P2 – Imps fans Meet Board – Footballing, Youth, DH & Other Matters

The second part of  last night’s meeting between the 10 Lincoln City board members and 8 fans, completes the open but loosely followed seven point agenda. The event was covered by Mr Leigh Curtis (Lincolnshire Echo, Mr Michael Hortin (BBC) and Neil Gentleman-Hobbs (STMI); with LCFC CEO Steve Prescott filming proceedings.

The following sees a transcript of comments by the parties concerned related to the Playing side, Pro Budget, Youths, manager and remaining part of the agenda and are not the views of STMI. We thank LCFC for their hospitality and the opportunity afforded. Thank you for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs

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Playing side, Pro Budget, Youths and DH, Marketing of the Club

Continuing on from JB (Jonathan Battersby’s comment of what are we left with… BD (Bob Dorrian)  honestly replied: No form and awful home form.  The board face the reality of appointing a manager who has less than 5% chance of being a successful one.

  • Peter Jackson:  Illness changed him, when he returned for that final pre-season, it was one of poor player choice and he was unable to put the hours in that the job requires.

 

  • Chris Sutton: If he had stayed we would have stayed up. He was chosen because he did not cost much money.  Chris Sutton (CS) was recommended and Ian Pearce would fulfil a duel role encompassing the playing and managerial side. Martin O’Neill (Aston Villa) and Roy Hodgson (then Fulham, now England manager) both confirmed that they would provide players to help the duo.  Elliott had been the player we were expecting from Grayson at Leeds, however when he was injured we got Somma instead. The following season what looked like a good squad underperformed and the fans turned. Chris did not like criticism and resigned because the club was negative.

 

  • Steve Tilson. 99% of fans liked the choice and fans were coming up to me and shaking my hand in the street.  Facey and Grimes were doing well prior to injury.  Tilson thought the job was done after winning 6 and told the players who would and who would not be wanted the following season. They did not respond when needed again for the fateful 11 game run in.

Bob explained that the managerial selection process has always revolved around one board member and one vote.  With the appointment of DH it had involved just four.

It emerged that the cash crunch came in season 2008-9 with a £350k overspend and Bob was asked why he did not try to balance things in season 2009/10.  BD having seen 2 managers leave in the October had felt the incoming man would need money to work with.  SP (Steve Prescott) had, in an eve of season Q & A on Vital Lincoln, mentioned the club working to a 2000 break even attendance.  BD felt SP had been taken out of context and that 2800-3,000 would be needed to avoid losses.

MN (Marcus Needham) steered matters in relation to the clubs strategy, marketing and the measurability thereof.  BD confirmed no 5 year plan. Survival was the main thrust in the hope that the club could bottom out this year.  Bringing costs in line to achieve stability had to come before strategic plans.  This crisis management was accepted by both sides.  BD conceded that lack of success on the football pitch hinders putting any marketing, spin or PR in place.  JP stated the need to win football matches.  The club are to put banners up in the high street prior to the Luton match. DB (David Beck) described them as “The Big Game” and SP confirmed that 5000 leaflets will be posted along Newark Road, Sincil Bank area, Monks Road and the High Street, offering an adult and child discount.

JH (James Hoy) asked why the club were not trying to pitch to the University. BD observed that this had failed last time.  KR pointed out that 4 years had elapsed since the last initiative and, that the club need to keep going with it.  The huge sign the club used to have (detailing fixtures and of course putting the brand in the public spotlight) at the bus station was also brought up.  JP explained that the council had wanted to charge £6k per year, where it had been free in preceding years.  KR pointed out that these were the sort of things that needed to be pointed out to the fans.

DK (David Kirkbright) pointed out that 3,000 students came to the city to study each year and that 1,000 play on the University astroturf each week.  BD stressed the impact that the loss of a daily Lincolnshire Echo had on the public awareness of the club. The use of social media and the viral approach came up (STMI has grown using these as its central and free marketing concepts). MN stated that we have fans that can do this and it is free. BD said time was as much an issue as resources/ KR then pointed out that there were 10 directors and that the public perception was that they were not pulling their weight (rightly or wrongly).

BD stressed that although the club had needed to dispense with the services of many, yet the infarstructure cost was still high.  DF pointed out that he was putting in £100,000 in sponsorship over the next 3 years.  JH said that there was still a perception coming across that the board do not want help.  BD cited the relegation and last year, this era had meant the survival battle had taken priority. He apologised for not appearing to want to connect.  It emerged that only 21 people (12 were Trust board) appeared at the last directors forum and that few volunteers had come forward when the club had asked. Those that did lacked the required qualifications or skill-sets.

 

Leigh Curtis then spoke briefly and said that the Echo were keen to do Joint ventures and vouchers. He pointed out the the old daily circulation had now increased to 22k since going weekly. SP explained the need for an effective use of resources, now that 24 staff had become just 8, meant they were not going after what has, in the past, failed.

The £150,000 cash short-fall for the season was addressed. DF pointed out that 2 directors had put in £85,000 each, so there would be no further requirement. CM (Chris Moyses) funds had gone direct to the youth resources. He will put in again next year and 3 directors including RB (Roger Bates) are actively looking for sponsorship to make up any short-falls.

MN brought up Double M, the clubs appointed catering partners. The extension to their tenure and increased scope of activities were questioned, given the negativity.  BD feels this is common amongst all football fans and directed the questions to SP.  Sales are apparently good, where the bar and catering were previously struggling.  Gary (the owner) had put together a good business plan and a compelling one.  Bar and catering now nets the club a percentage of revenue. The concourse sales are now also based on a percentage (as opposed to head count). The club have a better deal now than had been the case before. Gary at Double M will be based at the ground in future, at least for the rest of the season, which will allow him to put various initiatives, including a social club in place.

The question of what has been learned by the directors came up.  BD reasoned it was almost impossible to pick a manager. In hindsight he should have got rid of Tilson after relegation. Although the players signed were good and played well, the performance did not mirror the results just like this season.  The manager then appeared to lose the plot and BD  regretted not going with a manager who possessed non-league experience.  RB then explained that DH’s relative inexperience (3-4 years) means the board are trying to be more hands on.  BD was very interested to learn that the fans wanted to know all of these things, including what the directors are attempting to do to, at such a detailed level. He and DH (David Holdsworth) have a weekly Monday meeting as well as daily phone calls. RB feels DH has helped the board, with a good level of reporting, including a training plan, match reporting and injury updates. He is big on statistics.

The player turnover issue and lack of youth opportunities came up. Dennis Smith had been a part of Sam Smith leaving. His head turned, there was little option after a second offer turned into a third that was good for all parties. Josh Gowling had been a hangover from the contracts awarded in the football League days.  It is felt that the youths on loan are not up to the physical side of the first team at present, although that will hopefully have changed in January. Connor Robinson is ready, Frazer Cobb too, but injury has curtailed his involvement.  BD passed things on to RB (Roger Bates) who would not comment on individual players.  This negated LH (Linda Hodson’s) question over Karl Cunningham. RB has faith in DH’s philosophy of 6 months chance elsewhere.  He will not go against the view of the manager anyway and asked Chris Moyses opinion. CM replied that he was keeping his thoughts to himself at the moment – if you don’t mind Roger.

Marcus Needham felt the club had lost the player engagement. BD felt last season’s desperation to keep the club up had led to high player turnover. This year the manager had kept the same side for the first three games and that Oliver was a great find.  As there was no money to bring in any more players there would be a far more settled squad.  DH has been set a goal of top-half to mid table. When pressed to a  number, less than 11th would it appear be seen as a failure. David Beck then added 12th should not then be taken as failure.  BD feels the current problems lie with bad luck and bad finishing.  We must aim to be in touching distance if we are to get to 2,500-3,000 gates. Steve Prescott explained that the programmes had been made thinner to reduce the losses. The club need to order 700. Last year saw sales of 600-650 whilst this has seen a drop to 550-600, yet the matchday loss is lower.

The issue of libellous activities on message boards was then brought up by BD.  The board had not acted as yet even though 6 had been brought to their attention.  BD quashed the French investment rumour again.  KR sympathised and brought up the fact that he had been forced to take action against a very well known Lincoln City fan for message board activity.

BD concluded that 50 years of underachievement and the economic climate had led to the club’s current plight. He finds it frustrating that this is the first business that he is 3rd stage removed. The Chairman must rely on the manager who must rely on the players.  He feels we cannot keep sacking the manager and that we need to give the bloke a chance.  All the board can do is administer, appoint the manager and sack the manager.  KR suggested they should also engage with the manager and fans.  BD felt that to be difficult when losing matches as it would make them look even more vulnerable.  KR suggested that it meant they were therefore not doing enough to show what they are doing.

Chris Moyses then illustrated the power of engagement.  He had gone to a pub to meet fans prior to Saturday’s game.  He noted that fans were appreciative of the fact that the board were propping up the club and that the lack of confidence was in the manager. On a high note the Youth team had won 6-1.

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Posted on September 20, 2012, in Financial, Writers - Neil Gentleman-Hobbs and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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