Fan’s View 2017/18 (no.23) Southend away

Article by Paul Beasley

Southend United finances and ownership

Since I’ve been watching football over many decades a whole host of clubs have moved ground and whilst reasons for this have been varied, the most common is to eventually become more profitable. There are still some looking to go down this route which often comes with a dream, or expectation even, that the club will then be able to compete at a higher level. What’s the point in existing if there’s no ambition to better oneself is a sensible question to ask. It is equally as sensible to remember that at any one time, under football’s current structure, there can only be 20 teams in the Premier League and 24 in the Championship and the two divisions below. But best to give yourself every advantage possible.

Southend’s latest published accounts are to 31 July 2016 and were signed off in March this year.

From the Introduction:

“The board are ambitious to maximise the Clubs (sic) potential, and believe the opportunity for success within the Clubs (sic) demographic to be considerable. However, in the view of the Board, this can only truly be fulfilled through improved infrastructure and why a move to a new stadium has remained a key objective.”

“A proposal of such magnitude is not, in the Board’s opinion, sustainable if leveraged by debt and why enabling development to help fund the proposal is crucial. A smooth transition from Roots Hall to Fossetts Farm (Fossetts) is fundamental.”

“A new planning application at Fossetts will be submitted next month and which provides the appropriate mix of “enabling development” to facilitate the new stadium.With the support of the Council the Club can look forward to creating new facilities that will enable it to compete in the Championship … and beyond”.

For more years now than I care to remember there has been talk of Southend moving from the home they’ve occupied since 1955.  On 2 June the Southend Echo reported, “Negotioations over the new Southend United football stadium have stopped after the club and its financial backer failed to reach a “satisfactory agreement”. British Land has told the Echo the talks are “currently on hold” as terms with the Blues and chairman Ron Martin have not been finalised. A spokesman for British Land said : “Discussions are currently on hold between British Land and Southend United Football Club as it has not been possible to reach a satisfactory agreement. It is the latest setback for the project, which has been more than 15 years in the pipeline. And it comes more than a month after the club lodged its latest planning application with Southend Council planners. Planning applications are usually rubber-stamped and made public within days of being submitted but there has been no sign of the proposals, which were submitted at the end of April.”

Back to the accounts. “Football business review – The Club competed in league 1 for the first time after spending five frustrating seasons in League 2”. They should try the National League. “The group has continued to support the club. Without group support the club would not be able to maintain its infrastructure and competitive edge. Currently the Group is owed in excess of £14m.”

Reliance on the parent company is listed as a principal risk / uncertainty which under the new stadium plans “are substantially reduced if not eradicated, with continued prudent management”.

The football club’s loss for the year after tax was £1.4m with turnover of £5.5m, cost of sales £4.9m, and admin expenses £1.9m.

Turnover was made up of operations and other income £1m, player trading income £1.4m, Centre of Excellence income £278k, bar income £379k, advertising income £520k, shop royalites £59k, TV income £90k, season ticket sales £669k and “sales – league income” £1m.

The figure owed to creditors falling due within a year was £18.2m. Made up of the group undertaking already referenced, accruals and deferred income £1.6m, trade creditors £1m, other creditors £755k and other tax and social security £156k.

When current liabilities are deducted from assets the result is a red £15.7m.

The average monthly number of employees was 85 playing, training and coaching staff, 39 “establishment and ground maintenance” and five directors. Total staff cost was £4m with £3.7m of that being “wages and salaries”. Directors were paid £107k plus a small pension contribution.

The immediate and ultimate parent company is South Eastern Leisure (UK) Ltd (SEL). Mezcal Investments owns 50% of SEL.

The football club leases the training ground from SEL and Roots Hall from Roots Hall Limited. Rent is charged “amounting to £400k (2015: £0)”. “A management charge amounting to £310k (2015 £275k) was also payable to the (SEL) group”. “During the year SEL group invoiced the compay £835k in relation to building the new stadium”.

Ron Martin is the chairman of the football club. He took control in late 1998. He’s currently listed as having directorships in 16 active companies including Roots Hall Ltd and “Soccer Stadium plc”.

In 2014 the Echo reported that,  “Mr Martin, a property developer, borrowed £750,000 against his £1.6million five bedroom home, Benfleet, to help clear a £338,000 tax debt owed by the Blues and stop it being forced into administration.The bailout, in summer 2010, is part of a total of about £13.5million of his own or borrowed money Mr Martin has ploughed into the football club to keep it afloat since he took over in 1999”.

I’ll stop there.

Love them or hate them I’d never want to be a football club owner.

Southend United 1 Oxford United 1


Photo, Simon Jaggs

I thought this was a very competitve and entertaining game of football. That it was played in the third tier of English football just goes to emphasise the strength in depth of the game in this country. A Spaniard, a Dutchman and a Brazilian were key ingredients of our side but it should not be forgotten that the remaining eleven that represented us on the day are all Englishmen.

As we have not won a league game at this venue since late 2003 and as we feared being turned over on this visit by a stronger, harder running, more direct side, to have come away with a point we just about deserved is pleasing.

My conclusion when it was all over was that these are two mid table sides and are likely to remain so, give or take from time to time, throughout the campaign.

The Shrimpers remain the only L1 side unbeaten at home but their away form is nothing to boast about. We’ve now picked up more points on the road than at the Kassam where our record can best be described as mediocre. Given that this is so, these points are vitally important to maintain a kind of even keel.

Seven points from both a play-off and relegation slot is about right, although there are teams with a game in hand that could make the former rather more distant and when every team has played catch up we’ll have dropped a place ot two from our current 9th.

Whilst not getting carried away one little bit, there was plenty to be satisfied with here. Lots of the often highlighted weaknesses were not so much in evidence. It may be that some of these weaknesses had been worked on in training or that they were not exploited by our opponents for whatever reason.

This was a fairly fast football match and I never once felt that we were moving the ball too slowly. It’s almost impossible to add any detectable sprint speed to a footballer, but I didn’t think Southend’s players were any quicker than ours and when it came to race between Wes Thomas and Anton Ferdinand leading up to the equaliser, our man was the quicker. Southend are not a young side which may explain a lot.

I wouldn’t say we got out fought either and although we lived dangerously at the back at times, the sieve like property that the rear guard displayed against Blackburn was not evident.

That we were able to make a couple of changes to the starting line up which improved matters from the previous Tuesday and had to make a ninth minute substitution with no noticeable disruption, suggests that the squad is not quite as threadbare as some would have us believe.

The possession stats of 54:46 in the home side’s favour ring true, as does the 7-0 corner count. That we didn’t concede from any of them is a positive. They also edged it in the number of shots made: 14 – 12 and those on target 5 – 3 but this tells it was all quite even.

I don’t recall either keeper having to make many saves but we worked Mark Oxley early on. Jack Payne, again probably our best player, slipped a ball through to Xemi who did really well to beat a man and set up James Henry. Oxley blocked but couldn’t hold the shot and was then required to scramble about at Payne’s feet. Payne remained on those feet to turn the ball back with the outside of his foot and from the tightest of angles Henry hit the post.

That was encouraging as we had men in the box and also were looking to go forward a bit more than employing our more recognisable sideways style.


A familiar sight

After  Wes Thomas was robbed by a well timed Michael Timlin sliding tackle, Henry picked up the loose ball and sent over an inviting pass from which the progressing Josh Ruffels hit the bar.  Offsides were to play an important part in the outcome. Ruffels was deemed here to be off-side. We were at the other end of the ground making it impossible from our vantage point to have an informed opinion on whether it was the correct decision. It’s impossible to tell too from video replays.

In the second half Southend had the ball in the net twice only to have any thought of re-taking the lead dashed by the linesman’s flag. To me, replays show these calls to be correct but it’s impossible to say for sure on the second one. An excellent piece of officiating.

The challenge by Timlin referred to above was typical of this game. Good old fashioned challenges and compared with many others I’ve seen this season, no way would I call it a dirty underhand encounter.

The game was an even affair and in keeping with that the lead Southend gained in the 19th minute was cancelled out just three minutes later.

A long crossfield ball caught us out. Dwight Tiendalli had not just tucked in tight, he’d taken up a centre-half position, giving Stephen McLaughlin all the room in the world. He was able to measure his ball in giving Simon Cox, a player who has been sold for £1.5m and £2m, a relatively easy finish. Once Mclaughlin had got away there was little we could do to retrieve the situation.  The ex-Swindon man naturally made the shushing sign to our supporters.

This setback didn’t knock our confidence though. Our reply was set up by Ricardinho who had another good game. There are times when he doesn’t look the best of defenders but he’s a bloody good footballer with the ball at his feet. The technique he has means the ball is very often at his feet. Here he dummied as if to play long, looked up, then played long in perfect harmony with yet another of those immaculately timed Thomas runs. The goal was expertly taken despite being hampered by a sprawling Ferdinand. That’s eight league goals now. I don’t think he’s ever moved for a fee. Cox has five league goals. I also though Wes’s salute beat the shush for class.

From then on in both sides had opportunities to win it, them more so than us.

Josh Wright hit our bar with a well executed volley following a poor header from John Mousinho and before the first half was over we’d matched them with Ruffels rattling the frame of the home goal. He’d played an accurate forward pass to Payne who, after beating one man, was dispossessed by a perfectly timed lunge.  Again Ruffels had continued to progress and picked up the loose ball.

Henry went close after he and Thomas battled against three blue shirts but his chance was no way as easy as the one missed by Wright following a complete up and under into our box that Cox brought down really well on his chest. Jermaine McGlashan was close to getting on to the end of that errant effort. If he had I would be writing this with a very different mindset.

So progress of sorts but not another game that truly registers with me until sixteen days from Christmas and that’s flipping well at home.

These away experiences are so much more enjoyable. Our turnout of 566 disappointed but didn’t surprise me. Eleven fewer and it would have been our smallest Saturday away following of the season. Given the nature of the away stand it doesn’t take many to drum (thankfully we didn’t have one) up an atmosphere and again hats off to the Ultras for their efforts. However I have been told that one or two of them need to be a touch more considerate to those around them. Take that on board and ejection from the ground is unlikely to happen. It’s a win/win I’d say even if it was a draw here – we’re not all as young as you boys.

I only popped into the Blue Boar for a quick half and was surprised by the quality of the handpull even if it was totally understandably served in plastic. The Ultras had started their craic  in here and it transmitted to the match itself. Me, I was with some very good company of a much older vintage before I arrived at this venue.  Given our combined years we opted for a taxi from a newly discovered venue on the Southend drinking scene, the Mawson’s Micro Pub. The girl behind the bar knew her beer and we were not let down by the Olde Trout either. Shame we couldn’t say the same about the Railway Hotel. The Wilko Johnson pub sign had gone, only two handpumps looked live and they both declared the same ubiquitous beer plus the place smelt of fat that had been recycled over many weeks. We left without having either milk or alcohol.


Good old boys on tour