DUNDALK FC Financial Director Ciaran Bond has outlined the current financial difficulties facing the club but he has denied rumours that Ian Foster’s playing budget has been reduced.
Foster was present at a board meeting on Thursday night where he was informed that no money would be made available to bring in new faces in the July transfer window.
With a crippling injury list, Bond said it was difficult decision for the board to make, but, given the current difficulties facing the Lilywhites, he said releasing funds that are simply not available would put the future of the football club in doubt.
“We had a board meeting on Thursday night and it was agreed that we would maintain the current playing budget until the end of the season”, he explained.
“The board have taken a brave step with this decision. Quite simply we are at a stage where we can’t afford to increase the budget. If we were more prudent we would reduce it but considering we have five players out injured at the minute, that would be a very difficult pill to swallow. People have to remember that those players are still getting paid. We’re not getting the benefit of those players on the pitch and we’re also losing out on the financial side.”
The major problem facing the club stems from falling attendances. Only 576 people turned up for the FAI Cup Third Round tie with Galway United recently and although there were 1900 and 1300 respectively at the Drogheda United and St Patrick’s Athletic games last week, Bond said those figures were masking a disturbing reality.
“From a financial point of view the figures have not been good at all. The gates from the Drogheda and St Pat’s games combined would only pay the playing budget for one week. We expect one home game to pay the playing budget for one week. That was very worrying.
“Sponsorship is also down”, he added. “Each game is sponsored but the amount we receive is considerably less than what we used to receive. Advertising is considerably down, all you have to do is look at the programme and you will see evidence of that.”
Bond also spoke frankly about the prize money and gate receipts generated from last season’s Europa League campaign and this year’s run to the Setanta Cup final.
“The thing about qualifying for Europe last year was that the majority of the money we received was spent on updating the ground and at the end of the season we will be upgrading the floodlights to European standard. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t make it this season because all the refurbishments are in place. Anything we would make from a future European campaign would be a profit, bar the travelling expenses.
“As for the Setanta Cup,Linfield was an extraordinary game, attendance-wise, and the Glentoran and Cliftonville matches were also very good crowd wise but they were preceded with home games that suffered as a result. In recent weeks, the Bray game at Oriel Park was the lowest here in four years and the Galway game in the FAI Cup was very poor. That has meant that the Setanta Cup money has been swallowed up. The money from the Setanta Cup games have merely compensated for the drop in revenue from the league games.”
To counter the falling ‘day to day’ income, the club are set to officially announce a number of fundraisers. Bond says the primary objective of these events is to wipe out the current deficit hanging over the club.
“I think there is an onus on everybody now to try and increase our revenue streams in different areas. We have a ‘Dundalk Legends’ v ‘Liverpool Legends’ game coming up in August, a five-a-side tournament and Take Me Out in September. It’s imperative that people out there know that these fundraising events are huge in order for the club to move forward.
“It’s catch 22, we know that”, he added. “If we go out and offer Ian Foster money for players then we may not have a club in November. If we stay where we are we need to ensure that our fundraisers are a success, otherwise we will find ourselves going forward with a deficit that might not be reduced or wiped out, but may actually be increased. That would put us in a worse situation for next year.”
Bonds feels that wiping out the current deficit would put Dundalk in a great position to challenge for the league title next year. Income from this year’s season tickets was used mainly to reduce the debt. If that was to disappear, the funding would instead be used to supplement the playing budget.
“That’s the light at the end of the tunnel”, said Bond. “If we can break even then we would be in a very strong position next year because the season ticket money would go straight into the playing budget.
“People say you shouldn’t rely on the attendances to pay the playing budget but unfortunately that’s what we have to do. The players budget is almost 60% of the total cost of running the club. If we didn’t have that eating up our match-day income we could be on a different level.
“The club have made great strides in reducing the debt”, he added. “Two years ago it was 200k and last year it was reduced by 50%. There was loans given to the club which the club has honoured to date. By the end of this this year we hope to have those loans finished.
“I think it’s important that the people of Dundalk know, that if they want a team to challenge the likes of Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers, it all boils down to one thing, and that is increased revenue.”