Exclusive: Joseph Cala on his controversial role at Gateshead, finances and club's future
Joseph Cala has revealed he is only acting in the best interests of Gateshead FC as he looks to make the club more sustainable.
The Italian-American is the club's financial advisor under owner Dr Ranjan Varghese after the Indian businessman bought the club from Richard and Julie Bennett in the summer.
However, while team pushes for a play-off position on the pitch, a number of off-field issues over recent weeks - including the sale of star defender Fraser Kerr to rivals Hartlepool United, captain Scott Barrow claiming Cala was touting him around clubs, and the failure to have a transfer embargo lifted by the National League - has led to fans questioning the ownership of the club.
Cala, in particular, has come under scrutiny. He unsuccessfully tried to buy Portsmouth and Morecambe in the past, and having previously failed a 'Fit and Proper Person's Test' introduced by the National League, his involvement at Gateshead has got many supporters fearing that Varghese is just the frontman and Cala - who is at the club every day - has full control, especially now long-serving director Mike Coulson resigned.
However, in an exclusive interview, Cala insisted he is acting in the best interests of the club and Varghese, that he has never applied to be owner of Gateshead, and rubbished suggestions that he will look to resign the club from the National League and go part-time.
Q: There have been claims that you are the owner of the club, not Dr Ranjan Varghese.
Cala: "The owner is Ranjan. He has always been the owner and that's proven.
"What people have to understand is that most clubs around the world have a representative. On every level - the Manchester United owners don't run the club day to day, same with Leyton Orient. I represent the owner. You are not there just to warm the chair."
Do you control the club then?
"I am acting in the best interests of the club and on behalf of Ranjan.
"I don't control the players and the coach. When we needed a new head of football operations I suggested promoting Mike Coulson. Mike Williams (former operations director) was also here but he left.
"Ranjan is here every three weeks or every month. He has been here eight times, he was here just last week.
"If I was in control I would have cut everything in the first six weeks as that was what was needed."
Did you fail the fit and proper person's test with Gateshead?
"I have never applied to be a director or owner of Gateshead. I have tried in the past to buy other clubs. But I didn't look to be owner at Gateshead.
"I was in Houston minding my own business and we knew Ranjan. He bought Gateshead and I am his representative.
"We tried to buy Belper (Town), Ranjan and me, and that's where it came from. My company, Cala Corporation, had a lawsuit in USA that we didn't fight. It's nothing, it's called an desist or refrain. In the USA it is a civil issue not a penal issue but that's why FA stopped me at Belper. Anyone in business has a desist or refrain. It's double standards but I'm not going to argue. I didn't fail (the test) for Gateshead FC. Never."
Did you sell Fraser Kerr behind manager Ben Clark's back?
"It's a distinct lie. Ranjan told Ben before he took the job that there were two players that had to be sold. Ben knew in advance. Mike Coulson and Mike Williams were in the meeting with Ben. I was not even a part of it, it was discussed by Ranjan, Mike Coulson, Mike Williams and Ben. To say we went behind the coach's back is a pure lie."
Do you have a message to fans who are worried about the club's short and long-term future?
"There's nothing to be worried about. We are in the play-offs. It's natural that we are not going to pay millions and millions into a club that is worth £400,000. We should not waste money. Look what happened to Graham and Richard (former owners Graham Wood and Richard Bennett) - they've gone.
"Ranjan has said that he runs his business tightly and pays the bills. We have difficulty paying some bills because the revenue is not there. How can we afford to run the club on 450 paying fans. We need to get our house in order. It's very apparent Ranjan is bringing the club back down to earth."
Will Gateshead resign from the National League at the end of the season?
"No, we won't resign from the league.
"Our revenue is £400,000 and our expenses are £500,000 but we believe with new sponsorship we can offset the losses. It is manageable.
"This is a fact: we were losing £100,000 a month. We had expenses of £200,000 a month - I've got that down to £40,000. We were spending £300,000."
Will you go part-time?
"We will stay full-time as we are. We will not cut the salaries, if anything we may increase some, but we are in a better position."