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Hyde are making progress on and off the pitch
Tuesday 7th November 2017 @ 09:50 by Mark Phillip
Football Sports

Hyde United chief executive Mark Worthington believes the club is flourishing under its current fan-ownership and with Darren Kelly as first team manager.

The Tigers are well placed to make an assault on the Evo-Stik Division One North title this season and currently find themselves in fifth spot, having embarked on a 20 game unbeaten league run.

What’s more, the club and its supporters are just about recovering from the excitement produced from an FA Cup run, which unfortunately ended in a 4-0 loss to MK Dons last Friday.

As well as featuring on BBC Two and picking up £67,500 in TV appearance fees, Hyde also accrued an estimated £30,000 in prize money for progressing through five stages to reach the first round proper.

While the FA Cup has brought untold riches to Ewen Fields after a disastrous few years, Worthington says the club’s financial stability doesn’t rest with the run.

In fact, he says the cup money is regarded as a ‘huge bonus’ rather than a lifeline.

What’s more, Worthington insists the money generated won’t be channelled into first team matters, but will instead be directed into community projects. Speaking to Reporter Sport, he said: “We wrote a detailed budget as a club, a year and a half ago, and the aim was to be sustainable through our revenue, excluding one off items”.

“The FA Cup has come as a huge bonus to the club, but it’s exactly that – the club is financially viable and able to achieve its aims based on its on-going revenue.

“The money from the FA Cup will accelerate what we’re able to deliver, so that money won’t be spent on the first team; that money will be spent on community development.”

Such is Hyde’s community-driven focus, UK-based bookmaker, Betfred, invested a five figure sum to sponsor the shirts on Friday. Worthington said: “He invested that amount of money because we guaranteed that we were going to be spending that on girls changing rooms, new toilet blocks, on things that are developing the club and allowing us to be better at what we do.

“This money will be ring-fenced and used to allow us to get into the community more; to do more school sessions; to do things that are going to pay dividends in the long run. If we just spend it on players now, where are we in 18 months or two years? It has to generate an on-going income for the business.”

Worthington believes that, while the club is now on an upward trajectory, the fans owe a great debt of gratitude to former owner John Manship. “Buying the club off John and him writing off a large proportion of his debt, you know we have to be very thankful” said Worthington.

“There’s not a lot of owners that would have done what he did.”

The club found itself in a perilous situation following the purchase from Manship. Would they follow in the footsteps of Stockport County, Chesterfield and Brentford, who all tried and failed with fan ownership, or would they become the exception and succeed in their quest?

Worthington believes the club has done well and laid the foundations for a positive future: “The six months after going fan-owned was make or break for the club, and I think the negotiation with Tameside Council to get the pitch laid gave us a lifeline, and then appointing, I think, the best manager not only in this division, but I think in a couple of divisions above – in terms of his willingness to work with the club, in achieving our aims, rather than just selfishly looking to achieve his own – has been amazing.”

Last season was Hyde’s first as a fan-owned club. They finished in 10th spot and even managed to break even – positive signs after three successive relegations.

However, having only lost two league fixtures since the turn of the year, was there any disappointment at not reaching the playoffs?. Worthington doesn’t think so. He said: “When we went fan owned, I wrote a five-year business plan with some short, medium and long term aims, and really that was for us, as a business, to be able to develop, to support the aims of the board, which was to develop our own players in house and get promotion – when it’s viable financially, not just as our sole aim – and then to measure that through having a robust accounting procedure.

“Unless we’re able to go up and be competitive in the division above, our aim is not to be promoted.”

Given Hyde’s fantastic start to the 2017/18 season, combined with the lucrative FA Cup run, does Worthington now see things in a different light? He said: “We had a year of consolidation last season, but this season our aim is to be promoted because we now believe, as a club, we’re in a position where we could challenge to be promoted again, and by the end of the 18/19 season, we would hope that if we achieve a Conference North place, we would develop the club further in terms of our financial sustainability.

“It’s all about running as a business; not running as a toy for the current board to play with. We need to be able to hand that over when we’re voted off the board at some point in the future to people who will then take up the reins and then hopefully drive us on.”