Our four SMISA-appointed St Mirren directors, John Needham, Gordon Scott, Alan Wardrop and Alex White, provide an update to members on what’s been happening at the club since the summer and give some insight into what lies ahead.
Q: Can you update the members please on the main things that the St Mirren board have been focusing on since the start of the season?
A: It’s certainly been a busy and challenging time. There has been much to do for Tony and his team in terms of the August transfer window, returning to matches attended by fans, trying to complete the changes commenced in the summer and coping with the remaining impacts of the pandemic.
The financial impacts have been a major area of focus too because many of these things have increased costs (e.g. stewarding, policing, ending furlough support etc.) whilst income has been adversely affected for the likes of corporate hospitality. We started the season with very limited attendances but since then confidence to attend matches has been gradually increasing albeit not yet to pre-pandemic levels.
Q: How deeply have the Covid pandemic and the accompanying restrictions impacted on how the club operates, both on a matchday and day to day?
A: The effects of the pandemic to the club as a business is huge. It has reduced income greatly and it prevents our supporters from enjoying the football day out they love. Focusing on the income we have lost out on hospitality revenue and match day ticket sales but more than that we don’t want our valued supporters to get out of the habit of watching their team.
The direction government policy and people’s attitudes are going will to lead to a “just got to get on with it” mentality as businesses need to operate as near normal as possible and people need to get the opportunity to enjoy doing the things they love. The stadium is a strange place without our fans.
Q: Alex, you were appointed to the board of directors at the end of last year to replace David Riley. How special a moment was that for you and how has your first month or so been in that role?
A: It was a real honour to have been selected as one of the SMISA appointed Board representatives, replacing David who I know has done a really good job, and I would like to extend my thanks to David for this.
The past month has gone quickly as I’ve tried to achieve a clear understanding of the challenges that our club has. This process has been eased by the support that I have had from all the Board representatives, and I am extremely grateful to them for this.
Covid aside, clearly, we have challenges that we need to get on top of, with financial pressures high on the agenda and a massive desire to drive the team up the league. While there are challenges, I think that we should recognise that there are a lot of positive areas across the club that we are looking to develop further and, having the fans ownership model that we have in place, we are well placed to deliver on these. The next few months will be tricky, but I think that we will emerge stronger from these challenges.
Q: We’re coming towards the end of the January transfer window – what can the members expect before the window closes?
A: There is no doubt we are currently operating a squad which is too big. The size of the squad limits young players’ opportunities and we are paying for some players to train only as they are not even listed as subs on a matchday so it needs trimmed. If we can move some players on then we have the added benefit of cutting costs. However, the manager has identified a lack of pace on the wings and this is an area we are looking at if the right player became available and at the right price. It was good to see Alex Greive arrive and make his debut in the win at Tannadice recently.
Q: Members are often frustrated about a perceived lack of clear communication from the club. Is that something shared by the directors? And how can it be improved?
A: This is a very challenging area to strike the right balance of communication versus fan expectations. It’s particularly so in a world where social media is everywhere and to try and respond to every rumour or post (sometimes containing inaccurate or partially accurate information) would be an endless and fruitless task.
It is also the case that for the Club to issue a statement we need to be sure it is totally clear, accurate and authorised. Against that backdrop it needs to be borne in mind that we have a very small staff team and we believe that James Hunter does an excellent job overall.
That said there have certainly been cases where we could have improved communications as a Club in terms of content and/or timing and we have discussed this as a Board. We are always looking to learn lessons and improve the way we run the Club and communications is part of that.