Walsall Football Club Supporters Working Party Meeting. Held via a Zoom conference call on Monday 11th January 2020, 3pm.
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
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 and wished all parties a Happy New Year.
DM began by giving an update about the club to the Working Party members. Since the last meeting which took place in December, a time where we were hopeful of getting close to the Tier 2 level, a national lockdown has once again come into fruition meaning the route back for supporters to return to games looks a lot longer than it previously did.
DM reiterated that as a Director of a business, we are not privy to any more information than anyone else and in light of the new national lockdown, DM added that he and SG have spent the last week or so looking at the state of play at the football club and amending it slightly to adhere to the guidelines. DM mentioned that the majority of staff have been put on furlough/partial furlough to mitigate the losses as much as possible and the offices have closed to the general public, however there is a skeleton staff in each day during the week to ensure the smooth day-to-day running of the football club on an operational front. The Ticket Office is open on Friday during the week and whilst we don’t encourage supporters travelling, there tends to be a lot of calls in regards to any iFollow queries and collection of Season Ticket books. This rota will continue whilst we are in the national lockdown.
DM also mentioned that the Community Programme have had to hibernate for the time being given the national lockdown and schools being shut, therefore meaning it would be difficult to host any form of grassroots activities/community events etc.
The first team are now based at the stadium for training, with the Academy teams training on the afternoon to keep everyone in certain support bubbles due to the testing regime coming back into play, following the announcement from the EFL. This is being funded by the PFA and something which is welcomed. SG added to this and mentioned that there is a caveat to it in that it is part funded for the air flow tests which are relatively cheap but should there be any positive cases, the player/staff member would have to go for the full test, which would consequently come with additional costs to the club.
DM then went on to mention the first set of testing that took place last week, with all 44 tests of players and staff coming back as negative. DM added that everyone has been tested as of today within the bubble and these have also come back negative, something which DM is hopeful will continue over the course of the next few weeks. RD touched upon some images that were distributed online from games in the FA Cup over the weekend, appearing to show some social distancing and other guidelines not being adhered to. DM responded and said that whilst it wasn’t ideal to see such images online, Walsall Football Club and its employees are following all protocols accordingly and have done throughout this difficult period to ensure we are in the best position possible under the circumstances.
DM then touched upon the rescue package which Chairman Leigh Pomlett (LP) alluded to in his recent video update to supporters and stated that whilst the amount eventually funded to the club is helpful, it is anything but a ‘rescue’ package.
DM then turned attention to matters on the field and alluded to some good results in the lead up to Christmas, before two disappointing results at home more recently. The first team return to action this Saturday vs Oldham Athletic following a weekend off due to Morecambe’s FA Cup run and DM has been dating some reserve games in the mist of this to ensure we are up to date on this front.
DM also turned to the Walsall Ladies side which in recent weeks have appointed Jo Sheerin (JS), a UEFA B coach, to work alongside Donna Ash (DA) as joint first team manager. The Ladies endured a difficult start to the season in a higher division but gained their first win of the campaign before play had to be halted once again with a 3-2 victory over Port Vale Ladies. DM is hopeful that the side can build on their recent upturn in form and continue to make the great strides that they have had over the course of the last 12-18 months and mentioned that any support would be much appreciated as it is a section within the football club that we are keen on building on in the coming weeks, months and years.
DM then touched upon the January transfer window and stated that they will speak to Darrell Clarke (DC) on this front if there is the ability to bolster the squad based on available funds. SG added to this and alluded to the news of Liam Kinsella (LK) and Alfie Bates (AB) extending their contracts with the club and stated that the club are talking to a number of other first team players. In regards to incomings, SG said that we will have to see how January pans out and that whilst it will be difficult under the cirumstances, the club will look to strengthen where possible should there be an opportunity to do so because whilst recent results have been disappointing, the team are still in touching distance with the play-offs, which SG added is the aim of LP, DC and the players.
DM concluded by touching upon the current climate that we find ourselves in and whilst it is an ever-changing scenario, he is hopeful that in the coming weeks and months we will receive some better news from the Government to then take steps towards some degree of normality.
Update from Walsall Supporters Alliance:
CS had a number of questions to put forward to DM and SG and began by asking about sell on fees and whether these remain with the club and have not been transferred to the previous owner of the football club. SG responded stating that any transfer agreement is between the two clubs and not between individuals, which would not be permitted anyway under set regulations.
CS then touched upon the topic of free loans and asked for some clarity on this in light of other clubs putting towards a loanee’s wages/buying players etc, to which SG responded stating that with any loan you pay a contribution to the wages, whether that be 10%, 20%, 50% or 100%. In some instances, we don’t make any contributions to the wages because that suits the parent club as it gets their player out and playing competitive league football and sometimes it works for both parties. SG reiterated that there isn’t a huge sum of funds available to go out and strengthen so if there was an opportunity to strengthen through free loans, we would look to explore this in the first instance. SG added that whilst he can’t compare financial figures with other clubs in the league, the aim for the club is promotion but surviving through this period is the key. DM added to this and stated that following the generosity of Season Ticket holders leaving their money in the club/office staff taking wage cuts, it wouldn’t be right in the club’s eyes to then use that money on bringing in new additions and whilst the club are not simply looking exclusively in the free loan market, it would be a more preferable option given the financial circumstances.DM added that it is important to gain the best value whilst at the same time not throwing the money that has kindly been left in the club by supporters or from staff taking a wage cut, something which DM, SG and the Executive Board are extremely grateful for. SG mentioned that DC is very conscious of the position we are in and added that as a club we need to be careful of the message we send out should new additions come in when people have contributed to the club to date.
Following this, CS touched upon Adan George (AG) and asked as to why he was bought in and for any reasoning for him not making a competitive appearance for the club during his loan spell and whether him not being used had any effect between the relationship of the two clubs. DM responded and stated that following the injury to Josh Gordon (JG) at the time, DC was looking to bring someone in to provide cover and with AG and Jake Scrimshaw (JS) both arriving on the final day of the window, this was achieved. DM added that there were no issues between the parties but believes that JS was ahead of him in terms of pushing for a spot in the first team and then it was agreed for him to return to Birmingham City. DM also added that although he didn’t make an appearance for the club, both clubs benefited from it. SG concluded on this topic stating that with JG returning from injury sooner than expected, it limited the youngster’s opportunities but reiterated that no harm was dealt to the relationship between the two clubs moving forward.
CS concluded by mentioning that the final total raised by the Alliance for Walsall Outreach was £1,134 and this in turn helped pay for a full week of meals for the elderly and vulnerable people within the region over the Christmas period. CS thanked everybody on behalf of the Alliance for their support and contribution towards this. DM responded to this by also sending his thanks to all concerned and alluded to the food bank donation that the football club organised in December with the contribution of supporters which also received positive feedback.
Update from Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust:
RD began by stating that the Trust are now finished with the 50/50 draws as of November/December of last year in light of the new Saddlers lottery and that the group made donations to the children’s Paediatric Department at the Manor Hospital as well as the Thomas Project food bank. SG responded to this and thanked RD and all members of the Supporters Trust for their support and for facilitating these draws which helped bring in some much needed revenue to the club in what is a difficult time for all concerned.
Update from Walsall Football Club Supporter Liaison Officer:
GW touched upon the new Saddlers’ Lottery which has been set up over the last few weeks with the help of Head of Commercial and Retail Alex Smith (AS). * GW mentioned that this has been created in light of the news that the Goalden Gate Lottery is no longer supporting the football club.
GW added that in terms of the funds from the Saddlers’ lottery, all funds are kept separate for the football club and all the profits generated come back to the club to then be used where we see fit. GW asked if all supporters groups could assist in the promotion for this to help boost the number of members/subscribers, to which all agreed to do so.
GW then asked about iFollow figures and whether the numbers are still keeping up. SG responded and stated that in recent weeks the numbers have tailed off slightly but reiterated that this could be due to the recent form of results, something which SG stated goes up and down in normal circumstances anyway with tickets on the gate at the stadium. SG reiterated that whilst some of the figures have tailed off slightly recently, the numbers are good and has bought a lot of important revenue into the club. DM concluded on this and said that he will speak to Media Officer Paul Joannou (PJ) about these figures in due course.
The meeting closed at 15:30.
Next meeting to be held on Zoom on 1st February 2021 at 15:00.
* The weekly supporter lottery has historically raised valuable funds for the club, supporting community activities, enhancing stadium facilities and supporter experience in addition to youth development support. The club aims to continue to utilise the funds generated to benefit key areas across the club.