Moors Chief Executive, Brad Groves, previews the new National League North campaign.
We are now making final preparations for what is sure to be another rollercoaster season in the Vanarama National League North.
There has been a huge amount of change over the summer, where I have streamlined the club’s management structure and returned to a more hands-on approach myself.
We are also continuing to make significant changes to the playing squad and we have set clear expectations across the club of what is expected in 2022/23.
Commerciality in the new world
I am encouraged that we have brought plenty of new sponsors into the club and also signed new commercial deals with some of our longest standing business partners.
The whole Spennymoor Town FC operation has been refocused in line with the new operating environment all clubs are coming to terms with.
Just this week we’ve seen news stories covering the difficulty clubs in the Premier League have had securing their playing kits in time for the new season. Add to the mix inflation; increased travel costs; and the outstanding bills that clubs are repaying from the pandemic and this year will test business models throughout the football pyramid.
The largest National League North clubs are also contending with the costs that are associated with improving their grounds and facilities, which increase rateable values and debt.
We have banged the drum on affordable football for the last two years and I will continue to offer affordable football for as long as I run the club.
The demographic profile of Spennymoor and its population of just 21,000 people demands a bottom quartile pricing structure, which we continue to employ.
However, we can no longer move ourselves out of line commercially with the competition. We did that with our pricing for the last two years, but it had to be heavily subsidised via myself in order to attract people back to football stadia and show them that they were safe at The Brewery Field.
We cannot continue to do that. It is not sustainable nor responsible to the club as a long-term strategy.
In contention with improving fortunes for the region’s EFL and Premier League clubs, I am happy with our Season Ticket sales and expect to see strong crowds at The Brewery Field this season.
Once again, I was keen to make our youth football offering as valuable as possible and have distributed an additional 400 free Season Tickets to our children, coaches and young people as part of our one club approach. This also extends to Spennymoor Ladies, who are great supporters of the men on a matchday and an important part of the club.
Our ticket, food and drink prices at The Brewery Field are bottom quartile of our league, despite price increases this year. Our Season Tickets are cheaper than North East clubs in the leagues below us. Our drinks and food are cheaper than almost all of the clubs in our league and we now offer a free, secure, tarmacked car park for the new season, where other clubs charge.
We provide pre-match and half-time entertainment, themed days, drinks promotions and are always exploring new ways of improving the matchday experience for our supporters and visitors. There is a great deal of care and effort goes into a matchday at Spennymoor Town and this is how we have created a family-friendly, warm and entertaining environment for our community.
We will monitor how our pricing structure stacks up against the rest of the league throughout the season with benchmarking exercises and ensure we remain one of the cheapest clubs to follow in the National League North, as well as being cheaper than many of our North East contemporaries in leagues below.
On the pitch
It goes without saying that last season was well below expectations. Anthony and Bernard improved results after coming in, but they radically changed our approach and it takes time for a group of footballers to adapt when they are only together twice a week.
Our points per game increased steadily as the season progressed and by the last 10 games we were fourth in the form table. It is easy to forget that we were only one win away from achieving a play-off spot. Whilst the ultimate outcome was disappointing, progress was made.
The lads and the management have had their first pre-season together and have now had the time to implement a system and a style of play.
It was clear that changes were needed in the playing squad at the end of the season. Eleven players have left the club from last season’s squad and five have come in.
The non-league market will become more active this week with trials ending in the leagues above and players learning where their futures lie.
We have taken our time with our incoming business to give us the best chance of bringing in quality and the managers are very happy with the new bodies we have secured. We expect a number of further new additions to join us in coming weeks to really give the squad strength in depth.
We have backed Anthony and Bernard with an incredibly competitive budget this season with the target of a top seven finish and a strong cup run. There is no reason we can’t deliver this and build on the progress from the end of last season.
Running a National League North club
Changes behind the scenes have been just as vast as on the pitch this year. I would like to sincerely thank Tony Wilson, Matty Hannon, Peter Storey, Barry Farr, Andy Lowe, Ian Hubbard, Jack Franks and others who have left the club ahead of the season for their efforts in taking us to the level we have now reached.
Ian Geldard worked to impressive effect in my foundation for 18 months and has now joined Spennymoor Town as General Manager, which envelopes several of the roles above. His organisational strengths and contacts will be an asset.
Andy Oates now operates as the club’s Head of Sports Science and Physiotherapy with Jamie Sinclair taking over matchday duties and Andy taking an overarching approach to injury management.
Additionally, we have brought in Steven Jones as an experienced new Hospitality Manager and former Hartlepool and Barrow Media and Communications Manager Mark Simpson to strengthen our off-the-pitch team further with Football League pedigree.
Playing legend Gavin Cogdon has also been announced this week as the new Interim Head of Youth Football. He has exciting plans to develop our coaching and youth development in new ways.
Next week we will be announcing our new Executive Team and Management Team structure in full. So you can see just how much substantial change has taken place over the summer break.
Let’s support Spennymoor together
The last few years have been, and continue to be, a challenge for everyone. The team at Spennymoor Town have worked tirelessly in difficult conditions to create a matchday that supporters and families can enjoy.
I was vocal that we had to help supporters, parents and players throughout the pandemic.
We set up refund and ticket deferral processes; we created one of the best streaming services in non-league and delivered it for one of the cheapest prices; I paid youth football costs and halted direct debits for parents; we slashed ticket and matchday costs; we led on setting the right example to footballing authorities and on safety; and put people at the heart of every decision we made.
We have now employed a dedicated Community Development Manager, Luke Cowie, whose sole focus is using the power of sport and the profile of the club for the benefit of the community. We have always given back to Spennymoor and we now have a specific point of contact focused on this area.
As far as the business world is concerned, we are moving away from the pandemic now. As a football club, we need to live in the real world and cut our cloth accordingly to our operating environment.
We have obviously seen negative reactions to price increases on social media. There have also been a lot of arguments between supporters about opinions on football matters recently. Everyone has different opinions on football. It’s one of the reasons we love it and everyone is certainly entitled to their view. A differing opinion does not make someone your enemy. As a society, we seem to have lost the ability to have discussions and the ability to see each other’s point of view.
The one thing I would urge everyone to do is treat each other with respect. If you don’t like a particular formation, result or drink, you are free to voice your opinion. What you cannot do at our club is direct personal insults or abuse at staff, players or other supporters. This applies when you are in The Brewery Field, in the Neil Adams Sports Bar or interacting on our social media channels.
We are a community club and we do things properly.
The players and managers need your support and we need a united fan base behind the team. We’re all hoping for a strong start to the season and that will be a much easier task backed by a passionate crowd at The Brewery Field, which has so often been an asset to our team.
I will be more visible this season than in recent years. I am taking a more hands-on approach and will be attending more games and spending more time at the ground. Additionally, I will attend several supporters’ forums throughout the season and ensure that our loyal followers have the ability to speak to me.
I will be appearing on the club’s official podcast, A Little Moor Conversation, fairly soon to share more about our journey.
I look forward to seeing you all in August and here’s to an exciting campaign ahead.