Championship football by 2017?

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By Jason McKeown

The Bradford City joint chairmen Mark Lawn and Julian Rhodes are targeting a financial push for the Championship in the 2016/17 season, according to information disclosed by the Bradford City Supporters’ Board.

As part of the release of the October 2014 minutes from a meeting held on Monday 27 October, the Supporters’ Board has reported that the Board’s minimum expectation for this season and next is a top half League One finish. A note states that outgoing Chief Executive David Baldwin, “outlined a number of the issues facing the Clubs (sic) budget but indicated that the current budget strategy was to aim for a minimum finish in the top half of the League this season and next season which would create a financial platform for a targeting the Championship.”

On the possibility of squad strengthening this season, the Supporters’ Board disclosed that “the current playing budget could only be revised by changes in the squad as there was no additional funds to introduce new players and the Manger (sic) was well aware of this”.

This welcome insight into the club’s thinking does throw up a number of talking points: chiefly the expectations around Phil Parkinson. When signing a three-year contract in May 2013, following promotion from League Two, there was a general feeling that the City manager would need to have the club pushing for a place in the Championship by 2016 in order to earn another contract.

Instead, this disclosure suggests that Parkinson is required to repeat or better last season’s 11th-place finish over the next two seasons – so that a stronger promotion push can occur the year after. It will be interesting to see if achieving only this minimum target would result in a contract extension offer, or if it would prompt a change of manager.

It’s also unclear how two more top-half-League-One-finishes would “create a financial platform for a targeting the Championship (sic)”,  although there is a Supporters’ Board note that David “reminded the Supporters Board of the favourable financial position achieved over the past 3 seasons from a very poor position”.

A more public announcement is expected soon from the club, regarding the 2013/14 accounts, and WOAP hopes for, and looks forward to, more clarity over the club’s long-term strategy of climbing up the football ladder.

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7 replies

  1. The concerns expressed by Jason during this article are entirely valid. the push to the championship is apparently a season further away. Just how will a top half finish in the next two seasons provide a platform for targeting the championship?
    My own view is that because of our tight budget, the prospect of our promotion to the championship is a long shot at best and, unless there is an injection of capital from somewhere it is likely to remain so.

    • Difficult to disagree with the comments of PH above. Surely there has to be more to the club strategy than seeking top half finishes over the next couple of years? The progress in the last three seasons should not be under-estimated but we have also had good fortune and it worries me that a big component of the ‘strategy’ at the moment – in the absence of new investment – is hoping that something will come good. I think it was Geoffrey who derived his strategic calculations from time spent at Napoleons. Surely we cannot base the planning on being lucky in the cup or with player sales. IMHO what is missing is a communication strategy so that everyone is on board and the message is unambiguous. At the moment it looks too much like we live from month to month to have any confidence that there is a plan beyond the end of 2014. It is important to get the fans on board because otherwise the inevitable increase in ST prices will have negative impact, notwithstanding it is the obvious way to go.

    • I think we’ve debated this at some length elsewhere but I’m left wondering at what’s wrong with mid table league 1 finishes? Whilst there is nothing wrong with an aim for the Championship we have to face facts and recognize that given our post war (WWII that is!) record we are now at “our level”. The only way we’ll progress is through external investment which is unlikely to happen.

      I don’t automatically think that a season ticket price rise is the answer. When we were last in league 1 the crowds were circa half what we have now. So roughly speaking the ST tickets would need to exceed double the current price to maintain income from ticket and tea bar sales etc. Granted, a small rise in prices could be accommodated but you have to be very careful that you don’t start seeing a significant reduction in crowds. I suspect there will be a point at which increases will be accepted after which sales will fall off a cliff and we won’t get the returns we expect.

      Personally I’d much prefer to be able to take my kids to watch live league 1 football than to follow the Bantams in the Championship from the sofa but I can well understand not everyone will concur.

      • I’ve made this suggestion already but could we not do pay-what-you-like season tickets? The minimum would be at this season’s prices but if people are willing then they can pay as much as they think it’s worth.

        Many fans are complaining that the prices are too low so let’s see if they’re happy to voluntarily pay more! Would also avoid crowds dropping much as those who won’t pay more than currently, won’t have to.

  2. Jason, It’s disappointing to hear that Mark Lawn’s expectation of gaining promotion to the Championship during PP’s current contract is no longer on the Board’s agenda and that the club’s aspiration has been deferred for a season or so. I fail to understand how the plan for two seasons of mid table performances will somehow create the financial impetus for a promotion bid in 2017 but I guess I simply don’t understand the thinking behind this new plan. I’d therefore welcome more from the Board on how these apparently disparate statement can be reconciled. PP’s current contract expires in 2016 and the vast majority of the current squad’s contact will similarly have lapsed. The planned promotion season could itself be a period of change and re-building rather than a promotion focused one. Maybe you could ask this question when you next interview ML or JR?

    But looking further into the comments made to the Supporters Board by David B, I am less convinced that it has much relevance at all. It was only a few months earlier (on 27 Jan 2014 to be precise) that DB also said to the SB in relation to the sale of Nahki Wells that

    ‘David Baldwin explained that the confusion was only in the way the figures were expressed and he went on to explain it to the Supporters Board and confirmed that the Club were in the black and, following the Wells transfer, the player budget would not be reduced for next season.’

    And we all now know how the budget was indeed reduced by 20% despite the sale of Wells and despite the fine words from the club.’s representative at the SB. In retrospect, we couldn’t rely on this statement to the SB so why should we rely upon the latest statement?

    • I completely agree, Dennis, that there is only so much weight you can place on the Supporters Board note. Clearly things change and I doubt it is set in stone that we will not be pushing for promotion until 2016/17.

      Yet still, this SB note is all we have at this moment. There is no other vision put forward. As I said in the piece, it would be nice to hear more from the Board on the strategy and if there is a financial plan to get the club into the Championship.

      • Jason, I know you had a close relationship with DB and I’ve no idea whether you have any plans in the near future to interview either ML and JR. Maybe when you do, you could raise some of these issues with them particularly those concerns with the inconsistency of some of their public statements. For me, it’s these inconsistencies and the mixed messages which emanate from VP that give rise to many of the issues and concerns about the way in which the club is managed and the apparent lack of any meaningful strategy for its future. Of course, everybody understands that things change and can knock plans off course but that’s equally relevant to any other business. It isn’t something which is unique to our club. That shouldn’t stop the Board from sharing its plan with the fans particularly when many understand that the owners are not willing to invest any more of their own money in the club. In the absence of some new benefactor arriving at the door of VP with large bags of used fivers, it’s right that we the fans who should have to dig into our own pockets and pay for the privilege of mounting a promotion bid from increased ticket prices etc. That’s why it’s important for fans to understand what are ML’s and JR’s genuine plans for the club.

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