First I want to start by saying thank you. I appreciate any potential change to the ownership structure of any football club can raise questions and bring some measure of uncertainty so I have been really grateful for the many positive messages of support after last week’s announcement.
Although I have been part of the Club for many years - as an investor, majority shareholder but first and foremost a supporter from birth - I thought it helpful to give some further context to my proposal; to say a little bit about my motivations and ambitions for the Club; and also to answer some of the issues that have been raised both directly with me and elsewhere.
First off why am I doing this?
Very simply Cambridge United is in my blood. The Club means a huge amount to me and it always has. I may be on the west coast of America but I can assure you I am watching every kick and celebrating every goal with the rest of you.
I have been in the fortunate position to be able to help with something that is my passion - my hometown football club. Any decision I have taken over the many years I have been involved with the Club has been for one reason and one reason only - to try to do what I can to support it by doing what I believe to be in its best interests. And it has obviously not always been easy over the years. Football never is. There have been some good times and also some tough times as we all know well.
This proposal is no different. I believe it is in the best interests of the Club to guarantee Cambridge United financial stability at a time when there is now a heavy dose of realism about the financial challenges of lower league football, given the unfortunate situation at Bury and elsewhere. If I thought there was someone better able to fund the Club going forward, I would be happy to step aside but the exhaustive process the Board have gone through over the last nine months has shown that is not the case. And I love the Club too much to simply walk away.
Financial stability has to be the platform for everything else both on and off the pitch. There is no point revisiting some of the difficult issues of recent years - I would prefer to focus on the many very positive things that those running the Club did at the time. We wouldn’t be back in the League without them - but there are lessons for us all on the need to live within a budget and to have certainty of funds available to meet the inevitable deficits. Over the last 18 months, the Board has cut costs where necessary to allow the Club to have a sensible budget for the 2019-20 season. With this budget in place, improved financial controls along with the realisation there was no new investor in the wings with the necessary financial commitment I made the decision that I would be prepared to continue to support the club at a financial level which I believe is sensible. I am grateful to the Board of Directors for making the changes which have enabled this to happen.
Why is my offer conditional on owning 100% and how will I be investing in the Club?
I am obviously not entering into this potential arrangement expecting to profit from it - average losses in League 2 are £500,000 a season - but I do believe it is only fair that if I am effectively offering to underwrite the Club for the foreseeable future that guarantee should come with complete ownership. The clarity is important to the Club and also to me personally. I would imagine future funding from me would come in the form of a mixture of loans and shares. I am happy to give an undertaking that loans would never exceed £1m so the Club would never find itself in a position where it was struggling with a huge debt liability. I also think it is important to give some security regarding time scale. A commitment from me to a minimum of five years will give the Club a platform of certainty upon which to build. I hope that my long term commitment in the past to the Club and this pledge for the future can help give everyone the reassurance they might be looking for. As I have said above my motivation is solely the good of the Club and as my track record shows I have always been in it for the long term.
I am very well aware of the huge contribution that major shareholders and CFU have made over recent years. Without it the Club would not be what it is today. In particular we owe a real debt of gratitude to Dave Doggett, the late Terry Baker, Renford and Eddie. I believe it is only right that they receive some compensation for their funding and at the same time the Club, fans and all shareholders have any need or perceived obligation to meet future funding needs removed. So I also believe it is only right that they receive some compensation for their funding and at the same time also have any need or perceived obligation to meet future funding needs removed. There were other parties prepared to invest in the football club as has been announced. However one of the shortcomings from the other offers received is that they did not provide any up front compensation for existing shareholders which I am prepared to do.
What are my ambitions for the Club?
Again it is very simple. I want us to perform at a higher level although we all know there can never be any guarantees in football. I want us to have a thriving youth academy - and it was great to see an assist and a goal from two of our home grown young players at Colchester. We are actively developing young talent. Some of these players will inevitably want to move on in years to come, hopefully to play at a higher level. Reinvesting part of any future transfer money into new talent should be part of who we are as a football club.
I want us to play in the best facilities we can - and there are cautious grounds for optimism that positive change can happen over the coming years. I want us to be United for Cambridge playing our part to help the community we serve through the Trust - and it is fantastic to see our leadership role as a mentally healthy Club recognised within football more widely for example. And finally I want the Club to be for the fans - with CFU on the Board, CUSP meeting the Club quarterly and a positive relationship built on trust, honesty and transparency. I believe we are all now moving in the right direction after what has been a difficult period.
Finally some of the what ifs...
I am certainly planning to be watching Cambridge United for some decades to come but single ownership obviously brings risk. I understand that and I will be making provision to ensure that there is sufficient funding for the Club from me to allow the Board of Directors time to find alternative funding sources in the event that something untoward were to happen.
Equally if we were ever to get to the point in the future where I believe it is in the best interests of the Club to sell it with the opportunity to do so, the Board of Directors would have to approve any sale. None of us has a crystal ball but I certainly would never want to hold the Club back if there was the chance for it to jump forward. The Board are all passionate fans of the Club. They have exercised real diligence over recent months in asking the difficult questions of the different potential investors and assessing each against the four tests they have spelt out. It would never simply be a financial consideration for any of us. The Club matters too much for that. I know the Board would do exactly the same again if the circumstance were ever to arise.
So back to the football which is what we all care about and what ultimately this is all about. This weekend we welcome Oldham to the Abbey. It’s been a positive start to the season. No one is getting carried away but you can feel there is a different energy at the Club already this season and I firmly believe we can look forward together confident of some good times ahead. COYU