Stockade FC falls short of breaking even in first year, but owner is undaunted

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Action from Stockade FC’s home finale back in July. (Photo by Dan Barton)

Kingston Stockade FC chairman Dennis Crowley recently published a lengthy review of the local soccer club’s inaugural season. Dubbed “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Operating a Division 4 Soccer Team (But Were Afraid to Ask),” the piece covers in great detail the financial realities the club faced.

Perhaps the thing that stands out the most in the report is that Stockade FC lost money in its first season. According to Crowley, the club’s expenses — minus the cost of $14,000 in unsold merchandise — were $111,674, while its revenue came in at $93,072.

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The result could have been worse. In an interview last week, Crowley said that the loss of $18,602, or 16.66 percent of the final budget, wasn’t unexpected, as the club is still figuring out how best to operate.

“I wasn’t running on a strict budget,” he said. “We never ran into things where it was like, ‘Well, we can’t do sandwiches today, because it’s out of budget.’ This year was all about, let’s figure out how much it costs to run everything, and then next year we can put a budget behind it.”

Crowley said he’d calculated various budget issues based on different levels of attendance at the club’s home games at Dietz Stadium. In eight home games, Stockade averaged 756 fans. The two lowest-attended games — against Boston City on June 5 and Seacoast United Phantoms — were played in torrential rain and during Kingston High School’s graduation ceremony respectively. Attendance in their six other home games ranged between 780 and 936, the latter turning up for a thrilling 4-0 result against Seacoast United Mariners on Sunday, July 3, the team’s final home game of the season.

“When we saw the huge crowds, I remember thinking, Oh, my god, we might actually get to break even this season,” Crowley said. “But then we started to see some of the unexpected costs. For example, the overnight stay we did for travel, which we didn’t plan on but did because we knew the guys weren’t playing so well on the road so we wanted to give them an extra night to be rested. We were spending more than we expected, but the crowds were also bigger than expected. It wasn’t until we really got down and looked at it that we realized we were off. But it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is a disaster. I can’t figure out how it can ever sustain itself.’ We missed a little bit. Let’s go back and retool it for next season and see how we do.”

The lengthy recap serves as a companion piece to one Crowley published about how the club came together. That story, which went live when Stockade FC was on the verge of opening its inaugural season on May, went viral on social media, attracting interest in the club from well beyond the Hudson Valley.

Crowley breaks down online merchandise sales, including one shipment to Japan and five in the United Kingdom. One of the club’s most popular players, Michael Creswick, hails from Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

A further 275 orders came from within the continental United States. A map identifying all 275 locations where someone is wearing club merchandise looks like the war room scene from War Games: Stockade FC fans are everywhere.

 

Dennis Crowley. (photo by Dan Barton)

Dennis Crowley. (photo by Dan Barton)

Growing the industry

That’s good news for the future of the club. Crowley is hoping that publishing his insights will help other teams crop up all over the country. “That’s the tricky thing that people are having trouble wrapping their heads around,” Crowley said. “Why would you share this information? That’s the point. You want to have a whole bunch of clubs. Even if we have more in the Northeast, it cuts down on travel costs, it makes more stable clubs. Stable clubs are good for lower-level soccer in general.”

Crowley said he wished he had had that kind of information a year ago, as the club took its tentative first steps into the darkness. “One of the things that was frustrating when we first got started going back to last summer, was there was literally nothing on the Internet that told us how much it costs or how long it takes,” he said. “There was nothing, not even one blog post. So instead of writing a bunch of little things, the thought was, Let’s put an instruction manual together and let’s keep rewriting the instruction manual until it works. And let’s let people have a healthy discussion around it. And we’re just kicking off that process.”

Crowley has heard from a handful of teams thanking him for his posting, some highlighting one area or another where they feel like they’ll benefit from Stockade’s example. According to Crowley, only one other team — Minneapolis City SC, which plays in the Premier League of America (PLA), a fourth-division league based in the Midwest — has published a similar treatise. Also in its first season, Minneapolis City is playing in the US Open Cup.

“We have this five-year plan of wanting to get into the US Open Cup,” Crowley said. “Let’s see if we can do it, see if we can do it on a budget, and see if we can share everything we learned so that other people can do it, too,” Crowley said. “When we set out to do the club, we wanted to do a couple of things at once. Number one was bring the club to Kingston and make it work, but then also do it in such a way that it was a blueprint for other clubs.”

Crowley said his piece about the club’s finances and operations represents a return to action and an introduction to the 2017 season. But it’s a baby step. “We’re not very far along at all,” he said. “I came back from paternity leave, work got kind of crazy, the baby grows up and is a little bit more mobile. There’s all sorts of stuff to deal with. But getting this post out was a good first step to really get me head back in it.”

In July, Crowley said the club was looking at keeping the momentum going, with autumn friendlies and youth outreach. Neither of those things look likely to happen this year, again because of the learning curve of an inaugural season.

“I really wanted to continue into the fall, but it was tough,” he said. “We wanted to do a youth camp, but all the fields were booked. When we get into the weekend, you have field availability problems. And I think the guys wanted a break. The season was a lot to deal with. Next year we’ll take note that if we want to do friendlies in September we have to start planning them in May. We live and learn.”

 

Planning for 2017

Crowley added that he expected club officials would catch up with the coaching staff this weekend, and that some of the players on the 2016 roster were playing together in an informal league to stay in shape. “We’re doing that on the sly a little bit,” Crowley said. “We just enrolled the team and they’re playing. We’re doing those things to try and take a look at players in the off-season.”

There will also likely be new faces taking the pitch for Stockade FC in 2017, and Crowley said he expected to begin that process much sooner than it did in 2016.

“Hopefully, everything happens 60 days ahead of where it did last season,” he said. “Hopefully, we have another round of tryouts. We’ll probably do another couple of friendlies at Dietz. I’d imagine that will look similar to how it did this year. It worked, and it’s easy to do that again.”

“Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Operating a Division 4 Soccer Team (But Were Afraid to Ask)” can be found here: https://medium.com/@dens/stockade-fc-end-of-season-recap-2016-c2e4d318b364#.n7k1tiqcl. If you don’t feel like typing that in to your web browser, find the Kingston Times page on Facebook, where the link will be posted.

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