Friday, 26 April 2013

An amazing end to an amazing season

Terry Casey, Bill Williams and Oliver Ash
This has been such a memorable season in the history of our club. So much has happened and so much is still happening.

You have to pinch yourself to remember that 12 months ago the Gallagher Stadium was still a construction site and yet today we have a fabulous football, academic and social facility, successful teams, generous business partners and thousands of supporters, both old and new, all of equal and great merit!

When you read about the difficulties of other non-league clubs like Ebbsfleet, Horsham or Sittingbourne, to name but a few, you realise that whatever happens this weekend, we are fortunate to be in a good place right now.

However, there are always issues and problems arising and teething problems to be addressed – remember this is our first season. Since our homecoming we have always set out to be as open and transparent with our supporters as possible – this is your club. So we wanted to discuss a few of these issues here and now:

As a result of your club attracting such wonderful support for home games, the requirement to offer tickets to away fans and the limited official capacity of the Gallagher Stadium we are obliged to make special arrangements for ticketing at the play-offs, should we find ourselves in them of course.

We are trying to provide as fair a system as possible in order that the most loyal supporters are able to buy tickets but no system is foolproof and no doubt this will be imperfect. It is impossible to satisfy everybody.

For the future we are endeavouring to improve the ticketing system and to increase capacity, which will reduce the number of unsatisfied fans for future high demand games.

The Gallagher Stadium
Our first season home has enabled us to take stock of where the stadium needs improvement and expansion and where we want to improve the comfort of the matchday experience for supporters. However, despite the huge attendances at the Gallagher Stadium, we will not be in a position to undertake major works to increase comfort or capacity during the summer. The reasons for this are various:
  • time is simply too short now in terms of planning delays and design work  to do any major improvements this close season; remember that the close season – particularly where play-offs are involved - is a very short window indeed
  • as you know the Gallagher Stadium cost nearly £3 million to build, roughly twice the originally budgeted sum. As a result cash flow is very tight; the entire first year surplus revenues have been spent on the stadium in advance…we do not wish to further burden the balance sheet of the club with debt at this stage. It is a difficult balance to manage because obviously we don’t want to lose disgruntled supporters either
  • running the Maidstone United business as a whole has been much more expensive than we budgeted so although attendances have been higher than forecast there are extra associated costs.

At present we are engaged in discussions with Maidstone council and our consultants Prime Construction to design a long-term development plan for the stadium. The aim of this is to plan for expansion in several phases, to be triggered as and when both attendances and/or promotion require it and finance is available. In order to put ourselves in a position whereby we can expand the stadium in due course, we want to try and ensure the whole business is sustainably profitable and owner debt is reduced. We will therefore not overspend either on first team budgets.

Having said all that, we have discussed some urgent needs for next season and come up with a few improvements which we are planning to implement. These should include more toilets and drinks and food outlets near the Henry Reeves & Co Stand and possibly another covered terrace at the Loucas End giving a further 100 or so capacity and a bit more roof cover. We will confirm these measures in due course. 

Membership of Maidstone United Football Club
Since last summer we have been planning a launch of a membership scheme at the club: the Maidstone United Fan Club

Many professional football clubs operate membership schemes for their supporters. We were uncertain of exactly when we would launch our scheme because it depended on having sufficient numbers to be feasible.  Now, given the pressure on capacity of the stadium on certain match days, it seems to us the time is right.

The purpose of this scheme is to enable fans to confirm their loyalty to their club while benefitting from special gifts and services. One of the principal benefits is PRIORITY FOR TICKET PURCHASES for games deemed to be high demand games. In situations like the current play-off match preparations, members of the Fan Club will be given priority (together with Season ticket holders) in purchasing tickets.

It won’t matter if you live far away because you will be able to buy tickets through your membership. Our scheme will be launched during the close season and we hope you will subscribe in large numbers, thus contributing to your club and becoming AN INTEGRAL PART OF MUFC.

A further innovation for next season will be e-ticketing. 

All being well this will enable you to purchase tickets in advance for games at the Gallagher Stadium. This will be an advantage for those who wish to be sure to get into busy games and also to reduce queuing because a turnstile will be dedicated to e-tickets. 

You will be able to print off tickets at home and these will be scanned at the turnstile. As in most electronic ticket systems there will be a small extra charge for the system provider.

This system is being designed and will be tested over the coming weeks. We hope it will become another positive and useful service at your club.

We are constantly looking to innovate and use new ideas to improve the way the club is run for you, the supporters. All constructive ideas are welcome and are listened to. 

We really appreciate the fantastic support the club has received in its first season back home and we hope you will come back in even greater numbers next season and join the club.

Before then there is the little matter of the end of the season…we wish all your fingernails the very best and to see lots of you at the Supporters’ End of Season Party.

Oliver Ash