As always there’s no “close season” behind the scenes during what is one of the busiest periods of the year for the club and its staff.
The highlight was undoubtedly the announcement of a £350,000 investment in the club by Falkirk Supporters’ Society, the result of a successful loan application to the Scottish Government’s Fan Bank scheme. This was the culmination of over six months of joint working by the board and the FSS committee and led to the signing of a long-term partnership agreement between the two bodies. As a result, FSS becomes the largest single shareholder in Falkirk FC and will provide long-term funding for football, youth development and infrastructure projects at the club. We’d like to congratulate FSS and thank everyone involved for their efforts in bringing this to fruition.
The FSS investment, along with grants from the Scottish FA, has enabled us to install a brand-new pitch over the last four weeks and to upgrade all the floodlights in the Main Stand to LED. The lights removed from the Main Stand have been used to replace those not working in the two towers opposite, giving us a full complement of functioning floodlights. The plan remains, subject to funding, to replace all of these lights with LEDs later in the season.
The FSS investment also enabled us to move much faster towards our vision of balanced ownership, with a majority of shares now held by small and medium shareholders. In just 18 months the purchase of almost two million shares – mainly by the Patrons’ Group and FSS – means that well over 1000 supporters now hold more than 60% of all shares, and we can genuinely claim to be a widely “fan-owned” club. We are also now “fan-run”, with a democratically elected board, and the next step on our journey is to become “fan-funded”.
This means that to continue to progress, we need as many fans as possible to actively participate in fan-ownership and to adopt a business owner’s mindset when it comes to funding for growth. This is the only way to ensure that a fan-owned club like ours can compete against clubs owned by wealthy individuals who are willing to underwrite large operating losses to fund their club’s football budget. This won’t be easy but clubs such as Hearts, Motherwell and St Mirren show that fan-owned clubs can compete and remain in the Premiership when up against clubs with a single wealthy owner.
To become sustainably successful we estimate that the club needs at least an extra £400,000 every year, over and above our ‘normal’ trading performance, while in League One or the Championship. The simplest way to raise this money is via crowd-funding whereby we fans, as owners of our club, make monthly donations to supplement normal income sources such as commercial and matchday revenue. As with all crowd-funding initiatives, the more people who participate the less each individual has to contribute to achieve the funding goal.
At an average donation of £3 per week this requires around 2500 contributors, or roughly 3.5 times the number of fans currently participating. At present, net donations via FSS and the Forever Falkirk Fund are a little over £80,000, meaning we’ll still have an operating loss of around £320,000. Our ability to cover this loss (and thereby remain full-time this season) is only made possible by last season’s cup run and the FSS investment. Neither of such incomes can be guaranteed every season, so we are still operating with an unsustainable business model.
Nevertheless, we remain committed to trying to make fan ownership work for our club and to moving towards the operating model outlined above. We can’t however make fan ownership work in the way we envision, without the support of sufficient fans and while there’s been great progress in just 18 months, there’s still a long way to go. That said, we are immensely grateful to the over 700 fans who have embraced the new ownership model so far, and to every fan who continues to attend matches and supports the club in many other ways.
Financially last season was positive, with total income more than doubling versus the previous year, including a 73% uplift in commercial revenues. However, we can’t rest on our laurels and need to continue to grow our top line, not least to cover increasing costs. We’re therefore targeting a further 24% growth in commercial income and are pleased to say that the year has started strongly. The new home and away kits from O’Neills have been very well received by supporters and are selling well. A huge thank you to all fans who have bought merchandise recently from the club shop or via our online retail partners Greaves.
Almost every commercial partner from last year – across both sponsorship and advertising – has renewed their deal for at least another season and we’d like to thank every one of them for their on-going support. Some sponsorship packages do still remain, so any local business interested in working with the club should get in touch. Some individual player sponsorships are also still available and include an invitation to our Recognition Night at the end of the season, where fans will meet their sponsored player and be presented with a signed strip. For details please contact the Commercial Department via 01324 624121 Ext 218/219 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Now that league fixtures have been confirmed, match tickets and hospitality for the whole season are available to book now. You can purchase match tickets and book hospitality HERE. Last year hospitality got off to a slow start and, unlike advertising and sponsorship, it obviously can’t be sold once a match has been played. This year we’d therefore really like to ensure we sell to capacity at every single match, in particular those early in the season. There are packages to suit every fan, as well as various options for corporate hospitality, including two brand new packages; a VIP mascot experience for kids and the Ultimate Birthday Package for adults, giving all supporters the chance to celebrate their special occasions at the Falkirk Stadium. Any queries regarding hospitality should be directed to the Supporter Services team on 01324 624121 Option 1 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re grateful for every penny of support received from local companies or fans and we’ll very much need your support again this season. Commercial income makes up around 45% of total revenue, so it’s essential that we achieve our targets across all commercial lines including lotteries, fundraising events, donations, Falkirk TV and the Brockville Bar, as well as retail, sponsorship, advertising and hospitality. Matchday income accounts for a further 30% of total income and we’re delighted that so many supporters have renewed their season tickets. This extra income will be essential in balancing a likely reduction in gate receipts (due to lower away crowds) and in achieving targeted growth for total matchday income of around 7% versus last season. Once again, a huge thank you to all fans who have renewed or bought season tickets for 2023/24.
We’ll continue to control costs as much as possible, but sales growth plus high inflation means that both cost of sales and overheads will inevitably rise. Our biggest cost, of course, is the football budget and, within this, the first team playing budget. Clearly this is the one cost line we’d all love to see growing year-on-year, as it directly impacts the quality of the team we watch on a Saturday afternoon. Having increased the playing budget last season, with positive results, it was our hope to be able to do so again this season. Unfortunately, without further funding beyond that already committed by fans, we can’t stretch it any further and risk a higher than planned operating loss or a negative impact on cashflow. Nevertheless, we’re confident that the current squad can compete for the league title this season.
Pre-season preparation has gone well with three wins, one draw and one defeat in friendlies, and the seven new signings plus five apprentices are all settling in and making a good contribution. The Viaplay Cup kicks off tomorrow with an away tie versus The Spartans, in a group which includes Dundee United, Partick Thistle and Peterhead. Hopefully we can repeat last season’s feat of topping the group and making it to the knock-out stages. The Spartans game will be the first streamed via our new Falkirk TV platform and by the new FTV team, so we thank them for volunteering and wish them the very best of luck. The league season starts on 5th August with a home tie versus Annan Athletic and we’ve no doubt that all Falkirk fans will get right behind John, Paul and the lads as we try to go one better than last season. We thank you in advance for your support and look forward to seeing you at the Falkirk Stadium for what will hopefully be a very memorable season.