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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

Money talks in stadium debate - Dave Sear

THE fact that Craven Park is a tired and somewhat outdated stadium is well known to the board and, to a greater or lesser extent, is subject of discussion at every meeting we have.

But as a letter published in the Mail last week brought the subject up I thought I would let you know what we are attempting to do in order to update the facilities.

Now I know this may come as a complete shock to you dear reader, but it all comes down to pounds, shillings and pence.

One way to increase income is to get more people through the turnstiles. To do this we have had to aspire to compete in the best league available to us.

This has been accomplished following our promotion last season to the Co-operative Championship.

That promotion comes at a cost as the team needed to be strengthened, and better players want better wages.

This off-season we have again splashed out in order to build a squad which we hope will be very competitive.

This raises the wages bill once more but we hope that this speculation on staff will lead to an accumulation by way of gate receipts.

Last time the team were promoted they were not fortified with fresh faces and a terrible season ensued with numbers on the terraces dwindling alarmingly.

Once supporters stop coming to games it takes a lot of effort to bring them back into the fold, which has a knock-on effect in the following years.

We have made the conscious decision to take a different approach and spend. If we do not get the spectators through the gates then the club will suffer.

If the Raiders are able to remain competitive in the Championship for several seasons then we would look to be making profits which can be invested in the clubs infrastructure.

Or to put it another way — you can have a new Tannoy system but you tell us what combination of Andy Ellis, Brett McDermott, James Nixon or any other players you want us to get rid of.

It’s no contest is it?

We’ll put up with a poor sound system until we can afford better. And it shouldn’t be forgotten that the supporters club financed an overhaul of the Tannoy last year though that did not dramatically improve the situation.

Twelve months ago we brought in a commercial manager in an attempt to be more professional in maximizing advertising opportunities and hospitality packages. That did lead to an increase in funds coming in from those areas.

Towards the end of the year we employed a strategic partnerships manager, John Thomason.

The main role of that post is to work with other organisations to make best use of Craven Park and the staff we employ. That opens up other funding streams to us.

As I reported last week John is putting a bid in for new floodlights but he is also exploring ways of redeveloping the whole of the popular side.

He’s only been in post a short time so please don’t start badgering him or the board for updates on what are long-term projects.

In creating the above two posts we have shown our commitment to developing Barrow Raiders as a business.

We are endeavouring to look to the future while dealing with the problems we face today. A vibrant rugby team will always be the principal aim but we must not be frightened to look at other activities which can help fund the stadium and the team.

As I have said previously Barrow RLFC has never had funds set aside for repairs or improvements. Traditionally we rely on appeals and overdrafts.

Given time we hope to be able to change that around.

Turning to some specifics in the letter last week: The old supporters’ club is indeed an eyesore but that is nothing to do with us.

I will not decry what another board did several years ago as circumstances dictated that they sold the club. With hindsight though it has cost the club dear — not least in taking away the potential for us to develop the area to bring in income for the club.

Any complaints about its condition you have should be directed to the local authority or the owner of the premises, not the board.

The toilets are poor but are far from cheap to replace which is why we are trying to find ways of funding the rebuilding of the popular side.

As regards the floodlights and the lack of a coat of paint, they need replacing despite a considerable amount being spent on cleaning the reflectors and changing the type of bulb they have.

Paint is merely cosmetic now as a lack of maintenance over many years has left them in the present state.

We have to pay for the paint, rent a cherry picker, hire wooded sheets to drive it on, hope someone volunteers to do it and then pray for good weather for a couple of weeks.

It isn’t a priority.

I am sorry someone had to move from their usual seat because of bird droppings.

It is a persistent problem and I have had my turn of cleaning it up.

But please remember that the initial cleaning of the seats is usually done at the start of the season as to do otherwise would be a waste of time.

The Fijian match was arranged at short notice and the few volunteers (people who give of their own time without thought of reward) were busy getting the changing rooms and other facilities ready. I am sure they will take on board the comments made.

Next week I will give my slant on modern stadia and whether we should move home.

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