Some of the club's commercial activities are the topic for our final update from the February club press conference.
What’s been going on at the club since we last spoke?
NC – A lots has been going on. On the football field we’ve had three wins from three games, which is fantastic, and that has created a real buzz around the club. We’re really pleased about that and there’s a lot of positivity. We’ve got another game against Grimsby on Saturday and everyone is optimistic we can make it four out of four.
PK – We’ve been busy over the last few months working on the concert behind the scenes. That work started last summer. We were speaking to promoters and keeping our options open in terms of acts and partnerships. We’ve been working really hard on getting that together before announcing towards the end of January. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been pushing ticket sales, hospitality and we’ve been working with the promoters around logistics and things like that. We’ve announced other commercial events as well. The play on the pitch slots in the summer are always popular with businesses, teams and community groups. We’ve also got our golf day and the awards dinner coming up, so there is a lot of stuff ongoing and they’re events away from the football.
Suzanne, you must be hoping as finance director that Lionel Richie brings plenty to the club financially, but it’s a real coup for the city and the club?
SK – It’s fantastic. We’ve had two really successful concerts, so to have another huge name like Lionel Richie is good for the club and the local community. It’s created a real buzz and it’s another event which show cases Brunton Park and what we can do here.
How much money - I’m not sure you’ll be able to talk exact numbers - can such a big deal like this bring to a club like Carlisle?
SK – It’s an event at a time in the year where we’ve got nothing going on and no other operational income, so it’s a great help in the off-season. It’s lucrative, it’s worthwhile doing, and it’s always something we investigate and do the best we can with.
Andrew Jenkins said in his programme notes that he was hoping to have some home friendlies as well, because he knows that’s important to Carlisle fans. It must be a logistical nightmare for the club to try and marry the two given that there will be a stage on the pitch?
SK – There are practicalities with the pitch and the work that needs to go into that. That also depends on when your season finishes, which determines when the first stage of work can be done on the pitch. Hopefully our season will push through to the middle of May which will put even more pressure on poor Dave Mitchell and his team. He’s a good egg and we know he can turn it around no problem. We’ll hopefully have a friendly because I think it sets the scene for the new season. It gets everyone back in and around the club and it’s a nice opportunity to introduce new players to the fans. We just need a good wind to make sure we can pack everything into that short window really.
Phil, this is probably the last time we’ll get to speak to you at one of these events. What’s the latest on the news that you’ll be leaving Carlisle United?
PK – We’ve still got a bit of ongoing work so I’m still working with the guys here to wrap up those bits and pieces. Things like the logistical stuff to do with the concert and the kit for next season, which we’ve been working with Umbro on over the last few weeks. There are still a few bits for me to tie up over the next couple of weeks and then we’ll go from there. In terms of the decision, it was a good opportunity for me in the north-east, I’ve got a young family based over there so, all things considered, that’s how I came to that decision. I’ve really enjoyed my two-and-a-half to three years here at Carlisle, we’ve got a great team here on and off the pitch as well as in the community, with the businesses and sponsors that have been involved. We’ve got a CUSG meeting later tonight and we’ve got a really good community group around the football club, and it’s been a pleasure to be here.
You said a few weeks there, are you coming towards a timeframe for it now or is it still fluid as the club are waiting to find somebody to fill in after you?
PK – I haven’t got a definite date for leaving but I will be looking at it over the next couple of weeks. It depends on wrapping up these few bits of business. I had a good chat with Nigel around that and I think from both sides we understand the position. We’ve got some important things to finalise. We’ve been working hard on the concert and involving other people in that process, so it’s just making sure that we get it to the point where I’m able to hand it over.
Have you started the recruitment process to find that replacement?
NC – We’ve started the process of looking at the commercial side of the operation and the duties Phil had. We’re looking at whether they are right for the next person coming in. At the same time, we’re looking at replacement people. As you’d expect, we’ve had a number of people throw their hats into the ring, and it’s something we need to get right. Part of the process is that Phil is still here to make sure we get through the handover period. It might not be the same shape of an operation, because the needs of the club changes, but we’re hoping to have it sorted in the next couple of weeks. I don’t envisage it being a long process, but the key for us is to get the mandate right, as to what we’re looking for. If you don’t get that right, you end up bringing in the wrong person for the wrong role.
How do you think it’s gone during your spell at Carlisle and what do you think the challenges going forward for the club are?
PK – I think it’s gone well on the most part. There have been some ups and downs and some difficult times. I came in in June 2015 and the stadium was flooded six months later, which was a big thing to deal with for everybody at the football club. We had some restructuring changes off the pitch at that time as well so there were some real good challenges and stuff to get your teeth into. I’ve certainly learned a lot from the experiences there. Across the course of that season we had the Liverpool and Everton games. The Everton game was coming off the back of the floods, so logistically that was a real test, but everyone dug in and got that over the line. The opportunities that those sorts of games bring with TV, advertising and sponsorship and hospitality were good for the club. I think in general we’ve increased the commercial income off the pitch, whether that be shirt, stands, advertising boards, business club and hospitality, they have all in general gone well, particularity last season.
What’s happening with the Fan Zone and how is that to be funded?
PK – That’s something we’ve been discussing for a while. We did a trial with it at a few games, in the area adjacent to Foxy’s, and that would be the kind of area we would look at to put this in place. What we need to do is make sure that it will be something that works match in and match out, if investment is going into it. We’ve been looking at different ways of funding it, and we’ve worked closely with CUSG and CUOSC on that. We’ve spoken to Heineken to see what kind of support they could give us, because it’s a project we would like to complete. Fans often speak to us about what they see when they go to other clubs, so we’re trying to pick the best pieces of that out so that we can see what works for us. Every club is different in terms of what time their fans get to the stadium and things like that, so we have to take a lot of things into consideration. CUSG have committed to fundraise towards it, so we need to get to a bottom line figure of what that looks like and who will provide the fixtures, fittings, etc, for what we need.