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Baggy Trousers

My Primary 3 class picture unexpectedly appeared in the Courier’s Craigie column last week. Given that Craigie is effectively a Werthers Originals advert committed to print, this was a blow to someone about to turn 40 and pondering the significance of that milestone. Aside from that, the photograph proved two things:

  1. My head was visible from space from a tender age; and
  2. It is extremely hard for Dundee, or any other team for that matter, to hold on to fans into adulthood.

Hillside

One Step Beyond

Of the 36 kids in my class, the footballing allegiances can (from memory) be broken down as follows: 9 Dundee (yaaaas!), 7 United (fucking boooooo!), 2 Rangers (boooooo!) and 1 St Johnstone (meh).

Within a year of the picture being taken, one of our number had moved to Edinburgh and the last time I saw him was when we were both lifted onto the track to relieve crushing during the League Cup semi-final v Aberdeen at Tannadice. Given the club’s travails in the intervening three decades I fear his support won’t have endured the physical separation. Junior football claimed a classmate of mine in his late teens while another simply drifted away a few years later. Another couple who followed the righteous path have lived away from Dundee for most of their lives now. Facebook suggests that one guy remains an occasional attendee at Dens while a girl from our class takes her kids up from time to time.

That leaves my best mate and I as the only week in, week out regulars from the nine of us. The calculation is crude and you will always pick up a few followers along the way but I don’t think four-and-a-half child supporters being needed to produce one adult season ticket-holder is far of the mark. My class at Hillside Primary (RIP) was possibly an outlier as far as Derry representation goes as well – a mate reckons there were only five or six Dundee supporters in his entire year at Lawside. Twenty years on, he is probably the only season ticket holder out of the 150 or so kids.

The high rate of attrition between childhood and adulthood is hardly surprising given the many and varied challenges to holding on to supporters. Aside from factors such as performances, prices and scheduling that clubs have at least some control over, personal circumstances also conspire against them. The extent to which attending football matches is a priority varies from individual to individual, but for almost all of us work, finances or family commitments will come first at some point. I’ve got Dundee-supporting family and friends scattered across four continents as well as ones without two buttons to rub together. Several fans of my vintage have sadly passed away while others have been lost to drink, drugs or HMP.

Tomorrow’s Just Another Day

It is notoriously difficult to re-engage football fans once they get out of the way of attending matches regularly but the bigger challenge is to capture their attention in the first place. The choice of alternative ways for children to spend their time has never been wider so the need for clubs to work proactively to recruit young supporters has never been higher. It isn’t enough to sit back and wait for kids to demand their parents take them on a pilgrimage to Dens having heard about the exploits of Jack Hamilton and Craig Curran in the playground.

The three seasons we just spent in the league above United represent a massive missed opportunity to cement our place as the city’s top team, and our failure to capture the local youth market in the face of a much diminished opposition is as galling as our on-field shortcomings. Look at pictures of kids training camps, community groups etc in the Tully and you still largely see more tangerine than dark blue (though Liverpool and Real Madrid would appear to be the biggest two clubs in the city these days). Just last week my son’s nursery sent out a letter saying an outfit called the ‘Tiny Tangerines’, who ironically boast oversized political hack Brian Taylor as a patron, will be coming to do some coaching each week. Groups associated with United are represented at every community festival in Dundee while we are nowhere to be seen. The wee man has been registered as a Junior Dee since his first season ticket was bought when he was 11 hours old. Dundee have managed to get a card to him on time about four times out of the nine birthdays and Christmases that have followed.

How have United managed to be so much better at engaging with kids than us at a time when they have been facing severe budgetary pressure post-relegation? Now that we have also surrendered our Premiership status the situation seems unlikely to improve from our perspective. There are people within Dens working incredibly hard with meagre resources but, from the outside, there would appear to be little strategic vision as to how the club, Community Trust, Supporters’ Association and other organisations can work collaboratively to improve the offering to potential supporters and ultimately grow our fanbase.

At a time when we face a fairly catastrophic drop in season ticket holders it’s worth remembering that for each of those stumping up, many others have fallen by the wayside for one reason or another. Then think about how under-investment might impact on the amount of four-and-a-halves to draw from in the future and you very quickly conclude that a demographic timebomb could be around the corner.

He’s on the Phone

According to my mobile, my screen time was up 11% last week, for an average of 3 hours 31 minutes a day. By the time the new gaffer was finally unveiled, my daily phone use was probably rivalling that of the Fortinite-obsessed, YouTube-addicted, porn-addled, legal high-buying teenager of tabloid legend.

The time I spend staring at a screen is a constant source of annoyance to my wife, who simply doesn’t understand the effect that supporting a team almost permanently steeped in crisis has on an individual. Given the pain Dundee have inflicted over the decades I’m perfectly comfortable blaming them for any personal failings I might have (see also chronic consolatory masturbation).

 

Fans forums and Twitter are up there with the very worst innovations of the modern age. It’s not good for the soul to see just how much of an arsehole a significant proportion of your side’s fanbase is. But when the manager’s coat is on a shoogly peg, or the axe has fallen and thoughts turn to a replacement, or the transfer window has opened, they are essential hubs for rumour, gossip and wildly random info about foreign coaches possibly in town for an interview at Dens but more likely visiting the V&A.

Each new name in the hat brings a fresh visit to Wikipedia. Newspaper sites are combed. Alerts are set up. Odds are religiously checked with online bookies. Then there’s WhatsApp. I’m in four separate Derry group chats, all of which have been abuzz with talk of McIntyre, McPake, Weighorst, Robertson, Adams and assorted others recently. That’s before you even consider correspondence with dozens of other Dundee supporting individuals – many of whom you don’t really know – fishing for info or desperate to share what they heard from a taxi driver.

Several new messages pinged several times when I was in the shower last Sunday. “That’s it! They’ve appointed Mombaerts!” I excitedly told myself as I ran to retrieve the phone, dripping wet and bollock naked. Turned out it was only my Dad struggling to work the mobile he’s owned for the past decade and sending the same message (“I no want mcpak . Good win th men”) multiple times. Gutted.

You’re in a Bad Way

With all this going on, how is anyone meant to put their phone down and pay any attention to their family? Books lie unread. Box sets are abandoned. The conjugal needs of partners are neglected. Work suffers. The UK economy’s productivity slump may entirely be down to followers of permashambles football clubs checking managerial stats on soccerbase when they should be performing menial administrative tasks. Apparently there was some election last week. I was too busy scouring lists of Weighorst, Goodwin and McPake’s former team mates and managers for clues as to who they might appoint as their assistant to care.

The nature of football fans mean your focus is not entirely on your own team either. My battery was full at the start of the play-off second leg. By 6pm it had less life in it than a United penalty.

Schadenfreude works both ways and DABs have hardly been slow to express their glee since it became clear that James McPake was going to be the new Dundee manager. Uninspiring? Yes. Not what fans might have expected when John Nelms talked about ex-international bosses being among the 100-plus applicants? Definitely. McPake certainly wouldn’t have been my choice but he is not without attributes and, for better or worse, he is the Dundee manager now so we have little choice but to get behind him.

Will he go on to make Derry-minded critics and gloating arabs eat their words, which due to the wonders of modern technology have been screenshotted dozens of times just in case? Only time will tell. For now, I’m just excited about the prospect of spending less time glued to my phone.

Late in the Day

When you go into injury time a point up on the teams above you but finish it a point further behind then it’s tempting to conclude that some higher power wants you relegated at all costs.

Barring a miracle of Piers Morgan-not-being-a-fanny-about-something proportions, Dundee are down and the six points dropped in stoppage time since the end of January is a major factor in their demise. Our tendency to boot ourselves in the Ian McCalls at the very last moment has been as unerring as it is painful.

Hollow Little Reign

If only Dieng hadn’t sliced the ball straight to an opponent in the 91st minute at Hamilton.

If only Miller had put his laces through that penalty in the 94th minute v Killie.

If only Woods had put the ball into touch rather than attempting a blind, round-the-corner pass in the 96th minute against Celtic.

If only Horsfield had made some kind of attempt to stop the cross in the 95th minute at Motherwell.

Auntie, balls, uncle etc. The fact of the matter is that we didn’t do any of these things. Was that down to confidence? Judgement? Fitness? Nerve? Will to win? Ability? A bit of all of the above? Whatever we lack, St Mirren and Hamilton have more of and each point they bite and scratch their way to takes us closer to the abyss.

With these late collapses contributing to a record so appalling that it threatens to rehabilitate his predecessor, we are surely now in the time-added-on part of the Jim McIntyre era. In fairness, he inherited an absolute mess from Neil McCann and the timing and circumstances of his appointment caused issues from the outset. Trying to overhaul an entire squad in four weeks was a monumental task but he could hardly have wished for better backing from the club’s owners as he attempted to do it. Two mini-revivals seem a long time ago now.

In delivering what amounted to a pre-emptive vote of confidence in his manager prior to the Aberdeen game last month, John Nelms insisted “the data shows he is the best person to lead Dundee”. Those words have proved an albatross round his neck since because, whatever way you look at it – bottom of the league, nine defeats in a row, a record-low win rate – the data is not kind to either the Dundee gaffer or the Managing Director who quoted it in his defence.

 

I Should Coco

This week’s club statement, designed to address recent press stories, social media rumours and letters from fan groups, deviated from the Nelms’ widely derided pre-Aberdeen programme notes. Three defeats on, faith in the manager seems to have waned at boardroom level. Not only was McIntyre not referred to by name, there was no talk of him being the man for the job. Instead, results had been “beyond disappointing” and the manager “is judged on the players he brings in, the tactics he employs…we have high expectations of him.” If you were Jim McIntyre reading that you would hardly be inclined to consolidate into your current workplace pension.

The other substantial part of the statement (unless, of course, pie provenance of pies or beer festivals are dealbreakers for you) was confirmation that FPS remain committed to the club for the foreseeable future. You don’t need to be particularly enamoured with the owners of our club or the way it is run to realise that the ‘Nelms Out’ shouts growing in prominence of late are counter-productive.

The reality of our situation is that Nelms’ close friend and business partner Tim Keyes is subsidising hefty losses each year in the Premiership, where income is much, much higher than where we are headed. Our plight is not solely the fault of McIntyre, McCann or any other individual but the accumulation of years of bad decision-making. FPS must ultimately shoulder responsibility for where we find ourselves but the tap being turned off suddenly would not only cripple our chances of escaping the Fundesliga any time soon but prove an existential threat to the club.

We need our owners to learn from their mistakes and for changes in the way the club is run to take place. In the absence of any alternatives, what we don’t need to do is chase away a group who may have got much wrong but who have done so in the pursuit of what we all want.

As one of the most traumatic campaigns in the club’s history creeps towards the full time whistle, humility and pragmatism is needed on all sides, not another self-inflicted hammer blow.

Conspiracy theory collapses before end of injury time

A conspiracy theory alleging rabid anti-Irishness among Dundee’s stewarding community was discredited before referee Bobby Madden blew the full time whistle at Dens Park on Sunday.

Sky Sports viewers watched on as a Celtic supporter jumped an 8-foot drop to chase after a tricolour that stewards had pulled down seconds before.

The Celtic twitterati were quick to dismiss Dundee MD John Nelms’ claim that the flag was removed for obscuring an advertising board paid for by one of the club’s sponsors and posted images of a Rangers banner draped over the same spot earlier this season.

This appeared to be incontrovertible evidence of high-level collusion before further footage showed the offending Rangers flag was in fact removed minutes after the original picture was taken.

In all, the theory lasted almost as long as the injury time referee Madden added on at the end of Sunday’s game.

Choosing to ignore the fact other Irish flags were clearly on display at Dens Park without causing controversy, blogger and professional grievance merchant Martin Moore hit out at all involved, saying, ‘Normally I just analyse Sevco’s finances in forensic detail but I was inspired to write about this blatant anti-Irish racism. It was no coincidence that it happened on St Patrick’s Day.

‘Nelms says this was only done because the flag was obscuring an advertising board but he would say that because he’s from Texas and they have the KKK there.’

Professor Glen Dingies, of the Institute for Futba Studies, said, ‘There is a clear causal link between paranoia and supporting the Old Firm. Everyone knows the stewards at Dens are heavy-handed but, quite frankly, Ayr United and Falkirk fans are treated by them worse than Celtic or Rangers’ ever will.

‘With respect to the injury time played, it is highly unusual to see Celtic supporters back a referee rather than claiming a Masonic conspiracy against them. It’s almost as if they just see and hear what they want.’

Derry Got Soul Club Accounts Special: The Derry Accountant speaks

The accounts are out and, despite Dundee’s losses increasing over the past year, the Daily Record chose not to run a front page story claiming we were on the brink of going out of business this year. It’s almost as if the rag’s former editor was an embittered DAB who epitomised everything wrong with the media by not so much speaking truth to power but abusing his own to push personal prejudices.

Anyway, the headline figure is that the Mushy Peas lost £434,000 in the year ending May 2018. Yup, that’s £434k to finish one place ahead of Hamilton Accies, who lost double that wedge when they handed over their bank details and password to a Nigerian prince. Sofien Moussa, Randy Wolters and Lewis Spence didn’t come cheap, to be fair.

Debate over how big a bang our owners got for their bucks aside, the publication of the accounts set off arguments about what they meant for the club among fans with zero qualifications to comment on fiduciary matters. In an attempt to shed some light on these figures, we asked a top accountant with a season ticket for the Derry to look them over.

 

Walking Down The Provie Road: Right, the accounts are out. What’s the story? 

Derry Accountant: Short story is the accounts show a loss-making company that is reliant on benefactors to sustain itself at the moment. That isn’t necessarily a worry and the fact that in note 3 the auditors have confidence that the business will run as a going concern for the foreseeable gives some comfort. I appreciate there are some fans who believe we should simply spend what we earn, and that’s a perfectly reasonable point of view, however the FPS strategy is clearly that they are willing (I purposely didn’t say happy) to incur losses.

Overall, the balance sheet is pretty flat. There’s not been huge movements on a line by line basis. Cash has remained consistent, debtors are flat and the increase in creditors relates to the way the loss has effectively funded by directors.

WDTPR: The report says we’ve increased turnover. That’s good but how was it possible when crowds fell and there was no discernible rise in TV money. Is it all down to the two televised League Cup derbies? 

DA: From a football club point of view, turnover is simple. It will be all income from gate receipts, TV, league and cup placings and hospo/sundry income. Without having a detailed breakdown in front of me, revenue grew by 12.5% which is good going.  I know we had three TV games in the Betfred, two of which also attracted full houses. We also got to the QF of that competition, which would have attracted more revenue. You would need to do a real deep dive on crowds/ticket price to unwind it all though.

WDTPR: How do losses and outgoings compare to last year? 

DA: Whilst wages are up they are actually down as a percentage of turnover. You have to presume that a fair chunk of that increase will the payoffs for some of Hartley’s players while Caulker was allegedly on a big wage. Re the other expenditure this looks like potentially an increase in lease expenditure (note 8).

WDTPR: A lot of figures are being bandied about for the rent on Dens. These include £500,000, £130,000 and £65,000. How much did we pay last year and how much will we pay next year?

DA: Note 17 is your friend here. Next year we will pay £65k for stadium rental and another £64k for other rentals (no idea what that is). This year per note 8 we paid £128k and its reasonable to assume this is split £65k stadium £64k other.

Looking forward it looks like this other operating lease drops off in a year or so and leaves just the stadium rental. Total payable is £1,391, 749, which is the total of 1 year and above in the narrative in note 17. In 2016 we changes account basis from UKGAAP to FRS 102. To the non-accountant (and indeed many accountants!) this wasn’t overly interesting. However as part of that we changed the way we account for leases, this has led to a provision being held on the balance sheet for leases that will be released over the life of the lease as opposed to the first lease break. This does not correspond to cash out the door and is purely a technical accounting point.

WDTPR: Are we paying directors less?

DA: Yes. Directors’ remuneration is down from £152k to £129k. I am presuming only John Nelms draws a salary from the club but obviously don’t know for sure.

WDTPR: How much is in ‘other creditors’ and what does that mean? 

DA: See note 20 for related party transactions. Directors loans are the method that FPS are funding the losses with when not buying new share capital.

WDTPR: How fucked were we if we hadn’t sold Jack Hendry? Andy why does ‘player disposals’ only show £530,000 when we allegedly sold him for £1.5 million.

DA: Impossible to say as it all depends on what we would have done in the event we hadn’t sold him. It’s perfectly reasonable to presume that we simply spent the money we received from him and therefore admin expenses are higher than they would have been had we not sold him. The signing of Caulker wouldn’t have come cheap so my guess is we spent a chunk of the £530k on that. In other words if we hadn’t sold him then the admin expenses would have been lower.

The accounts show the net figure from the transfer, i.e. proceeds less any “cost of sales”. Without any additional info I am guessing that after we clipped the ticket with payouts to Wigan and potentially the player and agents this was the net we were left with. From memory there were rumours of a 40% sell-on clause and with payments arriving in instalments it doesn’t seem a bonkers figure.

WDTPR: The report states that ‘FPS intends to increase its stake and commitment to the Company by raising its hareholding to at least 75% of the voting equity. This would allow FPS to claim Group Tax Relief and offset the trading losses of the Company against its other business activities’. In plain English, what does that mean? How does it benefit the club?

DA: This will be some tax structuring within the US that will allow FPS to use the losses that DFC are running against other companies within their group. Whilst it won’t make any benefit in DFC accounts it will obviously ensure that the owners net spend across all their businesses is lower and this will make a loss-making investment slightly more attractive. I’m not a tax expert though.

WDTPR: One of the last times Tim Keyes was in town (August 2018) it was announced he’d increased his shareholding to the tune of £500,000. Again, what’s the significance of this?

DA: Note 19 mentions something about this and a loan subsequently being written off. I would expect Other creditors to go down as a result of this and share capital to go up. This happened on 9th August so that’s why it’s not in these accounts.

WDTPR: Do we owe anyone any money?

DA: Based on the accounts the biggest creditor is the “other creditors” which spiked from £492k in 2016 to £1.3m in 2017 and again up to £1.6m this year. Per Note 20 these are amounts due to FPS. Based on the accounts we owe HMRC £319k and have some trade creditors. The accruals deferred income are accounting liabilities as opposed to actual invoices received and again I am surmising that these relate to season tickets paid before 31 May 2018 but relating to 2018/19 seasons, i.e. we have the cash but we also have the liability to provide the “service”. The service being a season worth of football.

There is no bank debt that is visible in the accounts.

WDTPR: The accounts make mention of about £1.5million being due to go out in the next year. What does this mean, what does it contain and how does it compare to last year?

DA: Whilst these loans are technically due within 12 months the ‘other creditors’ portion is unlikely to be called in unless FPS pull the plug. The fact the accounts are on a going concern suggests this is unlikely to happen.

WDTPR: We have lost £2.3m in the past five years according to accounts published since FPS took over. How is this sustainable?

DA: Short answer is we are totally at the will of FPS. Like the majority of clubs in Scotland we are running the benefactor model. The only way to move away from that is to up revenue (new streams from new stadium etc?) or to lower costs. It’s easily arguable that we have spent a lot of needless expenses on poor signings and payoffs etc.

HULLTOON HERALD: South Ayrshire Police set to tackle Mexican cartels          

SAPDcropHaving prevented the breakdown of civilisation by taking a small amount of bevvy off football fans, the South Ayrshire division of Police Scotland is set to be deployed to Mexico to tackle the escalating war between rival drug cartels.

The SAPD were quick to boast of their accomplishments on twitter last weekend after cops in riot gear boarded a coach containing Ayr United fans travelling to watch their side play Greenock Morton, a notorious powder keg fixture which has led to zero arrests or incidents of public disorder in recent years.

Having seen his officers seize a bottle of orange Mad Dog 20/20, two tins of Fosters, two tins of Strongbow Dark Fruit cider and a total of three litres of Buckfast, Sergeant Lyall of South Ayrshire Police has set his sights on bigger targets.

“Now that El Chapo has been banged up, Mexico is wide open and cartels are sure to be murdering and extorting in order to strengthen their grip on the lucrative drugs business,” he said. “Operations like last weekend keep communities safe and we are keen to take our experiences of pointlessly targeting peaceful football fans into the counter-narcotrafficking arena.

“My men will lay traps in lay-bys all over Mexico every Saturday in operations costing the public purse thousands while serving no purpose other than making us look like big men on twitter. They won’t know what’s hit them.”

Professor Glen Dingies, of the Institute for Futba Studies, said, “I don’t know what’s more embarrassing – that South Ayrshire Polcie saw fit to boast about the fact they took 65 units of drink off the streets or the fact a supporters bus only had 65 units on board. My mate Jimmy has a bigger away day kerry-oot than that on his own, for fuck’s sake.”