Paul Barry announces his stepping down as Chairman and from the Board at the upcoming Annual General Meeting on 28 January 2013.
Paul issued the following statement:
I have been Chairman for the last three-and-a-half years. It has been a great time and one I would not trade for anything. I still love Cambridge United, but I feel the time is right for the club and for myself to pass the baton.
Initially I was appointed as interim Chairman. Having a Chairman based 5000 miles away is far from ideal. When I started there was poor record keeping and questionable transactions. The finances were in poor shape. More importantly the culture around the club was not a positive one. For those that remember, we had no manager with the season two days away. Changes were made and a manager re-appointed. Behind the scenes work began on the culture within the club and a structure that made sense. In time, from January 2011 onwards, the mood around the club did change and instrumental in that was the work were directors Jez George and Renford Sargent.
We were fortunate that the ground was sold to Grosvenor Developments. Creating a positive relationship with them and communicating the financial predicament of the club was key in working towards a new stadium. The Board worked with them on giving us financial relief and agreeing, in principle, to a new stadium. The results of that cooperation we see as the future of the club with a new stadium, new income streams, a more modern stadium and facilities being key to the future of professional football in Cambridge.
Crucial to that process for the new stadium has been the formation and continued growth of our Youth and Community Trust. Without its existence, and its scope and reach into the community in and around Cambridge, I doubt that the club would be in the position it is in today for the new stadium.
Innumerable meetings have been attended, many by Jez wearing his hat within the YCT to facilitate the process. Planning permission will probably be sought this year for a stadium ready for 2016-17 season. There are many steps and hurdles yet to overcome, but it is coming.
Now to the football side of the business. One of the first steps of changing the football side was setting up a stable training ground. Not knowing each day where you are training is quite disconcerting. Previously, the players trained at different training grounds according to which college would do us a favour. We changed that with our long term arrangement with Clare College training ground which is our home now for the first team as well as the scholars. It is a facility that is probably as good as many up to League One and some above. Following the first season under Martin Ling, the Board was troubled by the costs involved in the first team. With the poor run of results and performances around the following Christmas and New Year, there were discussions around a new business model for the club. I specifically remember visiting Grosvenor in London on the morning of 1 February 2011 with Vice Chairman Renford Sargent, after a tumultuous AGM the previous evening.
It was a very positive meeting but that was not on our minds. We both knew a change had to happen on the football side as the decision making and cost controls were not there, similar to many other clubs. We took the step of relieving the manager and his coach of their duties, with all of its financial implications, and starting on a model of integrating the development of our football pyramid as it should have been, right up to the first team. Jez very reluctantly stepped up to the role. People don't think he was reluctant. He was. Even more so at the end of the season when he kept us up. Arm twisting, guilt, begging were all tried by members of the Board.
It worked. Jez and I always had the understanding though that he could step down when he thought it was in the best interests of the club. He convinced myself and the Board that the time was right in October last year and that he had identified an outstanding candidate for the role of First Team Head Coach. The timing was right and the whole process was handled professionally and confidentially by Jez so that no speculation would enter the public domain and damage the club. Richard Money has been everything we expected of him and the work they have done together in thinning the squad and moving on players that did not fit into their plans or buy into their ethos has been excellent.
The change in January 2011 allowed a significant reduction in first team playing costs which also provided the opportunity for our home grown talent to develop and has allowed us to be competitive at a lower budget. It is not realistic to expect to your whole first team to come through the ranks, but I think you have seen where we are today with a good portion of the squad having developed that way. That would not have happened had Jez not taken the reigns two years ago as no other manager else would have played so many of these youngsters or agreed to reduce the budget so quickly. Having also totally overhauled our scouting processes and recruitment policy, there are now several playing assets within the squad that are bearing fruit on the pitch and will generate funds when they move on. It is a model that the club had back in the 90's.
The brand of Cambridge United locally had been severely tarnished with the debacle surrounding the Martin Ling appointment. Frankly no-one was interested in coming on the Board of the club. We knew that changes had to be made and that "saying nothing and just doing" were the best remedies to that reality.
We have added to the Board in the last three years with the additions of Dave, Eddie and Terry. Clubs in our League lose money. We are trying to minimize that loss and compete in the top third of the table with a mid-table budget. Having a Board that is financially strong is key to that. This season and last, the Board has invested into the squad with some choice additions through small transfer fees and compensation payments. Not all will work, they never do, but as mentioned above, we have quality and developing assets that show the policy of identifying and developing young talent is working.
The question comes is why am I leaving? I made this decision three months ago. I have recently got married and re-entered the tour & travel industry from which I exited in 2008. My time will be spent a little more on my new business and additional developments I am working on.
The Board has always tried to work in a planned manner and this is no different. Succession is in place within the current Board. The current Vice Chairman Renford Sargent is stepping down, but staying as director, and he will look after my interests.
Many people have shown their support for the club over the past three-and-a-half years. Specifically Renford and Jez have been incredibly supportive behind the scenes for myself. Renford likes to work in the background, which is my preferred method. Jez is the most hard working and dedicated person I have met in football. The club is lucky to have such people still on the Board and Cambridge United's future is brighter than it has been for some time.