Thursday 14th February 2019
THE chairman and board of Dumbarton Football Club are urging supporters to get behind the club at a “critical time”, as it seeks to address “serious problems” on and off the pitch and to create “a positive, community focussed future” for the Sons.
“With continuing challenges both with our league position and in terms of resources, it’s important that our supporters and friends fully understand the difficult situation we are in, why things are as they are, and how we plan to turn things around with their help,” says John Steele, who came in as the new chairman of Dumbarton last May.
“After six years of our owners, Brabco, looking to relocate the club’s stadium to a new site as part of a plan to increase profile and income, the plans were rejected by West Dunbartonshire Council earlier this year.
“There was virtually no investment in the infrastructure of the club during that period, with the expectation of the owners being that relocation would take place.
“The longer-term costs of that lack of investment are now coming home to roost, but the new club board, working closely with supporters through the Sonstrust, are determined to address this and find a path to long-term sustainability.
“Our challenges were obviously made worse by last-minute relegation to League One at the end of last season, after six years in the Championship – the second tier of Scottish professional football – where we were punching way above our weight as a small, part-time club.
“Relegation has left us with a significant increase in debt and nothing to show financially for our time in the Championship.
“Furthermore, a new season in a lower division saw a 25% drop in season tickets, despite attempts to make prices competitive at League One level, and a change in demographics towards more lower-priced concessions.
“The impact of both relegation and a fall in regular support has been huge financially. On top of that, we have had to cope with a season of unprecedented injuries that required incremental funding to get us through.
“To seek to address problems on the pitch required, after careful consideration, a change in management and subsequent costs associated with that.
“As can be seen from our current league position, we are still not out of the woods with continuing injuries, having to ask players to play out of position, the need to balance the squad, and a serious income gap.
“In spite of these difficulties, the board and sponsors have been actively supporting the manager in getting some new faces in and will continue to do everything that can be done both on and off the pitch.”
While being forthright about the immense challenges Dumbarton FC faces, chairman John Steele remains positive that the club can find its footing again.
“If we can work together to overcome our immediate difficulties, the long-term looks bright,” says the club chairman. “We are where we are – now we need to look forward.”
“We have a new board structure with open and honest communication. We are establishing the kind of financial and decision-making structure that we have needed for some time.
“The relationship with the fans is really positive, and as chairman, I enjoy and appreciate travelling on the supporters’ bus to away games when I can.
“We are grateful both to board members and the Sonstrust for initiatives to increase income and involvement – things like the regular Platform for Artists, which improves the matchday experience, our popular Murder Mystery evening, Race Nights, and more.
“Our commercial director Alan Findlay works tirelessly to increase income. The support I get from vice-chair Colin Hosie is vital. And there have also been outstanding community initiatives driven by director Dr Neil MacKay, such as the partnership with West Dunbartonshire CVS, a Care Homes initiative and youth team support.
“All in all, I firmly believe that we can address serious challenges both in football and resource terms. But we need full backing from our supporters and commercial partners, as well as patience and determination.
“We will also be pressing our owners for greater clarity about their intentions moving forward, and for active support as we address these serious issues and seek to secure the future of Dumbarton FC.”
Speaking on behalf of the Sonstrust, the registered provident society that brings Dumbarton fans together and has a shareholding in the club, chairman Brian Payne welcomed the statement from John Steele.
“The trust agrees wholly with the strategy and approach of the Dumbarton FC board and the collaborative style of the club chairman. We will continue to do everything we can to back the club, and to urge Sons fans to get behind it financially and in every other way.”
The Dumbarton FC board and the Sonstrust will be making further announcements shortly about initiatives to raise vitally needed funds and to make progress in the league.