By Paddysboyz
Tuesday 21 Feb 2017 19:35:00
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Meet the Chairman

Thursday 16th February 2017

Andy Worth welcomed everyone and gave an explanation as to the background for this evening's event, after which Silkmen Chairman Mark Blower explained that he would be willing to answer questions as honestly as he possibly could during the evening.

1. What happened at the Forest Green game, and what was the rationale behind turnstiles not being open and people being allowed all around the ground yet with limited facilities to buy food or drink?

MARK: There seems to be a pattern of lower attendance at Cup games, both FA Cup and FA Trophy. When planning for the Forest Green Rovers game it was thought that the gate would be around 500/600 and that facilities such as food and drink outlets would be available around the turnstiles that had been opened. However, it was a surprise to the club that the gate was as high as it was on that day. We were very pleased, but it was a misjudgement on the club's behalf and will be looked at regarding future Cup games.

ROB HEYS: This was a learning curve for us and will be looked at closely in the future.

2. Are there any plans to have an AGM this year?

MARK: There is currently only one director of the club and he mostly resides outside of the UK and so logistically this has been a challenge. But the club is conscious that it has not held an AGM for a couple of years. The club does not publish a full set of accounts because it has a small company exemption but the abbreviated accounts are filed at Companies House.

3. How is the club doing financially overall as the feeling is we are doing better?

MARK: The financial position is much better. In 2014 there were great demands on the limited monies available; with large amounts owed to a wide range of creditors. A principle of ‘£1 in and £1 out' was established and this had a significant effect on the club, which included a significant reduction in the player budget. Currently HMRC are paid up to date; the playing staff have been paid on time every month, the amounts owed to other creditors have been significantly reduced and the small overdraft with the bank is used but is no longer ‘hard core' debt. Financially the club is in a stronger position. This emanates from the fantastic job that John and the football staff have done on the pitch in difficult circumstances and a disciplined approach to cash management off the pitch and everyone at the football club has played a huge part in that and special thanks were expressed to all the volunteers that help to make this possible.

4. Is it possible that John will have an increased budget next year based upon the money that has come in via the FA CUP & TV or will the proverbial ‘begging bowl' be out?

MARK: We now have a relatively good grasp of the income and expenditure at the club via ticket sales, season tickets, central funding, commercial income, food & beverage income etc. and the club is constantly looking for new ways to grow income, for example the new café which will open in the next 3 / 4 weeks. It's the same with the fixed costs they are now known and under control and as the historical debt is paid off this creates more money available. So all things being equal, the base budget should be around the same as this year if not a little more. We definitely do not want to put the ‘begging bowl' out and I think it's important that we move away from that image, but the club must live within its means and so if we can raise additional income / funds, either commercially or through the goodwill of fans generous donations / support, then this will all go into the playing budget. I would like to personally thank all the people who donated so generously to the Silkman Campaign Fund last year, with every £ going into the player budget.

5. Is the rumour true that the owner has taken some money out?

MARK: Whilst over a 12 month period the Club is run on the ‘£1 in, £1 out' basis; within that period there are peaks and troughs in cash flow i.e there are fixed costs every month but the income varies dramatically based on the number of games in a month and the timing of other income. So some months income is less than expenditure. Ordinarily a bank overdraft would help a business manage through these ‘troughs' but banks don't like football clubs and so are reluctant to provide an appropriate overdraft, and we've tried very hard to get one at the right level. At various times during the year individuals have acted as a ‘bank' to ensure that the wages etc. are paid each month. These short term loans are then paid back. The owner and other local ‘friends of the club' have provided these aforementioned short term loans.

6. What is the situation with the loan from Cheshire East Council?

MARK: Cheshire East Council bought the freehold of the ground with an option of up to 5 years for the club to buy it back. What the situation will be after 5 years we do not know, but we are hopeful that a similar option would be available should we have not achieved this objective. Hopefully they will want to have a similar agreement but until the time comes no one knows what will happen. There is a covenant on the ground that it has to be used as a venue for sporting purposes.

7. What has happened to the cafe?

MARK: It is due to be opened within the next few weeks. It will be open for breakfasts and lunches, and on match days, supporters will be able to buy a wider range of hot food than via the kiosks. It was felt that it could be a viable and profitable business for the club.

8. Are we looking at car parking with access to the cafe?

MARK: The Club does not own the car park but its owner generously provides access to it and indeed as part of a sponsorship deal with Audi we allow them to use it to park their stock. However, once the café is open we will ask them to ensure there is sufficient car parking space available for those using the café.

9. Why can we not disclose what is paid for a transfer?

MARK: All parties have to agree to the details of the transfer being disclosed, and should one party not wish this to happen then it will not be revealed.

10. What is the possibility of subsidised transport to some of the long distance away games?

MARK: Virgin trains offer a good deal for the team to travel to away games that are in / around the London area and the club were hoping to offer a similar travel package to fans when travelling to Dulwich Hamlet for the FA Trophy Quarter Final, but unfortunately due to the large number of Manchester United fans travelling to London for the EFL Cup Final, there is no chance to do this on that particular weekend. The Club has over the last few seasons offered a coach / ticket / scarf deal and this was a success. Maybe Wraggs to Riches would be a way to assess how many people would take up an offer. Provided that the demand is there and the club don't end up spending money on coaches that won't be fully utilised, then this is something the club will look at but we cannot say definitely until we have an idea of uptake.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Could this be announced at the Braintree game on Saturday?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Moose is running a coach to Dulwich Hamlet and information is available on Wraggs to Riches on how to contact Moose. The club could support Moose and offer some sort of package.

ROB HEYS: I will look into the possibility of some sort of package.

11. Where do you expect the club to be in 2 - 3 years' time?

MARK: To be sustainable; the model of only spending what comes in must be maintained and so the club must continue to cut its cloth accordingly. John has done a fantastic job of working within this, as it has a material impact on the player budget. Promotion to the Football League is transformational financially and if we can achieve that it will be a great achievement. But whilst ever we remain in the National League with other clubs spending significantly more than us on player wages it will be a challenge. There is generally a correlation between a club's player budget and its league position at the end of the season and in this regard the club has punched well above its weight. We must continue to run the club as efficiently as possible and continually strive to put more into the player budget.

12. Was it necessary to sell 3 players?

MARK: Ideally we would have kept the squad together all season. However, when league clubs show an interest in our players and the player wants to go and play in the league, then there is a decision to be made as to whether to say 'no' which may have implications on the players desire to then play for the club. We would then miss out on potential income from a transfer fee or negotiating the best deal possible and re-invest the funds in the football club; be that on new players or reducing debt or investing in infrastructure. It was obviously disappointing to see Jack, Paul and Danny leave but they were all very keen to play in the league and we were able to bring in Anthony Dudley, Rhys Browne, Danny Whitehead, Luke Summerfield, Connor Jennings and Andy Haworth to replace them. The depth of the squad was better as a result, until Anthony and Danny were injured. It can also be an attraction when the club is recruiting players to show that the club has a track record of giving players a pathway in their career. Also we are not alone, as nearly every club, except for 1 or 2, ultimately end up selling players for the same reasons.

13. Why haven't we got a reserve team that would mean we have a succession plan and maybe the ability to sell players on?

MARK: The club would very much like a reserve team and a youth set-up, but the financial constraints have meant that all spare cash has been going into the player budget or managing the historical debt. Via Project 21 we have started to establish coaching sessions for 6 - 16 year olds and we hope that this will grow into there being enough players at each group to have teams representing the club and a reserve team.

Now that the business side of the club is in better shape, we can start medium rather than short term planning.

14. Will there be a time when Amar will be willing to come to explain his ideas for the club?

MARK: Amar has a strong emotional tie to the club and if he was to sell it he would only want it to go into the hands of someone who would look after the club and have the best interests of the club.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: There was a rumour that there was a consortium, who wanted to purchase the club. Was this not possible?

MARK: A deal could not be done in time to enable the transfer of the ownership and therefore the sale did not go ahead.

15. If the Silkmen Supporters Trust (SST) collates reasonable questions would you be able to put the questions forward and get a response?

MARK: I am happy to do this on behalf of the SST.

16. What are the main things that are needed at the club which could be provided by local support e.g. Plumber etc.?

ROB HEYS: The volunteers help keep the club viable and I was surprised at the number the club has. All volunteers are welcome to help with projects of work that are being looked at for the close season. All skilled people are welcome and just need to contact me.

The club is looking to encourage younger people into the club via Project 21, but all the spare cash has to go into the playing budget. However the building blocks are there for the future.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: No approach has been made by the local teams to get involved with the club and this would be a way into getting younger players in.

ANDY WORTH: I am willing to make contact with them to see if they would be interested.

17. The new Ground; is this still a possibility?

MARK: This is outside of the clubs control, as it all depends on the delivery of the South Macclesfield Development Area (SMDA) which has been talked about for many years. This plan contained a brand new all-seater sports stadium which the club could potentially use.

18. When you look around the ground there are only small numbers of pockets of young fans, so what do we need to do to get the children to be involved in the club again?

MARK: We do our best to be involved in as many schools as possible in the area but we have not always had the resource to do this regularly. But the club recognises that the children are the future and is now in a position to invest in the future and an advert has just gone out to recruit a member of staff who will be responsible for youth engagement such as visiting schools and providing coaching; running junior teams and organising birthday parties, and even a youth club and match day activities. We think the club offers fantastic value for young people to come and watch games but we need to make ourselves better known and do more. We also recognise that young adults; once they move from the admission band for ‘students' to ‘adults' cannot always then afford to come to games and so next season a new age band for ‘u25's' will be launched to provide better value for this age group and hopefully start to improve the current imbalance of the fan base to reflect all age groups.

ANDY WORTH: A kids area is being looked at under the concourse to enable younger children to have an area where they spend time in the intervals of the match, have birthday parties etc. Anyone who could support this initiative by donating TV's etc. would be much appreciated.

19. Have the club thought of putting up the price as there are clubs charging more?

MARK: The club discusses this issue regularly and is continually evaluating how to get the balance between the number attending and the cost of a ticket right. Go too high and people won't turn up, and go too low, and you would still only get the same numbers but reduce the club's revenue. The club tries to look at the total spend per head at each game taking into account bar sales, shop sales, kiosks etc.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Season tickets are not discounted enough and should be available for longer periods.

MARK: Again we discuss this at length and believe that with season tickets not being increased again and with a 20% reduction in the first ‘early bird' stage that this offers good value for money. The club is by no means the most expensive in the League / area but nor is it the cheapest as it has the infrastructure of a league club to support, given the ground and its health and safety requirements.

20. Is Ollie Norburn still with the club?

MARK: I am pleased to say that Ollie has signed a new contract with the club.

Andy Worth expressed thanks to Mark Blower and to Marie Grundy for kindly typing up minutes of the meeting, and to all of those who attended.

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