ST KILDA is set to reduce its debt by more than $3 million.
Club CEO Matt Finnis said when accounts were finalised for the 2021 AFL season, the Saints would be able to take their overall debt to less than $10 million.
"We will release our financials next month, and we are still finalising our accounts, but it will be more than a few million dollars of debt that we reduce this year," Finnis said.
"When you complete the Danny Frawley Centre, the entirety of the facilities that have been built here (Moorabbin) will be $50 million, and we are spending north of $2 million on the oval itself, including the irrigation and drainage which needs to go in there.
"We are emerging from COVID in better shape than we went in. Record membership helps, growth in sponsorship and like all clubs we have reduced our cost base significantly. And some wonderful donors who have supported the club.
"For us to be able to reduce debt to down to below $10m in COVID times we feel sets us up well to continue to attack that, with a more sustainable business model."
SEASON REVIEW Hard to sugar-coat Saints' disappointing year
Finnis said the Danny Frawley Centre for health and wellbeing would be officially opened in February. An expansion of that facility is already scheduled, with that project to join the current standalone structure with the club's existing administration building.
The club hopes to be given AFL approval to host an official 2022 AFL pre-season fixture at Moorabbin, which by then should have capacity for 10,000 spectators.
Following premierships since 2016 by the Western Bulldogs, Richmond and Melbourne, St Kilda is now, by considerable distance, the team with the longest flag drought.
Saints president Andrew Bassat refuted any suggestion that situation created an even greater burden on his club, whose only VFL/AFL premiership came in 1966, and which finished 10th in 2021 after winning a final in 2020.
"It should promote optimism, that it is possible," Bassat said. "St Kilda will break the drought, that will happen, for sure. I am just hoping it is sooner not later.
"It has been the absolute priority of the club, to win a flag, and what we have now done is remove our excuses as a club – that we don't have good facilities and that we can't pay the soft cap or the hard cap. We have removed those excuses. We can be a destination club, we can be successful, we have got everything in place. We are trying to win a flag. I don’t have a second thought (to Melbourne, Western Bulldogs and Richmond all breaking long premiership droughts) to it. The urgency is there. It was already there. It couldn't have got higher."
Finnis said: "I hear our fans talk about it, and if anything, it does promote a thirst that was already there among our fans. The level of our aspiration hasn't changed since Grand Final week.
"We were clearly disappointed with the season we just had, particularly the first part of it, and didn't shy away from that, turning the blowtorch on ourselves, and I think we started to see some early signs of that in the back half of the season."
After several bad losses in 2021, the club sought answers, which, according to Bassat and Finnis, will help shape 2022.
"We quickly dived into some diagnostics around what was happening," Finnis said. "When we went on the road in the middle of the year and had a heart-breaking loss to Sydney off our own inaccuracy, and then an unacceptable loss to Adelaide the following week, we used that time as a re-setting of the football program.
"We became aware of areas we needed to improve. Those diagnostics said to us we had some more work to do around the how we go about it, as much as what we do. And they were things like standards around our preparation, are we team-first enough? Even just some of our communication. Relationships were really high.
"But other things, when we shone the torch on ourselves, we weren't where we needed to be, and that led to a program of work around bridging the gap, where we honestly thought where we were against the teams competing for flags, year in, year out.
"The non-negotiable now is that we are competitive to the end, that's the ingredient we are missing."