There may not be any Wildcats action this week with a week’s rest as the eight remaining teams battle it out in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup, but it’s still a busy time at the Wildcats.
We spoke to Chairman Andrew Glover about the latest at the club.
As ever Andrew, there have been a lot of rumours and speculation surrounding the club and particularly so recently. What’s the latest in regards to the clubs finances?
We’ve always said we’ll be transparent in what we do and in business cash is king and obviously when it’s good the company will do well, and when it’s bad, the company will struggle. Our cash flow has taken a couple of massive hits this season, firstly with our main club sponsor going bust owing us £240,000 and our biggest revenue generating fixture of the season against Leeds Rhinos being postponed due to the snow.
We have been lucky enough to get a new Main Club Sponsor with C&D Cleaning Services who I must say have been brilliant. However, at the time Eric France went out of business we were already massively out of pocket. Due to both this and the postponement of the Leeds game, our cash flow has been dented by more than £300,000 and that has naturally hit us hard.
Another large impact we have had on our cash is a legal battle we have had with one of our suppliers. We are nearly at the end of it and hopefully have reached a point of compromise. This has cost us a lot in both time and money and has been a real drain on cash resources.
The legalities attached to this have created further complications with certain creditors and as such HMRC will advertise a winding up petition on the 11th July. This debt will be repaid before any action and we had hoped they would accept our payment terms without advertising the information. It’s been a particularly tough six months but we’re getting there.
There have also been a number of CCJ’s against the company. Some of these are through disagreements with suppliers and others are through straightforward mistakes on our behalf. There have been nine in total, of which eight are now settled and cleared. We are still waiting for the final paperwork to come through for the last one, and then it will be cleared off.
What has the club put in place to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again?
We have evaluated our operation and made changes to our account and financial control, appointing a new accountant who will sit on the board and a management accountant who will work in the business.
We are also getting to the point where we will be launching our season tickets in full which should bring in close to £400,000 of cash, again putting us back in a positive cash position. The offers we have for fans this year are going to be launched in the next couple of weeks, with some full payment cash discounted tickets and some ‘buy now, pay later’ options, which we hope will encourage even more people to take up membership for the 2014 season.
We’ve listened to fans feedback on the renewal period and we’re extending that opportunity to buy at the cheaper prices until the end of the month. Details of how the season ticket prices will work after that will be announced in the next week or so.
The plus side is that we are getting to the good months and have battled through the tough ones, and with our plans for the future we are confident that we can pull it around and keep the wheels on the track.
Are there any more sponsorship deals in the pipeline that could help facilitate this?
Our sponsorship deals have all been good this year with most of them going through into the 2014 season too. That allows our sales department to concentrate on bringing new customers in and looking after the current ones. Our corporate sales have seen a 15% growth this year which I feel is a great improvement considering the state of the economy at the moment.
I’d like to thank supporters who have signed up for Foxy Bingo. The club gets a bonus from every sign up and we have been the leading club in Super League for that so far.
As always, we will welcome any new sponsorship or investment into the club, so please feel free to talk to us.
Aside from the challenging financial situation, how do you feel the club is operating in general at this moment in time?
It probably seems a strange thing to say after talking about the finances as they are but things are going well. The coaching staff are doing a great job and the playing staff are on a real roll. We have an opportunity to get into the top eight now and with the current form, we all feel like we can achieve that.
There are a number of our Academy players are becoming shining lights too with plenty of potential for the future. The Club 1873 Lottery scheme has been a massive help for this, as all the funds come from it go directly into that department and it was a real highlight of the year to see that scheme allow us to sign Ben Shulver on a first team deal. That’s what it’s all about.
We still need more members as the Academy costs us over £200,000 per year. We have around 1,000 members now which is fantastic, but we need to get that number up to 2,000 to make that department shine. We’ve brought someone in who has experience in what is a bit of a niche role and challenged them to really maximise what this offers to us as a club and what we offer in return to the members.
As you say, it’s not all doom and gloom and something on the horizon is Newmarket. There’s been a lot of work going on behind the scenes, so what’s the latest?
Our plans are well underway and we have commissioned a company called Stadimax to aid us through the process as we obviously have no experience in building stadia. Stadimax have been instrumental in building most of the recent stadiums around the country, with Wembley, the Amex Arena in Brighton and the KC Stadium to name just a few.
Our intentions are to build the stadium to be self sufficient with most of the space being rented out to other companies such as gyms, leisure activities and maybe a couple of retailers. Dependant on further planning permissions, we also have some much larger plans, with the potential of running a large amount of education through it and even the opportunity of an exhibition centre and hotel being run from the site.
There are still a lot of hills to climb for the full plans but they are well underway. We are in nearly daily contact with Yorkcourt Properties and Wakefield Council and are forming a good team of support around us. There is a real will to get this stadium built and more to the point, built correctly.
The new Sport & Education Academy opening in September is something that will help the club work towards becoming a sustainable business. What can you tell us about that?
This is an area of massive growth for us. We are well underway in creating our own college here at the ground specialising in education around Sport. We are running 2 BTEC courses from September, with around 50 students in the first year. Where could be better to learn about a career in sport than surrounded by some of the finest athletes around?
We are also going through validation at the moment to allow us to run a Foundation Degree course from the site. We should find out in the next week or so that this has been approved.
Our intentions are to start this year with around 12 students on the course, allowing us the opportunity to give a really high level of on the job training in a controlled environment and give us time to grow for next year. Overall, we would like to educate around 200 students per year from this site, allowing us growth in to the new stadium with numbers around the 500 mark moving forward.
All the education side is being helped by our partners Backstage Academy based in South Kirby. They specialise in Live Events training and are actually going to be using the Rapid Solicitors Stadium next year to host a large percentage of their courses. This year, they have 120 students taking their Foundation Degree, of which 60 will be housed here.
The educational side really does help the club be a 365 day business, rather than a 13 game day business, which has always been our battle. There have been months and months of planning for this and we are happy to say we are nearly there.
Finally, what can the supporters do to help the club continue to move forward?
It’s easy – keep giving their support. We need people to keep coming down in numbers, spending in our shop, join the Club 1873 scheme, bring friends down with you to grow our fan base and generally get behind the team.
So far, they have all been fantastic and a real credit to the club. Let’s not forget, supporters are the lifeblood of any sports club and our slogan ‘Together We Are Stronger’ is something that we should always be aware of.
This is Wakefield. Together We Are Stronger.