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Sustainability the key to New Saints success

Published: Monday 21 April 2014, 19.27CET
The New Saints FC chairman Mike Harris told UEFA.com that the UEFA club competition group stages have to be a target for Welsh teams as the league bids to grab the nation's attention.
by Mark Pitman
from Oswestry
Sustainability the key to New Saints success
New Saints chairman Mike Harris ©UEFA.com
Published: Monday 21 April 2014, 19.27CET

Sustainability the key to New Saints success

The New Saints FC chairman Mike Harris told UEFA.com that the UEFA club competition group stages have to be a target for Welsh teams as the league bids to grab the nation's attention.

The New Saints FC claimed their eighth Welsh Premier League title earlier this month, with chairman Mike Harris telling UEFA.com that good business sense underpinned success on the pitch. 

"We had to invent a way to play football at the very top level we can, in the knowledge that however many fans came through the gate, we would never be able to finance it without secondary business operations," Harris told UEFA.com.

"I'm not saying we are there yet, but we are a lot further down the track. When you look at what we started with in 1997, we had a muddy field in Llansantffraid with small crowds, but when you look at what we have today with the infrastructure, 250 kids in the academy, a fully-professional first team and a business infrastructure that works 365 days a year, you can see how far we have come."

Harris arrived at the club in 1997 and changed the landscape of the Welsh Premier League with significant investment into the village club. The team claimed the first of their eight league titles in 2000, and are now the only fully-professional outfit in the national league. However, it was not until the move to their purpose-built stadium, which has an artificial playing surface, at Park Hall in Oswestry in 2007 that the club were able to generate the financial revenue required to consistently challenge at the top of the table.

"When I saw the ability to use the pitch as much as we can use it, it gives you a start, from the financial income from rental even down to the secondary spend such as tea and coffee," he said. "When all these little bits are added together it puts you on a sustainable business track.

"We have invested in the academy and in our scholarship programme – we have created a lot of links in the community," added Harris. "If you do things right there is every chance that you can fund your club from multiple strands of revenue. It's about balancing funds between success on the pitch and a sustainable business infrastructure."

The outspoken Harris is a strong advocate of the national league – founded in 1992 – though he believes it may take European success for local football to get the attention it needs to thrive. "Clubs from Wales have got to get into the group stage of either the UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Europa League," said Harris.

"I'm a big believer that our country produces a lot of talent that just happens to go unnoticed, and if people study the way we play, we aren't a million miles away. There is a chance that clubs from Wales can start knocking on the group-stage door.

"It's only a young league, and we have to be positive," he added. "We need the media to give us the same level of respect that they give the English league."

Last updated: 22/04/14 11.31CET

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