Welcome to Plymouth Live’s Argyle Fans’ Jury, where members of the Green Army have volunteered to give their views on a range of topics.
This time we have asked them the following: Now Argyle’s promotion to League One has been confirmed, what do you think the biggest challenges are for the club in the coming months?
Simon Hallett has warned of tough decisions ahead as the club wrestles with the financial ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting football shutdown.
Here are the replies of the Fans’ Jury, who discuss a wide-range of financial issues facing the Pilgrims.
The biggest challenge is clearly the financial one. How long can the club survive without match day income?
It’s likely that the out of contract players have been asked to re-sign on lower salaries than they’re used to. How many of them will accept the new terms?
Ultimately they may have to if they want to continue with a career in professional football with many if not all clubs likely be in the same position as Argyle.
It could mean that we find ourselves in the unusual position of playing in a higher division with a weaker playing squad than the one that got us there.
Even if that’s the case, I’m confident that we’ll be competitive in League One with some of our rivals likely to be in an even more perilous state.
First of all, it’s fantastic that we’ve bounced back to League One at the first attempt.
The first hurdle to overcome, is what happens to last year’s season tickets. I’m hopeful that the majority will waiver the refund option.
Hopefully we can then put out some sort of season ticket package, with maybe an iFollow guarantee if games are to be played behind closed doors initially. We also have to try and retain most of our out-of-contract players.
Setting the budget in these current times will be an interesting challenge, especially with no real ticket income. I hope they take up our offer of a direct debit scheme to help the club out.
I think Simon is hinting at possible redundancies within the club. I know this is not what anybody wants, but it may become inevitable. Hopefully it won’t come to this though.
The biggest challenge will be financial which then affects the squad Mr Lowe can put together. The level of wages we can pay will largely decide which players we can attract.
Our owner does not have a bottomless pit of money and so the sooner fans can return to the stadium the better.
Under normal circumstances I’m sure we would be looking to bring in players that would improve the squad but that may not now be possible.
Although our squad is a top League Two squad it will need strengthening if we are to push on. With all clubs in the same boat it’s going to be a very interesting season.
There will be only one challenge for Argyle over the coming months – focusing on simple survival as a functioning professional football club.
In the wider world, the UK economy shrank by more than 20% in the first month of lockdown alone, an unparalleled financial crash that will have substantial and unpredictable consequences throughout society.
Football cannot be immune from those effects, particularly in the lower leagues, where Premier League riches do not reach.
At Argyle’s level, where matchday revenues are crucial for balancing the books, it’s still impossible to predict when the supporters can safely start to support their club again, both in person and from their pockets.
Argyle are better-placed than many other clubs at our level, with extraordinary financial support from our chairman and a hugely talented management team. But until the supporters can fill Home Park again, their sole priority will be to simply keep Argyle alive.
I think that the challenges facing Argyle are the same challenges that are facing the majority of teams in football at present.
It is primarily the financial challenges of operating within the constraints caused by the coronavirus pandemic – there is the lost revenue from the current season as well as the uncertainty of the coming season.
Will the 20/21 season go ahead in a timely manner? Could some of the 20/21 season be played behind closed doors, or possibly with reduced crowds? It will be very difficult to plan and budget effectively for the near future.
However, with these challenges comes opportunity. There will be many clubs that are not in as stable a financial position as Argyle.
There will be many players, in the lower leagues especially, being released from clubs and becoming free agents.
With some astute management, Argyle could find itself in a relative position of strength and may be able to attract some very good players through the club’s perceived financial stability.
The challenges facing Argyle and all clubs in the EFL will be many the longer fans are not allowed in.
That said, as the lockdown slowly releases and some form of normality returns Argyle could be in a stronger position than many as they carry less debt going into it.
There certainly will be no rush to sign players until we know when the new season starts. Players will be forced to take reduced terms to provide some form of security.
Long term, this does prove that academies are vital to clubs financial well-being and it is good that Argyle appear to realise this.
Alternative revenue streams from merchandise are vital and it is good to see Argyle appearing to take this more serious than previously. There needs to be a real drive on the iFollow service too.
However, I do firmly believe that Argyle will recover quicker than most. Difficult times but the groundwork done by Simon Hallett will see us through.
For me as a fan some of the biggest challenges for Ryan Lowe and Simon Hallett will be to have a budget big enough to be able to at least consolidate in League One.
Having this mix of youth and experience is good but Ryan Lowe will obviously have a plan for the type of football he wants, therefore have a signing or two he is desperate to get hold of, and replacing Antoni Sarcevic will be a huge ask.
There is a positive in this ‘new era’ of football and that’s the clubs will hold the cards as far as wages for players attracted to clubs and that could be a good point to help us gain some credible signings. All in all consolidation is key we don’t want to be a yo-yo club.
The biggest challenge for the club is to realign costs with revenue. The number of players recruited and the wages they are paid is the major element of that realignment.
Match day income contributes 60 per cent of the club’s turnover and until Argyle fans can attend Home Park then cost pressures will remain notwithstanding Simon Hallett’s stated willingness to cover potential losses for next season with a further injection of equity.
Like many other clubs, Argyle may have to turn to their younger players to play a bigger part within the first team squad.
As a result, the recent investment in the academy and bringing in Neil Dewsnip may prove to be one of the best decisions the board have made as the club emerges from the crisis all EFL clubs are facing as a result of COVID-19.
Personally, I think that we are very lucky to be one of the more financially stable clubs in the lower leagues and this will be a very challenging time for lots of clubs in the EFL.
For us, I think a challenge will be to find a source of income if games start in September behind closed doors.
That said, I’m delighted with our promotion back to League One and I have trust in Ryan Lowe to bring in the players we need to stay there and not fall down again to League Two.
I also think it is really important to keep the positive feeling around the club, fans and players going.
So it will be important for the club and the fans to continue to interact to keep our push up the leagues going.
The biggest challenge for Argyle over the coming months will be building a squad capable of staying, and challenging, in League One.
At the time of writing we have a handful of senior pros in the squad, and another five first team players who have yet to commit to a new deal.
Argyle’s squad next season will be a mixture of existing players, youth players given a prolonged run in the team, and the usual reliance on quality loan signings from bigger clubs.
The most important thing for the club is to avoid getting into a financial mess. We have been there before, and there will doubtless be plenty of clubs in difficulty by the time the season starts.
The size and strength of next season’s squad looks like it will be a reflection of the perilous financial position faced by all EFL clubs.
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Ultimately the biggest challenge is the financial health of the club with the loss of huge crowd revenue from the end of last season and the likely same amount at least for the new season.
Secondly, attracting good players to relocate with all the uncertainty and impacted by the above financial constraints.
Thirdly, keeping the fans connected and committed during a long period of non attendance.
In my opinion, the club need to quickly come out with a iFollow and season ticket package and I think the vast majority will gladly invest their money now, knowing we are making a real push for the Championship.
We cannot afford to stand still and lose momentum. We have to be seriously challenging to survive and prosper, and the fans now need to support the chairman following his huge investment.