Mar 09, 2015
Saracens Chairman’s Statement 2014
The year to June 2014 was probably the most successful in our history, breaking the Premiership record for the numbers of points scored, and finishing top! True, it ended with two heart breaking losses in the finals of the Premier European competitions, the Heineken Cup Final, of course, followed a week later by the Premiership final. In a sense that was heart breaking but it was also another huge step up the mountain. For this is a journey without an end that will transcend all of us. For it’s great to win things, but it’s better still to create something that will endure for 100 years and make every single one of us proud.
In financial terms it was a difficult year with again a pre-tax loss (which will continue in the current year but at a substantially reduced rate). Having been involved now with professional rugby and Saracens for some 20 years, I’m constantly amazed as to how long it takes to break into people’s culture. And the big cities already have that soccer culture but built over 100 years! We are on our way, Allianz Park is a vast step forward and gives us a permanent home, but we still have so much to do.
We could, of course, cut costs very considerably – for example a top French club has a medical department of 3 far smaller than ours, but we really don’t see how you can aspire to be one of the best club sides in Europe if you don’t have a fantastic support system for the players. In terms of our assets, the 99 year lease at Allianz Park is of course held through Saracens Copthall LLP. I’ve said it before, however, but I don’t believe that any new stadium will ever again be built in London. And certainly not in a staggeringly well located conservation area. We have, therefore, a unique opportunity to create something really, really special (and indeed valuable) for ourselves of course but also for the entire community.
Also not on the balance sheet are our ‘P’ shares (P for permanent) in Premier Rugby which account for some 25% of our annual income from that body. A recent sale price for those shares was £5million so we can probably safely conclude that our overall shareholding in Premier Rugby is worth in excess of £10million. And that still does not include any valuation of the Saracens brand which is arguably our most valuable intangible non playing asset. Brand valuation for a sporting club is notoriously difficult but, of course, whilst Chelsea might lose £80million to £90million in a year, that global brand would be worth a fortune nonetheless. A Picasso on the wall will cause you a large loss in terms of its insurance and security… but that does not stop the Picasso going up hugely in value over the years. My own belief, for what it’s worth, is that the Saracens brand, now known partly through our global network of Saracens named partner clubs throughout the world (based in 9 countries no less, on y continents), will have a very substantial value indeed in the years ahead. But we must never neglect the fact that it’s about the team, it’s about being at the top, and it’s about giving something for North London to be proud of.
That’s why the Saracens Foundation, our charitable arm working to help kids in the community is so important. As Nelson Mandela said ‘sport speaks to youth in a language they understand’. We can therefore use the Saracens sporting brand to connect with many tens of thousands of children and give them the opportunity to be that little bit better in their lives. By the way, we also put on over 75 dance classes per week, many for the over 50’s! Who would have thought that of a small rugby club a few years ago!
Any success that we may have is of course necessarily founded on… good people! I believe we have those in abundance. We have some great, honest, hardworking, totally committed players. We have a coaching team, a strength and conditioning team, a medical team, a commercial team – I could go on – all of whom really good people who really care. And we have some wonderfully supportive sponsors from Allianz to CME, to Sanlam and to many, many more. Thank you for all your support and I promise we will always, always do our best for you.
As I write, in January we are solidly positioned in both the European Cup and the Premiership. But we need now to kick on in the race to home. The Heineken was, of course, replaced by the European Champions Cup and many of the previous problems have been ironed out. It’s far more democratic for example. However, we still need to change the farce whereby we are all operating under different rules. We have one wage cap, the Irish provinces have no wage cap, the French clubs a wage cap twice ours, all of which makes no sense whatsoever. It needs to be changed.
We are all here for the long term, to create great value accompanied by great values. Easy to say, not so easy to do. But I honestly believe that there is not a person at Saracens who is not proud to be here and determined to make their difference. The journey goes on!
All the very best
P.S. It goes without saying, but a huge thanks to all Saracens supporters everywhere. Without you, it’s pointless!