Monday, December 10, 2018

The David Davies Interview

We were delighted when David Davies agreed to an interview with before the recent LDV game against Kidderminster. David talks openly about the clubs finances, potential investment, the recent FA fine and the criticism he receives. It was reported from the LSA meeting that the club did not have enough money to complete the season. Is that accurate?

DD: As we stand today yes, but every club in the country is in the same position. I think there is a degree of people not understanding the economics of the game. We’ve always said from the last set of audited accounts that were published in May this year that we need to bring in further investment and that situation hasn’t changed.

We’re looking at ways to improve our incomings and we’re about to launch our own lottery to help narrow the gap. People have got to understand that for the last thirty odd years this club was run at a loss. It’s been funded either by a rich person putting money in – like Chris Wright – or we transferred players out.

QPR is what it is, in that we need to sell a Les Ferdinand every so often to make sure the books balance. The difficulty for the us and the game as a whole is the transfer market has died and those big figures are no longer there. Obviously a statement like “we don’t have enough money to finish the season” is quite alarming

DD: It is, but I’m not responsible for presenting any information in such a panic stricken fashion. I never want to mislead people and I’ve tried not to since I’ve been here over the last three years. So we do not have a large wad of money that is going to dwindle over the course of a season, and then we start again, we trade like any other business and if factors change we have to change the cash flow accordingly.  If we have a loss in form over the next few months it could have a very bad effect on us, but we didn’t budget to go very far in the cups so Man City is a real help for us. Brentford cancelling saw us lose thirty thousand pounds in TV fee’s but then we didn’t budget for them being there in the first place. So whilst it’s galling to lose that much money there’s no loss in the accounts as such. What is the latest on Wasps return to Loftus Road?

DD: We’re pretty clear about it. Fulham are working towards moving back to Craven Cottage. They’ve put in a planning application but they haven’t got it yet. If that’s the case we have no other options, Wasps have a contract with us we would expect them to come back and honour it. So to that extent if they want to stay away there’s a negotiation process we’d have to go through. In the same way that they’d want money off us for someone else staying here, if they don’t come back I’ll be asking the same questions. If Wasps come back and pay the same amount as before, how can we afford to pay the loan back?

DD: We’re working hard with ABC to restructure the loan, I’ve not made any bones about that and I hope that when we get to the position where Wasps come back that will be taken care of. How much difference would first division football make to QPR financially?

DD: The central funding is an extra three hundred thousand pounds a season but the big issue for us is the gate money. Aside from the obvious increase in home attendances we would probably aggregate out about eight hundred away fans extra every game. Then you can obviously charge more for sponsorships, boxes, match day tickets etc.

All in all it’s probably worth close to a million pounds a season. You go into the cups at a later stage, which is better but it’s more about what you can do commercially.

At the same time we’re now seeing player budgets drop in division one and by the time we need to consider that possibility I wouldn’t expect to see our squad size differ much from today. Do we budget to be a second division club next season?

DD: Yes, it’s the only way you can do it. I don’t believe we’re relegation candidates so we shouldn’t budget for that but neither should we budget for promotion because all you need is a bad injury crisis and suddenly your plans are in disarray.

On the other hand you don’t want to be to depressive about it because the only way of balancing your budget then is to look at the big figures which are players costs. You have to strike a balance between having a competitive team on the field, because if you’re not competitive then you don’t progress and people don’t turn up for the games, so we budget for relative success.

This year we think we’ll be in and around the play off’s, we haven’t budgeted for play off money though, we only budgeted for the second round of the Carling Cup and we’re going to go out in the first round of the FA cup according to our budget. It’s difficult because people will say we’re not showing any ambition, now I understand that dichotomy but it’s a case of planning for success and budgeting for failure.

Finishing second is the rump end of the stick really. If you go up as champions there’s a prize fund and you get the day with the trophy and feel great about yourselves. If you go to the play offs, providing your nerves can stand it and you go up it’s a great way to do it and there’s a big cheque at the end of it. What is the latest on David Thorne’s investment? Why has it dragged on so long?

DD: David is flying over next week and it’s not like he’s coming from Manchester so he wouldn’t be coming if he wasn’t coming to do something. Are there any other interested parties?

DD: What I can say is there has been more interest in us over the last month than in the previous three or four. Probably because we’re at a point in the season where people are thinking we represent good value. There are a number of teams you can invest in out there and we represent the best value for money at the moment. There’s club like Leeds that are trying to get investment in, but look at what you inherit. The infrastructure is so far dilapidated that you’ve got to start investing more just to build it up. So for us, with a team that’s challenging and a fan base that’s on the rise so I think we are seen as good value. What did you think of Peter Risdale’s recent comments about his failed bid?

DD: They were in the Standard and I was personally very angry about them. Peter came to us, I thought very openly, I presented to him the full financial picture he and had a very adult conversation about what he wanted to do with the club and I was perfectly happy with that. He wanted to appoint his own Chief Executive and I thought that was fine. Yes I wanted to be treated with the kind of human resource techniques that any plc would offer but I wouldn’t have stood in his way.

I confronted Peter when he came down a few days after the article because by then I now had thirty emails telling me what a prize pratt I was. To his credit he actually had to back track and say that he wasn’t referring to me individually. Indeed he says later on in the same article what a good job he thought we were doing running the club. The reality of it is though it’s the headline that catches the attention and it’s easy to miss the validation later in the article. 

It takes a certain amount of humble pie to stand up and say “I understand what you want to do and I understand I wont be a part of it but here’s what I’ve learned in the last three years”. To have done that and then seen the piece in the Standard hurt. I thought the least I could do was confront him with it. Olly’s contract expires this summer; there has been no talk of extending it?

DD: I can’t really comment about that because I haven’t discussed it with Ian and I don’t want to carry out negotiations through the internet or the press. Suffice to say I’m sure there will be a discussion, it will start pretty rapidly and I’m sure it will be as robust as it was last time!

There is a part of me that wants to keep Ian focused on the job in hand and that’s keeping us in the automatic promotion bracket and I don’t want anything to deflect us from it. Is there a budget for further permanent signings

DD: No. If we generate further money through investment or going another couple of rounds in a cup competition then who knows. We always had a budget set aside for loan signings which we’re actually not using as fast as we thought. I’m not saying for one second that we wouldn’t bring in further players through that method but I don’t want to use that up now. The supply of shirts has been nothing short of disgraceful is this solely the manufacturers fault?

DD: We’ve been very disappointed with it. Le Coq Sportiff have been let down by their supplier in Romania and consequently the home shirt was supplied very slowly. They’ve changed supplier for the away shirt and now we’re left with the ludicrous situation in the club shop of having more away shirts in stock than we have home shirts. I’m not going to duck out of the issue, we’ve been let down. They’re embarrassed about it and so are we and we’re working together to try to overcome it.

I do admit that part of the problem was that we signed the Binatone deal in June, whereas the previous year we knew that JD Sports were in position from the February so we were able to sign the design off and it was all in stock for pre-season. That’s where we want to be again this coming year. To that extent we’re already in negotiations with Binatone to extend the current deal for a further two years. If we can get that done by Christmas we can then bring the whole design process forward this time.

As for this years shirt we are expecting another three to four hundred home kits in stock by the time of the Peterborough game. At various times we have heard of the so-called “era of openness”, do you think you are as open as you can be or is there room for improvement?

DD: There’s always room for improvement but I think the difficulty for some people is it’s never going to be as open as they want it to be. For example we’ve been criticised for not giving information on Chris’ deal at Twyford but I’m restricted by confidentiality. All I can say is if he’s happy for me to release it, I’ll release it. I understand people being upset about it but there’s nothing I can do. In business, when you get to the point when you are doing land deals, they are generally covered by confidentiality.

People got upset about ABC and the loan deal. Some people thought Chris was going to write all his loans off and we’d have had no debt at all. It was never going to happen.

I think there is a degree of naivety about how open you can possibly be. Compared to other London clubs I think we’re pretty good. We meet with fan groups regularly, I understand there is a meeting with QPR 1st outstanding but we met with the LSA every other month and we have an official supporters club now and we met with them every other month, last year we did Q&A sessions, we had the EGM. I’m just not quite sure how people could say we’re not being open.

I’ve read the suggestion that the shares Chris gave back to the club should be owned by a group of senior fans but I’m really not sure that whoever made the suggestion understood the arrangement in the first place. The arrangement always was that those shares would vote with the board so even the fans took possession of them when they disagreed with the board, they’d have to vote with them.

I have to accept there’s going to be that criticism as part and parcel of the job and not get too upset about it. You can’t please all the people all the time. You look round other 2nd Division clubs and they are very fan run, the stewards are fans, the ticket office is run by fans, the turnstiles are manned by fans but we seem to have a much more corporate outlook. Why is that and isn’t there savings that could made there?

DD: We used to do it but things have moved on so much since then. When the LSA bought this up three weeks ago they recognised that things had changed and that it’s a lot to ask fans to turn up not just for the matches but for the regular training that’s now required AND do it all for nothing. So then you get into deciding whether to pay them or not but you can’t, because you’d need to pay minimum wage.

We’ve looked at doing it by giving fans merits as rewards, like going on the bus with the players, it’s a good idea but we still have to look at service delivery. What happens if they don’t turn up? I’ve still got to open the ground and I’ve still got to meet the regulations laid down by the police and the local authorities.

One misnomer is that these people are stewards not security men so they cant physically stop people going onto the pitch, indeed there’s been cases at ground in London where people have prosecuted stewards who have done that. On the other hand there are cases where stewards have been injured in cases like that and claimed against he company. If you think back to the Stockport County game, there was ample opportunity for injury to take place and we’re expecting volunteers to take care of that? I think people have got to stop, take out the emotion of the game and put the sensible hat on. It’s very difficult. 

If you look at the turnstiles we used to have those fan run. The difficulty for us is the amount of money we take since we changed over has risen considerably. I know other clubs that have found since they changed over from fans to an employee basis suddenly found they were taking forty percent more money. It all works at the moment and to change that means I’ve got to be certain that the service I’m getting is the same.

We do use fans to do different things for us but I always pay them the cost of it. Simply because if I get something printed I want to be able to go back if it’s bad and say this isn’t what I wanted. If you have a volunteer doing it, it’s bloody difficult to say actually this is a poor performance – do it again. I’m saying that from my own bitter experience.

I’m not saying it can’t be done but it is difficult and it needs to be done in such a way that we get good value for money. Do you think Goldrange give us good value for money?

DD: If you look at it they have worked at Fulham, Brentford and Watford and they were looking after the England team in Turkey. That indicates they are pretty good at what they do otherwise they wouldn’t get those contracts.

However if you are paying minimum wage for a fairly tedious job you are always like to get foreign labour in London today. We’re not being paranoid over the problems that that brings with it, but we do expect them to speak English as good as us, as well as have knowledge of the layout of the ground, understand the evacuation processes and turn up on time. That makes any exception to this an issue for us. What happened with the recent FA charge and where does that leave us?

DD: Over the last four years we’ve been reported on nineteen different occasions and they go from the sublime to the ridiculous. We’ve been reported for someone throwing on orange onto the pitch. The orange was nowhere near a player, it was taken from the field of play to the away dug out where the assistant manager proceeded to eat it. That went in the referee’s report. If it had been a banana I think people would understand that potentially has some overtones to it, but an orange?

On the other hand Clayton Ince was struck by a coin and bled. During the same game we had to intercept a fan who was trying to get on the field to attack the referee. A few games before that Tony Butler got a coin in the eye. In my view these are serious incidents.

For those reason we were asked to explain ourselves. They walked round the ground, they looked at the CCTV camera’s and security arrangements. They gave us a heavy fine which has been suspended and they are making the point that this has happened and we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

I came out feeling a bit sore because I felt we’d gone as far as many clubs go.  We’d got a good report form the football licensing authority and from the police, our level of stewarding is pretty high so we do what we can but ultimately if you think about the mechanism’s of someone throwing a coin there might be hundreds of people with their hands in the air at the same time. Could you, could anyone say “it was him your honour”. Very difficult.

It’s would be very easy to say if Andy Hall had refereed the Crewe game differently then it might not have happened. I strayed into that territory and got slapped down pretty quickly. They are very clearly saying that our crowd’s behaviour is a concern to them, whether that’s fair or unfair isn’t for me to judge, I’ve got to live with the consequences. That’s why tonight’s program includes a behavioural statement and it’s got to be in there every game, because that’s what they’ve told us to do. Fans are becoming increasingly more agitated about the work of the directors. What would be your message to us?  

DD: I’ve been privileged to live through some of the most troubled times this club has known. There are some people out there that think they understand what happened and have got part of the truth but haven’t got it all.

What I would say is there is a huge amount of goodwill for this club up and down the country and we are perceived to have turned the corner. We’ve got an opportunity to band together and the only people who are going to stop are ourselves. So rather than take pot shots at each other do you not think we ought to be pulling together in more cohesive ways.

So a banner was put out, alright so I stand down and someone else comes into my position and the fans that put the banner up expect the new person to still do the same job I do, be a fan from birth and inevitably accept less money for doing it. In addition they think the new person is going to hit the ground running you can think again because this is a complex business and you’d have a period of time where they settle in finding the kettle and toilets etc.  At this time you are not able to give the leadership to the company and, in my opinion, that’s clearly not good for the club.

I understand it that people want to feel a part of things because it’s their club, it’s their passion, it sends them to sleep at nights and wakes them up in the mornings, but ultimately why we have been successful is that we have stuck together and done the best thing for the club from a business perspective. For example last season when some people were calling for a change of manager, it made no sense from a playing perspective or financially and with the support of the fans the team came round and look what was achieved

We, any of us, are nothing more than custodians for this club going forward, it’s not mine, it’s not Nick’s, it’s not yours, it’s everybody’s. So I would beseech everyone to bury whatever hatchet they have and work together.

This goes to the LSA and to the Trust too. There shouldn’t be a Hoops Fund that’s only supported by the trust because ultimately it’s too small, this initiative should be viewed by all supporters whatever there personal feelings over the Trust movement as a worthy initiative. It needs to be preaching to the biggest possible church to get the best value. Unfortunately, currently this is not happening.

People have criticised me for taking Vic Gibbons to court but I absolutely think that was the right thing to do. People have got to respect what this club is about and I don’t want people to mistreat it. We’ve come too far in the last five years to have people treat it like it’s an amateur club. It’s a professional club, it’s got good people in it and I’m dammed if I’m going to have people treat it like Noname United playing in an amateur league. It’s not why you wear the shirt, it’s not why you run a website. You do these things because you love what we’ve stood for over a long period of time and as your Chief Executive I’m passionate about everything we’re trying to achieve here but I’m dammed if I’m going to have people treat us badly. It’s got to stop, we’re strong enough now to stand up and say that’s wrong, it’s manifestly wrong.

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