I write these notes, the first of 2023, full of optimism for our football club, I have a feeling deep inside that this is going to be a good year as things begin to take shape on and off the pitch.
Tomorrow (Saturday) we have another very tough match, our first of three consecutive games against genuine title contenders, when we welcome Bracknell Town to The Meadow – our third game against them this season having lost to them in the FA Cup after a replay, and recording an away league win. As we move into the new year the league table is beginning to take shape and you can be assured that tomorrow’s opponents will be up there in the mix with a number of games in hand on the back of their excellent FA Cup run.
Boxing Day was hugely disappointing, especially in front of such a large crowd, but I am hopeful that was just a blip. The players put in extra training after that result and bounced back with a win at North Leigh on Monday. A game we were always in control of, the 3-2 scoreline sounding much closer than the game ever was, or should have been.
The team is looking in good health and I was absolutely delighted this week that we were able to announce that Liam Ferdinand has made his move to us permanent following the end of his loan spell from Farnborough. Liam has spent the last month on loan at the Meadow, scoring against North Leigh on Monday to open his account with the club. A prolific goal scorer at our level, Liam scored 25 goals last season for high-flying Metropolitan Police, before moving to promoted Farnborough. Another example of how we are backing the managers to maintain our push for promotion.
The football is without doubt the most exciting part of the job as Chairman (when it is going well at least), but the most important job for myself and the Board is to maintain the financial viability of the club and not get carried away throwing money at a successful first team whilst all around the rest of the club falls apart and falls into financial debt. It sounds obvious, but you see it happen on a regular basis.
At the start of every season we set out a budget for the club that we believe we can maintain throughout the year if we get all income streams and cost controls working in our favour. We monitor that carefully month by month to check that we can afford to fund the best quality team that we can for the enjoyment of supporters, to raise the profile of the club and the town, and of course the knock-on effects of increased gate receipts, bar takings etc if we are near the top of the league. It is important to not let the heart rule over the head. I don’t think it is any secret that over the years the budget tends to start out optimistic and ambitious with the hope of being able to plug the projected shortfall with prize money, better than expected income or failing all that the acceptance that Directors may be required to dip into our own pockets if things do not go to plan.
The desire is to remove the need for individual donations and make the club more self-sustainable, and I am really pleased with what we have achieved over the past year to increase revenue streams to make the club considerably more financially viable and enable us to support a football team that can have genuine ambition to progress. Just this week I have had conversations with a television company that will be looking to use the premises for a few days, this will bring in a potential five-figure sum to the club. This is on top of other significant contributions from hiring out our facilities, including the use of the clubhouse by a local nursery, the groundshare arrangement with Aylesbury United and the arrangement with We Buy Any Car. All of this has made a significant contribution to the stability of the club and enabled us as Directors to start focusing on other areas, such as the One Club vision being developed, rather than constantly looking over our shoulders as to how we are going to be able to afford the next bill.
I share this information to give you an insight into what we have been doing, please don’t misinterpret that as meaning that the club is rolling in cash and does not need any more sponsorship, increased crowds, donations, hires of the clubhouse, purchases of beer and merchandise…these are all really important cogs in the wheel that keep us going! However, the hard work that has gone into generating the additional income has enabled us to switch some of our focus.
As an example, I am immensely proud of our partnership with Bucks Mind and the contributions we as a club, thanks to your magnificent support, have been able to make. As well as raising awareness we have raised some considerable financial donations and will continue to do so in 2023 including a real scoop in being able to bring the magnificent Treorchy Male Choir to St Mary’s Church in Chesham in June. Tickets will be priced at £25, we are limited to 250-280 tickets, and 100% of proceeds will be going directly to Bucks Mind.
Also in 2022 we launched our Players Injury & Rehabilitation Benevolent Fund which has been set-up to help our players who pick up an injury and find themselves faced with hefty medical bills or loss of income. Remember, our players are only part-time, and all have other day jobs. Like the vast majority of players at our level, they are not on contract which effectively means that the club are under no obligation to pay any wages whilst they are out injured, or help financially with recuperation. That is the norm at football clubs at this level. We want Chesham United to be different. We want to be recognised as a club that looks after our players and values their contribution. This fund enables us to do that. Our forthcoming Race Night on 4th February, compèred by Alex Horne, will be raising money for this, as well as for the running of our Ladies and Youth sections.
These are the differences we are able to make by increasing the income of the club and broadening our community connections. We now have a strong Board of six Directors with so much going on behind the scenes to grow the non-football side of the club, and the wonderful thing is, as we grow off the field, it has the snowball effect of enabling us to field a stronger team on the pitch. At this time of year we would normally be looking at the playing budget and wondering when we should cut it, yet instead we are in a position where we are strengthening the squad with the likes of Liam Ferdinand and Omar Rowe. It might not be obvious to everyone, but to us, that feels like a tremendous sense of achievement. A long way to go, but we are heading in the right direction.
For that I thank you, and everyone that has made 2022 so special. Let’s make 2023 even better and create some more fantastic memories.
Peter Brown, Chairman