This year’s annual pre-season members meeting was conducted both in person at Butler’s Bar and on Zoom.
It was in two sections, with the chairman and vice-chairman taking the floor for the first part, reflecting on last season and looking ahead, followed by the manager and two players, Sam Youngs and Adam Cunnington
Part One (Paul Reed and Paul Millington)
The chairman began by pointing out that gates were up last season by 40 percent on our previous completed season. This meant we were able to maintain a strong playing budget and allowed us to be financially stable despite the impact of Covid and enabled us to bring in the likes of Jake Cass. Paul recalled we achieved our highest ever points position and points per game at Step 3.
As regards stewarding we will be utilising the professional stewards who were employed towards the end of last season and who are all first-aid trained.
We are looking at making a profit for the 2nd season running, said PR, a rarity in itself. Improved gates means additional revenue from the bar, shop etc and less reliability on one individual source of income.
The academy remains an important source of income whilst our debt position is much improved. On the field, the academy won their regional league to compete in the Champion of Champions and lost narrowly to Chelmsford who went on to win the entire competition.
Despite the women’s first team getting relegated, the women’s section is in good health especially at youth level.
As far as the community section is concerned, the Saturday morning soccer schools still attract over 100 kids while the disability section continues to grow. Our social media presence is much improved, giving us extra profile.
On the technical side, the first team players are now equipped with GPS tracking systems to ascertain how fast they run, heartbeats etc. This is used extensively for analysis by the coaching staff and represents an important innovation.
A colour promotional brochure showcasing the club and at no cost to ETFC is almost at the printing stage and will be distributed throughout the local area in the build-up to the new season.
Paul focussed on an extensive outline plan for a new 700 sq metre single storey facility, prompted by the need to expand the academy. To increase the intake, we need more accommodation. At present classrooms are restricted to the bar area and portacabins.
Planning permission has been submitted for an additional couple of cabins. Not yet formally granted but likely on condition that it would only be a temporary situation for 3 years, with a permanent solution in place by then.
The unused grassed area behind the portacabins has been identified as the most likely possibility since Butlers Bar itself is a listed building. It will include a bigger bar and the club shop and provide classrooms for the academy during the day. It will also be available for functions. Discussions are underway with the Football Foundation to see what funds might be available as well as with the LBE.
All players from last season were invited back for pre-season. Some decided not to take up the offer and the coaching staff have been working hard to identify how the gaps can be filled. PR mentioned James Dayton, Marcus Wyllie and Scott Shulton as new arrivals and later in the meeting the signing of centrehalf Ben Frempah was announced.
Team spirit last season was the best PR had ever seen and the same togetherness will be important. PR disclosed that players’ personalities were just as important a factor as playing ability when brought to the club in order to foster team spirit.
PR said there was a deliberate plan to get quality pre-season opposition and heaped praise on those who have been tending our pitch. Season ticket sales going strong, with over 100 already, while NHS season ticket offer and Go To Town has been extended.
In terms of sponsorship, WWE was always a one-season deal. Negotiations are at an advanced stage to announce a new main sponsor.
Finally, Paul introduced the concept of potentially replacing the playing surface with an artificial pitch and outlined the pros and cons.
The pros include a strong driver of revenue, potential success on the pitch (Aveley, Worthing, Dorking etc), providing a consistent playing style, saving money on hiring outside facilities and dealing with extreme weather conditions, whether winter or summer.
The risks include the need for commercial borrowing, whether supporters may be disenchanted, potential long-term injury risks, conflict with athletics at peak times and the need for more on-site presence .
In terms of costings, PR laid out the following estimates:
Installation – £600,000-700,000
Equipment/booking management system – £10,000
Extra staff – £10,000 pa
Need to save £250,000 over 10 years in order to replace the artificial pitch with another one at that point.
Total cost over 10 years would be approx £1m and PR estimates that we would need to hire the pitch out for 10 to 12 hours a week to break even.
The proposal is to engage with relevant stakeholders and then, at the agm in January, put a business plan in front of the members ahead of a potential vote.
(Part 2 of the meeting will be published tomorrow)