Colchester United Chairman Robbie Cowling has made the following statement.
I hope everyone is enjoying the sunshine and keeping well.
I believe these regular updates from me have been helpful and I thought it was time for another one.
The new season is about to start and the players are due back in on Monday. However, there is still a lot of uncertainty so I will do my best to provide Colchester United’s stance on those issues that I believe are most pressing.
Refunds For Last Season.
My IT team are adding the final touches to the online system we have created to handle refunds and we are due to go live with it on the 10th of August.
It’s more complicated than you’d imagine, especially with annual subscriptions. For example, some annual subscribers who started their subscription mid-season will actually owe the club money as the value of the games they attended is greater than the amount they have paid.
There may also be the odd scenario that we can’t handle online by the 10th but all of the following will be catered for with this system
- Match Tickets and parking purchased for the five cancelled league games, as well as the England v Germany match that was due to be played in March.
- Annual Subscription refunds covering the five cancelled matches as well as any additional money collected after the end of the season. We stopped subscriptions on the 22nd
- All non-corporate Season Passes, (That is 82% of Season tickets).
Corporate Season Passes will be reviewed and then can either be made available online or dealt with manually possibly by the 10th or soon after.
Once again, I would like to thank everyone for their patience. The football refunds are going to total more than £190k and the Little Mix refunds totalled more than £185k, so you can imagine how painful these unexpected costs are for our club.
This project is progressing well - we expect to go live with it just before the season starts on the 12th of September.
Attending Future Games
There is a tremendous amount of will to get crowds back in to stadiums but that is being tempered by concerns of a second wave of the coronavirus.
In my last update, I said I was struggling to get my head around how we are going to accommodate fans when there will be so many variables. For example:
- The number of attendees allowed will depend on how active the virus is both locally and nationally.
- The number of attendees allowed will depend on our ability to mitigate the risk of the virus spreading between those who do attend.
- The numbers allowed in to stadiums may vary at very short notice. They could rise, lower or cease altogether on a match by match basis.
- We don’t know how long these measures will have to be in place for.
Well, if any club in League Two can solve these issues then Colchester United is that club.
It’s not going to be easy and it will require a lot of co-operation between the club and its fans to ensure match-day protocols are followed and plenty of appreciation when things get changed quickly as I’m sure they will.
For example, if the governing bodies increase the numbers allowed into stadiums, we would then sell access to games to additional fans. Happy days.
However, we may then have to deny those fans access at a later stage of the season if those same governing bodies decide to reduce the numbers allowed into stadiums. Not so happy days.
Live football won’t be cheap, for either the club or those that want to attend but it will probably cost even more if we have to play all of the games behind closed doors.
So with the season due to start in just six weeks, I need to devise a solution that will work, is fair and most importantly safe. Then I need to get the ticketing system changed to support it.
I’m sure many young supporters dream of playing for or managing their home town football club.
If that is your dream, then look no further than Steve for inspiration. Born in Colchester, played for Colchester and now he’s the First Team Coach.
That’s the beauty of our Academy - we don’t just set out to develop players but staff too.
I’ve never understood the criticism I get for developing those that are loyal to me and why people think it’s the cheap option and that those appointed are just lucky.
Investing time and effort into developing your own staff for future opportunities is never cheap but worth every penny and luck is just when an opportunity meets preparedness.
Most unsuccessful people are just ill prepared or as they would have it, so unlucky they never got an opportunity.
I’m also struggling to understand why even the media can’t square the fact that we want to move in a new direction and we’ve appointed an internal candidate.
Moving in a new direction does not have to mean the opposite direction. John McGreal did a great job for Colchester United and we want to build on his good work. Not dismantle it and start again.
I just felt, rightly or wrongly, that we needed a change to get us to the next level. I expect John will be working again soon in a fresh challenge that will probably take him to his next level too.
I hope so because he’s a great person who’s capable of good things.
I’ve mentioned salary capping quite a lot recently, so I thought I should explain what might be happening and how it will affect Colchester United.
The following link is the report which was commissioned by the EFL in September 2019 to review and assess the circumstances leading to the withdrawal of Bury FC's membership of the League on 27th August 2019.
Interestingly, it promotes the idea of clubs investing in their facilities and their academies.
It led to the EFL creating a working group to look into football finances and they have proposed the Salary Capping as a solution which they hope will protect other clubs from following Bury’s fate.
Please note that this was all before the coronavirus pandemic which has dramatically worsened the financial positions of all football clubs.
The EFL were concerned about the financial wellbeing of a few clubs before the virus and almost every club, including Colchester United, because of it.
If salary capping is introduced, I believe it will be good for Colchester United for the following reasons:
- If successful, it can ultimately remove the club’s dependence on its owner, me. I’m not talking about a dependence to compete but one to survive. It’s in our interest that other clubs survive too, so clubs are working together on this matter.
- If the majority of teams in a division are on the same playing budget, then it will be other factors that determine who comes out on top. I think our facilities, infra-structure and most importantly our Academy will then tilt the playing field in our favour. The reason for this is that players who qualify as an U21 do not count towards the playing budget. It’s one of the things that has already helped us finish above budget most seasons since we gained Cat Two status because it’s a rule under the current financial controls but I believe the salary capping rule would increases the impact.
For the forthcoming season, many clubs including Colchester United are already over the proposed salary cap for League Two but rules are in place to transition clubs.
Therefore, I do not expect to gain any real advantage this season. Some clubs, like Mansfield and Oldham who only had a few players still in contract at the end of last season, will probably have an advantage because they can take advantage of the adjustment in player costs this season.
An alternative strategy that might prove more successful than ours will be to pad the team out with loan players that are under twenty one from Premier League Teams.
Clubs like Colchester could form an alliance with a Premier League side who would want to use that club’s game programme to develop their young stars.
I personally don’t like this strategy because there is no financial return on the young players we develop and we would just become a nursery club for a Premiership team.
Of course we will so some of this too, but not if it was to block our own talent.
I hope that has helped to explain a few outstanding issues and that you are all looking forward to the new season as much as I am.