As our most recent accounts which relate to last season 2021/22 are posted, the huge financial challenges we face while remaining in the Championship are there for all to see.
We had a very difficult three month run without a win last season and during that period revenues were certainly down but our Head Coach Billy Dodds and the team went on an epic run to come within 45 minutes of promotion to the Premiership. I couldn’t have been prouder of the club and especially our supporters that night and they remain the inspiration for the Board of Directors and everyone at the club. As do our staff, who as many of you know always go the extra yard for the club and we are incredibly appreciative of their continued hard work and diligence.
Our finances were indeed challenging throughout the season with many things contributing to this. For instance travelling away supporters were at their lowest for many years, but we managed the financial challenges with the magnificent and continued support of my fellow Directors. I would personally like to thank them as much as I thank our loyal Caley Jags fans for their support. Our season ticket numbers increased last season, as they did again this season, although we need to do more to get younger fans along to Caledonian Stadium, something we continue to target as this current season continues. We will continue to gift hundreds of tickets to schools throughout our catchment area for every game. Our retail operation and in particular our partnership with PUMA, continues to be a huge success with sales up by double digits year on year and by over 50% since switching to the global sportswear giants.
It was clear to me when I became Chairman that unless we were able to secure significant external revenue streams we would continually and additionally have to rely on the goodwill of Directors and other sources, but thankfully, we are now moving towards the position where all of our hard work on external revenue streams comes to fruition. We plan to be able to include an update on the major joint projects we have been working on with our partners Intelligent Land Investments Group during our scheduled AGM on 28th March. We continue to speak to and search for new Directors to help us take advantage of the forthcoming opportunities and with these projects. We were delighted to be able to have Panos Thomas and Graeme Bennett join the Board in December and more new Directors will certainly be welcome.
We also hope to be able to enlighten shareholders and fans on the hugely exciting potential we have now that our Stadium and surrounding land have been included in the Opportunity Cromarty Green Freeport. I believe we are the only professional football club in the UK to be situated with a Freeport Tax Zone and we are exploring the potential benefits and opportunities with other Freeport stakeholders, including Highland Council, the Scottish Govt and the UK Govt. So while this season has thus far been a disappointment which we are addressing internally and the financial challenges to a full time Highland club currently in the Championship remain, it is clear to me that as owners of our Stadium, with no bank debt and a thriving Boys Academy, a burgeoning Women and Girls section, an enormously successful ICT Development Trust, on the cusp of securing a stunning 8 acre Hub at the sports fields of the Royal Academy, and with our external business plans well in place, I believe we can look forward with reasonable and measured excitement and confidence.
There is no hiding from how difficult and challenging it can be to maintain everything we want to have at the club, the cost of living crisis and the outrageous utility charges put an increasing strain on all businesses of our size but we have a good plan. There is no substitute for hard work and ingenuity and we will need to continue that in spades and we are one game away from a Scottish Cup Semi-Final at Hampden. I hope that as many as you as possible turn up to support the club and help roar us to what would be another huge achievement in our proud run of successes in the Scottish Cup.