Walsall Football Club Supporters Working Party Meeting. Held via a Zoom conference call on Monday 19th April 2021, 1pm.
Daniel Mole (DM) – Walsall Football Club
Stefan Gamble (SG) – Walsall Football Club
Chris Saunders (CS) – Walsall Supporters Alliance
Graham Whittaker (GW) – Walsall Football Club Supporter Liaison Officer
Ray Dale (RD) – Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust
Dave Beckett (DB) – Independent Saddlers Supporters Association
Ian Buckingham (IB) – Walsall Football Club Disabled Supporters Association
Minutes: Sam Hadwen (SH)
DM and SG began by thanking everyone for attending the Zoom meeting.
DM began by giving an update about the Club to the Working Party members. Since the last meeting, we have had some positive results in the last few games at home against Forest Green Rovers and Tranmere before a disappointing defeat away to Colchester United and have appointed Jamie Fullarton (JF) as our Technical Director (Director of Football) who will also sit on the Club’s Main Board. DM added that both JF and Chairman Leigh Pomlett (LP) have done a piece to camera following the unveiling and asked the Working Party groups if there were any questions relating to this appointment. RD and CS firstly welcomed the new addition on behalf of their groups, with the latter then asking DM and SG what stood out from their perspective from JF which ultimately led to him being appointed. SG stated that we went through a thorough process which saw over 100 applicants being filtered down to 7/8 candidates for interview who were all credible candidates for the job. SG added that JF stood out in the interview process and that he is someone who has managed at this level and level below but also worked within the Premier League for a number of years across all different functions e.g., recruitment, coaching etc and SG and the Board believe that his personality and credentials compliment what is currently in place at the club and that he can help us achieve what we want to achieve over the next few years. SG added that he is sure supporters will hear more from him over the next few weeks and months as we conclude the 20/21 season and plan towards the new campaign. CS then added to this and asked whether the focus now is back towards the development of the Academy/Youth Team in light of JF’s track record and bringing those players through, given the emergence of players such as Alfie Bates, Sam Perry and Tom Leak. SG said that Jamie’s overall remit is across the first team and Academy and that he will be heavily involved in all football aspects of the club in addition to these areas. SG added that it’s a big role for JF and one which in turn will free both himself and DM to focus on other areas of the business whilst we have a man with great expertise in this area who can help and advise across the board. CS concluded his questions on this matter by asking if JF would be attending any WP meetings in the longer team, to which SG said that he wouldn’t be against the idea so this is something that is possible every now and then in the near future. DB also welcomed the new addition on behalf of ISSA and praised the club for looking into this role. SG thanked DB for his comments and said that by having someone of JF’s expertise occupy this role, it helps us plan more strategically and moving forward it means the Club is not reliant on one person (i.e. a First Team manager) and in the event one employee was to move on the wheels wouldn’t fall off, which SG believes will help us achieve our small, medium and long-term goals more effectively.
In regards to the return for supporters to stadia, DM mentioned that we continue to work off the Government roadmap where from May 17th a number of Premier League games will have crowds all being well. DM added that there are pilot events starting up as we speak and talks of crowds for games in the United Kingdom as part of the European Championships. DM reiterated that we haven’t had any other concrete details from the EFL but mentioned that he has a meeting with Public Health Walsall this week to go through our plans and the stadia to ensure they are happy with it. DM added that we will work to some action points if any are raised from the initial meeting with a view to then having supporters back into the ground from 21st June. DM said that on personal opinion this might be slightly optimistic but reiterated that we will have plans towards a socially distanced return and a return of supporters in their entirety with a view to then releasing Season Tickets from June and possibly into July.
DM then touched upon the ticket operations which are well underway which will see us look at different options to the traditional books e.g., an app on your phone, season card pass to fit into a wallet etc. SG expanded on this subject and said the new turnstile access system will be in place for the new season and for when Season Tickets go on sale. Supporters will have a card as opposed to a traditional ticket booklet which will carry multi-functionalities and in turn make the access through the turnstiles quicker and hopefully reduce queues at the Ticket Office windows on matchdays and make for an all-round better experience. SG added that this is a step in the right direction and added that once the stadium is open, all hospitality areas will be going cashless; something which will tick the ‘Covid box’ in regards to hygiene and again be helpful in reducing queues in these areas. SG mentioned that there may be some teething problems along the way, but over a period of time he hopes it will be recognised as a real advancement. Leading on from this, this would then allow us to grow our CRM database and promote targeted offers to individual supporters based on their buying patterns. Following on from this CS asked if we are still in line with the Season Ticket launch date and launching a 5-year plan alongside it, something which was highlighted previously. SG said that he will take this back to LP and reiterated that LP has been working on this plan and intends to announce this in some capacity at some point.
DM then mentioned that aside from this we are looking at renovation work at both the stadium and the training ground; something which the latter has been documented on over the last few weeks in regards to issues we have faced. We have had a full report back from the Sports Turf Research Institute and are working with them to complete this body of work. DM added that we have also agreed a deal with a third-party for a deep clean of the stadium before supporters return and that we will inform the WP groups and members as to when this is facilitated.
CS then queried about the contract lengths of players, given the recent renewals of both Emmanuel Osadebe and Sam Perry and asked whether this is a club or management request that they remain undisclosed. SG said that in terms of the last two deals, it was at the request of Head Coach Brian Dutton (BD).
CS then asked if the club could comment/confirm whether BD will be in charge next season, if it’s an ongoing decision or whether a decision has been made already. SG responded stating that this question is more for LP to comment on and reiterated that he has entrusted BD until the end of the season and that he continues to review things on an ongoing basis. SG added that LP will communicate this at the appropriate time.
DM touched upon the pre-season programme and stated that work has gone into this since the last meeting which he added as being difficult as we don’t know as of yet for sure whether they will have supporters in attendance or not.
DM then touched upon the Q&A event with LP that was highlighted in the previous meeting and stated that we are committed to doing this, with the dates and finer details to be finalised in due course before publicly announcing via our media channels.
Update from Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust:
RD asked what the club’s thoughts are on the vaccine passports. SG said that the conversations we have had with the EFL are that for events where you have mass attendance, they are likely to be a requirement, certainly in the early part of next season. SG reiterated that all information on this that has been made public is the discussions that are being had behind closed doors.
RD then mentioned that the End of Season Voting for the Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season has been organised by the Trust and applies to all supporters and mentioned that he has sent all the information to Media Officer Paul Joannou (PJ) and asked if this could be publicised soon. DM and SH said that they will liaise with PJ and get this scheduled to go out in due course. RD also asked if we could highlight the Trust’s thanks to Co-op Travel who are supplying vouchers to the winners of the awards, something which DM agreed to including.
DM then alluded to an email from RD about the possibility of the meetings taking place towards the early evening, given some difficulties in people logging on during a working day. DM said he understands the reasonings for making this proposal but added that at present it would be difficult, as mentioned in SG’s original response to the email. DM proposed an idea of meeting with groups during the day and then others on the evening of days in the month and said this could be something that is discussed. SG suggested that the next WPM take place at 4pm and to judge it from there, with DM asking for all WP groups to ask their members as to what times would be best for these meetings moving forward.
Update from Walsall Football Club Supporter Liaison Officer:
GW stated his praise and delight of having ISSA back with us for these meetings and mentioned that providing all groups work together moving forward he is hopeful of a promising future for the club, something which DM and SG both agreed to.
Update from Walsall Supporters Alliance:
After highlighting some queries earlier in the meeting, CS had no other questions or updates for DM and SG on behalf of the WSA.
Update from Independent Saddlers Supporters Association:
DB raised a query to both DM and SG in regards to the freehold, something which LP has addressed on previous occasions. DB mentioned that at present we have an ageing fanbase and said that some members of ISSA have had an idea of putting some of their Pension Pots aside should members be willing to do so to give to LP and the club to then put towards the purchase of the freehold and wondered if this is something that LP and the club would consider/not consider. SG responded and said that if DB could get a proposal in principle together and sent over, he is more than happy to take a look at it, liaise with LP and explore the potential possibilities.
DB then thanked the football club for joining forces with ISSA following the announcement of the licensing agreement between the two parties in the last few weeks and is hopeful that this will be successful in helping the club with funds down the line.
DB then referred to an email which was sent in regards to an advertising opportunity within the stadium complex and asked DM as to whether this has been received. DM said that he has received the email and has had a conversation with Head of Commercial & Retail Alex Smith (AS) and that he will get back to him on costings in due course.
DB concluded and mentioned that ISSA are looking at renewing their sponsorships for next season, with Sam Perry and BD currently sponsored by the group for the current campaign.
The meeting closed at 13:30.
Next meeting to be held on Zoom on 10th May 2021.