HELLO, fellow fans.
I am writing this as I prepare to leave for Devon. Jane is already there, and I will join her for two weeks, before coming back to the US. I will see some of you at Mansfield, and many more of you at Home Park for the visit of Scunthorpe United.
We are now 10 games into the season and can start to see how the first team is gelling. Results have been disappointing, but the style of play has been refreshing.
We wanted attacking, entertaining football, and we have got it. It is clear where the problems are, and, if they are clear to me, you can be sure they are clear to Ryan, Schuey, Nance and the rest of the first-team staff.
The support Ryan and the team has had has been fantastic, both at Home Park, and on the road. Thank you all for your patience.
The long-term has been the club’s focus for the last several years. Our goal is to build a bigger fanbase and to increase revenues so that we are financially sustainable without shareholder backing.
At the moment, we are not there, but we think the investments that we have made in the last few years are a good step towards building the base. In the last three years, the club has bought its stadium; bought back part of Higher Home Park; and, of course, almost rebuilt the grandstand.
As this week’s announcement that Jane and I have cancelled the loan that helped finance the grandstand in exchange for more shares makes clear, those investments have been financed not with debt, but with shareholder money, as a result of which, I now own 97% of Argyle. I am grateful to Richard Holliday and Tony Wrathall for their support in this project which has, of course, seen their own ownership shrink.
Despite today’s football environment, that leaves Argyle in a strong position on which to build a financially sustainable future for when I am gone.
Those are the big investments, but we have made smaller ones, all of which should make watching football at Home Park a more enjoyable experience. We have a new Fan Zone; we have a new shop; we have installed point-of-sales terminals in kiosks to try to reduce queuing; we have changed some of the food and drink offerings; and we have tidied up and renovated the horseshoe. Finally, once the grandstand is complete, there will be a new PA system, so we will be able to hear the information that is now blasted throughout the ground to little effect!
This is not the ‘same old Argyle’, and, under Andrew Parkinson’s leadership, the new Argyle is rapidly emerging. It is still a work in progress, but the direction is clear.
I hope that the club’s financial position is also increasingly clear. Our director Paul Berne gave a presentation that outlined where the money comes from and where it goes at our recent fans’ forum, and that presentation is now available on our website.
If anything is unclear, drop me an email—I will collect questions and put out a single letter answering them all.
The main points are:
We are not yet financially sustainable – defined as our revenues being sufficient to cover our costs. The biggest cost is the first team, of course, and the board has preferred to rely for the moment, on shareholder funding, rather than reduce that cost. Other costs are well under control, but are significant. In particular, the stadium and our facilities have been under-invested in for a long time and will require further spending in the coming years.
We are heavily reliant on ticket sales, but that is not the only source of revenue. It is the source where we have a financial advantage over other clubs, but we want to establish a similar advantage in other areas, notably in commercial revenue. That is where the grandstand comes in. Being able to use it every day of the week will be an enormous benefit. One of the problems with running a football club in a business-like way is that your biggest asset – the stadium – is used for a couple of hours once a fortnight! The conference and banqueting facilities will provide a very useful asset for the city, and an important source of income for the club. We have already begun holding concerts at the stadium – more than 2,000 people enjoyed the Abba and Queen shows. There will be more to come. Other areas will also be important, ranging from match-day hospitality and concessions, sponsorship and advertising. We have already begun selling our hospitality packages in different tiers under the Club Argyle name. Take a look – there is something for everyone!
For fans who cannot make it to the matches (including me!), we have been investing in our iFollow offering. We have installed the equipment to enable four-camera coverage and are waiting for the EFL to give the go-ahead for it to be used for match-day coverage.
Broadcasting of live football games is subject to a lot of regulation, and, of course, to the terms of the contract with Sky, so we are a little behind schedule, but still confident that the improved product will be available in coming weeks. There has been some controversy about our decision to replace BBC Devon’s commentary with our own, but the decision to do so was based on our desire to be able to give more information about club events, promotions and offers to our viewers and listeners. I think most people would agree that it is getting better every week.
Another area of controversy is the issue of homophobic and racist chanting. We are in danger of developing a bad reputation in this regard, a reputation that we cannot afford to have.
Even if we could afford it, we would not tolerate it. We are a values-driven club, and one of our values is respect: “We are committed to inclusion and we strive to eliminate inappropriate discrimination, in all its forms, so that we can all work and watch football in an environment free from intimidation, victimisation or harassment.”
We mean that.
We will not tolerate racism, homophobia or other forms of abuse.
Those who are guilty of it are not welcome at Argyle – and I do not care how much they have spent on tickets, or how long they have been fans. Stay away.
On a more positive note, the grandstand is starting to look fantastic. We have a tough act to follow after the Green Taverners’ new supporters’ bar has got off to such a flying start, but we think everyone is going to love it.
Now that construction is mostly over, and it is more about internal fittings, we have been able to start taking groups of people around. The feedback has been very positive.
We have planned for the fit-out and are hoping that the stand will be ready for use in December. Jane and I will be there, and I hope you will join us. For safety reasons, we have to move in stages towards full capacity, so we cannot quite commit to the formal opening as yet.
It really is exciting times at Argyle, both behind the scenes and on the pitch. I hope that you will join me in getting behind the team, enjoying the football and a march back up the league table.
Now I am off to the airport.[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]