In part three of the coverage from last week’s press conference with club directors Nigel Clibbens, Suzanne Kidd and Phil King, the issues of club accounts and policing costs are discussed.
You touched recently on the accounts, so when will they be in the public domain and finalised for 2016/17?
SK – We filed them on the filing deadline, as most companies do. We are due to receive our finalised accounts within the next week or so from our auditors. We will then, as normal, write to our shareholders and arrange an AGM date.
NC – We’ve had the audit meeting so the numbers are fixed, we’re just waiting for the accounts to be signed on the dotted line. The other thing that fans will see when the accounts come out is that there’ll be an unprecedented level of detail and transparency about the finances of the club. You would normally get a strategic report, and that can be one or two lines, but as a change, and as part of the openness agenda we’re pushing, what will come out this time will be a massive step change from what people are used to. It still might not be good enough, but I’m sure it will open up more questions. Hopefully it will give a fuller picture for everybody.
How much detail will they include about the EWM numbers?
NC – That detail is included and is statutorily required. I’ve talked before about how they want us to deal with that, and we have to abide by that, so we’ll give as much information as we can.
SK – There won’t be a number in there with a big red ring around it, but the numbers obviously have to be included.
Has the club drawn on any of their support very recently, or with the January window in mind?
NC – The funding for January is in relation to what the club does itself. It isn’t externally driven. The way it generally works is that we put our plan together at the start of the season and that is signed off. We stick to that plan, so it’s very business-like in how it works. It isn’t us saying we need help, or anything like that.
Have there been any more discussions with EWM about them getting more involved at a more strategic level?
NC – In the run-up to Christmas there were conversations held and interest shown in how we were doing in the league and in the cups. That is very welcome. From their business point of view Christmas is massive for them, and that was their priority. Once we get past that we’ll see where it takes us.
Could it lead to heavier involvement from them?
NC – That’s what we’re always trying to talk about. Their involvement has been for about nine months now, so it’s very much early days and about building where we go. The meetings with the press once a month will be a good vehicle to keep this sort of topic on the agenda.
There’s been a recent County Court situation, so has that been settled out of court. Is it resolved now?
NC – I think it’s been reported as resolved, but it’s actually ongoing. That reporting was incorrect.
SK – It was a contracted agreement from when we were flooded, and there are some disputes around the service and the charging of the service. It’s probably something we can talk more about when it has been finalised and settled.
Are there any more CCJs, because there seems to have been one or two in the past?
SK – We had a couple over the summer which we also disputed. Sometimes as a football club you can become a bit of a sitting duck style target, because clubs have bad reputations for paying bills. It’s common knowledge that lower league clubs have limited funds, so when you do raise a dispute over an invoice, or get things done properly, people aren’t quite so patient with you as they would be with other services. There is nothing outstanding and everything is up to date, other than that dispute we have mentioned.
Lower club costs have been quoted recently as well, so is there anything specific in that?
NC – Generally we’re always looking to save every penny and we try to be as efficient as we possibly can be. We have commercial deals and contras, and these sorts of things, which allow us to keep costs under control. That’s just good housekeeping but it’s nothing in particular. As you’ll have seen before Christmas, the level of staffing we have off the field is minimal and there isn’t much fat around this club, I can tell you.
SK – Where we can make savings we will always do that, without affecting the level of service or the resources we have available. If there are things we can do, such as closing areas of the ground for the Checkatrade games, to save on stewarding costs, then that’s something we can look at. We never want to spend money when we don’t need to. We work on everything from vehicles, servicing and utility bills, with people looking at the best way for us to save money, and it’s a constant process of shaving the edges of the overheads.
NC – Police costs can be quite significant and through the supporter groups we’re trying to get them to understand that we want a great atmosphere, but we don’t want trouble in the ground. If that happens it leads to higher stewarding and police costs, and it takes a long time for those to go back down again once they have gone up. We have a good relationship with the police and that works very well in helping us to make sure that everybody is happy with the safety and security of the stadium, without us having to pay a big bill.
Do you feel the policing at some of the recent bigger games has been proportionate, because there have been debates about the volume of officers on duty?
SK – I think it’s really important that people understand that there’s a distinction between the police who are on our footprint and those who aren’t. The club’s responsibility with the police is agreed at the beginning of the season. We have what is called a Police Charging Agreement. Every club does that every year and it has to be submitted to the EFL. That outlines who is responsible for which areas. Our footprint is fairly simple – it’s our stadium. We pay for police who are positioned inside our stadium. Police on Warwick Road or in the city centre are not paid for by us. They are part of a larger operation. Each game is discussed with the police, we assess the risk with them, and that leads to a categorisation for the games. There are four categories, and our games have been at the lower end, but we have had one fixture where we’ve had police paid for within the ground. That was the Coventry game. There are occasions where we have police in the ground that we don’t pay for – we had that for the Port Vale game. On that day there was a risk with Hartlepool fans travelling through Carlisle to go to the Workington game. It has seemed a busy period, with a lot of police around the area, but our relationship with them is really good. Horses do come, but they’re city centre horses, and we feel the balance works well. We don’t spend thousands of pounds on police at all, but we make sure we’re always talking and sharing information. That allows us to make balanced judgements on what level of security we need for each game.