Blackpool FC meeting with Fans’ Progress Group: Full minutes

Blackpool FC
Blackpool FC

Blackpool supporters’ organisation The Fans’ Progress Group has today released full details of its latest meeting with club chairman Karl Oyston and chief executive Alex Cowdy.

The full minutes of the meeting are printed below.

A wide range of topics covered includes the club’s plans for the season and to retain players.

Possible expansion of the training ground to include an all-weather pitch for community use is also discussed.

Chairman Oyston also addresses the legal action against supporters and possible outcomes of the High Court action brought against the club by former director Valeri Belokon.

An offer is also outlined to devolve some control of the club’s football expenditure to the FPG.

Meeting of Blackpool FC and Fans’ Progress Group

June 2017

Presidential Suite, Bloomfield Road Stadium

Present: Fans’ Progress Group (FPG) IT, TG, PW, Apologies (FPG) RM

Present: Blackpool FC (BFC) Karl Oyston, Alex Cowdy, Mark Ridgway

The meeting began with everyone agreeing the previous minutes, from 19th September 2016,

were a true and accurate record. Following an FPG question KO confirmed that all information provided by the club including that provided outside these meetings can be made available for supporters, unless the club has specifically deemed it confidential or it’s a board of directors matter. The FPG said that all information provided to our chairman or vice chairman regardless

of confidentiality shall be shared with all committee members only, as this is the way we work we have no secrets between us. KO confirmed this is acceptable.

The FPG confirmed that the BST has been issued an open invitation to meet with the FPG or attend supporter group meetings with the club. The last invitation sent 28th April and left as an open invitation, but no reply from the BST had been received to the last communication.

Invitations will be extended to other supporter groups for future meetings. The FPG confirmedthat their memberships continues to grow and that a democratic committee election process

has been concluded, there will also be two additional vacancies available at their next AGM.

The FPG advised that expanding their membership to include non-season ticket holders will be considered. It was agreed that given FPG membership was free of charge all season ticket holders could become automatic members, KO agreed that the club will send out an email informing season ticket holders and offering an opt out prior to the start of next season 2018/19.

1) Plans for League One

The FPG asked what are the club’s plans for League One ?. AC said ten players have been released and the manager wants to bring between nine and eleven players to complement the remaining 16 first team squad players, the number depending on whether Tom Aldred and Sam Slocombe accepted the new contracts that had been offered to them, Tom Aldred having been offered an improved contract. Discussions are already on going with new targets and their agents. A blend of youth and experience will be a required.

The FPG asked what are the plans for contract lengths ?, last season the majority where 1 year with a 1 year option. AC said in League 2 you don’t offer too many two-year deals because of the risks these can present to a League 2 club, but each signing is case-specific, for example longer term contracts will be considered for younger players who have potential, typically 2 years with a 3rd year option but as I said each being player specific.

The FPG asked following promotion do contract options provide a pay increase?. AC said it depends on whether a players option was divisional based, minute based or for any other reason. Generally, pay rises come when a player plays more than half the minutes during the season, that being the case for the majority. All contracts are under consideration, meaning contracts will be offered to players the manager wants to keep beyond 2018.

The FPG asked following promotion to League 1 has Gary Bowyer been rewarded or offered a new contract ? KO said Yes he’s been rewarded but the details are a private matter, he also has a 12 month rolling contract so on any given day he always has at least another 12 months in front of him, KO added Gary brought in good players last summer and we’re trying our hardest to bring in his latest targets, and all the money earned from promotion will go towards the manager’s budget. KO said we have a list of targets from Gary, players Gary thinks will improve the squad already in place.

The FPG said we assume you will have information regarding annual player wage bills for League 1 clubs, as such you’ll know what is needed to be competitive ? AC said yes we have bench mark data, KO added we aim to be competitive and will do what is needed but each deal will be player specific as Alex has already said.

The FPG commented that at the last directors board meeting March 2017 discussion took place regarding plans to address player contracts that expire at the end of next season to avoid past issues of a mass player exodus at the end of a season, the FPG asked what plans are in hand?

KO said we will explore offering new contracts to players the manager wants to retain beyond the end of the season before their current ones expire, but players we sign this summer should also ensure stability for next season and beyond.

The FPG asked how many season tickets have been sold to date ?. AC said the last figure I have is 1866 but there has been a flurry of sales since with this number rising daily. Current season ticket holders will also have their season tickets reserved until the extended July 10th deadline and the reduced early bird price held to this date as well. KO said away supporters will remain in the North Stand next season, and would only be disciplined by home demand.

The FPG asked if there can be an acknowledgement to supporters who went to the Play-Off Final, perhaps a letter from the manager and a complimentary ticket ? KO said yes perhaps between us all we can come up with some ideas and pass them onto Alex.

Post meeting note : FPG suggestion is a complimentary ticket to a home Checkatrade trophy cup match.

The FPG asked for an update on the training ground given recent discussion as the last board meeting March 2017. AC said the existing building is being demolished, building work will then commence. As part of the EPPP Academy Audit a structure is needed with changing rooms and offices. Currently we have space for two-and-a half pitches and more land would be required for the training ground to reach its full potential.

The FPG asked do you intend to try and buy additional land to expand the pitches that might also include community use ?. KO said its something we intend to relook at and any expansion would include and all-weather pitch which would provide a facility for local football clubs.

The FPG said at the last board meeting it was agreed that pitch improvements would be made to provide the manager a better pitch to play the style of football he wants to. KO said yes there’s additional money in the budget for more lights to help the grass grow particularly in areas that doesn’t get as much sun light, a quote has been received, KO also said the pitch will have the top surface removed and reseeded. AC said there won’t be any home pre-season matches this summer due to the UB40 concert but it will be ready for the start of the season. A request has been made to the EFL to play our first game of the season away from home in order to allow a bit more time for the pitch to be in the best possible playing condition.

2) Community/Fan Development

The FPG asked for an update on the working party to develop new, young supporters. The FPG commented that figures supplied by the ticket office for the first half of the season indicate the age profile of current season ticket holders is ageing with 37% seniors, 6.9% under-19’s, and 8.6% under-11’s, however more under-19’s are attending individual matches which may be due to a lack of money to purchase a season ticket up front, whilst under-11’s get in for free.

Developing younger supporters should develop the fan base for the future whilst at the same time improving a low-key atmosphere, partially due to an ageing profile of supporters. KO said this working group needs to be set up asap.

AC said we would suggest representatives from the Community trust and Club including myself and our ticket office manager Sarah Nibloe to add to those suggested by the FPG i.e. other supporter groups, secretaries from junior clubs or leagues and representatives from colleges to target the younger age group of 16-19-years-old. It was concluded that a meeting between AC and the FPG should take place soon to discuss the launch the working party.

The FPG enquired about other supporter engagement initiatives including player visits to junior football clubs and schools for coaching sessions, a supporters meet the manager or quiz night and supporters match day text service to vote for their Man of the Match prior to the end of a match. AC said the Community Trust currently does a substantial amount of engagement with the community including running player visits to schools etc. but all further suggestions of engagement will be looked at including a quiz night which has gone down well in the past.

MR said will look into the man of the match text vote but a poll is already run on social media.

It was agreed that these topics shall be discussed at the same time as the working party meeting.

3) Legal Actions

The FPG said previously you have confirmed that ten “pitch invasion ring leaders or people who acted in an unacceptable way” have been identified following receipt of Lancashire Police’s report and that only three of them have been sent letters to take the matter further, can you onfirm this is still the case as its been reported that four people are the subject of legal proceedings by the club. KO said no only three have been written too I don’t know why it would be reported that there are four unless they’ve mistakenly included an action being taken by the clubs in-house solicitor against someone who claimed he’d been ‘stuck off’, but this action has nothing to do with the club.

The FPG said we are still urging you to terminate all legal action for financial damages against supporters and deal with it in another way given the FA’s report and subsequent fine was not for the pitch invasion against Huddersfield itself, but for what they deemed to be insufficient planning given available intelligence at the time, albeit in the absence of Lancashire Police’s report. KO said that may not be possible in all three cases but we will again reconsider all points of view and take them on board, in the case of one supporter the club has initiated proceedings and are awaiting a court date, at which time I’ll give a response to your request. KO added this same supporter we understand is under Police investigation for allegedly stealing money from a supporters group.

The FPG asked what are the implications towards the football club following the judgement of the first case with Valeri Belokon early this year ? KO said approximately £1m given that the judgement disallowed hotel set-up costs in the calculation.

The FPG asked please can you provide us with a short layman’s summary of the focus of the second court case with Valeri Belokon ?. KO said VB claims that as a minority shareholder he has been unfairly prejudiced against. There are several potential outcomes, one might be that the court orders that we buy his shares back from him, the cost of which will depend upon what value the court puts on them which could be anything from £300k to £7m, another mightbe that we sell our shares to him, but we have no intention to sell our shareholding.

4) Club Finances

The FPG said you’ve previously proposed “areas of control will be devolved to the FPG so that supporters have a level of influence that has previously been absent”, can you elaborate on this for supporters ?, KO said there will be an area of financial control devolved to the FPG and a seat on the board will be provided to the FPG if you want it. The FPG said this is something we would consider but there may be some reluctance from members as this may impact upon our ndependence from the football club. It may be that supporters could be represented if they’re allowed to vote on club matters via the FPG rather than a seat on the board. It was agreed this issue will be put to the FPG membership for consultation on release of these minutes.

The FPG agreed in principle to accepting joint control of football finance expenditure, but revenue streams need to be defined e.g. sponsorships, ticket sales, club shop, program and bar sales for example and what it can be spent on as well as how any shortfall would be supplemented and what the mechanism for releasing funds would be. KO said you need to sit down with Rod Dyer (club accountant) to agree the principles and a mandate form needs signing, but there needs to be a safety net if approval needs to be made quickly and the FPG are not available. It was agreed such an initiate may encourage some supporters given that they would have the knowledge that the money they put into the club would be ring fenced for football related matters only. It was concluded the FPG will meet with Rod Dyer and Alex Cowdy to discuss logistics and implement this control.

The FPG said we would like to ask a series of club finance questions, in particular questions related to investments made for the football activities of the club as well as loans made by Blackpool FC Ltd to other companies, and how those loans were invested for the benefit of the football club since 2010. In addition the FPG said they would also like to obtain information related to revenues raised from investments.

KO said I’m more than happy for you to have such information to share with supporters,hopefully it will help them understand what is fact and what is false rumour, but it would be better for you to sit down with Rod Dyer the clubs accountant to get it straight from the horse’s mouth and get accurate figures. The FPG agreed to this and a separate meeting was to be arranged between Rod Dyer and the FPG. KO also said what often gets overlooked is the fact that the football club had £20m tax losses when we got into the Premier League which was used to offset profits from the Premier League season that saved the club £5m in corporation tax (this was later confirmed by RD in the follow up meeting).

The FPG said if we leave the financial questions for Rod to answer can you please confirm whether information we have received is correct that indicates that VB launched an attempt to exit the club in 2013 and that he wanted £24m to exit in return for his reported £9.3m investment ?. KO said Yes, but he wanted £24.15m to leave plus his £1.5m player fund money.

5) Any Other Business

The FPG raised the issue of abuse against supporters trying to get into the ground when the gates had to be temporarily closed during ‘Judgement Day 3’ protests. In particular how the closure of the gates impacted on supporters including women, children and the disabled who where subjected to the effects of smoke flares and vile abuse from a small number of protestors outside the West stand. KO said evidence from the Police and the clubs CCTV is being analysed by the clubs safety officer Tony Pinder, it was unfortunate that some good law abiding supporters got caught up by the protestors who it was believed were trying to force entry into the ground hence the gates closure.

We shall look at this to see how we can better protect supporters from abuse in the future. It was noted that following JD3 the BST publically apologised to supporters for the unacceptable actions of a minority.

The FPG asked about moving the TV gantry to the East Stand. KO said I agree this is something we should do, KO asked AC and MR to look into building a gantry above the press benches, out of the way of the columns.

The FPG asked if they could interview Karl Oyston for the Club’s TV channel KO agreed to it.

The FPG asked if the Hall of Fame could be moved to the South West corner of Bloomfield Road, as BSA are happy with it being moved. KO and AC agreed to facilitate the move.

The FPG asked for an update on the Seasiders Bar. KO said the current ticket office and club shop is expected to be taken over by the Community Trust and it’s expected the Seasiders Bar will be open as normal at the start of the 2017/18 season. The Community Trust plan to install an all weather pitch on part of the car park subject to planning and grant funding.

The FPG asked if the hospitality box the club has provided them with can be used by local schools and junior football clubs, rather than just local charities. KO agreed the FPG could use the box for whatever purpose they require.

The FPG asked if more match scores could be displayed on the big screen at half-time for the coming season, with bigger, more visible text, along with results from other divisions. MR agreed those amendments can be made.

The FPG asked why there was no food and drink provided free of charge at the Young Seasiders’ Christmas Party. BFC said Rowley’s’ food prices were excessive and the club wanted entry to be free of charge, which would not have been possible had they ordered in the food. The bar was available and entertainment was free of charge. We will look to get the event sponsored in future. The FPG acknowledged the reply but commented that previous kids Christmas parties had included food and jugs of juice free of charge, perhaps if prior notice had been given parents could have made arrangements for their children to eat before the event with many coming straight from school.

The FPG asked when is the next board of directors meeting, KO said probably after the VB court case.