The club has looked to outline the way forward in the future with a five-point plan to achieve success in the future...
Coventry City – The Way Forward
Five Point Plan:-
• Financially stable – with the over-riding aim to field a competitive team
• Aim to move to long term financial independence from the owner
• To have a fully integrated football model with the Academy being a cornerstone of the club model
• To be a community pillar – to assist Sky Blues in the Community in delivering improved health, education, crime and social awareness targets to the local area where our supporters are drawn from
• To develop long-term relationships with businesses in the community along with membership of the Chamber of Commerce and Coventry & Warwickshire Champions
That can only be achieved by:-
• Building trust with the supporters
• Success on the field
• Clear communication
• Having a progressive fully-integrated first team-Academy model
The club has been inherently financially unstable for decades and has had to be financially supported throughout this period by the current and previous club owners.
The model was previously unsustainable financially and, ultimately therefore, programmed to fail – indeed the club has lurched from financial crisis to financial crisis since the late 1990s.
Our objective has been and remains, as a club, to be financially sustainable and have the ability to stand alone without recourse to financial support from the owner, while putting a successful and competitive team on the pitch, supporting an Academy, shifting to a fully integrated football model and being a mainstay in the local community.
This is fully in line with the aspiration of the Football League that all clubs become sustainable and not dependent upon owner funding.
Limited income, operating in a stadium owned by any third party, makes this aspiration impossible.
We returned to the Ricoh on a fair rent deal – less than 10 per cent of the previous rent. A deal that sees the club participate in match day revenues beyond ticketing for the first time since 2005.
The new ownership of the Ricoh means we have a new landlord who understands sport and the business of sport, and match day operations, as well as the critical relevance of non-match day income. The relationship between landlord and tenant is positive. There is a healthy mutual respect and all the signs point to that continuing for the period that the club remains at the Ricoh.
Wasps understand that we need access to stadium revenues 365 days per year and respect our position of developing our own stadium. However, as a tenant, we are currently unable to benefit from access to non-match day revenue.
In the interim we will investigate with Wasps whether there is an opportunity for the club to further generate revenues beyond match day – as each £1 of revenue so generated is vital to the club.
That said, for the long term, it remains the club’s ambition to own its own stadium. Financial Fair Play dictates that this is the only pathway to achieve the long term aims above.
Improving the first team
The budget is competitive for League One. It is not simply a case of just ‘buy more and better players and the sky is the limit’, we have to ensure there is a discipline to run the business along sensible and sustainable financial lines.
The immediate goal is to improve the first team group – both across individuals and team dynamic, by recruiting players not only of the right abilities and skill sets, but also the correct character to fit the Pressley ethos.
Today, we have an imbalance in the ratio of loan to permanent players in the squad. The loan market provides an opportunity for clubs to bolster squads – however, we simply have too many loan players.
While loan players can work well there are inherent problems. The introduction of loan players from clubs which do not have the same work or stamina ethic creates injury risk. The players are not ‘game ready’ – they have not played in the first team regularly and do not have the required level of fitness.
We have identified a number of players we would want to bring in on a permanent basis and Steve Waggott is working hard to achieve that goal.
There is a process around due diligence including the technical, physical and psychological aspects of a prospective player. There is a medical and fitness test plus a medical history check prior to the signing of a player.
Further, players coming in need to reflect the DNA of the club going forward – leadership, aggression and work ethic. A key aspect of player due diligence is spirit and the ‘will to win’ – neither of which can be picked up in a medical or fitness test.
Beyond recruitment, the club has invested in sports science and technology. The first team support is Championship-standard and with areas of the technology moving way beyond Championship standard including ground-breaking performance analysis and player monitoring across physiological and sports performance – combining both training and match day data capture.
Investing in the academy
CCFC is moving towards the fully integrated football model whereby there is no longer a silo model in which Academy and the first team group rarely work together.
Dismantling the silos both promotes the acceleration of young players’ development and is aspirational for the younger players – they work with the first team group which includes former Academy players – therefore encouraging others to follow the very same pathway.
The vision incorporates a first team-Academy training facility – a facility that is designed and built to facilitate and future proof a Category One status. Having the first team and Academy working on the same site inspires.
CCFC is one of very few clubs in League One that has Category Two status Academy.
The Academy is a cornerstone of the club, has and continues to be a source of first team talent.
The Academy costs in excess of £1.2m per year – of which £500K is a grant. The rest of the funding comes from club income.
The Academy is not a profit centre. The value to the club is generating and cultivating talent locally by developing players who understand what the club means to supporters and whose ambition is to play in the CCFC first team.
Inevitably – and this is true of all but a handful of clubs at the top of the Premier League – there will be occasions when we lose players. Callum Wilson is a classic example. He was outstanding for us in the 13/14 season, but that attracted interest from other clubs. On a personal level, Callum was offered a life-changing deal and could well be playing in the Premier League next season.
The objective then becomes ensuring that the club maximises the return on its long term investment – given the Academy’s input over what can be a eight or nine year period.
Generating more revenue
The first signs are that the club and Wasps will develop a mutually-beneficial relationship with both clubs eager to develop additional revenue streams.
On the back of early stage discussions with the management and commercial staff at Wasps, we are exploring mutual approaches to revenue generation e.g. around seat or stand sponsorship that may favour both clubs. Any monies generated in the interim period are a bonus to CCFC and must be explored.
Our motivation remains that for every £1 generated of eligible income under financial fair plays rules leads to 60p being transferred to the first team.
We are engaging with the local business community and being open and transparent regarding our position today and our motivation and vision for the future.
There was a perception that we were a “closed shop”. That might well have been caused by our concentration in getting our own business in order, but we realise that we have to be more outward facing, and that new and fresh business relationships need to be fostered.
Playing an active role in the community
The Sky Blues in the Community Charity (SBiTC) plays a very active and widespread role across a number of different areas and through a varied programme of initiatives.
Community work includes primary school healthy living programmes to walking football for over 50s while also delivering a range of social inclusion projects in some of the most challenging areas across Coventry and Warwickshire.
The increased demand for their award-winning work is resulting in their geographical spread being widened away from Coventry and in to Nuneaton and Bedworth, Rugby and across Warwickshire.
We need to continue to build on the work already delivered by SBiTC as it will increase the awareness of the CCFC brand and also increase our fan base via their engagement with high volume numbers across the region.
Future Sky Blues – is an initiative to generate the next generation of our supporters, our workforce and our sponsors/partners.
Active Ambassadors is a new initiative which works alongside Sky Blues in the Community, the Supporters Consultative Group, Sky Blues Trust and the Former Players’ Association to help support further community engagement.
The money our Active Ambassadors programme generates will be ring-fenced for Steven Pressley and Neil MacFarlane to draft in new players (aged between 17 and 20) into the development squad.
In return for their annual investment, our Active Ambassadors are hosted in the Boardroom each match day and act as an additional bridge between the board and the business community.
Communication and supporter liaison
The club communicates through more channels than ever before. We have a dynamic website, an award winning and successful match day programme and are active across a number of social media channels. In fact, in recent years our communication has been noted by the number of award nominations the club has received.
Initiatives such as the match day Q&A and regular programme columns from Steve Waggott have been designed to increase that flow of communication.
The Supporters Consultative Group which includes board representation from the Sky Blues Trust and other fans’ stakeholder groups has been key to the flow of communication throughout the last 18 months, and its meetings have been regularly attended by board members.
In addition to the scheduled SCG meetings, we have held in-person and phone briefings with the group or its chairman when the need has arisen.
The SCG now has a board presence, something which is in its infancy, but something the group has welcomed. That will be built on and refined.