James Brent: Plymouth Argyle is in good financial fettle
Owner and chairman James Brent has revealed extra funds have had to be pumped into Plymouth Argyle after lower than expected attendances at Home Park.
Despite this, Brent insisted the Pilgrims were in ‘good financial fettle’ at the first anniversary of his takeover of the club.
Argyle are 18th in League Two after winning only two of their seven games at Home Park this season.
Their average attendance of 6,320 is ‘not a million miles away’ from the Pilgrims’ break-even figure, according to Brent, and ranks as one of the best in the division, nonetheless.
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Brent officially completed his buyout of Argyle on October 31, 2011, after the club had spent seven months in administration.
He admitted he had ‘thoroughly enjoyed’ the past 12 months as the owner and chairman but it had not been without its challenges.
Brent told Herald Sport: “The crowd numbers are a bit lower than we expected so we have had to put more money into the club than we anticipated, but that’s fine. We are in good financial fettle.
“We have a very loyal and significant fanbase by League Two standards.
“So while our average gate of 6,300 is disappointing relative to what we hoped for, for many clubs in League Two, and even some in League One, it would be an absolute dream to achieve that.
“We aren’t a million miles away from our break-even figure and with winning football we can get back on track.”
Brent, a former banker, has had success in a range of business interests, from a hotel chain to a surfwear company.
He has learned over the last year that running a football club is similar but with one significant difference.
Brent said: “Having not followed football before, I have thoroughly enjoyed the games we have won and been thoroughly frustrated by the games we have lost.
“Football is a business, and not that different to other businesses, apart from the fact you have no reasonable prospect of making a profit.
“Making money out of football is very, very challenging. We have a relatively high level of fixed costs and a variable income stream.
“Clearly, the aim for all football clubs is to make sure the spectator experience is good and brings in the crowds, which enables you to fund the costs.”
Funds have been provided for a sizeable squad by League Two standards, bolstered by a series of loan signings.
Brent admitted criteria had been laid down for Argyle manager Carl Fletcher to achieve.
“What we have been trying to do is support Carl in developing a winning team which plays attractive football and doesn’t do so at the expense of our youth set-up.
“That’s very much what Carl is focused on.”
Brent added: “I think the honest truth is we are still very much a work in progress.
“We feel the club should be performing at a higher level than it currently is, but we recognise we need to give Carl time to build a team and a style of play which delivers that.”
Brent preached the message that patience was needed, not reckless spending, which was what led to Argyle ending up in administration.
He said: “We would rather be doing better than we are at the moment but feel we are progressing in the right direction on the pitch, and we will do that on a sustainable basis.”
Brent pointed out there had been numerous changes off the pitch over the past 12 months, all aimed at increasing the satisfaction levels of supporters. Each one, on its own, has been relatively minor but when combined there has been a considerable effect.
Brent said: “Whether it’s the pasties, the Family Stand or the membership packages, we have tried to do our best to respond to the requirements of the fans, who, after all, are our customers. I think that has gone well, but there is more to do. There are further initiatives to be implemented.”
Meanwhile, Brent is still aiming for work on a much-needed new grandstand at Home Park to start in 2013.
He said: “These things always take a frustrating amount of time but we are on track, subject to planning, to move forward on that next year.”