EVER tried to push water up a hill?
Of course not, it’s impossible, so when Turnbull Hutton uses the term to describe the act of balancing the books at Raith Rovers you begin to get some idea of the difficulties facing the Kirkcaldy club.
In simple terms, Rovers lost £80,000 last year – a shortfall which could have plunged the club into administration had it not been for the financial intervention of directors.
And this in spite of a successful season on the pitch, where finishing second in Division One actually ended up costing the club money.
Worse still, Rovers are already fearing similar losses this season after directors had to scale down initial attendance projections based on poor turn-outs in the first two home games against Falkirk and Dundee.
Despite all the summer cost-cutting at Stark’s Park, and the best efforts of directors to keep the club going amid a recession, Rovers are once again living from hand-to-mouth.
Hutton explained: “We had a number of budgets in place for this season, the worst case scenario being that Dunfermline were promoted and Hamilton relegated.
“When that became reality, we had no choice but to make the cut-backs, and we initially put a budget in place for the season that showed a £40,000 profit.
“Our crowd estimations were based on last season’s equivalent figures, however the games against Falkirk and Dundee were awful crowds – way down on last year.
“And if you look at the rest of Scottish football, all the crowds are down this season. We’ve had to look at this season’s budget again and scale down crowds for remaining fixtures.
“We’ve also since been informed by the league to expect less money from them due to an on-going court case regarding Pools money.
“So a budget that was initially designed to show a £40,000 profit, now shows another £80,000 loss – and we’ve haven’t even started yet.
“It’s a paper figure at the moment, the challenge is how we balance the books, which is all we’ve been trying to do since the takeover in 2006.
“That was under-funded from the start. Money that was promised never came, and we’ve been pushing water up a hill ever since.”
Raith put last season’s £80,000 loss down to three factors – the loss of a Saturday home match against Dundee due to the referees strike, the rehabilitation of Mark Campbell following a serious car crash, and an unexpected push for promotion.
Hutton explained: “When we did our budget at the start of last season, there was no expectation that we would challenge for promotion – that was never in the plans.
“But we were top of the league most of the year and that led to more win bonuses being paid than we’d budgeted for.
“And what did we get for finishing second – nothing. No play-offs, no runners-up prize.
“We’d have been in better financial shape finishing eighth with less wins, so what’s the point of success?
“We lost the best part of £30,000 to the referees strike, and we also funded Mark Campbell through an expensive rehabilitation period at Ross Hall in Glasgow.
“We also paid for a hire car to get him up and down from Kilmarnock after his car was written off in the accident.
“The whole thing cost us around £25,000 – and we’re still waiting on the insurance claim to be addressed.”
Recent back-to-back cup defeats to Ayr and Airdrie have only inflicted further pain on club directors, with the potential for money-spinning ties lost.
“We had a realistic expectations that we could beat either Ayr or Airdrie and get into the next round of a cup – but what happens – the team has a bad night,” Hutton said.
“That happens in football. Look at Aberdeen this week. But it’s getting to the point where we simply never get a break.
“There’s no short cuts. Our best bet will be to sell a player – we need to. I’ve heard people saying that we turned down £75,000 for John Baird. The reality is we were offered £5000, which was an insult.”
Raith Rovers are holding an Open Meeting with supporters in the Raith Suite at Stark’s Park on Thursday, September 29, from 7 p.m onwards. For more info on the meeting, and further comments from club director Turnbull Hutton, pick up a copy of this week’s Fife Free Press