Sincil Bank: Grounds For Concern?
Sincil Bank will always be the Spiritual home of Lincoln City Football club, part of the Soul. Once a proper old School football ground, with that intimidating Clanford End and West Terrace down the side, it holds memories and spiritual ties for young wide eyed Imps as well as grown weeping men that witnessed miracles as the Imps punched above their financial weight for years.
Thank-you for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs
The Clanford or Railway End
However the Imps can now afford the manager and our best squad for years one of the smallest budgets in the division – just £400,000 some £50-70,000 less than that afforded to David Holdsworth. The latest accounts to June 2012 showed a decrease to £1,655,505, a fall of £1 million from the year before. Staff costs were recorded as £1,233,948 for the period with £96,422 in depreciation and other operating charges of £619,423. With the staff cost reduced clearly the loss of £230,053 should not be repeated, yet geography is certainly leading to bigger off pitch costs than on, something that is not sustainable long-term.
The frustration for fans will always be the performance of the football team, limited in size and ultimately quality by the Pro-Budget. Each year it seems to go down and down. Effectively prices went up £2 this year as the old home end, once the Clanford, now the Stacey West, was closed forcing fans to move to the Lincolnshire Co Op stand, but even with massively increased season ticket sales, the club again had to cut its cloth.
The Chairman, the two vice Chairs and Chris Moyses have put money in and continue to do so, those are facts, whether everyone trusts their motives or not, their wallets and hearts do seem in the right place. As to the others, the now silent but very long-term custodians and board members of our club, that seems less clear. Perhaps they might argue, well would you if an historic £50,000 or £75,000 injection came with a gilt edged promise that entitles you to prawns for life? It would be interesting to ask the board to blow away all the secrecy for a short while and openly admit how they have helped to ensure the team has the best possible pro-budget and therefore the means to compete and realise the rank and file Imps dreams?
Before we even get to whether the team should come first, or test whether the stadium is fit for purpose there is another undeniable fact. Despite the club still expected to enjoy a healthy seven figure turnover (crowds and sponsorship already appear up on last season), just over £400,000 is left spare for the team. With the well paid CEO gone and staff cut to the bone, clearly the fixed costs are still too high (rates and maintenance if any) and top-heavy in comparison to the most important part of the club to us fans – the team.
Therefore a move to a smaller cheaper stadium is inevitable and in the absence of representation, we will have to live with it because beggars can’t be choosers. Many will argue there is a profit motive (that is not for STMI to go into given the ongoing ban and our lack of legal funding), with a City centre location being swapped for a smaller stadium almost out of town. But it could well give us the ability to compete on the pitch, because that is the only thing that will sustain the club. In reality Commercial sponsorship and turnstile clicks keep the club going, whilst the two board set-up allows people to keep sitting on their hands.
The media muted model seems to be Chesterfield, although there is no way we can afford and sustain something like that from this position. It has its merits, with the realisation that turnstile income limits the potential of a club, with 24-7-365 income the obvious boost. But, fact is, the Spireites have been able to overspend this season in order to go straight back up. That is because they have a board and, in particular a chairman, with the financial ability to ‘chuck in an extra three hundred thousand’ as and when needed. We don’t so we will not be storming League 2 any time soon.
Leaving Sincil Bank is inevitable if this club is to survive. It is not the only issue that needs addressing by any means, but it will certainly help the team short, medium and long-term. That the Imps profit on the pitch, will be the only thing everyone can agree on whilst the process trundles along behind the scenes. Thus, perhaps incredibly, the vast majority of lifelong stakeholders and alienated shareholders will play no part in the process, treated like mushrooms really, left in the dark until a well-timed media searchlight allows us to see what is going on.
It is the best the fans can hope for because the Lincoln City Supporters trust has shown little desire to engage or update members or fans for years, labelling those who ask questions as ‘Trust-bashers’. Did it sell its soul by denying its members the chance to debate and then vote on the million shares it gave away, or had that and its openness been sacrificed some years before?