NEWS

Many thanks to the many fans who attended one of last week’s two Supporter Update sessions at The Falkirk Stadium. We are conscious, however, that many fans were unable to attend, so below is a summary of the key messages conveyed to those who made it along.

The update opened with a quotation from former Bairn Sir Alex Ferguson who once said “You start with what you believe in. I believe in building a football club, rather than building a football team”.  Here Sir Alex makes an important distinction between the two great clubs he built, in Aberdeen and Manchester United, and the many, many teams he created over the years to represent those clubs.

He also emphasised that, while results are clearly important, the performance of the first team on a Saturday only constitutes around 1% of the time spent each week at the club. The other 99% is spent working ‘behind-the scenes’ on activities which will ultimately optimise the club’s chances of success on the pitch, in both the short and long term.

For us, this means resolutely focussing on business processes, systems and structures – both football and non-football – to ensure that our new management team are given the resources they need to win football matches. Only by doing this will we make the club ‘systemically’ successful.

Four business reviews conducted since December identified many improvements to be made across Football, Fan & Community Engagement, Commercial & Financial, and Infrastructure & Operations. However, such improvements will have to be implemented at a manageable and affordable pace.

This requires a business plan for season 2022/23 and beyond, which takes into account the challenging financial conditions which were outlined to the audience last week. Specifically:

  • In the financial year just ended (31st May) the club experienced a significant operating loss, which was largely mitigated by an opening balance of cash reserves at the start of the year.
  • Projected cashflow shortfalls during the season were only mitigated by the investment received from the Patrons Group, Bairn for Life, and the Falkirk Supporters’ Society.
  • As a result, the opening cash balance for this season will be very small, costs will have to be tightly controlled and commercial income will have to grow by some £400,000 versus last season.
  • Even achieving this, we are still anticipating a significant budgeted operating loss (excluding player or share sales) which will have to be mitigated by new investment.
  • The business plan will retain the football budget at the same level as last season, giving John & Paul the option of retaining a full-time playing squad.
  • The plan also keeps the club at the Advanced Youth level of Club Academy Scotland, which means retaining our current U16 and U18 youth development squads.

We believe this is a sensible, stretching, but achievable business plan for season 2022/23. However over 90% of all club income ultimately comes from supporters, whether as fans, sponsors, advertisers, and so on. In short, without available cash reserves to fall back on, the business plan can only be realised with the on-going support of fans and the local community. Falkirk fans have been incredibly loyal over the past few years, and we once again need everyone to get behind both the club and the team, as we seek promotion back to the Championship. We would therefore urge all fans to dig deep and provide all the support they can, in any way they can.

Furthermore, the anticipated operating losses must be covered to secure cashflow throughout the season, and this is most likely to come from new investment. We would therefore ask all fans to join the Falkirk Supporters’ Society. For just £10 a month we can all take a stake in the club, thereby building fan ownership, securing democratic governance and safeguarding our club’s future. Fans can join FSS here.

We have also identified a number of projects which are crucial to the long-term development of the club. These are all out with the 2022/23 business plan and therefore require separate and specific funding. We plan to:

  • Create a Development Squad, between the U18’s and First Team to ensure a pathway and talent pipeline, as well as providing valuable game time for fringe players or those recovering from injury. This will be in place for season 2023/24.
  • Re-establish the Falkirk Academy at the Performance level of Club Academy Scotland, meaning at least seven youth squads plus appropriately qualified coaches. This will be in place for the start of the next CAS cycle in January 2026.
  • Re-establish a separate Training Ground for use by the First Team and, longer-term, to host the expanded Academy structure. This will be in place as soon as possible, along with a plan for its on-going development.
  • Replace the playing surface at the Falkirk Stadium within the next 2 to 3 years and carry out further stadium maintenance, as well as, in the longer-term, consider our options for the future development of stadium infrastructure.

All of the above projects are crucial, but none of them can realistically be funded from within the club’s annual business plan. We are therefore actively looking for sponsors or other commercial partners, with relevant capabilities and/or a passion for supporting the club in these areas.

Our club won’t be rebuilt overnight but we now have a robust business plan to see us through next season, plus an additional project plan to start rebuilding for the longer-term. While we will continue to seek external investment and consider all unsolicited approaches, the reality is that Falkirk Football Club belongs to us, the fans. If we want to keep it that way, we all have to support it both on and off the pitch, and by building fan ownership we will safeguard it and secure its long-term future.

We would like to sincerely thank everyone who has supported us over the last six months, including the Patrons Group, Falkirk Supporters’ Society, Bairn for Life, the Crunchie Initiative plus the many volunteers who have stepped forward to help the club with business reviews, the Killers concerts, and many more activities beyond.

We’d also like to once again ask for more volunteers to step forward by contacting jamie@falkirkfc.co.uk. The club’s staff work extremely hard but there is simply more work to be done than can possibly be carried out by the small number of employees. A football club cannot function without the on-going efforts of a team of volunteers, and we’re already fortunate to have so many fans willing to help. However, there’s always room for more so if you have some spare time and energy, please let us know. By all pulling together we can rebuild our club and take it back to where we all want it to be.

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