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Sunday 01 February 2009
From the programme, 31 January 2009

Good afternoon and welcome to the fans, players and officials of Chelmsford City. For some time now we have been major rivals but I am pleased to say that the relationship between the clubs is a positive one, both at board level and between our respective managers.

In the past I’ve talked about what we need to do to get the stadium ready for Blue Square Premier (and eventually Football League) action. In today’s page I will talk about financial preparations for next season, especially some of the considerations should we win promotion.

Right now we are in the process of preparing the management accounts to the end of December with the intention of presenting them to the first meeting of the Dons Trust board following the elections. As soon as the accounts are complete we will prepare a forecast of the financial results for the current year to 30 June 2009, so we know the starting point for next season.

The next stage is to prepare two budgets for the year that starts on 1 July 2009, i.e. next season. Why two budgets? Well, they will be different, depending on which league we are in. For example, in the Blue Square Premier there is significantly more Setanta money to allow for, but there would also be much higher travel and accommodation costs, plus higher policing and stewarding costs, since there will be more clubs with significant numbers of travelling fans.

One issue that will be contentious is whether, if we are promoted, we should increase admission prices again. On the one hand, we are in a recession, times are very tough and money is short. On the other hand, based on an analysis I saw recently, the average entry price to the terraces in the Blue Square Premier is £13, which is 30% above our prices. I don’t yet have a strong view about what we should charge if we are promoted; there is a great attraction in being the cheapest team in the Blue Square Premier but, from a purely commercial point of view, the best time to increase prices is when (yes, I know – ‘if’) we are promoted.

Why do we need to set our budgets so early? Because Terry and Stuart need a clear statement of what they can spend in time to decide the shape of our squad next year.

One particular problem they must grapple with is deciding how different the squad might look from one league compared to the other, so some decisions will need to be deferred until very close to the end of the season.

All this is being carried out in the context of some teams apparently imploding financially, with consequent knock-on effects on players’ wages. I can’t help wondering how many teams in the Blue Square Premier will switch from full- to part-time during the summer and how many players will become both available and more affordable as a result. As an aside from that issue, my strongly held view is that we should not even think of going full-time until the second season in the Blue Square Premier – these things need planning carefully, not doing in a rush in May and June

As a result of all these issues, we may well decide a lot later than usual which players will be with us for next season and the terms we are offering them. So I expect an uncertain period in the late season and into the summer. But, as I hope I’ve shown, we are doing our planning and, once we are prepared, we should welcome these uncertain but exciting times.

Enjoy the game.