In our second article of the day covering the topics discussed at the club’s Thursday morning media briefing, chief executive Nigel Clibbens spoke about the ongoing commercial relationship with the EWM and appointment of David Holdsworth as the club’s director of football.
“The commercial agreement and relationship we have with EWM is still in place, nothing has changed,” he said. “Having said that, in recent months their group financial controller John Jackson has joined the Holdings Board, which has strengthened the links with EWM.
“That’s the only major, significant change. The important thing here is that they continue to be a valued supporter of the club commercially and they want to see the club prosper.
“John’s background is in finance and obviously the finances of the football club are very important. He provides a good link between EWM and the club in terms of the financial issues the club faces, with things like stadium repairs and squad budget issues to be addressed.
“As far as EWM as a whole are concerned, people should read nothing into anything that’s happening until something happens, if you see what I mean. There’s no new news and the club continues to be owned by its existing shareholders.
“They continue to be open to anybody who wants to come and take the club or invest in it. That remains the case, as it has been since before I came in. The support is still there as its required, and EWM are very supportive of the club, which is great for us.
“As time goes on, the less money we lose the less reliance we’ll have on the support we need from them, and from Andrew [Jenkins], which will be good for the club.”
But does the involvement of EWM and, to some extent, the debt to Pioneer put any potential new owners or investors off when they look at the balance sheet?
“I’ve talked before about the fact we made the decision a while ago that we needed to rebalance what we were doing,” he explained. “We couldn’t keep losing the amount of money that we have been losing.
“We’ve started to address that and it’s an ongoing process. The general issue of succession hasn’t gone away. It’s probably more prevalent now than it was before, but what has changed is that the club is trying to get itself into a position where the likelihood of it happening is more probable.
“When you’re losing a lot of money the number of people who are willing to come and step in is a lot less than if you’re in a more stable financial position. Our focus has been on trying to get the club to a point where we’re not losing so much money, and therefore we’re able to attract investors in.”
“When there’s any change of ownership, whoever that may be, they have to deal with the legacy financing of the club,” he continued. “My take on this is that for the right people, with the right plans, these issues are easily resolved.
“Everybody who is involved with Carlisle United wants to see the club prosper and I don’t think anybody is going to be a barrier to anything happening in the longer term, because that’s what it’s all about.
“Only time will tell and having people look at us would be a nice problem to have. At the moment we don’t have that problem to deal with, but hopefully in the near future we’ll be more attractive to people and they’ll want to come in.”
But should a ‘For Sale’ sign be posted outside the club?
“I’ve absolutely not changed my mind on that at all,” he insisted. “I think anyone who is interested knows the position, certainly inside football. If we kept a log of approaches, and what I call ‘tyre kickers’, we’d need a very large book.
“People are coming all the time and asking if the club is for sale, and what it will take, and we talk to all of them. They either come back to say they’re not too sure or they’re looking at other options. Things like that happen all the time, but there’s been nothing substantive.”
On the appointment of David Holdsworth, and the long delay in confirming his role
“The club has been criticised in some quarters in the past, possibly unfairly, for not having enough expertise around the boardroom on football matters,” he said. “It was certainly an issue that was raised a lot towards the end of last season, when we were hunting a manager and in negotiation with players.
“The club formed the view that we needed to increase our skill and expertise in that area. David brings that with him, he enhances what we’ve already got and hopefully he will make us better, which is what it’s all about.
“Going back to when he first joined us, as part of the manager recruitment process the Holdings Board was looking to get some help and assistance. David’s name came up during conversations with the Board when this position came up, so we met him and started talking to him. He helped us with the process and it’s developed from there.
“People talk about links to EWM, but there are a lot of people around the city who, if you look for links, you’re going to find them. The fact that he has a connection with EWM can only be good as far as I’m concerned.
“In everything he does he e reports to the Holdings Board, which has always been the case, because they have always overseen the football side of the club. That is primarily because it’s the individuals on that board who carry the financial risk of the decisions that come out of this football club.
“We see the appointment as a step forward. There’s obviously an ongoing dialogue with EWM because we have John Jackson on the board. It’s all part of gaining a greater understanding and building relations. These developments are encouraging because it’s about us doing things in a different way and making sure we learn from the past.
“It’s working well and he will help us improve our recruitment, support the manager and improve our football decision making, which is good for everybody.”
“In terms of his wages, all employees of the club are paid by the club, and David is no different,” he confirmed. “All of the cash for funding the club goes into one pot and the club then decides how to spend it.
“There’s no ring-fencing of specific funding for specific individuals, or anything like that. If people ask if we should use as much money as possible for players, it opens up the debate about how you allocate the cash you’ve got.
“In this type of circumstance in the recent past, we wouldn’t have repaired the Warwick and Pioneer roofing problems, we wouldn’t have brought in extra cleaners to clean the place, and we wouldn’t have brought in a director of football. We’d have put it all into the playing budget. That was the past and we’ve all seen that approach hasn’t worked.
“We need to do things differently and this is part of that process. A commitment was made to set a football budget, which we did, and then we looked at off-field costs as well. We’ve got into problems in the past by not looking after other areas and that needed to change. I’m pleased to say that we’re demonstrating very clearly that our approach has changed for all the right reasons.”
On how the role fits into the day-to-day workings at the club, he commented: “Every club is different in how roles are allocated.
“In my time of being here the Holdings Board have dealt with football matters and my involvement in the negotiation of player deals has been limited.
“It was clear from Keith Curle’s comments in the press that he tended to do his work with John Nixon and Andrew Jenkins because, essentially, they were at the top of the club in terms of financing.
“My involvement in that has been pretty low all the way through, so that hasn’t really been affected. My role in that process is to review the deals and make sure everybody understands the financial risks, and how that impacts on the finances of the club.
“David works with John on the players and getting the deals done, and I’ll continue with my part of it when they are getting closer to a conclusion.”