Monday, 24 June 2013

The Stones Family

If there was one theme that kept coming back to me after the Friday night fun and games it was this one: thanks to the passion of the fans and their loyalty to the Black and Amber, there is a special atmosphere in the club at present; everybody involved in the club - officials, volunteers, supporters, players, more than 5000 followers on both Twitter and Facebook, etc. - are now part of a club which, without being too touchy-feely, is like an extended family: The Stones Family.

We should not underestimate the value of this close-knit club atmosphere that others aspire to: for example Leicester Tigers rugby recently launched a campaign to create the Tigers Family in order to promote the same values. It's all about not just supporting the team but doing it the right way: supporting each other. I think we are a step ahead of the game and we should all feel proud of this. It means we can go out of our way to make the club a welcoming place to new fans and encourage those who feel that this sort of family-friendly atmosphere is one they want to be part of. 

So let's make this season another remarkable one. The atmosphere in the Gallagher should be passionate but respectful at all times, of everybody - ladies, kids, match officials, even when they make awful mistakes, and away supporters, even when they're out to wind us up. 

A great opportunity for this will be in Calais. We will be 200 ambassadors for the club to make the trip so let's enjoy it to the full and try and ensure that the home club is left with a desire to see us go back for a rematch and to strengthen ties between our two clubs.

Turning back to last Friday I was delighted to see all the fans and also our main business partners get a big kick (unintended pun) out of the occasion. I also want to thank again all those friends who make this sort of event possible including amongst others Mike Cogger and the burger boys, the team kit-men and the Andy the physio (who was kept busy I can tell you...).

We had intended to do a Q and A session in the Spitfire after the game but when Terry and I saw that everybody was having a lively time already we decided to drop the idea. We will always be available to talk frankly and openly about the club and as far as I know we have no secrets! There is a lot of talk about supporter-owned clubs at present and how it's a good model for non-league; well whether that's true or not depends on the circumstances but in any event Maidstone United is supporter-owned I can assure you!

In the next few weeks lots is happening: the club dinner on 4th July, works progressing around the ground, the 3G pressure on the Football Conference growing as Sutton United continue to press for permission to use 3G in 2014, Jay's squad taking shape and the pre-season including a cracking match on July 13th versus Charlton, which will mark 12 months since the Gallagher Stadium opened.

Finally we have launched our membership scheme, the Fan Club, which is a fund-raising, loyalty scheme as operated by many other clubs. After one fantastic season we still need to raise revenues and your support of this will be much appreciated. It will also, amongst other things, give you priority when that crunch all-ticket match happens at some stage this is certainly not designed to interfere with the Independent Supporters Club, which can certainly merit being a coordinated voice for supporters' ideas and suggestions for the club. 

That's all for now; have to keep resting my sore old calf muscle and prepare for the club dinner.

Oliver Ash

Monday, 10 June 2013

Building for the future

Maidstone United co-owner Terry Casey
During the close season Oliver, Bill and I have been working hard to make some significant improvements to the stadium. 

We had a limited amount of money that we could spend but we wanted to show that we are listening to our supporters and also demonstrating that we are not going to become complacent about the extraordinary support that we have had in our first season back in the town.

We are also working closely with Jay and, as you can see with the signings we have made, we are not going into the Ryman Premier to simply make up the numbers. As a football club we have the support that cannot be equalled until we look at the attendances in the Conference so we must be looking at involvement in the play-offs at the very least by the end of the 2013/2014 season.

In terms of the building works we have had the usual immense support of our business partners, notably Gallagher Group and Britelite, which have enabled the club to make so many improvements to the ground. We have also had the support of the BTSH committee who have made a substantial contribution to the developments.

Our first requirement was to spend money to satisfy some Ryman league requirements. Next on the list is the addition of another terrace at The Loucas End (town end) which will be installed towards the end of July. All the measures undertaken should increase the capacity to about 2,500 but this is subject to verification.

We need to clear some areas around the pitch and also to add some catering facilities at the Henry Reeves & Co Stand (Springfield end). At the beginning of July we will be laying a tarmac hard standing area on the river side of that terrace which will mean that we can put the six a side goals away during match days and also stand a permanent catering van on the site.

There has been a shortage of toilet facilities and we are installing a toilet block (the same as we already have at the town end) which we be sited between the fire escape steps and the storage building. Fortunately we have installed drainage in that area so there will be a minimum amount of disruption.

We are also creating a further hard standing area in between the changing rooms and the main stand. We have been overwhelmed by the numbers of children who want to have their birthday celebrations at the stadium and this area will accommodate those children and families.

We are also installing a building at the south end to serve as our second bar as we have reached capacity in the Spitfire Lounge and we are aware that many supporters are going elsewhere to have a drink. Our partner and supplier, Shepherd Neame, has recognised the need for further bar facilities and have been highly supportive in the installation of the building.

Finally, we are also installing another building again at the south end that will serve as a club shop. This will not be a permanent shop but will be an improvement on what we have used in the past.

Despite the generosity of the Gallagher Group, Britelite, Shepherd Neame and the BTSH association, these improvements will cost the football club more than £50,000 and whilst I appreciate they will not go far enough for some of our supporters we have to draw a line in the spending somewhere.

We have had the most wonderful season and we are re-investing in the infrastructure and the future of Maidstone United. I know that by continuing to improve the facilities is an investment in the future of the club but we are also aware that we must continue to serve up football that entertains and excites and is successful or the facilities will not be needed.

Thanks for all of your support.

Terry Casey