NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Budget cut, managerial change and possible demotion on the cards for St Neots Town

St Neots Town owner Lee Kearns.

St Neots Town owner Lee Kearns. - Credit: Archant

St Neots Town are considering their future as a Step 3 football club.

Assistant manager Jack Cassidy (right), pictured with manager Matt Clements earlier this season, has

Assistant manager Jack Cassidy (right), pictured with manager Matt Clements earlier this season, has departed from St Neots Town. Picture: CLAIRE HOWES - Credit: Archant

Owner Lee Kearns made the admission during an honest interview with the Hunts Post earlier this evening. One option potentially open to the club is applying for a voluntary demotion to Step 5 at the end of the current season.

The Southern League Premier Division Central strugglers have cut their playing budget with immediate effect, but Kearns stresses there is no threat to the long-term future of the club.

He insists Saints as a whole are in a healthy position, but must consider whether it is viable to continue to sustain a first-team playing at Step 3 level due to the high level of expense involved.

“There is absolutely no jeopardy to the future of St Neots Town Football Club,” stressed Kearns, who succeeded his father, Mike, as owner in December, 2015.

“As an entity the club is probably in the best position that it’s ever been in the time we’ve been at Rowley Park.

“It’s definitely not doom and gloom, but we pride ourselves on being honest and it is only right to put everyone in the picture. It’s a case of being brave and doing what is right for the club.

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“Nothing has been set in stone at this moment in time, but we are looking at all of our options for the future.

“Playing at this level is very expensive and we have to make a decision what is in the best interests of the club.

“We need to look at what comes in and goes out. We have to run a successful football club, not just a first team.”

Kearns revealed the club’s rise from Step 5 to Step 3 during his father’s tenure cost around £700,000. He also admitted that five seasons of Step 3 football left Saints with a £250,000 hole.

He added: “My father put a tremendous amount of money - some £700,000 - into the club to get us from Step 5 to Step 3 and ensure we could maintain our status at this level.

“We took a view then that we wanted to remain at Step 3 after he stepped down at the end of 2015, but a few years down the line we have to have another look at things.

“The gap between what it has cost us to play at Step 3 in the last five full seasons compared to what the first-team generates - by that I mean income from the gate, bar and food - is around £250,000.

“During the last full trading year my father was part of the club we made a loss of £120,000, but we have gradually brought that down to the point where we broke even last season.

“There has been fantastic work and tremendous growth in everything behind the scenes - the Academy, the scholarship programme, the events we hold at the club - to get us to that position, but the underlying fact of the matter is that every single penny that comes in goes on players’ wages and bills.

“We cannot afford for other areas of the business that generate profit to be affected by a lack of investment.”

“Not only do we have to plug those losses, we also have to pay the bills and invest in other parts of the business that do generate us income.

“We have to consider whether or not we wish to continue spending that sort of money on the first team while other parts of the business suffer, or whether we have to step back and grow again.

“We have had to cut the playing budget to ensure we reach the end of the season. We’ve worked out the money we have available and will cut our cloth accordingly.

“I’m sure there will be some more players going and we will support them in finding new clubs if that’s case, but we’re hopeful of retaining the vast majority of them.

Kearns revealed Matt Clements will step down from his position as first-team manager as soon as a successor can be found.

Clements, who has been in charge since January 2017, will then move into a role as director of football - replacing Iain Parr, who becomes a shareholder in the club - and be involved in the recruitment of the next boss.

Kearns added: “Matt is a great guy who we wanted to keep involved with the football club.

“We’ve had ongoing discussions and agreed it would be better to bring someone in as soon as possible with Matt moving into his new role.

“We have spoken to a few people but it would be unfair to go into any further detail at this stage.

“But I must be clear in that nothing changes in any way, shape or form on the pitch.

“We will be doing all we can to pick up the points we need to finish above the bottom three.”

The club’s players were informed of the situation at a meeting with Clements earlier tonight.