Filed: Monday, 22nd April 2002
By: Graeme Howlett
Our second annual Q&A with Hammers managing director Paul Aldridge.
KUMB: What is happening to the East Stand, and what about the £6m if it is not being built?
Paul Aldridge: The plans for the rebuilding of the East Stand are ongoing. A date has not been set and will now not affect the available capacity for next season. When a date for the project is agreed we will obviously inform supporters as soon as possible. The finance facility that had been agreed will obviously not be required until work commences.
When Rio Ferdinand was sold the club did indicate that ideally we would rather use some of this money to part fund the cost of the new stand, rather than increase our borrowings. However, the cost of purchasing new players immediately post Rio, and the extra wage burden this entailed, meant the total transfer fee received from this sale has been re-invested in the team.
KUMB: How can it be justified selling the Chelsea FA Cup tickets for £46 when it was on Sky and other clubs include cup games in their season tickets; and will season ticket prices be pegged or reduced next year?
PA: We are currently reviewing our price structure for next season and hope to publish it soon. I receive a lot of correspondence on ticket pricing and I hope that over the next few seasons the cost of watching football at Upton Park will not increase and that in some cases, especially for season ticket holders and the young supporter, it will reduce.
KUMB: Why was there a share buy back and where did the money come from to do it?
PA: The share buy back was organised at the request of many shareholders who for various reasons wished to sell some or all of their shareholding. The board felt it had a duty to implement a scheme that allowed a number of shareholders a mechanism to realize the value their shareholding. Our shares are not traded openly, but by a match bargain basis. This meant that a number of shareholders that had fallen on hard times or no longer wanted the shares could not sell them.
The cost to the club to purchase these shares was less than £1.4m. Considering our turnover will be in excess of £50m next year we believed it was the correct thing to do to.
KUMB: Why didn't the board make it clearer about the possible sale of Paolo Di Canio to Manchester United and why was it being considered when the money that would have come in for him wouldn't have been adequate to replace him?
PA: Much was written on this subject. Glenn and myself confirmed that we had received an offer from Manchester United which had been declined. We were not looking to sell Paolo, but of course could not stop further approaches from Manchester United, nor the enormous press speculation.
KUMB: Why are wages incurred calculated in the cost of an incoming transfer, but wages saved from an outgoing player are not?
PA: Generally when a transfer is reported the selling figure is quoted as the gross amount and does not allow for any payments made to the player or his agent due under his contract, or any amount owed to the previous club under a sell on agreement. This means that in almost every instance this figure is higher than that actually received. When amounts attributed to the purchase of a player are reported they are generally understated; the 5% levy and agents fees are never included.
We never include players' salaries in either the purchase or sale of a player. I would always recommend that supporters do not rely on details stated in the press and check club publications for more accurate information.
KUMB: What is happening with the Wall Of Fame?
PA: Some supporters may have noticed the Wall Of Fame bricks appearing on the panels situated within the North West corner of the stadium; we currently expect all the bricks to be installed, cleaned and coated in time for a small opening ceremony, to be advised in due course.
The bricks were intentionally held back due to the delay in the completion of the new stand; there was a large amount of heavy plant and workmen around that area, and they could easily have been damaged.
KUMB: Why are the facilities and toilets inadequate in the Dr. Martens stand?
PA: When designing a new stand we have to comply with the "The Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds" (the Green Guide) and building regulations. These bodies set down ratios for WC's. The Dr Martens Stand facilities comply to these standards.
We believe the catering kiosks are comparable to the majority of new stadia facilities, and I am sure that some of the problems will be eliminated as both supporters and staff become more familiar with the new stand.
KUMB: When will the pitch move?
PA: The pitch will be moved during the coming close season. This will be incorporated in a complete renovation of the Upton Park playing surface. As part of the Dr Martens stand redevelopment we have had to undertake to raise the pitch between 150mm and 280mm next season. This will greatly enhance the view from the Bobby Moore and Centenary stands and eradicate the need for supporters to stand in these areas.
The pitch construction will be exactly the same as present using the Subair and Grassmaster synthetic system.
KUMB: Are there future plans to expand the sports science area at the club?
PA: Yes - since Glenn became manager we have already moved a long way to embrace modern technology within football. We already had an excellent medical team in place and, after consultation and advice from John Green, we employed John McCarthy on a full time basis as our sports scientist. He in turn has restructured our fitness training regime and introduced other areas of science such as a dietician, sports psychologist, and technology based training aids. I believe that over the next few seasons this area will continue to grow rapidly.
KUMB: Why was Glenn offered a new deal?
PA: We have all been very encouraged with the way Glenn has worked this season and believe it was correct to give him the security and commitment of a longer contract. I am sure Glenn will continue the club's tradition of having long serving managers as he possesses the skills and commitment required to ensure the team reverses the downward trend of the last few seasons.
KUMB: Will the WHUST be able to get involved at board level?
PA: Peter Barnes attended a recent meeting of the WHUST and reported back to the board. I believe the WHUST is still in its infancy and yet to finalise its rules and long term strategy. Until such times as these points are confirmed it would be difficult to know how much, if any, dialogue there will between the club and the WHUST.
KUMB: Why was there no apology about the "5,000 missing tickets" for the Chelsea game, which forced fans to queue and miss the start of the game?
PA: There weren't any "missing" tickets; the lengthy queues for duplicate tickets were caused by the following reasons: Firstly, post sent out by us as early as Friday, 1st of February, failed to arrive by the match day. Secondly, a Royal Mail collection scheduled for the morning of Monday, 4th February, failed to materialise, and this affected a whole weekend's worth of bookings.
These problems trebled the number of collections normally allowed from the ticket office, and once the full situation became apparent on the Monday a number of companies/venues were contacted in an attempt to arrange temporary collection points; but, for a number of reasons, mainly the timescale, this was not possible.
Every supporter that contacted the office has received a detailed personal reply from myself, explaining what happened and apologising for any inconvenience caused.
KUMB: Why did we sell Marc Vivien Foe?
PA: This was a decision taken by the manager. Marc had made it clear he would like to return to France and at the time we needed to raise money to finance the purchase of Frederic Kanoute. Taking these factors into account, the board sanctioned both transactions.
KUMB: When will tickets be available to buy over the internet?
PA: A member of ticket office staff is currently working on this task and we are confident that via the club's official website, an online ticket request facility will be fully operational in readiness for season ticket renewals; we will then be able to accept ticket requests for next season once details are announced. As yet, we have not decided whether this facility is going to be available for season ticket holders and Club members only.
KUMB: Are there sell on clauses when we sell young players?
PA: No two deals are ever the same, but where possible we always try to include a sell on clause when transferring a player.
KUMB: Why are three directors doing the job one used to?
PA: The structure has not changed during the past ten years. When Terence Brown took over as Chairman, Peter Storrie was MD, Richard Skirrow was the Financial Controller and Tom Finn was the Football Secretary. Currently myself, Nick Igoe (Finance Director), and Peter Barnes fill these roles. The business has grown massively in this period and obviously a number of further senior positions have evolved, especially in the commercial and hospitality side of the club. During the Chairman's tenure the turnover has soared from £2m to £50m and we now operate as a 24 hour/7 days a week business.
KUMB: Why don't we go to the far east to play and win fans?
PA: We looked very closely at the Far East market last season when we discussed the possibility of bringing Tsuneyasu Miyamoto to the Club from leading Japanese club Osaka Gamba. Unfortunately, the transfer could not be concluded for various reasons. However we have continued a relationship with a number of Japanese contacts and I would not rule out future ventures together.
KUMB: When do the Fila and Dr Martens agreements end?
PA: Both the current Fila and Dr Martens agreement end in June 2003. We are currently discussing with both companies the possibility of extending the existing agreement.
KUMB: What is the transfer budget for the summer and can you assure us we are not going to be selling our good young players such as Cole, Carrick, and Defoe?
PA: I do not believe we will see the same level of transfer activity next season compared with previous years. Like most other Premiership clubs our player wage bill has increased disproportionately to our income. Having made operating losses (before player trading) over the past two seasons this year we hope to make a small operational profit but again will make a loss once player trading is taken in to account.
The only way further player purchases can be considered is by increased borrowings; this would put further pressure on the club's balance sheet and would have to be seriously considered by the board before sanctioning an increase in our level of indebtedness.
I am pleased to confirm to supporters, however, that there is no requirement to sell any of our existing squad and despite much press speculation we have made it quite clear to any enquiring club that none of the above players are available for transfer.
KUMB: Will 'kids for a quid' continue?
PA: Yes, the details for next season's ticket policy will be announced soon.
KUMB: Do you think there will be a drop in TV revenue?
PA: Since the collapse of the ITV digital deal with the Nationwide Clubs much has been written about TV revenues. I disagree with many who believe that the value of Premiership football will fall once the current contract expires. Sky has created an excellent business founded on Premiership football and without this I could not imagine they could retain their subscriber and advertising revenues. The clubs would have to consider broadcasting their own rights should a media partner not be prepared to meet the demands of the League.
All the data suggests there is no reduction in the interest of Premiership football; in fact, the popularity of top football in this country has never been greater around the world.
The real test for Premiership clubs is how to retain some of the revenue the TV contract has generated, rather than continuing to be the conduit for merely passing all the income and, in many cases more, to the players and their agents.