Burton Albion's record loss annoys Robinson but he vows to ensure there's no repeat
BEN Robinson surveyed the most embarrassing set of accounts in his long chairmanship at Burton Albion and admitted: "I think I took my eye off the ball."
After four successive years of reporting profits for this most tightly-run of football clubs, it has hurt the chairman to reveal a record loss of £308,428 for the financial year which ended in May.
It is a figure to go with a traumatic season on the field, the Brewers' third in the Football League, in which an awful run of form caused Robinson to sack a manager, Paul Peschisolido, for the first time as the club flirted with relegation.
The big picture remains bright – Burton are debt-free – but Robinson knows that the figure in the loss column will alarm supporters.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
"My concern is people wondering whether we will be around," he said.
"I can assure them we will be. We're still a club with no debt – we're solvent.
"People will wonder how we can afford to lose that much money. Well, we'd made a profit in the previous years. In fact, we'd made a profit for the four years before this one of £426,701.
"This year has made a hole in that but, although I'm very disappointed, we've already been addressing the deficit and I'm sure that, at the end of this season, we'll see a much better picture.
"We have to hold our hands up and admit we underestimated the extent of the downturn in the economy."
It would be easy for critics to make the assumption that a large increase in players' wages was responsible for the loss, especially since Darren Moore was in the second year of his contract during the financial year in question and the former West Bromwich Albion and Derby County centre-half was, reputedly, the highest-paid player in the club's history.
However, the club's accounts do not bear that out, since only £2,000 more was spent on wages – staff as well as players – than in the previous year.
The two big factors contributing to the loss were lower gate receipts and lower income from commercial activities – principally events and functions at the Pirelli Stadium.
Gate receipts dropped 14%, from £701,969 in the year ended May 2011 to £606,687.
The income from sponsorship and commercial activities fell from £1,821,273 to £1,494,197.
Put those together and between them, they brought in £422,358 less in the recently ended financial year than in the one before.
Since the loss on the year was £308,428, it is logical to conclude that the club actually made up some ground in other areas.
While figures for rates, water rates, insurance, light and heat increased, the club spent less on subscriptions and League fees, telephones, printing and professional fees. Running costs such as these fell by £22,249 overall.
The accounts show they almost doubled the cash received in government grants, from £10,559 to £20,296.
In discussing the figures, Robinson joked about having a sleepless night or two – but what is clear is that he will redouble his efforts to ensure such a loss does not recur.
When he says he took his eye off the ball, he means that he spent a lot of time last year looking after his own long-established financial services business, plainly not an unreasonable thing to do in the present economic climate.
Already, however, he sees better news on the way for the Brewers.
Although they have not been published yet, Robinson maintains the first six months' trading figures for the current financial year will show a marked improvement in performance.
And what has already happened on the field gives rise to optimism.
Last year, Burton exited the FA Cup at the first hurdle, beaten away at Oldham Athletic in front of a relatively small crowd.
This season, wins in the first and second rounds have realised £45,000 in prize money, along with a TV fee for the second round replay at Altrincham. Add in the Brewers' share of the gate money from the three matches played so far and the club are heading towards a six-figure FA Cup windfall even before they take on Leicester City in the third round in January.
Robinson says the club's overall solvency means manager Gary Rowett will not have to worry about the playing budget.
"The situation will not affect the playing budget this season," added the chairman.
"We'll support Gary in January if he wants to strengthen the squad."