CRAWLEY Town co-owner Susan Carter has warned Reds fans the club may have to sell players in the January transfer window to help balance the books at the Broadfield Stadium.
The Town chief admits she is "disappointed" attendances have not grown this season as much as the club's board had hoped, and says unless the Reds can start to increase their match day revenue, cuts will need to be made to meet Football League rules.
"It is going to be a very tough transfer window," she said. "We have to be sensible and if offers come in then we will need to sit down and consider them.
"We could have some very difficult decisions to make. I would hate for us to have to sell a player for financial reasons, and we don't want to lose any of our best players as we are well placed in the league, but if the right price comes along I think every club is a selling club.
"So far we have always been able to resist the offers that have come in for the players that we haven't wanted to sell, but I know that might not always be the case. We run a very tight ship."
The revelation will come as a bitter pill for many supporters who have seen their side build on the success of last year when they won promotion to the Football League for the first time in their history and travelled to Premier League giants Manchester United in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Going into Monday's Boxing Day clash with Gillingham the Reds sit four points clear at the top of League Two, with manager Steve Evans on course to lead his side to back to back promotions.
And while there is no suggestion the club are in any financial trouble whatsoever, and the day to day running of the club is completely unaffected, Carter says the Reds either need to increase revenue or sell players to meet the league's rules regarding the percentage of income that can be spent on player's wages.
"In League Two we have something called the Salary Cost Management Protocol," explained Carter. "It means we can't spend more than 55 per cent of our income on players' wages in a season.
"At the moment we aren't hitting that so if fans want us to be able to retain our best players then they have to back us now. I think for a lot of fans this is an inconvenient truth but of course it will have a bearing on what we can do in the transfer window."
Attendances at the Broadfield this season have increased; although Carter says she was expecting gates to be higher given the team had not played at that level before and the quality of football being played.
"We are disappointed with the amount gates have gone up this season as I think in all honesty we were expecting them to rise more," she added. "This is probably the most prudently run club in the division and on the field we are the most successful we have ever been in our history.
"At the moment we are odds on to win our second promotion in as many seasons but we could do with more people turning up to watch. We don't want to be in a position where we have to sell our best players but if our revenues don't increase we will take tough decisions.
"I'm disappointed we are still only averaging 3,000 in league games and in all honesty I don't know what else we can do. If we are to sustain and build on what we have achieved we need to be getting it up to 4,500 as a minimum.
"I don't want this club to go backwards; I want to keep taking it forward.
"We have a new stand going up and I'm challenging the fans to pack it out and create a rocking atmosphere at the Broadfield for the rest of the season. We need to get more people through the door if we want to progress."
Carter says it is her ambition to see Crawley become totally self-sufficient and not reliant upon any wealthy individuals to bankroll them. "I've always wanted for Crawley Town Football Club to be able to operate without the generosity of the owners or shareholders," she added.
"There could be a time in the future when the owners don't want to or can't afford to subsidise the club.
"While we were in the Conference we had a lot of players on one year contracts but in the Football League you have to tie down your players to longer deals.
"It means the club have financial commitments for several years ahead and the club have to be able to meet these through its own income. The owners could never be expected to risk their own businesses by keep investing in the football club when they have staff they pay who are dependent on them."
According to Carter, fans themselves must take some of the responsibility in helping the club to achieve these aims by their own actions.
"There are a small things everyone can do, like having their pint in the Redz bar rather than a pub up the road; by paying £2 to park in the car park rather than park on a grass verge; by buying the programme on a match day; by supporting events that are being held at the club.
"We had a comedy night last month and only 52 people turned up. People can't expect the club to be able to go out and buy top players if they don't do their bit by supporting us.
"I know times are hard financially at the moment and I'm not asking spend money if they haven't got it, I've been there and I know what it's like, but I am asking people that if they have a pint to think about having it at the club and not somewhere else."