Look after the pennies ...

Falkirk general manager David White addresses the meeting in the Park Hotel.
Falkirk general manager David White addresses the meeting in the Park Hotel.
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Cancelling a subscription to Sky television might not sound like a significant saving to a football club, but to Falkirk, it all adds up.

General manager David White spelled out in plain terms the extent of the savings the club has made to a meeting of the Falkirk Supporters Society last week.

Spending on matchday policing, grounds maintenance, club cars and even mobile phones have all been slashed in recent months.

The club is now re-examining ways of boosting their income, with new hospitality packages aimed at ordinary fans rather than businesses being one of the ideas brought forward.

It’s no secret that the Bairns have had to cut their cloth since losing their SPL status in 2010.

Two years ago, the club had a budget of £4.5 million. Today, that figure - excluding income from transfers - has fallen to £1.5 million.

Savings are not just necessary but vital to the long-term health of the club.

Speaking at the meeting held in the Park Hotel in Falkirk, Mr White said: “It’s very important that we increase our income whilst reducing our costs.

“We have just carried out a major exercise with the board in which we looked at all items of expenditure in the club. We went through everything line by line. It was a very good exercise.

“We are really challenging every expenditure in the club at the moment.

“Increasing income is more of a challenge, and something that we are looking at longer term. But reducing costs is something that we can do immediately. And just as proof of that, today I cancelled a subscription to Sky TV which will save the club £6000 per annum.”

When White joined the backroom staff 18 months ago as club secretary, Falkirk were in a state of flux. The club had just posted a loss of around £850,000 and managing director George Craig was working his three months notice before standing down.

Several key positions at the club were left unfilled, meaning that much of the routine operational work was being left to the management committee.

Since then a new full-time finance manager and operations manager have been appointed and White has taken on the role of general manager.

“Our objective is quite simple,” said White. “It’s to run the club on a break-even basis. By that, our income should equal our expenditure - which is easier said than done.”

“At the stadium we are challenging a lot of costs, many of which were overhangs from the SPL.

“We challenged our policing arrangements, asking: do we really need, with the exception of Dunfermline and the visit of Rangers, all these police at the games? So we sat down with the match commander, and with the help of Robbie Macgregor, we reassured the police that we now have a very good operational team who could handle this with stewarding.

“As a result, all matches this season, except Dunfermline, will be police free - and that will save us in the region of £20,000 per annum.”

Another significant saving has been made after a ground maintenance deal with the University of Stirling was renegotiated.

White commented: “There was a lot of quid pro quo deals done with Stirling University where we would send up a groundsman Monday-Friday and he would sort out the pitches, and as result the university would not charge us for pitch hire.

“We carried out an exercise to see how much that was actually costing us. We found out that when you added everything up the club was incurring £45,000 per annum to maintain the university pitches. Now Stirling University has a huge grounds maintenance team with state of the art machinery, and it just seemed to me to take more sense if they looked after the pitches.

“We’ve struck a deal that they will maintain the pitches on our behalf, and they will charge us £28,000 a year, so that’s saved us the best part of £17,000 a year.”

Revenue from matchday hospitality has dropped significantly for all clubs as supporters tighten their belts in the tough economic climate.

But it’s still a potential revenue stream that Falkirk are eager to tap.

“The days of it being an all suited-and-booted affair at £90-a-head are gone,” said White.

“We have to respond to that and put different packages in place so it appeals to a wider range of supporters.

“It is something that we are going to revamp and repackage completely. We need to put it within the reach of ordinary supporters.”