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Club News


23 December 2013

Straight from the Chairman's mouth

It won’t have escaped your notice that the club’s overall position is again subject of speculation both in local media and the Sunday national press – namely the Sunday People.

Let me clarify things for the benefit of supporters, sponsors and suppliers regarding a number of issues raised.

I have already said previously, whilst I funded the football club I was in effect a silent partner. The previous Chairman and directors ran the club day to day and were responsible for the budget we are now trying to work too. This budget was one that the club supplied to the Football League and on which the player budget, taking account of the fair play rules, was sanctioned.

In simple terms that budget required 5,000 season ticket holders, a minimum of 1,500 cash paying home fans and a minimum of 1,000 cash paying away fans, plus projected and other revenues.

Whilst hindsight is an exact science, it’s fair to say the projected gate revenue was over optimistic and by some margin.

Yet despite this, we were already committed to the player budget based on these levels of revenue. In reality, we have done well. We have over 4,200 season ticket holders this season compared to just over 3,000 last. Average home gates are well up, and away attendance has been boosted by Wolves and Coventry games. But, this still falls short of the overall budget.

The bottom line is, I have had to make up the deficit personally, and having already committed to putting about £1million into the club - that figure may rise to £1.2 million. This isn’t because we are doing badly, but because we set ourselves too high a player budget than was realistic.

But the club has no debt, and I have no debt and that will remain the case under my reign as Chairman.

I do therefore get annoyed when I see misleading and inaccurate reports about the commercial activities, often from ill-informed people who don’t even attend matches themselves. Some individuals go out of their way to paint a picture of doom and gloom but in truth are wide of the mark.

Commercially, the club has probably never taken as much money as this season. The new shops, a new ticket office, on-line ticketing, the stand sponsorships, deals with the likes of GMB and BetBright, higher corporate sales – the list goes on… have ensured commercial revenues are at record highs.

Without this income, the £1-£1.2 million deficit I am having to fund would be even greater, probably well in excess of £2 million. This all goes back to an over ambitious budget from day one. Our total wage bill is over £300k a month and average gate receipts are only £72k net of vat. The wage bill would be even higher if we wanted to recruit more players in January. You can soon see why we are where we are.

This is now the subject of on-going discussion and I am meeting Matthew Ellis the Police and Crimes Commissioner in the New Year. Our largest single creditor is Stoke City Council, because they invoice match day fees on behalf of the Staffordshire Police. It has already been documented that I took exception to the size of the police bill for the Wolves game, and the fact that the club is picking up costs for events outside the club’s stadium footprint.

As for the widely (Sunday People and Local Media) reported issue of non-payments to agents, let me explain. I was not party to any of the contracts and deals for which the agents fees were due and none of the agents were known personally to me. We are also not the only club that owes agents money.

I decided to email the agents concerned to explain my position, and apologise for the delay, but also saying they would be paid in due course. I felt that was the thing to do and be up front. I am sorry that one (or more) has chosen to make the content of a private correspondence public knowledge.

I’d like to re-iterate that all salaries have been paid to date, we have met or HMRC and Vat obligations in full and when it has come to my attention that a supplier account is well overdue, I have ensured that they have been paid.

I may be the figurehead, but I have a dedicated and hard-working team both on and off the field and I will continue to support the club financially. Contrary to rumours, I have not tried to actively sell the club, although I am on record as saying that if an experienced football person wants to invest alongside me that is something I would look at doing if it was of benefit to Port Vale. That remains so.

Finally, let me wish everyone connected with the club a happy Christmas and a Happy New Year. A special thanks to the catering team, who have ensured we have delivered the busiest Christmas period in the club’s history, with 1,000s of happy party goers having a great time at Vale Park.

Norman Smurthwaite

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