I came across an old Swans’ Football Programme last week and inside was an interesting question and answer article by the club’s chairman Malcolm Struel.
After promotion under Roy Bentley at the end of the 1969/70 season, the club’s third season in the Third Division had seen the club start the new season poorly, with just three victories coming from the opening seventeen league games.
Attendances by October 1972 were starting to fall to less than 3500, the manager, Roy Bentley had been dismissed, but more worryingly finances at the bank were getting worse. The article, penned by Chairman Malcolm Struel in the matchday programme v Blackburn Rovers on the 21st October 1972 revealed the harsh realities in the professional game at that time, and answered many pertinent questions still relevant to the current day.
Included in the Swans v Blackburn Rovers programme was a photo of Swans’ winger Brian Evans with sons Richard (current Swans physiotherapist) and Christian.
THE SWANS’ POSITION
Chairman Malcolm Struel answers the vital questions on the future of Swansea City
Q: This is an anxious time for the club.
A: A balance sheet that shows a deficit on the Profit and Loss account more than £100,000; a manager dismissed; a chairman resigned. Let’s take these problems one by one. Money first – how desperate?
A: Desperate is not a word I like. It is an emotive word and this is a time for a realistic appreciation of our position. It is, or course, serious. At the same time, I believe we can pull through. Otherwise I would not have taken on the chairmanship.
Q: What are the directors going to do about the financial strain?
A: We are putting in, at once, £30,000 from our own pockets over and above our existing commitments which are already heavy.
Q: What is this for?
A: To keep the ship afloat.
Q: How then, do you finance the buying of new players?
A: The directors will have to find ways and means of producing money for that purpose.
Q: Do you agree that new players are needed?
A: I certainly think that a couple of new players could do the club a great deal of good. The 64,000 dollar question is ~ which players and at what prices? This is a matter of judgement for the manager with my advice in the background.
Q: In the end, however, the club has to balance its own books. How will you try to do this?
A: We have to look more earnestly than ever to raise money outside the actual game on a Saturday. I am looking for a commercial manager and also for a man to become a public relations officer for the club – a part time’ post that carries promotional duties. I have some one very much in mind for this latter post and have had discussions with him. We have to try to ‘sell’ the club to the public. The best way to do this, above all, is a good result that brings more people in through the gates: this is our first priority.
Q: Your gates are very low.
A: This applies throughout football, not just Swansea City. The tragedy is that the Football League and Association are not doing enough.
Q: What is your break-even figure.?
A: We started the season needing an average 11,OOO. Now the figure is up to about 12,500
Q: On to the managerial position. What happens here?
A: Roy Saunders is caretaker manager but we have now advertised the post. The board regard him as an automatic applicant and he will be short listed.
Q: Do you have confidence in him?
A: Indeed I do? He is someone I have known for many years. I had a great deal of faith in his ability as a tactical player and I certainly intend him to be regarded as an applicant. He has already done well by gathering the players around him and leaving them in no doubts about what he expects. The short list will be drawn up soon and he will be on it.
Q: Is he already searching for players?
A: He is. And his opinions and recommendations will be very seriously considered.
Q: How difficult is his task now?
A: I am certain that the team has the ability to get out of that bottom four. I am equally certain that the team’s present position is not a fair reflection of its ability. When I became chairman a few days ago one of the first things I stressed to the players was that in my view, they had allowed themselves to be beaten by several inferior teams.
Q: So what do you hope to see from the players?
A: Skill first – and, if you look at the names on today’s programme, you can see players with that quality. We have many players with the reputation of being able to play fine football. But what we must see as well is 100% dedication, guts, courage, character. This is what getting out of relegation is all about.
Q: What do you expect from your supporters in this cause?
A: Every possible encouragement. A 100 per cent backing from the terraces is just as Important as 100 per cent on the field. Every game from now on is almost a Cup Final, every goal, every point is vital. It is easy to be abusive and cynical but, if we are to avoid relegation, the crowd has its part to play as well. I appeal to every Swansea person interested in football to come and help.
Q: How much importance do you place on this argument about a club representing the town or city whose name it carries?
A: It is absolutely true. A successful football club can be a tremendous ambassador. A winning football club and a top town go hand in hand.
Q: Next the boardroom. Is there unity?
.A: There Is. Again, I would not have undertaken the chairmanship if this was not so. An alleged lack of it in the past has been somewhat exaggerated.
Q: Will the board be strengthened?
A: Yes, A new director will be named on Monday.
Q: How do you see Swansea City in the future bearing in mind the somewhat alarming trends now appearing in football?
A: The Super League now exists at the top of the First Division. The rest are also rans. As you go down into the Second, Third and Fourth Divisions, the position of clubs becomes more and more precarious. I believe that in about five years, at least half of the League clubs as we know them today will no longer be playing many full time professionals in their teams. In fact, they will be rather akin to the Southern League as it stands now.
Q: On which side of the dividing line will Swansea fall?
A: Swansea has the potential to scrape into the top half, the half which stays in full time football. We must direct our efforts to ensuring that happens.
Q: If you succeed, surely you must not allow brilliant youngsters – like Leighton James – slip away?
A: There will always be players who will escape because the economics are against us. Leeds for example can take many youngsters every year who MIGHT make it. Those youngsters cost anything up to £20 a week to keep. We have got to think of boys as more than just possibilities, we must be sure that they will PROBABLY make it. We have to be far more selective. It is always easier to find one player out of ten than one player out of two. The averages dictate that the Leeds Uniteds’ of this world will be more successful. Even the greatest clubs have missed out on youngsters from their immediate areas but I am more satisfied today that we are getting our share of the local youngsters. We would like to get more but I am not sure that parents always act in the best interests of their children in this situation.
Q: You mention Leeds. Many fans can remember when Leeds. Derby County and Swansea were neighbours in the Second Division. Now two of those clubs are among the finest in the world – and not in areas of vastly different populations – while Swansea are at the bottom of the Third Division. Why?
A: This goes back a long time, It can take 15 years to build up a club and, over a period of many years, this club has tended to sell its better players and replenish with rather inferior players. A club cannot go on doing that forever and still expect to survive in top two divisions. Swansea got away with this while there was a queue of youngsters wanting to play at the Vetch Field. The football world has moved on since then and Swansea has to take its place in the queue along with other clubs. The youngsters are no longer knocking at our door, we have to knock at theirs.
Q: So where do you stand when it comes to selling good young players?
A: I am against it. I would only contemplate it if, as a result of selling them we would be in a position to go ahead with an overall strengthening of the team.
Q: How deep is your personal commitment to Swansea City?
A: My first view of the club was an eight-year-old sitting on the big bank which was then almost a dirt track. It was a Welsh League game against Nantymoel and we won 2-1. I have always watched as many games since then as I could: Football League, Combination and Welsh League. I love the club.
Q: Have you always wanted a hand in the club’s affairs?
A: Always. I would have liked it to have happened years ago. There are difficulties in football that I have already touched on which make it that much harder today to cope with the problems of a club like Swansea City. When Leeds and Derby were with us in the Second Division would have been a perfect time to be on the board. I like to think that if I had been, we might have been up there with them. Now it is a much tougher proposition today. But we shall win through. We have to.