Minutes from the fans' forum meeting held at the Proact Stadium on Saturday, October 1, ahead of the Sky Bet League 1 match with Bradford City
Present at the meeting:
Chris Turner, Ashley Carson, Nick Johnson, Liam Sutcliffe, John Croot, Maurice Whyman, Darryl Carpenter, Jon Morriss, Nigel Goodlad, Gary Bown, Lesley Brentnall.
Apologies for absence received from: Ian Browes.
Gary Bown posed the opening question, asking if there were plans to split-off the conference & banqueting department from the club. Ashley Carson said there would be no split-off to make another business, explaining: “The accounts for the conference & banqueting are boxed off just so that we know what different departments make.”
Discussing the accounts, Chris Turner said that half of the required items were not in the management accounts when he joined the club. “We’ve discussed showing the management accounts to the fans,” he added.
Ashley pointed out that over £1m was listed as “miscellaneous expenses” when he first joined the club. He is planning to add and extra sheet to the annual accounts which shows a breakdown of costs so fans have a better idea. “I think it would be interesting for fans to see,” he said.
Gary asked if there was the likelihood of any other “financial skeletons” emerging. “Things do come out,” said Ashley. “Barrie Hubbard’s widow, for example, gave six months notice on the £200,000 she is owed. That wasn’t budgeted for so we’ve done a deal with her to pay her back over four years.” Ashley added that £80,000 plus interest has also had to be paid back to the Co-op. He said: “We’ve got a very tight ship with figures monitored month by month. We don’t fritter money away.”
Ashley also explained matters relating to the setting up of the phone lines and the Proact Stadium website domain. He said that it had only recently emerged that the IT company who set up the phone lines received a regular payment. They also own the Proact Stadium domain, which has created problems for the conference & banqueting department.
When Nigel Goodlad questioned the £39,000 owed to the club by a former sponsor, Ashley pointed out that this was a contra deal. “There are no more contra deals,” he said. “We ask companies to invoice us.”
When asked about the negative coverage in the Derbyshire Times, Chris explained that various meetings have been held with the editor to raise concerns about the coverage received. There was a general agreement among those present that the ‘paper’s coverage could be more positive. Chris expressed disappointment that the DT failed to attend the launch of the club’s record shirt sponsorship deal and had not taken up an invitation to attend an International Academy training session.
When the subject of the International Academy was raised, Ashley stated that the club has not put any money into the International Academy.
Maurice Whyman asked what benefits the club receives from the link-up with the FBT International Academy. Liam Sutcliffe said that the club will have first choice on any players coming through. “In time, there will be commercial benefits,” he added.
Jon Morris admitted that he struggled to understand the club academy/International Academy structure and asked why the club didn’t get involved in running the latter organisation. Chris replied: “The club couldn’t afford it because it costs a lot to run.” He added that former youth coach Dave Bentley said it was a “no-brainer” when he was asked for his views on the concept when it was first put to him. “I thought it could only improve us as we had nobody watching Sunday League football, for a start,” said Chris. There had been a poor record re 9-16s coming through the system. Darikwa, Bowery and Davies, for example, all joined the club at the age of 16 from other clubs. Chris admitted that he had been under pressure to close the academy, which he resisted, due to the lack of youngsters coming through. “Curtis (Morrison) is the first player in a long time to emerge from the 9-16s,” he said. Ashley revealed that the academy lost £149,000 in the last year. Chris added that the club would have to had to find another £50,000 if it wasn’t for the International Academy due to the expenses it had paid. The club has been provided with staff and scouts free of charge over a three-year period. “I think we’ve now got a system that’s productive,” Chris added.
When the subject of the club’s ambition was put to the panel, Chris said: “There is nobody more ambitious than Dave Allen, Ashley and myself to take this club forward, but it is a battle financially to stay competitive in League One. Last year our wage bill for players was 13th in the division. Player costs are rising each year for every club.”
When Lesley Brentnall questioned the players’ fitness, Chris said: “Danny Wilson says that Mal (Purchase) is the best fitness coach he’s ever worked with.”
Chris said that he would look into the turnstiles that are not working, following a point raised by Nigel.
Jon queried the menu in the Brampton Brewery Lounge, saying that people weren’t eating in there because of the lack of options. Chris said he would relay the feedback to Peter Clarke, adding that the cost of the food in there had been reduced from £8 to £5, with a choice similar to last season.
Jon also pointed out that the card machine in the Brampton Brewery Lounge was not working.
Nigel asked if seats in the stadium were cleaned. Chris said that seats do get cleaned before matches, adding that pigeon droppings were a real problem.
Darryl Carpenter asked about the cleaning and maintenance of the stadium, pointing out the need to get on top of it. Chris pointed out that much of the problems re faded panels at the front of the stadium is due to sun damage. “We will do a lot of maintenance work next summer,” he added.
When Darryl asked about the future of the International Academy, Liam admitted that it has been a hard 12 months after “setting up on £700”. He said that the investment from FBT now provides a platform for the organisation to go world-wide. “We’ve today done a deal with the league below the MLS in the USA,” he revealed. “There are 11 clubs in there and we have the rights to take players from there.” Chris added that youngsters are being educated as well as coached, adding there are big plans for the U9-16s.
When Nigel questioned the £2 extra charged to pay on the day for matchday tickets, Chris pointed out that there are similar surcharges at other clubs. “We are trying to push online sales,” he said. “Online sales are rising and the queues at 3pm are now a thing of the past so that all fans are in the stadium for the kick-off.”
John Croot revealed at the end of the meeting that there is a ticket offer being sent out to schools for the Scunthorpe game.
The next meeting is scheduled for Saturday, December 17 at 11am.