Below are the main points from James Leary's presentation to the open forum last Friday:
JAMES LEARY – CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
It has been a tough few weeks for everybody at the club. We need to make sure that having gone through relegation, that it hasn’t been in vain, and we come back bigger, better, stronger and more united than ever before.
Structure Change - CEO
As most people will now know we changed the structure of the club in December and created a new Chief Executive Role.
Marine is a very well run club and is widely recognised as being so and I have full respect to the Committee who have dedicated most of their lives to it and still put an endless amount of hours in, they are a class act.
However there are gaps in things that Marine could do which has meant we have fallen behind in certain areas compared to other clubs, particularly in the last five or six years.
The first reason for the new role therefore was to address this and try to not only bring Marine back on an even keel to those clubs, but to try and get us ahead of the game.
The second is that football is moving at an ever increasing pace and a Committee structure sometimes makes it difficult to keep to that. The Chief Executive role has now given me the flexibility to get on with things then report back to the Committee for final approval.
Review of EVERYTHING Marine
Since I started at the end of December I have been looking at everything from scratch and with a blank piece of paper, including;
Location – Is the MTA the stadium we want to be playing at for the next 50/100 years? If the answer is “no”, what other locations are there? Is the land available? If the answer is “yes”, how can we move forward so that there is no limit and ceiling to where the club could go? Since I can remember there has been a stigma and limit to how high the club can progress. This stifles ambitions and kills dreams. We need to believe and dream that one day we can get to whatever level we can without knowing that we can only get one promotion and that’s the ceiling.
What changes therefore need to be made so that we can have the structure and facilities to play at any level of football?
Dave McMillan responded to a question after the presentation to confirm that the club from the summer onwards will be of Conference North standard (Grade B). We can also get to the standard of Conference National with additional improvements, subject to finance and planning (Grade A). A three sided ground is NOT an issue, provided all other aspects comply eg capacity, seats, number of turnstiles etc.
In all of my searches for land which involved many meetings, I believe there is only one location in Crosby which is a perfect site for Marine to move to. That site is now not available as a site for a full ground move which was disappointing for me as I had a financial model which I thought worked to finance it and believed it was a great opportunity and would have increased our income substantially.
So in the absence of a move, how can we build a structure worthy of a team that could compete at the top of the Conference North? What stadium changes do we need? Do we look to a 3G solution either at the ground or on an external hub site? I have identified two sites that could be used as a sports hub and are having talks now with the landowners and other parties. Sefton is the only council area in the country which doesn’t have a single new full size 3G pitch (or 4G as most people refer to it).
I believe we need to generate an additional £70-£80k per year income to be sure of competing at the top of the Evo-Stik Premier Division. The wage budget isn’t everything and I’ll come on to the other things we are changing, but it is obviously a massive part of it.
I am exploring every opportunity to achieve this and welcome any ideas people have in helping push this forward. We have increased the wage budget by nearly 25% in the last twelve months and will continue to try and push this up over the next couple of years.
Where can we reduce our costs? How can we be more efficient? How can we reduce our costs drastically to again try and put as much in to the budget as possible? I am speaking to a few companies in specific areas to help achieve this. For starters I need somebody who is an expert in renewable energies so if anybody has any contacts let me know.
How can we improve the football structure from where it is now?
- Reserve Team – I have submitted an application to the West Cheshire league to reform our reserve team for next season and beyond. This is subject to our preferred choice of ground being accepted and a couple of other issues being resolved.
- Football professionalism – on and off field. Neil has worked hard since he has arrived to improve the professionalism and build a football structure on and off the pitch and has made good progress. This is why continuity was important as we try to build the club over the coming years. This is also why I was gutted/devastated/disappointed that we went down as I really felt that we were at a turning point but I will not get the chance to prove it, for the time being at least.
- Link to soccer academy – we now have a link with one of the largest soccer academies in Liverpool who have been supplying a team from outside of Merseyside who play around our level and have just been promoted.
I couldn’t work out why a Liverpool soccer academy was supplying good quality players to a team at our level outside of Merseyside. I met the owner who said he was being ignored by the local teams – we now have that link and they will continue to provide us with good quality players to look at.
We got Dylan Sumner and Brett Mbalanda from the link with them. They have plenty of players who have been released from football league clubs, international players etc. This partnership will grow over the coming years.
Where do we want to be? What do we want to achieve?
I am sick to death of people saying we are going backwards as a club…we have no ambition…we are going nowhere…other clubs are pushing ahead of us etc etc etc. I understand people saying it as the results on the pitch in last five or six seasons speak for themselves, and our PR are a club is nowhere near good enough so people can’t see what the plan is and this is something we need to address over the next couple of months.
However, I am not starting at 5.30am/6am most mornings and working a few evenings every week to be involved in an Evo-Stik Division One club. I’ve not chosen to stay with Marine rather than move to another Football League club for the club to go backwards.
Neil has managed his last few clubs in Conference North or Conference National and hasn’t come to Marine to be an Evo-Stik Division One manager either.
We want to push on and build a football club capable of competing at a much higher level and without an upper limit to where we can get to. That is what I am trying to do and do it in a different way as we haven’t got rich backers like some clubs. I will stay in the role for 3 years; if things are in a better position and people can see progress I will stay.
Progression plan – Target Conference North and beyond
We have got to now build the structure to push us forward as a club in all areas. I mentioned before needing an extra £70-£80k of income as a big part of what we need to do. I list below a list of things we have already done or are doing to push this wage budget forward:
- Car Park Pay and Display – we now take 100% of income that comes in to the machine. This is a good and sustainable income for the club.
- Hospitality – this season we started hospitality and were I believe the only team to have done this in our league on that scale. It generated thousands for the club plus a good bar take each time, as well as an extra 25-50 on the gate as most people weren’t Marine regulars.
- Hire of Boardroom as classroom – we hired out the boardroom as a classroom for £1k per month to a college for a couple of years until last year. This is now being rented by the Community Trust.
- Hire opportunities in new building - I see comments that we need to stop the ground redevelopment and put money into the first team. Apart from the fact the building that has just been demolished was about to blow over with the next gust of wind and there are new facilities in it such as a manager’s office, steward room that we want and need, the majority of the cost has been paid by grant funding from FSIF and Sefton Council, and from it there are hire opportunities, so this will provide sustainable income for years to come.
- Table Tennis – from next week Bath Street Table Tennis club are relocating to a new building on the other side of car park. We have a new rental agreement on a long lease so this will also provide sustainable income.
- University Link – last week I signed an agreement with a University who have created a unique course which is a B.A. degree in “Footballing Studies” in partnership with Marine. I have been in talks for 5 months with the University and the press release will be issued by the university in the near future. As part of the course the students will learn different modules all connected with football including nutrition, match analysis, physiotherapy, coaching etc etc. They will also get a coaching experience provided by Marine and the players will feed into our reserve team.
This will be for people who want a career in football in either playing or non-playing roles and may include players who have been released by other clubs. In the first year we are targeting 15, so in the second year we will have 30 students (1st year intake plus 2nd year) and in third year we will have 45 students.
We will get a fixed fee per student so this will hopefully be a good income stream. The risk though is that we don’t recruit the students particularly with us now being in May we have a short window, but if we can recruit the numbers this will be big for the club.
I am exploring every option to improve our incomes. Some things work, some don’t, but if I try 3 or 4 different things and only 1 or 2 work then it is worth it. There are other things which are big that I am also in discussions with but I will keep them confidential until they (hopefully) are delivered.
Below is a list of some of things which haven’t worked:
- Car Wash
- Market on car park
- “The Mariner” – former College Road supper bar
I mention things that haven’t worked to show that I am trying every single thing I possibly can to generate income for the club. If anybody has any suggestions then just get in touch with me. I am sick of hearing that the club is a closed shop and don’t want to listen to ideas. I am desperate for them and want to hear them – and if people can get involved in helping implementing them it would be even better. I will keep trying things – some will work, some wont but I will keep trying to find out the things that will.
A final thing on income to mention is sponsorship. We don’t do badly on sponsorship compared to other clubs at our level, but I think there is £10k+ out there of inventory we have to sell that we currently aren’t.
I see comments like the club needs more people with business acumen to do things like sell sponsorship – where are they?
We put an advert for a Commercial Manager on the website / facebook / twitter and recruited three different ones but the people have left soon after. As this method of recruitment didn’t work, I tried to recruit on recruitment site Indeed in January. 25 applied, I interviewed five and took on one but it didn’t work and they left soon after.
Selling at our level is a hard slog and unless people love the club the financial rewards just don’t make it worthwhile. The only alternative is to take on a paid Commercial Manager but there wouldn’t be a return.
I am therefore keen for people to come in who think they can do it. This isn’t a closed shop – I want people to get involved at any level and I will continue to look for the business people who want to get involved.
So that is the short-term items that I am looking at to try and drive up incomes.
In terms of the medium and long term plans we are looking to:
Build Structure for top 11 Conference North and beyond – through a variety of ways:
(a) Increase support
1) Increase support by Hospitality, Crosby Stuart and Other Partnerships
We need to keep creating more and more partnerships and pushing community. The partnership with Crosby Stuart generated an extra 30-50 people on the gate each match. They also use the function rooms regularly and we have a great relationship which will grow over the coming years. Hospitality also put a substantial number on the gate.
2) Increase support by momentum through winning
I think every Saturday home game since January we had around 500, despite only winning four home games all season. Imagine what we can get to if we get it right on the pitch. Our home form will be crucial to this and our promotion challenge this year.
3) Increase support by improved PR
We need to improve our PR from where it is today as a club. It is way off and is something we need to work on during the summer and we are looking to address.
(b) Increase wage budget
Vitally important to generate the increased income over the coming years to allow us to really compete financially with a lot of clubs who may have surpassed us in the last few years
(c) 3G Solution
We need to look at a 3G solution either in our current ground or externally. There are endless benefits including rental income and so that our first team could train on our own facilities locally and not have to pay fees and train on the other side of Liverpool. I have had meetings over this with several people in last few months and am looking to progress further in May.
(d) Community trust
In February I recruited Graeme Gardiner as Community Director. I am so excited by the progress we have made. I only look at Accrington Community Trust (turnover £500k), Bury Community Trust (turnover £1m) and see the potential as the income generated goes back into the community which creates a massive impact locally.
It doesn’t matter whether you are Accrington, Bury, Marine or Manchester United, you can still access similar grants and have the same impact on the community side. I have made a personal investment to launching this.
Again, we need to look at the PR side in getting out there what we are doing, but we are already coaching in a primary school with player Will Dunne and we are about to sign up another three schools. By September I want us to be coaching in at least half a dozen schools and have taken on a full-time coach to support this.
Outside of this there is plenty of community stuff we are doing – ee are starting a Crosby walking club on 6th June, a volunteer committee to push activities locally, sporting memories sessions to help local people with Alzheimer’s and several others.
e) Education Programme
We have got to look to expand the education programme and maximise the rewards from it. The university scheme will help towards that.
The key to the above points, is that a 3G solution, Community Trust and education are all interlinked. The successful clubs who have really grown (Basford, Hyde, several Conference teams and so on) have done it through pushing all three together.
With your Community Trust, you can start walking football, disabled football and lots more and you can use your 3G pitch to provide it.
With education with a football element you can use your 3G pitch rather than now where we use a facility in Fazakerley.
These three areas, if we get them right and working together, will result in substantial progress for the club.
I just need now to give it everything to try and make it a reality.
Now is the time, we have got to push forward as a football club together and be united.
The club motto Vis Unita Fortior (united in strength) has never been more relevant.
We need to continue to build the structures and get moving forwards as a football club, TOGETHER. If ANYBODY wants to get involved in the club and help us on that path then get in touch – 07800509593 my email address is email@example.com.