Ray Simpson / 14th June 2020

DJ chats about DFC current affairs in Friday night's netcafe -- updated

DJ chats about DFC current affairs in Friday night's netcafe -- updated

The latest netcafe with the chief exec

Here's an update to Friday night's netcafe -- there were four answers outstanding (They're just near the end), while we've updated the Boost the Budget figures

We'd like to thank DJ in advance for taking time out to answer a huge number of questions, which will be over three parts tonight.

 

If you have any memories from the 80s, then drop us a line on media@darlingtonfc.org

 

 

Starting us away:

From Andy Hadrick

 

Good evening Sir, 

 

Firstly THANK YOU for taking the time to personally telephone call me and having a chat. I respectfully and genuinely wish to thank you for your support and the clear no frills up dates on the structure, plans and direction that you, and the myriad of others are directing Darlington Football Club, both commercially and on the field. 

 

My Question is, 

 

Now that the Premier League has restarted/about to, do you see any additional cash flow from the footballing pyramid down to our level.  

 

Kind regards and stay safe 

 

Hi Andy – no problem, I thoroughly enjoyed our chat and I think it was important for the club to reach out and talk to many of our fans during this unprecedented lockdown. Trust me, the team got as much out of making the calls as hopefully you did on receiving them.

 

In relation to funding flows, alas I have to say …no. This whole position has been illuminating as I recognised how insignificant the NLN, NLS, and NL are to the EFL and Premiership. The leagues above us in my view have spent irresponsibly whereby they do not have sustainable businesses without TV income. They are now suffering serious financial pressures and as such a lot of clubs are in difficulty. We will not receive any further income in my view.

 

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From Steve Bishop

 

You mentioned previously Walsall's commercial model had inspired you to look at how Darlington FC could generate similar revenue streams longer term. Has this shaped your thinking on Blackwell Meadows v's the Sporting Village?

 

Do you think Darlington FC could benefit from the German football ownership model (private minority owner) longer term,  to enable us to go full time & give us the best chance to get back into the EFL?

 

What milestones would the club need to meet,  for you to decide to turn Darlington FC semi or completely full time? 

 

Are we planning to release any further retro shirts through Hope & Glory? The Orange logo shirt would be very popular.

 

Hi Steve

 

Thanks for your questions and yes it has. In my view the long term goal has to be our own ground and as such we need to plan to get there via the best route possible, be it BM or SV. We continue to work on both.

 

German model – possibly yes but the club would need to change its Articles of Association to allow this. Please see my earlier answer to the ownership and funding model thoughts.

 

Retro shirts – tbh I don’t know. This I think came through DFCSG as an idea so please follow up with Chris.

 

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What’s happening with the commercial part of the club?

The club made the decision not to continue with a full time Commercial Director role after the financial performance did not justify the expenditure. Commercial revenue was £96k (of which £ 65k was sponsorship & advertising, £20k hospitality and £11k matchday sponsorship) last year but this was offset by £65k total commercial costs to deliver.  
 

This year’s budget is set at £90k revenue of which we plan to deliver £70k to the P/L which will be a significant improvement on last year. Dave Mills and Dave Watson are driving the performance this year and we have structured a commission-based incentive that ensures costs are only incurred when commercial sales are delivered.

What is clear however is that we have limited commercial opportunities at BM. WE raise commercial income through the following areas;

  • Club sponsors
  • Kit sponsors
  • Player sponsors
  • Advertising boards
  • Programme sponsors
  • Match & Match ball sponsors
  • Match day hospitality
  • Awards dinners (1 per year)

If we sold every board, every sponsorship, every match day and filled hospitality with 90 fans every week, we would only turn over c£175k a year. Our budget of £90k is therefore c 50% of the opportunity but quite clearly even selling everything does not give us the increased revenue for the necessary budget increase for National League demands.

We need increased club sponsors and this is a key focus for us this year to determine whether there is any appetite for clubs at our level.

 

======================================================

How much do you think the Covid 19 virus will affect the commercial and sponsorship income of the club?

Can I phone a friend?

Seriously though it is impossible to predict. When will return to football, will we have social distancing enforced, will gate receipts be down, will club sponsors be able to support etc etc etc.

What is clear is that we will return to a different financial climate. In my day job, I am dealing with finance on a daily basis and it is clear there are many companies who are struggling and have had to take bail outs to avoid closure. Some banks have lent 4 years’ worth of money in the space of 3 months so this should not be underestimated. This will impact for years and the government debt created by the furlough scheme (which I fully support) will need to be repaid in some way shape or form. If this is increased taxation etc then people will have less to spend. The economists are projecting a deep recession which impacts everyone……it is very difficult to say but I hope the economy bounces back quickly.

The impact on football clubs is still to be seen and it would not surprise me if more clubs follow the likes of Bury into administration.

 

====================================================

 

From Lee Dixon

Hi Dave

Hope you are well.

A few questions for the Netcafe.

 

How do you feel about being one of the largescale investors in the club and do you see yourself putting more investment into the club? From a personal point of view, I don't want you to have to loan/invest in the club as I believe your role is to lead our club but not have to finance it. I am sure over time if this was regular you may become disenchanted with the club, move on and we lose your skills of leading us forward

 

Hi Lee

 

All good thanks just going a bit stir crazy but I am flat out with my private equity work – it has never stopped to be honest!

 

The club’s articles of association limit the amount of investment by any one individual, so this is unlikely. I put money into the club as we needed to support the cashflow through a tight period and I also made the decision to convert my previous £10k loan into equity thus removing the cash liability for the club. The additional sum took my holding to c9% and I did it because I wanted to. I am very committed to the club and believe we are making progress albeit slowly. When I can commit my time full time to the club this should improve but it may be 18 months away given the covid-19 impact.

 

Long term financing however will place greater demands on the fans if the club is to progress up the leagues.

 

How do we resolve the issue of requiring our own ground and facilities moving forward, if we moved to the Arena do you see this as short term before we moved to our own stadium or financially are we miles away from this (guessing we are really)? It's hard to vision a long term forward with our own facilities currently and I am sure this limits us Commercially and as a club overall

 

Quite simply we need our own ground where we can sweat the asset 7 days a week driving commercial revenue. We have the potential with the SV if we can overcome the primacy of tenure issue with DMPRFC. The SV has committed to reserving a piece of land where we could start our own ground but again this would need significant funding. The strategy however would be to secure a suitable plot of land wherever it may be and over time with grant, fans support and potentially 3rd part investment (taking a property yield) build our own stadium. This must be the goal for us.

 

 

We really need something of an Away end (stand) at Blackwell Meadows, I understand the reasons we haven't progressed this, however if any slowdown since Coronavirus puts the Sporting Village on hold do you think we need to spend money and progress the stadium to progress as a club. Could bring a better atmosphere at segregated games and therefore boost home attendances and maybe away attendances with some better facilities?

 

We certainly need to improve the match day experience at BM but further investment at the moment may be unwise until we fully understand the SV and BM situation and any potential fall out from covid-19.

 

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From Neil Johnson

Has there been a review of a German style model of club ownership 51% DFCSG board voting rights and a limit of say 10% on other individual private / corporate investments with usual share buying and selling rights.  

 

 

Hello, Neil

The short answer is no.

 

The longer answer is that the current ownership structure of the club is set out in the articles of association - any individual is limited to 15% maximum shareholding with no minimum level on the DFCSG fan ownership shareholding.

 

Any change in the current ownership structure, with the aim for example of a German style model, would be up to DFCSG membership to decide on and with a clear objective for the change.

(Thanks to Chris Stockdale for the answer)

 

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Stand by, there's more to come in part 2! 

Dave has just come out of a board meeting, so please bear with him while he catches up.

Don't forget about our virtual 50/50 this week.

https://darlingtonfc.co.uk/news/virtual-5050-draw-1

 

And don't forget about our 80s week, if you have any memories of that period -- especially the 1984/85 promotion season and the Boro FA Cup win, then drop us a line on media@darlingtonfc.org

 

From Richard Matthews

You must be elated and many congratulations for the amount Donated to Boost The Budget. This just shows what can be achieved with a very good management structure.

 

Have you any thoughts on progressing to a new/different ground ??

 

Are we at the stage soon when we can change to full time Professional Status which will no doubt help us to progress up the Leagues ??

 

Hi Richard

Many thanks for your question; yes, I am delighted as are all of the Board with the BTB contribution. These are unprecedented times and for our fans to commit so much gives us a real chance when we return to football. I think the fans can see the character and type of player Alun is bringing to the club and are keen to support him. As I have said before, changing cultures and progress takes time but I now feel we are truly on the right path and securing Alun for three years gives us that platform to grow.

 

On the ground position, this is a difficult one, as we have to factor in so many issues namely, current landlords, council plans, finances etc. Ultimately, however we would love to have our own ground or shared ownership whereby we can utilise the asset to drive revenue every day. This is constantly in our thoughts and we continue to work towards the best solution for DFC.

 

At the moment, the return to full time basis is not practical and the current covid pandemic has affected many clubs. We need to move carefully to protect what we are developing here but at some point, we will look to move from part time to hybrid and then when finances allow, to full time.

 

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From Pete Weeks

Hi David

First I’d like to thank you for all your efforts with DFC. I don’t think the club in all the 30 years I’ve supported has ever been in better hands. Thank you. 

 

My question is regarding Blackwell Meadows. With the club looking to build on last years promising performances - are we likely to see any plans for improving the ground / infrastructure and what money as fans we may have to raise in order to support these changes?

 

And a similar question from Matthew Bartram

Hi David, first of all would like to thank you for all the hard work you do at the club, it is very much appreciated

 

It would appear that next season there is a real chance we could go up via the playoffs, however if we go up new ground grading requirements would need to be met, are you happy that as a club we could upgrade Blackwell to reach those requirements? many thanks

 

 

Hi Pete and Matthew

Thanks for your kind words – they are appreciated.

 

We certainly believe we can develop BM to satisfy the NL requirements but we will continue to examine all options as to the future ground situation. We would like to continue with BM providing we can get the support and buy in from DRFC but the SV does also offer opportunities, which we will continue to explore. The key issues with both grounds are how plans will develop once the covid position is resolved. What financial positions will everyone be in and does that create new opportunities or continue with existing ones. What is clear is that we will emerge into a different financial climate with recession a real possibility. We have to therefore be very prudent about our financial management but also have one eye to new opportunities that may arise.

 

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From Alec White

 

I believe you have of late been looking at the possibility of DFC moving  to The Arena or a Future Sports Village.

 

What is the latest information you can provide the supporters with on this matter.

 

Thanks for all the hard work you do Dave, it is really appreciated.

Top man.

 

Hi Alec – thanks for your support; please see my answer above. All options are still on the table and we will endeavour to keep you informed as situations develop.

 

=====================================================

 

From Lee Dixon

Hi Dave

 

Hope you are well.

 

A few questions for the Netcafe.

 

How do you feel about being one of the largescale investors in the club and do you see yourself putting more investment into the club? From a personal point of view, I don't want you to have to loan/invest in the club as I believe your role is to lead our club but not have to finance it. I am sure over time if this was regular you may become disenchanted with the club, move on and we lose your skills of leading us forward

 

Hi Lee

 

All good thanks just going a bit stir crazy but I am flat out with my private equity work – it has never stopped to be honest!

 

The club’s articles of association limit the amount of investment by any one individual, so this is unlikely. I put money into the club as we needed to support the cashflow through a tight period and I also made the decision to convert my previous £10k loan into equity thus removing the cash liability for the club. The additional sum took my holding to c9% and I did it because I wanted to. I am very committed to the club and believe we are making progress albeit slowly. When I can commit my time full time to the club this should improve but it may be 18 months away given the covid-19 impact.

 

Long term financing however will place greater demands on the fans if the club is to progress up the leagues.

 

How do we resolve the issue of requiring our own ground and facilities moving forward, if we moved to the Arena do you see this as short term before we moved to our own stadium or financially are we miles away from this (guessing we are really)? It's hard to vision a long term forward with our own facilities currently and I am sure this limits us Commercially and as a club overall

 

Quite simply we need our own ground where we can sweat the asset 7 days a week driving commercial revenue. We have the potential with the SV if we can overcome the primacy of tenure issue with DMPRFC. The SV has committed to reserving a piece of land where we could start our own ground but again this would need significant funding. The strategy however would be to secure a suitable plot of land wherever it may be and over time with grant, fans support and potentially 3rd party investment (taking a property yield) build our own stadium. This must be the goal for us.

 

 

We really need something of an Away end (stand) at Blackwell Meadows, I understand the reasons we haven't progressed this, however if any slowdown since Coronavirus puts the Sporting Village on hold do you think we need to spend money and progress the stadium to progress as a club. Could bring a better atmosphere at segregated games and therefore boost home attendances and maybe away attendances with some better facilities?

 

We certainly need to improve the match day experience at BM but further investment at the moment may be unwise until we fully understand the SV and BM situation and any potential fall out from covid-19.

 

==============================================================================

 

 

 

From Michael Barrass

With the sporting village on hold and likely to remain so under Covid financial recovery plans for a while, are we putting in place a strategy for moving forward at BM with the rugby club owners or are other revenue avenues being looked at?

 

Hi Michael

We will continue to look at both the SV and BM – at this stage it is very difficult to predict what is going to happen as a result of covid-19 to be honest.

 

At the AGM I was informed a member of staff was looking at Spennymoor CCTV footage to get an explanation at what happened when the perimeter fence collapsed on New Year’s Day. Has this review been completed and will a statement be issued?

 

Our review is ongoing, but we have been completely exonerated from blame by the police and the authorities. When time permits, we will formally follow up with STFC.

 

 

 

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Is there any possibility of the rugby club adopting a more conciliatory attitude to the football club, working on community projects with us and allowing us to use their premises for functions more? Do they realise the value of projecting a good public image and improving relationships between the two clubs by working together?

We have been in discussions with the rugby club on this very theme and we are awaiting their response. It may be that the covid-19 situation changes the landscape but let’s wait and see.

 

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When do you think we’ll be playing in front of crowds again? Do you think there’s a scenario in which fans will only be able to watch games if they wear facemasks?

It is very difficult to predict but we will follow in line once the EFL decide how their season will end. PPE may be part of the solution but what is clear is that it will be very difficult for clubs at our level to play behind closed doors. We will continue to evaluate live streaming and meetings are ongoing regarding this as we look to offset any potential gate income reduction.

 

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Considering that the EFL has lost so much revenue and some have high wage bills, can you see a situation in which some clubs may go bust, and there might be the opportunity for a backdoor promotion for us – maybe not in season 20-21, but in 21-22?

It is very difficult to say but it would need a significant number of clubs to go for this to happen.

 

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From Paul Lincoln 

Hello David,

 

I wondered if you would give the fans an insight re your work history/background and how you became the CEO of Darlington FC.

 

Secondly on the subject of a permanent ground - There are some opinions out there that the move from Bishop Auckland to Blackwell Meadows in Darlington has not resulted in the hoped for sustained and significant crowd increase and sharing a ground is never ideal - How do you see the future in terms of where Darlington will play football in the future??

 

Hi Paul

 

My background is as follows; I attended school in Durham but dropped out before A Levels and started working in the Land Registry as opposed to going to University. This was casual labour and after 2 years I was laid off and went onto the dole for 6 months unable to get a job due to the high unemployment in the  NE. I  found employment with NSK in Peterlee as a production operator  and then worked for Japanese companies (Nissan Group) for around 10 years in Production Management. During this period I completed an MBA part time to make up for the lack of prior education and bought into my first company aged 32 with the Private Equity firm 3i. I then moved on to Thorn Lighting when they were in difficulty and we led a turnaround of the business which resulted in us relocating the plant to a new state of the art factory in Spennymoor and selling the existing site for housing to fund the move. I was then invited to join BAA as MD of Edinburgh airport and I move from there to Heathrow as Procurement Director and then Stansted as MD during the competition enquiry into airport ownership. I was involved in the break up of the group and we sold Gatwick to a PE fund but through the process I met several funds, one of which offered me employment in Private Equity. Private Equity firms buy into troubled or high growth businesses where they see the potential for huge financial change which creates value….buy at value, improve the quality and the performance and sell high for a much higher price , normally within a 5 year cycle. As a Director in this, you get the chance to buy into the equity of the company and thus also take a share in the profit on sale. I completed my first full transaction with the University of Law in 2016 and I am now in my second deal with an education company.

 

I became CEO of DFC after being invited by Martin Gray to talk with the Board and DFCSG Board. Martin and I had mutual acquaintances who recommended me as someone who could help with DFC….one being David Hodgson. There has already been significant change in the past 2-3 years but hopefully we are starting to see some stability and we are planning for the future. The ground is a key part of that where I firmly believe we need our own to leverage the associated financial benefits. This is an extremely complex matter that is not within gift to manage. There are a number of key stakeholders who play a part in this and we continue to work our way through the options… all of which are now on hold due to Covid and the potential new financial and political landscapes beyond it.

 

Thanks

D

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From Nigel Owen

Is anything being planned to improve the Hospitality match day experience?  At £45 per match (+ parking) this is one of the most expensive in the league yet falls far short of what other Clubs in our league offer (we attend 90% of home and away matches and take the hospitality package whenever it is available).

I understand that the Rugby Club are somewhat limited in their catering facilities, however the quality and quantity of the food is definitely average to poor.

Also, this past season has seen a distinct lack of post match presence of players and the Management team in the Hospitality Suite (despite this being advertised as part of the Hospitality Package) could this be addressed for the forthcoming season?

 

We plan to review the hospitality using the feedback forms we collected throughout the season, and a Zoom meeting will be held with sponsors and regular hospitality users (answer supplied by Dave Mills)

 

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From Aaron Skipsey

 

Hi David,

Great response by the fans yet again in the BtB but surely, we cannot depend on this every season. On that note has there been any interest from any individuals to acquire the club? Is there any movement regarding the sports village proposal?

 

Cheers for everything you do for the club

 

Kind regards Aaron 

 

Hi Aaron

 

Thanks for your question; whilst the club remains fan owned, BTB is going to be a key aspect of budget setting. It is very difficult to attract private investment into a club where the private investor has little say in decision-making or the chance of any return on any investment. Essentially the owners of any business will determine the future of it by the funds that they are prepared to commit to putting in. This itself is a key question that fans will need to embrace as the club moves up the leagues. With crowds of 1400 and no outside investment, at some point the club will reach its ceiling with the current model but it is at that point for the fans to decide whether they are happy with the football and the level at which they are playing.

 

Portsmouth FC is an interesting comparison. When they went into administration, the PST formed and raised £2.5m through 2,300 supporters in just over a year and brought the club back from administration. They continued as owners up to 2017 when they then sold to Tonante (Eisner ex Disney), who now owns and runs the club. The big difference here was crowds were 14k to 17k pa, which obviously drives huge gate revenue enabling a competitive playing budget for the leagues they were playing in.

 

As for now, DFC has a good model but whether that will need to change in the future remains to be seen. I do firmly believe DFC can get back to the Football League but I think it will require the model to be tweaked to accommodate external investment in the future. If this is done with the right diligence and voting at Board level to protect the club’s long term interests then I am sure that an effective solution could be found. Until then, funding remains the responsibility of the owners…ie the fans and as such, the speed at which the clubs develops will be partially dependent on the level of funding.

 

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From Tim Hickman

 

Hi David, 

 

First of all, I hope you and the family are well! I’d just like to thank you for all your hard work and time you’ve put into ensuring the future of our club throughout these difficult times, and for keeping us in the loop with it all at the same time. We all appreciate the fact you tell us how it is, and you don’t hold anything back from us, whether positive or negative news. 

 

Now for my question...

 

I’m interested to know exactly how long it took your wife to scrape you off the ceiling Sunday night after the boost budget scheme was smashed through to the tune of 131k?  

 

Cheers 

 

 

Hi Tim

 

Many thanks and yes we are although I think Tina is sick of me being at home!!

Haha – great question…..I knew the fans would get there, never had any doubt but given where we were with covid and the fear of the unknown it was absolutely brilliant to put the club in a fantastic position.

 

If I can just take this opportunity to also thank the Boards working behind the scenes – the guys have worked incredibly hard every week with our calls and actions to help do all of the activities and prepare us for the new season. We are better prepared than ever in my time at the club so thanks to everyone involved ….your support has been amazing.

 

 

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Don't forget to order your shirt for the new season here: 

https://shop.darlingtonfc.co.uk/

 

From Chris Willsden in Texas

Hi David, brilliant effort by the fans to raise over £130,000

Hopefully that will be sufficient to at least boost our chances of making the Playoffs.

 

Having said that do you think as I do that we would need outside investment to maintain National League status, if we were able to gain it either via automatic promotion or the Playoffs.

If so have any inroads been made to potential backers.

Regards,

 

Hi Chris

 

Great to get a call from Texas! Hope you are keeping safe in all of the current madness!

 

Please see my answer to earlier questions….at some point I think the model may need to be tweaked but without putting the club at any risk.

 

My initial thoughts on this are as follows;

 

Any investor would need;

 

1). To be a football fan – not necessarily DFC; I have been an NUFC supporter all my life and will continue to be so, but I love being involved with DFC and prefer to come and be a part of DFC as opposed to watching NUFC now.

 

2). They would need to be independently wealthy but would also look for a return on any investment as opposed to having total control of the club. By this I mean investment for example could go into a new ground whereby there is an annual yield paid to the investor similar to investing in commercial property. Thus the investor gets a return on his/her equity whilst DFC gets its own infrastructure.

 

3). The voting structure at Board level would have to have an equitable position with the DFCSG so that any decision that could place the sustainable future of DFC at risk could be vetoed at Board level by the DFCSG…… for example selling assets for personal gain.

 

4). There is however always the opportunity of an external investor who commits legally to capital across a number of years that the DFCSG may agree is acceptable to take the club forward but again this is at the call of the DFCSG. This situation occurred at Portsmouth FC.

 

At this stage however this is all hypothetical but obviously as CEO I am constantly thinking of how to improve the club and one day these questions may need to be addressed. For now, though we have a great model and we will continue to drive the club to reach as high a level as possible….football after all is a competitive game and I love winning!

 

 

 

 

 

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From Michael Doherty

How much of last year’s BTB money pledged actually ended up being paid to the club?

 

People can have a change in circumstances and obviously this could affect pledges made in good faith.

 

Would help fans understand how much of this year’s approx 130k will end up in the club’s bank if we apply a percentage from last year.

 

I would also expect this percentage figure could be higher than last year once the full economic picture from COVID 19 becomes apparent.

 

 

 

Hi Michael

 

I think around 95% but I will ask Chris to confirm and yes you could be correct. I do however think that where people have been furloughed no one is spending on going out and I am sure we have people confident in their own position to actually commit to more.

 

Updated figures

BTB 19/20 - summary
 
£103,200 was pledged in total by the end of May 2019.
 
Of that amount £92,000 has been invested into the club so far. With some
final monthly payments still being received from fans we expect the final BTB 19/20 total will be circa £94,500.
 
The difference between the total pledged and received is accounted for by
payment processing fees, the cost of delivering the rewards and drop outs
from monthly and weekly pledges across the year.

 

Time will tell but I am also acutely aware we may see recession and job losses which hopefully will not impact too much on our fan base.

 

Thanks for your question

===================================================

From Paul Bennett

How secure is Darlo's future when matches resume? Can we survive with greatly reduced gate receipts? Is big screen drive-in viewing a viable proposition?

 

Hi Paul – From a financial perspective we are in a decent place at the moment thanks to a number of issues – Firstly BTB was unbelievable (thanks again everyone), secondly we have used the furlough scheme effectively and also taken HMRC holidays for the moments etc and we have secured grants and loans that make sound financial sense.

Returning to playing however is a complicated issue but we are hopeful that this could take place in September and there is real hope that the Oxford University vaccine may be operational by then. I cannot see us playing to restricted crowds or behind closed doors as quite simply we need the revenue and that is the same for every non-league club so I think it’s a nonstarter. Live streaming however is a possibility to offset this and we are in dialogue with other clubs and the league about how this could work. Personally, I would like for us to take responsibility for this and take the associated revenue we could get from a global audience of expats but also other lucrative foreign markets with the prospect of increased revenue from advertising etc. We will await the league guidance on this as they currently have a deal with BT (from which we get peanuts) but there is appetite for change….fingers crossed.

 

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From Stuart Atkinson

Hi Dave, thanks for all your leadership & inputs to DFC, much appreciated.

Not sure how EFL meeting will have gone this week &  if NL will be able to make decisions as a consequence, but hope that if there is a long delay to the start of next season that our league will be split in 2, North & Central, so that home & away league games can be played together with FA Cup & Trophy without overstretching the team. Have you & Alun got a view on how the league should be structured in that eventuality, that you can share with us?

 

Hi Stuart

 

The league meetings are progressing but we are clearly in the hands of the EFL direction which then influences NL. At present there are no plans to change league structures but we may see some teams shuffle around to ease travel etc. What also is not clear, is whether any clubs may go to the wall financially which could also change things but for now its status quo. If the season is delayed, we could see reduce entries into the FA cup …say to our level only and possibly the Trophy for levels below to ease congestion….these will all be made clear when we have government clearance to start playing again. Thanks for your support from Rutland!

 

 

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From Keith Davison

Hi David

 

I  wondered if it would be possible to arrange a deal with Mowden Rugby Club for us to use the Arena temporarily until it is no longer necessary to social distance  It would be easy for a crowd of up to 2000 to stay 2 metres apart in that stadium., Although arrival , queuing  seating and departing would have to be controlled

 

Hi Keith

 

It Is a good suggestion and one we could possibly consider – we are dependent however on government guidelines and actions so let’s see what develops but your proposal is an option we could consider if all parties were amenable to the idea. Thanks D

 

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From Stephen Heseltine

 

Hi David

 

Firstly, thanks for the great work you are doing for the club.

 

Are you able to give any details on what the club’s thinking is regarding contingency plans if fans are not able to attend games next season due to COVID-19 restrictions? In particular what will the implications be for season ticket holders/500 club members who have paid for tickets in advance but may now be unable to attend matches?

 

Finally, is there any possibility of live streaming of home games in this scenario?

 

Hi Stephen

 

At the moment, we are focussed on returning to normal football but as mentioned previously we are in discussions regarding live streaming should this be necessary to restart the season. In terms of contingency and what is allowed, we will be guided by the government as all other businesses are on a safe return to work with full risk assessments etc being undertaken. It is not our intention that any fans should lose out financially and we are hopeful for an uninterrupted season.

Thanks

D

 

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From Brendan Ahern

 

Good evening David,
Firstly thank you to yourself, and all the others who have kept the football club going during this period.
 
My question is this. A number of players have signed new contracts recently. Can you please explain when the contracts start from.  From a payment point of view, if contracts are already in force, are the players effectively furloughed straight away? If so is the club making up any difference between the 80% the government will pay, and the full amount if it is higher than this?

Thank you Brendan

 

Hi Brendan

 

Where we could we held players on furlough at the end of the year and we topped up the 80% for last season. The new contracts generally start when the season officially starts so we do not incur significant salary costs until we start playing again. Management are furloughed as mentioned previously.

The furlough scheme has been an important lifeline for the club, and like many others, we are appreciative of it.

 

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From Chris Hall

why is it Club policy to charge disabled/Blue Badge Holders for parking on match days?

All other clubs in the league that have a separate parking area to help facilitate Blue Badge Holders make no charge.

 

 

Many thanks Chris for raising this. In line with the whole club review of its commercial activities, this is something we are reviewing before the start of the new season. We acknowledge that the Blue Badge is there to help those supporters who either have trouble getting about or have medical conditions that make having a car nearby vital. We intend to make supporting us at Blackwell Meadows as accessible as possible and that includes a revised pricing policy. (answer supplied by Dave Mills)

 

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From Paul Hodgson

  1. Where do you see the club both on and off the pitch in 5 years?

2 Is the eventual aim to turn full-time?

Hi Paul

 

5 years is a long time in football but in general terms;

 

On the field – we should look to be full time and playing in a sustainable manner in the National League, with plans for the EFL.

Off the field – we should have a settled Board with additional skills helping us grow commercially. I would also like to think we have our own piece of land with an operational 4G driving revenue and that we are gradually building the stands around it (before converting it to grass for the EFL).

 

Take care

D

 

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From Carolyn Liversedge


Hi David.  Just want to say thank you for all the work you and the rest of the team are putting in to keep the club running and to keep us informed
1 Will the impact of corona virus and lack of income give us any leverage to get a better deal with the Rugby Club.  Do we pay per season or per game?

2.  Have we been able to access any monies from the league/FA to help with financial loss or pitch improvements?

 

Hi Carolyn

Thanks for your kind words they are appreciated.

We pay by game, so we won’t start until football resumes. I think the Rugby club will also be suffering through Covid and as a key partner we need to work with them through this period. Commercially however, there is not a lot more we can drive on match day but we do want to improve the fan viewing and experience.

The League and FA have provided nothing to us and it has been interesting to see what they could do in our hour of need – absolutely nothing! This has opened all of the club’s eyes as to how we are viewed by the EFL and Premier League and also as to how little influence the NL Board has in negotiation/commercial discussions. This has led to the NLN clubs pushing for ownership of the TV deals and live streaming as we need to take more matters/responsibility into our own hands.

Thanks

D

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From Cameron Liddle

  Since joining the club, Alun has shown that he has predominantly north east based players in the squad. 

 

Will this limit the players we can bring in with the ever-growing amount of competition in the north east or will we be looking in other areas for new signings?

 

Alun was very clear on the most important thing is the character and commitment of the players to want to play for DFC. In addition, travel of more than an hour tends to tire players when they could be asked to do it 3 times per week. Our dressing room now is very strong and we have great team spirit….something that was lacking before Alun joined. Obviously, NE players are sought after but I think you can see that Alun has the ability to find good local talent very capable of playing at this level and higher.

 

Also, how will recruitment change as a result of the pandemic?

We have completed a large piece of our squad recruitment through Covid but have held budget back to bring in 3-4 more players to compliment the squad. Alun is not pressured here as he believes there will be more talent available (probably from the EFL) as budget cuts hit clubs and we will then be selective about our future business.

 

Thanks Cameron

D

 

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Don't forget to pre-order your shirts for the new season here:

https://shop.darlingtonfc.co.uk/

 

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Updated section:

Good evening Dave & I hope you are all keeping safe.
First time in here, but wanted to ask a question.
The squad is shaping nicely for next season (?), and I believe we weren’t far off the pace this last season. Sounds very optimistic for 20/21. If promoted, are you concerned about how we approach the higher funding which will clearly be needed at the higher level?
Kind regards
Andy Masterman 

Hi Andy

 

Yes we are keeping safe thanks.

 

The squad is developing nicely and yes we will look to add to it over the coming weeks. This is a tough league to get out of and consistency is key but hopefully with some additional quality to supplement the existing base we will be more competitive this coming season.

 

If we do get promoted the financial requirements will increase due to larger travel, overnight stays and possibly a larger squad. We will be working hard this coming season to see if we can develop greater commercial sponsorship and interest in DFC. It is clear we will struggle to drive revenue at BM and as such until we establish our own ground we are reliant on others to support. Failing that, it is back to how much the fans can afford through gate receipts and BTB…as owners it will ultimately be down to this.

 

Thanks

D




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From Jamie Dennis
Hi David, a couple of our 2nd year Academy lads went on loan to Northern League clubs to gain experience last year, one lad in particular whilst playing for Durham received rave reviews and on several occasions I noticed received Man of The Match awards. Will the club be offering him / them any sort of deal / contract to stay at the club? And if not why not as apparently other clubs including league clubs are watching closely so we may lose him / them for nothing. Also if not what is the point of the academy apart from a revenue stream
 

Hi Jamie

This is an interesting point – the main purpose of the academy is to provide future 1st team players but it depends on the quality of the intake. We have to trust the manager's judgement for the quality needed at NLN level. It is completely different to the Northern League second division and at a team at the bottom of the league - (just look at Blyth results this season as Lee Clark tried to use Northern League players and then had to change stance). Some players may be late developers but as a club we have to make decisions on here and now as we cannot afford to offer contracts to several graduating academy players. If the talent is deemed good enough the manager will progress them to the first team.

 

The 2nd division Northern League is way off the standard we need but some of these players need to go out on loan at a higher level and they also need to improve physically and mentally  to be ready to play at our level. As Alun prepares the squad and gets his first team set up established, he will then look at the merging academy players and see what is best for their development needs.

 

Thanks

D



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From Ron Bradshaw
First of all I would like to say how much we all appreciate your commitment, professionalism and expertise in the many hours it takes to look after our football club.Massive appreciation from us fans knowing we are in safe hands.

A couple of questions.

With many clubs at NL and NLN level apparently struggling, taking into account the £131k BTB and probably 2 of our bigger earners just leaving the club, how do we stand financially compared to the other clubs in our division.

Now that the season has virtually ended, Will Alun be any closer to announcing any new signings.

Finally, how many season tickets have been sold.


Hi Ron

 

Thanks for your mail it is appreciated.

 

The league issues a summary (anonymised) of the playing budgets that each club submits and this ranges from £160k lowest…to £650k largest with an average of £300k. This however may not include any signing on bonuses or any potential expenses etc that may be paid…..this remains an unknown and can increase the total expenditure which may not always show as playing budget. It could be classed as marketing support etc to deflate the true squad expenditure.

 

Last year we had circa the league average playing budget but with Covid we are trying to protect cashflow etc in case of future spikes etc. Financially we are secure and have taken the right steps to ensure sustainability. It is difficult however to judge how we compare against other clubs but it is clear the top 4-5 clubs in our division is where they have the higher expenditure. How they will emerge from Covid however is a complete unknown for all of us. We may see instances where benefactors or companies supporting clubs may have to reduce sponsorship if their businesses have been unduly affected by Covid…..who knows to be honest but we are in decent shape.

 

In relation to new signings….yes Alun is working on some but they can take time to develop. In addition, there is a an element of caution as we expect significant fallout from clubs higher up the pyramid and we may see a number of players released who may be ideal for us.

 
 
WE have sold 347 season tickets this year so far, we sold 493 last year.
They can still be bought here:
https://darlingtonfc.co.uk/news/2021-season-ticket-update
 
 
 

 

 

From John Dunn

First thanks for everything you have done, and continue to do, for Darlington FC as a club and all of the supporters.

I personally am happier with the way the club is run now than I can ever remember.

Are you as the CEO happy that you are getting all of the support you need to do the job?

If there are any gaps which you think need to be filled which would improve the way the club is run and might help it move forwards what are they and what would you wish for?

 

 

Hi John

 

Many thanks for your kind words they are appreciated.

 

As CEO I am very happy with the support I am getting from the Board and the DFCSG Board. We have some great people who are working very well together to deliver results in challenging times. Obviously there are always things that we can do better and I always look to learn as we move forwards. I think my biggest regret is that currently I cannot commit full time to the role and I do think that the clubs suffers as a result. Unfortunately I am still involved in a Private Equity deal that will run for around another 18 months ; the sale having been delayed by Covid.

 

I do look forward however to when this could be a full time role for me in the future provided that the Boards wish me to remain involved as I am enjoying the challenges that the role brings. Working full time on these would enable the club to move forward more quickly but rest assured we have some talent on board who help and assist me daily. Jonathan, John, Chris, Jon, Lee, Dave M, Dave W and Ray are a great team to work with and we cover most of the bases. Obviously as we progress and develop, we will look to compliment the current skill sets with additional ones to further improve the club’s performance. Finally, I also enjoy a great working relationship with Alun, his team and the squad in general and I am genuinely excited about the future.

 

 

 

We’d like to thank DJ for spending so much time answering questions -- there are still one or two outstanding that he'll deal with as soon as he can --  and we’ll endeavour to keep everyone informed through netcafes, Zoom interviews and other means throughout the close season. Don’t forget about the virtual 50/50 draw and the 80s week later this month.

We’d also like to thank everyone for submitting questions, there were some great ones.

Keep an eye on the official DFC website and DFC social media for the latest on the club!

 

Order your shirt here:

https://darlingtonfc.co.uk/news/record-shirt-sales-after-only-a-week

 

And don't forget about 80s week: