Prudent planning and chairman's 'rainy day fund' has helped Shrewsbury Town survive pandemic

Chief executive Brian Caldwell admits Shrewsbury have been fortunate to rely on the ‘rainy day fund’ built up over many years by chairman Roland Wycherley to survive the pandemic.

Shrewsbury chairman Roland Wycherley, right, with new vice-chairman Paul Delves
Shrewsbury chairman Roland Wycherley, right, with new vice-chairman Paul Delves

Caldwell admits he hopes that ‘common sense prevails’ and Shrewsbury will welcome supporters back for the start of the 2021/22 season.

Town are focusing their efforts behind the scenes on recovering from 14 months of little to no income due to Covid-19.

The Town chief admits Shrewsbury have needed to, reluctantly, break into the reserves built up over a number of years by chairman Wycherley and his prudent running of the club.

But, with supporters set to return to stadia in some capacity during this summer’s delayed Euro 2020 tournament in Britain, Caldwell is holding out for supporters to be in place in time for Steve Cotterill’s side to get next season underway on August 7.

“As a football club we’ve been extremely difficult, over the years the chairman has built up good reserves for us to have a rainy day fund, that money was always for the future to invest and help the club long term,” Caldwell told Shropshire Council’s Invest in Shropshire show.

“The last thing we wanted to do was use it all up and haemorrhage the money but we have done in the last 13 or 14 months to continue playing and trying to survive.

“We’ve paid everybody 100 per cent throughout, we put everybody on furlough and there’s a lot of staff still on furlough, to save as much as we can.

“The electricity bill still comes in every month, there are still a lot of costs to try to meet.

“Major costs is always players’ wages but we still have to pay our water, etc, etc.

“Even matchday, these games behind closed doors, we still need a stewarding presence to make sure it is behind closed doors and we’re obeying the EFL protocols. For away games we’re taking two buses to allow social distances, in hotels they are all in single rooms, so your hotel bill of £2,000 usually becomes up to £6,000."

Caldwell continued: “It’s fortunate that we’ve had the reserves to dip into, none of us wanted to dip into the reserves.

“The slight annoying thing for me is other clubs have been able to dip into the distress funds that we can’t, because the chairman has run the club sustainability, the right way over the years.

“We have got probably one of the best finances in the EFL, if not the best finances, but having worked so hard over the last 15 years the last thing we wanted to do was to lose all the money we’d built up.

“We were looking to invest the money in things that can potentially grow the club and give us new income streams to benefit the club.”

While the lack of matchday income has hit the club hard, Town’s CEO explained that the club have severely struggled without the 365 days’ guaranteed worth of income provided by the conferencing and events department, which has been shut since March last year.

The upcoming accounts, to be released for the year up to June 2020, will show some of the damage but the Shrews chief said the losses portrayed in the following year’s figures will be ‘astronomical’.

The Town chief shared his frustration at lower league football’s lack of support, with just between £1.3million-£1.5million broadcast fees filtered down to the third tier, compared to £120million at Premier League level.

Top flight clubs did rally in support of lower league clubs, but Caldwell says a £50million bailout figure was actually just £30million shared between clubs on the loss of gate receipts, leaving Town just £400,000 of the kitty to survive, with League One rivals receiving up to or more than three times that figure.

Shrewsbury also paid the price for running within their means, as they were not permitted to apply for the remaining £20million bailout fee, which was reserved for crisis clubs on the brink of administration.

Caldwell said Shrewsbury remained thankful to their loyal locals sponsors, such as Montgomery Waters, Tuffins, Salop Leisure, DM Recruitment, Emcon and Jim Dorricott Construction, as well as supporters who have invested in iFollow streams to watch this season’s behind-closed-doors fixtures and purchased season tickets for next season, which recently went on sale.

The Scot added: “I do feel football is probably one of the hardest hit, at least pubs and restaurants have been shut, we’ve still had to operate with costs involved, without any assistance.”

Five successful fan-return pilot fixtures (four league matches) satisfied regulators and Caldwell is hopeful of full stands next season.

“We’ve done the pilots of 1,000 up to 2,000 which was really successful,” he added. “We got unbelievable response from the EFL and SGSA, to get 2,000 in is not a problem but we need to satisfy season ticket holders first,” he added.

“I believe we can get 3,000 in safely, socially distant. We’re hopefully with the vaccine being rolled out, passports being spoken about, LFT tests on the way in for those without a vaccine passport, we can get as many in as we possibly can. Football clubs can’t survive without support, we’ve done it for 13 months.

“Clubs have survived through owner funding, dipping into reserves or government grants and mainly loans, we’ve all been front-rolled future TV money from the EFL, that will drop your income going forward.”

“It’s very, very hard to budget.”

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