First and foremost, I sincerely hope that this message finds you and your families safe and well during these immensely challenging times.
It’s now three months since my appointment as chief executive at the club and I thought it would be a timely opportunity to provide an update to you all on a number of club-related matters, as well as sharing with you some of my thoughts and actions that have ensued during that time.
In the lead-up to Christmas one of the key immediate priorities I outlined, given my new role, was to engage and converse with as many different people associated with the club as possible. This included club staff, Foundation staff, committee members, matchday volunteers, sponsors, and last but probably most importantly, fans of course. This was done with the aim of accumulating as much honest feedback (good, bad or indifferent) as possible to ascertain and understand exactly where we are as a club right now. We have undoubtedly achieved some incredible things and made tremendous progress both on and off the pitch over the last five years so there are a lot of strengths that we can continue to build on, but at the same time I firmly believe there is still enormous scope for us to be better in so many ways.
I want to thank everyone that I’ve spoken to so far for their openness and honesty during those conversations. The feedback given has been absolutely instrumental in helping me draw some clarity in formulating a vision and a pathway forward. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we are absolutely blessed to have so many people who are truly committed to our cause, and who genuinely love the club. From my perspective, the worst thing we can do as a club is take any of that for granted. In fact, I primarily see my role of CEO as being a facilitator, a co-ordinator, someone who hopefully harnesses all the goodwill, dedication, skill, experience and knowledge that resides across everyone connected to our club, and directs it in an effective way to help take us to new and exciting heights together.
In my opinion, one of the strongest messages we’ve thrown around over the last couple of years is the one of “we grow together”. I think it’s particularly strong because it encapsulates the notion that we’re on a journey together and that everyone associated with the club pulls each other along (hopefully in the same direction) in a quest to become a better club and better people. It’s this particular message that I’d like to put right at the centre of the club’s narrative moving forwards, and I hope to see it being echoed prominently in everything that we do, and even incorporated into the physical improvements we intend to make at 1st Cloud Arena over the foreseeable future.
We are undoubtedly living through difficult times. As a club we have faced, and will continue to face, many tough challenges. In my opinion, we have every right to feel somewhat aggrieved as to the hand the club has been dealt (on a number of levels) throughout this Covid crisis. However, if we try and look at the situation we find ourselves in, through a more empowering lens, lying behind all these challenges there is the chance to see opportunities. For example, the lack of first-team football and the suspension of the competitive season has been a huge mental challenge for us all to deal with. On the flip-side though, it has given a lot of staff here the time and space to plan for improvement and success for when we do return to football, with the primary objective of giving our supporters and community an even better level of experience in the future. In light of this our goal was, and is, to maximise this opportunity that we have been given, and I cannot wait to share with you all in the very near future many of the ideas, strategies and initiatives that have been decided upon and actioned over the last three months.
Another obvious challenge to highlight would be the financial one the club has faced over the last 12 months. There are no two ways about it, the club has been put under significant strain with the decimation of our revenue streams due to Covid, while still carrying the burden of heavy running costs. All playing and non-playing staff have now spent a significant period on reduced wages, and I’d like to thank them publicly for the level of solidarity, understanding and care for the club that has been demonstrated by them all during this difficult time. What is the upside of this situation? In my opinion, conditions like these force you to become more creative and resourceful with the limited resources you do have. It has been well documented that one of our key strategic goals moving forwards is to be financially self-sustainable. The challenges we’ve faced during this crisis have really sharpened our focus and creativity when it comes to being as cost effective as possible with our financial decision making, and we have to continue in exactly the same vein when we enter into a post Covid landscape if we are to be successful in the long-term.
I guess now is the perfect time for me to recognise the absolutely incredible support we received from the more than 1,000 new founder shareholders we now have. Given the timing of the share issue, we could not have possibly imagined such an unbelievable response. I would like to personally thank each and every person who has invested their hard-earned money into the club and, as I referred to in the last paragraph, we now have a responsibility and duty to appropriate those funds in the most prudent way possible in order to help the club move forwards.
A significant proportion of those funds will be utilised to enable the programme of improvement works we’ve outlined for 1st Cloud Arena over the coming months. This will include the following:
- New perimeter fencing around the playing surface
- Full programme of renovation works to the playing surface
- All walkways around the ground to be newly tarmacked
- New temporary covered terrace positioned behind the ‘factory end’ goal
Aside from this programme, our main project involving the construction of the new main stand (subject to planning permission) on the Shaftesbury Avenue side of the ground, as outlined in our club statement on February 5th, will commence once the club has secured the necessary additional funding. We are cautiously optimistic that all the enabling conditions for initiating the construction of this project will be in place in the near future, and that the stand is to be operational in time for the beginning on the 2021-22 competitive season.
Although we haven’t yet submitted any plans regarding the internal fit-out of the new main stand, our intention is to incorporate additional facilities at some point that would potentially include:
- New main bar
- Toilet facilities
- Club shop
- Food kiosks
- Board room
- Media/office facilities
The new stand will also accommodate 15 glass fronted commercial/sponsor boxes that will be housed behind the top row of seats, giving the occupants an incredible view of the pitch. In addition, there will also be a covered TV gantry situated above the roof of the stand so that all games can be filmed from the optimum vantage point.
There has been a huge amount of work and planning gone into formulating these plans and we’re obviously still a long way off in terms of seeing the project come to fruition, but I’m sure you’ll join me in getting very excited about visualising the prospect of seeing our football club’s home having cover on all four sides of the ground, more than 1,000 seats across two stands with a fantastic view of the pitch, and with a whole host of new facilities to make your matchday experience an even better one than it has been in the past.
In a nutshell, and touching again on that last point, improving the quality of the interactions that the club has with its supporters and its community has to be the driving force behind everything that we do moving forwards. It is the least we can do in order to honour and reciprocate the goodwill, time, energy and investment that the supporters and the community have put into the club.
Finally, it just leaves me to say thank you again to everyone associated with the club, for all the support we have received, and will continue to receive, during this unprecedented period. We have a special football club with so much to look forward to once things return to normality. In the meantime, I wish you and your families the best of health.
Up The Mariners!