Supporters’ Forum – 1 October 2015
REPORT BY ALEC HAYTER
Chairman David Phillips and Vice Chairman Ian Ridley attended initially, being joined later by Team Manager Steve Claridge, and the meeting concentrated on the following topics:
The Raymond McEnhill stadium
In response to a question about the possibility of playing at the stadium in future, it was stated there was no reason to doubt, after recent talks with the McEnhill trustees, that we would continue as at present. This however, was, and always has been subject to “actively looking for a new home”.
“We will be moving, but not in the foreseeable future," said Dave.
“There have been meetings with Sports England, Councils, and all manner of interested parties to try and produce a plan. with an integrated approach involving Youth teams and sections to create a sporting hub for football in Salisbury. That hub could include 4g pitches and all sorts of facilities as there is a dearth of such facilities in Salisbury.
"We are looking at locations for that, but it is not going to be a quick exercise. However, there is no reason why it should drag on. In return for our continuing efforts we are confident that the Trustees will extend our lease.
An important part of the development is the youth setup. We currently have 18 teams.”
Season progress and financial state.
It was stated from the floor that things were going well on the pitch, but was the Club receiving support from the community?
“The crowds are better than we had expected, and we have probably met our targets in terms of gate revenue, and all of us are extremely grateful to supporters," said Ian. "We have not done as well as we had hoped on the commercial side, but that is not to say we have done badly. We haven’t, and have shirt, shorts, stand and dug-out sponsors as well as pitch-side boards. We would like to sell more programme advertising, but maybe there is still some resistance from people following their involvement with the previous club. Also, we believe that the current playing level is not attractive to some for advertising purposes. We have to up our game in selling boxes and attracting matchday sponsors.
"We cut our cloth accordingly, with a wage bill at approximately 35% of revenue. However, we have money in reserve to see us through the winter months, and in the event that we need it to push for the League.
"The stadium running costs and overheads in running the Club are more than we budgeted for. We have pretty much hit our targets on revenue, but stadium costs accrue in addition to the rent, with unexpected capital expenditures which could not have been foreseen,"
"For example," added Dave, "our first water bill, covering 80 days, was over £2000. We are taking active measures to minimize our usage of all utilities, but we have also had capital expenditure on the pitch, lights etc. We have however had support from the Council on rates.
"We all love football and that is why we are here, but we would much prefer to spend our resources on that!”
A question was asked in relation to ground upkeep expenditure and the landlord’s responsibilities in that respect, but it was confirmed that the lease made the club accountable for those costs, some of which are necessarily incurred to comply with the Safety Certificate.
“We have made mistakes in the ordering process, but have learned from the experience, and are working on correcting the situation," said Dave.
Steve Claridge confirmed that he had to release several players who had not fulfilled his hopes, and that the Club is now looking at adding quality players, but that is proving difficult.
“If you had said a few months ago, without having any players or anyone at the Club, that we would be where we are now, I think we would have taken that. We have been able to provide something entertaining and competitive.
"We had a friendly at Gosport and played well, fielding some promising youngsters. Are these players ready? – no. Have we got better players? – yes, but come back with your question in 18 months and I might give you different answers”.
Steve added that he had been impressed with Harry Hale and Tom Thorne from the Under 18s.
A question was asked about player discipline, and Steve confirmed that steps had already been taken to improve. Players know that should they receive suspensions then they might find it difficult to get back into the side, bearing in mind the breadth of the squad. At other clubs players may have been able to get away with it, but not here.
Regarding other clubs’ pitches and other teams’ attitude when playing us: “You cannot make changes specially for pitches, but you can adapt. We played on what looked like a very good surface at Sholing, but it actually turned out to be a lot worse than it appeared. It was rutted, and it appeared that they had not worked on it after the previous Wednesday, maybe thinking it would prevent our playing our natural passing game.
"We understand that opponents regard a game against us as their game of the season, and their team personnel is affected, ensuring that we get to play their strongest teams. We have watched teams before playing them, and on the day of our game teams are very different.
"Newport was a good example, as the way they played against us must have been better than against others who have beaten them.
"Cowes came off the pitch saying it had been the best they had played all season. If they played like that against the Andovers and Sholings they would give them problems, but they will probably have a go at those teams.
"We have to have the quality to break teams down, and, as with you, have the patience when we can’t put the result to bed early. We get nervous because we know we cannot afford to drop points to those sorts of sides, but Cowes had not been beaten away from home so maybe it was not such a bad result. This is a 7 team league with regard to winning the title, and it is important that we play well against our main rivals.”
After SC left the meeting, questions were asked about the possibility of being promoted to the Southern League South & West. In reply the chairman stated that there was no guarantee of automatic promotion at our level. There was also no guarantee of a promotion destination.
The Chairman assured supporters that in spite of rumours, we were not “buying” the league, and are happy to be doing things properly. The Club is aware of other clubs spending more than ourselves.” I think we would be comfortable with this team in the Southern S&W, and maybe even in the Southern Premier”.
A further appeal was made for volunteer stewards, as this enables the Club to open the whole stadium.
Regarding the bar facilities, an effort would be made to allow quicker access.
Regarding the lack of media coverage, it was stated that in spite of efforts made, we were too low down the pyramid to attract greater attention, although BBC Wiltshire were offered a free facility. Spire FM had a reporter who provided post match interviews for supporters, and we hoped for continued coverage in the Journal.
A question was asked about the status of players (contract or non-contract) and it was stated that the manager’s policy was to award contracts, relying on his own judgement.
The meeting end after running for just over an hour.