CUSG Meeting Summary, East Stand Offices, 17 December 2018.
Attendance - Simon Clarkson (Chair, London Branch), Geoff Weston (Supporters' Liaison Officer), Terry McCarthy (London Branch), Jim Mitchell, John Kukuc, Alastair Woodcock (CUOSC), Barry Carter (Disabled Group), Keith Ward (Scottish Supporter), Matt Spooner, Dan McLennan (TheCumbrians.net), Nigel Clibbens, David Holdsworth (for his part only), Amy Nixon, Andy Hall (CUFC)
Apologies – John Ireland (West Cumbria Travel), Kate Rowley, Keith Elliott (CUSAT)
The minutes of the last meeting were accepted.
Geoff Weston was introduced to the group. Geoff had recently commenced his role as the club's Supporter Liaison Officer.
Action points from the previous meeting were analysed. Points concerning the appointment of the SLO, construction of away fans disabled shelter and CUOSC survey of members over iFollow were closed off. All other points were discussed as part of the meeting agenda.
Ground maintenance – Nigel said installation of a new scoreboard/big screen at the Waterworks End was in negotiation for beginning of next season, assuming the Club were not relegated and subject to planning permission. A contract was to be negotiated. Size of screen – circa 18 sq metres.
Ticket initiatives – These were considered counter-productive in the run-up to Christmas. Future offers would focus on younger supporters.
iFollow – Comments had been passed to the EFL. For the remainder of the season only one CUFC game was certain to be streamed live – Notts County (away) on March 12. No further L2 games would be streamed on 'International Saturdays' at 3pm this season. Other clubs' Checkatrade Trophy games would continue to be streamed live up until the semi-finals.
Displaced fixtures moved to midweek dates would only be streamed if the home club agreed. It was suggested that midweek streamed games were useful for fans who were working and could not travel.
CUOSC's survey showed all members who responded (just under 50 responses) were against all streaming options but were more divided over midweek games. A lot of CUOSC members were season ticket holders and regulars at away games.
The numbers watching online have dropped since the first game.
Council meeting – Another meeting had been held with council officials to discuss stadium options. The club stressed the importance of CUFC to the local community. The council appeared committed to the £19m upgrade of The Sands with construction of new swimming baths. The garden village plans to the south of the city were considered too 'long term' to be an option for a new stadium. Retail was no longer a viable option for an enabling development. Heath/Wellbeing and social cohesion were now big items on council agendas, with sports clubs part of the solutions sought. Public money could be available for such projects, if solid plans were on the table.
David Holdsworth arrived late and addressed the meeting.
He said he'd been appointed by the club's board. He was involved in the process of appointing John Sheridan as manager. He works with JS to negotiate player contracts. The aim was to get maximum value for money for the club. CUFC had previously aimed for promotion with an ambitious budget but had failed in that objective. The aim was now to move forward in a positive way. JS was aware of budget when he joined.
If a player was above the budget limit then he wouldn't be signed. DH ensures no contracts signed will 'break the bank'. JS has been honest about the performance of signings to date. DH says he keeps all football staff on their toes. A new code of conduct had been introduced which the players respected. It was important explained DH to set professional football standards within the club. Stats on performance of players were kept. Last Saturday's result was helped by having more fit players than for many weeks – this boosted the performance.
All playing contracts expired in Summer 2019. DH said this was both a good and bad situation. He was confident some players would be re-signed before the summer. Negotiations were currently underway with several players. DH said the main target for January was a 15-20 goal a season striker. He said clubs were not yet showing their hand, as regards transfers.
He explained the club was focusing on the signing of younger players. He didn't believe the geographical location of Carlisle was a big obstacle to players signing, but he did want more players moving up to the area permanently. The problem with that was short contracts. DH was hopeful the club could soon offer two-year deals again. DH himself was now living locally. He had many Scottish contacts and the club were active in identifying targets in Scotland.
DH talked about the Jigsaw charity which was very rewarding and good for the club. He said he was committed to improving youth development and working with youth coaches. He wanted to build a footballing philosophy throughout the club. He wants first-team players to work with and mentor youth players.
DH said the new kit deal was about to be announced. He said the feedback from fans about the designs had been very useful and informative. He fully expected the delays in delivery last season would not be repeated. DH left the meeting at this point.
The amount in the bank was unchanged at £351.16.
More donations of items had been received alongside pledges from ex-players. The project would proceed in the new year. Nigel suggested that the CUSG could build a collection of as many old CUFC shirts as possible. Groups would help to put out an appeal for fans to donate items. Dan offered to help with this project.
Issues with stewarding the car park had been sorted. The alarms in the disabled toilets had been tested. Funding had been secured for a replacement moveable shelter for home supporters in Pioneer Stand. This would replace the old perspex roofed shelter adjacent to the Pioneer Stand. Volunteers were ready to assemble the new shelter, although the club offered to help with it. Disabled supporters with season tickets who were not planning to attend some home games had been in contact with the club, as requested.
A plan to construct a new platform for wheelchair users in the Pioneer Stand was circulated. Some issues with access were identified. Barry, John and Matt had worked on these plans with Barbara Abbott. The club would now look at them and discuss with SAG (Safety Advisory Group). Given size of project funding would be required.
Checkatrade forum – Some saw this as more of a PR exercise by the EFL. Ken Hullock, a London Branch member had attended, for which CUSG recorded their thanks. The EFL were soon to announce the plan for this competition over the next three seasons. All League 1 and 2 clubs had voted on the proposal. EFL would announce outcome – club expected it to continue with strong support from clubs, CUFC Holdings board had supported continuation by slim majority of board votes.
Communications – A series of questions for the groups and the club had been circulated prior to the meeting by messageboard reps. A plan was agreed for groups/club to answer these and publish the answers separate to these minutes, within a week of the questions being circulated.
The club requested their answers be included in this summary. They are as follows:
Nigel, why did you leave Huddersfield?
Chairman wanted a change after and new approach after nearly 8 years. New approach on and off the field.
What made you come to Carlisle?
I thought I would be able to make a positive difference, club had lots of unfulfilled potential, I dealt with similar situations over all my career.
Nigel, what do you most/least like about your position?
Summed up by - the week we just had on and off the field and seeing the positive impact that has on staff, club and fans.
Things I would like to do but can't.
Has the club, in the last 10yrs, ever loaned money to a board member?
Not since I've been here. Can't speak before that – as I haven’t checked - I'd be very, very surprised. Club always needs money putting in!
What are the longer-term plans for the club? a 5yr plan (User was told that 5yr Plans were mentioned last time but still wanted question asked) including new fans, generating money, seeking investment and ground development, not to mention on field aspirations?
The club’s overall objective remains “working together, building a sustainable and successful club that we can take pride in.”
In overview ... with some simple examples of what that means – just a few examples of initiatives included for illustration:
+ Working together
Bring unity to Club, fans and community.
+ Develop CUSG as a means to:
Involve fans in supporter decisions – priorities for investment /changes.
Help communication direct with supporters – direct first hand access to club (CEO / staff) and facts.
Be more united with fans to address issues – eg SLO, wider diversity of fan participation
Build relations between Shareholders and CUOSC.
To be United in approach to key issues facing the club – share structure changes and new money.
Improve governance and supervision and scrutiny and challenge at board and day-to-day.
Provide fan perspective at the heart of the club.
Provide fans directly with more and detailed information about the club.
+ Monthly press briefings.
+ CUSG meetings and minutes.
+ Financial statement disclosure and information.
+ CUOSC updates.
+ Build relations with fans and wider community.
+ Fans – direct club to fans approach.
+ Business – have a reciprocal approach to business “win-win”.
+ Community groups – wide spread approach eg, charities and voluntary sector - continuous.
+ City Council, FA and Football Foundation - crucial for stadium.
+ Grow and direct as much cash into our Football activities as we can without placing the club in a high risk position.
+ Reduce losses to affordable levels that don’t risk future of the club - reducing the club's risk and reliance on external cash support.
+ Minimise off the field costs – overheads, agents fees, seek business partnerships to reduce costs.
+ Improve financial control and business performance monitoring.
+ Grow underlying contribution (recurring turnover less ongoing non-football costs).
+ Invest effort in fans of the future.
+ Open up new commercial opportunities – new ideas; scoreboard adverts, dug out adds, ball plinth.
+ Bring in new commercial partners – via United for Business and Business Support Network.
+ Improve Academy to produce players to sell and reinvest – improved coaching by investing in Head of Coaching.
+ Recruit and develop players to sell and reinvest.
+ Attract the next generation of fans.
+ Develop Junior Blues – membership and conversion.
+ Free/low pricing for kid and young fans.
+ Open up mascots.
+ Develop and grow Community Ticket scheme.
+ Try new things.
+ Achieve ownership succession – open door approach to any interest, get club financially and operationally fit for sale on and of the field.
+ Fix long term stadium position.
+ Develop facilities that earn income to reinvest and fans want to use and are fit for purpose.
+ Mitigate flood risk as far as possible.
+ Take maximum advantage of DCMS FA Local Football Facility Plan.
+ Everyone within the club is ambitious to improve and progress on and off the field, and the key priority is success in achieving progress up the football pyramid, starting with promotion to League 1.
+ Maximise use of budget - focusing on first class player coaching, match tactics, player recruitment, team and player preparation and development -not spending. Get more from every pound.
+ Improve on field performance – do the things that bring success.
+ Recruit and retain football staff who share same outlook and approach.
+ Introduce more football expertise to decision making at board level and reduce football risk.
+ Produce home grown players to improve the first team – invest in Academy staffing and coaching.
+ Bring in more football expertise at board level.
+ Support community wherever we can – make a positive contribution – charity, concerts, etc, Community Sports Trust essential.
+ Be open and inclusive to all fans.
+ Celebrate and acknowledge club history – like memorabilia and new shirt project.
+ Positive approach - Promote positive stories and a can do approach – tinker, try.
See page 1:
Will money be made available to strengthen in January?
DH answered this in his talk.
Supporters' Liaison Officer – Geoff told the meeting he had formally begun his role on Saturday for the Colchester match. He had already helped arrange the sale of Jimmy Glass T-shirts and copies of 'Hit The Bar' at the MK Dons match thanks to contact with Dons own SLO.
A similar arrangement was in place for the Crawley game. The London Branch put on record their thanks for his efforts. Geoff was liaising with supporter groups and the Club. Pre-match, he checks all bars and toilets and 'walks the floor' for supporter issues. He has a dedicated email address of firstname.lastname@example.org and can also be contacted on social media via the dedicated Twitter account - @CUFCSLO. The most feedback received to date was on Facebook.
All groups would continue to promote the SLO. Ideas included an interview with Geoff to appear in CUOSC weekly briefing/website and the News & Star. Malcolm Nugent was putting some information out in this week's CUOSC N&S weekly column.
The plans for celebrating the Jimmy Glass anniversary were still being progressed. There were concerns expressed by all that a game at Brunton Park was 'high risk' due to fixed costs. Other options for celebrating the anniversary would be assessed. Matt suggested a target CUSG fundraising amount for each month should be set.
CUOSC – were continuing to monitor match day catering. An issue with one kiosk had been identified by John Kukuc. This had been passed on to the club who were now dealing with it, in liaison with abm. The Quiz Night last month was considered a success, despite a relatively low turnout. Positive feedback had been received. The event had made a three-figure profit.
A concert by local 'pop rock' choir ZING was being organised for Foxy's on January 18 – tickets costing £10 each. All profits would go to the CUFC Academy. Saturday's foodbank collection had produced record donations. CUOSC passed on thanks to all those who contributed.
Scottish supporters – A question about EWM's intentions was raised. NC insisted if any news came out of EWM regarding long-term direction he would announce it as soon as possible.
West Cumbria/Route 66 – Issues had been identified with rail travel due to industrial action on Northern Trains routes. A lot of this action was happening on Saturdays and many trains had been cancelled. A request for the club to help with laying on coaches had been made.
London Branch – Put on record thanks to all those who had bought Jimmy Glass T-shirts. Most of these had already sold out. Remaining shirts would be on sale at 'The Local' in Carlisle and at supporter surgeries over Christmas/ New Year. Over £300 had been raised so far for the MNDA charity.
The club were asked what preparations they were making for Brexit? Nigel said there was some risk to the new shirts as they were being imported from Europe but the club had paid a fixed sterling price. Longer term, a potential economic downturn could effect gates and sponsorship, he said.
It was noted positively by Simon that the club had again opened up the Warwick Road End to Paddock spectators when it had rained on Saturday.
Messageboard – Matt suggested named roles and responsibilities should be assigned to the various group reps. eg, PR/ fundraising/ key projects, etc. This would be followed up at the next meeting.
Any Other Business
Nigel said Andrew Jenkins would fund a pie and pint for CUFC fans attending the Crawley game, with new SLO Geoff helping to organise.