Walsall Football Club Supporters Working Party Meeting. Held via Zoom on Monday 13th December, 1pm.
Stefan Gamble (SG) – Walsall Football Club
Graham Whittaker (GW) – Walsall Football Club Supporter Liaison Officer
Dave Beckett (DB) – Independent Saddlers Supporters Association
Brian Adshead (BA) – Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust
Minutes: Sam Hadwen (SH)
SG and GW thanked those for attending the meeting via Zoom.
SG touched upon on-the-field matters and alluded to Saturday’s win against Colchester United being our final home match this side of Christmas, with a busy schedule ahead of us. SG touched upon recent events on a global scale regarding the pandemic and the Omicron variant and said the club are monitoring this closely. We put out a notice to supporters regarding the protocols around the stadium when they arrive and SG added that those attending need to follow these where possible to ensure they are as safe as possible. The only mandatory requirement that we ask is to wear a face mask in the indoor areas whilst you’re moving around/not eating or drinking. As we are under a 10,000 capacity within the stadium, SG added that we don’t need to have proof of vaccinations/lateral flow tests when arriving to home games but it is an ever-changing landscape and we will keep supporters updated should protocol change.
SG then said that Chief Operating Officer Daniel Mole (DM) sat on an EFL chaired meeting earlier today about the measures that clubs have to have in place. SG said that the onus is on the home club who tell us what our supporters need to do when attending games and this information will be chased up by ourselves and then publicised in advance of the games for the benefit of our supporters.
Update from Walsall Football Club Supporter Liaison Officer:
GW began by touching upon the recent news that the Walsall FC DSA group have disbanded due to a lack of committee members following an application process which they put out. GW mentioned that for any queries regarding disabled supporters, they can contact him or anyone else at the club directly.
In regards to SLO matters, GW said he is receiving the odd email in regards to the matchday experience but added that these are being dealt with.
Update from Independent Saddlers Supporters Association:
DB mentioned that the group hosted Chris Nicholl and his family down at the Railway Club prior to the Colchester United game. Chris was shown the improved facilities, including the recently built stand and the new signage which has been put up in his honour. DB added to the work which is being done and said that all the due diligence checks have been completed and all is approved for them to turn the bowling green area into a state-of-the-art 3G facility, which will be floodlit and accommodate 9-a-side and have new dressing room blocks for players and officials. DB confirmed that this work is expected to begin at Easter and will be named the Chris Nicholl Football Centre in his honour. DB went on to say that it will be a rental facility but totally non-for-profit and will provide free sessions for underprivileged children, with some ex-players agreeing to come down and offer their experience and run some sessions. DB added that should anyone be highlighted out from the sessions, they will look to push these the club’s way.
DB then mentioned that they have sourced a vehicle via their travel partners Majestic adapted for disabled supporters to access. The vehicle can sit 5 wheelchairs and 2 carers per each wheelchair and DB said that they put a post out to disabled supporters for them to get in touch. ISSA will discount the travel costs for these supporters and this opens up another opportunity for disabled supporters to travel to away games.
DB then touched upon ISSA FC who are going strong in the Warley League Division One and is hopeful that this will continue moving forward.
DB then raised an issue to SG regarding items which were sent over to the club as per the licensing agreement between both parties. DB said that he hasn’t received any correspondence from his contact at the club and they therefore missed their deadline for Christmas stock ordering and had no reply or acknowledgement of receiving royalty payments. DB said that he was informed that Alex Smith (AS) has left the club, with SG confirming this to be the case and adding that AS has been replaced by Adam Brearley (AB) who will begin this role in January. SG responded and said that he will look into this as a matter of urgency and apologised for the inconvenience caused by this. GW added to this and said that should they have any concerns moving forward, DB can contact him directly and he will chase it up on his behalf.
DB then raised another issue in regards to copyright issues. DB stated that there are items being advertised on the Trust website and on the 130 years of history website which has got the latest Walsall FC badge clearly attached to Adidas products. BA responded and said he is not aware of anything related to this but asked DB for some more details following the meeting so he can have a look on his end. SG too said he has had no notification on this matter but stated that it needs looking at as a matter of urgency as the Club for one had not granted consent for use of the Walsall FC Crest.
DB then asked SG if the Banks’s Stadium is a cashless venue across the board or not. SG said that that is the plan but reiterated that we do sell gift cards which can be bought with cash should any supporters not have a credit/debit card. SG added in saying that we are hoping to phase this out over time. GW mentioned that the only difference is with the tuck shop in the Community Stand which takes cash payments (although this is controlled by the Community Programme, not the Club). DB went on to say that the issue arose following a non-club related event held at the stadium in the last few weeks, which he attended. DB said that they were being encouraged to pay with cash for drinks on the night of the event by the bar staff. SG said that this shouldn’t have been the case and said that he will look into this offline. BA responded and understood that at present the stadium is cashless apart from car park/match programme sales on a matchday. SG said that the car park stewards have sum up machines in order for people to pay for parking via card but stated that they have been pragmatic in some instances if there is a big queue and a supporter was unable to pay by card. DB stated that for every home game this season he has been asked to pay for parking by cash, with SG saying that he will speak to the relevant staff offline and ensure this is communicated to those who are present on the day as they should be using the sum up machines in the first instance.
DB then looked at on-the-field matters and asked if the club are in a position to strengthen in the January transfer window by buying players, or if they plan to dip into the loan market. DB also asked if there are any possibilities of current loan players being recalled by their clubs. In answer to the first query, SG said that there are funds available in January which will be down to Jamie Fullarton (JF) and Matt Taylor (MT) as to how they decide to use it. At present we already five players in on loan so should we look to bring any other additional loan players in, we would need to convert some of the existing loans into permanent deals. SG reiterated that we want to bring players in that aren’t just going to be here from now to the end of season; it’s something more long-term although it may not always be possible to do this and get the Players of the required quality. In terms of loan players being recalled, SG said that at present he has had no conversations with any parent clubs. JF is fairly confident that this won’t happen but SG added that if it did, we would have replacements lined up.
Update from Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust:
BA thanked the club on behalf of the Trust for their help in hosting the annual Christmas Toy Appeal/food bank collection and the memorial service. BA said the tables were filled with donations from supporters and thanked all for their contributions as well as club partners Poundland who put forward some donations too. BA remains hopeful that a first-team player will be able to attend the Manor Hospital this Thursday for the handover of these donations, despite concerns with the Omicron variant. This is being arranged between the Trust and the football club. BA also sent his thanks over to Head Coach MT who was present at the service alongside GW, DM and other members of the club. BA also praised the work of Club Chaplin Rev. Lance Blackwood and Ellen-Thorpe Wood from the Trust who organised the service outside main reception. The food bank donation which was initially for the Thomas project organisation in Aldridge is also linked in with the Express & Star’s Feed a Family at Christmas campaign. The co-op put together a number of food and drink vouchers towards the donations and BA thanked them too on behalf of the Trust.
BA then went on to say that the Trust are continuing to try and attract new members but are still having issues with the previous administration which they are continuing to sort alongside this.
BA then touched upon the fan led review where Tracey Crouch (TC) has bought in a list of recommendations and asked if the club have had chance to/been asked to make a formal response to it, with us being one of the contributors. SG responded and said that we won’t be making a formal, Club Specific, response to it. SG mentioned that both he and Chairman Leigh Pomlett (LP) were interviewed by TC along with a panel of other people who contributed to the report. SG believes that the EFL are backing the majority of the recommendations and that there will be a joined-up league response to follow. SG alluded back to the statement that we put out before Saturday’s game and stated that supporters followed the protocols impeccably and were very sensible. As and when there are further updates, we will inform supporters accordingly.
The meeting closed at 1:30pm.
Next meeting to be held on Monday 10th January.