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Trust Meeting with Rob Couhig



  • Ainsworth throughout the last 2 years has constantly commented about the Couhigs supporting him financially to support the playing squad. Surely with the losses known, why have we signed 34 players!! Total madness. I know we have some big players on decent money but we will still be paying the development players a wage. I know we don’t want to go back to the days we’re we couldn’t field 11v 11 but 34. Sorry but Ainsworth must share some responsibility for the mess we’re in.

  • Thanks for this, much appreciated.

    Was it the Trust or Rob Couhig who presented the information about losses across the 3 seasons?

  • Agree with the comments over the salaries of some of these players. How much are they actually contributing to the well-being of our club in a footballing sense? Horgan, Vokes and Mawson have not propelled us into Brazilian states of quality. In fact I’d say the former two are at the arse end of their careers at this level. Can we not invest a tiny amount of these wages to have a proper scouting network and dare I say it a rethink of the academy system. I would rather see hungry young players (think Anis and Forino) trying to play aggressive attacking football than ageing pro’s and generals supping up negative cash to keep their Essex piles mint & Range Rover Sports in fuel.

    This pipe dream of 12,000 rabid fans propelling us towards the premier league whilst the Trust Board coo over fireworks and freebies & Missy sells foam fingers and bucket hats at £40 a pop is a fantasy.

    Up the Wyc more like up the creek.

  • edited November 2022

    Even if we do achieve the improbable and get promoted, we still shouldn’t budget on the basis of being a long-term championship club as there is a decent chance we’ll be relegated.

    To budget assuming promotion is just madness.

  • edited November 2022

    Lots of things worried me last night and unless "the gamble" to reach the promised land comes off, we could end up with no club.

    A key to the original sale was the fact that Adams Park remained in our ownership. I am not convinced it actually does in practical terms. FALL/The Trust are going to extend the term of Cohig's lease to 50 years. If debts continue to build up which the Club can't pay, Receivership beckons with the resultant points deduction and ALL assets become vested in the Receiver who has an obligation to sell at the best price. The 50 year lease is an asset, probably the major one, so a buyer would get physical possession of the ground for the whole term. I assume (or more like hope when the Trust can't even organise a basic Zoom meeting) that the permitted use under the Lease is for football purposes. Could the Receiver flog the lease to any football club at the rent of £100k per year? Could even a another egg chasing club buy the lease. Could a scenario arise where say Chrsham United sell their ground and move to Adams Park? Hopefully the terms of the lease prevent this, but has anyone outside the Trust seen this document?

    If any of the Trust Board read this, when they send out the reminder for the AGM can they STRESS THAT ATTENDANCE AT ADAMS PARK IS STRONGLY ADVISED as only 100 members will have access on Zoom.

    Personally I think we are now between a rock and a hard place, with a largely incompetent Trust Board and a well meaning, but naive relatively financially poor, majority owner

  • A good summary from A Warboys on the budgetary situation.

    There have been a number of comments on the forum since last night's meeting which are either blatantly untrue or the focus of some responses are incorrectly targeted, accentuating issues which perhaps aren't related to the proposal in play.

    I think most in the room last night could understand and agree with the proposal on the table. We will all agree that Adams Park requires modernisation to not only repair what's already in place but to enhance matchday revenues. The capital required to fund those projects is a bill the Trust simply cannot afford to foot with our current level of 25% ownership and the matching investment that entails. The proposal to dilute our ownership by 10% or 15% reduces the Trust's future commitments and also as part of the proposal, negates the need for the Trust to input 25% of the immediate, short term funding - new pitch and new road, stand remedial works, plus budget deficit for this season and next. All in all that gets the Trust off the hook to the tune of £1.2m, or thereabouts. A figure we could never reach as supporters.

    The future costs of a new home terrace (greater capacity & more facilities within), a remodelled main stand (more seats and better facilities behind/underneath) is also way beyond reach under our current ownership level. I think it's mindful to note that standing still is not an option - we NEED to spend money on the stadium, merely to continue to operate as a decent League One club. The facilities will need huge investment merely to maintain the current offer. The future proposals will be specified in due course in terms of costs, funding, projected increased revenues and payback.

    All of the above addresses the logic of increasing revenue streams and would adhere to financial sense in the medium to long term of the club......however.....the concerning and alarm bell moment for many - so I could take from the room last night - is the stark issue relating to the budgetary deficit for this season and next of £3m. Thankfully we banked a couple of million quid from the Championship season, plus the £400k from Derby County and put it into a rainy day fund. That will cover most of this season's deficit it seems but the question pertinent to many is:

    Why has there been no transparency on this budgetary forecast for this season (and next) and why has the Trust not challenged this?

    Ok, we could answer that partially by stating that 'football fortune' (injuries, poor form) is playing a part in limiting our chances of reaching the play-offs this season and gaining promotion again. Some blame could be led to the door of Ainsworth in his choice of signings whilst not addressing gaping holes in the squad (mainly our lack of strikers!), another large proportion of budgetary monies is being ploughed into the development squad (how many do we now have in the squad compared to our League Two days?!). However, the playing budget is proposed and pulled together by Rob & Pete who take ultimate responsibility for annual operating expenditure.

    I think these concerns need to be explained by the Trust to engage with supporters who are concerned / frustrated by this before the proposal can be adopted.

    (For those who wish to discuss stadium redevelopment - an area I take great interest / have knowledge in - I'm happy to take questions if anyone wishes to chat privately on the capital projects lined up by the club.)

  • I understand the playing budget is uncomfortably high this season. Ultimately who is paying the money, is it Rob or just debt laid on the club?

    If I understand correctly the downside to Rob is having a club with huge debt that he won't be able to sell. On the plus side he could end up with an asset that is worth a lot more than he's put in, most of the value based on player values and league status.

  • edited November 2022

    I'm not sure blindly backing all plans regardless of their likelihood to succeed works for me and I'll probably decline your suggestion to not only back things I don't necessarily agree with, but to also to dig deep and pay extra to do so. I feel the trust also need to show some competence and strength soon or will lose the support and funding that they currently attract.

    I never really understood why the trust didn't ever really ask for more money tbh, they fairly quickly stopped the old subscriptions and never looked at schemes that would allow those with a few more quid to invest more for some kind of return or recognition. Failure to retain any interest in the club shop or a lounge or two limits them to donations and small fundraising items that are not going to touch the sides of Robs funding/ borrowing. Robs plans to invest were always there, was seeing if he's reasonable and if so letting him just get on with it plan A, B and C?

    The most disappointing part of the evening would be the dismissal of any concerns as ungrateful, the idea he was doing us all some grand favour by even speaking to us, and the weakness of the trust thinking a percentage or two are key wins while seemingly not noticing us spending fortunes we don't have on unrealistic plans with Zero guarantees about what might happen if they fail.

  • This is from the WWFC accounts submitted December 2021. Any accountants out there who could suggest who the "Other Creditors" may be? Is there a possibility that these are debts to our 75% (soon to be 90%) owners?

  • Rob isn’t paying anything - he isn’t a wealthy benefactor with deep pockets - it’s all debt…

  • One thing I found interesting was that on a few occasions Rob said something along the lines of "I don't mind either way what you decide, I won't be offended" and yet when challenged on a couple of occasions completely lost his cool.

    Which suggests to me that he does care what people think of him and does want to be liked.

    First time I've ever seen a reaction like that from him.

  • I wasn’t at the meeting, but based on everything I have read on here and social media I have completely lost trust in the owners. I also confess I don’t know enough about the setup / running of the Trust, mainly because I’d not been a ST holder for the few years you had to be a while back and don’t even know if this in place or not anymore. I try to be the kind of person who puts trust in those more qualified than me and when elected by others etc.

    However, I’ve been led to believe the ‘we will be run sustainably’ model and therefore my understanding (I accept this could be wrong) is that all 4 quarters of ownership (3 Feliciana and 1 the Trust) have clearly not delivered on this and more than this have actually lied.

    Considering the effort Gareth personally made during the bad times I wonder if to a degree he has been utterly hoodwinked too. If he is given a budget and under the impression it’s ok to spend this budget then it’s not for him to say ‘that’s too much, keep the money’, he would be out of a job.

    My overriding feeling this morning is that I don’t want to give the Couhigs 75% of me and my childrens ticket / beer / fanta / coffee money any more.

    But it’s early, I’m tired and I’m pissed off so I know I need to let the fallout take place a bit and be logical.

    With a cost of living crisis effecting nearly all of us in some way, shape or form I am genuinely torn about saving significantly on my monthly outgoing for an adult and 2x 11-18yo ST’s in the top tier of the Frank Adams stand, going and watching Flackwell Heath / Marlow etc for a break from the boom and bust of ‘success’ in professional football, and how on earth I explain my feelings on this to my kids who love the club like we all do.

    The 4 quarter of ownership have not delivered on the sustainability model and the Trust board have completely failed I’m afraid to say. Honestly what has happened here? Should an emergency meeting have been called for Trust board and members a long while back to outline theirs concerns on overspending.

    It feels like Barclays or Natwest just got some people who have banked there for a long time to hold the keys to the safe but left it unlocked along with the front door, whilst they went home for tea and let the staff run around doing what they liked with cameras turned off.

    I don’t think we will see the Couhigs in person much more at all.

    I don’t trust anything about 50 year leases either. Can FALL terminate this at all? What protection do they get? Can the Couhigs mothball it if things turn really ugly at 20k a year? Can a protection be put in place wear this is lease is owned / paid by a separate fan owned group? For example if 500 fans paid £3.33 a month direct debit then the 20k annual figure is paid by the fans and not Feliciana. The ‘Fans Lease Group’ then gives permission for the Couhigs to get the ground rent free in return for upkeep / running of the stadium with a fixed term of say 2 / 5 years?

    Maybe I’m waffling here, I’m sure I am. But that stadium can never fall into other peoples ownership. I genuinely would be keen to get a better understanding of the lease, ownership and future safeguarding of the ground if I can be enlightened? Happy to take it offline too if you want to direct message me.

  • @FFS_Sido

    "All of the above addresses the logic of increasing revenue streams and would adhere to financial sense in the medium to long term of the club......however.....the concerning and alarm bell moment for many - so I could take from the room last night - is the stark issue relating to the budgetary deficit for this season and next of £3m. Thankfully we banked a couple of million quid from the Championship season, plus the £400k from Derby County and put it into a rainy day fund. That will cover most of this season's deficit it seems but the question pertinent to many is:"

    I think the short fall is for seasons 2021/22, covered mainly by the profit from 2020/21 and for this season 2022/23. Next season we can easily check the deficit by reducing the playing budget by 3M. We only have six contracted players beyond this season and two of those in Forino and Mehmeti will not be here in August 2023. Leaving Wing, Young, Gape and Hanlan as our only contracted players, though I could easily see some of these four being released from contracts to lower the wage budget.

    As you have said the reduction in percentage ownership is a no brainer, we signed away any rights two years ago. The biggest issue is the huge overspend last season and this season which is totally against what RC has said in the past about being sustainable.

    We've had our three years of success and we are now going to pay for it big time unless we go back to playing budgets of £2-2.5M. I would rather see us sustaining a more sensible budget than this gambling of our very existence again. We need to sell in January and go back to a squad size of 22/23 in the close season and close the B Team.

    The financial gamble and mismanagement over last season and this season is shocking but could be seen coming a mile off.

  • No chance of starting an academy without spending a tonne of money we don't have (oh wait...).

  • Mr Couhig said in February 2020 on completion of takeover" the club will become financially sustainable."

    Kieran Maguire stated WWFC had £ 3,630, 363 Cash at Bank and in hand as of July 2021.

    By September 2022, the Trust had to lend money to the Couhigs to meet monthly payments, Source: Trust website.

    Given Messrs Hector and Stroud on the football club board and we have 11 Trust board directors did nobody consider raising this before? Given monthly cash flow figures at what point did anyone question what was happening?

  • It came across to me more like - You can neatly agree this deal we've been working on or I can put more money in and take full control anyway, don't ultimately care which - which then leads to him not really wanting to discuss much.

  • I assume everything will be summarised in one place ASAP? Because I'm sure I'm not the only one who is *confused*.

  • Would be great if someone could post the link now, assuming it's possible to watch back?

  • I'm maybe not as surprised as others on here that we lost money last season. It was clear that we were carrying a more expensive squad (Pete made a comment early on about needing to sell a lot of burgers to pay for Sam Vokes) and we didn't really see huge increases in attendances/other sales. However, the size of the loss (£3m) does shock me, especially having reached the playoff final and shared hefty gate receipts and TV money. What assumptions have been made to be projecting the same loss for this season? How can we "only" lose £3m if we don't once again reach the playoffs?

    IMO I don't agree with some of the comments on here regarding the owner's motives. I believe they're decent people who are genuinely trying to make the club a success in the financial wasteland that is lower-league football. Things like the fireworks etc have never bothered me - I can see what they're trying to do in making matches more of an event and I give them credit for trying new things. Of course it becomes easier to take a pop at stuff like this when results on the pitch are poor.

    That said, there are two stand-out areas of disappointment for me with the owners:

    1) Our off-pitch offering - especially merchandise and food & beverage - has never looked so poor. We were promised that they would be able to get a grip on this and in many ways it's got worse. If we can't shift thousands more tickets then we CAN increase revenue from the supporters we already have - offering decent, fairly priced options in our food outlets and club shop should be within their capability. Other clubs at our level seem to manage it.

    2) Last summer. So many of us said it at the time and have been proven right - it was an absolute disaster. It makes sense if we'd decided that this season was going to be one of consolidation but if we've clearly put in place a "promotion budget" then why was this not followed through in our recruitment and preparation for the new season?

    These are the two areas where I'd want some clear answers personally, and semblance of a plan for the future.

  • I struggle to believe the B team is eating up much budget. It's not a separate entity, rather just rough diamonds who we hope to sell on for big profit - as we will do with Forino and Mehmeti. It's the most sustainable part of the operation, surely?

  • Your point about a radical wage reduction is valid. We could return to one of the lowest wage bills in league 1. That might not be a bad thing in some ways, and we have a manager and culture that has done well with that, but why then would we need an access road and a larger ground? I appreciate that the ground needs essential work, I don’t think it needs optional work at this time. if we made the championship and believed we could remain there and saw an increase in supporters surely that’s when you dust off the expansion plans. Build it if they come, don’t think they’ll come because you build it. Unless perhaps it could become a non match day destination - conference centre, concert venue, ground share with some other sport. Does anyone think that could ever happen in that location?

    I’ve often thought that Rob would like us to be based elsewhere to have that non match day revenue. At my most cynical I see a plot to run up debt to get us to the championship and then the mystery backers emerge to clear the debt and finance the new build. And if the club still had to pay FALL £20k a year- so what. It wouldn’t be for long because FALL has no significant income stream outside of the club so the ground would soon be unusable and they’d have to get rid. Someone tell me I’m wrong about this please?

  • I am struggling to understand the logic of the proposed lease from a Trust perspective.

    You essentially have given away one of only two assets that can generate a regular income stream for what is a peppercorn rent.

    I would have expected the stadium to be valued for rental purposes at somewhere between £1 & £2 per seat per day, so approx £10-20k per match (this is based on what I get quoted to rent concert & conference venues); they appear to have proposed/agreed a lease of 10p per seat per day...

    As someone said earlier it looks like the Trust are being cajoled into giving stuff away on the cheap as they have been dazzled by southern charm & fireworks.

  • Merch has been arguably the most underwhelming aspect of the Couhigs' tenure. I've genuinely seen non-League clubs with better range.

  • the financial situation does feel very disappointing. I had thought the windfall from the amazing promotion to the Championship would be used to fix the stadium issues and to fund financial stability as a Lg1/2 side for the next decade. To discover that it has been squandered in a mad reckless gamble to compete financially with clubs far bigger than us and get promoted to the Championship .

    I had thought that the likes of Vokes and Mawson - both of whom will have earned megabucks earlier in their career - must have agreed to play for ordinary lg1 wages in order to sign for us - perhaps playing largely for love of the game - but losses of this level would suggest that isn’t the case. No criticism of them but really signing players on high pages for a dream was irresponsible.

    Going forward honestly the drop from 25% to 10% and the lease don’t feel over important and if Couhig wants to fund roads and expensive players with his funds or can find external grants that is up to him.

    i know it concerns people who perhaps don’t really understand finance, but in truth it makes little difference whether he injects his cash as share capital or loans. Unless he is far richer than we are aware though, it does feel that his time with the club is heading towards its end.

    The biggest concern then is whether there are third party debts (eg unpaid VAT and paye/ni) and whether there are ongoing contracts (eg player) that can’t be funded. It is perhaps financially reassuring that so few contracts extend beyond the end of the season.

    what happens next if/when Couhig decides to sell will largely depend on him. That is the deal with private ownership. He may find a buyer with deep pockets, perhaps more likely a custodian who would cut spending back to income levels or even hand it back to Trust. It feels like the biggest job of the Trust now is to prepare for the latter eventuality.

    The club gets mid Lg2 level attendances. Most things in the end revert to their mean. It does feel that in five years time we will most likely be a mid Lg2 club. There are worse fates.

  • Even if he he pays for it out of his own pocket, that road can absolutely not go ahead (not that I think it will anyway).

  • They are employed as full time footballers.

    How many do we have? 10-15?

    c£25k a year each. Let’s call it £30k including pensions and incremental cost of training ground upkeep / facilities by employing additional footballers.

    c£300-450k per year.

    Mehmeti must be worth c£1m minimum.

    Forino must be worth c£500k minimum.

    If we sell both then we’ll have run it sustainably in my opinion.

    But you have to bear in mind that Forino and Mehmeti have both had new ‘first team’ contracts which will chew up some of the financial gains of selling - then the cost of replacing them adequately etc.

    All in all, feels sensible so far, but only if we continue to have players of comparable quality coming through the development system.

  • It's a fair point that our squad is surely worth more and a bigger asset than it was a few years ago.

    If a new access road is built by Rob (let's say costing £1.5m) it does add to the stadium asset, effectively increasing its value.

    The question is: if club finances show a huge deficit and Rob doesn't fancy it anymore is that when we are screwed (assuming no other buyer can be found) ?

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