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Chairman’s Interview

Clyde chairman John Alexander has given an extended interview for the official website, to further discuss the proposed move to East Kilbride.

An EGM of the club’s owners will be held on Saturday to vote on resolutions surrounding the proposal.

The interview was conducted by Andrew Clark, a journalist, CIC owner and lifelong fan of The Bully Wee.

AC: How has the East Kilbride move become the preferred option?
JA: It all goes back to the fact that, as everybody knows, we operate an unsustainable business model at Broadwood. It is nothing to do with the stadium – it is not Broadwood that is the problem, it is the business model.
If we had a proper, sustainable business model at Broadwood it would be great to stay there but we don’t, therefore we need to move somewhere that gives us the ability to compete with other teams in our division.
We can’t compete financially with the likes of Elgin and Annan so they are a long way ahead of us before the season starts.
We need to do something that gets us at the very least on a level playing field with them and that means a relocation. We have exhausted all the angles in Cumbernauld and we have been working on them for a few years now, so the relocation becomes essential. It is then a matter of where.
The one that is currently on the table, which looks like a very good option, is East Kilbride.

Is a potential return to Rutherglen dead in the water?
When we started this process, we had that option in the equation, it would still have given us the opportunity to build a sustainable business model if it was there. However, during our discussions with East Kilbride Community Trust (EKCT), and completely unrelated, South Lanarkshire Council closed the door on it. So yes, it was dead in the water.
Since then, I wouldn’t say that the door has been particularly opened but they are willing to talk to us again so we will pick up on that in any case. However, at the moment it is even less tangible than it was six months ago, so we need to concentrate on the tangible option.

Do you have any doubts about a move to East Kilbride?
I think you have got to accept that any deal can go wrong until it is signed.
We are a long way away from a final situation – they don’t yet have planning permission, they are only in conversation about it, they are assembling the land.
Should the project happen, the biggest risk is not making a success of it. That success will hang on the effort we put in to get the club properly integrated in the community, hence the name properly embracing the community – EK Clyde – and saying that this is us actually here to stay, not for a 20 year stint to see what someone else brings up.
Whilst not all supporters have given up hope of a return to Shawfield, if the club wait for that to happen it will be getting passed by every other team that aspires to do better than one that waits for something to turn up. A Shawfield return is just so far outside of our financial resources that it is a non-starter.
I suppose that is the fundamental economics of this – we don’t have a business model that allows us to compete financially.
When the pyramid opens, clubs that have a better financial structure than us in the lower leagues will come up and there is a very high likelihood that we will go down because our current business model dictates that our finances leave us with a player budget for the bottom of the Third Division; just where we’ve been for the last three years.

So, are you worried that the current business model, operating from Broadwood, could see us dragged into non-league football?
Without a doubt.
I think it is something that every one of us, as Clyde supporters, needs to understand. We have been asked to make a compromise here to get access to something that could make us financially stable. If we say no to that then what we are saying is that we want to stick with the status quo which is that we will have finances for the bottom end of the Third Division. That will put us into the 41st or 42nd place play-offs and at some point there is a very, very high risk that we will be one of the teams that goes down into that non-league structure.

Do you then fear it would be a struggle to regain our SFL status?
I think it would be absolutely desperate because again you will drop in to an environment where, first of all, we could not stay at Broadwood.
We could not finance Broadwood if we are not in the SFL, so we would be forced to relocate – probably sharing with a Junior team somewhere. We would probably never re-establish the infrastructure that you need to move up because the only way you would get back up to the SFL is to share with somebody who already had the infrastructure and paying them rent.
The pyramid structure is being pushed heavily and will come in, whether it is 2014-15 as proposed or later. There are plenty of Junior teams with better financial structures than some SFL clubs and they will come up and pass existing SFL clubs, some of whom will not return.

The main sticking point for some fans is the name change; is it a case of EK Clyde or nothing?
We have been through the conversations and what we have brought to the owners of the club is what the final position is, having negotiated everything that everyone has so far suggested.
I don’t think there has been a suggestion that any supporter has made in this process that we haven’t run through our heads and discussed, including ‘Clyde EK’, so what we are bringing back is the final position and that is what people need to embrace. It is not a case of being able to negotiate it again – this is it, the final position.
We either back it or we deal with the consequences, which is Clyde at Broadwood with an unsustainable business model. Thereafter, we would need to find somewhere else where we can compete financially with everyone else and there is nothing else on the table at this point.
Most people would say this is a once in a lifetime opportunity but the great thing for Clyde is that this is our second, because we got Broadwood. The difference here is that the landlord is not wanting money out of us but wants to see a successful team in the town and doesn’t want to undermine our business model. There is a night and day difference.

So why do EKCT want a team in the town? A love of sport, love of football…?
The reality is it is James Kean’s vision to have a senior team in East Kilbride. He loves his town and wants to do something for it. He thinks bringing a senior football club and having senior football there is important so he is going to do that and whether it is us or someone else, someone is going to be playing senior football in that stadium. We are quite fortunate that we have the opportunity to be that team.
For a club like ours, and anyone else who is in the same situation, it a first class opportunity but everybody would have to deal with the same thing; it needs to be a club whose name clearly shows it has embraced that community and it is where it wants to be.
This isn’t just about the name change, it is about the consequences of no name change. That is why every one of the Clyde board members, who certainly wouldn’t rush to change the club’s name, recognises that it actually has to happen.

Something which we lack at Broadwood, but which many other Third Division clubs enjoy, is a social club at the ground. Is that something which the club would expect at the new stadium and would we operate it and retain the profits ourselves?
The conversations we have had are that there will be the full facilities that you would expect around a good standard stadium, including the expectation of something like a social club.
That will be part of the negotiations – one of the things we need to work out is do we want to do that?
Running a social club brings all sorts of responsibilities. There are many clubs that do well from running a club, one has told us the profit they make and that would cover our entire playing budget for this season.
But if this is not in a location that is going to get high volume use throughout the week then we might not choose to be involved. If we get to detailed discussions, if it looks like an idea for us to operate it then we would operate it but if we didn’t operate it ourselves we could tie up some sort of structure whereby supporters spending their cash put something back to us which is just as good – we get a bit of return without the responsibility.

Another reason a number of clubs are financially better off than us is the use and letting of artificial pitches, what are the plans regarding artificial pitches at the proposed new stadium?
There is a 3G pitch planned and we would be expecting to use that.
Even if it is not direct income by renting it out, we would be expecting to run a lot of our activities on it without having the costs for them that we have now. So, whether it is direct renting out or cost reduction it is an improvement of the business model. Stenhousemuir rent out but also get cost reduction because they run a lot of activities on it themselves.
We are hoping for the double edged sword but we need to be careful about what we carve up and want access to because everything you take access to gives you responsibility. We want enough to run a successful, stable football club generating enough income to allow us to compete but we haven’t actually owned a facility since the 1930s. Even when we were at Shawfield, we didn’t really control our own place so we need to make sure we don’t get to a point where we jump further than we are ready for, but I think it would be ideal if we could control as much as possible.

Would someone from the EKCT board join the Clyde board and vice versa?
We are very clear that we would like a couple of people from the trust to join our board to help the integration with the community. We think that it is really important so that we don’t walk into a new community and pretend that we can do it alone. We would want probably two people to join us on our board and take responsibility for supporting that.
In terms of the other way round, it has been suggested that one of us join the trust board but we have only had that on the agenda momentarily. It is more of a minor detail – if we negotiate a quality partnership agreement to operate the stadium, we probably wouldn’t need to sit on another governance body.