Cambridge United last night held the annual Shareholders Meeting at the Abbey Stadium, with Director of Business Shaun Grady, Director of Finance Steve Chamberlain delivering an overview of the Club’s accounts for 2016/17.
The evening began with Grady acknowledging the invaluable contribution of Dave Doggett - who was present - on behalf of all staff, officials and supporters of the Football Club.
A presentation followed with Steve Chamberlain and Shaun Grady recognising a disappointing financial result for the year 2016/17. Reasons were stated for this, particularly around non-football related revenues falling short of projection, with lessons now learnt and plans in place to improve financial performance.
Shaun Grady also provided information on the current situation on stadium re-development and Graham Daniels (Director of Football) updating on football matters.
Grady and Chamberlain also took questions from shareholders throughout the evening, noting their concerns until the meeting concluded at approximately 9pm.
In the interest of transparency, the Club is publishing the following letter sent to Shareholders in advance of the annual meeting for all supporters to observe.
First and most importantly, The Board would like to express its thanks and gratitude to both Dave Doggett and Jez George for their invaluable contribution to Cambridge United. We know we speak for all fans in doing so.
Together they have helped oversee our transformation from a club struggling in the National League to one that is now a well-established member of League Two. They have put in place the foundations for the Club to aim even higher on and off the pitch in the coming years. Our facilities at the Abbey are markedly better than they were. Our Community Trust is thriving. And looking across all playing age groups there are good grounds for optimism about the future on the pitch.
We have now entered a new chapter for Cambridge United with Paul Barry becoming the majority shareholder of the football club as of February this year. We could not have arrived at this point without the backing of all of the Club’s shareholders over many years and we are very grateful for all their support. It has also been critical to the success of recent years
The financial support provided by Paul Barry is very important for the future. It enables us to look forward and build on the platform laid by Dave and Jez with confidence. It does not mean that we will have an unlimited playing budget. It does mean we will have to continue to manage the business prudently. And it is our aim from 18/19 season to seek a break even financial performance each year.
Paul’s support does however give us financial security and a safety net to weather the inevitable financial shortfall should the Stadium redevelopment planned on the current Abbey site go to the next stage, as we all hope it can. If this were the case we would obviously only expect this to be a short term funding gap during any build phase.
We recognise that ground redevelopment and potential moves to other sites have been the subject of long running debate with many false dawns. And we do not want to raise expectations. There is a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes. We are talking with the right people and we hope we can reach the point where we have a scheme that is financially viable, one that becomes a genuine asset for the community and provides a modern state of the art stadium that the Club can be proud of. The coming months will determine whether this is a realistic prospect. We are committed to providing supporters and shareholders with more information when we are in a position to do so.
The financial result for the year ending 30 June 2016 was disappointing. In particular non-football related revenues fell short of projections. There are a number of reasons but in very simple terms the well intentioned ambition to develop the commercial side of the business ran ahead of the ability to execute. For example our holiday school program fell well short of expectations and continues to present challenges. Gates have also been lower than projected with all the attendant loss of additional match day revenues.
Along with significant personal investment from Directors over recent times the sale of players has also been necessary to mitigate losses. Whilst Luke Berry’s transfer was inevitable after Luke handed in a transfer request the Board also recognised the need to grant it to ensure we could balance the books. There are perhaps four or five clubs in the world that are not selling clubs. Difficult though it inevitably will be at times we are always likely to have to sell assets on occasions in order to help fund our operations.
Will Norris’ departure to Wolves was for entirely different reasons. The opportunity came for one of our promising players to join a top Championship Club. It was a fantastic opportunity for Will and one that we as a club felt we had to support. If we want to continue to attract young promising talent then it is important we provide a pathway for them to move on when the right opportunity comes along.
There has been a moderately better financial performance in the current financial year but we still expect to show a loss this season. The current review by the Executive Board is looking to learn the lessons of recent years so we can continue to develop different revenue streams for the Club - as they are very important - but also do so with reduced risk. As stated above, from the start of next season our aim is to run the football club to break even over the year. There is now far more active involvement by the Board in the day to day running of the Club to help achieve this. We are confident that it can be done.