CEO Ben Sadler has provided an update on all matters relating to the football club, both on and off the field.
Yet another month has flown by here at the Club, and following the comprehensive update from Graham Howse on a variety of matters last time around, the baton returns to myself to provide our supporters with news on what has been ongoing during this past month or so, and plans looking ahead;
Following the public listing for sale of the Club by Bond Group Investments Limited, as could be expected of a Football Club that has achieved success over the past years, there are a number of interested parties who are in discussions with our ownership, but at this time, those negotiations are private and a matter between Bond Group and those parties concerned. Any formal developments will of course be shared at the appropriate time with our supporters. As we have done throughout the ownership, the Board of Directors have a mandate to operate this Club sustainably, whilst developing all aspects of it, as and when we can and resource allows, which we continue to do. We can’t and won’t make any promises, but we will guarantee that we continue to work as a group to ensure the ongoing improvement, development and success of the Club.
We have been clear and consistent (I’d like to hope) that as a Board we are committed to being as open and transparent as we can on all issues that we know our supporters have an interest in. Sometimes, these are sensitive matters so we have to consider carefully about when or how we pass on information, and we can’t respond to every development, as many don’t relate to us and it would not be appropriate. Please rest assured that we communicate as often and honestly as we can, given the information available to us.
October was an extremely busy month, I make it 7 fixtures played, covering an extraordinary amount of miles on the road, so thank you to those who travelled in support, and to those who purchased iFollow match passes – our Q1 results were our best ever with all money raised coming straight into the Club, so it is greatly appreciated. We had some memorable matches in the month including a fantastic victory here against Barnsley. I know it is now November, but this weeks fixture against Derby County was excellent and the result well deserved. Attendances this season have been excellent, up again on last season at an average of over 4,600 for league fixtures – this makes a huge difference not only to our finances but also creates a fantastic atmosphere that our players will enjoy and excel playing in, so thank you again to everyone who continues to get behind us, especially as we are now coming towards the winter months. Players are now returning from injury and settling in to the Club, and that can be seen on the pitch and we have confidence that points are there to be won and we are capable.
Our U18’s played their FA Youth Cup fixture here at the Mazuma Stadium last week versus Bradford City, and were incredibly unlucky to succumb to a last minute goal from our opponents – it was a fantastic strike to be fair, but I thought our team played well on the night and were unfortunate to bow out. Thank you to the 200 or so supporters who came along and added to an excellent experience for our young footballers, and it is great to see the progress being made in our Academy, epitomised by Adam Mayor coming into the first team environment and putting in some outstanding performances of late, including his start versus Derby County this week.
We also held our second open training session of the season last week, and it was great to see so many supporters turn out and have a watch, along with the opportunity to meet the players and have photos and autographs. We will continue to put events such as this in the diary as we enjoy them as much as anyone, and will share our pre-Christmas plans with you as soon as they are finalised. Recognition is in order for Rob, Alex & Elliot who have ensured both the pitch here at the Mazuma Stadium is looking in fantastic shape going into November, along with the training ground pitch which took plenty of work to bring up to scratch, but is holding out well and allowing us to train consistently on a grass surface this season.
Following popular requests last season, and discussions with our friends at the Shrimps Trust, we agreed to run the official away supporter travel coach to fixtures this season. Naturally, we accept there have been a few snags along the way as we are doing this for the first time, but by and large the feedback has been positive from those who have travelled. It is important to us that we help how we can to assist as many supporters as we can in getting to away fixtures, whilst also ensuring that it is a financially viable offer. We absolutely don’t intend to make a profit from the away travel, but do view it as something that needs to break even. So far this season, we have run a coach to each away league fixture (bar Forest Green due to limited uptake and planned closures on the M6 that in the end didn’t take place!), and this has been at a cost of around £2500 to the Club. Over the season, the projected losses now would be in the region of £12,000 based on the remaining trips if current sales continue. We are pleased to have (almost) sold out the coach to Bolton, and sold every seat to Accrington Stanley (albeit train strikes helped us there). In our other games, we had very limited uptake and as a result have incurred significant losses. At our monthly meeting with the Shrimps Trust, a good conversation ensued with feedback to us on pricing (which we set as best as we can to cover the costs and are comparative to other Clubs charges), and some of the regulations that come with official coach travel that some supporters see as a barrier to using the coach, understandably.
We are aware and thankful that a number of independent supporter coaches take our fans to away fixtures, as well as many who travel by car or public transport. In the end and ultimately, we have conducted a review on the viability of continuing official coach travel to every away fixture this season, as we can’t incur the annual anticipated loss of £12,000. As a result, we have agreed that we will arrange a coach to selected fixtures between now and the end of the season, which will be shared as soon as possible, with support from our sponsors and partners with the intention of making it extremely good value and get the coach full to each of these matches.
Head of Media & Communications
Ryan Daly has now moved on to pastures new at the Etihad Stadium, which we are incredibly proud of and wish him well. This had presented an opportunity for a new Head of Media & Communications to come in and continue to develop the department on a great platform left by Ryan. I am pleased to share the news that we have appointed Harry Lyons, who was previously Media Officer at Blackpool FC. Harry presented very well on the occasions we met him, with a clear vision on how he can come in and develop the media function and continue the improvements seen over the last 14 months. Harry joined us on Monday 24 October, and we are very much looking forward to having him as part of the team here. Matt Smith continues to excel in his role as Media & Content Coordinator, and has looked after all media matters until Harry arrived, juggling this with a young family and University so we are very thankful and know that our media team is very strong, including Jack Taylor and Derek Quinn, and will continue do our supporters proud.
Also leaving the Club during October was Head Physiotherapist Simon Farnworth, who has dedicated well over a decade to the Club and for which we are all extremely thankful and wish Simon all the very best as he moves on to different ventures. Olly Howse is now looking after the Medical department and we will confirm our new structure in due course.
Likewise last month, Club Doctor Dale Kalloo moved on, following years of valued service, and again we wish to pass our thanks, and best wishes to Dale and his family in their new opportunity. Chris Caldwell has taken over as cover in the interim, and we thank Chris for his continued and valued contribution to the department. We have identified a suitable permanent replacement for the Club Doctor role, who should begin shortly once the final boxes are ticked.
Earlier in the month, Dave Chandler departed the Club following 10 years sterling service in a variety of roles. Dave was heavily involved in establishing our CAT 3 academy, in turn becoming Academy Secretary, and has also been a dedicated member of the matchday safety team in the control room. Dave moves on to a new career outside of football, in which we wish him all the very best, and a huge thank you to Dave for his endeavours.
Following Dave’s departure, and the opportunity that naturally arose, we are delighted that Adele Laffan has been appointed Academy Secretary. Many of you will know Adele, as you’ve passed through reception, and after joining the Club last year, she has done a fantastic job in her time with us, and this has been rightly recognised. Nikki Lambourne has succeeded Adele in our role on Reception and we know she will do a great job and offer a first class service to supporters and customers alike.
Away end works
You will now see that we have undertaken some works to the pitch barrier in front of the away end, which previously was too short and was a weak point in pitch protection. A more robust and suitable fence has been erected during October – we had intended to undertake the works in the summer but timings, material supplies and so on have meant this was the first opportunity when all the stars aligned to get the work done. We are pleased with the outcome which now allows us to turn attention to the next projects. We have hosted some capacity away followings recently and our operations have been slick and effective – thank you to our safety team who work tirelessly to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all who visit the stadium – and thank to all supporters who have attended in excellent spirits.
There is plenty to be positive about, and we are very much looking forward to the month ahead on the pitch with opportunity to pick up points and progress in the FA Cup, EFL Cup and Papa Johns Trophy. I do have plenty more to update you on, but don’t want to drag these notes on forever, so I won’t leave it as long next time and share further information with you in the near future. Please put Sunday 11th December in your diaries as we will be hosting our Women’s team fixture here at the Mazuma Stadium, 2pm kick off – further details will follow soon.
As I always end these notes on, your support is so greatly valued, appreciated and important – stick with us, and as our underlying message points to, and it is as meaningful now as it ever is - we are all in it together.