A New Foundation?

Huddersfield Town story posted by Phill Rodgerson on 03/09/2003
After weeks of speculation amongst Town fans about what the ?secret? meeting was being held for at the McAlpine on Tuesday night, the answer finally came at aprroximately 7.05pm from Town?s new Chief Executive Andrew Watson. And that answer? The one thing that no-one has ever thought of that will secure Town?s future? The Academy. Yes, folks, it was that underwhelming. The answer to all our problems was something Town fans had known for quite a while and a route which many Football League clubs had taken already, to fund and progress the Academy.A New Foundation?

The meeting began with Andrew Watson recalling the tale of Town?s recent plight, detailing how our problems in administration almost meant the loss of our Academy. Various figures were mentioned, regarding the costs of the Academy, including the cost of the new training facility on Leeds Road; ?1.2m along with a yearly rental cost of ?40,000. With the actual total cost of running the Academy approaching nearly half a million pounds each year.

Despite these costs though, Watson believes it is vital that Town have an Academy installed to secure our future and that the costs will soon be recouped by the better quality players entering the club at no transfer price. The initiative being launched to help fund the Academy is called 'The Blue & White Foundation', similar to those of which both Crystal Palace and his former club Burnley have pursued recently as well, but which Bolton Wanderers first introduced in 1986 when they were in Division 4 and in a similar position to ourselves.

A movie presentation was then played on the wall behind Watson showing a montage of some of the goals Town have scored this season, along with M People?s ?What have you done today to make you feel proud?? song accompanying it. (Notice I can?t actually remember the proper title of the song!).

He then presented a few facts on the projector which were as follows:
  • Town have gone from being a top 30 club to a bottom 30 club in just 3 years since Jackson left.
  • Peter Jackson only started with 10 pro players when he joined the club, of which 6 were young pros.
  • Town actually had no kit organised when Jackson became manager.
  • There was no pre-season arranged.
He said that for these reasons Jacko should be commended for his hard work in such a short space of time.

Watson then presented another list, stating the organisational problems with Huddersfield Town in the past. He said that it simply wasn?t the way a business should be run, and he will obviously look to rectify and avoid these problems in the future.
  • ?12m in debt.
  • ?10m recorded loss over three years.
  • No 2002/03 published accounts.
  • ?20m owed to creditors.
  • Retail and lottery franchised.
  • Poor commercially.
  • Not receiving all stadium revenue.
He mentioned the tight restrictions that the Football League wish to impose on their club?s in the near future and said he welcomed such policies. These include clubs being deducted 9 points should they enter into adminstration. The salary cap which is currently in it?s trial year in Division 3, with a 60% of turnover cap. He also paid tribute to Ann Hough who has remained with the club for a number of years and has always worked hard behind the scenes.

Watson then introduced his ?team?, the first being Martin Byrne, one of the new directors of Huddersfield Town. He thanked Sam Anderson and Martin Sykes for their support when he initially wanted to help Town financially. He also said he believed the club was in capable hands with Ken Davy, who was unusually absent from the meeting. Other than some bog standard questions asked to each member of the team about how good/important the fans/team/academy are, with bog-standard responses of ?fantastic/delighted/please, etc.? there was very little else to note from the interview.

Watson then introduced fan-favourite Peter Jackson to the meeting and proceeded with a similar style interview. Jacko said he knew as far back as the beginning of May that the job was his, proving what many people already knew about the world?s worst kept secret at the time. He said he?s pleased with the new players he?s brought in and that the only time the team has let themselves down was at York. He remained very upbeat and confident our future stating ?we?ll be up there? and that the ?future?s bright? with regards to the Academy. He finished by asking the fans to give him and his players the opportunity to settle and to get behind them at every game.

Andrew Watson then once again took the microphone to detail his history with both football and Huddersfield Town. His first Town game was Town vs. Preston, when his Dad, who was a photographer, took him. His Dad was actually the man who took the famous photo of Jimmy Glazzard leaping high into the sky after a goal.

He came through Town boys team, and had 2 years as an apprentice with Town and just one year as a pro before Mick Buxton released him at the young age of 19. He did say that Buxton was a strict disciplinarian and that he often made him clean the corridors at Leeds Road. He also joked that despite being a crap footballer, he was damn good at cleaning floors. After being released by Exeter a year later he decided to go to University and has since been Everton?s and Burnley?s commercial manager before becoming Town?s Chief Executive.

In another presentation he outlined the aims that he has for the club. Below is a list of 6 things which Watson believes the club needs to get right in order to be successful in the future:
  1. People ? both on and off the field.
  2. Football and Academy.
  3. Community.
  4. Marketing.
  5. Finance.
  6. Benchmarking.
He then re-stated Town?s well-publicised aim of being a top 30 club by 2008 (HTAFC?s centenary year). And that this aim couldn?t be achieved by closing the Academy.

He said that they had looked at reasons for closing the Academy, but that the benefits far outweighed the cons. Some of which were that they could pick up Premier League rejects, although this often meant that they weren?t of a good enough quality at all. He also said a problem could be not enough players coming through, but this was proven wrong by the large number of young players in the team at the moment. He said the mean reason for not continuing the Academy were the costs, but that these would be recouped in the future, since sales of Academy players have already brought ?4m into the club.

The Academy actually costs ?470,000 each year to run (with that cost rising to ?500,000 in 3 years time) but ?174,000 of that is paid by government grants along with ?120,000 which the Patrons and the Yorkshire Building Society contribute each year.

He then introduced Academy Director Gerry Murphy to the front, for the last interview of the night. Murphy has been with the club for 15 years now and his first job in 1988 was to re-start the defunct youth policy of the club at the time. He had a tale from the time about how they used to train every Thursday night but after a while the reserve team manager requested that only players who were registered turn up for training sessions. This would have meant a very gifted player wouldn?t have been allowed to turn up but Gerry managed to sign him to a contract.

The next week the reserve team manager commented that he shouldn?t be at training since he wasn?t a registered player, to which Gerry replied that he should check his desk. And that player... none other than Andy Booth!

He said he went to trials every year, as you would expect, including national trials each summer, which are attended by every club including Premier League clubs, but said he?s never picked up one player from there yet. He said the main resource for young talent are at various Development Centres locally including sites at Thomas Rotherham College, in Mirfield and in Huddersfield. He said that 140 new 6 and 7 year olds had been introduced to the system this summer.

He added another little anecdote about Jon Stead who was a little undeveloped by the age of 16 (when players are either given a scholarship or are rejected) but he still decided to put his faith in him, and he is very proud of his decision and of the player that Stead has turned out to be. He finished by saying that the prospects are very good for Town and now that we have an Academy players actually want to come to Huddersfield Town.

Andrew Watson then introduced the ?Blue & White Foundation? to the meeting, attended by around 500 Town fans. The Foundation is an exclusive club for 2000 members, with an annual membership cost of ?104 (just ?2 a week). Members receive the following benefits for becoming a member:
  • A weekly prize draw for ?500, including 10 cash prizes of ?10.
  • A yearly draw for ?10,000 along with 10 cash prizes of ?100.
  • A membership pack including a membership card, a pen and a letter of acceptance.
  • Free weekend membership to the Stadium Health & Fitness Club.
  • 5% Discount on the 2004/05 season ticket.
  • Priority for big match tickets ?as per season ticket holders.
  • Chance to choose the Foundations player of the month and year, along with a member being drawn to present the awards.
  • Social events.
  • Organised meetings with Directors twice a year.
  • Quarterly newsletter.
  • Junior members ? free membership for children and grandchildren of members.
Altogether there will be 572 prizes on offer to the 2000 members (meaning better than a 1 in 4 chance of winning), with prizes totalling ?41,600 each year. The Foundation hopes to raise ?204,000 a year, meaning funding of ?2+m over the next ten years. Fans were asked to sign up on the night, although the actual Foundation doesn?t start until three months time. Those who attended the meeting will be given priority choice of membership.

After a 30 minute break for people to ask questions and to sign up Watson briefly answered to main questions. One was whether the 2000 membership limit would be increased, to which he added that it possibly would if demand was there. And when asked if the money was safe, in relation to previous schemes such as the Bond Holders, he said that Ken Davy was a ?very honourable man?. He then thanked various people before drawing a random ticket number to give away a free box of 10 for the Northampton game.

Phill?s view: I wouldn?t usually do this but as you could probably tell from my opening paragraph I was less than impressed with this scheme. Everyone predicted that it would be the club begging for our money once again and surprise, surprise! I have two main gripes with this ?Foundation?, my first being that it?s nothing new. It?s blatantly obvious that the Academy is the way forward for Football League clubs with the financial constraints placed on most clubs. Why did it need a secretive meeting to announce it? Surely those who weren?t invited are now alienated and feel a little dejected by the club and may be less inclined to join the Foundation.

My second concern are the similarities to the Patrons. The Patrons funded the Academy last year with approximately ?30,000, and run in a similar way to how the Foundation is planned. I want to know, when are all these ?exclusive? groups going to stop cropping up and allow the Town fans to just be one united base? Personally, I think this will be one of those ideas we look back on and say ?that?s where it started going wrong?. It?s one of those which might look good on paper and seem with good intentions at the time, but a year or two later can be the downfall of the club. I hope that isn?t the case, but I?m not very hopeful of the success of it anyway!


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