Pirates director PHIL WING talks frankly and openly to Twisted Sock !
In two frank and revealing discussions, one after the game on Sunday night and one as he headed home along the M6 on Monday night, Pirates director Phil Wing opened the box on Pirates finances to give fans a real insight into the traumas of running the club. These very same traumas claimed another victim tonight as Phil revealed that fellow director Paul Brewster had called it a day and quit the club leaving Rob Housden as his sole partner in the fight to keep Pirates head above water.
A number of people, myself included, have complained at the clubs reluctance to share information such as this with the hardcore fanbase and that criticism stands valid ….. fans need to know what is happening because they can’t help if they don’t know the club needs help. Similarly, questions have been asked of the commitment the directors have towards Pirates …… well, if you’re one of those with doubts, simply read on and think again !
Match Night Receipts
The Planet ice rink has approximately 900 seats in the main arena. Recent match night attendances have averaged around 650 of which, on average, 480 are paying fans or season ticket holders, 115 are from the Schools programme, 35 juniors who gain free entrance and 20 player’s guests.
Of the 480 paying fans or season ticket holders, on average 250 are adults, 150 are children and 80 are OAPs. Average matchnight gate receipts are around £2,600 with the best this season standing at £2,977.
Both major sponsorships and advertising board sponsorships generate one-off incomes. Some sponsorship deals are not for direct financial gain but to provide services that would otherwise cost the club money (eg: Chicago Rock – meals for players, Hughes Electrical – radio microphone for matchnights, Mizura furnishing – washing machine for kit washing !).
Programmes have a fixed production cost equating to the cover price of 225 sales. Any sales above that level equates to profit, anything short is a loss. Currently, programme sales average around 100 per home game.
There is potential income still to come from the Findus sponsorship of the BNL and from the associated television deal.
Playing Staff Wages
Including tax and national insurance, the playing wage bill amounts to around £2,300 per week.
Minimal …… no more than £40 per week.
Included in the £2,300 per week but the majority of the young British players play for the pride of pulling on the shirt.
The shirts were supplied by the BNL. The club provides every player with a pair of skates which amounts to a total bill of around £3,000 per season. Other equipment is owned and maintained by the club, ranging from a cost of £20 per stick up to £1,200 for netminder pads. Every broken stick costs the club £20 ….. unless the player breaks it through indiscipline in which case he pays for it ! Breakages are common place when you take into account midweek practice sessions. So far this year, the equipment bill totals £9,300 !
Marshalls of Peterborough sponsor two cars, two cars are provided by the directors and a further two are hired on special rates. Total cost approximately £100 per week.
Two houses are rented for use by players from outside of Peterborough. Total cost approximately £700 per month.
Compulsory player healthcare insurance costs around £50 per month per player ……. total bill around £750 per month. Player wage insurance, which kicks in to cover player wages if they are out injured for more than 28 days (if the player returns within that timeframe then no claim can be made), costs £4,300 per season.
The club are charged £1,500 per week for use of the rink, irrespective of whether they have a game or not. It was £1,600 up until this week when the club gave up it’s office to save £100 per week ! In comparison, Planet Ice Dundee charge £1 per seat occupied in rental which equates to £1,500 for a crowd of 1,500 and Planet Ice Coventry charge £2,000 for an average crowd of not far short of 2,000.
Paying Game Officials
These are now paid for by the BNL.
Cost of flying in a new Canadian
Minimum air fare of £500 – £700 plus an ITC card registration cost of £530 …… all non-returnable !
Having released two players (John Oddy and Jordan Shields), the shortfall is around £1,500 per week.
Is the club actually in debt or are you guys keeping it in the black ?
“The much advertised £94,000 debt of last season was not carried into this season. £75,000 was paid off by the directors, some bills were not paid and the club entered this season just £15,000 in debt.”
Given the current situation, will Pirates see out this season ?
“If fans have the same determination and spirit that Rob (Housden) and I have as the clubs two directors then it will survive. We will do absolutely everything that we can do but we need you the fans to really want it as badly as we do.”
Tell me about the Dundee trip on Sunday …….. I gather you each have yet another role to fulfill !
“A classic example of just how much Rob and I want to see Pirates survive. The cost of coach travel to Dundee is around £1,000 because we have to have two drivers. For a half empty bus, we simply can’t afford that so the coach is off. Instead, Rob and I will be personally driving a minibus and a van all the way to Dundee and back at a cost of around £300 ……. anyone else want to help out with the driving ?
Rob and I will both be at the Coventry game on Saturday night and after the late match night finish, we’ll be getting up to bus the players all the way to Dundee and back …… probably getting home at around 6am on Monday morning. And fans question whether we are committed to Pirates ?”
What hope is there of Pirates starting next season in the BNL ?
“Personally, I’m determined to keep us in the BNL. As franchise owners for this area, I don’t want to see us lose it ….. it’s simply too big. I’ve been recently co-opted onto a wage structure panel within the BNL and I’ll be doing all I can to highlight that the BNL needs the smaller clubs like us and I’ll be doing all I can to bring in a more workable wage structure.”
Can a club with our gate receipts operate both profitably off the ice and competitively on it ….. within the current BNL ?
“Definitely not !”
If we have such an imbalance between income and outgoings, why are we still talking about bringing in new players ……. surely we can’t afford them ?
“We can’t operate on a 12 or 13 senior player squad. The youngsters will give their all but we need a couple of players who have experience at this level.”
…… but where do we get them from at a price we can afford ?
“Believe it or not, we are working on a number of talented players who we believe may be ready to play for next to nothing. One has recent experience playing in Canada and has already trained with Pirates a couple of times …… he simply got over here too late to be picked up by other clubs and now just wants to play. Another is a former fans favourite here and we believe we can do a deal with him [I agreed to keep the name off site at the moment but he’ll certainly add some entertainment value to the side !!!].
I have also spoken with Doug about what he can and can’t spend should a player become available. If he can do a deal that brings in a player that still gives us a net gain from releasing Jordan then we can do business. We’re also talking to EPL clubs ….. we can’t offer their players money but we can offer the opportunity to step up and experience BNL level hockey.”
Is there any risk of losing any of the current wage drawing Pirates players ?
“There has to be, of course. One player has already agreed to take a pay cut and others will be asked to double up to fill other roles within the club or, in turn, also take pay cuts. We have to survive and we hope that by leading the Dunkirk spirit from the very top that players will respond …… and I believe they will. They’re a great bunch of lads who want to play for Pirates and will make personal sacrifices to do so …… just remember that next time you’re at a game !”
Looking back to when you first joined the Pirates camp, you must have had a vision of how things would or should go. What, for you, are the key things that didn’t happen ?
“Two things really. When we took over, people said that the lack of financial stability was stopping people coming in as backers and was putting off potential fans too. We invested a lot of time and money to give the club financial stability for the first time in ages and neither paybacks has happened. The sponsors behind us have been superb but the expected rush hasn’t happened elsewhere and, equally, much though we value those fans who turn out week in, week out, where are the missing hundreds ?”
There’s a few, including myself, who think the name Pirates is synonymous with financial failure in the local business community and that until we change it, we’ll struggle to attract big local sponsors. What’s your view ?
“We looked at it last season but the response from fans was immediate and overwhelming …… they didn’t want to lose the name. We did go for the logo change and now we have our own to work with.”
The club have consistently stated that they are trying everything to bring in new fans and/or new money but these efforts aren’t always obvious to the fans. What sort of activities are going on or have been tried ?
“Well, for starters, you can’t have helped noticing the numbers of newcomers around the rink on match nights …… they are coming in. Part of that is down to the schools programme where the likes of Jesse goes out on a Wednesday and talks on any subject to support the school, even covering such as anti-drugs advice. With that goes 100+ free tickets. The visits are supported and backed by Hereward FM who give coverage on the radio each week.
At recent speedway matches, we’ve been giving out flyers screaming out that if you think this is exciting, check out the Pirates ! We’re looking at the best way to do leaflet drops in town but we’ve already done similar in places like Stamford and Wisbech.”
How do we get around the age old concerns about free tickets being abused by regulars ?
“You tell me ! We have tickets that we’ll gladly give away to bring in new faces but we know that if we spray them around then we see reduced paying fans the next week ….. no matter what we do, some regular fans will take the tickets and do us out of gate money. What’s the answer ?”
Perhaps we can have some “trusted” fans who we know will not abuse the system ?
“Maybe …… we have Ken Cross who brings in a lot of new people. We’re open to ideas on this one.”
Being involved in another trophy winning Panthers season, are there any lessons Pirates can learn from their near neighbours or are the two situations completely different ?
“In effect, without sounding elitist, Panthers compete in the equivalent of the ISL. They have a very clear wage structure ……”
Doesn’t the BNL ?
“Does it ? Where is it ? I can tell you it isn’t documented and if it isn’t documented then it doesn’t exist, full stop !”
How does the speedway wage structure operate ?
“The way I’d like to see the BNL operate. Basically, the home side pays the wages of both teams. Each team plays the same number of home and away games so all are guaranteed equal income. Teams have the freedom to allocate the pay how they see fit such that they can pay over three tiers, one for each level of performance but the key is the total pay for every team is the same. Not sure how we’d administer it in hockey but it works !”
Clearly no-one can continue with the level of financial support that the current directors are pumping into the club. For you personally, when will you or when have you drawn the line that says enough is enough ?
“Basically, as soon as my family starts to suffer. My wife might argue that point was reached a couple of weeks back ! I’m not being big headed when I say that I’m a high profile guy …… people know me as a key player at two sporting clubs, Panthers and Pirates and I’m sure they wonder why I don’t use one to support the other but I know that I simply can not be a success at either unless I keep them completely separate …… I can’t afford to mix the two.
I still drive the same car as when I joined Pirates, I still wear the same clothes, I pay my own hotel bills when I travel to Scottish double headers …… as well as those of the players and I’ve never, ever drawn a single penny out of Pirates funds. Having not had a mortgage for many years, I now have one that has been used to provide financial backing for Pirates but I will draw the line …… I’m not going to lose my house and at the age of forty something, I’m not going to lose anything bigger either !!!”
If fans rallied to raise funds via a monthly prize draw where 100% of the money went to Pirates in return for monthly Pirates orientated prizes, could that money be kept free for supporting team building or would it get swallowed up by other debts ?
“It could be kept separate. There are ways where you could restrict the use of those monies to supporting player wages and, thus, team building.”
Would the club back it ?
“Of course. We’ll offer up meals out with chosen players, shirts, you name it.”
Can’t resist asking this one ……. the lottery. I’m not a big fan I have to confess, because I can only see it benefitting us if we sell outside of the fanbase and I fear it’s primarily the fans who will buy it.
“But that’s it, we don’t want the fans to buy it. We can make better use of funds they are able to provide. What we need is for the fans to sell it to those who have no connection with the club ……. sell a few dozen around your workplace. It was never intended that the fans bought it …… that isn’t the idea.”
I’m pleased to hear that …….. thought I was alone on that one ! Finally Phil, any final message for concerned Pirates fans ?
“Do not think that Rob and I don’t have the best interests of this club at heart. I managed only two hours sleep on Sunday night ……. that’s how much I care for this club. It is time for us all to come together on and off the ice and generate a real Dunkirk spirit. This club has never quit before and it isn’t about to quit now ……. not if we’ve got anything to do with it !”
That’s brilliant Phil …… thanks for your time !
Twisted Sock Comment
If I had half a talent as a reporter then I’d have better conveyed the passion that came across in my discussions with Phil. Take it from me, Phil is totally committed to making Pirates work as a hockey club ……. he has made sacrifices that frankly scare me, as has Rob Housden. When two directors who have pumped huge amounts of personal money into the club roll up their sleeves and volunteer to drive minibuses up to Dundee and back through the night, just to keep Pirates on the ice then, hey, you’ve got to have respect !
The message from Phil is a very clear one. The team isn’t about to quit ….. they will look to strengthen, not with players out for a quick buck but with players who play for the pride of the shirt. The two remaining directors have every excuse to quit but they’re staying right where they are and they’re planning personal sacrifices that even exceed their commitments to date. It’s now down to you and I and every fan who has ever turned out to cheer the team on.
There will be opportunities very soon for you to make your own small personal sacrifices to help pull Pirates through and, irrespective of whether you can or can’t offer financial help, we can all turn out at every home game from this point on and give the lads every ounce of support that we can offer.
It won’t be easy but, as Phil says, this is not a club that knows how to quit and long may it stay that way. Let’s all pull together as one and go out there and show the BNL just what can be achieved with pride and determination.
GO PIRATES !
PS: Next time you see Rob or Phil at the rink, take a moment to say thanks …… without them, you’d have no Pirates !