In the final part of the end-of-year review, chief executive Nigel Clibbens takes a closer look at some of the club’s business activities.
First some background.
In total we have 18 full-time equivalent staff (including the three paid 1921 company directors) in all our business activities off-the-field. We have a mixture of full and part-time staff, often job sharing.
The club currently employs 34 people working in football activities. We have 27 players, comprising of 24 club contracted players (including four first-year professionals) and three loan players. We have seven people on our football staff (manager, coaches and support staff). As stated in part two of my review, when player wages are included, football staff payroll costs are at 75% of the club total. On top of this we have the other football operational costs, such as travel, medical costs, etc.
We have four staff who work on grounds and the stadium, two in commercial, three in retail, three in ticketing, two in media, three in finance and club administration, plus a chief executive. These employees make up 15% of total club payroll cost.
With the six Academy staff that makes a total of 58 full-time employees.
In the past, the club was particularly fortunate to gain a very large financial benefit each year from almost full-time unpaid work by the late Dick Young, as commercial director, and John Nixon, as managing director. This heavily subsidised the running cost of the club, well below what was the true cost, over a number of years. This continued to the end of 2015/16. This allowed spending elsewhere to be inflated. The untimely death of Dick, and the stepping back of John Nixon, led to the need to recruit replacements, obviously with the required accompanying costs.
This has aligned the club with normal management arrangements seen elsewhere at other clubs, but it has also taken away the hidden financial benefit that Dick and John had given the club. We are pleased the growth in club income achieved in 2016/17, and the year before, has more than covered these management costs.
In addition, we have approximately 105 stewards, plus abm catering staff and other part-time staff, on a match day.
The Carlisle United Community Sports Trust [CST] employs their own staff, and is managed independently of the club by its own Board of Trustees - but we work extremely closely together, in practice.
This is reinforced by 1921 directors Jim Mitchell and Phil King being trustees on the CST board along with Holdings director Steven Pattison. Examples of the good work done by our CST team are the club open days, hosting community projects like Kick it Out and Show Racism the Red Card roadshows, and the Wates Construction Community Project.
We are in a busy period for our ticket office, particularly with the half-season ticket offer currently on sale [click HERE for details of the half-season ticket offer]. This provides an opportunity to make big savings on match day prices, starting with the Accrington game during the festive period. Half-season tickets can be an excellent Christmas gift.
This has been publicised in recent weeks via the club website, which gets up to half a million views a month [sometimes much more than that, in periods of high interest, such as the play-offs or 'big' cup games], direct to fans on our email database [with just over 14,000 contacts], via the club social media channels, to 54,500 directly on Twitter and 96,500 Facebook followers [with a reach in the hundreds of thousands during high interest periods – we were achieving Premier League viewing figures during the floods, for example].
We entered into a new commercial deal with CN Group this season and the offer has been featured in their papers and on their website since its launch. If you haven’t seen details, contact our ticket office staff and they will help you with any questions you may have.
Last season our overall League Two average attendance was 5,113 - up 8.7% on the back of an increase of 6.9% in 2015/16. Average attendances are now 4,522 after ten home games, compared with 5,063 after ten games last season.
The change so far this season is disappointing, following the rises from the last two years, but the mix of fixtures is always an influence in the early part of the season. We have to bear in mind that we’d had a home game against Hartlepool during that same period last season, with the increased attendance that type of ‘local derby’ always brings. With the change in teams in the division this year, compared to the likes of Blackpool, Portsmouth and Hartlepool last year, this will inevitably affect gates, so 4,700 is budgeted for the 2017/18 season.
Season tickets now stand at 2,201, compared with 1,858 last season. That’s an increase of 18%, following a rise of 15% the year before. The season ticket offers this season have proved to be popular. This follows a marketing campaign and incentivised pricing initiative which was effective and popular. That is something else we will look to build on next season. We will start the planning process for next season’s season ticket packages in January.
In retail we have new products arriving all the time. This year we have sold 3,199 replica kits to date, compared with 2,708 at the same stage last year. That’s an increase of 18%. The designs have proved popular and we are pleased with the way the Umbro relationship is developing. Income is up 10% this year already, and this is after a big rise last year too! Well done to all of our retail staff.
We are now in the process of picking the home and away kits for 2018/19, and we have a few options under consideration. The plan is to have a traditional home kit, and again have a more eye-catching away strip. Fans at the December CUSG meeting offered their views ... the idea of a red away strip was ruled out!
After the success of the visits of Rod Stewart and Olly Murs / UB40 in the last two years we are again looking to host another event next summer. Negotiations are advancing, but these deals are complicated – and that’s between artists and promoters, before they even get to us – so fingers crossed for more news on this soon.
In the summer, the EFL relaunched the match commentary and overseas live match streaming channel - iFollow United. It also comes with access to our club video content, with a significant number of interviews and highlights hosted on the platform – the content uploaded by our media team is well received and extremely popular. To find out more about iFollow United, click HERE.
Again, it’s early days, but next season, technology permitting, there is the real prospect of Carlisle United midweek League games being available via iFollow, to be streamed live over the internet to UK based fans. Not everyone can make midweek games, especially when it involves long distance travel, so it will be interesting to see the response to that.
As you may have seen from the CUSG minutes [click HERE to see the December minutes] we are progressing plans for a new scoreboard and screen. There is still work to do, but the progress so far is encouraging.
We are pleased to see the scaffolding for the new roof on the EWM stand finally come down, and we are planning to have fans back in their normal seats this weekend. Thanks to long standing supporter PMS for the work they have done on this. The safety certificate has been granted for the stand and the work on that area is now complete.
Following the earlier work on the Sunset Suite, the Warwick Road End and Paddock South catering outlets, and now the EWM roof, the next major project we hope the fans will see benefit from is a new Fanzone. This is in the planning stage with design now under way. Watch this space for further announcements in the New Year.
We are now five months into the new relationship with abm catering, who were appointed by the club in the summer to be responsible for all catering arrangements at Brunton Park. The 'handover' process is never an easy one and there was some fast learning required through the early weeks. It’s fair to say there were some problems, which we all acknowledge.
We are investing in the upgrade of facilities and equipment, but the task is a big one. Below standard facilities restrict our ability to give fans what they deserve, restrict our income and increase our costs. This is not a good cycle and it is obvious to all that we need to break it for the long-term good of the club.
Now that abm have had some time to settle in, we are seeing better feedback from fans in public and hospitality areas, and we continue to look to make improvements. We are excited about developments going forward. Both the club and abm are keen to push the non-matchday usage of the stadium for events and meetings.
I hope you have found these updates useful and informative.
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