More of the questions posed at the recent Fans' Forum have been answered:
FOR JOHN NIXON:
Q1 Howard Pimblett - Since taking ownership in 2008, despite stating Championship aspirations, we have been relegated from League 1, have yet to enjoy a promotion, and have made no progress with regards to a modern community stadium. Some may call it a period of failure. What do you, Andrew and Steve Pattison consider your greatest achievement during your ownership?
John understands the need to provide answers to these questions, but is away from the club at the moment, and he wants to answer them personally.
Q2 Howard Pimblett - You stated that "you have run out of cash and that we as fans have been patient with you". What proactive steps are you making towards succession, or were all the eggs in the EWM basket.
Also, How does it feel to have £2.1 million personal guarantees hanging over you?
Q3 David Brown - When would you expect to stand down as a director of the club and a representative at the FA and EFL and what would make you decide that now is the time?
FOR DAVID HOLDSWORTH:
Q4 Kyle Sproat - In September 2018, you publicly stated that “we must smash down doors” and buzz words must include “DNA” and “Accountability”, sadly the buzz words fans associate with Carlisle united include: Ambitionless and Bottle Jobs. On reflection of our last 6 years in L2 it’s clear there is a DNA or culture which embodies failure to achieve success. Four times we’ve entered the new year in the top 7 we’ve made the playoffs once! So as director of football how do you take accountability and challenge the culture within the football side of the club? We all understand Covid affected us this season but this isn’t a 2020-2021 problem this has happened twice in your 3 years at Carlisle United?
DH – Thanks for your question Kyle. I do remember saying those words and obviously, after the high-profile failure to achieve promotion at Carlisle the year before I came, the club really did put money into trying to go up and achieve something with a very high budget in terms of where this club was.
I do believe that our ‘DNA’ and ‘accountability’ is reflected in the way the club is operating now. I’m not sure you can count ‘bottlejobs’ as an adequate or sincere way of explaining that every manager at this football club, since I’ve been here, has been very accountable.
We also collectively have huge ambition and drive, and we face every challenge that comes our way. Inside the football department we have high ambition and we’d like to be able to deliver the fruits of that as soon as possible.
In terms of this season, there are many things you need to reflect on, but I don’t want bore you with those because you’ll have heard them already. What I can assure you is that we have a lot of ambition, and everybody inside the football department is very accountable.
Since we appointed John Sheridan, with a high budget, his departure came at a time where the players and manager were playing with things going on in the background. After John’s departure to Chesterfield, which I oversaw, I have to say it was a very agreeable situation for us.
The new appointment of Steven Pressley wasn’t the success we all wanted, and that has been documented. We’ve moved on from that and we now want to be successful with Chris Beech.
With the Covid situation, looking at where we were at Christmas, everybody was very happy because we were top of the league. Certain aspects cost us and hurt us, and that has also been well documented and commented on.
Nobody is more ambitious than myself and the team of people I work alongside, and we’ll continue to do everything we can to support Chris – as we have since he arrived. Whilst we finished a few points outside the play-offs, anybody who has to deal with Saturday-Tuesday games for 11 weeks would have found it tough. It really took its toll, but the players and the staff gave everything.
Once again, thanks for your question.
Q5 Linda Nicholson - With the team going so well up to Christmas and fans hopes flying high, would it be appropriate to point fingers of blame for the Covid outbreak when so many players were affected – and what was the result of the EFL investigation into the outbreak and was the Club sanctioned in any way?
NC - The formalities are just in the final stages of being concluded. When it is confirmed we will inform the fans of the outcome.
Q6 Peter Martin - Where would we have finished if this year’s league two table was ranked by the budget for the playing staff?
NC - I have previously said in last financial update. We remain in the bottom quarter (19-24) of League Two for player spending on EFL Salary Costs benchmarks in 20/21.
Q7 Will next season see a decrease in that budget? No.
Q8 (Ben, Hugh and Mike’s questions have been grouped together) Ben Pitkeathly - When things have gone wrong or results have been poor this season, why are budgets constantly mentioned as an excuse or factor in underachievement? Other teams with rumoured lower budgets have outperformed us this season.
Hugh McKellar - Why does Chris Beech continually bring up the subject of our budget as an excuse? I cannot believe we have a lower budget than the likes of Morecambe and Cheltenham.
Mike Turney - The current Head Coach consistently refers to his budget being in the bottom quarter of League Two. Is this correct?
NC - Yes – our Player budget is in the bottom quarter of League Two. I confirmed that recently myself.
I can’t speak for comments Chris has made. There will be a football forum in future to cover these football questions.
I can only speak for myself on playing budgets and the club position.
From a club point of view, our budget is not a barrier to achieving promotion. Of course we will do all we can to maximise the budget but not by risking the rest of the club. That has been our financial approach for a while now. Having more to spend can [but it’s not certain] increase our prospects. Our chances can also increase from many other non-financial factors too and we are working hard in these areas.
Question continued ... and, if so, how do the Board plan to improve the Club's finances to enable a sustained promotion push to be mounted?
NC - As I said in the forum on Tuesday, our budget is not a constraint on achieving promotion (as above). A sustained promotion push can be mounted on our existing budget.
Improving finances is not just about being able to spend more on players. That is a flawed approach. It’s why clubs go bust. Improved finances benefit the whole club and the wider football department, not just players.
What are we doing to enable a sustained promotion push?
- making off-the-field operations take any spending cuts from covid, not football.
- avoid reducing our football spending during covid, even when fans were locked out for longer than forecast (the whole of the season).
- improving football spending where we can.
- awarding new, improved contracts to football staff and players to retain as many as possible.
- rewarding players with improved contracts (on renewal) to keep them.
- retaining more players and reducing churn.
- striving for continuity, which fosters better understanding and team work.
- investing in the pitch and training pitch.
- seeking to get better value from our football spending compared with our richer rivals – effective use of our football budget is crucial.
Maximising the effectiveness of our spending comes from focusing on many non-financial football factors:
- team management
- talent identification
- player scouting and recruitment
- player coaching and development, and improvement
- football philosophy
- match tactics
- game preparation
- teamwork and cohesion
- negotiating terms to maximise value for money
By being better at these things than our rivals can mean a playing budget which is lower than other clubs can be overcome and made irrelevant in League Two – as this season has again shown.
Tim Armstrong - With regard to the 21/22 season, what is the club's definition of success and what is the club's definition of failure? Please DO NOT reference season 20/21 when answering, thank you.
NC - I said at the second forum, there is a difference between success and progress. On-field – the definition of success for the club in 21/22 is promotion to League One. Failure is not achieving that success objective.
There are other definitions of on and off-field success, but they are all secondary to the top objective of promotion.
There are other definitions of progress which are needed to be made to contribute the success.
Peter Martin - Is the club planning a special event for the first competitive home game with crowds allowed, alongside an initiative to maximise the attendance (presuming sufficient capacity is allowed)?
NC - Yes, we are actively looking at this and details will be confirmed when our plans are fixed.