The meeting was attended by Shahid Azeem, John Leppard, and Russ Howell from the Football Club with Ian Goodwright, Tommy Anderson and Vanessa Storey of the Trust Board and Janet Guess (Secretary). The following is a summary of the meeting:
1. Questions from Supporters
i. Junior Tickets : The Board would look into raising the age limit for ticket prices for juniors from 16 to 18 years.
ii. Student Concession Rate : This was already in operation on production of a valid student card.
iii. Complimentary Tickets : A suggestion had been made that 4,000 tickets be given away to local schools as income would be received from programme sales, etc. It was stated that, whilst well intentioned, this was not practical. Simply giving out 4,000 tickets does not guarantee 4,000 will be taken up and there is scope for the free tickets to be misappropriated, undermining normal matchday income. The Club favours the targeted approach being taken in relation to the Community Stand, where there were already 250 tickets available for each league game. Furthermore, complimentary tickets had been available for local schools and groups through the Football in the Community scheme for over ten years.
iv. Ticket prices for the Slab : It was not practical to reduce prices for the Slab as this would also mean that the equivalent would have to be offered to away fans, further reducing matchday income.
v. Share Certificates : The Board apologised for the delay in providing share certificates for new shareholders.
vi. Season Ticket holders – A season ticket holder applauded the Board for reducing the price of tickets for the Tuesday night matches in March but wondered if season ticket holders could be compensated by a reduction in the price of a programme for these particular matches. The Board agreed to this and season ticket holders would be able to purchase the programme at a reduced price on production of a designated voucher from their season ticket booklet.
vii. Plans for encouraging supporters to purchase drinks inside the ESS : The Board were continually looking into this and were hopeful that with support from the Trust, a project to provide a bar facility at the top of the ground would go ahead, ready for next season.
viii. Player Fund Appeal : Given the team is currently stretched, should such an appeal be launched? It was noted that this is already in place via the PlayerShare Fund. This Scheme had already donated £8,000 towards players this year. Andy Scott was continually looking for new additions to the squad and the PlayerShare therefore provides a vital boost. Anyone can contribute to PlayerShare and all enquiries can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ix. Catering :.A supporter had claimed that the catering was worse than last season. The Board required more information as little has changed, they would be happy to talk to those concerned to lean more. To clarify:
– Clark Caterers operate the bars, EBB Lounge, Patrons Lunge and the Hot Shots Café
– The same caterers as the 2011/12 season operate the North Stand, East Bank and Away mobile outlets
The Trust agreed to go back to the supporter to ask for more specific detail and then the matter will be investigated further.
x. Lack of Communication : It was noted that at the time of the administration it was important to keep supporters up-to-speed with events. As matters have settled down post administration, there has been less frequent updates, but nonetheless the Board had held two Fans’ Forums and in addition there were the Club website, Twitter and Facebook accounts, plus Board articles in the matchday programme and of course regular meetings with the Trust, which were duly reported on. The Trust agreed to ask for more information on this apparent lack of communication.
xi. EBB Lounge : It was suggested that this was not very welcoming for ‘ordinary’ supporters after the game. The Board emphasised that supporters are encouraged and are most welcome to use the ESS Lounge after each game, but acknowledged that with the room laid out with tables and chairs for matchday guests there is limited capacity for supporters to stand in the bar area. It is hoped that supporters use the additional facilities that are available – The John McGinty Lounge, Phoenix Lounge and, in due course, the East Bank bar.
xii. What would it cost the Trust to have an equal share in the Club? : It was suggested a figure of a few £100,000 would enable the Trust to achieve this objective. The current Board is very receptive to additional board members or even new owner. They pointed out they had invited the Trust to join the consortium in May 2013, which was turned down, and have since offered to sell shares to all. The Board got involved only because there was no one else willing to keep the Club alive. However, they would like its focus to remain a community base club.
xiii. Where will the team finish this season? : The objective was and remains to secure AFTC in the Conference Premier league.
xiv. Are the player rehabilitation facilities adequate? The Club employs professional physio staff and puts players’ wellbeing first and foremost.
xv. What’s the future aspiration of the Club? : As set out previously, Yr 1 – maintain Conference Premier league status, Yr 2, consolidation, Y3 pushing for promotion. Foundation is being laid by operating the Club on a financially sustainable basis and by reaching out to the Community through for example the Community Stand initiative.
2. Outstanding Actions from Last Meeting
i. Family Stand : The Trust were liaising with Reade Signs regarding improvements to the Stand, including a Perspex side, and were awaiting a structural survey and costs to see if this would be viable.
ii.. Current Directors : The shortcomings in the website (which has been adopted by most League clubs) was acknowledged. Day to day updates are now being managed by a new party and improvements were expected shortly, including the updating of the Directors’ profiles.
3. Board Update
The Football Club had established an excellent relationship with Rushmoor Borough Council and the Army and were keen to make the Club the hub of the community with 4G pitches, accessible bars, a drop-in centre, etc. This is in the future but remains the Board’s aim.
Finances were now very challenging with the number of cancelled games where costs are incurred and with Tuesday night games being less valuable and also the disappointments of losing to Shortwood and Havant & Waterlooville in the FA Cup and Trophy respectively. Whilst the Club enjoyed the traditional nature of the ground, it is old and legally the Club are obliged to have many more stewards than modern grounds. Consequentially low attendance will be uneconomic. The Board resist moves to shut parts of the ground to help with costs, as they realize that fans enjoy their favourite parts of the ground
Despite the financial difficulties, the Board had made the decision to reduce the price of tickets for the Tuesday evening matches in March in recognition of the expense for supporters in so many home games in one month, despite the expectation of loss of revenue.
The Board remain disappointed that the Trust’s constitution makes it difficult to support the Club financially in a way enjoyed by many other Conference clubs, and considered that the Trust should consider raising money through fundraising events. The Trust pointed out that they had already provided funds previously to support projects and were keen to continue to do so, and that many other Trusts received shares in return for any monies donated. The Board indicated that they were willing to consider this.
The Football Club were very grateful to the volunteers who offered their services for no return, but were equally disappointed that other requests for assistance have received a poor response.
4. Trust Update
IG explained the position with the winding down of the Escrow account although this was taking longer than anticipated because a number of depositors had been slow to confirm the future allocation of their deposit. However, a decision had now been taken to simply refund those that had not already decided. Some funds had been transferred to the Forever Shots account and the Board expressed their disappointment that the Trust were encouraging supporters to invest in such an account which they felt was working against the current Directors, just waiting for them to fail. IG explained that this account was established in response to requests from supporters, and that once the initial depositors had been reconciled, the account would be opened to other supporters. He emphasised that both in the past and since administration, the Trust had been very supportive of the Club and this remains the intention.
5. Matchday Publicity
Posters for March fixtures would be available for collection from the Football Club office or from the Trust Gazebo on matchdays. The Club would be grateful to any supporters who could take these for display in offices, shops, etc.
6. Infrastructure Projects
The Board were keen to go ahead with the projects to provide two new toilet blocks and a bar at the top of the ground, and plans for this were now available. These would be shared with the Trust, along with costings, with the view of the Trust providing financial support for these projects, with approval from Trust members. The Trust were hopeful of getting back to the Board with a proposal by 21 March.
The Trust were concerned that supporters were unable to buy souvenirs once inside the ground and suggested that a table be set aside for this. They offered to sell some items from the Trust Gazebo and this offer was accepted by the Board.
8. South Stand Food Outlet
This was an issue that continued to be highlighted by supporters and the Board would look into this for next season.
9. 2014 Supporter Survey
Over 550 responses had been received so far and the closing date had been extended to 11 March to allow paper copies of the survey to be distributed. Everyone is encouraged by the level of responses received to date. Once analysed, the results would be shared with the Football Club.