League 2 Clyde are presently enjoying a lot of positive publicity after the installation of former Rangers and Scotland captain Barry Ferguson as their player-manager, but it is their past and future that John Alexander has been concentrating on this week.
Ferguson has taken over with the Bully Wee spending their fifth season in the lowest level of Scottish football, while, off the park, Clyde notched a fine win this week when they became a debt-free club. In what must seem a lifetime ago for their fans, Clyde pushed Inverness Caledonian Thistle all the way in the race for the one promotion place to the SPL that was available in season 2003-04.
They led the table until a home defeat by the Highlanders on the second last weekend of the season and not even a 5-2 win at Brechin on the final day could help Alan Kernaghan’s side.
But the drive for promotion was built on a debt of £1.4 million and, after ten years, the cost of that failed strategy has finally been paid off.
Elements of the indebtedness were met through a Company Voluntary Arrangement and the generosity of a former chairman but the club severely tested the patience of their North Lanarkshire Council landlords at Broadwood Stadium.
Now Clyde are no longer debtors to the council or to anyone else. Chairman Alexander said: “The final payment to eliminate the debt has been made. It was not just a case of not paying rent to North Lanarkshire. There were a whole host of other services that had not been paid over a number of years.”
The CVA had seen Clyde repay a six-figure sum to their landlords. However, further debt was run up with Alexander, who became chairman in 2009, saying: “We paid part of the debt and then had to start again. It has been a ten-year battle that has changed the club. Clyde were a full-time side then, with an appropriate structure to match, and now we are predominantly run by volunteers with no full-time staff.”
“We have one of the smallest income streams in senior football and the price we have paid is evident on the park. Initially, we tried not to slip down the leagues and made small cuts to remain competitive, but it may have been better to completely downsize ten years ago and have been rebuilt by now.”
Relegation from Division One came in 2009 with a tumble out of Division Two coming 12 months later and, at that stage, a bitter pill had to be swallowed.
Alexander said: “We had to draw a line then and get the debts paid off. We agreed that the first £50,000 of yearly income had to go to debt repayment and, in some seasons, that was higher than the playing budget”
“We now have the satisfaction of having repaid our debt but we are sorry for the pain that we have gone through.”
Clyde now have a platform to build on, with Alexander adding: “We are now looking for ten years of progression and not ten years of decline. That period has seen this club deliver its worst sporting performance and now we want to move on.”
That could well be at a new location. Alexander said: “North Lanarkshire Council were patient with us during a fraught time for both parties. However, for the long-term security of the club, we need to be at the heart of a community.”
“Our business model is to be community-focused, and Barry did some work last week with a group of people who have long-term mental health issues, but Broadwood does not give us the chance to do much more.”
“All the plans to do things in the community bring us into competition with areas of North Lanarkshire Council and that is restrictive. We cannot sell a pie or run a community coaching class as that is deemed as competition.”
Alexander, a third-generation Clyde supporter, said: “That does not allow us to build and control our own destiny. We want to do good for our club and for our community but we are restricted in Cumbernauld.”
After 20 years playing north of Glasgow, Clyde could be tempted to head south and past their spiritual home of Shawfield and land at East Kilbride to take charge of their destiny in the manner Alexander describes.
Plans to move to a second New Town and a name change to EK Clyde have been lodged but the absence of a suitable stadium and the emergence of East Kilbride in the Lowland League have hampered progress.
Alexander said: “East Kilbride is an option but we are looking at other options as well. Having got us to a debt-free position, we now have to look for growth as well as security.”