Our second CUFC 1921 Ltd press conference of 2018 was held at Brunton Park on Monday with excellent attendance once again from our local media partners.
A wide range of topics were discussed and we'll be bringing you a transcript from the event over the coming days.
In attendance from the club were chief executive Nigel Clibbens [NC], finance director Suzanne Kidd [SK] and sales and marketing director Phil King [PK].
In our first update the issues covered are the stadium and the recent EFL meeting held at Villa Park.
There are still a few burning issues around the club, one of them being the stadium. I know coming up to Christmas you were hoping to have a bit more news and clarity on that. Are there any developments from where we were last time we spoke on the long-term future of Brunton Park?
NC – We’ve had a good discussion with the Environment Agency, they were able to give us a view on how they saw the flood defences around the stadium and whether that would make an impact on what we were doing in the long-term. That gave us a bit more of a view of what we might be dealing with. There is obviously a lot more to come out of that and it’s early stages, but it gives us a bit of a start. We’ve also had an approach from a landowner who saw that we’d been talking about this and was interested in talking to us. That’s on the agenda, to catch up with them, and we’ve been revisiting what we looked at in the project before it was aborted about where the options were. We’ve dusted those files down and revisited those, and we’ve got a better view as to where we are now. We’ve got a meeting with another potential landowner site coming up in the next couple of weeks, so things are moving along, there is progress being made, but it’s a long-term thing. It takes a long time to deliver these things, but things are happening. They needed to start, because if you don’t start you’ll never get to the end. It’s very early days.
When you say landowners, are you talking about sites around the city where people are saying ‘potentially this could be your new home’?
NC – Yes, people are saying they think they’ve got an area that they think we might be interested in. They’re people who want to talk about what our requirements might be, which is good. In recent weeks the FA and the Government, through the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, have announced a big project about community sport across regions for the next ten years. That is a massive piece of work which is going on, there is going to be some huge investment put into community sport and we think that offers a great opportunity for Carlisle United to be part of that. At the EFL meeting at Aston Villa last week there was a presentation by one of the consultants who is involved in looking at the sites and the appraisals. They’re keen to get professional football clubs involved. I think we’re looking at late 2019 or early 2020 before they get up north to where we are, but it is coming. There is investment to be made and as part of a community initiative we think we have a lot to offer. I think when we spoke in January I said that there were big wins to be made in community sport with everybody partnering up to deliver some first-class state of the art facilities for this city.
I suppose it’s a thing that you’d want isn’t it, if you do have to leave the spiritual home of Carlisle United, to make a community asset that the club could be right at the centre of?
NC – Since we last spoke we’ve been down to Barnet and they are a community club with facilities that are growing all of the time. It’s a partnership approach and it shows what can be done. They are a different organisation compared to us in terms of size and location and social challenges, but the theory still holds. We think there is a lot to be looked at and it could be good.
Obviously the talking point will be how much you’re able to communicate with fans and almost take their opinion and guidance on what you decide to do. Will there be any sort of consultation process and is there any plan for it at this stage?
NC – We’re a long way from that point but these conversations we’re having now are all part of that. One thing is for sure, the most successful new stadiums and redevelopments are all done hand-in-hand with supporters. You’ve got to do it together.
Is it one landowner, or two different landowners?
NC - We had an approach from one and we approached another. Last time this was looked at there was a list of 27 potential sites, so one of the people we’ve spoken to is new and one is from that original feasibility study. We’ll have to see how it goes but it depends on other developments and the long-term view of sport in this city. It’s all very tentative at the moment, but the principle here is that as soon as something is concrete, we’ll talk about it. In the past the club, with best intentions, have sought to give information possibly a bit too early. That set the hares racing and raised expectations, so we have to learn from that.
Have any of these discussions involved the council?
NC - We met the council very early in January to discuss things. As you’d expect, they’re very supportive and they want to see the club be successful. They see how other cities with successful teams bring benefits to their community. They share that view, and they see it, but obviously they have challenges of their own. In essence, as well as being a community club we’re a private business. They understand the issues we face, and the risks we have with flooding, and they also see the benefits we can bring to the city. I’m sure that when the time comes that we need their support, it’ll be there.
Is there any other work planned for the ground?
NC – Work is ongoing all the time. As quick as we cross things off, other things get added to it. That’s why we talked about stadium issues before. We assess the priorities on the list ahead of each season and obviously the more cash we’ve got the more issues we can sort out. That’s why we want a good end to the season because it sets us off and gives us a platform for next season.
The main headline from the EFL meeting last week was the transfer window change, can you comment on how the club voted and also your opinion on what has now been decided?
NC – I can confirm we didn’t support the change, we voted against it. I think I’d said before that we didn’t really like the look of the change. My view on it is I don’t actually think there was a problem at League Two level. I think anything that restricts your ability to trade is likely not to help you. I just see more pressure to do deals early because there is less time and that means paying more money. In the end, I think the rules as drafted will mean we will still play a game before the window ends, so you could still be faced with playing a game then having a player leave. There is still an opportunity for players to leave on-loan with a view to a permanent, which isn’t going to solve the problem either. At the end of it, you can still do loans which a lot of clubs do late on. There is also no guarantee that it’s going to continue in the long-term, if the Premier League change back then it will be impossible for the EFL to stand out on a limb with a different window to them. We could end up going backwards again with not much control over the decision at that point. We weren’t very comfortable at all.
Andy Holt, the Accrington Stanley Chairman, put a comment out last week saying how much John Nixon had gone out on a limb for the lower leagues in terms of the financial imbalance, so what sort of work has John done in that area that he would be referring to in that?
NC – Andy has raised concerns about some of the decisions which are made and he is very vocal. I follow him on Twitter and he’s very forthright. John has had some direct conversations with him and I was talking to Andy at Aston Villa with John. We talked about the fact that a lot of the issues that the EFL face now are legacy issues from decisions taken many years ago, sometimes right back to the start of the Premier League. When issues came along about whether there was going to be a breakaway in Premier League 2, and things that were done at that point, the league faces the ramifications of those decisions today. If you aren’t around when those decisions are made, you look at them now and wonder how they got into that position. I think the other part was at League One and League Two level you can sometimes feel a bit isolated and dragged along by the Championship, which is dragged along by the Premier League. I think John was able to assure Andy that he shares those concerns and he wouldn’t let that happen and stand up for League One and Two, which is what John does. Certainly in the meetings I’ve been to that’s what he has done. Some might describe him as a thorn in the side of the executive at times, which is part of what his job is. It’s good that Andy recognises that.