Whilst being an excellent title for a movie it could also be an apt description of the last 8 months at the football club writes David Montgomery, Chair of the Business Continuity Group (BCG).
This post seeks to address some of the issues raised by fans recently and to update all with as many things as possible on behalf of the BCG, the directors and the club.
The first lockdown bought with it a determination to respond to the huge challenges faced as a result of the pandemic and the club drove many initiatives to stabilise the finances. Fans responded magnificently through the buying of shares, virtual games and we accessed the many grants and loan options available and, together with government support, we were able to stabilise and protect the club, providing some confidence moving forward. Throughout lockdown we established new principles of how the club was run in the background and drove a new message and much new and needed communication.
The club still holds a positive cash flow as a result of this activity and whilst the current financial position is good in the circumstances we didn’t anticipate a second lockdown with no football, and no ancillary income from the social club. There continues to be challenges ahead and it would be naïve to say anything other or make promises or assurances that no club or business can guarantee during the current uncertainty and timeframe.
We started the new season with a new manager and held high hopes for an exciting road ahead. Results as we all know didn’t go our way and the decision was made to change direction rather than waiting. Everyone has an opinion on this but a decision was made collectively and we move on.
Matt Hill has now been appointed the new manager and he deserves a chance to succeed and will be given the opportunity to bring a reversal of our current league position. We are not looking at any other options at the moment and we are all fully behind him.
Certain individuals have questioned the role of Andy Fearn in view of his connection with the previous season’s results. Everyone is entitled to their view but some of the points made in social media have no substance, some very personal and simply untrue.
Matt Hill is responsible for picking the team and he alone.
Andy was primarily welcomed onto the board as a director in view of his business acumen and has in my view made a huge difference over the last few months. He gives the board additional skill sets and experience. In view of his football experience it was a natural decision to make him Director of Football, it would have been ridiculous to not have done so but his involvement and impact behind the scenes is great and he is a vital part of the board. He helps the manager with all aspects of the administration but does not and never has picked the team.
Matt Hill continues to look to strengthen the squad and we will advise you of any changes when things happen but current lockdown and uncertainty going forward is not making this easy. Most staff at the club are currently furloughed and we have very few players on contract. Football Zoom meetings continue between Matt and the players who have been given exercise programmes and communication between the team is being maintained.
It’s also business as usual in the background and every back office requirement is being actioned.
The NPL are currently advising us that they will look to resume fixtures w/c 7th December expecting that the current spectator capacity of 600 will continue. The FA are currently in discussion with the DCMS on this matter and we will all await developments with interest. I personally don’t believe this is realistic and will be determined by the governments approach as the proposed lockdown expiry date of the 2nd December approaches.
There has been criticism about the lack of communication recently from the club. This has not been an intentional strategy, far from it. The BCG set new standards in March in terms of what we wanted to happen and the club went out of its way to respond. Some of the issues we raised were either contentious or sensitive and despite this the board responded brilliantly recognising the BCG as a mechanism for helping, developing new ideas, addressing long term issues and bringing fans views and representation to the board room quickly. It would be wrong of me to say that some issues raised were without challenges but we are generally all singing off the same page and all of us have the same objectives namely to make SRFC ‘The best club in non-league football, on and off the pitch’
In terms of communication we have continued to do so throughout the first 7 games as everyone at the club worked hard to deliver a game of football. Covid-19 restrictions were a nightmare to deliver but the club introduced on- line ticketing as a way of easing the burden. Whilst this did exactly that we also gave ourselves an additional administration workload and in the last few weeks I accept that the communication has slowed, which this communication seeks to address. As I have written most of our communication since March this year then any failure is down to me and I apologise if we have fallen short over the past few weeks but in essence little materially has happened.
I have always stated to anyone who would listen that managing fans expectations is one of the club’s biggest challenges and it continues to be so. We can’t respond to everyone’s points or criticisms at every turn but we need to ensure as we have done so all year that we fill the void with clear messages from the club. Everyone involved with running the club, whether as a director or volunteer, is first and foremost a fan but the resource we have is limited. I am quite happy to receive e mails with suggestions or questions from anyone that can be directed to the best individual for response or discussion. My e mail address is email@example.com
We constantly look for help throughout the club and the efforts of our volunteers has once again been simply magnificent but if you want to help please contact us, we need as much assistance as we can get.
Many comments have been made or asked in connection with the Fans Representative and one of the objectives raised early this year of getting a Fans Director on the Board. The board approved this in May but with certain stipulations. This is still a sensitive area as there will be some issues that need to stay in the boardroom. We are now looking again and exploring ways in which we can deliver this.
Alan Gee was the Fans Representative until the end of last season and since then we have sought new applicants without success. We are now looking at how we could strengthen the BCG with additional fan involvement and then use the BCG as the Fans Board/ Representative to achieve what fans have asked for. We are discussing how the election of fans could take place and will come back to you all as soon as a workable format has been agreed as the best way forward. It could well be that STRIPES is also part and parcel of the process and we have also asked a couple of fans to make suggestions. All aspects of this will form part of our discussions over the next few weeks and once we have something of substance this will be submitted to the board for approval and communicated to everyone.
Now don’t ask me which part of the above fell into the good and the bad but we finally do have to come to the Ugly bit!
At the Skelmersdale FA Cup game we had some bad behaviour that culminated in the worst instance by our Chief Steward being spat at by an individual. The person was identified and the Police were involved due to the disgusting nature of this assault. A lifetime ban has been issued by Stafford Rangers Football Club and delivered by the Police.
We have an established behaviour policy which has been written and visible to all for many years. We also experienced a further spitting incidence by several fans at the tunnel after the Atherton game and sexual verbal abuse to some of our female stewards.
The club will not tolerate this behaviour and will stamp it out. This will carry a financial cost to the club as we now need to look at getting body cams for some stewards to enable us to identify any future perpetrators and take immediate action. The stewards are there to help everyone and ensure personal safety or deliver the requirements of operating safely with Covid-19 rules. The vast majority of fans behaviour has been exemplary and we thank you but if you come to Marston Road looking to cause trouble and show no respect we will evict you and ban you. Depending upon finances we will also be looking at how we can change the tunnel to the pitch to ensure a sterile safe area for players and officials.
We also take the opportunity of thanking all our Stewards for stepping up to what is a difficult job during difficult times and doing so magnificently. It would also be wrong for us to not mention the work done by Oz Rowley over the past few months in setting out our operational needs in terms of Covid-19 both in terms of documenting and implementing policy.
In conclusion the road over the past few months has not been easy but we are still here still operating, still planning how to put points on the table and discussing how we move forward in the future. We still have an enthusiasm as much as you do and still want to achieve the best for the club. We have ‘Come Together’ as a club through a time of huge challenges and we still look forward with confidence and determination. We will succeed!
Thanks to all fans from the club for all your support. Up The Boro!