Q&A with Nigel Clibbens

Last updated : 05 January 2019 By Paddock Pundit

NC has been helpful in responding to email questions lately. This is what he had to say:


  1. I was concerned that officials were withdrawing from dealing with supporters’ concerns directly in favour of the CUOSG group.


NC - I answer all questions emailed to me. 1921 directors meet the press every month and they ask anything they want – they ask the questions they thing fans want to answering  and we address the issues we see fans are talking about. We meet the supporter groups every month and answer every question too.  Other questions are answered by the club too. I don’t answer questions to  my personal social media.  Fans can ask the club direct – just as you have.  The SLO is now available to get answers too.


  1. I asked about attendances. Nigel had previously told me that the Club budget for between 4600 and 4700 each season. Averages this season (before Christmas) were nowhere near this leaving a hole in the budget of £144,000 this season, using a figure of £11 per ticket.


NC- Your maths are correct. I have publicly said the yield is approx. £10 for our ticket pricing structure and mix of fan ages. If it continues the gap will grow.  Setting aside the estimation –your principle point is 100% correct.

A break even figure of 4650 is huge under estimate – that number results in a loss of over £1m before windfalls from cup runs and player sales (see below).


It is a matter of public record from the Audited Accounts which are publicly available on the website for all fans to see,  https://www.carlisleunited.co.uk/news/2018/april/accountsapirl2018/ https://www.carlisleunited.co.uk/siteassets/documents/cufc-1921-accounts-2017.pdf (Page 9 and 18) showed increasing attendances:


16/17 season (year ended 30 June 2017): average attendance was 5113    Operating loss of £675k – without cup runs and player sales of £484k (page 4) we would have an underlying loss of £1.1m

15/16 season (year ended 30 June 2016): average attendance was 4704     Operating profit of £53k – without cup runs and player sales of £1.223k (page 4) we would have an underlying loss of £1.3m

14/15 season (year ended 30 June 2016): average attendance was 4376


As I have said publicly many times in the last year – we are heavily loss making season (year ended 30 June 2016): average attendance was 4704 and the cup runs and player sales are crucial to us.  Our ticket income and commercial income is not enough to pay for the football spending. 


I have also made it clear that approach is unsustainable and unaffordable and steps needed to be taken to reduced that loss.  We started in the summer of 2018 – inevitably, without income growth (more fans coming or more commercial support – if they fall it makes the problem worse) that means no choice but reducing costs. No action risks the Club’s future. Our total operating costs are £5m and over 60% relate to football, the vast majority of the remaining cost are fixed (insurance, utilities, staff, game costs) and can’t be changed without having a huge impact on our ability to function (like closing stands, operating on fewer days), so that meant lowering our football spending.


In 17/18 season (year ended 30 June 2018): average attendance was 4600    with cup runs and player sales of £449k – so another similar underlying loss to prior years is to be expected, before the impact of the reduced costs.


  1. I asked Nigel for his views on the apparent boycotting of home games because of the way in which the Club is being run, and to reduce income to get rid of the current owners.


NC - Reducing income is damaging to the club, which I presume those advocating it support and would want to see prosper.  It is a misguided approach – my position is clear and I will reiterate it again…. The best route for those wishing to see a change of ownership is for the club to prosper and be a success – it will then attract good people who will want to take it over and be part of that.  Hoping to create a distressed club in order to promote new interest is misguided and flawed, it just attracts ambulance chasers IMO  – as I have said many time to individual fans and in forums and the media.


  1. I asked about the vulnerability of other CUFC if reduced gates continued.


As I said above, in 2018 we have had to take steps to cut costs, while the main area has been the football budget, back office has not been immune.  We have seen a number of people leave and not be replaced but their work be taken up by others.


  1. People’s futures could be at risk?


NC- it is not could be they are.


  1.  If holes in the budget are not plugged, CUFC is just as responsible as the supporters for maximising income. 


NC- absolutely true.


  1. Where are the attempts to get more people through the gates? Where are the seasonal offers on goods in the shop? This was something mentioned as poor in BBC Radio Cumbria (before Christmas). It is almost as though no-one at the Club is bothered. That's how it looks to me anyway. 


NC - The club does thinks continuously to try grow and promote the club as something to have pride in and support:


In just the last 7 days we have done the following:



This makes me proud of CUFC.  Is this not what the club should be doing and isnt that what being a community club is about?


In the end it is things like this that are important for the long term.


Cutting prices to get fans to come doesn’t work.  Winning helps, playing attractive football helps – yes accompany that this offers and initiatives.. 


Yes we make mistakes – too many and its frustrating but we are a small team (we now have about a dozen off the field non-football staff and two directors), everyone is trying very hard every day. 


Yes, if one cog in the wheel fails we all fail and we are there to be criticised for that, but a take strong exception to the “cant be bother” “don’t care” tag. It is not fair, it is not accurate or true and it shows a total lack of understanding and balance.  We know Radio Cumbria is there to entertain and in the media bad news sells.  We know its their job to report what people say - did they mention any of these initiatives?


They are all there on social media and publicised by the club for those who are open minded.   


Everyone is very realistic about the difficulties we face but despite that we are committed to continue to do the things that are in the best interest of the club.


This week:


  • We have a fan group CUSG meeting
  • We have a media press conference attended by me, CUOSC and David Holdsworth


Yet no doubt, for some there will be accusations of not communicating.


  1. How is the gap in the finances caused by lower than expected gates to be bridged?


NC- Funders giving more support and we are reducing costs and growing other non-ticket income and if there is still a gap, reducing the spending on football


  1. Are EWM still contributing cash to the Club and on what basis?


NC - They continue to support the club as does Andrew Jenkins.  The club cannot operate as we do now without their support.


  1. Are ALL season ticket holders included in the official gate numbers released by the Club?


NC - Around 2200


  1. How many season ticket holders attended yesterday's game against Colchester. (It's easy to get these figures from an electronic system)


NC - I don’t have the data to hand – it provides no insight as a single number