Jason Stockwood: Money, Balls and Moneyball

Cod Almighty | Article

by Tony Butcher

12 June 2024

Tyre kicking, tired of kick and rush and tired of waiting for the Premier League to give us the dosh. Where did it all go wrong and how will it all go right?

We're talking Paul Hurst, the true local meaning of Total Football and streams of stuff about data as we go forward to the past.

TB: When I interviewed John Tonduer he revealed exclusively that you were an occasional guest in the Grimsby Glitterati lockdown Zoom calls. Is that what really acted as the clinching catalyst to spur you into action to save the club?
JS: I did a couple. I loosely knew Will from Docks and Nigel Lowther, I'd also met Lloyd a couple of times, but it was just a chance to talk about Grimsby Town. I thought that'd be nice. I'd never met John Tonduer before, obviously I'd been listening to him on the radio for years. There's definitely a book in this on how the Alex May stuff came about, so I won't reveal too much on that.

I've mentioned publicly before that I'd met John Fenty a few years previously and he'd asked me if I was interested in buying into the club.

TB: You didn't kick his tyres at any point did you?
JS: I don't remember physically doing that but I think, metaphorically, it may have been me. I had no desire to be part of the ownership of a football club – they are awful businesses as we've often stated. I suppose you can argue they aren't really businesses. I did say that if there was a group of people interested in buying the club, I don't have to lead on it, I'd be more than happy if it is the right type of people – our values aligned. When it came up through Tom Shutes, the wonderful joy of that is that Will knew Andrew Pettit so he introduced Andrew to Tom and that's how I got to know Andrew. When all that stuff was coming out we were ready, the process was already in train of us looking to buy John out. So I don't think it was the catalysing reason for doing it but it was certainly encouraging to have people who knew this story was going to come out in such a way that there needed something to replace it. It helped put wind in our sails.

TB: Effectively the Alex May issue introduced some urgency?
JS: Yes, I think that is probably the better way of putting it. We were already having conversations with John and probably would have got it done anyway. It was definitely a horrible moment, but I definitely felt sympathy for John. Much as I have never been disparaging about the previous era for obvious reasons, we all make mistakes, I think there is something about somebody stepping up, particularly knowing what we know now, three years in. The way you manage a situation is up to you, but the fact that you step into that conversation, and for 17 years he did that, there's merit and courage in that. Other people can talk about stylistic stuff but the compassion in me doesn't like to see anybody take such a beating as he took; it felt harsh, but I'd feel that about anybody no matter what they've done or think.

TB: Thanks, that was a grey, woozy area where suddenly you emerged. I'm not interested in going into the Tom Shutes issue, that's history.
JS. No. Half an hour before we did the deal with John that fell apart…put it this way, I won't be doing anything with Tom Shutes. Ever.

TB: We've no need to think of him anymore, he's part of the history but not our future.
JS: What's wonderful about it, and I don't think this is reverse engineering, but I couldn't have a better partner than Andrew. In all the things I have done in my career the best things have always been with somebody else as a partnership. I genuinely have love and affection for the guy. He's got a brilliant mind, thoughtful, incredibly analytical, we have complimentary skills. What a stroke of luck! A situation that could have been horrible, we've ended up with a partnership and friendship that is very rewarding, but also useful for the club and the town.

TB: Serendipity again. What is the ultimate goal? – all puns intended, of course.
JS: There's more than a hint of Partridge in that…

TB: Ah-ha!
JS: We have an internal directive that we're operating on which we will never publish. The more abstract ones are that we want to be successful. We want to be more successful than we've been over the last three years, we want the club to be playing in a higher division.

TB: But what does "success" mean?
JS: Success for me is both the numerical output of league position, which is obvious but, more importantly, done in a certain style, done in a way that is a source of great pride and aspiration and hope for the whole community – while I'm involved anyway. I'm second to Andrew now day-to-day - but actually we want to win in a certain style and fashion.

I personally do not want to see boring 1-0 wins. I want to see exciting football, I want to see attacking football, I want to see flair players. I'd rather see us win 3-2. David Artell may see this differently, Andrew may too, but I go to football to be entertained, ultimately. But importantly for me I'd like to see a new narrative in the town, with the football club as one part of that, which tells the story of excellence and hope and aspiration for a new generation. We only see the football club as a source of positive influence on their personality and the things they want to do in their lives.

TB: It's not necessarily we want to be, say, fifth position in League One by X date…
JS: We've got a bit of that, but we don't control all the variables that will get us there.

TB: Aspirational targets?
JS: Yes, we are aspirational to be up the leagues, but saying that by a certain date…as we've seen last season. I was deeply, deeply saddened by the way last season turned out but one variable was the quality of the league. People have different views on it but there were some high-spending, top quality teams where anyone could beat anyone on their day. As a fan, previously I may not have seen that, but looking at the games – and I hate to say this – the data about the quality of football, chances created, it was an exceptionally strong league last year. We don't control that. Next year, I think, should be easier, but it depends on what people spend.

TB: I thought we were both lucky and unlucky to be in the wrong leagues at the wrong time. Stockport and Wrexham just distorted everything.
JS: Completely. Interestingly I thought Mansfield were the best team we played last year.

TB: I agree.
JS: They were exceptional, the quality of their football and how they have stayed consistent with their manager.

TB: They have the traditional attributes of a League Two team, but they can play football. That's something most people would be happy to see with Town. Does your planning start from something simple? You look around at competitors and say these are the player budgets for all the other teams and we are, I'll pick a number, 10th biggest. So our baseline is, all things being equal, we should be finishing 10th. Anything above that is better, anything below that we have not met the targets. Is that how you look at it?
JS: No, no, you're trying to tempt me to talk about data! I'm trying to avoid it. I know people have a particular allergic reaction to that. In terms of your question, that's where you'd start with a forensic, scientific mind. You have other things you'd look at such as efficiency of spend meaning where you can shop for players and how you can optimise the performance of those players through your culture, through sports science, through your playing surface and other variables.

The baseline in that example is 10th, but the variables you can add to that can increase or decrease where you 'should' finish and that's the number I am interested in. The other thing that is really interesting to some people is that your probability of success in League Two is only loosely correlated to your spend. Your head coach, your style of play and those efficiencies I'm talking about are as, if not more, important.

TB: Crawley
JS: Exactly. Whether people like it or not there's a model you can look at which talks about the incremental increases in budget and until you get to an astronomical figure like £4m – which is Stockport and Wrexham – your probability of success does not go up massively with every £100,000 of spend. It's efficiency and culture that makes the difference.

TB: You're talking about your efficiency of spend. It's the old political argument that you can't solve a problem by throwing money at it. Well if you don't spend money you won't solve the problem – it is about how well you spend it.
JS: We're in that mid-part of the table budget-wise, but where you can optimise the probability of play offs and automatic promotion will be on the edges of that. Who the head coach is massively influences game model, style of play and your culture, it makes a massive difference. The thing we're trying to work out now is how do we incentivise momentum? It's an abstract concept but momentum, as we've seen with Doncaster, it's the thing that really, really galvanises that efficiency into something magical. Whether you can or not, well, who knows.

TB: That's the intangible of football, or any sport - momentum. Supporters do look at it more simply but, ultimately, on a simple basis if we've got the tenth biggest budget that's the starting position of where we should be, not the end point.
JS: The correlation is about 30% in League Two, but over 80% in the Premier League so the biggest spenders will win. In League Two it's not and it goes up on a linear curve, basically.

TB: So we're saving money and going top next year then!
JS: I think we're going up. We wouldn't be doing it otherwise. It's a bizarre statement based on how we played last year. I can explain that like I tried to do in my Guardian article, but I think we have every ingredient in place. We've got a phenomenal coach, we've got a game model, a style of play, a phenomenal CEO, we've got the groundings and more importantly we've got the scars now to know when it's going to shit and we won't let that happen again.

TB: Yeah, but what about the players.
JS: Oh yeah, that will be it. If you look across the next few weeks and ask that question again, the players that we're looking at and how good they will be relative to the players we had last year and all the players in the league is the data model we've got. We're hopeful we start with something that can be evidence-based, that we'll be in a lot stronger position than we've ever been. We just didn't have that information a couple of years ago because we didn't build the model ourselves until recently.

TB: The supporter perspective is always internal. Have we got better players, should we do better than we did before rather than looking externally? We can't know what other teams are like – less than the professionals.
JS: Well, you sort of can these days as there is so much data out there.

TB: In summer, supporters have no idea who our own players are, let alone the opposition. Who knows anything at that stage?
JS: Absolutely, the pre-season last year tells us that, doesn't it. So hopeful that the individual quality had been improved, yet until we saw what they were playing or how they were playing as a collective. It was brilliant some days and utterly dismal at other ends. How they could be the same players was an enigma, that's why we ended up where we are I think.

TB: I thought we'd struggle
JS: Did you really, that’s interesting, why did you think that?

TB: I thought the upgrades on an individual basis were a slight physical and technical upgrade but it was essentially going to be playing the same way. I thought we were fortunate to be as high as we were the previous season. We were very good at stopping people, nicking a goal or two now and again and holding on. What is the personality mix, how would that come together?
JS: Yes, and that was borne out I think.

TB: Hey, I could have been completely wrong, you never know. It comes down to the manager or coach creating a collective, or a collective mind emerging organically from that group. You never know how humans bond together until they do. Or don't.
JS: It's interesting. Early on, when I went to a couple of big clubs and talked to them about all the things you can invest in, they said, unfortunately, it is still the coach that makes all the difference. It makes sense. You can think about abstractions, about how you get data and sports science but they said actually all those things fill the bucket of influence, but at least half of it is your head coach. It's all about personality and culture and empathy and compassion more these days. That's why I think we are in good shape.

TB: Which brings us to style: Total Football. The man on the number 8 going down the seafront past The Kingsway will ask "What does he mean by that? Is that tippy-tapping across the six-yard box?" What do you mean by Total Football, it's just two words that can mean quite a lot of things; Total Football from Holland in the 1970s is not the same as Pepball.
JS: I was trying to think about the lineage of the style of play that seems to have 'won out' – whether that is a good thing or not is a whole other debate as you look at City winning four titles on the trot. It's kind of boring as you know the outcome. But when it first started I thought that was exciting seeing this interplay of players and the ball being constantly in motion.

The style of football we want to be playing is somewhere in that universe, but it is not that. It is possession-based, attacking football that comes up through the thirds but isn't averse to hoofing it when it needs to as well. It isn't mechanical and prescribed. As for Total Football, I was trying to look at the lineage through Pep, Cruyff and back to Rinus Michels and you can go back further to the Hungarian National team in the early 50s.

TB: Are we going back to Emilio Berkassy and what might have been?
JS: Oh yeah, wasn't he the first Hungarian to almost manage in England? I was trying to work out what this phrase Total Football means. There's a book called Brilliant Orange about this type of football, which seemed to be a seismic shift in standards and tactics from the 70s onwards that pervaded right up to today. City are the most obvious proponents of that. Why that pervades the lower leagues and all the teams who have been successful this year – the top four in our league this year, Stockport, Wrexham, Mansfield and Crawley, have all played that style of football…

TB: To a certain extent.
JS; Yes, a certain extent.

TB: What you are actually describing is Buckleyball.
JS: Oh yeah, absolutely, yeah! Pass and move!

TB: Yes, actually what you are really talking about is football that we grew up with at Blundell Park, the most successful team we've seen. For The Guardian the label is Total Football, for Town fans what you really mean is Alan Buckley's teams are the blueprint. It married the needs of the fourth division with a style that you require.
JS: That's the style of football most successful teams are playing now, it's no coincidence. I was trying to work out why that is. I didn't mention the quality of pitches and the global TV audience, it's attractive to watch (unless you are watching City every week and the result is expected). How do we take the best of that style of football – possession not for its own sake. David (Artell) talks really brilliantly about football that is rational but not predictable. When you pass a ball in patterns of three there are a multitude of ways that can work out, but it is super effective when it works well. It also depends on the intelligence of the players. If the best way to try and get towards the goal is for the goalkeeper to hit it to Danny Rose then have that in your locker as well.

It's not saying every time we get the ball the players have to pass it across the penalty area. That possession is in service of getting the ball up the pitch as quickly as possible. Sometimes passing across the back line changes the angles. It's no surprise that most of the successful teams play this way as it is attractive and it wins games. But you're right, it's Buckleyball.

TB: Ah, so the next signing is Tony Rees, or at least a striker with a moustache!
JS: That hasn't come up in our data. Yet. I'll be looking out for that now.

I wasn't talking about Total Football as something we are trying to aspire to, I was looking at the lineage of the pass and move game. There's all these styles, but it's attractive to watch and that's ultimately what we want. Whether we have the patience as fans...I'd like to think that most Town fans get this though. They weren't passing across the 18-yard box for the sake of it, it was trying to create an angle that gets us up the pitch at speed. Whether we had the players who were technically good enough to do both, that's a different conversation and we know the answer to that.

I think it will be exciting to see as long as people don't get too frustrated as we get there.

TB: It was quite fraught sitting behind it, I'll tell yer that. Even the most patient of us were getting frustrated. The second part of the question was about the philosophy the hired coach is expected to implement. How specific is this or is it a broad principle only?
JS: Yes, exactly, a broad principle.

TB: Is it what they must do?
JS: Absolutely not. When we interviewed the potential new head coaches we said "this is the style of football we want to see, this is the history of the club". Buckleyball – and we reference what we think fans want – to be entertained. It just matched with David. The style of play is just a loose guide. If a manager comes to us…and it will change, by the way, by the cyclical nature of everything, as at some point there will be a style of play that is more effective and more attractive to watch than this style of football. But for now we'd like to evolve to something that he/we can articulate clearly.

At no point are we saying to a coach who is a professional "this is what you've got to do." We're saying "this is the type of game we want you play, this is the infrastructure we're putting in place and we want to coach through the academy to a style of play as well". Possession-based, highly technical, attractive attacking football. So having that framework, what last season showed us is that you've got to be adaptable both in a game and around the season to help us have the success that we need.

TB: Recruitment - the recent interviews you've done have been interpreted as meaning that Paul Hurst didn't select from the menu provided, that he didn’t 'use the data'. Is that correct, or is there a more subtle, longer explanation?
JS: There's stuff that was private, but I think what's fair to say is that we've got a manager that is more aligned. I think Paul was open-minded about it but definitely wasn't 100% into the way we see the world and the potential for data to be used. It's difficult because I have a lot of love and respect for what Paul's done for the club on both occasions and I don't want to tarnish that. I don't think that's betraying our relationship by me saying I think he's a brilliant manager with a certain philosophy and view of the world, but that doesn't quite align with what we're trying to do. Over time we'll tell who is right, but I think that's where we came unstuck last year.

TB: At a certain point you wanted to go in a slightly different direction and Paul wanted to carry on in the same direction?
JS: Last summer we had an inflexion point. Unfortunately, when you have an ideological difference it adds jeopardy if you choose a different ideology as right or wrong. We were like "you might be right, and if you are we are not so ego driven that, irrespective of evidence, whatever we say is going to be true – we want to see the evidence for that". Unfortunately we definitely diverged in the view of how we wanted recruitment to happen. We saw the need for a defined style of play in games – at the level we thought it needed articulating – but we weren't making collective decisions. Either he was right or we were right. Time will tell which is the right way but again the important thing is what a brilliant couple of years we had, what a brilliant legacy Paul left at the club. I think that with the way we want the club to be run in the future it was always going to be difficult for us to have that alignment.

TB: So you permitted Paul to have the final say and act as he wanted on the basis that he'd succeeded in the past? If he succeeds fine, but you would actually would prefer something different. If his way works, OK. You gave him the space to succeed. Or fail.
JS: We inherited Paul. We did speak with him before he came in and he did say "I'll come in knowing you're going to buy the club". It wasn't completely the previous owner's decision, we were very happy with Paul and we endorsed that decision. The cultural changes we wanted to make and things we wanted to do with the infrastructure in the first couple of years supported Paul's ambition for the club. I think that got us the success that we had.

I think for the continued aspirations and the trajectory we want to go on we needed something a bit different. That's what we suggested and that's where we started to diverge. He had much trust and respect in the bank, there was no way we would say "You have to do this" as he wouldn't have done it, he's not that type of character. He's a leader and has his own ways and views of the world. There was never a conversation where would could have said "Do it this way or go" as we know he would have left at that point. But it definitely put jeopardy into the relationship.

TB: He, in my view, is a very good negative manager, but that only gets you half way up the fourth division.
JS. That's why it was so hard moving him on, I felt close to him personally. Everything in my life is about relationship, quality, integrity, being honest. To feel like we were diverging ideologically it was really painful. I hoped we would have had the next 20 years together and built something together. It wasn't to be but we are happy with where we are now. He's done alright, let's be honest he's in the league above.

TB: Yes, he's very good at stopping things happening. It sounds like a Grimsby-style backhanded compliment. We all have our skills.
This summer – there's going to be an expansion of the ownership base, with even non-locals involved. What is the purpose of this - what's their funding for? What are they getting out of it, what are they doing it for if they are not people with local roots? Is there a specific purpose?
JS: We were always going to have an investment case for people. I have always said the best time to raise money is when you don't need it. As soon as you need it for something you don't dictate the terms and you often don't have the luxury of deciding who invests. We've created an investor deck and story that we are sharing with people if they pass the initial diligence – that they have the money and we like them, quite frankly. It's not a traditional financial investment.

TB Like a football team – it's the mix of personalities and skills.
JS: Yes exactly that. These aren't board members, they are shareholders. We're trying to expand the capital table of 1878 as the major shareholding in Grimsby Town. The reason for doing that is that we want to keep some distance as well. We'll be very transparent about who the people are, by the way - but what we don't want to do is to risk into someone hostile taking over the club at some point or doing something that would potentially put it in a bad actor's hands.

We're trying to be really thoughtful about the long term ownership structure and trying to invest alongside that. Ultimately, Andrew and I retain control over 1878 and the football club as well. Hopefully people realise our intent is positive for the club and the town.

Originally we had a whole plan around a number of things we wanted to invest in to fulfil the ambition that I rather vaguely stated earlier about being more successful than we are today. We want to improve the infrastructure of both Blundell Park and a training facility. That's been scuppered this year because we thought that an Independent Regulator would create a fairer distribution. We originally hoped at the start that I would leave the chair after three years with the club fully funded for positive investments with a higher league position embedded in the EFL and, hopefully, a break-even position. We're just not there because part of that needed the Regulator to come in with the money from the Premier League. That will happen, but the distribution won't happen for another year at least, which means we have a hole in our operating budget this year.

So part of the new moneys that are coming in is in our gift, what we do with that, but obviously the people coming in will be part of that conversation to make sure we are trying to use it positively. The reality of it is that just to establish ourselves in a higher league position will take some of that money now. Over time we want to add to the cap(ital) table so that if we get an Independent Regulator and we create these efficiencies and improve our commercial revenue, we should be in a position that new money is stuff that moves the organisation forward, but we are still playing catch-up. That's the reality.

TB: You could see my eyebrows moving there… Yeah, it's a little bit of a dangerous thing to have operating expenses paid through one-off share issues. They are normally for specific items. When that distribution money eventually comes around, the supporter base will see you have another say, £2m, and ask why aren't you buying a striker.
JS: First of all the original budget for this year we were losing £2m, so that's got to be found, the club is technically insolvent…

TB Ah, there's two tests for insolvency, balance sheet and going concern. As long as you can pay your debts as and when due you are not legally insolvent.
JS: Yes, yes, there's a clear legal definition. So for us, Andrew and I are continuing to fund the football club but we want some supporting funding. Rather than just going "right, our playing budget is going to be halved" – more than halved actually if it was going to be affordable, then we'd have to get rid of a number of people in the organisation, cut costs and stop doing those fancy sausage rolls. We're trying to make the process continue and that means that some of that new equity goes towards that to lighten the load for Andrew and I.

We've got to improve the commercial revenues, which we will be doing this year; we've got to get this Independent Regulator enshrined in law so the flow of capital is better there and, quite frankly, we've got to get more efficient in the way we spend money as well. Those three things will get us there. It absolutely won't be that any money we raise will be money available to spend on the squad. We are in a good place with the squad spend, but that's because we have been underwriting this massive loss for the last three years.

TB: People who are not in business or don’t have the time to invest researching and considering it will see the headline – you're getting more money – and will ask why aren't you spending it on the team.
JS: I'll put it slightly different then. The losses we are going to have to incur to sustain the path that we are on, which is hopefully positive, Andrew and I will not underwrite. The expense of it and the return requisite to the amount of effort and stress that is considered there. We either reduce our costs significantly to make it at a level we can operate on, or we bring investors in to continue on our trajectory while these other bits drop into place.

TB: In essence you've budgeted for something that hasn't arrived yet, so you have to fill that hole to enable Town to continue operating. That means when the money comes it isn't new money – we just haven't had the money we should have had. It was going to be expended upon non-playing activities and that is what is going to happen when it does arrive.
JS: Unless something remarkable happens – positive or negative - as the last three years have shown. To get back to your question about other people. The first people we are trying to close or get the deal signed are local or people who have a deep connection to the town. We are trying to explore other people who don't have a connection with the town. We are taking a bit more time with them because they are interested in football generally. They think the journey we want to go on is something that will be interesting and fun. Importantly it will create value as well. The value of football clubs as you go up the leagues does increase – maybe you can help articulate that. It's weird, having done this for nearly 30 years it really doesn't make sense to me still. Even businesses that don't make a profit can be more valuable because the assets are scarce or you are creating something that is of interest or in a brand that has value itself. That's why football clubs in the Championship that basically lose a lot of money can be valued at hundreds of millions.

TB: It's potential - that they could be in the Premiership.
JS: Yes, you're selling potential, but rational people who invest in these things know that is an improbable outcome. This is where, even for people in business, we find it counter-intuitive but we know that by going up through the leagues we increase the equity value of this business.

TB: That's what Private Equity Funds do, they buy into insolvent businesses because they've got some value somewhere buried within which they can exploit – it's about extracting that value and then passing it on to another.
JS: Yes, this is where I am aware I can become quite abstract because it's what I do professionally and I understand it. I find it hard to communicate this sometimes because for me it's an odd concept. I started to think about this stuff 20 years ago, that even if the businesses don't make a tremendous amount of profit, which they don't, you are still creating a valuable asset that someone else will buy off you.

Some of these investors, and Andrew and I are the same, thinking we can create value in the equity by being more successful and selling it on to someone else. That's not why we are doing it with Town, but when we look at part of the rationale for people who aren't connected to Grimsby we say "come on the journey, come on the ride, we're creating an amazing community asset and along the way you'll have a lot of fun and learn a lot about yourself and people…and by the way you won't lose much money, but you might even make some as well."

TB: Looking at Lincoln and Luton, they must be our nearest models, Lincoln in particular. The way they funded their rise is broadly what you've just described, which is debt for equity and incremental increases in financing through expanded shareholdings.
JS: Yes, you have to be at a certain proportion of your revenue in your squad spend but you can inject new equity – that's how Wrexham and Stockport are doing it.

TB: What people call financial fair play, so essentially you won't get told off by the Football League and get a transfer embargo (or points deduction).
You mentioned that stepping back from being the Chair, or public face, means you can devote time to some specific functions where you can use your skills, such as recruitment. Generally through the company, or in specific business areas? Is this player contracts, or headhunting for talent in the administrative and support side? All we heard was "I'm stepping into recruitment" - that can mean many things.
JS: I'm interested in the application of data in recruitment, particularly of players, where physical output is a massive proportion of what they do, their attributes, physically, that you can see and observe. There are bunches of things you can't observe, but I do think, particularly around our level, looking and analysing potential players to bring into the club with data. I was with David last week looking at a few players. I'm trying to help the club think about that as an entrepreneur.

TB: What does "help the club think about it" mean in real terms?
JS: If Andrew and I weren't driving this it wouldn't be getting done, a manager wouldn't think about it.

TB: It's not that you're physically doing it?
JS: No, no I'm not saying who the club should sign, absolutely not, but the application of the strategy, I have had a hand in that. I think there are data sources that we can access that can give insight about players, that will find undervalued players in markets that other people aren't looking at.

TB: So it is offering support through additional resource to your specialist manager and it is up to them how they use it?
JS: Yes, and also giving them a sense that these are going to be collective decisions rather than "Go and find 20 players and if it goes to shit it's on you". We think this model can help give them a shorter list of players to look at and then they decide who they want. That application, that model, has come out of the work that Andrew and I have done. I don't think other clubs are using this model higher up in divisions.

TB: It's finding external resource to support the internal decision making.
JS: Exactly.

TB: So you aren't going to go out and find a left-back?
JS: I'm definitely not doing that! What I will do is find the technology that will scan the market to find five left-backs that David can choose from.

TB Here's another one about finance, though I don't think you'll have the numbers off the top of your head. Last year Lincoln revealed the (literal) price they paid for having season tickets funded through finance – not only do they lose a percentage of each ticket, but the providers delayed paying over the full amounts due (doing it in stage payments) rather than in full, straight away. Are Town suffering the same issue and what is the percentage 'loss' through this commission?
JS: Andrew dealt with this and I'm not into the weeds and details, but we ended up changing our providers as a result of that because it was quite punitive. This is why it's great to see such a positive response to freezing the price of season tickets – it helps cash flow as we get the cash immediately now. So, yes, that has been changed.

If you ask Andrew that question he dealt with that, that's how we divide and allocate work across each other and he's done all the work on the finance and season tickets. So that came out of him.

TB: You're doing work on the Main Stand – how many posts are there going to be? It's a memory test. C'mon, you should know that, you're paying for it!
JS: Four. I was there yesterday. The pitch is looking amazing, the scaffolding is up. The views will be radically different. I'm wondering about those people who have been sat behind the posts for years, whether they'll need a little red stick to hold up.

TB: Yes, you get so used to it you can actually see what's behind the post. So if you take it away we'll be discombobulated.
JS: Safety and security drove it but I am hoping it improves the experience and visibility for a lot of people.

TB: Pete 'Kit Nerd' Anderson wouldn't let this go without asking about the new kit.
JS: It's brilliant, but I'm not a kit nerd. This was something I said to Debbie and it's the same with Polly – on design elements I'm the last person to ask though.

TB: As long as it doesn't look stupid.
JS: Yes, exactly, that's the sniff test. I like the look of it and it's nice to be changing up a bit too, to give people something different.

TB: Rather than a very slight difference from the previous year's kit?
JS: Yeah and they make them in the UK. Part of the issue with Macron is that they had to be shipped from China (and get stuck in the Suez Canal) and the supply time was three months. So this just solves that for us as well. It's a cool brand with a 100-year anniversary and it was a relationship with a Town fan, Luke Matthews, that brought that to us. He works for the company that owns the franchise for Umbro and he came to us to make it happen.

TB: One suggestion that has been floating around, Rob McIlveen was one to ponder this - the idea of the player's heritage number woven into the shirt. It sounds a wonderful idea but I suspect some practical, and financial, issues would arise
JS: That's a nice idea, poetically it would be nice to do...