Let us first take the opportunity to wish all Bairns a very happy new year, along with good health and prosperity in 2022.
It’s now 4 weeks since we began as an almost entirely new board, and it’s fair to say it has been a whirlwind. Before even formally starting we made the decision to part company with Paul Sheerin and Danny Grainger, plus resolved to recruit a new Head Coach very quickly so he could take the lead in player recruitment for the January window. Within a week we appointed Martin Rennie and are very pleased Martin was willing to cross the Atlantic to help us out. He comes with an excellent track record and Scotland legend Kenny Miller now completes a strong management duo. Both are in no doubt that our objective is still to gain promotion this season. We’re sure every fan recognises that, with our current league position and recent form, this is a difficult challenge but certainly not one which is unachievable. This week we also parted company with Gary Holt and it’s never easy telling staff, particularly around the festive period, that their services are no longer required. Paul, Danny and Gary are all thoroughly decent guys who worked hard for the club and leave with our best wishes.
Now we’ve had time to catch our breath, this update will be the first of many to keep fans informed of developments at the club. Having spent the last four weeks dealing with numerous inherited issues, we’re now keen to get to work on future plans. Thankfully the investment received late last year from the Patrons Group has at least made it possible for a new coaching team plus some new players to be recruited. Falkirk Supporters’ Society subscriptions are also growing steadily and we’ve no doubt that the club will continue to receive tremendous backing from supporters, both on and off the pitch.
Nevertheless, the financial position of the club remains challenging. The bottom line is that no club could sustain full-time football in the long-term while playing in League One, such is the huge disparity in financial distribution between the four SPFL leagues. Other factors have also had an impact over the last two seasons, particularly the restrictions placed on match attendances due to COVID, and the relatively low number of away fans even when our gates have been fully open. Promotion this season, or at the very least next season, is essential to our long-term sustainability as a full-time professional football club. We therefore thank all fans for their outstanding loyalty and commitment throughout recent dark times, and ask them to continue to support the club in every way possible going forward. We will only be able to rebuild our club, and achieve our vision of playing Premiership football in or before our 150th anniversary season 2026/27, if every single stakeholder puts their shoulder to the wheel and helps to make it happen.
Twenty-two Patrons have already stepped up and this number will increase over the next few months. Over 270 supporters have also signed up for membership of FSS, although this remains well short of the 1000+ fans who pledged to support the original Back the Bairns plan. We’ve no doubt that, come the time, Falkirk fans will once again buy season tickets in huge numbers. However, although much needed and appreciated, the support the club needs isn’t just financial. We will also need talented fans with time and energy to spare, to help the club as volunteers in a whole number of areas. In return, we’ll commit to treating volunteers significantly better than many have been treated in the past. In January we’ll be kicking off business reviews in four key areas, specifically Football, Finance & Commercial, Fan & Community Engagement and Infrastructure & Operations. All four workstreams will be led by board members but will also involve additional volunteers with skills in these areas. The objective of all four workstreams is to review current and recommend future strategies, systems and structures, to ensure they are fit for purpose and appropriately resourced going forward. All four will also consider ways to grow income and/or reduce costs, to ensure that underlying losses can be far more easily managed and mitigated than at present. These outputs will feed into a new business plan for the club to take us through to season 2026/27.
A big focus will also be on building a completely new culture within the club, with a positive impact expected both on and off the pitch. This needs to be a radical departure from the way the club has operated in the recent past; a new culture based on high standards of professionalism and performance, and characterised by openness, inclusiveness, teamwork, integrity and respect. We are a community club, which must do a better job of engaging with all of our stakeholders throughout Falkirk district, whether supporters, sponsors, schools, boys and girls clubs or other associations and organisations. In doing so we aim to regain our status as a real community asset and a source of genuine pride for everyone in our community. For example, fully rebuilding our Youth Development infrastructure and working in partnership with the Falkirk Foundation will both be essentials elements going forward. At the heart of this change must be an increase in fan ownership and engagement, plus the on-going development of governance structures which will enable any supporter with the skills and time to be able to serve the club in a variety of ways.
None of this will happen overnight, and we fully expect it will take the entire duration of our three-year directorships to come to fruition. Our short-term priority is, of course, to support Martin and Kenny and give them the resources they need to put a winning team on the pitch. To do that, we’ll always make decisions we believe to be in the best interests of the club, whether those decisions are popular with all fans or unpopular with some. Longer-term our goal is to rebuild the whole club on and off the pitch and to restore, in full, its former status as one of Scotland’s best run football clubs. We thank you all for your warm welcome and support so far, and commit to always working hard in the best interests of Falkirk Football Club. Our club belongs to all of us, and we all have a part to play in getting us back to the Premiership. We look forward to working with you over the coming months and years.