'Shoots of recovery' as Saints' financial results are released
Chairman John White says there are 'shoots of recovery' at Saints after the club announced its annual financial results for the year ended June 30, 2021.
White wrote: "This is my fourth report as chairman of Northampton Saints.
"The club has had to cope with an extremely challenging period caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and while we have been thoroughly tested across the business, as we reached the end of the 2020/21 season, we can confidently say we started to see shoots of recovery.
"The impact of Covid-19 on the 2020/21 financial year was obviously substantial, making these results difficult to compare with any other season.
"Our turnover was £12.8m, which was £3.5m less than 2019/20 and £6.6m less than 2018/19 (the last full season which was unimpacted by Covid-19).
"Despite this discrepancy, you may notice that we are reporting an operating profit before tax of £1m – it is important to note that this figure is flattered by a £3.7m fair value movement in relation to the club’s shares in Premiership Rugby Ltd.
"Without this, the underlying result was an operating loss before tax of £2.7m.
"Our cash position worsened by £4.6m, ignoring the impact of any new loans taken on. Further details and comparison with previous periods can be found in the Strategic Report.
"Last year’s report detailed the important and effective measures we took to ensure the long-term financial health of the club – and with no crowds permitted at Franklin’s Gardens across the vast majority of the 2020/21 season under the UK’s lockdown restrictions, these cost-saving measures carried over from 2019/20.
"This included a temporary reduction in salaries across the club, including the playing department and all commercial staff – and, once again, I must commend our special group of staff who were incredibly pragmatic in their understanding of this regrettable measure while our gates were closed to the public.
"As well as this, the government’s Job Retention Scheme allowed us to place a number of our staff on furlough and meant we kept redundancies to a minimum across the club.
"Despite the obvious operational and financial impact of these actions for our staff, their response was outstanding, and the club’s board and management are incredibly grateful.
"Our decisions resulted in reducing staffing costs by £1.4m over the course of the season.
"Moreover, maintaining a strong cash balance became a priority across the club, and thanks to CVC Capital Partners’ investment into Premiership Rugby in 2018/19 we began the year in a strong cash position.
"We were then successful in securing a substantial loan via the government’s Sports Winter Survival Package, while the club’s Season Ticket Rollover plan was an unmitigated success and allowed us to retain £1.8m of cash within the business – underlining once again the remarkable commitment towards Northampton Saints from our community of supporters.
"We are incredibly lucky to have such a loyal set of supporters, without whom the club would not be in the position it is today.
"The club’s actions, CVC’s investment and the government loan enabled us to ensure the club’s stability. In addition, our commercial team did some stellar work with partners old and new to build towards the future.
"In December 2020 we began a significant new long-term relationship with online car retailer, cinch, who became an Elite Partner of the club – with their branding taking pride of place on Saints’ playing kit and across the Franklin’s Gardens stadium bowl.
"In addition, two further new partnerships were agreed with Barclaycard and Warner’s Gin, while existing partners Travis Perkins, Toolstation, GRS, WIT Fitness, Spirit Hyundai, Elonex, Triad, iPRO and Nutrition X all extended their relationship with the club in 2020/21, underlining our commercial team’s ability to deliver a fantastic platform to help local, national and international businesses achieve their goals – irrespective of the challenging climate.
"Moving away from off-field matters, on the pitch we made significant improvements over the course of the season and ended the campaign a lot closer to where we feel we ought to be – at the top end of the Premiership table.
"Our coaching group is now well settled, and our players continue to learn and make improvements across the board. Particular highlights included an away victory over Leicester Tigers in the only East Midlands Derby match of the season to be played (with one being cancelled by positive Covid-19 test results), as well as a triumph over European champions Exeter Chiefs on away soil, and a remarkable comeback victory over Dragons in the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup.
"It was of course frustrating and disappointing to miss out on the Premiership’s play-offs, particularly after stringing together a run of very encouraging results after the turn of the year to get ourselves firmly into top-four contention.
"We continue to boast the youngest squad across the league, as well as the highest proportion of homegrown players, which is testament to the tireless work of our Academy coaches – no more apparent than at our fixture against Sale Sharks where we started with an all English-qualified XV, which included 12 Academy graduates.
"As the squad continues to gain experience, our decision-making in key moments of matches will continue to improve – bringing with it the consistency of performance we, at times, have lacked. In short, we are confident we have all the right building blocks in place for success on the field.
"We are proud that Northampton Saints continues to provide so much more than just top-class rugby.
"The work our Community and Foundation teams do across Northamptonshire, the East Midlands and beyond continues to be wide-ranging and impactful – and while delivering our programmes at festivals, local schools, grassroots clubs and at camps was not possible for much of the year, the club engaged thousands of people with online education, exercise and mental health initiatives.
"Where in-person coaching was possible, we saw incredible appetite with record numbers of children attending our Easter camps following the winter lockdown.
"We are proud of the sporting, social and educational legacies we create through our outreach into the community, and we look forward to safely returning to this important work in person, rather than via a computer screen, now that many restrictions have lifted.
"Looking ahead, we are hopeful that that 2021/22 season will see minimal disruption caused by Covid-19.
"At the time of writing, we have already returned to action on the field, with Franklin’s Gardens finally welcoming unrestricted crowds back through our gates again.
"Our focus is firmly on bouncing back stronger from the last 18 months, and while we will have to re-evaluate our five-year plan to eliminate losses and ensure long-term sustainability – against which we were tracking so strongly prior to the pandemic.
"We are confident that despite this setback, the long-term prospects of the club have not changed.
"Although outside of the reporting window for 2020/21, we have begun 2021/22 extremely well; a momentous new agreement with cinch is undoubtedly one of the most significant partnership deals ever completed in domestic rugby, while an innovative arrangement with Loughborough University has enabled the club to enter the elite tier of the English women’s game via a joint Saints/Loughborough Lightning side playing in the Premier 15s competition.
"I would like to finish by once again thanking the Board, the executive team, all of the club’s hardworking employees, the playing squad, our commercial partners and our loyal supporters.
"All our stakeholders have played a significant part in helping us to navigate these choppy waters; we are not out of the woods yet, but as we leave this challenging period behind us, we are full of optimism about the future."