As we move through the January transfer window, and into the early part of the second half of the season, here is the first update of 2018 as part of a new initiative which will see more information provided for our fans on a regular basis.
We have given updates in recent months on football finances, and the wider club, so that our supporters are more informed about the club, and how things operate.
This will continue.
Click HERE for the link to the 'Top Corridor' section of our website, where all updates can be found and read.
To recap, the EFL benchmark data, up to 31 August 2017 (after the summer transfer window), showed that we were at the very limit of our wage cap allowance, with 99% spent.
We backed the manager in taking this approach to allow us to improve our squad as we looked for a good start to the season. We all know, as with any decision you make, it then impacts on what you can do later in the season (January transfer window, for instance) and it carries risks which need managing along the way.
It also means there is a bigger reliance on future cup income and business income to grow, to then create room for future spending. The manager favours this approach, and we understand the benefits it brings, but also the issues it can create.
Since the start of September, we have been able to spend more new money on players as we achieved income above our forecast from cup runs, cash from players loaned out (such as Mark Ellis), improved commercial activity, ticket sales, non-returnable cash donations, and from lower club costs. This again is a normal, but very welcome pattern.
Following this improvement in actual trading we gained more headroom, which meant we were able to bring in Steven Rigg, to bolster the squad, and Clint Hill on a short-term deal. Clint has made a real impact and is proving to be a key player – so we were delighted to see him agree to stay with us until the end of the season.
We must continue to carefully balance what we need to spend across the requirements of the whole club (things such as marketing expenditure, catering operations and facility improvements, all of which have been in the spotlight recently) as well as on football.
The priority remains first team football, because we continually want this to improve and get better. This means that sometimes off-the-field ideas have to take a back seat. When that’s the case, we try to be as creative as we can be where we don’t have cash. As I’m sure you can appreciate, this can be a difficult balancing act.
January Transfer Window
Like the manager, the board recognises it is important to be proactive in improving the squad, as and when the opportunity arises, and this current January transfer window is no different.
That means we must look to maximise the cash available, and use it to the best effect.
The club will always aim to be proactive. If we look back to last season, we ended the summer window 2016 at 99% of the wage cap (much like this season), then improved our trading income and received extra football fortune (like this season).
This meant we were able to bring players in up to the end of the Autumn 2016 transfer window, before Christmas, and also be in a position to be active again in January 2017 this is also a similar pattern to this year).
More football fortune and a shareholder donation from Andrew Jenkins meant we were able to sign Gary Liddle and John O’Sullivan on permanent contracts, James Bailey on a permanent deal, plus Jamie Proctor [on loan] to replace Charlie Wyke.
We also worked very hard to sign Hallam Hope during that window, but it didn’t happen, and we had to wait until the summer to secure his signature. George Waring was brought in at that point to supplement the squad.
After the January window had closed, we again increased the budget to bring in another five players, including the use of funds provided by the generosity of fan donations.
The club’s approach this year has been to continue to support all steps needed to improve the squad, whenever possible, and as far as possible. Be that by bringing in new players from the starting eleven, squad players, or development players, or in other ways to assist with match preparation.
It is always the case that what we are able to do as a club in January depends on:
+ What has already been spent in the first half of the season.
+ What is already committed to be spent in the second half of the season.
+ Our wage cap position.
Factors such as cup runs, match attendances and ticket income, along with income from commercial and retail activities, are crucial in affecting what we can do. All need to work together and play their part.
On Friday last week we held a meeting with Keith Curle to discuss on-field progress made in the first half of the season. We undertake a half-season and full-season review, as a matter of routine, and this was part of that. This included a lengthy discussion on things like our current league position, characteristics of the team, squad, performance, results and our prospects for the remainder of the campaign.
We discussed the manager’s plans and priorities for the squad in the short-term (January), medium-term (rest of season), and matters to consider in the longer-term beyond that.
As Keith said before Christmas, we’ve put together a competitive squad, but there are still areas where we can improve.
Click HERE to read Keith's interview.
In terms of plans for this January transfer window, firstly we discussed and updated on the club’s current financial position, and our wage cap position.
The general position is known to everyone, as fans would expect. The more recent FA Cup progress, second round replay, and third round activity, has given us welcome additional room for manoeuvre.
As has been previously reported, beating Gillingham in round two was worth approximately £50,000. This football fortune, together with other new business income, has already allowed us to back Keith's wishes to sign Clint Hill, James Brown, Jack Bonham and Sam Cosgrove again in this window.
The club also confirmed the additional new cash we would make available in January, after these signings, to support further improvements to the playing squad. There is scope for players to come in, without any having to leave.
The replay gate share from the Sheffield Wednesday match next Tuesday will add another small amount to that total. It goes without saying, the outcome of that game can make another financial impact, with the prospects of a home match and prize money for the winner.
The position will continue to be reviewed on an ongoing and daily basis, as things change.
At the same time, as Keith has also stated recently, he acknowledges that being creative with the squad can play a part in adding more to the funds which will allow him to make further changes.
This allows Keith and the club to press on further with the initial player talks and enquires that have already started and taken place in recent weeks. Looking at options and alternatives is a continuous process.
As is always the case, and as I have said before, it is the job of the board at the club to give the manager the best support, financial or otherwise, that we possibly can. We don’t have transfer committees or sporting directors here at Carlisle United. The manager has the support of the board, who provide the budget, and he has the power and ability to make his own football decisions. There is full control together, but with that comes responsibility and accountability. Again, this makes for a good way of working.
The club remains committed to directing as much cash towards football as possible. We continue to try to give the maximum financial support we can to the manager and team, to help them to achieve the improvement in performances and results we all want to see. Hopefully this will be the case through the second half of the season.
With 26 games gone, the season is still only just past the halfway point. There is still much to play for. Everyone will be doing what they can to see us progress up the league, and new blood in January can play a part in that. We will then see where that takes us.
With our focus rightly on helping to improve team matters, we also used the meeting for a short and preliminary discussion on the manager’s contractual position [at time of going to press it has six months to run and expires 30 June 2018].
We did not get into any detailed discussion, offer or contract negotiation, but we started the process and began by simply sharing some initial thoughts during an open and honest conversation.
I think everyone will understand that it would not be right, and I don’t think fans would expect, that detail to be shared, but the meeting was positive, and everyone has a clear understanding of the open issues we need to deal with, and be comfortable with as a club, in order to advance talks further.
Discussions will, of course, continue with Keith and, without it becoming a running commentary on the contract position, if circumstances do change we will tell fans immediately. Otherwise we will give a progress update again in mid-February as part of our regular monthly report to our fans.
The absolute immediate priority is to do all we can to bring improvement and success to the club. That means working together, directing all our efforts, and providing all the support we can, as a club, towards winning football matches, with no distractions.
We must put the club’s success first and make sure we all concentrate on that. Given that approach, and an important game against Sheffield Wednesday (last Saturday), we decided to schedule the update for today.
With an excellent and spirited performance in the FA Cup, we are all now looking forward to getting back to League Two action, starting with Crewe on Saturday and, of course, onto the replay at Hillsborough next week.