Walsall Football Club, Friends,
This is the second of two open letters I’m sending at the beginning of this off-season to all of us who make up Walsall FC – staff, players, sponsors, and supporters. The first note focused exclusively on football. Today’s note will be a broader picture of where we are as a football club after the past year, and will share a vision for the future.
First off, however, in the spirit of the final point of this letter – transparency in addressing what matters to you – I would first like to make a few additional comments on the appointment of Mat Sadler to be our next Head Coach.
This appointment fits squarely in line with the 7-point football strategy that I communicated in my last letter. We conducted an extensive recruitment process in light of this strategy, and Mat was evaluated the same as every other candidate – and out of that, he was the first choice. I believe in the hard work that we have done and are doing to define Walsall Football Club. For this moment in the club’s history, we didn’t need the candidate with the most name recognition. We needed the candidate who best fit the strategy. We needed the candidate who desires to play the type of front-foot football we want to play, who will be absolutely emphatic around our culture and values, who will embrace the more advanced data-informed elements of what we are putting together, who will put his arm around players on the first team and in the academy to develop them and get the best out of them, and who will be relentless around creating a buttoned-up professional environment. We needed the candidate who will 100% buy into this strategy, get the bit between his teeth, and battle every day to make this vision a reality. We needed the candidate who is deeply invested in the success of this football club. That is why we chose Mat. I believe that Mat is a highly qualified, intelligent, and intuitive football professional. I know for a fact that he has the respect of our players and can get the best out of them. And I believe that especially with an experienced support staff around him, he can grow with us and be a very capable Head Coach for us. More than all of that, I believe that Mat is the character we need to help lead this charge - with the grit, determination, ambition, and integrity that this club is going to be all about.
I am confident in this decision, which is a direct result of the football strategy I communicated in my previous letter, and I’m asking every Saddler to get behind Mat and get behind his team.
Where We Are Today
Reflecting on the first year of Trivela’s involvement in Walsall FC, I feel there are some real positives. These include:
- Positive Foundation - Football. We feel that in building forward, consistency is key. After a near total rebuild of the team in the summer of 2022, we have a very strong spine of players to build around into next season – players who buy into what we’re trying to do here, and in whom we believe greatly. We also have some exciting young prospects who will be with the first team. We are actively working to build around this core, and to add the needed support staff to complement Mat Sadler.
- Positive Foundation – Off the Pitch. Prior to Trivela’s arrival, the club’s leadership have done an excellent job building a stable, sustainable football club, and giving the club a very strong foundation to build on.
- Positive Foundation - Bescot Freehold. After decades of tenancy, we are proud that the club is the owner of the Poundland Bescot Stadium and surrounding property. This was a major milestone in the club’s history.
- Positive Foundation – Support. The attendance levels, season ticket levels, and home and away support have been very strong – the highest that they have been in 15+ years. I am thankful that this town is continuing to get behind this club, even when things have been difficult.
The foundations are solid. That said, 22/23 was a year that left all of us wanting more. I have not been shy about sharing the intense frustration that I felt with the turn the season took after January. So, while there is clearly an excellent foundation here, there is also a clear mandate to attack the 2023 off-season with resolve and aggression.
Where We Are Going – Vision for the Future
Over the course of this year, my partners and I have been patiently listening and learning, and I feel there is a clear vision of the direction we want to take moving forward. This is what I’m asking you to believe in as we build onward and upward in the coming seasons. The vision includes these five items:
Clear Football Strategy. The most important thing that happens here is football. I have said many times what our ambition is – to be a sustainable League One club, that is pushing for promotion to Championship. This is possible, but it will take a well-defined plan and strategy. And it will take time. As I said in my last note – it’s not about the next player, the next manager, the next match – it’s about putting one brick on another every day to build this club upward. My last note outlined a high-level football strategy, and there will be more to say in the future.
Positive Identity – For Walsall. We are building a very specific and defined culture at Walsall Football Club, focused first and foremost on the town of Walsall. The idea is that everything we do – first by winning on the pitch, but also by winning off the pitch – is done for the purpose of inspiring a brighter future for this town. We operate with four values – Service, Discipline, Excellence, and Ambition. These are simple but powerful ideas, and the expectation is that they should be known by and guide the work of everybody at the club. We are not perfect today. I know, for example, that you can look at various things in the football club and see that they are not excellent. I can too. But this is the journey that we are on, and the clear culture that we are trying to build. We want to build something special for this town, bringing joy, positivity, and a winning mindset.
Unique Matchday Experience. The most important component of the matchday experience is the football. What happens outside of that is important as well. We will aim to improve this step by step each year. I believe that this is very important. We are currently a League Two club surrounded by Premier League and Championship clubs, whose budgets are much less dependent on matchday revenues than ours, due to their much larger share in broadcasting revenues. Because of the presence of these clubs, even promotion to League One may not massively move the needle in terms of attracting the next generation of fans. To me, this points to the need for Walsall Football Club to have positive, entertaining, winning football, but also a unique and positive matchday experience. Look for…
- Stadium Improvements. Look next season for more and better improvements to Poundland Bescot Stadium – we’ll be focusing on what our supporters see, hear, and experience when they come down Bescot Crescent to take in a match.
- Saddlers Club. We look forward to opening the new and improved Saddlers Club during this next season. This will serve our supporters with a great experience hours before and hours after the actual match.
- New Fanzones. We want this to be a family club and want to provide more and better experiences for our young fans and their families.
Community Engagement. We want to continue to partner with and support the work of Walsall FC Foundation and Trivela Foundation, as they seek to improve health and well-being in Walsall. We are very pleased with the work that Trivela Foundation was able to accomplish this year in partnership with WFC Foundation at Caldmore Elementary, and look forward to furthering our charitable involvement in the community.
Transparency. Every single supporter is an important part of this club. Moving forward out of this initial period of listening and learning, we want to increase our direct engagement with you. Here’s what you can expect:
- Supporter Liaison Office. Starting this summer, Trivela will take active leadership in communicating directly with WFC’s supporters, and we are substantially revamping the Supporter Liaison Office. Graham Whittaker will remain the Walsall FC SLO locally, and Wesley Hill, VP of Operations and Strategic Partnerships at Trivela Group, will work in conjunction with Graham to manage all facets of supporter communication and engagement going forward. Any email sent to email@example.com will be read by a Trivela Group team member, and Wes and Graham will collaborate on responses. They will aim for direct responses as much as possible, while some frequently asked questions will be addressed in other ways (see below). Along with this, we will be looking for ways to further engage, respond to, and interact with supporters online. We want to hear from you about your club, we want to talk to you about your club in a constructive way.
- Communication From Me. With a year under my belt to listen, learn and understand, I plan to begin to lead from the front more and more over time. You can expect:
o Routine Updates. At a minimum, expect to have a written or video statement from me once per quarter, providing key updates on the club, being honest about progress and setbacks (both of which we will have), and reinforcing our strategy and direction.
o Fans Forums. We will continue to host fan forums in person at the stadium.
o Addressing What Matters to You. I will be in continuous communication with the SLO team on the main points of discussion with supporters, and will make a habit of routinely providing updates and/or thoughts on these points in a short paragraph in WFC email newsletters. If you’re interested in receiving the club’s emails and you don’t already, please click here to sign up.
This is the vision that I want to see come to life, and that I want you as a part of the club to get behind and believe in. Building toward being a club with a Clear Football Strategy, a Positive Identity, a Unique Matchday Experience, Strong Community Engagement, and Next-Level Transparency. All of these features work together to paint a very compelling picture of the future. This will not be built in a day. This is a journey that will take time to fully realise. I am asking you to come on this journey with me. Communicate with the club. Be positive. Come to the stadium and get behind the team – your support impacts the results. Buy into what we are doing. We will all build this bright future together – I have every confidence, and nothing in my mind could be clearer.
This club belongs to this town. Walsall is a great town with a great history. Let’s get on with it and give Walsall something to believe in – it deserves it.