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Paul Fletcher: Now is the right time for me to leave Burnley FC
DEPARTING Burnley FC chief executive Paul Fletcher says he took the decision to step down because he felt he had gone as far as he could in his Turf Moor role.
The former Burnley striker will leave the position he has held for three years at the end of the season.
His replacement has yet to be announced.
But Fletcher intends to remain involved with the club to steer the affiliated, award-winning University College of Football Business to future success.
The higher education facility, which opened to 60 students in September and is located in the Jimmy McIlroy Stand, won top prize at the recent North West Football Awards in the most innovative non-matchday use of a football ground category.
And Fletcher sees UCFB as key to the club and community’s future.
“Over these last two or three months I’ve had to review my own position and what is good for the club,” said the 60-year-old.
“I genuinely thought I couldn’t contribute more to the club, apart from trying to make UCFB a real success.
“UCFB, in my view, is the greatest initiative I have ever come across for how to use a stadium on a non-matchday.
“It potentially could be massive for Burnley Football Club, and I was spending more of my time helping provost and chief executive Philip Wilson.”
UCFB was the brainchild of operational director Brendan Flood, and after getting the go-ahead in February, opened it’s doors at the start of the current academic year.
“To start up a university in just seven months is tremendous going,” Fletcher continued.
“We worked night and day and visited key people in football, like PFA chairman Gordon Taylor, everybody was supportive of it.
“We knew there was a slight downside in that Burnley isn’t a university town yet and if young people want the student experience we understand they might want to go to Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham or Glasgow, where there are thousands of other students.
"But for anyone interested in the subject of football it’s a great place to come.”
Asked if he intended moving into an official role within UCFB after quitting the Clarets, Fletcher said: “I’ve agreed to have a look at things at the end of the season.
“If there are any areas the club want me to work in I will be pleased to do that.
“I’m passionate about UCFB because I think it will be great for Burnley Football Club.”
Fletcher played for the Clarets from March 1971 to February 1980, winning promotion to the top flight as Division Two champions in 1973.
He returned as development director in December 2007 to oversee a planned multi-million pound development of Turf Moor.
But, although the club’s Gawthorpe training base has been recently upgraded, the redevelopment was put on the back burner after quickly being hit by the onset of the global recession.
Fletcher was named chief executive in July 2008. But he believes it is time for change for both him and Burnley.
“I see my contribution to Burnley not in building new stands but in making UCFB a massive success for the club,” he said.
“There are another few frustrations that I won’t go into because I don’t want to leave under a cloud, and I don’t think I will do.
“All I will ever do is be supportive of Burnley Football Club. I’m thankful for my time here.
“It was agreed that I would stay until the end of the season because I want to hand over to the new chief executive.
“The most important thing to the club now is to consider what’s going to happen to football over the next four years,” added Fletcher, in reference to a UEFA directive which is set to transform the way football club’s operate from 2013/14 onwards.
The Financial Fair Play ruling insists that clubs can only spend a percentage of their turnover and there will be penalties for those who do not at least break even.
Burnley last month reported a £4million after their first full season back in the Championship.
“I think there will be drastic changes and they may not be to the benefit of Burnley Football Club if we are only allowed to spend a certain percentage of turnover,” said Fletcher.
“You can only keep pulling rabbits out of a hat for so long.
“The club needs to be looking for new initiatives and to change the way it does things.
“Hopefully the new chief executive will have a bit more success with that than I have.
“I’m hoping they have both the ability and the support to make the changes necessary for Burnley Football Club to be successful during the next three or four years.”