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2016/17 Season News

CFAQS


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CFAQS

PostedMarch 26, 2017

A summary of some recent questions put to the Board of Cowdenbeath FC

There are various rumours about the club is there any truth in these?

There are always rumours – just before we got involved years back tall tales were doing the rounds about the Co-op buying Central Park for 3 million and it then being razed to the ground and that a relocation of the Cowdenbeath stock cars to Lochgelly was all tied up. Fake News is what they call that nowadays. Cowdenbeath are moving to play at Kelty Hearts, the Directors have a cunning plan with the Brewsters to have Central Park sold for redevelopment and get their money back, Hearts have some influence, the players hate the fans, the club is driven by the cash windfall that would be available in Lowland League (despite it being less than the payment to 10th club in League 2), etc., – chuck all that in the bin. It seems to be the spirit of the age – Fake News is precisely what all that tosh is.

Is there a need for better communication then between club and fans?

Time for a reality check. All that time and energy wasted on made up stories – exactly what establishing a Supporters Council in 2015 was intended to avoid. We regularly communicate via our Social Media, the match programme and in the Press. The whole point of the Supporters Council was proactive communication. We had one meeting where the fans were shown the full details of the club’s budgets – you could hardly be more open than that. Then the Supporters Council fell away. It was designed for: dialogue on real issues; effective 2-way communication; avoiding the Fake News sideshow; building a close and real understanding based on trust – much can be said in meetings with Supporters Reps which we don’t wish to broadcast to the world on Social Media; a genuine partnership. Not embracing the Supporters Council has been a real wasted opportunity.

When Cowden won the play-off at Dunfermline and were then in the Championship playing Rangers, Hibs and Hearts wasn’t that supposed to ensure the club’s future?

No that’s a misrepresentation or at least a misconception. Playing those teams produced a surge in income. But in the Championship playing those and other full time clubs means your costs shoot away up if you actually want to compete at all at that level. Take Dundee, when they won the Championship in that season we stayed up – they had crowds averaging over 5,000 a match but made a loss of 820,000 (a few years after being in Administration). That is the level you are competing at and it’s even more difficult when you throw in the three clubs named – so what really happens is your cost base moves upwards sharply in line with income.

Then again how do you keep your best players and balance the books when instead of 300,000 in League gate money in 2014/15, you reduce to 75,000 in 2015/16 and say just 25,000 in 2016/17? The real point of being in the mix in 2014/15 with those teams was to help us maybe get investors interested in buying or investing in the club so as to secure its future. Big matches and crowds would help put us on their radar. However, after scouring all over for potential interest we can say there are no investors or white knights out there with a burning desire to invest in Cowdenbeath FC. We made particularly extensive efforts in 2014/15 but to no avail.

So if the club has experienced this massive drop in gate money how does it balance the books?

With very great difficulty. Traditionally, Cowdenbeath FC was underpinned by player transfers and stock car income. Bosman means transfer fee income is now minimal. In 2010 the ownership of the ground was transferred away from Cowdenbeath FC to the stock car company. Since then Cowdenbeath are between 70,000 and 100,000 worse off every year (because we now pay a rent instead of receiving it, we don’t get income from the weekly market or the catering at the ground, etc.).

All that means the funding of the club has required large cash injections (mainly from the Directors) of around 400,000 in the last 7 or so years as well as the increased income of the championship seasons. That gate money is gone now and the Directors don’t have bottomless pockets. This though was all flagged up in the close season in 2015 in a series of Fan Meetings where the position was made crystal clear.

That is when the Roof Fall scheme was launched?

Yes indeed. In essence, Cowdenbeath needs to generate between 70,000 and 100,000 extra cash each year to effectively remain fairly competitive. So the idea was the fans worked in a partnership with the Club to fill this gap – this was the Roof Fall initiative. Now, two seasons on, many folks have made a significant financial contribution via Roof Fall and others have come on board as unpaid volunteers working for the club. That is the positive. However, some volunteers fail to stay the course and fund raising via Roof Fall really needed a wider uptake.

Look at it on a simplified basis, big picture style. The club needed to raise 70,000 at least via Roof Fall in 2015/16. What was raised? Around about 25,000 – a very worthy effort. But there was thus a shortfall of 45,000 – a hole in the budget. How was that made up? Well of course the Scottish Cup tie v Rangers came to the rescue! The TV/Gate monies produced a 160,000 windfall for the Club. That covered the Roof Fall deficit of 45,000 and paying a bonus to players of 20,000 and left us with a surplus of 95,000 coming into this season.

Now 2016/17 will bring a further reduction in League gate money of about 45,000. We also have a reduction in SPFL Fees paid to us this season of about 20,000 playing in League 2 rather than League 1. So that takes up 65,000 of that 95,000 brought forward. But remember you still need to raise another 70,000 just to stand still via Roof Fall. Roof Fall looks like delivering 15,000 this season so overall you have a funding deficit of 25,000. Where does that come from – again out of Directors’ pockets.

One particular criticism is that the Board is reluctant to change managers and acts reactively in this regard rather than proactively?

Well changing managers seems to be the default action demanded whenever you have a problem. It doesn’t assure you of any change in fortunes at all but is seen as ‘doing something’. It may be the right thing to do sometimes or can appease. However, what is clear is that there seems to be little or no heed being paid at all to financial realities when such calls are made. As a rough guide every time we change manager there is a knock on cost running into five figures. That actually does have to be paid for in real cash – or the alternative is running on the Rangers/Gretna/Dunfermline model of not so long ago. You don’t pay Creditors, HMRC, etc. and invite financial instability. Look at Leyton Orient – 9 managers in 3 years – facing a winding up order as they owe HMRC and other creditors a fortune. Making the change we have made now required even more funding by Board members. That well has run dry.

So what has gone wrong on the field this season?

One thing you do need in League 2 is an experienced core in the team to provide leadership. The idea was that we would have a spine built round 3 players who would anchor and lead the team – they were given two year deals. Dave McGurn has done well enough in goals but Craig Sives was expected to captain the side and Chris Turner was a highly regarded, robust midfielder. Fans were very pleased with these signings but things didn’t work out with Sives and Turner for reasons beyond our control. Then you have the loss of Dean Brett and the simple fact that our longest serving player Kenny Adamson hasn’t played a single match for us this season due to injury. None of this was down to the manager but it meant our side was left lacking in key areas. That said other players such as Jamie Sneddon and Kris Renton have amply shown their worth. Bear fully in mind too that the introduction of the trapdoor at the foot of League 2 has led to a very significant general uplift in wage costs in this Division due to the risk of relegation.

So if the worst comes to the worst can the club survive if it slips into the Lowland League?

Of course it can – it would need to cut its cloth to do that. It comes back to the survive rather than thrive scenario. East Stirlingshire haven’t folded despite dropping down. The Lowland League isn’t as big a drop as from the Championship to League 1 or from League 1 to 2 as experienced in the last 2 years. There are budgets for both League 2 and the Lowland League for next season – neither are a piece of cake. Both will work but involve belt tightening and/or enhanced fund raising. The uptake of a scheme like Roof Fall could make all the difference. The real key though is having enough committed people to make up a Board and enough supporters pitching in in a tangible way. Folks who are willing to continue running and backing the club. Without that you do have no club.

And what about the situation as regards the ownership of the ground and the club?

Well we now have a stable and positive relationship with Innovate (the Brewsters/Stock car operators/owners of Central Park). It isn’t a them and us scenario – both parties have their own challenges. They though were willing to allow Donald Findlay to purchase the club on behalf of the community last year for a very modest price. The lack of engagement via the Supporters’ Council or similar meetings though means we have been unable as yet to capitalise on this community ownership of the club. We don’t see any prospect of a new ground in Cowdenbeath in the near future. Discussions over the years with Fife Council have borne little fruit – indeed to our detriment the more peripheral North End Park site was given planning consent rather than a site at Central Park right in the heart of the town. No real encouragement or ideas have been forthcoming from Council sources. There are alternatives – relocate to another town, groundshare elsewhere, merge with another club, play junior, even close down. Are those what fans and the community want? We don’t think they are?

So what does the future hold?

It is down to the fans/community. As it has been for most of the time since Gordon McDougall sold out and the financial crash in 2008. It has been a ‘Save Cowdenbeath’ job since the present Board was formed by the fans in 2010. It is every bit as big a challenge as the ‘Save the Pars’ campaign which was essentially galvanised by the realities of Administration. Cowden’s problems have been more insidious and drawn out but the club needs the same sort of

community/fan commitment to make headway. Some suggest we should somehow have set aside money for a rainy day – but it has been pouring at Central Park since 2008.

Roof Fall was a proactive initiative to tackle the club’s funding issues but it has fallen short despite some great commitment. Thus we will now launch a new initiative entitled Club135 in the next few weeks – its aim is to help provide a base to build a sustainable Cowdenbeath FC. The future of Cowdenbeath FC is absolutely dependent then on the response, energy, ingenuity and backing of the community, fans and well-wishers.

And please get along to Central Park to support the club in the remaining games this season.

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