Martin Ritchie: Cash from McGrandles sale will take Falkirk forward

Falkirk Stadium hosted the conclusion to the 10-month sustainability review
Falkirk Stadium hosted the conclusion to the 10-month sustainability review

Cash from Conor McGrandles’ sale will be used to take Falkirk forward and improve as a club, while a new ‘football’ group will be formed at boardroom level, fans have been told.

Chairman Martin Ritchie made the announcement on Monday night at the fans’ forum in which he concluded that the club’s structure was “a fairly typical business model”.

The chairman said the funds from Norwich City for the 18-year-old would not be siphoned off to service soft loans, and that cash would be used to take the club forward with some available to manager Peter Houston who announced two signings on the night.

Houston will be part of a ‘football group’ in the boardroom. The structure, which will include the manager and Alex Smith among others, will assess the further sustainability for the business in the football stratosphere.

The chairman was speaking at the conclusion of his sustainability review in front of around 80 fans at The Falkirk Stadium.

The review led by the Mr Ritchie and backed by director Doug Henderson assessed the long-term sustainability and structure of the club in a bid to address the funding gap the Bairns had plugged by players sales and cup runs.

In 2012-13 the club received £1.4m income and spent £2.1m - the gap was filled by player sales, cup runs, savings and the SPFL reorganisation.

However Mr Ritchie also conceded the Board becomes bogged down in too much operational detail in running the club, and has spread itself too far which had led to the ‘football group’ idea taking shape.

“We have a good skills mix on the board, perhaps we lack someone with big business expertise and a female member considering the emphasis being placed on women’s football at the moment.”

Mr Ritchie revealed the major shareholders’ group in the club owns around 70 per cent of the club and provides more than 80 pc of the loans required by the business.

“We’d welcome new people to come forward with the relevant expertise.

“If the right person came along and there was the opportunity for them to invest in the club we would be happy to move on. They’ve not been seen yet, however,” he added.

The review included input from various agencies and research was undertaken with many different football clubs including Huddersfield Town, St Johnston, Spartans, Chesterfield and Oxford United. The club also studied a drama company and assessed how it operated.

One conclusion, a fairly obvious one that was reached, was that the clubs with the most success had the ‘rich owner’ model.

However, though Falkirk does not employ that strategy, the review assessed Academies around the country and concluded none were as advanced as Falkirk’s.

“Someone we spoke to in England said the Academy has a reputation,” added the chairman. “Indeed he said the two clubs renowned for producing quality young players are Falkirk and Dundee United.”

The sale of Conor McGrandles was also discussed and while Mr Ritchie admitted that following the sale of Stephen Kingsley there was no necessity to sell, the deal for Mcgrandles which progressed over a number of days saw the potential income rise to a level which became too good for the club to refuse.

Maintaining the Academy and youth policy to create more players like the Norwich midfielder and Swansea defender was also another of his conclusions as was working together with the charitable community coaching arm of the club, the Falkirk Foundation.

“It has the capability of growing to five times the size of the club,” he added.

The chairman was later asked from the floor to apologise for the financial unease at the club since relegation in 2010. Although he did not say sorry directly for that, he apologised for not cutting costs more severely following the relegation and stated he was keen to do everything possible not to place the club into administration following the drop from the top division.

Read more from Monday’s meeting in this Thursday’s edition of The Falkirk Herald.