Clyde's financial director David Dishon met with www.clydefc.co.uk and gave a candid interview on the position of the club's finances. It comes in the midst of much media attention on the health of the game in Scotland...
"Clyde has completely transformed its financial position in the past two seasons due to the adoption of a sensible, prudent approach to budgeting - and adhering to it," David began. "In previous years, we would start the season by deciding what team we would like on the park and sign up the playing squad first. This would always leave us with a budget gap, often over £100k before a ball was kicked and that became the target to fill during the season. This is how many clubs operate, especially those that are controlled by one main benefactor that plugs the gap, if needed. Clyde cannot afford that luxury, so that was always going to be an unsustainable policy and in order for us to survive that needed to change."
We were famously once 45 mins from the SPL but how did we survive during that period?
"We were fortunate to get a few years with cup runs, glamour friendlies and transfer fees but when those income sources started to dry up, the only option was squeezing creditors and that was when we got into difficulties. The embarrassment of almost going out of business twice in the space of five years and a couple of summers of player & staff redundancies hit hard and a culture change was needed. In March 2004, the Trust became painfully aware of Clyde FC being in severe financial trouble as Billy Carmichael's reign as Chairman came to an end. A consortium of the Trust and individual Clyde Supporters took overall control of the club at that time, of course culminating in the Community Interest Company forming last November that formally brought all the groups under one organisation. "
With supporters taking a greater control of the running of the club, in what ways has that culture change been shown in practice?
"For the past two or three seasons, we have set a budget that calculates all the expected income and known expenditure as a starting point and this gives us a small profit. That profit is allocated 100% to the football department for player wages but this is considerably smaller than previous seasons. It means we can stay in existence, pay our bills as they fall due and continue without an overdraft and within our means. As a result of this move, we now adopt a minimal creditor policy. We renegotiated the NLC debt last year - to pay the remainder over 4-5 years - and we have negotiated with some creditors that we will pay in advance in return for a discount. Every single line of expenditure is scrutinised and tightly controlled."
Despite that, the past still affects us today so what is the actual level of debt?
"The debt level at the end of the 2008-09 season was £500k+ (with over £200k of CVA debt, £154k new NLC debt from non-payment of invoices, £70k of loans to Clyde Supporters' Trust and other donations, plus £80k of other general trade creditors). The strict budgets in the past two seasons have enabled us to slash this debt to under £200k in today's terms, a fantastic step forward to securing the club's future. We are on track to be debt-free by the end of the 2014-15 season, a landmark that is suddenly getting more realisable from the dark days of 2005 and 2009."
Good news but in practice what does this mean?
"If we can attract funding to pay off the debt earlier, we would welcome this opportunity but currently we will be paying the debt off at circa £50k per annum. So despite the fact we are a stable ship, we are still very firmly anchored with those debt payments for the next 3-4 years. Added to that, we have to pay for an 8,000 seater stadium that is filled at only 5-10% capacity 20-25 times a year. That means sales of CIC memberships, season tickets, corporate hospitality, lottery sales, 50-50 draw tickets, replica kits, club dinners, sponsorship packages and other donations are vital to keep us going and, hopefully, progressing in the league & cups."
Was there ever an alternative way, as obviously paying this debt in this way is having an effect on the park?
"The Board made a conscious decision two years ago to be accountable for previous mistakes and to pay off every penny we owed, rather than pursue the easier option of administration. Nothing has changed. We would like to be able to do this and it would be a great moral victory for a Football Club to do it, especially as we have such a small income stream. It is tough to operate in these economic conditions. Football is a luxury item, with harsh winters stripping walk-up sales, corporate hospitality and club dinners, but we are heading in the correct direction off the park. We need to take this good news item as a sign that there is still a club here with potential to move forward."
Any final word to the supporters?
"Thank you for your financial support in the past and any support in the future. We have received years and years of fantastic support from Clyde Supporters' Trust, Bully Wee Fund and many other generous individuals. They are still as vital today as they were when were in times of crisis."