In part three of the review from chief executive Nigel Clibbens he discusses the activities in the club’s Academy and Community Sports Trust departments.
At the Academy we have six full-time staff and 14 members of the coaching staff (some coaches are part-time) to look after training and games for our under-8 to under-16 players. There are usually 16 players in the under-18 scholar programme, but this can fluctuate. The Academy staff costs are 10% of the club total (excluding interest and depreciation). These are funded by EFL grants.
December is now the time to make decisions on which under-16 players will be offered scholarships. This process traditionally took place up to April, but new rules have brought this forward. We typically operate with a split of first and second years, so that means around eight new players will be taken on ahead of next season.
All of us were disappointed to exit the FA Youth cup against Hartlepool, but it proved to be a valuable experience and a good learning tool for our young players.
Pathways for developing players are critical to success, so we are pleased to see loan moves are providing an opportunity for our four development players to make an impact. The next step is to see them move on to become part of the senior squad.
Success in bringing through club developed players cannot be predicted. As we know, it is not an exact science. Fans remember the successes, and coaches and talent spotters always point to the players that make it – seldom to the ones they predicted would, but who then didn’t quite find a way through! There are a number of factors which can affect the outcomes, and that’s why it’s such a long-term job. It is increasingly demanding on clubs as the required performance standards are rightly raised each year by the EFL, who supply the funding for the vast majority of the costs.
The gap between players leaving scholarship at age 18 and the first team squad is usually significant. Success in bridging that gap requires patience (it can be seen as less exciting than trading players), long term commitment, proactive action to give the right player opportunities at the right time, and willingness to take risks and put time and effort in to developing the younger players. In reality, it does not fit well in the pressured world of winning on a Saturday, where the demand for first team success today can lead to an opposite short-term approach.
That is increasingly why some clubs are turning their backs after finding development ‘too hard’ and unjustifiable, particularly if they can trade first team players right now. Each club is different.
Fans and clubs need patience, and there must be trust and understanding by everyone involved to allow the time and space for that to take place. The board is committed to making progress in this. In the past it has been a successful part of the club.
As discussed earlier club developed players are important to our future progress and success, so we need to deal with the challenges and overcome them. We are striving to improve in everything we do in the Academy, with a focus on recruitment and coaching – that is within our direct control to change in the short-term.
Academy funding in 2016/17 increased by over a third, courtesy of a series of grants from the EFL. A further modest increase is forecast for this year. The commercial team have also for the first time secured a Youth Team shirt sponsor and Academy back of shirt sponsors, alongside our main Academy sponsor – bringing in additional commercial income to reinvest.
Through the support of Pioneer Food Services Group, and a donation made earlier this year from the Norwegian Supporters’ Club, we have acquired a new mini-bus. A thank you goes to both organisations for their support. CUSC London Branch have also made a donation towards Academy running costs. Thanks also goes to them.
In the summer we had the first stage of our three-yearly Academy audit. The initial results showed us as being on-track, but we do still have a lot of work to do. The next stage comes in January 2018, which makes for a busy New Year period.
Facilities remain our other major challenge at the Academy. We are grateful for the arrangement at Creighton Rugby Club, but Academy under-18 scholars train and play on a pitch which is shared with the CUFC Ladies team, and also sees some community use. That needs heavy investment as drainage is very difficult.
The arrangement with Penrith FC to hold games at Frenchfield Park has been beneficial for all parties. It’s another example of the club working together with the wider community to improve things, but it’s another short-term fix.
Our under-8 to under-16 age-group training sessions and games are also spread around the city, and beyond. We now have a Development Centre in operation in Whitehaven. It’s early days, but we hope this should improve the recruitment of players into the Academy from that area of the county. Recruitment is fundamental, and we need to have more options to give us the best chance of getting the best players through our doors.
Facility hire costs are growing and our needs for compliance with EPPP are rising, which is a problem. It’s one with no easy solution and therefore Academy and first team facilities need to play a central role in our thoughts on the overriding stadium issue.
It’s a busy time on the community front. In recent weeks we have supported collections for The Samaritans and Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal, for Remembrance Sunday. Thank you to everyone who contributed.
A big thank you goes to the Former Players’ Association (FPA) who stepped up and responded to a personal request from Keith Curle to help contribute to the additional travel costs of his plans for Gillingham. The ‘normal’ costs are covered under the competition rules, which includes a one-night stay for the team, up to a fixed financial limit. Anything over that and clubs must pay the difference themselves. This is the same for league games.
There is always debate created from initiatives like this. In reality, of course, the club could fund them from its own cash, and indeed the arguments for travelling earlier could equally apply to many other away venues we travel to. If we do that it means costs increase and, without new funds, other savings are needed to balance the books and our wage cap is affected. There is no point in having budgets if they are not then followed, and that’s why choices must be made.
If we are creative, and work together, then there are other alternatives. Last season the shareholders donated cash to fund travel to Plymouth and Cheltenham, with these games falling very close together. On this occasion, for the Gillingham game, it was a great example of the club and its wider connected groups, like the FPA, working together to get a good outcome.
Like all donations, it came without strings, and no PR was wanted or sought by FPA. They asked us to adopt a very low-key approach.
In these circumstances we are always grateful, and we do what we can to recognise the donors. We agreed to do exactly this when the offer to cover the costs was initially made a few weeks ago, and a method of saying thank you was agreed. Again, FPA didn’t want any publicity surrounding this and we completely respected that. Most of the time this sort of thing happens behind closed doors, as it has in this case, as donors often prefer it that way.
It was interesting for us to learn that the funds came from previous FPA events, like those held at The Old Fire Station, which fans supported and which the club and its staff [particularly Andy Hall, who helped to bring some of the guests in] backed and worked with CUSG and FPA to make a success. These strong relationships between our media and commercial teams, and organisations like FPA, plus a nudge from Keith, all play their part. We hope the next FPA event is another success, so please support it if you can. Click HERE to visit the Old Fire Station website.
We have the Christmas parties for the Junior Blues to look forward to [the first extremely enjoyable party was held last night] with over 200 kids due to attend. That is approximately 50 more than came along last year. These events continue to prove to be more popular than ever. Thanks must got to the staff at the club who have planned and organised these events.
The Carlisle United Community Sports Trust has also worked in partnership with the club commercial department to strike a ground-breaking partnership with Wates Construction, which will see CST deliver community sport and education activities in West Cumbria. We have an active fan base in this area and are keen to engage more, and this is a great way to do that.
We are pleased to support a foodbank and toy collection with CUOSC and CFM Radio at the Port Vale game. Any help you can give is very gratefully received because events like these really do make a difference. Click HERE for more details.
We are also planning our Christmas player visits to local hospitals and hospices. These are an important part of the calendar and the lads always look forward to them. We are in the hands of the hospitals we visit, but we hope to have extensive media coverage on the day.
In part four of this review, out later today, I will take a closer look at the club’s Business activities.