Serendipity

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What Next?

It’s funny how things rattle around in your mind. Following recent postings on Pasoti from the likes of Tyhee Slim bemoaning the apparent lack of ambition shown by Argyle recently and drawing parallels with the lack of success and ultimate failure of the club following the promotions achieved by Tony Waiters, Dave Smith and Neil Warnock’s teams. I started to ponder our oft mentioned potential. There have also been lots of postings from a host of contributors complaining about the loss of the “feel good factor” since the two euphoric promotions. There has been an air of resignation and despair at witnessing a “here we go again” scenario. The team has struggled, the manager has been changed and the board has conspicuously avoided any serious and obvious investment. Having said all that things are currently on the up again and the aim of consolidation in this division looks like it will be achieved for the second successive year.

What can be done to reinvent/reinforce the feel good factor? Obviously results are first and foremost. The management of the club can play their part by the introduction of new personnel and this has been at least partially achieved with the recruitment of Lilian Nalis and Vincent Pericard. They are both only on short term contracts or loans though. Recruiting a good player on a long contract is expensive and we are limited by the money available.

Signing players of the standard needed to excel in this division and compete in the next will not be cheap and to a certain extent relies upon our ability to attract more revenue either through increasing existing revenue streams or creating new ones. There are two ways of doing this. The easiest would be to up prices across the board and exploit the loyal fan-base. The second is to find new external investment.

The club is hamstrung by it’s tenant status. We are unable to borrow money using the ground as collateral because it is only rented from the council. The only assets we have we could borrow against are the market values of the contracted playing staff, furniture, fixtures and fittings and whatever cash we have in the bank. We are not bank-rolled in the manner made popular by Jack Walker at Blackburn, Al Fayed at Fulham, Roman Abramovich or lots of others. Besides we tried that under McCauley and it all ended in tears. I’m not sure an individually wealthy benefactor/investor is the answer and I’m even less sure that one exists.

The “tenant” status means we could probably not negotiate particularly friendly terms on a bank loan; a mortgage is out of the question and it is stated club policy to build “organically” rather than to incur debt.

What we do have in our favour is massive local uncontested support in a moderately large city and a vast hinterland of football fans with nowhere else to go.

This is the cash cow that must be milked by the club and the only way to do it is to either charge existing punters more, and we pay quite enough already, or get more of them into the ground.

That means we need Phase 2 to be completed as fast as possible and ground capacity increased – ideally, in my mind, to around 22000 (any bigger and the new stand would dwarf the existing P1 stands, any smaller and why bother at all? Plus smaller is less expensive) even though a part of me would be sad to see the existing Leitch-designed structure go (not to mention the end of standing on the terraces) with the new grandstand being multi-purpose, to some extent, so that not only can more people attend matches, whilst paying a higher fee than they do now, for the privilege but income can be generated during non-matchdays by non-football related activities – wedding receptions, parties etc. This is reliant on investment both from the club and from the council.

To this end any negotiations currently under way re P2 have been shrouded in secrecy. I can see no good reason for this if all parties concerned are genuinely working in tandem towards the same end. All we ever hear is “talks are ongoing” from anybody who can be actually bothered to make a statement on the record about the issue.

We must assume that the current board are unanimously in favour of P2 – why would they be against it? We know that the current council is all for it following Tudor Evans’ explicit promise from the balcony of the Civic Centre during the Division One title celebrations and various meetings and half statements on press releases since.

That last sentence is the contestable point. We should ram Evans’ words down his throat until he either does something or admits to spouting lies. The latter will not happen. Is the council really behind the club? If they are where is the hard evidence of this support?

That is at the heart of the issue and is a cause of massive frustration to me. We don’t know when P2 will happen. We don’t know how big it will be. We don’t know what facilities it will include. We don’t know if the finance is in place. We don’t know how much it will cost. We don’t know how long it will take to build.

What we do know is that for Argyle to move forward from here it will need some sound planning and visionary thinking to raise the money needed to up investment levels to get us up the greasy pole towards the summit of the CCC and thence the Premier League.

Will it ever happen? It’s a 100+ years so far and we are still counting…

2 Comments:

At 1:45 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always thought the ground was leased - ged

e-mail us your phone number george.vernon @ googlemail.com or call on 07747 015532

your quiz team needs you this Sunday .....

 
At 9:33 am, Blogger The Rev PAFC said...

That's a very reasonable argument Baba, but I'm wary of placing all our faith in a building project - the League is littered with clubs who've done just that and foundered spectacularly. The latest line coming out of DCC is difficulties with traffic congestion on matchdays, and considering there are queues back to the A38 at Manadon by 1.15 every time we have a game that looks like it might sell out, they have a point.

Of course, though, there's no joined-up thinking - see the proposed new First Great Western timetable from next December. Ivybridge, a designated Park and Ride station, mind, has it's trains slashed from 13 per day each way to 3 a day. That's fewer than Bugle currently has, to put it in perspective. Currently it's possible to travel by train from Ivybridge to every Argyle match, including evening ones, bar the Sunday games, arriving and returning within an hour of kick-off and full-time. There's sizeable support in the South Hams and appreciable numbers use the train. From December, that will no longer be possible.

It's hard for the council to justify P2 without it being part of a broader vision for the city. As much as I love HP, I'm slowly coming around to the view that it may be best, on the back of consolidated mid-table success, for the club to take the risk of relocation and do a completely new build, financed by the mortgage of itself, possibly in conjunction with Albion. Otherwise, I think we're going to be stuck with HP as it is.

 

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