PHILIP O’Doherty has fired a sensational shot across the bows of Derry City supporters who have taken to social media to lambast the Brandywell club in recent days.
In what is certainly an uncharacteristic move, the Derry City chairman describes some of the comments as “a destructive series of postings which had gone beyond what is acceptable” and which, if left unanswered, would damage the football club.
Mr. O’Doherty pointed specifically to the “raft of negative comment” which followed the pricing of tickets for next Thursday night’s Europa League match against Dinamo Minsk at the Brandywell.
Indeed, he has questioned the loyalty of “some long time supporters” who have claimed they will now boycott the match due to the increased admission prices. Mr. O’Doherty says such negativity has now “seeped into the wider community.”
The chairman has single-handedly bankrolled the “Candy Stripes” during his tenure at the helm by covering annual losses in the hope that the club will become sustainable as a business in the short term.
In a statement issued to the ‘Journal,’ Mr. O’Doherty said: “It is not a habit of mine to be alert to social media and it is certainly unusual that I should respond to its often sweeping and exaggerated musings.
“I realise that people often use it to let off steam or offer criticism that, elsewhere, they would be more cautious or hesitant in expressing. But, as chairman of Derry City Football Club, I have recently been alerted to a destructive series of postings that have gone beyond what is acceptable and, if left unanswered, will do damage to the club.
“There has been a raft of negative comment on the price of tickets for the match against Dinamo Minsk which will be played on July 12th.
“There have been comments from long time supporters who say they had never missed a European game, but will not be attending the game next week and there have been calls to boycott that match.”
“That negativity appears to have seeped into the wider community. The usual club response would have been to appeal to supporters to attend the game; to acknowledge that recent results have been poor; to call for loyalty in the bad times in anticipation of better times to come.”
Mr. O’Doherty said the club would do all of that and he also admitted that the price of tickets for children were expensive with the club having already taken steps to reduce those prices.
He went on: “I would also point out that Derry City is the only club in the league to pay VAT and it will always be open with fans about financial outgoings and income.
“But there is another task to be done; to alert supporters to the true nature of the financial state of the club. Derry City is a community club, but it is also a business. If it spends more than it earns, it will go out of business...
“For the last number of years our outgoings have outstripped our income by a considerable amount. The money generated from European competition; from sponsors and the sale of some of players to English clubs has helped but, at the end of each financial year, I have had to fill that gap. That is neither a healthy nor a sustainable long term solution,” he maintained.
“The issue becomes more pressing when some other clubs in our league are working with much larger budgets that have been generated from European success; have larger gate receipts or because of the health of the southern economy or from greater and more lucrative sponsorship. That makes our task of staying at or near the top of the league more difficult but more imperative.”
On the refurbished stadium, Mr. O’Doherty was impressed with the early season increase in the club’s attendance figures.
“The new stadium has, thankfully, generated new interest and the start of this season saw an impressive increase in attendance. That was moving in the right direction, but gate receipts must be sustained and increased over a number of years. Otherwise the club is in danger of falling to the bottom of the league or falling out of professional football altogether.
“The bottom line is that Derry City must become financially independent sometime over the next few years. I am happy to play my part in that task and I am happy to sustain viability until that happens
“But it will need support and loyalty from every section of the city. Negativity and boycott is the one sure way to kill the club.”
He concluded: “I hope we can get the turnout during the remainder of the season which would confirm that our supporters are committed to the same cause."