York City FD: Up for the challenge

The pragmatic chartered accountant, who is also a partner at York-based accountancy practice Clive Owen and Co, seems just the type of no-nonsense financial bod needed by a club that was saved from insolvency by the skin of its teeth.

Doyle, who has 25 years’ experience in accountancy and 37 years as a York City supporter, has his feet firmly on the ground as far as the club’s finances are concerned.

The FD admits he is counting the pennies when it comes to funds for the third division club. Commenting on a game between Bournemouth and Lincoln City last season, Doyle told the press he hoped the former would win and return to the second division purely for financial reasons.

‘Wearing my finance director’s hat, it was great news when Doncaster came up because that is another big gate that is helpful to us. It’s also not far for us to travel for the away game,’ he said, referring to the money saved when the team doesn’t have to stay in hotels overnight.

‘We have to be realistic and I’m not a man who believes in the phrase “it’s only a few hundred quid – it doesn’t matter”.

‘When you are running a tight budget, it does matter and it adds up,’ he added.

Tackling high costs is an area where Doyle won’t have made many friends, except at the club’s bank. In order to trim the wage bill, York City, with projected income of just £1.5m, released eight out-of-contract players and is down to a 16-man senior squad.

Doyle said the League’s current suggestion that clubs spend no more than 60% of their income on player wages was not unrealistic and he set an annual player salary cap of around £25,000.

‘If people understood how the bonus system affected the level of payments they would be astonished,’ he explained.

‘Bonuses have to be realistic and controllable and balanced with success being rewarded. Ultimately it has to be agreed by all the players but I suspect there is a huge mood of realism coming back to them.’

It was in April that the club announced plans to make Doyle its finance director, succeeding John Batchelor, under whom York City had been losing a painful £25,000 per week. The board of directors made its choice because Doyle was ‘respected by both the company’s bankers and the wider business community’.

His financial experience is broad. The 49-year-old is also director of computer company RedBlack Software and a financial services company Coniscliffe Financial Planning.

On his appointment, the FD said: ‘It is a privilege to be able to make a positive contribution to the club in this bright new era.’

Since taking up his post Doyle has had to take one tough job after another.

Although he has been a York City fan for decades, he began his job by making difficult, and sometimes unpopular choices. In four months, he has rearranged certain games following a consultation with the fans and changed some of the fixtures.

And he and the supporters trust are now battling to move the club from Bootham Crescent to the less expensive Huntington Stadium, which would require the removal of a running track because it is against football league regulations. With his financial savvy, Doyle can perhaps prove that everyone needs an accountant on their team.


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