Chairman confident club is back on the up after a season to forget at Brickfields
LAST SEASON was one of the most eventful in the club's recent history, mostly for the wrong reasons.
We were on the brink of going out of business at the beginning of 2012 but our appeal for support brought in over £220,000 which enabled us to survive in the Championship. Without that level of generosity and support we would have gone into liquidation and that would have been the end of professional rugby in Plymouth.
The response to our appeal for financial help was overwhelming. Children raided their piggy banks, widows of past supporters sent gifts and the fan base rallied round magnificently. We had a superb response from the business community and sponsors. The city council were equally supportive and many of our creditors agreed to payment plans to give us time to overcome the financial difficulties.
It demonstrated just how passionate people are about Albion and their determination to keep the club going. Our heartfelt thanks go out to so many because collectively they saved the day. I would also like to make a special mention of Plymouth Argyle chairman James Brent.
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When you are in the swamp up to your eyes in alligators it was so reassuring that James came alongside me personally in an encouragement and advisory capacity to help pave the way to safety.
Although well reported, the financial crisis was caused by a 20 per cent fall in attendances, a drop in commercial support caused, in the main, by the current economic climate and the untimely departure of a financial backer.
The sequence of events saw the departure of our long-standing chairman of rugby Graham Dawe in November followed, only a few weeks later, by the departure of his successor Pete Drewett.
The board invited Nat Saumi to take on the role of director of rugby and we were delighted he accepted the position.
Nat, with his team of club coach John Roberts, conditioning coach James Owen, club physio Paris Payne and several others set about securing our place in the Championship and what an outstanding job they did.
At a time when it would have been so easy for the guys to drop their heads, they re-grouped and got on with the job in hand playing some impressive rugby. Thanks must also go to all those who each played their part last season.
At an emergency shareholders meeting held in early January the full extent of the crisis was explained to all shareholders.
During that meeting I offered to step down as chairman, due to the fact that affairs at the club had gone awry while I was at the helm. The shareholders rejected my offer of resignation and requested that I stay in post while a rescue plan was implemented. A decision on change of chairman may still be a thing for the future.
Off the field the board of directors has been strengthened, tighter financial controls introduced and a viable business plan for 2012-13 put together.
One of our past directors, Debbie Fisher, has rejoined the board and has taken on the role of acting CEO, in a voluntary capacity, to oversee the restructuring of the business.
I can report that the management structure has been fully reviewed and changes are now being implemented with a focus on strengthening the commercial team. Further appointments to the board are planned.
On the field, we were delighted to retain many of the players from last season, which gives us some continuity, and to be able to strengthen the squad with some excellent signings.
The promise of free-flowing rugby has been demonstrated in our pre-season friendlies with impressive performances.
The work that has gone on since pre-season training began has been fantastic. The boys are fit and raring to go and the spirit is second to none.
We are hopeful that good performances on the pitch will bring the crowds back to Brickfields. People want to watch a winning side, ideally playing attractive rugby and the signs are promising – although we are all keeping our feet on the ground because the Championship will be a very tough challenge this season.
We want to get the fans coming back through the turnstiles to support the team.
Our attendances averaged 1,700 last season and we want to see that back to well over 2,000.
The more revenue we generate on and off the field, the more we can invest in our squad and make Albion a force to be reckoned with in the Championship, but we want to do it in a sustainable way.
On behalf of all involved at Albion, I would like to appeal to the people in Plymouth and the wider catchment area to come and savour the matchday experience.
We have plans for special matchday themes to attract supporters and families to a great day out in a safe environment. Albion is also a great place for business networking.
All at the club feel quite excited about the new season.