A statement from Andrew Kelly – Academy Director, Rochdale AFC
Recent events have prompted me to put pen to paper, I apologise in advance to anyone who finds this rather long winded.
Before I start, I would like to thank the following four people for their extremely hard work behind the scenes even though there is no football being played: David Bottomley, John Smallwood, Frances Fielding and Nick Grindrod.
Any group of people watching a game of football or witnesses a car accident, would come away with varying opinions as to what they had seen or watched. No doubt, there will be difference of opinions when people read this article.
Apart from two years when my job took me out of town, I have lived in the area for 74 years. I therefore consider myself to be a Rochdalian. As a youngster I grew up on the Greave estate and started watching the Dale in the early 1950s. In my mid / late teens I was a registered Amateur player with the club. Tony Collins was the Manager with Albert Emptage and Joe Duff the Trainer and Groundsman. Norman Bodell was our Coach and he trained us at Redbrook School which is now the Cricket Club. Our home games were played on Dunlop Sports Ground and Tommy Nichols was our Youth Manager.
I was not considered good enough to become a full time professional and therefore went to play in the Amateur League with Sacred Heart. The only club in Rochdale which owns its own ground. I have been associated with this club for 55 years and I’m very proud to be their current President. I was responsible for the purchase of the ground from Robinsons Engineering in 1988. It continues to be a very successful club with three senior teams in the Manchester League.
In 2005 Graham Morris who was my Company Accountant said he had heard from another client (a former team mate of mine) about my experience in amateur sport (which included football, rugby league and cricket), and suggested I might be able to contribute to Rochdale AFC by joining their Board. I accepted the invitation and joined in 2006. I append below, a memo I sent to all Academy Staff at the beginning of 2007:
“I am honoured and privileged to be appointed as Director of Youth Development. It is a fantastic opportunity to continue to improve the existing facility which exists at the club. Our Centre of Excellence currently caters for U10 - U16’s after which there is an opportunity to be rewarded with Scholarships and to play in the Youth Team. The ultimate aim is to be offered professional contracts at Rochdale AFC. It is intended to have in place a well structured Youth Development Plan prior to the start of the pre-season training for the 2007/08 season - our centenary year.
When I joined the Board in August 2006 there were discussions taking place as to whether this Department should be scrapped. I understand this was not the first time this thought had been expressed. In the intervening period, I have persuaded the Board to change direction subject to certain conditions. I think it is important before we move on that there is a full understanding of the club’s financial situation, the annual budget shows a predicted deficit of £250K. Anyone who is in business or even people budgeting their personal finances must realise this situation cannot continue. It is the road to bankruptcy. So what are we going to do about it?
My appointment as Youth Director is part of the wider brief which I have undertaken. I will also be involved in the Commercial arm of the business. We need to increase our incoming revenue and instead of reducing our expenditure, we need to ensure that we get exceptional value for the money we spend. How do we achieve that?
It is achieved by careful planning and proper investment. The monies currently generated for the Youth Department, fall short of the actual costs. This has obviously led to certain fractions within the club, suggesting closure. My view is totally the opposite. We need to put more investment in to create the wealth at the other end. I now want to share the family tree that is being created. You will see that in conjunction with the Senior Management Team, Keith Hill and Dave Flitcroft, we plan to have fill three key posts:
Sports Science - Paul Conway
Physical Education - Guy Proctor
Physio / Masseur - Andy Thorpe / Jimmy Barrow
With the passing of time, I don’t think anyone will disagree when I say this Department at the club has been extremely successful, not only in bringing in revenue to the club, but also providing young boys with a pathway into various disciplines in sport and business.
Between the years of 2006 - 2016 I could be seen at the club most days working alongside the CEO Colin Garlick and others to try and improve the running of the club. During 2014-2016 some changes took place. Colin left the club and Russ Green joined. I became disillusioned with a number of aspects including how the Football In The Community was being run. As a result of my feelings, I decided to take a break and leave the Board. I received a letter from Chris Dunphy thanking me for my services to the club and offering me a position of Vice President, which I accepted. Towards the end of 2018, I was very surprised to hear that Bill Goodwin had resigned and CD will be doing the same at the of 2018. Neither of these individuals have ever confided in me their reasons for leaving.
At the beginning of 2019, I received a call from our current Chairman asking me to return to the Board. During my absence I understand BG took responsibility for the Academy. As he had now left, I decided to return to ensure the Academy continued to have a voice at Board level.
After returning, 2019 proved to be a very difficult year. The Accounts showed losses in excess of £1.2m in the last year of CD’s stewardship. The Board in an effort to steady the ship reverted to the well worn path of player sales. I was personally very worried up until our cup run and the Craig Dawson deal, which between them in view of the previous losses, steadied the ship.
The Board decided in early 2019 that the cycle of cup runs and player sales, although historically had been a system that worked, was not a route we should continue to rely on, and so we started to look at potential investments. The name of Dan Altman came up as having been interested in 2018. I therefore trawled through previous board minutes and found the following extract from board minutes:
Board Extract 10.09.2018
CD to reply to investment proposal from Dan Altman and provide feedback at the next meeting.
Board Extract 18.10.2018
CD confirmed that he had turned down an approach from Dan Altman with regard to investment in the club. The matter was closed.
As a new Board, we made further contacts and re-opened negotiations with Dan in an effort to possibly improve any offer that had been made to CD. As a result, Dan and Emre came to England for a tour of the club and to meet the Board. I found Dan and Emre to be very likeable people and I enjoyed their company when they visited the club. We also signed a Non Disclosure Agreement and they went home and subsequently submitted their proposals, which were declined by the Board as not acceptable.
As they have now gone public, I can tell you they wanted 51% of the club and the promise of what was contained in their press release. I will not divulge numbers at this stage due to the NDA. Let it suffice to say, their cash injection would not have met our expectations. The loan agreements and their repayment conditions, along with potential exit agreement were not acceptable. At the point where legal advice allows, we will release further information. Had we accepted their offers, we would in my opinion have been ridiculed for giving the club away.
And so, to more recent events, SHARES. As previously stated during 2018, I had left the Board and CD rejected outright the American bid and signed the board minutes to that effect. One year later, he sold his private shares to the same people and only CD can explain the rationale behind his decision. He is not obliged to do so, it is entirely his personal and private affair. I have heard anecdotally that he made the Board aware of his intentions to sell. I will swear on a Bible I was not aware of his intentions and as far as I know, no other member of the Board knew either.
As a result of the Americans share purchase, I became worried whether the result of the alleged price they had paid, they may attempt a Glazer Manchester Utd style takeover bid. Many of my friends sold to the Glazers and have since deeply regretted their decision. At Christmas 2019 I decided to test my fears. I contacted Dan and Emre via email and said my shares had become available due to a family situation.
Dan thanked me for my email and replied as follows:
Email extract: 24.12.2019
“Emre and I have today placed negotiations with the Board on hold since we are far apart on a price for the authorised shares. As such we are not increasing our investment right now. If however we are in a position to go forward in the future, we will likely to make an offer to the club’s significant shareholders, naturally including yourself.”
This reply left me very unsure about their future strategy or intentions. I scoured the shareholder list to try and establish where the club may be vulnerable. As a result of my actions, I purchased Leods Construction shares (22,500). I am now the second largest individual shareholder in the club owning approximately 12% (58,250). Our Chairman has 110,000 shares (approximately 22%).
My shares have all been bought with my personal money, not company money. My sponsorship over the past 5/6 years ie. Back of Shirt, Match Day Sponsorship, Box Holder, Christmas Draw, Stadium Hire, Lottery etc has cost me and my Associates around £100,000. Had I been a share grabber, I would have re-directed that money into shares and that would have meant I would have been the largest shareholder.
No other individual in my opinion, including CD has committed the time and effort (free of charge) along with sponsorship and share purchase that I have done. I sit very comfortably when I describe myself as FAN, SUPPORTER and DIRECTOR of Rochdale Football Club.
I am prepared to meet, speak or correspond with any individual or group of fans provided that they come forward with their true identity and not a message board /social media alias.
Assuming A Kilpatrick, G Morris, D Kilpatrick, The Dale Supporters Trust, A Kelly and other current Board members were in agreement with any proposal, there would be sufficient shares to vote it through if appropriate. I do not believe any of the afore mentioned individuals would do anything to harm or put the club in jeopardy.
Any future share issue will dilute their voting power. We need to be 100% clear at reducing it does not allow an influx of money today which could signal problems for future fans. My ambition is very simple, when I leave the club, I want it to be a better state than when I joined, and I look forward to a continued long-term existence in the Football League.
In conclusion, let me make it clear, my shares are NOT FOR SALE.
I hope that all you and your families stay safe from this horrible pandemic and that we can all get back to watching live football as soon as possible.
Academy Director, Rochdale AFC
Up The Dale!