FANS FORUM: A Summary

The following is a summary of Thursday’s fans forum, outlining the topics of discussion on the evening. Answering questions were chairman Rod Brown, vice chairman Richard Boorn & new manager Paul Smith.

Chris Fox was in charge of taking questions and Max Banner, from the club’s media team, took these notes…

Chairman’s Opening Statement

Chairman Rod Brown began the evening with a statement – in it, he discussed…

  • The sales of shares had been positive since himself and Richard Boorn took over in December.
  • More investment into the club was expected in the next few days.
  • The club has six arms; wet bar/food (Richard Boorn overlooking), matchday operations/safety & security (to be overseen by the returning Rob McLaren), commercial (Matt Foden & Joe Amess, now joined by Simon Cadwallader & Vicky Onions, with Rod helping too), the first team on the pitch (manager Paul Smith and director of football Graham Scott), youth (Iain Queen overseeing the new U21s side) plus Colts, Ladies and Girls sides, and media (Max Banner and Chris Jepson).
  • Rod explained the importance of the commercial side of things engaging with the community by being visual and offering something back to the community.
  • He also added that he believes the media team to be one of the best in the league, especially in terms of information output.

THE PITCH

Paul: Things are in place to improve the pitch, with money being spent on it (double what it was before and perhaps more), which Rod and Rich were happy with. Baby steps are being made, but the pitch will be much improved. This will attract players to the club.

Adds that he likes to get the ball down and play, which is difficult to do on the current pitch.

RECORD IN CUP COMPETITIONS

Paul is asked about his record in getting to National cup semi finals with both Sporting and Halesowen. He explains that whilst it was a shame he couldn’t make the finals it is, of course, a positive you’ve made them.

Paul then talks about building clubs and says that if the building blocks are in place, we can go on good cup runs again. Every dynamic needs to be pulling in the same direction and there’s no reason why we can’t do better.

SQUAD SIZE

A question was asked about squad size, and how we’ve had a small squad in recent seasons. Paul said it’s difficult to keep players happy gametime-wise and mentions that the U21 side allows a handful of older aged players to play.

He said he’s looking to carry a squad of 18, and the best of the U21s, which he believes is a sufficient squad size to ensure everybody gets gametime.

ATMOSPHERE

A point was made about the atmosphere missing of late. Rod says that this is a family club, steeped in traditions of community but the crowd has become alienated.

Reality is fans are there to support the team – it becomes your life. Trying to re-engage with as many people as possible and that the youth are the fans of the future. Sustainability is creating a solid foundation.

Rod adds that he was disappointed in his early weeks at the apathy. Fanbase was low and nobody seemed interested.

Club has got to engage more – will have a presence at the Bromsgrove Carnival for the first time in years. Visual presence is important. Atmosphere in Rousler Bar is better now by twentyfold compared to when he first came in. Versus Barwell, there was a buzz around the place – bounce of the Paul Smith factor. Finished on a high, despite the result, and now is the time to pick it up going into pre-season.

Paul: Fans are the lifeblood of any club. You run a club for its fans and they’re not stupid. Need to be able to trust people in charge. Firmly believe the club is going in the right direction and, rest assured, the club will go off again. Looking forward to it – we can do good things together.

Richard mentions the Supporters Society and that the AOA issue has been addressed. This means the club can get investments from new shareholders. Just £2,000 in shares previously, which was detrimental to the club’s finances.

PRICING

Rod said the following…

  • No increases to be made to ticket costs.
  • 12 – 17 year olds tickets will be lowered to £3 (from £6).
  • Season tickets to stay at £200, which will include some free friendlies.
  • 10% off all drinks and food for season ticket holders as a bonus.
  • Earlybird offer of £175, up to 1st of July.
  • He expressed his shock at only 38 season tickets being sold for the 2023/24 season. Emphasised the importance of engaging people and giving them something back.

NEW SIGNINGS?

No player can officially be signed until 1st July. Paul is having meetings with prospective players, saying there is work to do. Believes 96 players are on his radar and that there’ll be lots to announce. Said there are 5 or 6 current players who have done well this season too.

THE ROUSLER BAR

TNT Sports has joined Sky Sports in the bar. Rod says it’s important to make the bar profitable. Looking to create enthusiasm in the week as well. Create a venue to go and drink and form a regular crowd.

Idea of an events programme was raised, which Rod said takes working out to staff and the plan would be to start slowly and build it up. Quizzes and bands were suggested. Plan is to slowly build it and that, hopefully in 6/7 months, more will get going.

Positive that the planner is being filled up with private events. Made it free for our Colts teams to use the Rousler Bar and it became booked up.

Euro 2024 this summer was also discussed – England matches will be shown in the Rousler Bar and the club will offer the ‘full experience’ to encourage people to come.

THE SQUAD

Paul said five or six players currently at Sporting add huge value to the squad and that they’ve been through tough times of late, so the current players deserve a shot.

He adds that fans want heroes. He’s not against the use of contracts. Said that in the last 12 – 24 months, there’s been too much player turnaround and you need continuity. His squads have had 12 – 14 in the group who have been vocal – good communication is huge and adds 10 – 20 points a season.

Paul mentions that there are some very direct sides in the league in terms of style of play. It’s about finding a balance between going long on bad pitches and getting it down on astroturf. Added that hopefully we will see better style and results.

BUDGET

Rod: It’s not massive, but has been tweaked, going up by 20%. Paul’s skills can ‘squeeze pips’. He’s worth his weight in gold and he’ll ensure we get value for money. If anybody can get a side from a predicted 10th place to 6th/7th, it’s Paul.

Don’t want next season to be nail biting again. If Sporting knock on the door, players will be interested to talk, because of the fanbase – but it needs to be vocal though. Against Needham, fans backed us and it was the nicest game to be a part of, other than Barwell.

Rod mentioned that the club is looking at getting increased sponsorship at the Town End of the ground, with a hoarding-type addition similar to Redditch’s proposed as a possible idea.

GPS VESTS

The topic of GPS vests arose, as it’s a plan to invest in these. They measure heart rate, distance run and speed, amongst other things. Players will want to come to the club for these, it was said. Not many sides use them. Price would be £3000 – 4000 for 12 vests.

AWAY SUPPORT

On the topic of away support/travel, Richard said that whilst the club cannot completely fund a coach, it will help out with coach travel ran by fans and that he will be on it.

Paul: Away support was unbelievable when I was last here. Fully in support of getting it going and will do everything I can to get coaches going. Having 50/100 extra fans supporting on an away day is massive.

U21 side

Paul said it’s brilliant that it has been set up and that it is part and parcel of building a club. He will hopefully look to oversee everything from the first team to U21s and bring it all together by providing a pathway for them.

ENTERING CUP COMPETITIONS

Rod said the Birmingham Senior Cup is a competition to look at entering and Paul added that he would love to enter it and will be pushing to do so.

Better recognition of club in town

Rod says it’s not an easy job when the club has ‘fallen from grace’ as it has. He speaks about how the town is growing, with more housing, so it should be an aim to encourage them.

He added about how the club approached middle schools for a free ticket offer for two games in the 2023/24 season and now all middle schools in the area have opened doors to us and what we are trying to do. Mentioned how 112 teams were playing in the 7-a-side Colts tournament over the Bank Holiday weekend at the VG. Important to try and engage with different ages and charities too. Need to be seen as a ‘nice club’.

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