FANS FORUM (Q&A SESSION)
BLYTH SPARTANS AFC SOCIAL CLUB
FRIDAY, JUNE 14, 2019
Tony Platten, chairman of Blyth Spartans, confirmed he was unable to answer questions regarding the former manager or any contractual issues from last season.
Mr Platten explained that new first-team manager Lee Clark had planned to attend, however, was unable to due to other commercial commitments upon accepting the job.
TP: Tony Platten (chairman)
KS: Kevin Scott (vice-chairman)
AS: Anthony Seghini (General Manager)
CB: Colin Blackett (Stadium Manager)
EC: Executive Committee
DR: Dan Rolls (Blyth Spartans Supporters Travel Group)
On Dan Maguire’s departure
TP: “Two weeks ago, he assured he would continue talking to us before he signed for any other club. He really did feel he was at an age where he wanted to play full-time football. He was talking to a few clubs at the time but signed full-time with Steve Watson and York City. I got a really good text off him, he loved every minute at the club but at his age, he felt he had to give full-time football a go.”
Q: Are we disappointed we didn’t get any money for him?
TP: “You can only sign a contract – a. If the manager organises and b. If the player agrees to it. We couldn’t sign a contract with anybody until we knew who the new manager was. The deadline date for signing contracts passed. None of the players were in agreement to sign a contract. Players aren’t going to sign a contract until they know who they are going to be playing for.
“There were two players who had options who could have been signed but the circumstances of that arrangement are subject to legal matters – which, unfortunately, I am not able to go into.”
Q: Texo sponsor, how did that come about?
TP: “It’s a year-on-year deal. As you well know, I sponsored the shirts last season for the charity I have – Community Foundation – because we couldn’t sign a sponsor, I had to put my hand in my pocket. Clearly, we started looking for a new shirt sponsor for this season – we tried to talk to existing sponsors to see whether they wanted to up the ante.
“Fortunately, I work a lot with the Port of Blyth on a number of different projects and Martin Lawlor, who is the chief executive at the Port of Blyth, said: ‘There is a new outfit called Texo moving in, they sponsor Aberdeen FC, the chief exec is a big football fan, in fact, his brother is the chairman of Billericay Town, he knows football, he played football at our level when he was younger’.
“So we had discussions with them – they came to the last couple of games and fully enjoyed the atmosphere. Kevin Scott and I had further discussions with them and they said they wanted to do more things than just a basis shirt sponsorship because they want to identify in the community of Blyth. Those discussions reached a satisfactory conclusion and it’s the biggest sponsorship deal the club has ever had.”
Q: How much more do you see yourself being financially involved in the club? Do you still see yourself involved in the 3-5 years?
TP: “When I say it’s the biggest sponsorship deal the club has ever had, I’m not talking £100,000, I’m talking about regular numbers for a non-league club. I’m still here, I’ve just worked my socks off for the last two weeks improving the floodlight control gear because it was rotten to make sure our lights are up to National League standard – it’s all been upgraded during the last four weeks. We are here to get the club to the highest level it has ever been. We are spending more on infrastructure. We’ve got a budget – Capital is to spend on the ground. Revenue is what you spend on players.
“For a large part of last season, the wage bill was in excess of £1,200 per week above budget. All the players were on contracts, and as long as I’ve been at this club (20 years), players have never missed a week’s wages and that will continue to be the situation.
“The bottom line is, the committee here is 100% behind the club. Had we gone up this season, it would have possibly been the best season to go up – 14 Northern clubs in the National League – we probably would have only had to do six overnight stays. You do get sponsorship of £80,000 off the National League – which would have largely covered it.
“Rumours about wanting to go back down to the Northern League – this committee is committed to taking this club as far as it can and as I repeatedly said at the end of last season, it’s up to the punters of Blyth to come and watch the football.”
Q: What are the plans in place to improve the attendances?
TP: “A new guy called Mike Coulson, he was General Manager at Gateshead. Anyone who has been in football for years probably knows him. He is taking responsibility for community activities as that is what he did at Gateshead. He is now trying to integrate the junior teams, the reserves and the relationship we’ve now got with Tyne Met College and the new under 18s team. We are going to try and branch out – obviously, Cramlington has a big catchment area. I think we had one of the Amble junior teams with us at the second last game. We realise we are representing Northumberland at the highest level and we’ll fly the flag.”
Q: What is the latest with the Shareholder Register mentioned at last year’s AGM?
KS: “There are approximately 3,000 single shareholders, nobody is interested in this football club because they can’t get any vote of control. Tony and Steve have gone through all the shares and legal issues with the FA etc and that is what is being sorted out. They’ve been identified and we are making progress.”
Q: Has Lee Clark’s assistant manager been announced?
TP: “No but Lee has got someone lined up. There are still some issues to sort out with his appointment. I will not say anything more until Lee officially announces what he is doing with his backroom staff.”
Q: What is the latest on signing players? Why have we signed players from the Northern League?
TP: “The manager has control and he is holding talks with lots of players who he thinks can compete in this division. We can only do what we can with the situation we find ourselves in. The manager has a budget to work with and he is assembling a squad.”
Q: Why don’t we put the admission prices up? Say £14 for adults instead of £12?
TP: “You might be in circumstances where you can give more but unfortunately whenever the prices go up, I get an earache. We put concession prices up by a £1 last year and I was bombarded with ‘I’m on a pension, I can’t afford an extra £1’. We have discussed the merits of putting it up of how many we might lose and how many we might gain, and the board came to a decision to keep them how it is. If you’re happy enough to toss an extra £2 in the budget that we’re putting on the turnstile, I’ll be delighted.”
Q: Has prices for away fans ever been looked at? When Blyth fans travel away, admission is sometimes more – for example York charge £18.
TP: “At the AGM a few weeks ago, that practice has been severely censored and stopped. This year, all fans pay the same price – that’s a new rule.”
Q: What is the breaking figure on the gates?
TP: “We’re hoping for an average of 800 for the upcoming season. It wasn’t until the last couple of games of the season where we managed to creep towards 800.”
Q: Are there any other friendlies planned?
TP: “We’ve got one slot remaining and as I mentioned earlier, Texo sponsor Aberdeen. We are hoping to get Aberdeen or an Aberdeen team down on Saturday, July 20. Lee is also talking to Middlesbrough. Lee is working his best to fill the slots – if that doesn’t come off then we’ve got a standby local team to come in.”
Q: Where do we stand for next season in terms of match day hospitality – sponsor packages, birthday parties, catering, hot dog van etc? Spennymoor have a big tent!
TP: “If your club is inside the perimeter of the ground, you can sell beer within the ground. Our license is for the social club, which regrettably is outside the perimeter of the ground. It’s also in the lease with the council that you can’t sell alcohol anywhere other than our sponsors’ lounge and you can’t take beer onto the terraces.
“We have drawn up plans for the old toilet block to be refurbished and as ever, it’s a question of how much you invest and how much you get out. Up until last season, we couldn’t get a grant from the Football Foundation for anything to do with catering – that has now changed and you can now get a grant to improve your catering facilities. Kevin has drawn up some plans for that and we are looking much more closely at that. There are practical issues: hygiene laws, people to work behind the counter who have their hygiene certificate, what you do with all the food waste. It’s not quite as simple as buying a few burgers but we are exploring the possibility.”
KS: “Texo’s package isn’t just the shirt sponsor, they’ve bought 34 advertising boards around the ground. There will only be around five advertising board spaces left. They have even got the whole back of the Ferguson stand. The other part of that in with the deal is that they have got a large number of corporate sponsorship packages for the sponsors’ room. I think it’s 45 spaces already booked up in there.
“They have got the shirt sponsor on the front. JFS Torbitt on the back. We’ve got SOS Group sponsor on the sleeve and we now have a shorts sponsor – so the whole kit is sponsored. The tracksuits have also all been sponsored. Again, the part of the deal isn’t just to sponsor the kit – it is corporate entertainment packages because these companies are reasonable companies and that is what they want to do.”
Tony Platten and Colin Blackett announce a new fundraising and events committee has been formed by The Supporters Club, members from Blyth Spartans Green Army Travel Group and The Social Club
DR: “The fundraising group is something that’s been put together between ourselves (The Green Army), The Supporters Club and The Social Club. Given the club’s financial restraints, we all realise that we need to step up and help the football club out as much as we possibly can.
“The aim is basic really, raise as much money as we can through organising various events in the Social Club on a monthly basis with such things as gigs, talk-ins, race nights and a variety of other events. All profits will go to The Supporters Club and then in turn into the football club.
“Colin and Gillian Blackett from The Social Club have been kind enough to give us a starting budget to help us out, and I honestly can’t thank them enough for that.
“We’ll be announcing details of forthcoming events in the near future, and we’re all really excited about the plans. Your support will be crucial of course. Like you, we all love this club and want it to see it succeed. So, we hope you’ll come along to these events, have a laugh and a few beers with us.”
Q: Can we not get involved with music events at Meggie’s Burn – if we have restrictions at the ground?
TP: “It’s a big financial risk putting a pop concert on and competing with people who do that as their occupation. Sometimes it’s a bit dodgy getting involved with things that you don’t fully understand.”
Q: People have said over the last few seasons that it’s like a morgue before the game and half-time – what is wrong with some music or announcing scores from elsewhere?
TP: “In terms of announcing results, I agree that would not be a bad idea.
CB: “You’re totally right. It has been mentioned and we are willing to do it this year with regards to music and half-time scores.”
Q: We understand you can’t talk about matters regarding legal issues but once that is resolved, how transparent are you going to be about that?
TP: “Once the legal people have finalised the issues, unless there is a Gag Clause – which there may be – I am gagging to telling you what happened. I would love to let you know, regrettably, I’m not in a position to do so.”
Q: What sort of timeframe could that be?
TP: “Regrettably, with legal issues, I can’t say.”
Q: What lessons have the executive committee learned from what has happened and what procedures have been put in place to stop this from occurring again?
TP: “We have learned some very hard and sad lessons about scrutinising signing on of players. It’s been a salient lesson and I can assure you it won’t happen again. Since Lee has come on board, we’ve been involved in every signing he has made and we have agreed that is the way forward. Previously, the manager was solely responsible for signings, now we are involved right from day one. The signing we completed today (Michael Sweet), I was involved right from the start of discussions. It’s been a hard lesson.”
Q: Judging what you have said there, will it just be a season contract for any new players?
TP: “Clearly what the manager has got to do is take a view on a player but he can never tell how that player is going to progress. Typically, it’s 12 months with a 12-month option where we decide whether he is good enough to put on a longer contract. You can never tell – just look at Dan Maguire who appeared from nowhere. It’s just a judgement on how you organise the player’s contract.”
AS: “The kit launch will be on July 26, providing that the kit is here. We’ll have Lee, the whole squad and our sponsors there. We’re hoping to do a kit reveal on the pitch then into the social club afterwards – hopefully have a band on and make a night of it.”
Lee Clark talk-in
AS: “On August 2, Lee is going to do one of his talk-in events at the social club. We’ll be releasing ticket details shortly.”
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