FCUM members back new board to right wrongs of previous regime
FC United members have backed the current board to overcome the financial mess left by the former regime led by ex-chief executive Andy Walsh.
The board recently wrote to members to detail the difficulties faced (following mismanagement by Walsh and the ex-directors), which has resulted in the club considering an overdraft to help ease financial pressure through to the New Year.
Fans have reacted positively with a host of fundraising ideas and increased donations and at the club’s annual general meeting fans backed a statement that said: ‘The Owners of FC United of Manchester believe that the Club’s off-field activities are being run more effectively now than they were 12 months ago.’ Of those who voted, 49% backed the motion, with 26% disagreeing.
Walsh left the club in June 2016 and according to an internal investigation, during his tenure:
- The club took ownership of Broadhurst Park, whilst it was unfinished and with payments still to be made.
- The build not only saw an escalation of costs, but also deferment of some these costs onto future years.
- Since moving into Broadhurst Park the club’s commercial revenue has underperformed expectations.
- The staffing structure on moving to the ground was neither fit for purpose nor performed in line with the club’s business plan.
- The initial financial plan for 2015/16 (and subsequent years) was unrealistic.
- Adequate financial control systems, HR processes and delegated contract sign off were not in place.
Following well publicised infighting, the entire previous board resigned en masse resulting in a more progressive group of directors being voted in.
A new chief executive has been installed in Damian Chadwick, a founder member from north Manchester, who joined the club from Bolton Wanderers, where he was venue controller at the Macron Stadium. AFL understands Chadwick’s previous offers of help and advice to assist Walsh with the running of FC’s multi-million-pound Broadhurst Park ground were ignored.
Chadwick and the current board have called for unity at the club as they collectively seek to turn the finances around.
Sadly, this seems unlikely, as members at the AGM were subject to a Walsh rant targeting one of the junior members of the current board, with his oft-repeated but never-evidenced claims about ‘intimidation and bullying’.
During the fall out over his behaviour at the club, Walsh told media outlets, including the BBC and The Guardian, that he and his confidantes had been victims of abuse. No evidence has ever been provided by Walsh to support these claims.
AFL, however, understands that the only formal grievance ever submitted by an FC United staff member cited Walsh and others for bullying and harassment for behaviour towards the employee. The club apologised formally to the person who raised the grievance, but Walsh refused to accept any wrong-doing. As a result the employee felt they had no option but to leave the club.
Despite these difficulties the club is determined to overcome the challenges and recently received huge praise for its plans to open Broadhurst Park for the homeless on Christmas Day. An impressive campaign has seen volunteers donate everything from clothing to toothbrushes. Nurses, dentists and chiropodists are among those dedicating their time to help.
Speaking about the challenges that lie ahead, new chief executive Damian Chadwick told the Manchester Evening News: “Myself and the board of directors put the projections together and started to look at the cash-flow forecast and we thought it was time to show this to our co-owners and supporters and get them to understand our financial position.
“The supporters have almost had an ‘oh s**t’ moment where they have said ‘we have dropped the ball here’. The stadium still needs to grow and we need to continue this.
“The response has been absolutely phenomenal with increased donations to the development fund [which pays for ground improvements].
“The club’s not at risk, We have a healthy balance sheet. We’re in talks with the council as well so they’re aware and they know we’re being pro-active.
“It was not a decision we took lightly to put that announcement out [about finances]. But we’re not behind with creditors it’s literally a case of timing. And we’re being transparent because that’s what we’re all about as a club.”
Visit fc-utd.co.uk for details of how you can help with fundraising.