A statement from the chairmanFOR A variety of reasons, which I will outline within this report, I believe the club to be in its best shape and position, in every aspect, since the Trust acquired the majority shareholding back in 2003 and, indeed, is quite probably in its best position ever.
During the period under report, the sale of Matt Grimes has been a huge financial positive but go a little deeper and it’s the single-minded and determined focus from the Club and Trust boards toward the development of home-grown youth from our own Academy that is to be congratulated, as it is that that has been instrumental in underpinning, in the past, our survival; in the middle years, our resurgence and now an extremely solid foundation on which we can grow by way of true capital investment.
Talking of foundations, I come to the development of the old lady opposite [Old Grandstand]. It was during this period that concerted and concentrated effort from David Lee, ably assisted by Mike Phillips alongside our developers Yelverton, resulted in significant progress being made through what can only be described as a complex and arduous process. Our thanks must go to them as well as to club officials (particularly Justin Quick). Whilst we now know the result of the planning application, there is still much water to go under the bridge before the crazy brief of “at no risk and at no cost” our new grandstand can be delivered.
2014-15 turned out to be, for a variety of reasons, a season that facilitated a reshaping of the squad. That work continues, and it could be argued that the strongest squad since our League One adventure is currently being assembled. The year in question, and since, shows that with strong foundations good things then happen. Football itself is not a guaranteed success story, but what we have on the pitch is improving; it is supporting the stability and growth elsewhere, and should give us reasonable expectations of better things to happen there too going forward. Thanks must go to the players, coaching and development staff, and manager and management not only for their efforts on the pitch but also for developing and introducing the true ‘ones of our own’ like Matt Grimes, and for the quite phenomenal number of appearances they make across greater Exeter that goes often unnoticed and unrecognised.
It is the boardroom that experienced the most change during this period. The addition of three more Trust trustees to the Trust Chair on the club’s Board of Directors is totally original in football and has, to date, functioned very efficiently and effectively, ever closing the gap between the boardroom and the Big Bank. That fact, I have no doubt, will be commended in many circles from supporters’ organisations through to government. That said, we acknowledge and never lose sight of the fact that the primary function for all boardrooms is to operate strategically on behalf of the shareholders and all significant stakeholders. To that end, whilst noting the aforementioned, the board is very aware, and is addressing, through the Governance sub-committee and a number of away days, how best we deliver that precise requirement.
Also in the boardroom I should like to extend thanks to Keith Mason, who has replaced Steve Williams as FD, to ensure eyes at all times remain on the ball. He has made significant changes to how we function at all levels, allowing the board to work with ever-increasing degrees of certainty in a football world that ironically has forever moving goals.
The Board’s thanks, as ever, go to all Grecian Groups and the army of volunteers that remains extremely strong and indeed much vitalised, in many cases mobilised by Elaine Davis. They continue to make a significant difference to the cost base of the club. Much of the work undertaken would simply be left were it not for their involvement and dedication.
Whilst the name of Matt Grimes has resonated far and wide, the work of the Academy to achieve that resonance must be acknowledged. The Academy Board, a Football League requirement, provides continued support and guidance in two directions. To Simon Hayward, who reports to the board quarterly, and continues to do an excellent job, but also to the club board in the form of strategy recommendations and reports to ensure the challenges such as the need for facilities and finance to work toward achieving Category 2 status, are realistic, achievable and dovetail with the rest of the club’s plans and aspirations. The ability and willingness of the manager to play untried and often extremely raw young players, arguably to the detriment of results, because he understands and appreciates how critical this aspect is to both the ethos, and also the financial significance, of our club should not be underestimated.
Likewise, thanks to the FITC board whose work is predominately strategic, and to Jamie Vittles, who between them continue to advance significantly in not only financial turnover but also the standing of the charity itself. Equally importantly they fly the community flag and ethos of our club across the public and private sector businesses across greater Exeter, bringing recognition, affection and genuine gratitude for the huge contribution made. Their work in the designated strands of education, social inclusion, sports participation, and health and wellbeing increases, improves and genuinely makes a difference in our city and beyond.
In summary I believe our board and team as a whole has delivered real but often underrated and little-appreciated stability. It has cleared all debts, has ensured prudence in terms of cash in reserve, developed a capital fund that means we are actually investing rather than firefighting, looking forward rather than around and behind us, and embarked upon a number of capital projects that will result in further benefit, stability and growth.
I feel it is only right to add a final note that draws attention, albeit that the above report places us in a real position of progression and positivity, to what is happening elsewhere in football. Bristol Rovers taken over by a Jordanian consortium, Crawley by a Turkish consortium, a new owner of even Accrington Stanley, Northampton, I could go on. It will undoubtedly mean more money being pumped into our direct competitors 20 + that are working from what is always said to be unsustainable models. That isn’t going to change any time soon. My point is that if we are going to make our Trust model continue to compete, we need to work harder, faster and smarter from our now strongly-established foundation with ever more continuity, unity and single-minded determination than ever before.
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD, EXETER CITY FOOTBALL CLUB