As our busy Christmas and New Year programme approaches, I want to provide all stakeholders of the club with 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 following recent postponements due to bad weather conditions, we hope to have a full Christmas and New Year programme starting with our Boxing Day game at home to Hartlepool United (3pm kick-off), followed by two important away games at Doncaster Rovers (29th December 2022, 7.45pm kick-off) and Barrow (2nd January 2023, 3pm kick-off).
First and foremost, a huge thank you to all of you for sticking with the club and team despite many difficult results throughout the last year. As we enter this crucial period, it is as important as ever that we all get behind the team and give our continued support to Jim, Nick, and the players, to enable us to get the results to push us up the table.
Secondly, it has been an extremely challenging year in so many ways, and a year that I am sure many will be glad to see the back of.
Through the year, we have operated as a stable board of Directors including a Director, Murray Knight, representing our largest shareholder, the Dale Trust. I would personally like to thank everyone on the Board for their commitment, both financial and in terms of time.
The unwanted hostile takeover which was brought to our door in June 2021 was finally defeated and the associated disciplinary action brought by the EFL because of those events concluded. The club has received a six-point penalty, suspended until October 2024, and with several individuals receiving sanctions prohibiting their own personal involvement in football for a fixed term period for their role in matters. The seriousness of the situation we as a club all faced should be neither underestimated nor forgotten.
Like everyone else in society at present, we are dealing with the financial challenges currently caused by the prevailing current economic circumstances, which are unprecedented. Our proud heritage of running a football club in a financially sustainable way has always been a known challenge which we have embraced. However, due to an unwanted hostile takeover and dealing with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the club are now operating in a very difficult cost of living crisis that has seen three main themes. We have seen a weakening of corporate demand for sponsorship and hospitality at the club. There have been increases in our cost base of more than 15% as our supply chain also attempt to manage their own rising costs of labour and materials. Finally, there is the trebling of our energy costs. The Board took the decision to freeze Season Card prices this season to support our fans as much as possible.
These circumstances compound onto existing and continuing losses as we operate. The club made an audited loss of £1.2m in the year ending 31st May 2021, followed by a reduced loss of £0.5m in the thirteen-month period ending 30th June 2022. Without one off events, such as player sales or cup runs, it will again make a loss in the current financial year, to June 2023, similar to that of 2021. This means that in the 37 months since 1st June 2020, the club will have cumulatively lost approximately £3m, or £18,750 per week, operating as an EFL member club at its current level.
In practical terms, the club engages approximately 130 members of staff, including matchday staff, and has average aggregate annual attendances of over 70,000 each calendar year, which brings an economic input of circa £3.0m into Rochdale as a town. The benefits of a town having an EFL member club which brings in visitors, businesses and media coverage are well documented, but maintaining our proud independence comes with its own challenges, especially during difficult financial times.
To raise some of the required capital to face these challenges, the club issued 396,942 shares in October 2021, raising nearly £0.8m. In November 2022, shareholders again authorised the Board of Directors to issue up to another 450,000 shares in the club, to be sold at not less than £2.35 a share, which will raise £1.06m. So far, supporters have purchased just over 20,000 of these new shares and the Board of Directors will now need to look outside of the club for potential investors to purchase the remainder of these shares whilst keeping some back for supporters to buy.
We are continuing to make improvements to our events space at the ground, and this will be a key feature for the club during 2023. We need to make the bars and function rooms work for us for up to 365 days a year and we encourage all supporters to utilise the club’s facilities both on a matchday and for your personal / business events.
Equally, we are looking at improving the output from the Club Shop. We will have a new kit manufacturer at the end of this season, which we hope to announce early in 2023. One of the advantages of going with the new supplier is their ability and desire to engage with supporters to ensure that we have a range in the Club Shop that matches the wishes of our fantastic fanbase.
We have given notice on our contract with our lottery partners. We know this has been a very emotive issue in the last few years amongst the fanbase and rightly so given the proud place it has in our history. We are currently exploring other alternatives that we hope will generate additional income for the Club and we will work with supporters as part of that process.
It is essential for the club that we maximise as much income as we can, whilst ensuring football remains affordable. This will allow us to benefit the supporters, the first team and the community.
We call, alongside many other clubs, upon the EFL, Premier League and UK Government to come together quickly, diligently and urgently and implement the recommendations of the Fan Led review. This must address the imbalance in the distribution of finances to enable community-based football clubs in the bottom two professional divisions to achieve a sustainable future.
On The Pitch
So far, we have not achieved the results that we would have hoped for.
This led us to changing the management team in August 2022, when we appointed Jim Bentley and Nick Chadwick. Their energy, enthusiasm and positivity has already had a big impact with everybody working inside the club and we feel it is only a matter of time until this is reflected in a consistent run of results on the pitch.
We know as a club that we will always have to punch above our weight to achieve success, but we believe with the budget that we set for this year, a mid-table finish could be achievable. Obviously, Jim did not get an opportunity in the summer transfer window to recruit players and so the upcoming January transfer window gives him the opportunity to make one or two tweaks to the squad. We do not have the finances to go outside of our budgets but where one or two players leave, we may be able to recruit a couple of players to freshen up and strengthen the squad.
We face a crucial run of fixtures throughout the Christmas and January period, including games against many of our rivals currently at the wrong end of League Two. If we are successful during this period, I am sure we can all look forward to the remainder of 2023 with an awful lot more optimism.
Rochdale AFC – Academy
Those that watched the FA Youth Cup game against a Category One club in Fulham on Tuesday night could not have failed to be impressed by the talent, passion and endeavour on display. Tony Ellis, Lee Thorpe and the team can be very proud of their efforts despite a narrow 4-3 defeat.
The strength in depth that we have in every age group throughout the Academy again gives us further cause for optimism for the future.
Rochdale AFC – A Community Club
While it has been a tough year on the pitch, off the pitch we are making huge strides in our strategic objective of using the power of football, and the club, to raise aspirations and transform lives. We have undoubtedly done this by growing our Football in the Community Trust Charity. As you may have seen, we recently featured on the EFL ITV highlights programme, featuring the award winning One Stop Bus that includes a food bank, sensory room, classroom and matchday activity space all in one.
In the whole debate over the Fan Led review, the recognition of the community value and social impact of smaller clubs is almost completely overlooked. I want to use this year’s Christmas message to highlight the impact that we are achieving at Rochdale despite challenges. In the last twelve months we have achieved:
- Soccer Schools and Holiday activity – 788 hours delivered, and 3,671 children engaged as well as providing 800 free meals and engaging 2,000 people virtually.
- Desmond’s Den – 520 hours of 1-to-1 sessions delivered, and 40 group sessions delivered with 57 children engaged.
- Premier League Primary stars – 228 sessions delivered, 119 PE lessons supported, 29 targeted interventions and an aggregated session attendance of 3,812.
- Premier League Kicks – 130 sessions delivered with 330 participants engaged. 64 participants took part in competitions, 31 took part in workshops.
- Disability Sport – 71 participants engaged, 116 hours of sessions, age groups between 6 and 82 participated.
- Female Football – 241 participants engaged; 76 sessions delivered age group participation 4-66.
- Community Cohesion – 44 participants, 10 families, 12-week programme and a celebration event.
- Over 50’s – 170 participants engaged, 126 hours of physical activity, 104 hours of social activity.
- Military Veterans – 73 participants engaged, 68 hours of Physical activity, 60 hours of social activity.
- Mental Wellbeing – 64 participants engaged over 4 mental wellbeing campaigns.
- Food Pantry – £2,800 of food donated before our expansion.
- Education Alternative Provision – 65 young people engaged of which 84% said it improved their confidence.
- Sports College – 100% progressed to university or employment, 100% pass rate with 50% distinction or above.
- Dale Works – 28 participants, 48 hours of delivery, 80% in education or employment.
- Traineeship – 8 participants, 360 hours of sessions, 80% in education or employment, 100% achieved a qualification.
I hope that the above gives you some idea of the reach and achievements of the club away from the pitch and it is something that we are all proud of. It is also something that will, over time, bear fruit in engaging the next generation of Dale fans.
Finally, I would like to thank George Delves and all the staff at the club for their dedication and hard work throughout the year and their continued support of the club and its role in the town.
I wish you and your families a very Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.
Up The Dale!