Killie Trust

Club Director Monthly Update - January 2021

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31/01/2021

Welcome to the latest of my regular reports. This was written prior to last night’s match, and was originally intended to be issued earlier today.  However, I wanted to make clear that I share the acute disappointment felt by supporters at recent results, and acknowledge the many communications I have received. I have again made clear the concerns and strength of feeling conveyed in those communications to my fellow Directors.

On a positive note, on behalf of the Board and everyone at Kilmarnock Football Club, I would like to thank every supporter, including those who have also signed up to the Trust, who donated to the Crowdfunder organised by the Killie Trust in conjunction with KFCSA, to defray the costs of the £10000 fine imposed by SPFL, and associated legal costs, which are estimated to be well into five figures.

This went live at 12:30 on Saturday 16th January and we were amazed that it raised £10,000 by the 3pm kick off on that day. Donations have continued to come in and are currently in excess of £22,000. This is an incredible level of support, especially in the period just after Christmas, and at a time when many people are finding their own finances stretched as a result of Covid-19 restrictions impacting on their employment.

Following suggestions from fans, the Crowdfunder has been kept open until Sunday 31st January.

This report is slightly different in format to usual, given that we had a very in-depth On Board In Person event last week where all three Club Directors and the Head of Football Operations answered questions submitted by fans.

I am aware that not everyone is able to easily access the online discussion and I have therefore summarised below some key issues from the event, along with some updated information where available. 

 

 

OBIP part 1

Current financial position of the Club and implications of Covid-19

It was confirmed that the Club has been severely impacted by costs arising from Covid-19, and not having fans able to attend matches in person. The loss for the current year is expected to be in excess of £1m.

The Club will likely apply for the loan offered to all SPFL Premiership clubs. While this was portrayed in some sections of the media as Kilmarnock FC asking Scottish Government for a £1m loan, the reference in On Board In Person was in fact to the emergency football funding scheme being made available by Scottish Government, which was announced in December 2020. Full details can be found here but essentially this scheme has provided for £20million in loans to be divided equally between SPFL Premiership clubs (approximately £1.6m per club). Grants of £500k have been provided to each Championship club, and smaller grants to lower tiers.

There has been some concern expressed that Premiership clubs are being offered loans, while Championship clubs which have similar or even greater levels of income have been given grants. The terms of loans and fine detail is still to be clarified. However, we have said that we would be likely to take a loan to help cushion cash flow issues, bearing in mind that Billy Bowie, Phyllis McLeish and the Killie Trust have already put in cash to support the running of the club this season.  A claim has also been made for Business Interruption Insurance, and the outcome is awaited.

As supporters will be aware, the outcome of the appeal against sanction for Covid-19 breach was that there would be a fine of £20,000 with £10,000 to be paid and the remainder suspended to the end of the season, and that the Motherwell match should be played. This has now been arranged for Wednesday 10th February at 7:45pm.

A key point for us was that sporting integrity was not best served by awarding points without the match being played and we were pleased that the Appeal Panel took this into account. 

During the On Board In Person interview I explained that at all times the Club had the safety and wellbeing of players and staff at the forefront, and had sought to take an approach consistent with public health. The Covid-19 protocols had been drawn up with involvement of medical, security and health and safety staff, and were very similar to those being used in other clubs.

Following the outbreak, the club did look again at what was in place internally and made changes to travel arrangements (for example utlising two coaches rather than one) and installed some additional protective measures in dressing room area.

James Fowler explained in more detail the daily checks for players and precautions taken. In addition, a weekly Covid-19 update from the Club Health and Safety Officer is circulated to all players and staff, detailing any changes in government legislation/guidance and implications of this for the Club.

In response to a question on the Club’s position on changes in SPFL Board, it was noted by Billy Bowie that this was something for discussion after we have got through the pandemic, but we have expressed how we feel as a member of the SPFL.  He felt that just now we need to keep clubs pulling together to keep football going.

Phyllis advised that shop sales have increased massively since taking retail back in house and thanked all the fans for their support.

 

OBIP part 2

Fan attendance at matches
The Panel answered a number of questions around Season Tickets and plans to get fans back into the ground when allowed.

The Board confirmed that plans are in place for when fans are allowed to return. These had been drawn up at an early stage and included a proposed one-way system for entrance and exit. The additional sanitizing stations purchased by the Killie Trust had been put to good use already and would be very useful when fans are allowed back.

Billy Bowie referred to the arrangements made for the official team photo, where seats had been marked out in advance, and anticipated that similar arrangements would have to be put in place for fans.

It was however recognised by the Board that with present pandemic situation and new variant having led to current lockdown, it was looking increasingly unlikely that fans would be returning in significant numbers this season.

It was acknowledged that this does create difficultly for the Club as, like some other clubs, the commitment to offering 19 matches ‘in person’ had been made in good faith when it was anticipated we could have had some fans back in a staged way in 2020.

The Board is considering a number of options for next season’s ticketing at present and plans to bring together a focus group involving a number of fans in a few weeks’ time, to discuss this further.  With the current uncertainty, the season ticket campaign may commence later than usual. We are keen to recognise the fans who have stuck with the club during this season and suggestions put forward already will all be considered.

 

OBIP part 3

Football Operations
 

Billy Bowie confirmed that the Board had met with the manager and funds are available for wages for a new player. Focus was on bringing in a striker and there have been players in on trial. The signing of George Oakley has since been announced and we are still looking to add to the squad if possible.

The first team budget had been well guarded, to allow the club to compete. While some other clubs had cut player wages, we have not done so. However, we did take some tough decisions at the outset of first lockdown, reviewing and restructuring within the club operations.

James Fowler described the range of work he is involved in across the whole club, including the first team, development team / Academy and women’s team, which has been brought under auspices of the Club.

James’s role includes managing staff, liaising with and providing support to the manager, arranging player loans, watching loan players, dealing with recruitment, including agents, and keeping close links with the development squad. He also works closely on day-to-day basis with the Club Secretary, media and commercial teams, speaks to a Board member at least weekly on current issues and meets with whole Board every two to three weeks on more strategic issues.  He also joins SPFL/SFA Zoom calls on behalf of the Club.

He reported that six players had gone out on loan, some to Junior sides, and some to lower division SPFL clubs. With no reserve team, this helps bridge the step from development group into first team.
Since On Board In Person, Innes Cameron has gone on loan to Alloa.

James emphasized the importance of watching all loaned-out players in action and providing support to them, as part of their pathway. Having come through Academy himself, he is passionate about the Academy and how this challenges and pushes people on.

He is also committed to forging better career/education /personal development pathways for young players, including encouraging them to do coaching badges. The work with School of Football at the McIlvanney Campus has produced very good feedback, with the academic side going well.
 
There is still no further information from SFA regarding future shape of academies, but staff are working hard to keep players engaged during these tough times, and we thank them for their efforts.
James also gave an insight into the process around recruitment of managers including the importance of tracking who is available/may be available in future, as is done with players. In his view, ‘the Ajax way’ approach is harder to implement in small clubs, but there are aspects which could be adopted, in terms of basic principles.
 
He confirmed that Eamon Brophy had been made a good offer some time ago, but the player chose to sit it out. At present he is working on possible options for players we want to keep but recognises that while offers can be made, players can choose not to sign.
He reiterated that this season is not easy – the priority player-wise is to stay in league and rebuild from there.

A player pathway needs to be developed, given the age of our squad, including bringing people through and selling. James felt strongly that it was not ideal for Billy, Phyllis and the Trust to constantly put cash in just to keep going.  Pre-contracts might be used, although they are not legally binding. The scouting network is being built up to keep track of potential targets in Scotland and elsewhere.

James said that Brexit has brought some potential challenges. He hopes there will still be the option to bring in from abroad, but the main focus now is UK players.

 

OBIP part 4

General Club activities
The panel discussed current set up, with club having small Board.

Billy has been in regular contact with a lot of business owners in Ayrshire, many of which are going through tough times. He has had conversations with sponsors to see what more they can do but noted that sponsors and many advertisers have stuck by the Club, and perhaps these routes are the limit of what people can do.

A small Board means we are in regular contact with each other and are hands-on. We now have a good group of Heads of Department who take on roles a CEO would do. But it was made clear by all that if anyone out there who genuinely wishes to invest, they would be welcome to get in touch!  There have been no queues forming so far.

Billy is keen to try to hit the ground running when we get out of the Covid-19 restrictions as regards stadium and training facilities. The planning application is still pending for nine -a-side pitch behind the Moffat Stand. Developments may not initially be as originally planned but there is an aspiration still to take plans forward.

James spoke about his experiences elsewhere and the value of a club having its own facility, which could also involve Academy players in closer working day-to-day with the first team.

Going forward, the Directors want to see KFC challenge for top three, but this season needs to be realistic, with the aim of being in top six if possible, while recognising that main priority is to stay in the Premiership.

The aspiration is to play good football, have young players come through into first team, have a good, sustainable business model and also play part in local community.

Work is currently being done to pull together a vision statement and forward plan to rebuild from the Covid-19 pandemic.  This will be discussed further at the AGM.

In response to a specific question about honouring the late David Sneddon, Billy said he would consider options. The plan is to work with Hall of Fame committee and supporters to look at ways of recognising Killie legends throughout the stadium.

Fans had again asked about how to help the club financially. Various ways of investing including via shares, ‘Trust In Killie’, supporting retail and the Killie Cares Fund are all helpful.  KFCSA organised a raffle of a signed Chris Burke shirt which added to the crowdfunding efforts and other similar fundraisers may be possible.

Suggestions have been made for a virtual half time draw.  I have raised this with the Club, but there are some issues around the legislation governing lotteries which make it less straightforward than it first appears, so we are looking at what might be feasible.  Other options such as souvenir ‘tickets’ for Cup games will also be explored.

Directors again thanked the Trust for their support, and Billy stated that he would join!

The Trust Chair emphasized that ‘Trust in Killie’ has only one mission - to raise money for club. The Trust is now a part-owner and therefore has responsibility to help solve problems.  James has been relaying Trust support to Manager and team and is sure that they will do what they can to show appreciation. It was great to see Chris Burke provide a pair of his boots to go along with his shirt for the KFCSA competition.

The event concluded with brief discussion aout the recent racist abuse suffered by the Manager, and fans were thanked for the way they had responded. The wording of the ‘Super Killie’ song was felt to be outdated and, in today’s context, offensive. The Trust Board have taken a stance against it and the Club Board echoed the view that it should be ditched.

Show Racism the Red Card have commended the Club and supporters for their response to the racist letter sent to the Manager and are seeking to work with us on initiatives when Covid-19 restrictions allow. Therefore, now is a good time to get the message across that the song is not welcomed at Rugby Park.

 

Commercial update
At the recent Club Board meeting an update on commercial activity to end of December 2020 was provided. Retail has continued to be strong with replica shirts selling well. Over 2000 home and 1500 away shirts have been purchased, which is much stronger than at same point in previous years.

The Christmas jumper also sold well as has the 150th anniversary book, which has become the best-selling book in the Club’s history.

The Killie Ltd range of leisure wear has also broken records and is continuing to sell extremely well. With new designs and adaptions to the apparel lines coming soon, we’re sure there will be plenty to look forward to as we head towards next season.

The new Killie Tartan snood, which we have created in partnership with McCallum Bagpipes, has also been very popular with the first batch almost sold out and more on the way. An exclusive, limited run of both Retro strips (1965 & 1985) are due back in stock soon and we expect one more to be released before the end of this current season.

Over 400 Blue Bricks have now been purchased.  While the first batch has been installed, the weather has delayed further work on the remainder. However, it is hoped, weather permitting, to have these completed by end of the month.

With retail operations now run in-house, it has meant a larger percentage of profit is being reinvested into the club, which has been particularly welcome this year. It has also meant that we have far more control over our margins and the suppliers we use. If you or anyone you know would like to approach the Club to propose a potential partnership, please email [email protected]

 

Media and Communications
As part of our evolving Killie TV offering for fans, club captain Gary Dicker and midfielder Rory McKenzie have joined the commentary team for matches against Hamilton and Hibernian respectively.

While naturally we’d rather see the guys out on the pitch, we hope that this has helped to give supporters additional insight through a player’s perspective of the match.

The media team have been talking to supporters as part of an upcoming ‘Killie Rituals’ series, which will launch on both the club website and match programme at the start of February, telling supporters’ stories as they follow the club from home through the pandemic.

Our match programme against Hamilton was dedicated to David Sneddon with his picture adorning the cover and included comprehensive details of his immense contribution to Killie, provided by Club historian John Livingston.

Introductory interviews took place with new signings Diaguely Dabo and George Oakley.

 

Annual accounts and AGM
Our annual accounts are currently with Auditors for consideration and final version to be completed. Due to the impact of Covid-19, the SPFL has extended the deadline for submission of accounts to end March 2021.  We are therefore looking towards end of March for AGM to take place. Given the current restrictions, this will require to be held online, and various platforms are being looked at, to ensure we have something which is straightforward to use.
 

 

Contacts
I can be contacted in the usual ways:

Email: [email protected]
Facebook: Cathy Jamieson
Twitter: @cathyjamieson
Instagram: cathyjamiesonkillie

Best wishes

Cathy

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