Tonight there was a meeting at “The Community Stadium” in Falkirk …
We are currently third in the Scottish First Division after a record five years in the Premier League and have lost over ten games. After sacking the manager (Eddie May) in February 2010 during a terrible season, former player and Scottish internationalist and assistant manager to May (Stephen Pressley) was appointed as the new manager. Pressley promised survival but we were relegated in June of 2010. During Winter 2009/10, the Falkirk board campaigned and sold up to £500k of shares in the club to us fans. After Summer 2010, Falkirk were set to play in the Scottish First Division for the first time since 2004 but the new kits did not arrive until hours before the first game, and then the replica kits (for fans) did not arrive until the third or fourth week of the season. This was the fourth kit change in as many years, with many supporters buying every one for up to £80 for top, shorts and socks and all.
A few weeks into the season, the club asked for donations for its Academy and I, amongst many others, gave a donation of £10+ then waited until February before receiving a “signed commemorative certificate of [our] loyalty to the club” in the form of a badly laminated piece of paper - signed by nobody from the club. By mid-January, there had been six weeks without football and the club apparently wrote to the SFL and SFA condemning this; albeit it was largely down to the mass snow; but it has led to the scheduling of TWELVE games against Partick Thistle this season. At about this time, the club had been knocked out of all cup competitions: the Alba Challenge Cup, the Cooperative Insurance League Cup, and the Homecoming Scottish Cup.
In February 2011, articles in the media circulated that HMRC was close to shutting down the club for unpaid debts. The club later denied this several days later. In March 2011, the media announced that the club had made a loss of £1m in their final year of the SPL (2009/10 season) despite competing in European football for the first time in the club’s history and off the back of a Scottish Cup Runners Up medal (the fifth such Final in the club’s history). This was confirmed by the club a couple of days later on the official site.
This week, Falkirk lost 3-2 at home to Partick Thistle in a shameful game. This led to annoyance by the 3,700 attendance (which mainly consisted of home fans) after continued poor play and tactics by both players and managers. A banner was revealed calling for Pressley’s sack and home fans joined in the chants that have been heard at every Falkirk game (home and away) since he joined in August 2008 - that he was in fact a “w***ker”.
After the game, Pressley said in an interview with the media that he “deserved better” and that no manager put in as much effort as him. The fans were, of course, disgusted at this and so this led to tonight’s meeting at the Falkirk Stadium.
George Craig, Managing Director, and Martin Ritchie, Chairman, attended but neither Manager Pressley nor Assistant Manager Alex Smith appeared before the 300-400 supporters who turned up. (The previous totals for such meetings peaked at around 30-40.) At this, it was revealed that the budget would have to be slashed by £1m to £1.5m and that the many contracts up for renewal in May 2011 would in fact not be renewed. [Bearing in mind that our previous captain Darren Barr was allowed to join Heart Of Midlothian in January 2010 after many valuations at being worth £500k up to £1m.] The prestigious Falkirk Academy, which was revealed to cost upwards of £100k a year is being heavily sought to be kept open, as was repeated several times.
The two men then announced that local Falkirk fan and Schuh owner, local entrepenuer Sandy Alexander, had recently been bankrolling the club and had played essential in bringing striker Pedro Moutinho back for a third spell at the club. Alexander had previously spent over £2m in funding the new South Stand for Falkirk’s newly built stadium, and is much admired amongst the Falkirk support for his continued loyalty and aid to the club.
However, with no banks willing to give loans to the club which went into administration in the 1990s (and paid 100% of its debts thanks to the fans; as apposed to just 8% in the case of Dundee Football Club in late 2010), Ritchie and Craig pleaded for more fan support. They then joked that perhaps donating money to Dundee in October 2010 was a mistake - the Dundee fans proceeded to break multiple pitch hoardings and invade the pitch after this donation was revealed.
Throughout the season, a particular steward in the South Stand, it seems, has made it his duty to ruin the atmopshere and has stopped all standing, multiple choruses of chanting, and even led to no bovril sales to under-16s during this season. This certain person has also ordered the throwing out of several young Falkirk fans during the course of the season whilst, on one occasion, Dunfermline fans in the away stand (with half as many stewards as the home stand opposite) knocked a steward down several flights of seats [as reported on the BBC]. On top of this, the prices for Falkirk season tickets remain at the same price as in our last season in the SPL. These prices top even those for several types of Rangers and Celtic season tickets - clubs that have both reached major European Cup Finals in recent years.
Asking for money from Falkirk fans is not new to the club but when the Board of Directors, the manager and even the supposed “fans representatives on the board” neither listen to, heed the warnings of, nor give correct and prompt information to the fans; how can they be asked, nay expected, to just hand over their hard-earned cash in such tough economic times?
I have already bought my season ticket for next season, when Falkirk Football Club will be in the First Division with stiff competition from Livingston, Dundee, Dunfermline/Raith Rovers, and likely Hamilton Academical. With an even smaller team and considerably smaller home support. With an even smaller away gate and no parachute payments for dropping from the SPL. With little chance of league restructuring benefiting us; especially with Pressley declaring a 10-team SPL the correct option to follow despite 97% of fans despairing at the thought of such a travesty. With no debt except to an honourable man who uses his money to rescue and help build the local team in a district of 150,000 where the top attendances peak at 5,000 home fans. With increasingly reduced possibilities of more internationalists in the squad and with the only great possible windfall coming in the form of Huddersfield Town being promoted a division so that Scott Arfield’s transfer yields an extra £50k or so.
I fear that Falkirk Football Club will head the same way as Portsmouth, Livingston and even Gretna have in recent years. Sadly, nobody at the club seems willing to change and with documents proving over £1,000,000 spent in player’s wages in just one year, three first team ‘managers’ and two Academy ‘managers’, nobody will risk their fortunes to save my club.
Who can help? Who will help?