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Fans Focus: News From Monday Evening's Event

Fans Focus: News From Monday Evening's Event

10:00 pm Monday, 21 January 2019  
Here is a run down of events from Monday evening's Fans Focus event which took place at Banks's Stadium and saw club Secretary and Director Dan Mole was joined by Chief Executive Stefan Gamble as they answered supporters' questions.
The event, which began shortly after 7.00pm, took place in the Stadium Suite at Banks's Stadium and, despite the relatively short notice given, was attended by a good number of supporters as there are plenty of questions to be answered.

Some sections of this review have been reordered for clarity.

The opening question of the evening was regarding match tickets and hospitality, with the supporter in question, who goes on to mention other local clubs, feeling prices are far too high leading to people not attending games. They also mentioned poorly stocked merchandise.

Daniel Mole admitted that the club is not without fault when it comes to pricing, and they do need to review prices, but also pointed out that children (once registered) can go free with a full paying adult. Stefan Gamble also insisted that the club will look in to pricing with the Early Bird planned for March.

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Walsall's Boxing Day clash with Bristol Rovers was brought up. The match was listed as a category 'A' game, meaning ticket prices were slightly higher. Stefan Gamble admitted that category was set due to the match falling on Boxing Day.

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The state of the toilets, which were particularly poor during the clash with Bristol Rovers, is discussed. Daniel Mole apologised for the poor facilities and admitted that the Bescot Bar in particular is very poor and needs major refurbishment. The club are in the process of signing contracts for the works.

With regards to the state of the toilets, Dan Mole said that the club do detailed 24 and 48 hour checks around the stadium before a game. And there is a toilet attendant available on matchdays.

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The next question was as to whether the club will be responsible for works taken out at the stadium, or chairman Jeff Bonser would play a part. It was confirmed that under their current lease the club are responsible for the upkeep of the stadium, both sourcing repairs and paying costs. Neither Mole or Gamble were part of the group who agreed terms.

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We then moved on to a question about the possibility of SafeStanding behind the goal. Stefan Gamble said No. (We believe that due to the club being in the Championship [many moons ago] they can't just install SafeStanding as and when they choose.)

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We moved on to a question about better promoting the clubs ticket deals with both Gamble and Mole admitting that the club's current 'free football for under-18s' needs to be promoted more. Especially to non season-ticket holders. People are simply not aware of the deal.

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The club's youth academy was next under the microscope. Is it cost effective? Stefan Gamble said that the academy is under constant review but continues to produce players so is believed to be worth the investment. The club believes that the academy is performing better than many others, especially with many teams considering the futures of their youth set-ups.

Big club's ability to take players is a concern, especially with the low levels of compensation which id based upon a formula.

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Andy Cook's future is discussed. Gamble insisted that the club will hold on to the fifteen-goal striker for as long as they can. The former Tranmere Rovers man has 18-month left on his current deal and the club are looking to open negotiations over new terms soon.

Gamble admitted that the club are over-reliant on Cook for goals but Dean Keates and his scouts continue to look for attacking players. Daniel Mole went on to talk about the scouting system which has recently been established following a request by the manager.

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Chairman Jeff Bonser is the topic of debate. Why isn't he here, what is his exit plan? Jeff remains open for discussions over the sale of the club, but isn't actively looking to sell. He will hold talks with any parties serious about investing.

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Walsall won't be making anything from Tom Bradshaw's move from Barnsley to Millwall as the Tykes received less than the paid Walsall to take him to Oakwell.

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The loan market is discussed. Stefan Gamble says that loans are done on a deal-by-deal basis. Some loans will see the club make a contribution to a players' wages, with others coming free of charge.

Matt Jarvis' loan is mentioned. The club are paying a minimal amount to Norwich City with the task to boost his fitness ahead of a return to Carrow Road in the summer.

The club paid more to West Brom for Jack Fitzwater than they do to Norwich for Jarvis.

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We moved back to Jeff Bonser and topics surrounding the club's often reclusive owner. Stefan Gamble insists that Jeff remains committed to the club and has not sat down with board members to discuss a potential exit.

The pension fund is mentioned. If a trustee passes away then there are certain tax liabilities that would need to be paid (50%), with assets of the pension being sold. Gamble insists that he is not aware of any bids being made despite some suggestion of six offers have been tabled.

Bids were made when the stadium was on the market but they fell short of the valuation and were not acted upon. Stadium can't be sold for less than market value with the trustees (Jeff Bonser, his bother Robert, and their wives) having a say.

The club have a 99+25 year lease with 83 years left. The lease is safeguarded for as long as they are paying the rent, regardless of who is in charge.

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Stewarding, catering, and general management of the stadium is mentioned. Daniel Mole admits that line managers need to take charge of their areas of the stadium better. The club are looking at ways of improving matchday experience.

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Club communication is discussed. Mole admits that he and his colleagues can't respond to everything as they all have a lot of tasks to do. The media team in particular is a small operation.

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The facilities are (once again) back on the agenda. Stefan Gamble admits that there are certain areas that require work. The board want the stadium to look good but it is a big space with big costings.

Dan Mole confident that they will soon agree a deal to repaint the outside of the stadium. The club are actively looking to make the Bescot Bar a better facility, admitting that he wouldn't want to drink in there.

The club previously advertised for a maintenance manager, salary was poor. The club need to better source expertise.

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The Saddlers Club is up next. A lease is still in place but, as with the stadium, it requires extensive works as has fallen into disrepair. They will look at possibly voiding the current lease in the summer and bringing it back under club operations.

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Dean Keates' ears were probably burning as he was up next. What has the club seen in him? Both Mole and Gamble are in regular contact with him. Both insist that DK is as demanding as a manager as he was as a player. He is very hardworking and enjoys a strong relationship with the board.

Gamble was highly impressed with the boss. Keates is very well liked and commands respect from the players. Manager is still working with 75% of the previous squad. Current transfer window allowing him to put his mark on the club, but it is also accepted that this may still take a few more transfer windows.

Keates considered to be similar to Smith, especially when it comes to coaching and analysis. Open to ideas. Man management very good for a manager at such a young age.

The club have paid for manager Keates but continue to pay off remaining monies owed to former manager Jon Whitney and assistant Ian Sharps.

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The Community Programme is discussed. Dan Mole talks about what the players and WFCCP staff do, with the club now able to send specifically trained staff to schools rather than the coaches. WFCCP is helping to bring fans to the club, but admits that it is slow progress with so many other clubs also vying for their attention.

The staff have a full diary of schools, with activities taking place all week.

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The directors, and their vision for the club are up next. Stefan Gamble says that they have to run the club using the tools available to them, we don't have the money to buy ourselves out of the division so have to think outside of the box.

Gamble believes that the club can compete with any club in this division. Sunderland is used as an example. The club have to build a competitive squad over time.

Dan Mole thinks we have to look at the youth model with their being plenty of players on the books who do not make a difference on a matchday. Should the club look to cut the number youth players in order to divert funds to the first-team?

The club are investing in the non-playing side of the first-team. Can no longer operate with a manager, coach and a physio system. Technology has a huge part to play. Looking to invest for the long term.

Gamble feels that the Keates era will be similar to Dean Smith's time at the club. They are looking to achieve promotion for the long term and avoid being a one season wonder. Need to build from he ground up.

The club also need to diversify to open up new revenue streams. Dan Mole feels the club has to innovate if they are to compete with the better funded sides in the league.

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The supply of shirt for those of us yet to discover portion control is discussed. Dan Mole says the supply of bespoke kits is supply and demand. Italian sizes are also a factor with some children forced into adult sizes.

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The much-maligned mascot package is up. Gamble says that the club will review the price of the package. It currently costs £350, which includes hospitality for four people. The club run competitions and offer incentives. Dan Mole says from the package standpoint the price is fair. But club will look into it.

The club must look to better advertise and simplify ticket prices. They are too high given the desire to build a larger fanbase.

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Dan Mole admits that the club has to improve its level of communication. Something extensively covered during the last meeting. And the one before that. And the one before that. And the one before that.

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Stefan Gamble revealed that the club are often approached to hold large-scale events, like the Elton John concert held at Banks's Stadium in June 2015. Gamble insists that the club are geared up to hold further events, and just need someone to fill the stadium.

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