So close and yet….
Another season is over, and we can only rue what might have been given some changes in just a few key areas. To finish marginally shy of the play-offs was some achievement given the circumstances Kevin Maher and his team had to contend with during the 2022/23 campaign.
On the pitch, there is absolutely no doubt that the National League is an extremely tough division, and what we don’t need is yet another handicap in our efforts to exit in the right direction.
Kevin Maher made it clear that he needs clarity and quickly when he said: “We need to act quickly if we’re going to take this on,” during an interview with BBC Essex. “We’re in a great position as a football department to take it forward and be up at the top end of the table next season. That’s got to happen quickly, it’s a big period coming up now. I know what I need to do, and what we need to do as a staff, but we need clarity on what’s happening.”
The Trust is 100% behind Kevin and his team and would similarly plead with the outgoing owner to provide that clarity before it’s too late.
Off the pitch…I mean really…could it have been any worse? Southend United FC endured four away fixtures against HMRC in the High Court facing winding-up petitions that could have resulted in liquidation, and at one stage the Shrimpers Trust was involved in initial plans to set up a phoenix club, such was the level of concern amongst supporters.
The protestations from our owner as to how much he has “invested” over the years continue to fall on weary deaf ears. Absolutely every year since he took over, he has personally been responsible for the budget, so any overspend (or lack thereof), planned or otherwise, is 100% down to Ron Martin.
The number of suppliers, directors, staff (and, indeed, the Trust) owed money is embarrassing and shameful. I hear there are seriously-interested parties in buying Ron’s “opportunity” and I just hope that something can be concluded as soon as possible and before next season is ruined too.
The Trust movement generally recommends that a MOU (Memorandum Of Understanding) is agreed between Supporters’ Trusts and Football Clubs. Such an agreement outlines how each party will communicate on key matters and includes provision for formal financial information to be forthcoming. At a recent Liaison meeting, we discussed (and Club CEO Tom Lawrence agreed) that it is now time to put such an agreement in place if we are going to continue working closely together.
Tom was particularly upset by the stance the Shrimpers Trust, along with other supporters’ groups, had taken with regard to season ticket sales. Conversely, the Trust, along with those groups, were disappointed that season ticket prices had been announced without consultation. With seemingly nothing to suggest we might even make it through to the start of next season, it was very difficult to recommend anyone part with their money. That said, season ticket money is expected income and it is reasonable to expect that the Club would budget accordingly; the fact that their estimates of what might be received and by when seems as inaccurate as ALL other budgeting has been for the last 20 years explains why we find ourselves in this state.
We will continue to support Tom in trying to make Southend United the best it can be, both on and off the field. There is no doubt that, as CEO, he has an incredibly tough job, and we hope the impact he can make will only increase as the current owner exits.
And on that point, as I write, “evidence” of progress on a sale was provided to Judge Mullen at the High Court hearing on 17th May. Whether this was real evidence, or otherwise, will no doubt be realised in the coming weeks, but what is important for the fans is to try to make sure the situation we find ourselves in can never happen again. The concept of an MOU and/or the more widely-promoted ‘Golden Share’ gives fans a real say in the running and governance of their club, and it is this that the Trust will be focussing on as the sale progresses. If you’d like to know more about this issue, or indeed want to help in any way, please do get in touch.
The Shrimpers Trust has worked hard over the years to improve aspects of the football club and the community. 2022/23 was no different, and a summary of our projects and achievements for the year follows:
– Our Social Inclusion scheme continued with visits from the following groups: Badgers Den, National Youth Advocacy Service, Lancaster Lions and JRM Soccability. Thanks are due to Karl Lansley for all his work assisting the Trust, and to our sponsors.