Lewes Community Football Club Limited (LCFC) bought Lewes FC two years ago today.
The Club has three priorities and we consider them to be of equal importance:
– On-field success of our three teams; First team, Ladies, U18’s
– Financial stability
– Community engagement
We review our performance on these priorities in our second year as follows:
After three bleak seasons the First team finally started to get things right on the pitch. We just missed out on a playoff spot, finishing sixth, having won nearly as many league games in the 2011/12 season as we’d managed in the previous three seasons combined. We reached the semi-finals of the Alan Boon Cup and the quarter-finals of the Sussex Senior Cup.
The only significant disappointment was the team’s poor showing in both the FA Cup and the FA Trophy, where we made the least progress in over a decade. The prize money available from progressing in each of these competitions makes a huge difference to clubs at our level, and a good cup run would have made a real positive difference to our finances.
The Board was particularly pleased with Simon Wormull’s performance as manager for the second half of the season. He stepped into a potentially difficult situation at short notice and did a terrific job of steadying the ship and navigating to a successful conclusion to the season. After a tough first two months of 2012, the team’s record for March and April was P12 W8 D2 L2. Despite operating with a reduced budget Simon has put together a squad for the 2012/13 season that looks extremely competitive, and a preseason programme that should ensure that we hit the ground running when the new season kicks off on 18th August.
The Ladies Team had a remarkable season, winning the South East Combination at a canter and earning promotion to the Premier League Southern Division where they will compete next season against the likes of Spurs, West Ham, QPR and Brighton. The Ladies won the Ryman Cup and were losing finalists in the Sussex Senior Cup.
The Ladies’ league record for the 2011/12 season was:
P20 W19 D1 L0 F108 A14 GD94 Pts58
We think that this is the best 2011/12 league record of any senior team, men’s or women’s, anywhere in the world. We are delighted to report that the Ladies’ management and playing staff will remain together, with a handful of additions, for the 2012/13 season. Jacquie Agnew has told us not to expect a repeat of last season’s performance. We think she means that next season they’ll win the Sussex Senior Cup as well.
The Under 18s were again runners-up in the Ryman Youth League South East behind champions Burgess Hill. This is a particularly impressive achievement as manager Nick Brown (and, for the first half of the season, Simon Wormull) had to deal repeatedly with some of the team’s best players leaving to join League clubs or the Lewes FC First Team. We want the Youth Team to provide significant benefits both to the overall Club and to the individual players in the side. This worked well on both fronts last season: the First Team benefited from the graduation of such talents as Max Howell, Layton Schaaf and Charlie Leach (all of whom will start next season in the senior squad), while others from our youth set-up joined Brighton, Portsmouth and Millwall. We are pleased to report that Nick Brown will be leading the Under 18s again next season.
We did quite well on two of our three priorities this season, on-field success (above) and community engagement (below). We didn’t do as well with the finances.
We had planned to make a smaller operating loss in 2011/12 than we did in 2010/11, but ended up making a larger one. This did not in any way imperil the Club: as last season we incurred no new debts, paid all of our suppliers and had cash in the bank and no overdraft throughout. This season’s financial black hole was mostly funded by the Board. This is not a model that we find appealing: none of us is looking to become a Sussex Abramovich. But last season the Board decided to be a little more aggressive in spending in an attempt to accelerate improvement in revenues, which didn’t really happen, and so we personally paid for it.
We brought in a popular former manager, Steve King, at the start of the season in an attempt both to improve the First Team’s on-field performances and to help drive a material improvement in gate and commercial revenues. The former mostly worked; the latter mostly didn’t.
Attendances fell from an average of 679/game to an average of 630/game. Much of this drop resulted from away teams in the Ryman Premier bringing fewer fans with them than did our opponents in the Blue Square South the season before. Nevertheless we saw little benefit from our efforts to drive up attendances last season. We will try to do better in the coming season. That won’t be made any easier by our decision to increase ticket prices for next season to £11 for adults and £6 for concessions (each one pound more than last season). We are convinced that this is the right thing to do for the Club, though, as we take steps towards a breakeven operating model.
Sponsorship and commercial revenues improved a bit over 2010/11 but we still don’t feel that we delivered anything close to the Club’s full potential in this area last season. This was the revenue area that most significantly missed budget in 2011/12. It wasn’t for want of trying: Steve Duly, who was our General Manager and Business Development Manager for most of last season, put in some good groundwork in developing local business relationships before he left to become CEO of Farnborough FC in March.
We think that the 2012/13 will probably be the season in which we (finally) get commercial right. We are delighted to have recruited Adrian Howell as General Manager and Martin Clayton as Head of Development (if you haven’t met Adrian and Martin yet, feel free to drop by the Dripping Pan any time and introduce yourself). While Adrian and Martin have wide-ranging roles, each of them includes a focus on local business relationships. This is already bearing fruit: committed sponsorship revenue for 2012/13 is already more-than-double what we achieved for the whole of last season.
If you own a local business and want to support the Rooks then please call Adrian on 01273 470820 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Johnny Marshall and his Southover Bonfire Society crew delivered another record set of bar profits for the Club. Their contribution to the Club is significant: they deliver a reliable commercial service while being entirely self-managing, freeing up the Club’s still-too-scarce volunteer resources to focus elsewhere. In return we are happy to contribute a share of bar revenues to provide material support to the bonfire society: it’s exactly the type of community-focused win-win outcome that we look for.
We at last managed to make a few thousand pounds from food while maintaining a high level of deliciousness, including the introduction of our popular mobile Rook Pie sellers. We will aim to improve this further next season.
Overall, the things that most hurt us financially last season were (1) another pretty weak performance in sponsorship and commercial, (2) minimal progress in the FA Cup and FA Trophy; and (3) our “investment” in a management team that we thought might drive revenues not really doing so.
For the coming 2012/13 season we are budgeting to breakeven financially, and that is based on quite conservative assumptions. We haven’t done this before now as given our recent revenues it would have resulted in a playing budget so low that it would have all-but-guaranteed on-field horror. After two years of progress on revenues and costs we are now in a position to breakeven with a reasonable playing budget.
The Club already has guaranteed sponsorship revenues of nearly £50,000 for the coming season, and we intend that the ultimate figure for the season will be much higher than that. We will have recurring revenue of perhaps £10,000 from the newly-installed solar power station on the South Stand. The Club has its most potentially-lucrative line-up of pre-season friendlies in years. In Barry Haffenden’s capable hands the club shop is now profitable. We are making good profits from the bar, and beginning to make profits from food. We have increased ticket prices for the coming season which should increase gate revenues.
In parallel we have had to take some tough but necessary decisions to drive down costs. We have appointed East Communications as our new design and print agency, replacing Proworx and saving the Club around £12,000 per season. While we are excited to be working with Stuart Still (a founder shareholder of the Club) and his team at East, it was still tough to end the Club’s 9-year relationship with Proworx. We didn’t do this lightly: we like and admire Richard and David, and value the work that they’ve done for the Club. But one of our responsibilities to you as the Club’s owners is to take the steps needed to make the Club financially stable, and this was a big one.
The above and other actions have enabled us to prepare a break-even budget for the 2012/13 season that allows the Club to spend £2,000/week (gross) on players. This is a significant reduction from last season’s playing budget, although owners should note that by the end of last season the weekly spend on players had already come down to £2,750. And we won 8 and drew 2 of our last 11 league games. Looking at the squad that Simon Wormull has assembled on his new budget, we are quietly optimistic for the season ahead.
We redoubled the Club’s efforts to engage with the community last year. We now have more than 800 owners, each owning one share in the Club.
While this represents a quadrupling in our shareholder base during the year, we think that we are still in the very early stages of development in this area. We have appointed Martin Clayton as Head of Development with a specific focus on increasing the number of shareholders well into the thousands.
We were pleased to be able to start offering £30 annual shares this year, thereby widening access to ownership of the Club. We augmented this with the Support & Save scheme, in which dozens of local businesses offer discounts to Lewes FC owners. Our intention here was to drive benefits for the Club, its individual owners and the businesses involved. Feedback suggests that this was successful. The Support & Save idea originated with one of the Club’s owners, Andy Hayes, who suggested it to the Board. We developed it into a scheme that we think is unique in football, and which has been a key driver of this year’s increase in the Club’s ownership numbers. We love fellow owners sharing their brilliant ideas with us, and would encourage you to join Andy in doing so.
The Club held its first-ever Board elections in October, resulting in the appointment of Lee Cobb, Stuart Fuller and Terry Parris as Directors, replacing the outgoing Alex Leith and Ben Ward. These elections will be annual, and in October 2012 two of our current Board will step down (either or both of whom may choose to put themselves forward for re-election) and we will appoint three Directors, increasing the size of the Board to eight people from its current seven. From October 2013 the entire Board will have been elected by the Club’s owners.
In March we completed the installation of a 171-panel solar power station on the roof of the South Stand. This was entirely funded by the Club’s owners, by a combination of loan and donation. For a total cost of around £75,000 the Club will generate (excuse the pun) around £10,000 per year for each of the next 25 years. Better yet, our receipts are index-linked. We are constantly looking for smart opportunities like this to get a great bang for the Club’s buck.
This September will see the launch of the Lewes FC Academy and the Club’s newly-instituted Girls’ Under 15s team. So next year we’ll have five teams’ On-Field Success to review.
For the 2011/12 season we were delighted to have the Lewes-based Samuel’s Children’s Charity as our home shirt sponsor and Maggie’s Cancer Centres as our away shirt sponsor. We were able to maintain our Kids Go Free policy for under 16s thanks to the generous sponsorship of Brighton Holiday Homes. We repeated and enhanced the Bonfire Cup, Artists United, The Big Kickabout and the Gala Dinner, all of which are growing into significant annual local events.
We always want to do more, and better, and the principal limit on our activities is volunteer time. This year we have attracted some wonderful new volunteers who have made a real difference in what we can achieve as a Club. The solar project would never have happened without Clive Burgess, our volunteer Treasurer. The Board elections would have been unmanageable without Kevin Brook, our volunteer Club Secretary. We would not have had the best programme and website in non-league without the efforts of James Boyes, our volunteer Programme & Web Editor. We couldn’t have handled our hundreds of new owners without the volunteer membership team superbly led by Rob Read. And Clive, Kevin, James and Rob are just four of the dozens of volunteers giving many thousands of hours each year to improve your Club. This season it’s time for you to step forward and join them. Contact the Club’s General Manager Adrian Howell (01273 470820 or email@example.com) and let him know how you’d like to help.
Come On You Rooks.
Board of Directors
Lewes Community Football Club Ltd.