Following part one of our in-depth season review with Bradford City’s Chief Executive, David Baldwin, we move onto discuss with David next season’s plans.
By Jason McKeown
WOAP: How is the playing budget looking for next season?
We have been pretty honest in saying that we have given the manager a bigger budget this year than was actually the break-even point. And what we were using was the carry-over of the surpluses from the Capital One cup run. So going into next year’s budget, it will again be greater than the break-even point of the trading position of the business. It will be supplemented by extraordinary income such as transfer fees.
The bottom line is that the amount that comes through the turnstiles, the amount that comes through the catering and the amount that comes through commercial – minus the running costs of the football club – the figure we give to the manager is greater than that. It is at this point where you count in extraordinary income. This includes cup run money and transfer fee money. The extra income forecasted to come through will supplement the manager’s wage budget beyond the break-even point.
We have got a reasonable figure in for gate receipts, and that’s why I keep hammering home the point about the season ticket campaign. We could just up the prices on season tickets and still achieve the same income number, but we genuinely want to make sure that the price can remain as competitive as possible. Next season will be three years on the bounce at the current price, and it’s going to be hard to put in what we have for the playing budget if we don’t get the numbers through the door. We are hoping that we will get close to the same numbers as this season.
This is where the 12th man comes in. I need people to put things into perspective and think ‘we are staying in League One, we are back in League One next season and we’ve still got the same prices for the season we were promoted from League Two’.
The club is trying to be as fair as possible to get as many bodies in here, and to get the best atmosphere at the ground – so there is a whole army going on a journey together. This is more preferable than saying ‘oh well we will put the prices up to normal prices – some League One clubs are charging £350-£395 – as we will only need half the numbers to earn half the money’. And actually, halving the numbers would reduce our operating costs substantially, so we would only need 40% of the current numbers. So instead of 10,000 season tickets, we could have 4,000.
But it would destroy the atmosphere and it would destroy the journey. We don’t want to do that.
WOAP: Season ticket sales are obviously vital…
This is where we need the fans to do their bit. We need them to continue coming in numbers. And to consider it value for money. And to appreciate that it isn’t always going to be perfect and it isn’t always going to be the best performance in the world.
This is a club with an endeavour to keep improving itself. And I think from 2007, when I first joined, to 2014 today – this is a much improved football club.
It is much improved with its community engagement. It is much improved with its social responsibility in terms of the geographical area. We are engaging with over 2,000 people per week in the community, in terms of some form of coaching and educational exercise activity. And that’s excluding the partnership with the (One in a Million) school.
You look at the community stand, there are a thousand people coming every home game thanks to the community programme: that’s the next generation fans that we are encouraging. We are not just giving tickets away, it is not based on that. It is ticket incentive schemes, for different schools and organisations across the district. It’s not the same thousand people every game, it’s potentially a different thousand people on 23 different occasions. It is many more people bought into the potential of becoming Bradford City supporters for life.
I’m very grateful that some of the contribution to this community scheme is being provided by a private benefactor, who wanted to encourage next generations. I won’t embarrass him by naming him because that wasn’t part of the agreement, but the bottom line is that it was a fantastic gesture by him. And as a result, I genuinely believe that we will have another generation of die-hard Bradford City supporters.
That is progressive improvements. There are only 12 people running this football club full time. 12 people have to look after 14,000. People are committed tirelessly to their jobs. That £199 is not just going towards putting 11 players out onto the pitch. It is going towards building up a football club that has a sustainable future.
WOAP: So how are season ticket sales going?
They are behind schedule, but I do think that people will wait as late as possible. I expect there will be a late rush, and it will be a bit of squeaky bum time to get to those numbers. The offer runs out on 31st May, and then all season ticket prices step up by £100. No decision has been made on the Flexi-Cards from that point.
In order to be guaranteed the cheap prices, buy before the 31st May – and I don’t mind making the sales platter! I want what is best for this football club, and I want to stand shoulder to shoulder with 10,000 people, cheering on this team and having a real go next year.
We are putting faith in the manager with the budget we are setting him; but we need the numbers in order for that to work, otherwise we would have to make adjustments later in the season. We don’t want to do that.
The easiest thing to do is to double the prices and go back to full market value. But that is not being progressive, that is not being socially inclusive, that is not being community-spirited.
WOAP: The Mark Stewart case has obviously hung over the club for over a year. What is the impact of its outcome?
We hoped that we would have it completely overturned. We were brave enough to go for it (with the appeal), because the fight was worth the fight.
Ultimately they wanted 330,000 euros under the compensation scheme, and they have ended up with 185,000 euros. So you would argue over the period between the start and the end, the saving in-between is significant.
It is frustrating, because you measure a player by his performance and we didn’t get a performance from Mark Stewart at Bradford City Football Club. So as a result of that, you think it’s a lot of money to spend for a low rate of return. Nobody likes to pay for something that they don’t feel they have had value of money from.
Ultimately the lessons have been learned. I do genuinely feel that we were treated unfairly, but you have to draw a line under it. It happened, but it will never happen again.
My role at the football club has migrated over the past seven years. My first responsibility was to revive the marketing and commercial side of the football club. Then it became operationally-driven. And then, over the last two years, my responsibility has increased to governance. Now, everything goes through me, and it has gone through me for the past two years.
When it comes to contractual situations and the budget control, that is now in my remit and I work very closely with the manager on that. I have been responsible for every single transfer in and out since 2012, and will continue to do so.
There was a time where we had to take stock of who did what at this football club – and the Mark Stewart case provided that moment. There are now very defined roles on who does what.
WOAP: A large proportion of the squad is out of contract in the summer. Have the Board and Phil started to plan who may be offered terms and who will go?
There are talks going on between the Board and the manager in terms of devising a plan. There are talks going on between myself and some of the players in the squad in terms of their activity for next season. We will reveal the outcome of those conversations in the fullness of time when they are dealt with and done properly. I won’t speculate on where we might be with them.
In addition to that there is a talent identification process going on, and a hit list of targets in all positions and throughout the whole squad. We are looking at who we have got in the building, who we have got in the building who is out of contract, and who is out there in the market place that could fit the Bradford City mould. We want the dynamics to be right in terms of if they would fit in with the team, ones that will wear the shirt with pride.
So we are having lots of meetings going on at the moment, and there is lots of tracking taking place. I was at the Guiseley vs Harrogate Town game the other day, and we are constantly reviewing players.
Other people speculate, and you see names on Claret and Banter with people saying ‘Why don’t we sign X? Why haven’t we looked at him’ Well I can assure you that they have not mentioned anybody who we don’t know about! And we know a lot about them all. We do our homework well.
WOAP: There are also a few players clearly not in Phil’s plans who have another year on their contracts to go, is this being looked at?
There is always a post-season review, and the manager will look into those players’ eyes and have a discussion with them about where they see themselves, and what they think they are going to bring to the table next year. Once you get that information you evaluate it and decide the best option for the club.
There is always a cost of moving out a player who is under contract, whichever club you are at. There’s also then a cost to bringing in a replacement. And so you’ve got to ask the question of what is the net effect of exiting a player and bringing in another one? With the budget, when it is gone it is gone, and you could end up making compromises elsewhere. If it costs you too dearly to take a player out, the danger is you weaken your starting point.
It is all up for discussion and no decisions have been made on any player. It has been difficult for the new players to break into the established squad, which had had a life-changing experience last season. But the one beauty about the end of the season is we turn that page and start with a blank canvas.
WOAP: A clear highlight this season has been the performances of the Bradford City youth set up…
For a lower league club, the youth set up offers the ability to realise the asset value of certain players at a younger age by selling them, and the funding of that contributes towards the first team running costs. The Fabian Delph sale to Aston Villa funded the Stuart season where we had a real go, for example. Without that money, we wouldn’t have had that opportunity and we wouldn’t have been in the top three until March.
The youth department is self-sustaining. It runs itself and it doesn’t lose money. It can also make a positive difference to the first team budget. You don’t plan for those youth sales, so once they arrive you can decide how this extra money will be used.
The youth team are all training at one site on Woodhouse Grove, and all of a sudden we are seeing 12, 13, 14-year-olds catching the eye of big clubs. We won’t necessarily see the benefits of these players, as people who step up to our first team, for three or four years; or we can instead sell them as assets earlier.
It is a healthy youth system, with a good crop of players throughout each age group. And good active opportunities for trailists to come in as well. There is no greater feeling than to see one of the stars of your youth team make the step up to the first team.
WOAP: And how is the RIASA link-up progressing?
There was recently a Bradford City friendly against Hull City – featuring several Hull first team players, who needed a game before their FA Cup Semi Final against Sheffield United – and eight of the City XI were RIASA players. We lost 3-0, which I would consider to be a moral victory!
The goalkeeper performed quite well, and Phil is keeping an eye on him. He is a North American, but he may have Swedish heritage which we are looking into at the moment. It is complicated, but we know what we are doing with overseas players.
WOAP: There has been a criticism that the failure of squad players to challenge first teamers for a place is due to the lack of a proper reserve team. Is this something the club would agree with?
I think that’s a big assumption. Whenever we have needed to have a game on we have set one up, and we haven’t always announced the games we have played. We can set them up quite easily, when we want them to take place rather than have a fixture list enforced upon us, and also control the level of football that you play against.
The danger you get with running the reserves is one week you can be playing an under 18s team who had a game the previous Saturday. And also sometimes, because of lack of first team players, we were doing the same with our youth team players. Now is that fair to their development?
I would say that our youth team has benefited substantially from not having the commitment to reserve team fixtures. It gives them an opportunity to grow and develop at their normal rate.
WOAP: Is there a vision for the club on where the Board expects to be over a certain timeframe?
It’s very dangerous to put a specific time on it, but we want to push to get to the Championship. We don’t want to be a yo-yo club that comes straight back down, we want to be sustainable there. People always ask the question ‘how are you going to be sustainable in the Championship if you can only just generate a budget for League One?’ Well the answer to that is you get an extra £6 million a year just for being in the Championship.
The beauty for us as a club is that our infrastructure is set up for the Championship. We have the training facilities, and the stadium is right, the fan numbers are right because the ticket prices are right. The corporate stuff we do is in place.
We have all the ingredients in place to be a successful Championship club, and we don’t have to make sweeping changes when we get there. And the extra funding required when we are there comes through the Football League’s distribution of money. It is such a massive jump up. 12% of the pot goes to League One clubs, and 8% goes to League Two. The other 80% goes to the Championship clubs. So that’s the golden goose to get.
And if we did get there, all of that money would be invested into the playing side of the club. It’s not going to go out in dividends, it’s not going to go to operational staff at the club – there isn’t that many of us. It would go onto increasing the playing budget.
WOAP: Finally, any plans for pre-season yet in place? Any tours to look forward to?
We haven’t decided on a tour as yet. We have two friendly games confirmed, but no dates yet. One of them is we will be going to Guiseley again. We have also arranged a game at home to a Championship club. It will be played somewhere between 26th July and 2nd August. Gate prices will be £10 adults and £5 concessions.
If you are planning your holidays, try and be back for the 26th!