Minutes of Meeting 23rd January 2023

In attendance from ATFC:
Shahid Azeem
Mark Butler
Matt Wigman

In attendance from SC:
Roberta Blair
Laura Chiverton
Martin Jessop
Sami Coxhead
Aaron Alexander

-Introductions are made and thanks is given to attendees at the meeting. It is advised that fans questions will be mixed in the agenda at relevant intervals and that as requested by the club, the questions and comments from fans are not anonymised.

– First item on the agenda is the redevelopment. Are you able to give us an update?
SA – There is lots of work going on in the background, many roles have been assigned & many meetings have been held with more scheduled to take place with the local Council.
As previously noted, there will be monthly updates. The update for January should be shared at the start of February and this will be publicised through website, media channels etc. not just the programme notes.

Fan question from Graham Haskell
“Can we please have an update with timelines on the redevelopment”
SA – The scheduled completion is still 2026, specifics are not yet known but will be communicated when available.

LC – Based on October meeting, the “wish list” should have been drawn up and/or submitted; is there any information available?
SA – There are currently one or two meetings being held a week. A lot of discussions are taking place within the key groups with our development partners Wates to understand the history of the town as part of the planning process.
When we are in a position to share any information, we will.

Fan question from John Campbell
“What are the new plans now there will be no hotel? Will the changes be considerable or just cosmetic, such as a couple of new roofs and toilets”
SA – There is still a lot to be discussed to ensure we make use of all the commercial opportunities. There could potentially be flats at the front, a coffee chain, shops. The aim of the redevelopment is to also deliver sustainability. We would be looking to increase commercial activity at the club, so no it is not just cosmetic.

Fan question from Shaun Stevens
“Current evidence of surveyors and the Chairman’s own comments suggest that the design is progressing. Does this mean supporters will be presented with a completed design and our contribution will be limited to tweaking the detail? If so it’s not much of a consultation is it?”
SA – We will still be talking to fans which is our top priority and we hope that fans understand the challenges of the redevelopment. We will hold a number of open days to go through all the discussions for fan engagement.

LC – Will the redevelopment see any increase to the ground’s capacity?
SA – We anticipate that it would remain about the same. A ground with a bigger capacity does not necessarily mean bigger crowds like Bournemouth, Wimbledon. Look at Burton Albion, even though they have been in the championship, their crowds are still 3.2k. 

Fan comment from Tony Banbury
“Without success and vast improvement on the pitch, the stadium redevelopment is totally irrelevant. We have stagnated as a football club for too long now and the focus should be on the pitch”
SA – We need to get the infrastructure and foundations right, this will generate more commercial income to support the first team. It is vital to ensure the commercial opportunities can support a bigger budget for the first team
MB – We need to replicate results at home not just away.
At a previous meeting with fans, the question was asked where in the table they think Aldershot should be. The reply was 16th, we are currently 16th.
The league is a lot more competitive compared to the season when we were promoted to the FL.
SA – We, the club, feel the results and feel responsible for the results.
MB – Jobs are on the line if we get relegated and it is painful to lose. It is ludicrous to say we want to be relegated.

LC – Since the last meeting Ross has been appointed as first team manager until the end of the season, congratulations to Ross. But is Terry still involved with the first team?
SA – Yes, he liaises between the manager and club, mentors Ross, offers support, has contacts, attends games, goes to training sessions. He is still very involved the first team.

There is a general discussion between attendees about whether the cup run is as important as cementing league survival.
CW – We will finish midtable, so the cup run is the thing fans can look into.
SA – Stresses that the next four home games are crucial.

LC – We lack experience within the squad and seem heavily reliant on young loan players in (and loaning players out to support this), why?
MW – The chances of getting more experienced players happens around February after more permanent player movement has or has not occurred in the football league. Ross has led the recruitment and the players we currently have in on loan have played well and are proving themselves.
LC – Can we ask about Giles Phillips departure?
MB – It was the manager and players’ (Giles) decision, it was by mutual consent and it freed up funds in the budget.

Fan question from Joel Collins
“Was the fee we received from Jayden Harris put back into the playing squad? We appear to be constantly replacing players with a cheaper opinion”
SA – The money is used within the budget, for example we had Josh who has been injured and we have to have replacements.
MW – The youth/loan players are not always cheaper. We have to pay for accommodation and also cover travel, subsistence etc.
MW – To add the staffing budget has remained the same with recent recruitment.

LC – Can you provide any update on the situation with Francis Amartey to prevent rumours/speculation?
MW – The manager decides which players he wants to play.

LC –With the postponement of fixtures, there are a lot of Tuesday night games coming up; is there any early indication of uptake on the streaming platform and the financial impacts?
SA – I am chair of the commercial committee on the NL board; we independently reviewed other sports for their viewing figures ahead of the launch. The streaming platform has given the league greater exposure internationally. It is unlikely to have much financial impact. The embargo means no games are streamed in the country between 15:00 – 17:00 on a Saturday but there is also no experience like live match.
RB – People with mobility issues can still support the club by paying for the streams.
LC – How often is the money from the streaming service flowing into the club?
SA – Currently quarterly but this is looking at being changed to monthly.
LC – This seasons budget was set on average attendance of 1,700; how do you determine the value/attendee in this scenario e.g. average of adult, concession & child (£20 + £16 + £7 = £43 / 3 = £14.33) we have received questions about cut backs on budget when average attendance has been greater than this, current average is 1898 (see table below).
We fully appreciate that not all attendees pay entry (U7).

SA – Gate receipts are around 1/3 of the budgeted income into the club, made up by commercial activity, sponsorship etc.  There is a lot of guess work with the budget. We look at historic meetings of fixtures and work out like for like. Money is also put aside in the budget for injuries, transport, overheads. The players budget is assessed again at the end of the year.

LC – Re: Southend & Scunthorpe find themselves in severe financial difficulty; as a club are we up to date with current debt repayments?
SA – Since July 2013, there has not been a month or a set date where we have not paid HMRC for PAYE, tax.
LC – Not just government bodies, are we up to date with all creditors?
SA – We pay suppliers as per each agreement and there hasn’t been a supplier that we have not paid during the financial year .

Fan question from Ian Streeter
“Why are we paying back Deane Woods’ loan now, when it was believed to be repayable after the redevelopment?”
SA – We have three aims for 2026. Two of them; the redevelopment (sustainability) and to be debt free. If we owe the money why not pay what we can afford to reduce our debts, we meet all of our liabilities.
LC – So these loan repayments have been factored into the budget?
SA – Yes.

LC – Would the club consider a payment instalment scheme on season tickets? I.e. payments spread across three or four months (ahead of the season) to assist with fans finances with the cost of living crisis?
MW – We have tried this before and the uptake was only about 10 people.
LC – The SC could help with the administration; the ST would need to be paid in full before August and before the ST is issued to minimise risk of non-payment and recovery for funds.
MB – If you are willing to assist with it, it can be discussed.
SA – There could potentially be scope to do a bundle with ST, program, IWAS entry.
MB – Season ticket costs would not normally be determined until April, knowing which league we would be competing in but remaining instalments could be adjusted as appropriate.
LC – Why did we not offer half season tickets?
MW – Based on discounts available on tickets (early bird, new ticket brackets introduced) and pre-sales on the season ticket, the cost of the half season ticket cost would not be deemed fair to existing STH.

Fan question from Mark Poole
“Why were tickets checked inside the ground at the Dagenham game?”
MB – Tickets should be checked coming into the turnstiles and checked again to ensure that fans are in the correct area, so they should be routinely checked twice.
In this instance it was a deliberate policy to see if people were buying the correct tickets. We will randomly do a check(s) again. We found number of supporters who didn’t have tickets and number of individuals who purchased incorrect tickets
Turnstile operators have been asked to be more stringent on checks in the future.

LC – Will bag searches be a permanent occurrence on match days?
MW – For the foreseeable. We have to prove to the FA and the police that we have put measures in place after Woking (H).

Fans comment from Andy Duff
“The only way to deter people from bad behaviour is to let everyone know what has happened as a consequence. Things need to be upheld and enforced too”.
LC – If any prosecutions or banning orders are made ref: Woking (H) will they be communicated?
SA – The decision will come down to the police, dependent on the age of the person involved, GDPR etc.
MW – Banning orders are noted in the local press under court appearances.
MB – We will release what we are allowed to release.
RB – When someone is banned, how do the turnstile operatives know of this?
MW – Specific people, not many, know who has an active banning order but there is enough police intelligence to find out if someone breaks a banning order, it isn’t really worth the risk.

LC – Did we receive any financial penalties re: Woking (H)?
MW – The FA have contacted us but cannot do anything until the police investigation has been completed, therefore it is pending.

LC – Ref: “In With A Shot” (IWAS) the 50% that the club receives; does this have a specific use or does it go to the day to day running costs of the club?
MB – It Is a club scheme to raise money for the club, it goes into the running day to day to cost.
LC – Fans may feel more willing to sign up if they know that they are contributing to something specific.
MB – Your comment has been taken on board. Every penny we get tries to go into the first team. The expected income from IWAS is budgeted and we believe it is an area for growth.
MJ – Any ways it can be enhanced to attract more, like shirt raffles?
MB – There will be an upcoming bonus game and the club are open to ideas how to boost numbers.
SA – Could you do a YouTube tutorial on how to join and the benefits etc.?
MB – SC involvement acts as an independent body to IWAS and the help with administration is appreciated. 

LC – We are working with the Eastbank and the Shots Away travel group reference travel for the TOD game (Southend away, 18.03.2023).
To bring costs down for travelling supporters, the SC have agreed to contribute £250 towards the cost of the coaches and we are looking for the BOD to match this. We think it is important to give something back to the fans.
SA – I will ask the board to match the donation. 

LC – A “home guard” has previously been suggested; a chosen home game with reduced admission, pre / post-match entertainment etc. Is there a possibility of this?
MB – We are looking at Gateshead (H) on 25.03.2023 for the home guard / birthday party game. We will do a radio campaign to promote this fixture.
SA – We will arrange a meeting (hopefully in the next ten days) with SC & other figures that we would like to be involved, to decide what do we want to do.
RB – We currently have more funds than anticipated in the account. As we are a non-profit making body, we can spend some towards a fan initiative for this fixture.
MB – A suggestion could be that we look at prices from thirty years ago. We would need to work on the figures, as we need to cover usual overheads.
SA – You can also speak to the FSA for funding fan zones.

LC – The last fans forum was 16.09.2021, is there any plan to hold another one soon?
SA – Yes, we need to get one set up (SA asks MW to look into dates).

MW – We will need to increase the price of the programme to £3.50 – £4.00. We believe that the content is value for money. Do you think that people would stop buying programmes if the cost rose?
MJ – Collectors prefer the physical programme to anything else. Some matches there have been no programmes available to purchase near the turnstiles.
LC – Is this a price increase from next season?
MW – No, imminently. Can you find out fan reaction?

MW – We are looking at changing the club badge. The new kit design for next season is complete but pending the badge art work. We will ask fans to vote for their favourite (out of two). We can release a joint communication to cascade to a wider audience.

Date of next meeting TBC

Meeting concludes.