First of a two part article
Carlisle United Football Club held their first Fans Feedback Group 2013 meeting at Brunton Park on Friday 12 April with supporters from all areas of the ground in attendance to air their views.
The club was represented by Andrew Jenkins, Steven Pattison, Norman Steel, Andy Hall and the newly appointed Supporter Liaison Officer, Nigel Dickinson.
Subjects discussed were as follows ...
Project Blue Yonder
+ Concerns were raised in light of the current financial climate about the viability of continuing to pursue a move to a new stadium at this time.
+ Chairman Andrew Jenkins explained that plans were still at the discussion stage but that there was still a lot more talking to be done. He stated that, to date, approximately £10,000 had been spent by the club on the project [editor’s note - £13,385 has been spent on Project Blue Yonder from club funds since April 2010] and that no further money would be spent unless firm agreements for a way forward were in place.
+ He indicated that the council were initially very supportive but the level of support had decreased as time moved on. The intention now is to continue to meet to try to secure a mutually beneficial way forward, with two or three good options under review.
+ Confirmation was given that the project has to be self-funding or it will not be given the green light. Mr Jenkins also stated that Story Construction had not indicated any intention of developing the Brunton Park site should the club move away.
+ Clarification was given that the idea for the project started with a trip to Deepdale to investigate how Preston North End had developed their existing stadium so successfully. The intention was to do the same at Brunton Park. A feasibility study was commissioned to look at this and it quickly became apparent that a full modernisation of our existing stadium would be an extremely expensive method of bringing the facilities up to date. The East Stand, for example, currently does not meet any of the existing building standards or regulations above concourse level. A number of companies [broadcasting, leisure and retail] have looked at the stand and have been unable to progress due to the costs involved. The added complication is that we are unable to access further grants due to the East Stand being in an unfinished state (a grant was received by the club in the mid-90’s for the construction and completion of the East Stand). Action – to provide updates as and when the project progresses.
+ The new Salary Cost Management Protocol at League One and Two level means that clubs have to submit financial forecasts to the Football League twice a year. Next season the club will be allowed to spend 60% of its turnover on player wages (this season it was 65%). A large part of that forecast is driven by attendances – this year that was calculated against the last two season’s steady average figure of 5,200 fans at our home games.
+ The drop in attendance levels this season took us very close to the allowed 65% mark and it became touch and go, at one point, as to whether we would be permitted to make new signings. The attendance figure used for next season’s forecast will be between 4,200 and 4,500 (the forecast has to be evidence based, so we will use the final average attendance figure which will be calculated after the last game of the season has been played).
+ All present communicated that the design and layout of the website was poor. Club officials agreed but explained that the financial benefits of being part of the centralised website deal far outweigh the pitfalls. In addition to centralised payments as part of the deal our club web activity earned approximately £55,000 of extra revenue last season, and this continues to grow year on year.
+ A complaint was raised that certain areas of the site linked to Latin-speak ‘under construction’ pages. Action – all pages have now been reclaimed by the club and link to club specific items.
+ The club explained that the current web provider is contracted until 2017.
+ A question was raised to ask if there was a possibility of having a cheaper season ticket for people who live away and who know they will not be able to attend all games. Action – explain VIB at next meeting to see if this is an acceptable proposal.
+ The club explained that away travel is centred around two external organisations at the moment. A suggestion was made to liaise with rail and bus companies to better publicise match day travel options, prices and plans. The club explained that this had been done, in part, but that there were a number of complications. For example, the bus or train company concerned would need to see some kind of guaranteed impact or profit before taking things further – the west Cumbria bus service, as a point to note, was pulled 20 months ago due to the lack of numbers. The Eden Valley rail service was cited as a potentially good example of how better travel links could work. Action – Nigel Dickinson to investigate.
+ It was raised that away travel specifics are very difficult to locate (departure timings, prices, etc). Action - Norman Steel addressed this directly and will report back at the next meeting.
+ Car sharing was raised as an option with a suggestion for someone to collate details of all interested parties [editor’s note – this was tried three seasons ago and only four people registered with the club, despite extensive advertising … however, this does not mean it can’t be tried again, particularly if there appears to be sufficient appetite for this kind of scheme]. Action – issue to be raised at the next meeting to assess need for next season.
for part two of this article.