An open letter to Dundalk FC supporters from the club’s owners.
Since the takeover in November 2021, it has been a basic principle of our club to put the focus on our players and staff. We want everyone with a connection to our town to be proud of their team and to spend their Friday’s looking forward to that evening’s game. We are all looking forward to getting behind Stephen and the lads in Dalymount Park tonight. It has been a very busy week and we can’t wait for kick-off time.
With this in mind, releasing statements or open letters regarding off-field matters on the day of the match is far from ideal. However, given the concerns being expressed by Dundalk fans and people connected with the club about our future direction, we feel that we must make direct contact with you all today to explain our thoughts.
Firstly, we understand completely that many supporters are concerned about the reports from the UK. The recent history of takeovers at Dundalk FC was quite traumatic for all of us. Without any context or information regarding how a potential partnership with another club could work, it is, of course, inevitable that many supporters will be anxious about any further ownership changes.
We hope that by the time you finish reading this letter you will understand why we have needed to be cautious about sharing information up to this point. However, we have a bigger responsibility to be open with supporters when they are expressing their genuine concerns.
What are the key objectives of our club?
Last year, nearly 700 supporters gave us detailed feedback via our Supporter Consultation survey. Over 75% of supporters told us that the most important reason they support the club was because ‘the club represents our community’. This result was not unexpected. Therefore, one of our key objectives is our community work. One recent example is the launch, with the great support of Fyffes, of the Harry Taaffe Mental Health Programme. Over the coming months we hope to expand our community operations into more areas.
Our next key objective is, obviously, the success of our football team. Last season, we secured a return to European football. Our aim this year is to provide Stephen with as much support as possible in order to continue to improve. The first-team budget has increased while we have appointed Brian Gartland as our new Head of Football Operations. While it is hugely challenging in such a competitive league where many clubs are making major improvements, we believe we have a fantastic manager, a brilliant coaching team, and a very talented and dedicated group of players.
Another key objective is to improve the facilities at Oriel Park. This is a legacy issue and we know it needs to be confronted. It was unsurprising that over 90% of respondents to our supporter survey said that Oriel Park was not fit for purpose. Oriel Park is a home we are proud of – but it is clear that it is a major barrier to improving attendances and overall club development.
For everybody involved at the club, the key issue is how can we maintain a high standard on the pitch while also improving our outdated facilities.
This is why we have been open about the possibility of further investment in the club.
The club has not, as was stated in the media, been “offered around to interested parties”. Such comments give the impression that we are desperately trying to sell the club. The truth is that not only are we not desperate to sell the club, but we are not trying to sell the club at all. The club is financially stable, we are progressing, we have qualified for Europe, and this is only the start of our second season.
However, we need to be honest about our limitations. We will need partners if we wish to achieve our goal of maintaining a strong team on the pitch while simultaneously modernising Oriel Park.
In the past 15 months, we have been approached by 10 serious individuals or groups who wanted to explore the possibility of investing in the club.
We have always maintained that the future development of Dundalk Football Club is much more important than our personal ownership of the club. It would be very narrow minded of us, as an ownership group, not to explore any opportunity to help improve the support we can give our manager and to begin the process of making ground improvements.
Despite the reports stating otherwise, we remain in talks with three different groups. These discussions include all scenarios of investment, shareholding, and ownership.
Absolutely nothing has been agreed or finalised.
An agreement may be reached within days, it may take several more weeks or months, or may not happen at all. This is a very unpredictable business. While we are keen to make an agreement that will benefit the club, it will need to be something that genuinely makes us excited in order for us to complete any deal. Community development, helping us compete on the pitch, and facility improvements are at the cornerstone of all of our discussions.
As an ownership group, and as Dundalk FC supporters, we are mindful of the turbulent period that the club went through in recent years and we want to assure everyone that if any of these options reaches a successful conclusion, it will leave Dundalk Football Club in a much stronger position to meet all of our community, football, and development ambitions.
Many of these discussions are, of course, confidential and involve Non-Disclosure Agreements. It is very difficult to talk about these matters in public or react to every news story or tweet. However, we do understand that we need to do more. Our next update will be on Tuesday when Sean will sit down with Gavin for an interview and we will keep you up to up to date through our official club channels on a regular basis.
Please continue to give us the incredible level of support that we have received since the takeover in November 2021. We faced a major challenge to rebuild all levels of the club in 2022. Was everything a success? Absolutely not. Are there problems to address? Of course, but you can be absolutely sure that the biggest critics of our performance are not in the press or on social media but are involved with Dundalk FC on a day-to-day basis.
From our first team to our academy and administration, everybody is working hard to improve all aspects of the club. If we reach an agreement with a new partner, whether as a minority or majority shareholding, it will make these challenges easier to overcome.
Please do not fear or believe any negative perspectives of possible changes in the ownership group. All decisions will be made with the sole intention of making our club stronger.
Finally, we would like to wish Stevie and the lads all the best tonight against Bohs. Safe travels to everybody making the trip. We also wish all of our boys and girls academy coaches and players great success this year as they prepare to begin their respective campaigns.
Sean O’Connor, Andy Connolly and Alan Clarke.