SUPPORTER UPDATE FROM THE BOARD

With the season now over we write for the last time in 2022/23 to share our reflections and update supporters on plans for 2023/24.

A year ago we had just ended the worst season in Falkirk FC’s history both on and off the park, finishing sixth in League One and with a record operating loss of £1.2m. The playing squad had to once again be overhauled under the direction of yet another new management team. With this as context, we set the goal of gaining promotion in 2022/23 but believed that it might take until season 2023/24.

12 months on, we can now look back at how the club has progressed. On the football side, there’s no doubt that performances and results improved, with more points won, more goals scored and less conceded. However, we were too inconsistent with returns of 17, 13, 24 and 13 points in each of our four quarters. Reducing fluctuations in form will be key to winning the league next year, as will results in the head-to-head games against key rivals which weren’t good enough. While we achieved second place, league position counts for little in the play-offs and our form in the last quarter simply wasn’t good enough to give us the momentum needed to win the play-offs. This was bitterly disappointing as the team had shown in spells during the season that they were more than capable.

Ultimately, we fell short of our goal but remain confident that promotion can be won next season. The football management team and players are certainly in no doubt that the goal is to win the league in 2023/24 and that anything less than promotion will be unacceptable.

Off the pitch, the year was challenging but ultimately very positive. We budgeted to reduce the operating loss to ‘only’ £400k, in the expectation that a strong appetite for fan ownership would cover this via an inflow in investment. This didn’t really materialise but we are hugely grateful to every fan who did buy shares, either directly or via the Falkirk Supporters Society. Ultimately a good run in the Scottish Cup filled the gap and we should see income more than double versus last year and return a small profit rather than the budgeted loss. This has been the result of huge effort by a great many people, including staff (both football and non-football), volunteers, commercial partners and supporters, and we’d like to thank each of every one of them.

Looking ahead to next season, while we expect to start in a stronger position than we did last year, it certainly won’t be easy with another three full-time teams in the league. As outlined post-AGM and via the club podcast we had hoped to operate to breakeven next season, but this won’t be possible as it would have necessitated large cuts to the football budget. However, a better starting cash position – largely the result of the cup run – plus some support for the plan to directly invest FSS subscriptions and Forever Falkirk donations into the football budget, should allow us to keep it around the same level. There’s still time for fans to contribute to the football budget by joining FSS or donating to the FFF.

We believe that the squad contracted for next season is stronger than that inherited by John and Paul a year ago and the work has been put in this year to ensure recruitment continues to be good. Next season we’ll run with a smaller senior squad of around 20-22 players, supplemented by five apprentices. We’d like to congratulate Scott Honeyman, Owen Hayward, Rhys Walker and Logan Sinclair on their first professional contracts, and they will join Pearse Carroll in forming the core of our Development Squad/Reserve team next season. This is another important step in the journey towards fully re-opening our Academy in 2026.

We also plan to replace the pitch – works starts on 5th June – and at minimum replace the floodlight bulbs on the Main Stand. Both these works are essential upgrades and are either partly or wholly grant-funded, with any residual funding being sourced via loans and/or investment, so they won’t impact the football budget in any way. Rebuilding the club requires us to strike the right balance between the short-term need to invest in the first team, and the long-term need to rebuild youth development while also maintaining and upgrading the club’s infrastructure. We’re determined to strike this balance while moving the club to a much more sustainable operating model.

To conclude, no-one ever said it was easy to be a Falkirk fan. As supporters ourselves we felt the pain, anger and disappointment of last season every bit as much as everyone else. However, decisions which balance the best short and long-term interests of the club must always be taken with calm, rational heads, with all of the relevant information and in the context of the whole picture. Weighing up the respective merits of competing priorities, while restricted by limited resources, isn’t easy nor is it a perfect science. However, we believe that the club is on the right track and that the balance is just about right. It will take time to rebuild our club back to where we all want it to be, and if we all continue to pull together and contribute as much as we can, we’ll get there.

Although this past season ended in disappointment there were also some high points, such as the cup wins against Hibs and Ayr and reaching a Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden. We also witnessed some really good performances and some great goals. In the end we fell short but the difference between finishing second with 67 points and reaching the 80 points needed to (probably) guarantee winning the league, is only a matter of converting a handful of losses into wins. Next season we just need to go one better and we’ve no doubt that all Falkirk fans will continue to back the club and the team as we always do. The club is also now owned by us, so it’s our responsibility to make it sustainably successful. To use football parlance, let’s all put our shoulders to the wheel and “go again” next season.

Finally, it would be remiss of us not to thank each and every one of you for your fantastic support this season. We cannot rebuild this club without your help and we win or lose together. We’d also like to thank all the players who won’t be with us next season for their service, and wish them well in the future. The same goes for non-football staff who have left the club. Last, but not least, we’d like to say congratulations but also commiserations to the Falkirk Women’s team, who had a great season but just missed out on promotion in their final game. As Falkirk fans with over 200 years of collective experience, we can assure you that the heart-breaking moments make the successes all the more sweet when they do come (and they will come).

COYB.

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