Who Is Simmo’s Budget Boost?
Reality dawns, the faithful are perplexed, if not vexed, that the Lincoln City 2013/14 budget will be the same as last season. This is very much at odds with the comments made after the euphoria of the five one thumping of Hyde on BBC Radio Lincolnshire. STMI will leave it at that, as this was the reason we remain indefinitely banned from attending games at Sincil Bank. The agreed £400,000 sum will equate to £384 per week for a 20 man squad, leaving Simmo the Enticer with a bottom 6-8 budget. Although this hardly comes close to matching the ambition of the fans, we should not give up hope just yet.
Thank you for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs
Lincoln City has , throughout our underfunded history, survived on the loyalty of the most die-hard fans in football. Perhaps it is of no surprise that one of the longest serving League sides has therefore failed to taste any real success, aside the odd promotion here and there. This is typified in the words of our anthem – Take my hand, take my whole life too, because I can’t help falling in love with you. It is therefore of little or no surprise that lifetime Imps may turn away from our local club, but, we, the faithful, always return when the Mighty Imps start to punch above our financial weight on the pitch. That is the only place where it really matters. We are the only boost the manager can rely on, we must take a leap of faith to boost his war chest to ensure we can be there or thereabouts.
Though many of us have had the misfortune to become embroiled in the clandestine politics, by and large, it is the football that sustains us. The on-pitch struggle, sees even the most alienated still look for the results, still take a gander at the gossip, we are hooked, just waiting for that spark to bring us back through the turnstiles in our thousands. It will therefore be the Lincoln City faithful that funds ‘chosen one’ Gary Simpson in his bid to regain our League status for a sixth time. We already hold the record, so we have a track record, as does our manager for making water into wine.
Few see our potential, but then financial people and analysts have long looked at football and, to put it mildly laughed. Seen from the logical side, the only tangible asset is the ground, should the club be fortunate to own it, plus the inevitable debt. The players and the turnstile clicks are ‘variables’ that can go down faster than a lead balloon. Yet they can rise too. An extra 1000 fans on the gate over a 23 game season equates to £276,000 (based on the £12 mean ticket admission fee at LCFC). During his post match BBC interview David Featherstone, who certainly appears to plough in some cash via various means, astutely observed, as STMI have been saying for years, that fans coming through the turnstiles is the best way to boost the budget.
The fans have already responded. In those dark days this site remained positive, taking an optimistically realistic line. It saw readership grow to the levels I enjoyed when putting Vital Lincoln together – a site that would yield over 3,000 a year at its peak just through fans reading front page articles and making forum posts. The all important turnstile clicks really started at the Nuneaton game when almost 500 travelled (some did not actually make it in for various reasons) and, despite a heartbreaking defeat 465 went to Alfreton. Many Imps mentioned “A proud day” beaming at one of our proudest for years. A healthy 2418 turned up for the Cambridge home game, then 2965 for the Tamworth Sincil Six-pointer, before the awesome 850 away at Hyde.
The fans have therefore been quick to respond. But the club must not prick the bubble and look to meet the fans half-way. Faith in the board and, therefore its popularity, suggests many want to see investment. But this could see a Mexican stand-off that would wreck what Gary Simpson can and will do at our wonderful football club. We fans must take a leap of faith to a degree, but the club must show ambition too. Signings are key, but landmark ones are pricey. Last season saw terrible season ticket sales, boosted only by the six-pack offer (the number of these sold is multiplied by 6 then divided by 23 to give a season ticket sale equivalent).
Anticipated Season ticket sales have set what is to be a growing budget, yet the six-pack is the key way for the club to meet the fans half way and therefore give the manager a decent chance for his team to hit the ground running. Times are hard on the one hand, but the City 6-pack will be the best way to test the elasticity of demand. It is the perfect compromise for those prepared to take that leap of faith. A quarter of the season in the hand for both club and fan.
Considering the demographic of the fan-base, largely public sector or on shift pattern, the 6-Pack contains the flexibility to please many fans who can only make certain games. Tuesday’s are difficult, but then if one is on a 12 hour four-on four off, they are a perfect break from the daily grind. Know your market, hit the sweet spot, people have to work hard in the bread basket of Britain, but we have pride and a strong collective local identity.
The fans will ultimately respond to results on the pitch, something Gary Simpson is more than capable of doing. Half a million got Macc to the verge of the play-offs before the player sales (7) and then injuries to an already decimated squad. There is scope for optimism irrespective of season ticket sales, although the club do need to put across a coherent but positive rhetoric. Remember the demographic, because even payment plans are beyond many on minimum wage living week to week. Remember also that this is an entertainment business after all, so we need to be caught up in the buzz.
Transfers and players agreeing to stay are key to the fans believing we have a chance at a play-off tilt. Even with a bottom 6-8 budget, Simmo’s tenacity and scouting ability will see us punch above our financial weight. That has been what Lincoln City has been about since 1884. Passion and the desire to stand tall is what being an Imp is all about. Do this, the fans will continue to respond, the budget will grow and we will be there or thereabouts.