CORK CITY chairman Declan Carey acknowledges that the club have to adopt a more prudent financial approach for the coming season, but he doesn’t feel that that has resulted in head coach Neale Fenn being constrained in terms of recruitment.
While City have been forced to tighten their belts, Fenn has been able to stay within his budget in any case as he has targeted players who are keen to succeed.
Carey believes that such a philosophy will allow for greater freedom for mid-season signings if the opportunity arises.
“The players Neale is looking to bring in are young, hungry guys with a point to prove,” he says.
“They mightn’t have had a great time at other clubs or they’ve gone to the UK and it hasn’t worked out or they’ve been homesick and want to come back, rather than established pros who are looking for a move down to Cork on a high wage.
“Even looking at things right now, he has 21 players signed up and he’s well under budget.
"We’ve spoken to him about the possibility of giving him a mini-budget in the summer, which wouldn’t have happened in the past, it would have all been ploughed in in November and December and you’ve a situation where you need to cut players before you can recruit.
“This year, hopefully, all going well, if the crowds stay at a somewhat decent level, we’d be looking to see where we are in the league and make an honest judgement.
"We can definitely strengthen in one or two areas and give the manager more of a budget.’”
Carey feels that the most important principle in terms of budgeting has been not to rely on things that might not materialise.
“The club would have hedged its bets on performance in previous seasons,” he says.
“The way the club had been set up the past couple of years, we absolutely had to have success on the pitch, otherwise the following years were going to be a catastrophe from a cashflow perspective.
“The club was built on having to be in the top three, having to qualify for Europe was built into our budgets and plans.
"When that didn’t happen, we got into a situation where we are now – no doubt about it, we had to make cutbacks and reduce our playing budget.
“As a result, we may have lost one or two players that the manager would liked to have kept but wasn’t able to hold on to.
"This year, by all means, if we’re not in the top two by June, we’re not as heavily reliant on attendances as we would have been.
“It’s much more prudent and safer from a cashflow perspective.
"There won’t be a situation where – plucking a random example – if we have a poor attendance on a Friday, we wouldn’t be able to get in scarves for the club shop two weeks later, which could have been the case in the past.
“Europe is kind of a poisoned chalice in that regard, as well.
"If your budget is over €2m and Europe brings in anywhere upwards of €400k in terms of attendances and prize money, you’re getting that in November, 20 percent of your revenue in one month, which doesn’t help from a cashflow perspective.
“Promising creditors you’d pay them when the European money came in, it was an easy fall-back.”
While that might not sound sexy and may result in lower expectations among fans, naturally contributing to lower attendances, Carey is realistic.
“We have to start somewhere, really,” he says.
“If we ploughed the same resources into the first team as the last two years and it did go wrong, the club would probably be no more, such would be the losses that we would have.
“It’s our responsibility to make sure that there’s a viable club there and have a brand that we want to create, which is young, hungry Cork players coming through, give them a scholarship in UCC, develop them – if they go across the water, great, or if they get into our first team, better again.
“Conor McCarthy and Ronan Hurley are probably two prime examples, where Ronan will be a first-teamer next year and Conor has moved to St Mirren after blossoming here.
“He had five years at the club, you wouldn’t think it for a guy 21 years of age.
"If we can have a few more like him, then all well and good and we can eventually get back up to the top.
“We just have to be patient.”