Fan’s View 2017/18 (No.17) Rotherham at home

Article by Paul Beasley Sunday, October 22nd, 2017  

ROTHERHAM UNITED – A bit of recent history including ownership, finances and abode

Rotherham have been through a lot in the past decade. They spent most of the 2007/08 season in an automatic promotion place in L2 but in mid-March they were hit with a 10 point deduction for going into administration. Tony Stewart, a local businessman then took over as chairman for the following season. He took the club out of administration via a Creditors Voluntary Agreement which came with a 17-point deduction. They finished 14th but if those points had counted would have bagged a play-off slot. That season was their first not at Millmoor for 100 years. They’d been unable to reach agreement with the owner of the ground, Ken Booth, to continue as tenants. So off to the now demolished Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield they went.

Booth had been a previous owner of the football club and chairman for many years. He sold the club in 2004 to Millers 05 group, writing off a debt of £3m. In exchange for this he kept ownership of Millmoor, the Tivoli nightclub in front of it and the training ground, Hooton Lodge.

For the 2012/13 season they were back home playing at the new £17m New York Stadium, a stone’s throw from the still intact Millmoor.

RUFC are currently 88% owned by ASD Lighting Holdings who are in turn owned by Tony and Joan Stewart.

In response to claims he was going to quit in March this year, Stewart said, “Rotherham have never been without money under me. What Rotherham haven’t always done is invest it wisely in their future potential stars. In League Two, we were in the top two or three spenders, in League One, we were in the top five. It’s not been about the want of more investment, it’s been about the want of wise investment. At the end of the day, I don’t need the bank or outside investment. We don’t have a spiralling debt like some other clubs. We live within our means. We’ve shown in my eight and a half years that we can get to heights like the Championship. What we need to do in the future is ensure that when we get into the Championship we can retain it.” It’s thought he has pumped in at least £30m.

The Millers have indeed been in the Championship in very recent times.  In May 2014 they won the L1 play-off final at Wembley 4-3 on penalties in front of a 43,401 crowd. The team they beat: Leyton Orient. Wonder where they are now?

After surviving two seasons, they had a horrendous campaign in 16/17 getting related with an average of half a point a game. It looked pretty clear they were doomed when we went there and won in the FA Cup in January.

It appears to me that no two sets of accounts are laid out in exactly the same way, with items not being grouped together on a consistent basis, hence making direct comparisons between different football clubs very difficult indeed. I’ve also noticed that there is information in some clubs’ accounts that’s completely lacking in others.

This is what I’ve got on Rotherham for 2015/16.

Turnover was £13.3m made up of £2.5m match income and season tickets, £4.9m central distributions, £4.9m commercial income, and the rest merchandising, media and other receipts. That central distribution is something we would get our hands on if we were a Championship club but we can only dream of such commercial income.

Cost of sales was £12m giving a gross profit of £1.2m which gives a loss for the year of £1.5m when the admin expenses of £2.75m are taken into account.

They show turnover as a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) but as well as financial they also include non-financial KPIs: average league attendance 10,028 and season tickets sold 6,023. With a note, “Non-financial performance is also assessed by the league position of the football team at the close of the football season”.  I’m stuck with this picture of the following annual appraisal meeting having taken place at some juncture in the last few years. “Mr Evans, you’ve not achieved your objectives”. “Fuck off”.

The average number of first team players and coaches was 47, up from 32 in 2015. Demonstrating ambition perhaps but conversely youth team players and coaches were down in number from 40 to 33. And they only had four admin staff.

Wages, salaries and related costs were £9.9m.

£3.6m are due to creditors within one year.

Total equity on the balance sheet is a red £1.8m (Profit and loss reserves – £2.7m and called up share capital £850k.

“During the period the company received sponsorship income of £2.9m from ASD Lighting.” So that’s how some of it’s done.

“The company has outstanding commitments for future minimum lease payments under non-cancellable operating leases which fall due within one year” (and every year?) of £1.2m. I thought the football club owned the ground. How naïve.

“The company was charged for certain assets, £1.2m by R U Estates Ltd, a company of which A R Stewart is a director and shareholder”.

Now we’re getting there. In the latest accounts lodged by RU Estates the directors elected not to include a copy of the p&l account. Looking at the balance sheet it looks to me that taking the value of the stadium and deducting what is still owed on monies borrowed to get it built, you’re left with equity of £1.7m.

Back to the football club accounts. They’ve made an unsecured loaned to R U Estates of £205k and are not charging interest.

A loan of £1.3m from ASD Lighting to the football club is repayable on demand.

Should Rotherham fans be worried? Given what they’ve suffered and where they are now they’re probably not particularly whilst Mr Stewart continues to support them, but the split of ground and football club ownership doesn’t always end well as they, like some other sets of fans, should be only too aware.

Oxford United 3 Rotherham United 3

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Military day

Before most games I take a quick peek at the form and stats of our opponents but often overlook our own figures when doing so.

Rotherham may have been above us in the table but most of their points had come at home and on their travels they had won just two whilst losing five, scoring just four and letting in ten.

Our home goals per game ratio was joint third best in L1. I’ve not considered us as being prolific, even last season. I might need a re-think.

We had the joint 8th best record of goals conceded at home so this pointed to a home win didn’t it? Dangerous thinking I know. But not dangerous enough to prevent me sticking a tenner of a left over drinking kitty, which has turned into a little gambling pot, on an Oxford victory at 9/5.

Once I’d parted with the money I wondered if I’d failed to take account of the weather warnings.

Mrs FV pointed out to me a tweet that had been made at about 2 o’clock, “Can’t make the game today, so I’ll be sure to phone Radio Oxford afterwards to tell them exactly what I thought of it.” Like the humour.

It’s not my intention to have a go at any individuals and I know that Jerome has to maintain a polite dignified presence, but some of the callers have absolutely nothing to say and then spend way too long saying it. Sometimes I think both those that did and didn’t go are vying for various awards: the most bleedin’ obvious statement of the week, or most nonsensical, or failure to mention key facts. And that’s before we get onto the texts.

It’s also evident that the moaners usually pop up in greater numbers than those dishing out praise. Air time has to be filled though and the RO team do a great job.

This week I was thinking there’s no way anyone can discuss this match without mentioning the visit of Brian. Admittedly he’d slowed down a bit by the time he got to Oxfordshire but nevertheless had a big impact on proceedings. It took until usual caller Tim came on air for the conditions to be raised. He demonstrates a sagacity lacking in many contributors and I’m not just saying that because he sits in front of me. “First off you have to compliment the players of both teams. What an excellent game that was on a very windy autumn day. It was difficult and the players put on a good show. Highly entertaining.”

Of course it wasn’t a hurricane but unless you are pitch level you won’t really appreciate what parts the gusts were really playing. For me it was a strange one because although the force was mainly towards the East stand there was little evidence that the ball held up when being aimed in the other direction and in the first half a clearance from visiting keeper Marek Rodak, on loan from Fulham, made it all the way to Simon Eastwood at the fence end.

Whether the way they played was Rotherham’s usual approach or they’d changed their game plan for what we all knew would be a windy encounter, I don’t know. But I do know the conditions appeared to suit them better than us and with 6”5 Kieffer Moore as their man up front that’s hardly surprising and suggests it’s the former.  He’s 25 years old, on loan from Ipswich, who picked him up for only £10k from Forest Green in the Jan 2017 transfer window. He was a nuisance throughout and very cheap at that price but not the type of player we’d ever be considering.

For the second game in under a week we ended up drawing at home against a side above us in the table. (I can do the bleedin’ obvious too. Quite likely do it lots). I’d felt much more satisfied after Tuesday than here though. Probably because I think Charlton are a better side than Rotherham and against the former we came from behind and never lost a lead. Here we did come from behind but losing a two goal advantage and missing a penalty to boot obviously brings disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong I thought the visitors were another good side and can see them very much in the battle for a play-off slot right through to early May.

Over the years I’ve been writing FVs I’ve often said the opposition have been a good side but that has to be put in the context of the level we’ve been playing at. I remember getting sick of hearing “but they’re a good side” from some sources when we’d failed to win games in L2 against teams that I thought we should have beaten. My view was that might be the case but we can’t keep using this as an excuse if we expect to climb the leagues.

I started to wonder if I might be on the verge of using the same argument to justify dropping points in games like this, but having given it deeper consideration, think it’s fair mitigation as we’re now playing at our more natural level, where the strength of those we’re up against week in week out is obviously that much greater.

Natural level is a concept often talked about in football and whilst we all sort of know where each club fits in this mythical hierarchical structure there are no strict rules and much up for debate. It’s all about gates, capacity of a ground and potential to fill it in the future based on catchment area, appeal and ability to attract new and lapsed supporters, along with financial input and probably other factors I’ve not thought of.

Realistically L1 is probably where we belong but that doesn’t mean I’m arrogant enough to think it’s easy to remain even at that level. By the same token I’m seriously eyeing the Championship. Most clubs there may be much bigger than us but Burton are significantly smaller by certain measures and look where Bournemouth ended up.

Sensibly the key is to look to the future with a mix of ambition and realism.

The wind being what it was made it that bit harder for the players to do most things they’re required to do throughout a football match. That contributed to us making a few more mistakes than we’d done recently but there were other reasons why we were a degree or two below the levels previously achieved.

I rate Canice Carroll, particularly for one so young, and I’m not saying he had a bad game here but I thought we missed the experienced and strong Christian Ribeiro. There’s no way one can say CC lacks confidence and on one occasion, attacking down the flank in front of the south stand, the way he rolled his foot over the ball had a Chris Maguire arrogance about it, but his involvement was not as constant as that of Riberio’s in the attacking half of the field.

I didn’t think James Henry was as influential as he has been and this is a big loss to the cause. In the first period I didn’t think he’d been that involved when he suddenly sprang to life and created a bit of panic for the Rotherham defence. Whatever is happening he’ll work and do the basics but I think he took a knock quite early in the second half which restricted what he could do. That little bit extra wasn’t there.

Wes Thomas was another who wasn’t in it as much as he has been in the last few games but that’s no criticism as he still did some very good things.

Within all this it mustn’t be forgotten that we still played some excellent passing and moving football at pace and we had one player who seemed to have upped his game yet another level: Josh Ruffels.

If anyone deserved a new improved extended contract it’s him. He’s now going past players, driving forward when the opportunity arises, finishing and has flicks and lay-offs in his locker. These attributes can all be added to those we knew he had from the beginning – can run and run, closes down and rarely gives the ball away. Man of the match – absolutely.

Five goals in the first half isn’t something I can remember seeing in an Oxford game before. (Remind me someone). That’s what we got on Saturday. (Obviously).

1-0. Rotherham win a tussle down their right wing. High cross delivered. That was their sensible tactics. Instead of flicking it behind him and out for a corner, Carroll puts it right in the danger zone. Joe Newell reacts a tiny bit quicker than Ruff and finishes sharply. Well taken.

1-1. We didn’t hang about. One minute later Henry, unchallenged, heads to Jack Payne. Ruff immediately sets off on a run. He’s found and with the best left footed back heel while in the air you’ll ever see, Payne had the ball back and from just outside the box finds the back of the net with a low accurate shot. Utterly marvellous.

2-1. We can play it long too. Ryan Ledson does to Henry down the right. Henry controls and lays it into the path of the ever willing Ruffels who manoeuvres the ball into a shooting positon on his left. Low and accurately again Rodak is beaten. As well as the necessary accuracy part, the low bit is an art much ignored in my mind. So much harder for a keeper to get down than fly high.

Penalty miss. The ball from Alex Mowatt was clipped with class to give Ricardinho a run to the bye-line. If our little Brazilian had not hurdled Josh Emmanuel’s crude lunge he would have been the subject of an assault. Well worthy of a card. All credit for keeping going. No credit to the referee for awarding us a penalty. Firstly it hit the defender in the midriff and secondly there is no way from that distance that it could have been deliberate even if it had made contact with a hand.

Seb Stockbridge was a very poor official. Not up to standard. I looked him up and was astonished that he’s been officiating L1 and 2 games since 2013/14 and has even been entrusted with a couple in the Championship. There were two or three times when he rightly waved play on but should have produced a card when play eventually came to a halt. He didn’t. Nor did he do anything about persistent fouling. This helped them more than us and as usual Payne was a target. His post-match radio interview showed not only his frustration at this but that he is resigned to it too.

Missing the penalty was justice though and I’ll confess I was convinced that would be the outcome. Dead balls are an area where we’re definitely missing Maguire.

3-1. We score from a corner amidst a grappling contest. Carroll for one is hauled directly to the ground. None of this matters as Curtin Nelson stabs the ball home and my brother wins at the bookies with a 10/1 return on our captain to score at any time. Okay, I’ll say it – we should not have failed to win having got a two goal lead.

3-2. Another high ball into our box. This time a throw in. A big guy wins it in the air and Ryan Williams, who played a lot of games for us in the 13/14 season, was un-marked and able to convert even though we had most of the team in the area. Stockbridge should be made to explain why he fbooked Carroll and not Williams and a colleague for pulling, shoving and pushing our youngster. It’s us who needed the ball to re-start the game, not them.

Another confession – I had no faith that we would hold on to the lead with our defence looking dodgier than it has since John Mousinho was moved to centre-half.

There were chances at either end but Rotherham came closest with Moore hitting the bar and Eastwood having to pull off one of those decent saves we know he is capable of.

3-3. Rotherham were not to be denied. By now Carroll looked dead on his feet to me. He had little in the tank to chase a long ball slipped through our back line that Williams got onto relatively easily. His inviting ball was emphatically despatched by Moore.

At that point I thought they looked a bit stronger and fitter than we were but truth be told they then played rather like they were happy with a point. It was as if two knackered boxers were leaning on the ropes in the final round wishing for the bell.

Again a draw was a fair result. That’s two in succession now following three defeats then three wins. Does that tell us what will happen at Fleetwood?

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All in all another good entertaining game and it was pleasing to see the ultras had come together again as a collective in a corner at the back of the East stand. It really does help with the atmosphere. It was also satisfying that we got our second largest gate of the season with the second most home fans attending. There were 164 more yellows than for the previous Saturday game at the Kassam.  That’s not a large increase but a step in the right direction.

We won’t win every game, but what’s happening at Minchery Farm at the moment is very much worth watching.

This entry was posted on Sunday, October 22nd, 2017 at 7:56 pm and appears under Fan's View, News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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