INTERVIEW WITH SLOUGH TOWN CHAIRMAN STEVE EASTERBROOK
This was published in the Southern League Central Divison game v Beaconfield SYCOB on Thursday 30th December 2010. Slough won 6-4 after going 3-0 down in front of 297 disbelieving fans. And i bloody well missed it.
How do you think the club have progressed since you became chairman?
Steve: I would like to think that as a club we have now stabilised and are moving in the right direction. I believe that there is more openness within the club and that communication through out the club has improved. Whilst there have been and will be occasions where sensitive issues have had to be carefully managed I would like to think that we are getting the balance about right.
Is running a football club easier than running your own business?
Steve: Whilst there are many similarities in running a football club and running a business I do see fundamental differences between the objectives of a business and the objectives of a football club at our level. One of the objectives of a business can be to maximise shareholder wealth whereas the objectives of running Slough Town FC are different. The main stakeholders of Slough Town FC are the supporters and the fans and therefore many of the objectives of the club need to be aligned to those objectives. Whereas shareholders in companies require a monetary return for their investment in business, supporters require a return which is different which can include success on the pitch and in our case achieving an objective of returning Slough to where it belongs. Whether running a business or a club is easier I’m not sure, however running the club when we are winning is a hell of a lot easier than when we are losing!
It must be frustrating for you as it is for the fans with the slow pace on the proposed new ground?
Steve: I cannot begin to explain how frustrating this whole process has been and how on a few occasions its felt like 3 paces forward 6 back! However I believe we are at the point now where as a club we have done everything that has been asked of us and I would also like to think that we have conducted and presented ourselves in a professional manner. It is important to remember that our application was supported by all political parties and whilst at times we have moved slowly the council have always been very supportive.
We are at the stage now where a final feasibility report has been prepared for Paradigm Housing (the Housing Association) to consider. The recent ground survey has also been completed and the results are currently being analysed. Paradigm Housing will review the feasibility report and this will be presented to their board in January/early February. Assuming a positive outcome we then progress to the full planning application.
How can Slough avoid financial meltdown?
Steve: Slough should be able to avoid financial meltdown by ‘living within its means’. We should only spend money that we have and not borrow any monies that may jeopardise the stability of the club. It is important that we put in place income generating activities that not only benefit the club today but also allow the club to grow in the future. Recently we have launched the on line club shop which means we are can now sell club shirts and merchandise on line locally and internationally (however overseas sales are a bit slow!) and the 500 club continues to provide much needed funds. I applaud all the effort and support the club gets but I would urge everyone to personally promote the 500 club amongst friends, work colleagues and family. Just imagine how much money we would generate if we all managed to get 5 new entrants each!
It should also be noted that the club is indebted to the supporters trust for their continued support and financial contributions that they make throughout the year.
How can we get clubs live within their means?
Steve: Getting clubs to live within their means is very difficult and a more complex issue to resolve than it sounds. However I do believe that there should perhaps be better safety mechanisms in place to help prevent clubs from going bust and give supporters a bit more comfort. At times clubs are their own worst enemy whereby the dream is pursued at all costs.
One way to get clubs to live within their means is for the FA or a relevant body to perhaps set strict financial limits or guidelines for each league. The system at present appears to allow clubs to behave how they want almost irrespective of what they can afford and sometimes in conflict with what supporters want - putting clubs in jeopardy. For non league football I believe a system could be designed that includes player/team expense caps (based on league), clubs having to achieve at minimum breakeven and clubs having to maintain positive net assets. Such a system might not only enhance the integrity of the leagues but also offer some protection to clubs and its supporters.
Where ultimately would you like Slough to be in 10 years time?
Steve: Firstly the club needs to be back in Slough. Success for the first team is important however it is also imperative that we grow and develop youth football within the town. Whilst players of all abilities should have the opportunity to play football the club must be in a position to provide the expertise and coaching to develop the most talented footballers. We must then be capable of progressing these footballers through the reserve and first team and ultimately into professional football.
Assuming we are back in Slough I see no reason why we should not be in the Conference South League competing for promotion into the Conference.