Friday, 9 November 2012

A couple of words on crowd size: UTTERLY FANTASTIC!

Oliver Ash

I’m certainly feeling a bit cut off from all the Gallagher Stadium action (and all the work as some will point out…) over here in Paris and with a dose of lumbago keeping me off sport: so it is blog update time. However, it seems I am by no means the only ‘supporter in exile'. That there should be Stones fans in Thailand and goodness knows where else is appropriately humbling.

It’s been refreshing to follow a series of good results and some fine performances to match. There is certainly a buzz in our own household as a result of this so I can only imagine the buzz around Maidstone must be quite something! 

I take my hat off to Jay because he is under constant pressure and has turned things around from the difficult start to the season in the best way possible. He predicted this would happen and it has. I am most pleasantly surprised to see us up top of the division and commanding most of our games. However it is only a quarter of the way through the season (although with what felts like about 100 pre-season games that is hard to believe). It will be a long hard winter and I only hope that the team remain motivated enough to push on from here and build up a substantial lead at the top. There is no doubt they are good enough technically.

The winter approaches and we shall no doubt soon have a chance to see if our 3G pitch lives up to its reputation and ensures football at the Gallagher when there is none elsewhere. One thing we have to do is prepare to rid our car park and also the road and footpaths coming down to the stadium of snow and ice so that if the pitch is playable we do not fall foul of access problems.

The 3G pitch issues move on slowly but surely. I heard a well-sourced rumour recently saying that a couple of League 2 clubs were preparing applications to play on 3G pitches. Another club in Conference has told me they are also definitely preparing an application. So the subject of 3G in higher leagues will not go away and I remain confident 3G synthetic turf pitches will be accepted in Conference before too long. What’s too long? Any time after we get to a position to be promoted to the Conference would be too long for us.

A couple of words on crowd size: UTTERLY FANTASTIC! Well done to all the new and old Stones fans who are cramming through our turnstiles. This is vindication of the belief Terry and I had when we decided to push on with this project that great numbers of local people wanted to see Maidstone United back in town. It’s also great to see the clubhouse and facilities being used by lots of our community teams as this is the lifeblood of the club.

Despite the attendances being well above our estimates (900-ish), the 2,250 capacity has not actually been threatened yet in any game apart from Brighton, although it might well be the case that we could potentially fill more seats. The extension of the seating or other parts of the stadium is not on the cards quite yet. 

As you may know the ground cost roughly twice the original budget and we broke every piggy bank we could find in order to finance it. Although the extra attendance income really helps the bottom line, you have to understand that the overall budget includes other revenue items - room hire, pitch hire, sponsorship, car park rental, academy income, etc. and not every item is doing better than budget…there are also far higher than budgeted costs to consider. 

You may be surprised to know that a significant part of first season revenues have already effectively been spent on stadium capital costs….so you will appreciate that extension projects are not on the cards yet although it may well be sensible to take a medium term look at what could be done to the ground if the real need arises to add seats.

On the other hand issues such as ease and control of access, turnstile capacity and operation, entrances and exits, e-ticketing, improving bar operations to cater for big crowds, toilets, stewarding, etc are under constant review and will be improved wherever possible. Your ideas are always welcome. Rest assured that everyone at the club is working toward making the match day experience as enjoyable as possible for the supporters; it’s good for you and it’s good for the club.