A club statement from Managing Director Andrew Casson.
Before we begin looking ahead, I would like to thank you for your tremendous support during last season, particularly in the final stretch. There is no doubt in my mind that the support at the matches at Guiseley, Aldershot and Bromley made the difference in securing those 5 points and ultimately our survival in the National League.
As we enter our fifth season, I believe it is important to reflect on what has worked and what has not worked so far during our tenure of ownership. By taking stock of lessons learned, we can make adjustments to how we run the club.
When my father took over the club, his intent was to reinvest his success back into his hometown. Almost £4m have been ‘invested’ in the club and the return on that has been one promotion, a new boiler system, new floodlights and a nice 3rd round FA Cup tie. While we are proud of these accomplishments, we know we have to do things differently if we want to leave a legacy beyond these. There needs to be a renewed focus on putting money on projects and people that will benefit the town and the club for more than just the short term.
The second key takeaway is that, currently, Barrow is not capable of sustainably competing for promotion in the National League with its current level of support. The club cannot continue to operate outside its means on the back of crowds around 1000. The club is also limited by not having an academy and having no external facility such as proper training facilities in the town for the first team and youth teams, which can also be used as a revenue stream.
The third takeaway is that the team needs to represent the town, through its players, its identity and its work ethic. Year over year, the team has seemed to become more and more distant from the town and has turned into a team from elsewhere that occasionally played a home match in Barrow. I think this is why our home record was so poor this past season. I also believe this has had an effect on the commitment and size of our support in the last couple of years.
The fourth takeaway is that football is changing. The business model we have followed thus far is broken and clubs cannot continue to leverage their future betting on promotion. We saw this nearly broke several teams at our level and below. Money is consolidated at the top and the financial benefits of getting promoted are not what they once were. However, clubs like Accrington and Macclesfield show that a team built on a budget and characterized by team spirit and toughness can experience success.
All of this means that next season will mark a dramatic transformation in the way the club does business from the first four years. Barrow AFC will go from a club that exists off external investment, to one that runs off the revenue it generates while having an owner who can and will put money in towards projects that generate a return.
• The structure and cost for the first team will be closely analysed and brought in line with club revenues. While the scope of the changes required is still being determined, we enter the summer season with a much different ambition for the next year or two. We will be more realistic with our expectations for every season, with our primary aim being to put together a team that works hard, plays good football, and plays with pride for the badge on their shirts.
• My focus in the next 18 months will be on controlling costs and pushing forward plans to develop both an academy and a secondary facility that can support the football club. These will be crucial to develop local talent and funnel it into the first team. This isn’t a marketing exercise. It is absolutely necessary for the club’s long-term success and viability.
• In terms of the ground, the idea that we will be redeveloping it or building a new stadium is well and truly laid to rest. In the short term, I have a list of ground improvements that I would like to see implemented over the summer, and we will need volunteer support to complete them. The goal for future investment would be for Paul Casson to then set aside a sum of money at the start of every season to be used for investment. Projects will be selected based on fan feedback and an analysis of their potential revenue return.
• I will be looking for more contributions from the various Supporter’s groups. We have some of the best supporters in the country, both in terms of vocal support and in terms of volunteer support. However, these need to continue to do their part and will be integral to mobilizing the town to support the club.
• The Community group will be a continued focus, as it is crucial not only to developing and retaining talented local footballers, but to also help people throughout the town develop a positive relationship with the club. Craig and the team have done a great job setting an exciting new foundation for the Community, and I look forward to helping them take it even further forward.
In my brief time working in football, I have learned that a club that is reliant on a single shareholder cannot achieve lasting success. This is because we all work a little less hard than we should because we think the money will bring success and I have fallen into this thought process as well. Barrow is capable of having a Football League team, but only if everyone pulls together and works hard to make that dream a reality.
We need a team of players that want to make a legacy for themselves in Barrow and lay it on the line for the badge. We need volunteers who come down and help make the ground a nice place to come on a match day. We need supporters who convince their friends and co-workers to come down to a match on a Tuesday or Saturday so that we have crowds of 2,000 and not 1,000. All of these things are possible, and the next 12 months will decide what kind of club we want Barrow AFC to be.