Thursday, 3 April 2014

A decent few days

Oliver Ash
It's been a decent few days for your club. 

Let's look at the positives and forget the negatives: we've welcomed back one or two key players from injury; we've stopped the run of away defeats; we're still unbeaten at home this season; we've got Jay signed up as our manager for next season; we're making good progress on our stadium extension project; next year's academy recruitment is going well; we're in the league cup final AND we’ve just won our play-off appeal to The FA. 

Following the appeal hearing Ian and I were treated to a private tour of Wembley changing rooms and pitch. We could admire at first hand the hugely impressive infrastructure and pitch maintenance equipment. It certainly is an expensive business keeping a pitch like that in good condition year out. Although it is a hybrid 'Desso' type pitch, the grass needs constant feeding with light and CO² in order to grow fast between matches and events. 

The FA appeal result was good news for the club of course because it keeps our season alive until the very end. It's also excellent news for the whole 3G4US campaign. Every development on 3G is greeted through email or on social media by a flood of replies and comments from all our fellow clubs in 3G4US. 

There really is a great group of clubs involved in this campaign. There is good solidarity with all we are campaigning for and it's heartening to remind ourselves of that widespread support.

The appeal decision and the mood of the hearing itself was another clear indication that The FA mean 3G business from now on. There is a clear message for change. Now it is up to us on the field to defy the odds and to get into a promotion position.

If all that should happen (and I must stress that it is rather hypothetical given where we are in the table - the realistic odds today on us winning the play-offs must be about 7-1) and if we were refused entry to The Conference in May despite having qualified through the play-offs then we would be entitled to appeal to The FA. 

Whatever happens there is now a positive feeling around the club that even if it is not for this season one way or another, then at worst by next season all this will have resolved itself in favour of 3G being allowed in Conference and that is excellent news for clubs all around the country.

On the subject of the stadium Bill, Terry and I met earlier this week to discuss the designs and funding for the Henry Reeves End extension. We are working on a design, which would give us another 600 seats and another 400 standing capacity, thus increasing the overall ground capacity to about 3300. It would provide much needed seating with excellent views of the pitch, extra covered stepped terracing in front of the stand and maintained pitchside railing standing capacity, albeit uncovered. 

Once we have gone through the last revisions with the architects by the end of the month we will arrange to display the plans so that you can comment on them and give us some more useful ideas. This is sincere because the extra terracing design comes from comments made during the February supporters' meeting, so we do listen! However no design is perfect and this will be no exception. We have to do the best we can given the league requirements, health and safety, planning issues, available land and costs.

We are looking to fund this extension with the assistance of local agencies, The Football Foundation, and a debenture scheme, which would allow around 100 seats to be purchased in advance for several years at a reduced price. We may also need some capital contribution from club or shareholder funds and our major partners, all of which will be under discussion over the next weeks. The extended stadium should be capable of providing the club with an infrastructure enabling it to operate profitably and sustainably for the foreseeable future and provide comfortable high quality facilities to supporters, customers and the local community. 

But never mind all the play-off battles, 3G arguments, stadium extensions, etc. All that really counts for the next two months is getting half-fit (no, let's be realistic, a quarter-fit) for the Directors v Supporters football match and BBQ party on 20th June. Hope to see you there.

My appearance in last summer's supporters vs. directors match