After 23 years of dedicated service, promotions manager Mike Phillips leaves the club today.Mike joined the club in what was known as the ‘golden years’ from 1979 to 1984, but left to move to the south coast.
After seven years away, Graham Peart persuaded him to return to Wycombe Wanderers as Promotions Manager in 1991, running Leagueline, (which was launched at the Town Hall to help get us into the Football League), a scratchcard lottery, and for a short time, the club shop.
At that time it is impossible to overstate the importance of the lottery to the club, as in the 1980s, the proceeds from the lottery exceeded the gate receipts. Almost every football club ran a scratchcard lottery and earned a significant income from it.
The National Lottery commenced in 1994 and was a big challenge to all small lotteries, forcing many of them to close within a short period of time, but Mike was not prepared to follow suit and persuaded the enthusiastic canvasser John Simmonds to re-join us at Wycombe.
John was the best door to door canvasser in the business - he could sell ice to eskimos, and the Wanderers’ scratchcard lottery went from strength to strength, with over 200 agents selling door to door.
Mike introduced the 50/50 matchday draw which still has one of the largest payouts amongst small clubs, while the Leagueline later became the Cashline which remained very popular.
Graham Peart was the Director responsible for Mike Phillips and they were all a great team - sales increased to a significant level, and the club’s lottery registration with Wycombe District Council had to be reassigned to the Gaming Board as a result of its success.
Graham and Mike would go to the Lotteries Council annual two-day conferences, hosted by larger football clubs, where they gathered a great deal of information on how larger clubs built their lotteries.
To show how much Wycombe were respected in the lottery market, Graham and Mike were invited to make a joint presentation to the conference. The Gaming Board advised it was Wycombe’s turn for a spot check audit - scratchcard ticket sets are strictly controlled and the percentage and value of winners are restricted under legislation. Mike would order between 40,000 and 80,000 dependent on the time of year, and they all had to be sold to be able to account for the winners. The auditors chose to assess the full set of 80,000 cards - it took 3 days!
A month later the lead auditor was speaking at the Lotteries Council meeting, and when asked why the results of the audit had not been received, he apologised and said ‘’congratulations, it was one of the cleanest audits that we have ever done.”
Mike had many catchphrases, including “you’ve got to be in it to win it”, and he has been exceptional in his passion and drive for Wycombe Wanderers - a truly loyal employee.
As a conservative estimate, I am advised that over the last 23 years, the Wanderers have benefited from the Promotions Department in excess of over £1m, a fantastic achievement by any standard. We will miss the cheery smile and that look of ‘I need a pound out of your pocket’.
Mike, we wish you and Michelle - who has been a tower of strength at your side – the very best for the future and sincere thanks for your support over many years.