We would like to wish all of the SWA a Happy New Year and thank you for your support for the Club, and for us, in the last, difficult, year.
2022 is one few of us will look back on with any fondness, as it has been tough for almost everyone. We have all grappled to deal with the after-effects of Covid, the war in Ukraine and the current cost of living crisis, all of which combine to make it a very tough environment for football clubs and their fans alike.
So, your continued support has been particularly appreciated, especially as we have been frustratingly inconsistent on the pitch, and we go into the second half of the season with much work to do.
We have a young team this season, not because of lack of budget (we believe our budget to be in the top half of our division) but because we are aiming to become a club which develops and sells talented players as part of a long-term sustainability model. We said at the start of the season that patience would be needed as a consequence of the youth of the squad, but we still expected to be competing for promotion places. That task was made harder when our recruitment process was knocked by long term injuries during the key recruitment period – notably to 3 strikers - and the frustrating inability to secure the additional strikers we had targeted in the window, for reasons outside of our control. Ultimately this resulted in a somewhat unbalanced squad, and difficulty in turning chances into goals; an issue which we are working hard to rectify during the January window. But in the meantime, it has been good to see some confidence returning to the team with 2 good wins over the Christmas period, and we all hope that this is the start of another strong run such as we saw in October.
Despite all the difficulties we have experienced this year, there are many things to be positive about:
- Whilst there have been issues with the balance of the squad, we have recruited and developed some exciting players who are likely to be assets for the Club in the future;
- we once again earned a cup tie against Premier league opposition, Newcastle United, and gave a great account of ourselves in that game, showing what the squad is capable of.
- having worked closely with the Trust, planning permission has been secured for the new fan park and all of the planning conditions have been met, meaning orders have now been placed for the structure and the building work should be ready for the new season;
- We have upgraded toilets around the ground to ensure they are stoma-friendly;
- We’ve invested in upgrading the beer handling system and added additional bottle bars to speed up half time service and ensure the beer is in peak quality.
Generating income streams:
- we have welcomed around 1,000 international visitors for paid training sessions at the Campus;
- we have opened the new esports hub, which will generate revenue in its own right and enable us to launch esports BTECs in September;
- plans have been progressed for the expansion of the Campus, which is an important strategic project for the Club.
We know that many of you will not be particularly interested in some of the international and other commercial work that is going on whilst our playing performances are so inconsistent, but the reality is that it is these revenue streams that will generate the ongoing income, year on year, that should enable us to have a competitive budget every season.
- as well as continuing our regular programme of activities for the community, we have continued to support the most vulnerable through difficult times including:
- delivering hundreds of food parcels and hampers of Christmas gifts;
- hosting Christmas parties for around 150 children at Prenton Park and at Beechwood;
- hosting Christmas Day for 30 recent care-leavers; and Boxing Day for dozens of people experiencing homelessness, financial hardship or loneliness; and
- recruiting and training community first responders to help ensure that people in our community experiencing heart attacks or other medical emergencies get help as soon as possible.
Our community work is a great source of pride to us and, we believe, to our fans and over the year has cemented our status as an anchor institution on The Wirral. We believe, as do many others, there is no other institution on The Wirral that does what we do.
One thing we have not progressed since the start of the season is the new stadium project. The feasibility study has been put on ice for most of this year, mainly due to a lack of bandwidth to push things forward as we deal with all of the day-to-day challenges of running a club through a global cost of living crisis. As and when the feasibility study gets underway, we will engage fully with the fans and supporter groups. For now, though, there is nothing further to say as the feasibility study has not yet been done.
Of course, we know that ultimately everything we do is seen through the prism of our performance on the pitch, and we will not pretend that mid-table is where we want to be, although back-to-back wins over the Christmas period mean we finish the year only 3 points off the play-off places, and with it all to play for in the second half of the season.
As we look forward to 2023 we will look to strengthen the squad where we can, and will progress some of our major projects, including the expansion of the Campus and the new fan park. Outside of the Club, there are promising signs that there are also changes afoot following the Crouch report, that should help to ease the pressures on all lower league clubs. For many years, the Premier League have got richer and richer at the expense of EFL clubs and we, alongside many others, have been campaigning for that to change. It looks like 2023 may be the year when the first, small steps are taken to make that happen.
So, we thank you for all your support and wish you a Happy New Year. Here’s to 2023 which we believe is a year that we should look forward to, stronger, together.