Dundalk Chairman Ciarán Bond stated that “the sky’s the limit” for the Lilywhites, as he asked supporters to continue to get behind the club.
Bond was speaking at a fans’ forum held at Oriel Park on Thursday evening, when he gave an update on how the club has performed off the pitch, where they have posted a profit from November to April.
“We’re asking the supporters to once again get behind the club,” Bond said, as he urged people to row in behind the upcoming Celtic Legends Match on Saturday 22 June.
“This club can progress. The sky’s the limit for this club, but it will only happen when we basically set up a Membership Scheme that we need to address going forward.
“We will have details shortly about it. It’s something similar to what Shamrock Rovers and Sligo, and even Drogheda United, have.
“It’s an open door in Oriel Park. Anyone can come up here, like tonight, ask a question and get an answer. If they’re not happy with an answer, ask the question again and give us a hand in any activity.”
Season ticket sales
On the night, it was confirmed that the Season Ticket sales for 2013 total 574. Bond stated that that figure did not “meet their expectations”, although he said they “probably set them a wee bit too high”.
574 is included in the club’s attendances figures irrespective of if all Season Ticket holders attend the game, Bond stating that this was due to FAI protocol. 574 is an increase of 285 on 2012 figures, a rise he felt was “excellent”.
“That equated to about €79,000,” he added. “We had budgeted for €85,000, so we were about €6,000 short. Having said that, to hit that sort of figure, we were quite happy.
“Going along with that, we started pre-season in January and we have been paying the players since February. A lot of League of Ireland clubs don’t do that; they actually pay them in the first week of the season.
“We decided this year, because it’s a relatively new club and the players Stephen (Kenny) tried to attract, that it was in our best interests when we’re competing against Dublin clubs.
“We felt that paying them in February would give us a better chance of signing these players.
“One of the reasons Richie Towell signed was he was on the dole and basically because he could get paid in the first week of February – that tipped the scales in our favour, as opposed to going to Saint Patrick’s Athletic, who actually offered him more money.”
Bond revealed that the club were “well over budget” on their gate receipts so far, with the likes of Shamrock Rovers, Drogheda United and Sligo Rovers all having visited in the opening weeks of the season.
“When you sell more Season Tickets, you expect your gate income to be reduced, but the opposite has happened,” he said.
“Our €6,000 deficit in terms of Season Tickets has been overshadowed by our gate receipts, which have been excellent so far, topped at 2,598, which was the game against Shamrock Rovers.
“But on the Tuesday night after Easter, to bring in 2,200 to the Sligo game was tremendous, considering it was a Tuesday night and we only had 69 Sligo Rovers supporters here.”
Bond, though, conceded that the second round of fixtures will see a “flipside” as they now welcome the less attractive teams.
“When the fixtures came out, we decided that this middle period is going to be the most crucial in terms of finance,” he said.
“If we’ve only got two home games and it’s costing us approximately €10-12,000 a week – depending on the week – to run the club, and you’ve only got two home games in nearly six weeks, it’s going to be a financial shortfall.”
Bond added that that prospect is “daunting” but that the Champions League Draw, which was won by Keith McKeown on the night, and the Poker Classic and Celtic Legends Match, which both take place in June, will help alleviate the pressure.
“We’ve said from the outset that the most important thing this year is to stabilise the team on the pitch and the club off the pitch,” he said.
“To me, the biggest achievement of the new Board, and with the consortium, would be to break even this year.
“While we don’t have a massive budget probably in comparison to the top three to four teams, or even five teams, in this league, we have spent an awful of money outside that people might not see.
“For instance, we have Graham Byrne here who is getting paid. He’s a full-time Strength and Conditioning Coach with the club, and you can see it in the fitness levels of the players. That’s down to us investing that money in Graham.
“Every game this year that we play away, the players get a pre-match meal in a hotel and an after-match meal. That was something that was agreed with Stephen in the beginning when he agreed to come.
“He said ‘look, we have got to make the club more professional, we have got to treat these young players that are coming from Scottish or English teams back here, and show them that we’re at that same level as where they came from’.
“Plus the fact that we’ve got Vinny (Perth) on board and we’ve got Gerry Spain as Scout – it all costs money but, at the same time, a combination of all those factors have put us where we are today.
“While you might say it’s a €6-7,000 budget depending on what week it falls on, with who plays and who doesn’t play, the bottom line is it’s costing a lot more than that when you look at the overall package and what basically the first-team structures entail.”
Bond stated that strengthening the team in the July transfer window in a bid to push on in the second part of the season is a “high-risk strategy” that they are not “ruling in or out at the moment”, with stabilisation the priority for this season.
He hopes that the club will be in a financial position to offer contract renewals for 2014 in “September or October”.
The Chairman also thanked the departing Kevin Holland, who this week stood down from his position as Secretary, FAI Representative and Bar Manager, with his role in recently doubling the Lotto sales particularly appreciated by Bond.
In the interim, Colm Murphy will take over as Secretary, while Des Dunleavy will be FAI Representative.