Richard Murray’s customary eloquence and frankness provided a very enjoyable and informative evening for 50 CAS Trust members at the Counting House, EC3 last night.
Before the meeting started a minute’s silence was observed in memory of Bernard Wickham, RIP.
Richard began by saying that he would prefer to have an “open and intimate” discussion rather than every word he said being published, which would necessitate him being more guarded. This was welcomed and agreed by those present
These notes therefore aim to provide a summary of the highlights of the evening:
Richard said that he was enjoying his new role which was largely stress-free (in comparison with previous years) but not hugely influential, although he feels that his input and experience is valued. He has met Roland Duchatelet (RD) face to face twice and has had a number of phone conversations with him. Although rarely in London RD is in very regular contact with Chris Powell and Katrien Meire (KM). Richard is very impressed with KM who takes the MD / Executive Director role and who is very bright, personable and hard working. To Richard’s knowledge she is exclusively involved with CAFC.
Richard said that, under RD’s ownership, the club has the greatest financial stability for years – certainly for the last few regimes. He said he couldn’t stress too much how important that is. The club’s short term aim is to stay in the Championship but long term is to develop our youth operations through the Academy and to eventually make a challenge for the Premiership. With extra TV money in 2015/16 it should be possible to reduce the annual deficit to a manageable level and to get closer to balancing the books. RD is very aware of the danger of relegation and is as worried about it as we are (and was aware before he bought the club). He is not a man who wants to be associated with failure. With that in mind Richard confirmed that we could expect 2 or 3 loan signings in the near future who would bring Championship / Premiership experience and a solid grounding in the English game.
Richard stressed that there might be 10 or so clubs in the Championship gambling on promotion by spending extra millions but that only 3 could succeed each season and this could have dire consequences for those who overspend. .He said that RD wants to be smarter than that. He wants to develop young players and exploit the many European relationships which we now have in place. London is an attractive venue for players
Richard was very sorry that Yann left as he was one of his favourite players. However, Bournemouth offered him a fantastic deal and, although CAFC could come close to it, they couldn’t match it. At the end of the day Yann made a financial decision.
Considering Dale Stephens’ contact position Brighton’s offer was considered very good for Dale and CAFC. The club did not want to repeat the post-Villa experience.
“Good money” had been spent on Reza and Piotr Parzyszek. Richard and most present felt that the performance of all the new players had been very encouraging so far and that they had brought some vitality to the team.
The club are talking to Diego Poyet and other promising young players. Richard felt that playing in the first team could only encourage players like Poyet to commit their futures to CAFC.
When asked about the FA Cup Richard said he was sure that the new players were well aware of its significance.
RD and KM are fully aware of CP’s skills and his standing among the players and supporters. Like any manager he will be ultimately judged on results and RD and KM are doing everything they can to support CP to be successful. Although RD and KM have an influence on who joins the club it is CP who picks the team.
Richard said he did not know the identity of all the backers of the previous regime nor precisely what happened in terms of cash flow 18 months ago but that he respected TJ and MS more than some others might because they kept writing cheques and managed to keep us going.
Richard was reluctant to comment on departures of staff but he confirmed that Steve Kavanagh’s and Peter Varney’s claims had been settled before the take-over.
Richard said he had no knowledge of any bid from Josh Harris or his associates and was only aware of one other previous bid.
He said that due diligence was usually concluded very quickly as all relevant information was available from the club’s solicitors and that there was nothing hidden which was frightening potential buyers off.
Richard doesn’t remember the pitch being raised as an issue when the club were in the Premier League. He is sure that they would have undertaken works if advised that they were absolutely essential. He said that Paddy knows that most fans don’t blame him and his team for the state of the pitch and he confirmed they are working very hard to improve the situation. The club are still renting the cover but could probably have paid for it outright by now.
Richard thinks that FFP is already beginning to have a downward effect on player wages. However, over- spending owners and parachute payments mean that the playing field is far from level. The sanction for breaching FFP rules is a transfer & contract embargo, but only until a club is “getting its house in order”. Also, clubs may try to conceal losses by defining deficit funding as sponsorship.
When asked about increasing attendances Richard noted that adding a regular 2000 to the gate, while not insignificant financially, would probably only fund an average Championship player. This needed to be put in context in comparison with TV money. He agreed that an extra 2000 fans would be great for atmosphere and team morale.
Richard said how sad he was that money had changed football so much in even the 20 years of his involvement. Jack Walker, Abramovich, and Sheikh Mansoor had shown how titles could be bought. For clubs like Villa or Newcastle £100m might get them 8th place ! It would be nice to succeed using a different model
Richard was very in favour of the idea of safe standing in the north lower. He said this is not a pipe dream and that CAFC supported it at last month’s Football League meeting.
Richard stressed that he supports CASTrust and has championed the Trust within the club. However, he noted that there are other groups who are also important to the club (eg sponsors, Valley Gold, VIP members, supporters branches) and with whom the club hopes to have positive relationships.
RD has never mentioned moving the club away from The Valley. If he (or any other future owner) wanted to explore it Richard stressed that they would need the supporters behind them and that the ACV status at least gives time for a proper debate on the matter.
Richard acknowledged that The Valley needed some investment and hoped that supporter groups might be able to play a part in this.
He confirmed that Billy Davies was offered the post of manager but turned it down because he didn’t want to follow Curbishley. He explained the process and thinking behind subsequent managerial appointments and said that the money made available to Dowie would have been available for Curbishley if he had stayed.
When asked about his best moment as a supporter Richard said that Sunderland at Wembley was great but that Shaun Newton’s goal v Ipswich in the semi-final was the most exhilarating single moment. Losing to Swindon in the semi-final was the worst moment.
Richard is looking forward to the Sheff Wed cup game on Saturday. He said he is not getting any younger and would love his Dave Whelan moment. He has not yet been to the new Wembley because he wants to go there to see Charlton.