As the Christmas and New Year programme brings an end to an eventful and action-packed 2021 for the club, both on and off the field, and in which we celebrated 100 years since our debut of our club in the Football League, I want to provide an end of year Chairman’s update on behalf of the Board of Directors.
Like every club across the UK this is a very busy time of year and we have a full Christmas programme starting with a Boxing Day game at Carlisle United followed by two important home games – Port Vale (29th December 2021: 19.45 kick-off) and Mansfield Town (1st January 2022: 15.00 kick-off). We hope you will be joining us to support Robbie and our team.
Firstly, a huge thank you to all of you!
When I was appointed in June 2021, I said that I very much see my role as being the figurehead for the Board of Directors and to get everybody pulling in the same direction for Rochdale AFC.
The events of 1 June 2021 and Boardroom changes that led to my appointment as Chairman have been heavily documented by both mainstream media including most national newspapers. However, we end 2021 positively achieving a shift in our strategy to become a true fan owned Community Football Club, with over 500 different fan shareholders including both the Rochdale AFC Community Trust and Dale Supporters Trust who are our largest recognised shareholder. The Dale Trust represents over 1,000 fans and if you are not already a member, I would encourage you to join.
I have known from the first day that the football club was a diverse business that required a wide range of skills to make it successful. I did not believe this was possible with a small Board so we have spent the initial period of my tenure assembling a talented and committed Board of Directors that will represent the wide shareholder and stakeholder groups and offer the skills required to take the club forward and back to League One. We have promised that we will be focussed on our supporters, staff, sponsors and stakeholders, and we are very proud to be a sustainably run club set at the heart of the local community and our motivation is to serve that community as best as we can.
The Board of Directors has been blessed in that we have inherited a very talented, hard-working and motivated staff that is full of characters and ideas on how to take this club forward. I would like to thank them personally for the hard work and dedication that they give to the club and it is our job now to harness all of the ideas to drive the club forward.
I would like to place on record, my thanks to absolutely everyone involved in supporting the club during 2021 but particularly:
- Our loyal and dedicated supporters, without whom there would be no club;
- Local Rochdale Community Trust and community groups who we are proud to represent and provide profile for;
- The playing and non-playing staff, past and present, who have represented the Club admirably during 2021, particularly in the first part of 2021 when the Club operated during the Covid-19 lockdown;
- Our stars of the future in the Academy and Elite Development Squads;
- Sponsors of the Club who support not just financially, but with their time, skills and expertise.
Our Board of Directors support the Tracy Crouch reforms to English Football
It is somewhat serendipitous timing that whilst defending against a blind and hostile takeover from a complete unknown to the football club, proposals have been formed by the UK Government which will protect English football clubs from the negative financial behaviours and consequences that have too often been seen in recent years.
Rochdale AFC is fully supportive of these proposals and all 47 recommendations made to safeguard the future of the game.We are, we believe, ahead of the curve given our fan-owned model and give full support to independent regulation, underpinned by a licensing system, which ensures that regular ‘fit and proper’ checks on owners are regularly undertaken. The club cannot comment on the ongoing EFL investigation into the events of the Summer which include such checks but are providing the EFL with their full cooperation. We would like the independent regulator to go further than the report recommends and ensure monies distributed to clubs are based on a sustainability index.
All English football clubs are key heritage assets too big and too important to their stakeholders and communities to not to have good governance and financial integrity at their core. It does not matter how rich a club is, their value to their communities are all equal and I am delighted this now seems to be recognised.
Rochdale AFC has always been proud of its fiscal prudence and its financial integrity.
In the ten-year period from 2010/2011 to 2019/2020 the Club has made an average profit of £0.2m per season and has added £2.1m to its net worth of the club, bringing with it a positive economic impact to both the local community and the wider town. The financial results for the year ended 31 May 2021 are being thoroughly audited by both our external auditor and the Board of Directors and will be filed within statutory timescales, which is by the end of February 2022, and distributed to shareholders for review at the next AGM.
We are very proud to be regarded by others as a friendly, community focussed and financially well-run club. We have proved to be an economic model which delivered League One football in eight of those ten seasons between 2010/2011 and 2019/2020, and we expect that we can and will do so again.
Our financial performance for the current season is ahead of plan. Inflows have been buoyed by our FA Cup and Carabao Cup successes and a television appearance on ITV which have also seen extra commercial revenues. Cost management under the new Board of Directors has been strong and our Salary Cost Management Protocol (SCMP) report is operating well within the expected thresholds.
The upcoming January transfer window
We are all behind manager Robbie Stockdale, Jimmy Shan and the team on and off the field. The January 2022 transfer window represents an opportunity for us to further build our playing squad and challenge for the League Two playoffs. The season has been one of consolidation and only having had three weeks from his appointment in mid-July 2021 to form a squad, Robbie and his staff have done incredibly well.
We have already extended the contract of one of our exciting young players, Abraham Odoh to Summer 2023. We continue to work on others so we attain a level of consistency at the Club and are not having wholesale changes every summer.
Naturally, we expect bids from other clubs for some of our players during January. The recent Plymouth FA Cup game saw the Club host scouts from 18 different clubs, including two English Premier League and Four Scottish Premier League clubs and, as you would expect, there is strong interest in our excellent players who we all know have significant long-term potential and value. Rochdale AFC has, for many years, developed some excellent players who have gone on to play in the Premier League.
The commitments that we have made are straightforward:
- The Club has no need to sell any player in January 2022. No player will be sold by this Board of Directors until the valuation of that player is met by the buying club. That valuation includes the provision of relevant long-term performance-based payments and future sell on clauses.
- All transfer receipts will be reinvested directly back into the playing squad into targets identified by the manager as soon as practical following their receipt.
Finally, I wish you and those closest to you a very Happy Christmas and best wishes for a Happy, Healthy and prosperous 2022.
It’s going to be an exciting year with several projects under way and I hope that you will join us as frequently as you can and spread the word around the people of Rochdale and the wider area that this club is owned by the fans, for the fans.
Up the Dale!
Chairman – Rochdale AFC