Laithwaite Independent Financial Advisers


Brian Caffarey
12:00am, Wed 14th Jan 2009


with Brian Caffarey

The following interview appeared in the matchday programme for the Setanta Shield game against Forest Green Rovers on 13 January, having originally been scheduled to appear in the programme for the postponed game against Northwich Victoria on 8 January. It is being placed on the website so that it reaches a wider audience.

This interview took place, on David?s initiative, the day after the Cards? fine away point at Wrexham. As David explains below, he was concerned that, following his decision in the autumn to adopt a lower profile, the communication ?thread? from the Club had been lost to some extent.

BC: I was glad to get your request, David. I?d been thinking that the beginning of the New Year ? and roughly the half-way point in the season ? was a good time to ask you to reflect and look forward.


DT: Very happy to do that, Brian. I have been a bit concerned about communications from the Club during the last few months. I feel that some fans, who perhaps had read or heard some of the things I said in the autumn, might not have been able to keep track of subsequent events in a world which has been changing rapidly. I felt that after the ?Kim Grant affair? I ought to adopt a lower profile ? for one thing, I felt that there was a danger of my becoming the news, when the focus should really be on the Club. I therefore directed press enquiries to Jon Davies, as Communications Director, and Paul Homer, as Press Officer. I?m very grateful for what they?ve done but I feel the downside is that bits of information have come out in different media and that there hasn?t been a consistent or coherent ?thread? of communication from the Club.

The whole communications issue is very difficult and you can end up being caught between a rock and a hard place. If you don?t say anything, people complain about a lack of communication, or draw the wrong inference just because nothing has been said by way of a response, or, quite frankly, make things up. But if you do respond to questions from the media or others you can find the whole thing blown up out of all proportion. My recent comments about ?regionalisation? are a good example of the latter. I was just expressing a personal suggestion that the issue be discussed within the wider context of money-saving ideas in these difficult economic times. I certainly did not expect it to become a big news story in the Non-League Paper, with people attacking or supporting me.

BC: What do you think can be done to address this problem of getting consistent messages out from the Club?

DT: It isn?t easy because there isn?t a single outlet to which everyone has access. Some people will just read the local papers; some will log onto the official website; and some will read the matchday programme. I will carry on putting key messages in my pieces in the matchday programme and I will make more use of the official website as the authoritative source of information about developments. What I plan to do therefore is to post pieces on the site on a fairly regular basis. I hope that these will be picked up by the press too, but at least people will know where to go for correct and up-to-date information. I also think that the fans? forums have been valuable, especially in allowing fans to ask questions of the Directors and team management. We will continue to hold them and I plan to have another one in February.

Phil Gilchrist?s record

BC: Turning to reflections on the season so far, what do you think has gone well, and not so well, to date?

DT: Well, I won?t dwell on what I?ve just called the ?Kim Grant affair?! I?ve held my hands up over that appointment, although of course I wasn?t the only person involved in making the decision. I?ve learned a lot from that experience, including the fact that the world of football can?t really be viewed as conforming to the normal ways in which the business world works! But the one good thing that came out of all that is that it brought Phil Gilchrist to the Club. I think Phil has handled everything with great dignity and a sure touch since his appointment. It?s not been easy for him but, if you look at his league record, leaving aside the first seven games, it?s very respectable in all the circumstances: 20 points from 18 games as of yesterday?s excellent performance at Wrexham. The frustrating thing is that, with even slightly better finishing, we could have converted quite a few of the eight draws in that sequence into wins. Even three more wins would have put us comfortably mid-table.

BC: Are we going to escape relegation?

DT: Yes, I?m confident that we will ? and not just because at least a couple of clubs can be expected to go into administration! I?m targeting at least what we achieved last season ? 53 ? and would like to think that we could get more. And we have to do that without splashing out in the transfer window. Phil knows that he will have to ship players out if he wants to bring in new faces.


BC: What about our financial situation? Are you happy with the way the share issue is going?

DT: The first thing I want to say is that I?m grateful for the fantastic work which James Aughterson has done on all this. As anyone who has read the share issue documents will realise, it?s involved an enormous amount of effort on James?s part. He has lived and breathed this for over two months and I know it has taken its toll on him.

Of course, it?s frustrating that we?ve had to do this at such a difficult time, with the ?credit crunch? biting and Christmas bills to be met. We simply had to do this, in the light of Chris Ingram?s decision to withdraw funding after the end of this season.

We won?t know how many fans have applied to buy shares until the end of January ? the extended deadline for share applications ? but we?ve been encouraged by the number of people who?ve joined the Supporters? Trust. I hope that fans who can afford to buy even the minimum number of shares will do so: the Club needs this support if it is to survive at this level. The other point I would emphasise, though, is that the Club is not in debt to anyone. This is a wonderful position to be in ? and I should think very few, if any, football clubs can claim that. We won?t go into administration because we don?t owe anyone any money. Chris?s action in converting his loans into shares has been enormously important in this respect.

A buyer?

BC: What?s the latest position on finding a buyer for the Club?

DT: This is the main area in which I think the lack of a consistent communications message from the Club has been most noticeable in recent months. In early October I told Southern Counties Radio that I was working on two budgets for season 2008/09 ? one with a new investor, one without. At that time I was optimistic we would find someone to invest. Then the credit crunch happened, and my optimism turned to realism, expressed in my piece for a match in the Club programme. By December the credit crunch had turned into a looming recession, and my realism turned to pessimism, expressed in an interview with The Woking News and Mail. So, unless supporters happened to follow three different sources, they would not get the complete picture of events.

I?m still talking to potential investors whenever I get the chance but I don?t expect that there will be any major developments in the short or medium term. I?m still confident, though, that we can develop this Club in the long term ? indeed, we will have to do that to support our aim of getting into the Football League.

The playing budget

BC: I assume that, if we?re going to have to survive on a significantly lower budget next season ? even allowing for capital contributions from shareholders ? we will have to reduce the players? wage bill since that represents such a high proportion of our expenditure?

DT: Yes, that?s clearly got to be one element, although we?ve done a lot already to cut costs. The decision we?ve taken is not to go fully part-time but, instead, to focus on getting the best set of players we can within the playing budget, regardless of whether they are full-time or part-time. Obviously, organising everything round this will be more difficult but I believe it can be done ? as other clubs have shown.

The Board

BC: Finally, David, you lost Colin Lippiatt from the Board earlier in the season and, more recently, David Hemley has had to step down. The Board is now looking a bit ?thin? in terms of numbers: have you any plans to appoint more Directors?

DT: Yes, I?m working on this. I was very sorry to lose Colin and David. I?m grateful to David for arranging, before his departure, for Geoff Chapple to join us as Commercial Manager. It?s wonderful to have Geoff back at the Club and, even though these are difficult times, he?s already made an impact and given us a better chance of achieving our commercial targets for this season. I should add that, on the commercial front, I want to make progress in getting an on-line shop facility available ? it?s taken us far too long to get this in place ? and I would dearly love to be able to improve the stock available in the Club Shop.

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