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CUSG: November meeting minutes

Update from this week's group meeting

9 November 2018

Meeting held in the East Stand offices on 5 November 2018.

Attendance - Simon Clarkson (Chair, London Branch), Terry McCarthy (London Branch), John Kukuc, Alastair Woodcock (CUOSC), Keith Elliott (CUSAT), Barry Carter (Disabled Group), Keith Ward (Scottish Supporter), Matt Spooner, Dan McLennan (TheCumbrians.net), Nigel Clibbens, Kevin Dobinson, Katie Mitchell, Amy Nixon, Andy Hall (CUFC) 

Apologies – Jim Mitchell (CUOSC), John Ireland (West Cumbria Travel), Kate Rowley (CUSAT) 

The minutes of the last meeting were accepted.

Simon welcomed everyone and reminded attendees who represent supporters groups that CUSG was established to encourage collaborative working with Carlisle United. Everyone should be striving to improve the football club and by working together we must collectively be seeking to address issues raised by fans. The focus is on supporter experience with the objective of encouraging long term success for the club and a positive relationship with supporters.

Simon Clarkson introduced Kevin Dobinson, who has been helping the commercial department of the Club out on a voluntary basis. Kevin is a local businessman and chairman of Warwick Wanderers youth football club. He explained his role at the club, which has involved organising the half-time games between junior sides, introducing the pre and post-match happy hours and drumming up support within the local business community.

Kevin said uncertainty about Brexit was causing some businesses to put off committing to sponsorship, but ownership issues were also a factor. He had plans to put new first-team shirt designs for next season in the Club shop so fans could have their say on them. He was originally asked to get involved by David Holdsworth. Kevin left the meeting at this point.

Communications 

A series of questions had been asked by users of the Cumbrians.net messageboard. These were answered as follows: 

Blues Lotto: When started told money raised would go to Youth Team. Nothing on the O/S mentions this. Does this still happen or does it just go into a general pot? 

All money raised goes towards the Academy to reduce the gap in funding for academy from grant. Income from Golden Gamble and Premier Club also helps to close this gap. 

Mascots: Despite reservations, take up seems popular, how much has brought into the Club? I’ve seen kids who have been a Mascot do so again, but how many who were never a Mascot have taken up the chance to now? And do we have a running total for the Season? 

84 mascots have been booked so far. Notts County is the only game without a mascot assigned, to date. Four of these mascots have been a mascot in the previous five years. Three of those mascots have been a mascot at an away game last season. The totals of mascots used in previous seasons are: 2017/18 – 61 2016/17 – 55 2015/16 – 43 2014/15 – 45. During those seasons only two kids were mascot twice. Guard of Honour – 284 children are eligible. 82 have done it so far. At least ten for every Saturday game as well as Christmas games. 

What safeguards are in place re: Steward appointments? 

Safeguards are in place for stewards – club staff are all DBS checked per EFL guidelines. Additionally all staff, including stewards, are expected to provide self-disclosure. 

As of Monday 5 November, how much would it take to buy the Club and the current owners to sell up and have no association? 

Position is unchanged. The shareholders remain willing to consider offers in whatever form interested parties wish to submit. Any interested parties are free to contact the Club. Owners do not want to take any money out of the club. 

As of 10am on Monday 5 November, what is the total sum of the Club’s debt to the EWM Group and/or anyone associated with that company? 

Club does not disclose those amounts for any individual or business we deal with – that applies no matter who the business is – including EWM. That is no different to other football clubs or businesses. 

What do non-Exec Directors do? 

Member of the board of directors who is not part of the management and does not participate in the day-to-day management decisions. They are expected to monitor, provide independent oversight and constructive challenge on the performance of the board, other directors and the management, and to take a determined and independent view of the wider interests of stakeholders (in our case, fans, employees, community, wider game). 

A simple online search will tell you further details what non-executive directors do. 

How did the talks with the Council and the owner of a field go? 

Talks are ongoing. The land owner was a non-starter. 

Why doesn’t Steve Pattinson put any money into the Club? 

Steve Pattison not at the meeting to answer that question. 

How is this CUSG Group working or accountable? 

CUSG is a group of volunteer fans who want to work with the Club. Regular minutes of meetings are published to give a measure of progress made. 

How many Members does each Group at CUSG have? 

Disabled group – 70 CUOSC – 496 London Branch – 286 CUSAT – 140 on FB group. West Cumbria Travel – 171 on FB group. Cumbrians.net – 1000+ total users (regular posters – 300, ’sleepers’ – 600) 

Why won’t the Club employ an SLO? 

The Club will consider this in the future. Starting point is to appoint an SLO from within fanbase. 

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would CUSG score yourselves for effectiveness? 

Simon responded with the question – would things be better without CUSG? 

Is there any chance of Reps from the Club and CUOSC using the messageboard on a regular basis? A weekly 2hr Q&A would be a start. 

Club and CUOSC have posted on the messageboard before but felt it was not conducive to constructive debate. CUOSC has a policy of not communicating with anonymous individuals. 

Who is Nigel Clibbens’ and David Holdsworth’s line manager? 

Both report to the Holdings Board. 

Why does David Holdsworth blame Keith Curle for previous player contracts when he wasn’t the one to sign them off?

David Holdsworth not at the meeting to answer that question. 

Unless there is a specific statement(s) to refer to, its not possible to answer or explain further. 

CUSG has done/is doing various things which cost money. Where does this money come from?

Income from sales of pin badges and individual groups contributions. 

I find the programme change sad. I’ve been to most aways this year and prefer the traditional versions. I know its not a priority/requirement but I can’t help thinking that ours looks a bit cheap in comparison. I don’t feel the current format justifies a purchase and I’m a bit sad another bit of the game has gone. 

Programme sales were not covering cost of production. New fold-out format has fixed that problem, with sales the same as last season. Digital revenues are also up. 

Email - Why was the recent Memorabilia launch almost a secret? 

This was an event aimed at the media not supporters. Television and newspaper covered it. It had to be done at short notice due to time between items being installed and date of next home match. 

What is the Club’s 5 Year Plan? 

Plan is for everyone to work together to make the Club viable, successful and sustainable and a club we can all be proud of. 5 year plans in football are quickly outdated due to the unpredictable nature of the game. 

Why has everything got worse since the last Meeting? 

If this is a reference to disabled shelter, then improvements have been made. Without specifics its not possible to answer. 

Surely austerity in the bottom tier is tinkering with relegation. How is our budget so bad when our gates are higher than say Morecambe or Forest Green? 

The budgets of other clubs aren't known, relative to CUFC’s. All guesswork. Even clubs don’t know at this point. Only reliable data is provided by EFL. 

DAVID HOLDSWORTH: 

When you say you are looking to get value for money from contracts then how has this is the main failed and you have signed sub quality players compared to Curle’s signings? 

John Sheridan identifies target and “signs” all players. David Holdsworth’s role is getting the best value for money from the terms offered to those players within the agreed budget set by Holdings. He discusses these terms with JS. 

CUSAT: 

Why don’t the Club do their own Away Travel? Would CUSAT consider going in house with the Club? 

The Club have never been approached to do this. They consider that CUSAT do the away travel very well. Nigel explained that Away Travel is not considered a money-making exercise. 

When is the Away Travel going to stop being a clique and be more receptive to match going fans? 

Keith Elliott said anyone could contact him if they had any issues with CUSAT. 

Why is the CUSAT Facebook a ’closed’ Group? 

Following on from that question, why did CUSAT say they didn’t use Facebook at the Sept CUSG Meeting, when a quick look at the aforementioned Group shows it was set up over a year ago (Aug 2017)? 

CUSAT didn’t recall ever saying this and is not in the minutes. There has always been a group in existence, which has been ’closed’ for over a year now. It now functions mainly as an information group rather than a discussion forum. 

CUOSC: 

Released a statement saying wanted a non journeyman and young ambitious Manager. We got the complete opposite in JS. Billy Atkinson then said he was happy with the choice and home form would improve. It hasn’t. Will the Trust admit this and take responsibility, in particular Billy Atkinson? 

Agreed a young ambitious manager was the preferred choice of the fans and CUOSC. Not the complete opposite as JS is ambitious. Billy had a vote via the selection panel in choosing the new manager. His choice was confidential. Billy is part of the consensus at Holdings board level and is supportive of JS. Unfortunately CUFC’s home form was very poor for over a year and a half under KC. Billy has never said the home form would improve under a new manager. Poorer home form = lower gates. This has been reflected by the recent lack of success at BP. Home form is undoubtedly a criteria under which any League Manager is judged. 

Will they consider a vote of no confidence in the Board and subsequent resignation from? 

Jim was asked about that at the most recent Directors’ Press Conference. His response was that we had considered that suggestion already but (for the time being at least) CUOSC took the view that their members/fans would be best served if they continued to have a presence in the boardroom and the influence/potential influence that this brings. 

Do the Trust think they are representing their Members or going against their wishes? 

Yes, representative. As fans why wouldn’t we? 

Have the Trust asked why EWM won’t show their hand? And how long are they prepared to wait for an answer? 

Jim also covered that in the recent press conference and this was broadcast on BBCRC. To summarise Jim said it would be helpful to fans and the Club if EWM made their future intentions (if they have any) clear. He also said that it feels like the Club is in limbo and that the current situation of uncertainty could potentially be working against the prospect of incoming investment and ownership change which would take the Club forward. John Kukuc added that he felt EWM had already shown their hand with their continued financial backing. 

How is the Trust’s 5 Year Plan coming on? 

The CUOSC Board have achieved many of our aims since the five year Plan was introduced, including improved communication. But there’s much more to do. We would welcome any new fans who would wish to assist in supporting the club. 

The Board has had many changes in personnel over the years and we would hope this continues in the future. As stated on numerous occasions we would particularly welcome both younger and female individuals who wished to join the Board. 

CUFC Updates: 

Kids for a Quid – promotion at the Yeovil game had produced no real increase in numbers of Under-17s attending. The figure was 20 up on the previous home fixture but less than the average for the season. 

iFollow – live streaming of games had ended for the time being. The Club did not yet have full geographic analysis of where the viewing fans were based, but this data would come later from the EFL. The EFL were in discussion with clubs about their views and specifically about Saturday 3pm games, midweek night games and Bank Holiday fixtures.

Ground maintenance – Leaks in the Paddock and Warwick Road End roofs had been fixed. One disabled shelter for away fans had been completed in front of the Pioneer Stand, another was being installed in the corner of the Waterworks. Funding from the London Branch was still available to cover the cost of further improvements to facilities for disabled fans.

Poppy Appeal – The Club had raised over £3,000 for the Poppy Appeal this year.

Finances

£351.16 in the Bank account. There were no ongoing liabilities to cover.

Sunset Suite memorabilia

More offers of photographs and other items of memorabilia had come in. Simon indicated these could be housed in other parts of the ground now the Sunset displays were finished. Ex players were amongst those who had items to donate.

Disabled facilities

Barry indicated locks in the disabled toilets all needed replacing. Nigel said he would confirm and fix as a priority where required. He also indicated renewed problems with stewarding of the car park. The Club would speak to stewards to sort this out.

Grants were available from the Football Foundation to fund upgraded facilities. Barbara Abbott had volunteered to help progress these. The maximum amount available was £10,000 per season. It was agreed a ’master plan’ would be needed first before grants were applied for. It was suggested to extend the Paddock North platform. 4-5 extra wheelchair spaces were needed on an urgent basis. It was suggested that a ’quick win’ would involve extending the existing shelter in front of the Pioneer Stand. Barry would liaise with the club before the next meeting to put together an overall plan for upgrading facilities.

Supporters’ Liaison Officers

CUSG reps had met since the last meeting to discuss the role profile and skillset required. Three expressions of interest had been received. One candidate was considered suitable and would be approached to become ’lead’ SLO, to be assisted by the others. There would be a meeting with the Club which Katie as main Club liaison would attend to introduce the candidate and get them debriefed on the role and the immediate requirements.

Event planning

Simon asked for some commitment towards organising the Jimmy Glass anniversary match. The Club were happy to handle sales of tickets and stewarding. The main task would be to track down as many of the players who took part in May 1999, as possible. A target date of Saturday May 11 was agreed, with Sunday 5 May as alternate, although this could be subject to change. Jimmy Glass was likely to be available on that date. Provisionally it was agreed that the Motor Neurone Disease charity should be the main beneficiary. It was agreed that involving supporters in the match was important. Raffling places on the teams was one idea discussed.

LGBTQ+ group

EFL guidance suggested it was beneficial to set up an LGBTQ+ supporters’ group at each club, if enough interest was forthcoming. All groups would publicise this, with an appeal for fans to come forward as potential LGBTQ+ representative on the CUSG.

Groups Update

CUOSC – Fan Zone/Catering – fans zone was not operating through the winter. Feedback from catering operations continued to be mixed. Poor service had been observed in the Paddock North hut. However better service was reported in the Warwick. CUOSC would continue to monitor and report back to Club as required. 

CUSAT – Thanks had been received from a supporter for the Kids’ party that had been organised last week. Katie had helped put this together. 

Scottish Supporters – A fan had asked what plans were in place for the Vanarama National League next season? Nigel replied that he had no plans for the Vanarama. A question had been asked about a survey released online that claimed the Club’s highest earning director was being paid £174k. This was the total cost for all three paid 1921 directors during the 2016-17 year including employer national insurance. 

London Branch – Jimmy Glass anniversary T-shirts would be available before Christmas. Ivor Broadis had agreed to be a Vice President. Sales of copies of the current edition of ’Hit the Bar’ are going towards the MND charity. The LB had asked about access to the meetings via Skype. It was agreed this could be a good idea for reps who can’t make meetings. The LB’s summer trip 2019 was to Riga in Latvia. Any CUFC fan was welcome to contact the LB about coming on the trip. 

TheCumbrians.net – Also wished to pass on thanks from their users for the half-term kids’ party at Brunton Park. 

Next meeting – December 17


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