Around Rovers

November 27, 2009

The FA Cup success of Paulton Rovers was well reported by the nation media as well by the local media here in the West. It was the coaching leadership and the football produced by the players against the likes of Tiverton, Newport and Chippenham that took the Somerset Club up through the qualifying rounds and in to the memorable first round tie with Norwich City; another ball game altogether.

To be fair no one really expected the Southern League Southern Section outfit to progress further and the media focus moved towards the financial rewards that by a number of accounts will set the club up for several seasons to come and will enable then to invest in raising Paulton to a notch or two up the English pyramid.  It seems to me that outside of the Premier League a couple of hundred thousand pounds one way or the other can gives hopes to a football club to move forward on the one hand or plunge them into the miserable worries and treats of Administration on the other.

In any event a cash bonus in the times of an economic downturn has got to be welcome to any football club. It was good to see the television cameras at Paulton.  In difficult times some comfort will come from a welcome boost to broadcasting revenues for many clubs at this time.  This income stream may help to offset any impact on matchday and commercial revenues. Well done to the committee at Paulton for working so hard and bending over backwards to facilitate the live screening of the Norwich game on national television.

The Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance 2009 was published during the summer and distributed around the leagues and football clubs early in the season. Given the title ”Safely in Numbers” the review firstly covers the areas of Europe’s Premier Leagues and then gave a focus solely on the professional game in England with revenue, profitability and club financing forming the backbone of the document. Wages, transfers, stadia development and operations took up the remaining sections to give an overview of clubs’ competitive advantage.

Notwithstanding the interest that I found on just about every issue raised in the sixty eight page document, plus appendices, I was drawn to the following statement in the Foreword. “Clubs will face significant challenges in the short term to maintain current (financial) performance given the economic environment. Although conditions are likely to be difficult it is timely to remember that the fundamentals supporting the Game remain strong.  Football occupies a key part of England’s national identity and is deeply integrated into people’s everyday lives.” I think we would all vouch for that; boardroom and terraces alike.

Under the heading of “Road to Perdition”, I took on a more sobering read. The review goes on, “As we have seen in previous turbulent periods, there will be casualties. In 2009 we have already seen Chester City, Darlington, Southampton and Stockport County enter Administration, and there will be others to follow.”

Sanctions and penalties for clubs entering Administration are very much a talking point for clubs and fans across the country. The review goes on to say,  ”While unfortunate , we (Deloitte) do not feel that the penalties are unreasonable. Allowing clubs to enter/exit Administration without penalty could be seem as a form of financial doping whereby a club could irresponsibly overspend in search of an on-pitch advantage, then, if that failed, clear its debts and emerge reborn and unscathed. This presents a clear challenge to the integrity of the competition, especially; when other clubs may be working tirelessly to balance the books on an ongoing basis. The sanctions present a realistic deterrent to unsustainable operating practices.” I have listened to our Chairman very carefully when he talks about our plans going forward. He repeats over and over that alongside the hopes and aspirations that we all share for the Stadium and on the playing side “We are not going to put the Football Club at risk.”

I am still on the Foreword, pages 2 and 3 with another sixty five to plough through, but I was interested in another observation, “Football remains a relatively inexpensive hospitality option compared to other one-off events and seasonal packages. Furthermore, many corporate hospitality buyers are small businesses, fans in their own right who have traded up rather than large enterprises which may have weaker brand loyalty.”

This certainly bears out what we do at Bristol Rovers and the way that we respond to the market. I drop in on the Uplands hospitality suite every matchday and find the majority of hospitality customers in the Uplands and in the DAS boxes on matchdays are made up of 1883 club members, small local business proprietors and their employees, fans celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and retirements etc, share scheme members, Presidents Club and many others who are taking the advantages of the fine offering for very good reasons including their deeply rooted loyalty to our football club. Our very innovative shirt sponsorship draw is another prime example and very worthy of supporting. The fundamentals do indeed remain strong in this wonderful game of ours and especially so at Bristol Rovers Football Club.

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