In the final part of our coverage from last week’s press conference with the CUFC 1921 Ltd directors, the subjects of investment and the flag / banner policy are discussed.
You talked on the radio about making the club more attractive for investment, so have there been any approaches of an investment type other than what has been discussed with EWM?
NC – I’ve had two people who have phoned me to ask about the lie of the land. I’ve told them what is already out there in the public domain. There’s a desire for succession and for change, so the door is open. Nothing has come of either of those and we didn’t get as far as finding out whether they were credible enquiries or not. My approach is that the club has had a go at this in the past, and it hasn’t worked right. We can dissect it as to what went wrong, but we won’t be doing that again. Before anybody gets anywhere in any kind of discussion we’ve got to make sure there’s a prospect of it getting somewhere. When you immediately make that clear it tends to filter out a lot of noise, which is what it’s designed to do. Our focus is on making the club better, and that will make us more attractive to people who might want to get involved with the club. There’s no doubt about it – the less good shape you’re in, the less chance you have of getting the people you might want to have involved come along and talk to you. That’s why you need to get yourself in good shape, so that you become a much more attractive proposition for people who want to be involved, be that fans, sponsors, players or staff. My view is that we need to get out of this league, but it’s a tough league to get out of. We have no right to achieve that so, as a club, we have to provide the manager with as many tools as we can to help him do that. A promotion would change what we’re able to do as a club and, there’s no doubt about it, the longer you’re in the same league the more difficult it becomes to sell the same games.
Is February the time when you’ll finally be able to comment on the overseas investor from last year?
NC – I think February will mark the anniversary, so we’ll cover that at the relevant time.
There were some supporters who brought a banner in recently, against Keith Curle, and they seemed to be removed from the ground. What was the club’s position on that, and what generally is the club’s position on a fan who would display a banner of that nature?
SK – The ejection was nothing to do with the banner. Beyond that, it’s an ongoing police issue so it isn’t fair for us to comment on that specific situation any further.
Can you comment generally on banners of that nature?
NC – The position is that we know fans can get frustrated, that’s part and parcel of football. The relationship between the club and its fans is always that on one side the fans give you loyalty through thick and thin. Often it’s through lots of thin. With that comes a responsibility that their voice can be heard. There’s no question that we wanted the banner taken down, or anything like that. That’s not the case.
So, someone can bring a banner like that, and that wouldn’t be a reason for you to remove them?
SK – Where they put it is important. There are rules on where they can hang it and on the sort of material it has to be made from. It it’s in the crowd and it’s going to go up [in flames] if it catches fire, then you have to consider the safety element. That’s the same with flags. They can’t hang over advertising boards or segregation netting. They’re simple rules. but they must be followed.
NC – If people want to display a banner then we have an open-door policy. Just come and tell us and we’ll find a way of letting them make their point in the way that they need to. Hopefully it’ll be in a way that doesn’t distract from us winning a football match. It was a big game for us, and whatever the views on Keith were from that particular group of three or four fans, it was a massive day for us. If we won the game it could affect the rest of the season, we all knew that. As I keep saying, we want to focus on winning football matches, so there’s a time and a place for everything. Having said that, they absolutely weren’t removed because of the banner. There is an ongoing investigation, but the club has had an ongoing dialogue with the main fan involved for a long, long time. That continues, so it is what it is.
On a separate issue, with news that seven young academy players have made it through this year, we’re all hoping to see some of them eventually break through. If that happens do you think this will be a club parents will want to send their kids to, if they can see a clear pathway through to the first team environment?
NC – It’s crucial to the future of the club for many reasons. First and foremost it brings pride to the club. There’s nothing better than seeing people from your own community make it through and do really well. It gives a real sense of identity in a place like Cumbria, and I think that’s massively important. From a financial point of view, it’s absolutely essential. We need to be able to sell players to help us to reinvest in the club. That’s the nature of football for most clubs, including us. Big clubs also follow the same model. We’ve been trying to change things round and we now have Darren Edmondson and Gavin Skelton in as our academy coaches, and Dave Wilkes is there to oversee coaching standards. It’s a long-term process, but there are no guarantees. Experts will tell you they can pick a player who will be a star at 10, 12 or 14-years old, but good luck to them with that. It is a bit hit and miss and you can never tell who will come through. Hopefully we’ll see the fruits of the work that’s being done now, and the next step from there is to get them into the team. It’s sometimes difficult to bring young talent through when fans, managers and clubs want to win - come what may - every Saturday. The pressure on first team football is huge. As a club and a board we’re willing to take some risks on youth, and Keith has always said that if a player is good enough, he’ll pick them.