City chairman explains Caulfield's departure and how club budgets are set

City chairman explains Caulfield's departure and how club budgets are set
Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

DECLAN CAREY was four months into his new role as chairman of FORAS — the supporters’ trust that runs Cork City Football Club — when he and his board were faced with a major decision.

The club was in the midst of a winless run in the SSE Airtricity League that had just been stretched to eight games by their 1-1 draw to bottom club, Finn Harps, at Turner’s Cross.

The relegation zone was now perilously close and attendances at home games had dropped to new lows. The board convened that night and it was decided to part company with legendary manager John Caulfield.

“We met as a board over the last few weeks and months. We have been assessing things as we have been going and it is not a decision that we took lightly,” Carey told the Echo.

“We met on the Monday night after the Finn Harps game. We had a discussion. Then, we met with John on the Tuesday and had another discussion with him and we finalised it with him on the Wednesday morning and we parted ways. Look, I can’t say enough positive words about John: he is a club legend at Cork City and, in general, he is one of Corks greatest sporting icons.

Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

“I feel he has done it all; he is up there with all the great Cork sporting heroes across all codes. He leaves the club with our utmost respect and John Cotter has now taken over the reins.

“Everyone knows our board is made up of volunteers, but we have vast experience across business, finance, economics, and budgeting, so it wasn’t a decision that we took lightly.

“We have looked at things over the past eight or nine months and the crowds have been on their way down since last summer, as well, so it wasn’t a decision we made lightly.

“We looked into it; we tried to do an analysis on what making the decision would do to us as a club and what not making the decision would do and, ultimately, we decided to sit down with John and we came up with that decision. It was a difficult one.” 

Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

In a statement released by the club on May 1, Caulfield insisted he felt the time was right for this mutual parting of the ways.

Having led Cork City to a historic league title triumph — which secured €550,000 for the club, due to their qualification for the Champions League — and FAI Cup success in 2017, it is believed that Caulfield wasn’t pleased to be working with a reduced budget. Carey was quick to clarify.

“The 2019 budget would have been significantly higher (than 2017), somewhere around the 25%,” he said. “There was a huge influx in cash, because of those reasons (the double and champions league) and it all didn’t go into the first team.

“We invested off the pitch, as well: we have a full-time commercial manager now and we have a full-time merchandise manager. But John’s budget, from 2017 to 2018, was increased by about 29% and, going on to 2019, then it was reduced by only, maybe, 4% to 5%.

“We tried to keep the budget, in 2019, as competitive as we possibly could and, obviously, the results didn’t reflect on where we felt the club should have been at the time and I think John would say the same himself.

“I think we were eighth in the table after that Finn Harps game. In terms of budgets, we thought this year we also budgeted for a top-three or top-four finish and it wasn’t looking good, at that stage of the season.” 

John Cotter and Alan Bennett with club chairman Declan Carey.
John Cotter and Alan Bennett with club chairman Declan Carey.

At that fixture against Harps, City recorded their lowest attendance of the season, 1,612, which was 690 fewer than the previous worst crowd figure, when Sligo Rovers visited the week before.

It had been rumoured that FORAS had budgeted for attendances of over 4,000, but Carey said that is wide of the mark. “No, no it’s under that,” he said.

“It’s a bit under that, actually, but the crowd themselves, when you look at it across the season, they do have an impact on the overall budget.

“We have tried to level that out as best as we can and not be reliant on the crowds that come through the gate, but the crowds do, more or less, affect the weekly cash-flow, really, rather than your budget.

“But they go up and down. We could get a good cup run now, as well, and it could bring our season average up and, obviously, we have Europe coming, where we expect a bumper crowd, so the attendances do have an impact on a week-to-week basis, but we don’t really rely on it too heavily.

“If the crowds continue to fall and they eventually get to zero, then everything would be in jeopardy. We budget accordingly for our academies: we have got the U13s, 15s, 17s, 19s men’s teams and we have got the women’s U17 and senior team. They have all been budgeted for, so we are covered there.

“The academy has been very successful recently. We have invested in that with coaches and brought in guys with UEFA B and UEFA A licences to help Colin Healy and that’s where we hope we will get our stars of the future.” 

Cork City supporters. Picture Denis Minihane.
Cork City supporters. Picture Denis Minihane.

City have now won back-to-back games in the Premier Division for the first time in two months.

And while the chairman remains confident about the long-term for the club, he is hopeful fans will be supportive now to help the side achieve success in the short-term.

“We have got guys involved now in the backroom staff — Colin Healy, Alan Bennett, Liam Kearney, and John Cotter — these guys are Cork City through and through. They have all played with the club,” he said.

“Everyone is giving their all for the jersey, so, hopefully, the fans can come out now. It’s a fresh start for everyone to get behind the team, because the positivity from the crowd will bring success onto the pitch.”

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