The attendance at this year’s AGM was sparse to say the least, as only 5 shareholders turned up, along with a couple of representatives from Her Majesty’s Press. The time of 9.00 am on a Monday morning was the probable reason for this. The Chairman and principal shareholder, Jeff Bonser, was, once again, absent.
The Trust had asked several questions this year, which are below, along with the answers (or, to be more accurate, in most cases non answers). A question from Geoff Allman is also included, as it may be of interest.
1. The increase in turnover, the reduction in staff costs and the return to an operating profit shown during the year up to May 2006 is a remarkable turnaround given the previous year’s position, and this a great success-story for the club. We assume that around Â£400,000 of the Â£943,000 increase in turnover is due to the sale of Fryatt and Bennett. How is the other Â£500,000 increase in turnover accounted for? Is this increase sustainable year-on-year?
We acknowledge the kind words expressed by the Walsall Supporters Society about the clubâ€™s remarkable financial turnaround during the last twelve months and I can tell this meeting that your Board of Directors are very proud of what has been achieved.
In answer to your question, the overall increase in turnover for the year ended 31st May 2006 is due to a continued improvement in all areas of the business, with the football, conferencing and banqueting, commercial and retail departments all contributing improved turnover compared to the previous year. The Board would like to emphasise that this increase is as a result of the clubâ€™s trading activities and remains committed in our attempts to sustain this year-on-year.
2. The operating lease on the land and buildings was frozen during the financial year in question. What was the trigger for this freeze?
The operating lease on the land and the buildings was temporarily reduced during the year for a period of twelve weeks as this was an arrangement that mutually suited the club as both tenant and landlord at the time.
3. In the Chairman’s statement it is noted that the Board plan to “continue to develop the Club’s infrastructure… wherever possible.” Other than the new training facilities are any specific plans in-train for the next 12 months?
There are a number of minor projects in the early planning stage, such as a new club shop to be situated here at Bescot Stadium, but the key focus and commitment of the Board in the coming months is the new training facility.
4. In Note 3 the accounts show that ‘Other operating charges’ increased by Â£136,000. To what specific items do these charges refer?
The increase of â€œOther Operating Chargesâ€ of Â£136,000 relates directly to the unavoidable costs associated in generating the additional turnover as discussed in question 1.
5. The club continues to show a cash outflow and limited cash at the bank. Can the Board confirm that the club’s cash requirements are currently outstripping its cash income and that this is one of the triggers for the increased financing of Â£240,000? How do the Board plan to return Walsall FC Ltd. to a cash-generative position?
The Clubâ€™s current cash requirements are not outstripping its cash income. Of the overall cash outflow of Â£208,000 sustained in the year, Â£137,000 relates to ongoing investment in Capital Projects that will ultimately yield increased and sustainable revenue for the club for years to come. The increase in financing reflects the Boardâ€™s on-going and continual commitment to these projects and ultimately to the security of the Club in the long term.
6. There seems to be a link between the lack of cash and our debt requirements, and the issue of cash is also crucial in covering debts falling due within one year or on-demand. In 2005 these were reported as Â£465,000. Were these creditors paid with monies from the sale of players and re-financing? Other than further re-financing how do the Board plan to meet this year’s costs falling due of Â£417,000?
As outlined in the Chairmanâ€™s statement, the Board would like to emphasise that even in our most difficult times we have always paid our creditors and this policy will be maintained.
7. We note the further increase in Director’s loans of Â£298,000 during the season, in order to maintain the Club’s short-term viability. We are grateful for the Director’s demonstrable commitment to the Walsall FC. Clearly, though, this is not a sustainable position either for the Directors or the Club. How do the Board plan to reduce these liabilities? Should the circumstances of the individual Directors responsible for the loans change, how secure is Walsall FC’s future?
The increase in Directorâ€™s loans during the year was not made in order to maintain the Clubâ€™s short-term viability.
8. Can the Club confirm that future special offers pertaining to season ticket holders, for instance the Mini Reds initiative, will be available for all areas of the ground, including the Lower Floors-2-Go Stand?
All future special offers pertaining to season ticket holders are still under review at this moment in time.
9. We request that shareholders are provided with written answers at the AGM, in-line with corporate governance best practice and to enhance the transparency of the Board’s approach.
Written answers have been provided.
In addition, Geoff Allman asked if the Chairman realised how much shareholders appreciated his efforts in giving us such facilities as the Bonser and Stadium Suites and the Ramada Hotel and whether he realised how disappointed we were in not seeing him at AGMs.
The Chairman replied (and this is word for word, so any mistakes are attributable to Mr Bonser):-
As far as my non-attendance at recent AGMs is concerned, please be assured that this is not intended as a sleight to shareholders. I have a heavy business schedule that has made it impossible to attend some of these meetings. The important point, however, is that I keep a very watchful eye on club finance throughout the year, and that the financial report financial report being considered, as the result of the work that I and my colleagues have undertaken on behalf of the club. Mr presence this morning would not have made any difference to the financial results, but I hope that the work I am undertaking on your behalf will result in the Club continuing to make tangible progress both on and off the field.
I would like to thank the shareholders for their support and to give you the assurance that your Board are fully committed to laying the foundations for this Club, so that it will be able to face the future with optimism and confidence.