league bond of £30000 which was demanded was very unfair having been running competently as stated by the FA financial team for the previous two years and crippled any budget we could give the manager.

I know our manager accepts that mistakes have been made but he is on the very tightest of restrictions. We make next to no money at all through a match day as we run a regulated stadium which costs a lot despite the fantastic support of our volunteers. By the time our costs are taken out there is often nothing left at all so its vital you keep supporting us if you want to help the club. A tiny budget, that having looked at other sides in the relegation battle is around half of what they are paying, in reality means we should finish rock bottom on a finance basis. As an example I was here for our last home game and in that weeks budget we had five starting players playing for under £50 per week including expenses and four of the squad named on the day playing for absolutely nothing, not even expenses. We have only four players receiving three figures per week and that includes travelling money some of which is considerable. None of the management have been paid anything at the moment, in fact it’s the opposite. A return of excellent home form gave us a boost last month but the last week has been disappointing. The bottom line is the manager works with almost a zero budget that he has to create by player sales (which last year contributed over half the budget) and using his contacts to negotiate cheap loans or favours as we just cannot offer players competitive salaries on a full time basis. Three good years on previously keeping the team up in appalling circumstances must not be forgotten but we all hope that this last year can be forgotten quickly on the pitch. There are a few positives with a couple of the academy players moving into the starting team and we are still in this double relegation battle with games in hand. Whether we can raise any extra funds to give the manager the chance to get us out of this battle is something we are looking at urgently but I will not risk the financial future for gambling on staying in step 4 or 5. If we have to go to step 5 and build self sufficiently, and our current budget is appropriate to that level already, we will and take the positives of clubs such as Hereford and Salisbury. The facilities are here and need using as that is one of our two key incomes. Gate income makes a difference but we would need to triple our attendance (which only ever happened in the Conference premier decades ago) to substantially increase our playing budget, more supporters of course helps but after our costs this is what we are left with and staying away just restricts us further as every pound counts here at Cherrywood Road.

The negativity on our forum needs addressing. I lost two sponsors just last week that had in principle agreed to support the club but having read the forum withdrew. We also lost an investor three months ago for the same reason. The six or seven posters that continually criticise almost everything are damaging the club. No one expects supporters to be happy with the results on the pitch but we are where we are for all the reasons known. It’s very sad that a small group would rather the club fold and seem to take joy in it and are trying to make it happen – you will not succeed so you are wasting your time.. A 100% ‘community club’ cannot succeed as there is just nowhere near enough financial strength to survive with the day to day costs never mind extra expenses that pop up. Lewes FC run such a scheme without a facility close to our size with considerably more support than us yet have struggled despite admirable intentions.  We are working hard to rebuild our reputation and in large areas this is happening. We pay our bills, our staff and players on time, something that has been ignored for almost 15 years. We don’t run up debt and frustrate the business community with bills that we have no way of ever paying.  All of this leaves next to nothing for any football manager who I will support as long as he wants to stay as very few of you are aware of just how much he has put into this club both on and off the pitch and still does just to get any team onto the pitch. His offer to meet with ‘non biased supporters that would voice all areas of concern’ so he could at least try and put some more understanding into a difficult year was not known or approved by me and has met with further criticism and negativity so I’ve decided to cancel it. None of us that commit time and money keeping the club alive, including me, deserve these type of comments. It’s well known that I have a strong relation with our manager but without him we wouldn’t have a had a club at all and its been far too easy to forget that both on and off the pitch. The behaviour of two or three of our supporters has not been acceptable and will not be tolerated. To now also turn criticism even on one of our young volunteers who does a fantastic job is going too far and is another form of bad PR that I wish to stamp out. Assistance is gratefully received, encouragement and feedback, good or bad is welcome but it should be done in a correct manner that is respectful, this is a community club backed by volunteers and supported by me. No one has the right to demand that the club is funded by anyone individually and the reality is that each time it has in the past it has ended in insolvency. We are a small community club in an area that can grow with a stable business plan and that is what we are trying to continue with.

Looking at the Clubs history over the last 50 years or so we’ve hit the highs of the now Conference National for only a few short years but generally been more down than up with substantial financial problems. The club needs stability, building on a fantastic stadium and superb volunteers. There have been no genuine offers to buy the club, only the typical dreamers. Real investment or buyers will always be considered if it benefits the club in the long term. Those who don’t want to be involved don’t have to be. It is taking a few years of pain but I am looking at the next 50 years of the club as its current custodian, we have amazing potential here but it must be directed in the right way. The days of many hundreds of thousands of pounds playing budgets are long over. Our crowds are consistent with similar ex Conference South clubs and well ahead of many in the division so thank you for sticking with us, we are very grateful to our fans that keep supporting the team particularly at home games-in the long run we can build a community club that has solid foundations that is not reliant on millionaires

Thank you to those who are sticking with us through these challenging times.

I hope to be able to bring better news in 2016 and I wish you all a Happy Christmas

Rob Prince

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