A recent fundraiser aimed at raising cash to purchase giant flags to be displayed around the stadium cemented the feeling that the fans and club have found a way to reconnect through the difficult circumstances thrown up by the current pandemic.
Chief executive Nigel Clibbens spoke to us this week about the positive feelings currently surrounding Brunton Park.
“It’s been great,” he said. “When Dan from the messageboard emailed me about putting some banners up it was good. My reply was that when I first arrived at the club the only banners that fans wanted to put up were about sacking the board, so we’ve achieved something.
“That was just a bit of a laugh I had with Dan, but for fans to want to put up banners to support our players is real progress. You could see the first signs of it when we did the promotion around the MK Dons game and had over 10,000 fans in the stadium.
“We hoped it would be the same for the Beech Boys game at the end of last season, before that got stopped because of the virus. Even since then, with the team doing a little bit better and there being a better connection between the team and the community, you can see something building.
“Covid has made people see that there’s something at stake here and we all need to pull together, and that has really helped. I can’t wait to see the banners go up, and I think it’s a little indication of what the potential of this club is about.
“We’ve all seen it, and I’m sure the fans know it, but it just shows there’s something waiting to burst out here, which is really exciting.”
“We haven’t seen it for a while,” he continued. “We’ve talked about it, but each group of players is different. We talked even before the start of the season about how this group is a different breed to other groups we’ve had.
“I’ve got no doubt that once we’re able to get out in the community and things like that, this group will really get out there and make a difference. We’ve done a few things within the restrictions, with the Covid testing regime and food collections.
“There’s so much more we can do and we want to do. When we put Covid behind us, I think everybody will have a rethink about what is important.”
And with an update on the future of catering at the club, he told us: “I did a deal with abm Catering , and obviously the catering business has gone away since March, and isn’t going to come back this season.
“We might see what it’s like from August, but it was unviable for them to continue on that contract. We released them from it, which was a good deal for us and a good deal for them, they were happy to do that, and it gives us a chance to re-evaluate.
“We look at it with a clean slate. Previously the club’s taken quite a low-risk approach, it’s taken guaranteed income, and given the contract to someone else and let them earn profit. That has its advantages financially, in terms of guaranteed income being lower risk, but can cause problems in terms of control and ability to influence what happens on that contract.
“In the end the fans see it as a club contract and if it’s not up to scratch they get on to me. It’s in my interests to have a good contract and good catering. We need to be better at it.
“We have constraints, no getting away from it, but we’re looking to see what we can do differently.”
“As part of the reconnection, the stuff that started with the MK Dons, gone through the Beech Boys game, the ReUnited stuff with CUOSC, the fans in the stand, the banners, and the catering, there’s little steps that are coming together now after a lot of hard work over quite a while,” he concluded.
“I think they’re all encouraging and the time’s right maybe for us to try a different way to come at these things. We are a traditional club, and changing things can be difficult, but maybe the time’s right to do some of these things in a different way.”
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