Fans forum summary – 8th November 2010

Extracts from a summary by KHIST member Harry Taylor on the Fans Forum held on the 8th November.

Monday night’s fans forum was arranged to answer many of the questions that the fans had following the revelations in recent weeks about the clubs financial position. Characters from Harriers past such as Pete Fryar and Mark Yates attended and the room was full for an evening which would prove to be very interesting.

The night kicked off with an introduction to the new directors and members on the top table – Mark Serrell who has previous experience with Stourbridge and Halesowen Town, along with Brendan Phillips who was rumoured to be bringing in a consortium who is now involved with the commercial deals and he has been making links already. We later learnt that the consortium which previously became disinterested in putting money into the club is now interested under Reynolds. This was along withthe introduction of Company Secretary Dave Colwell who replaced John Baldwin following his resignation. 

The night was then split into three parts – the past and present, the future and talking to Burr about the squad and related items. The first part started with Mark Serrell giving a presentation addressing many of the questions the supporters have been asking starting withwhat happened at the 28.10.10 board meeting where Dave Reynolds took over as chairman. Barry Norgroveannounced an £8,000 shortfall which Reynolds paid. Out of the five initial investors who were interested only one remained which was the person who has been much reported in the press who wanted to invest 300k into the club immediately and then 100k in January, withcontact only made 5 days previously (23.10.10). However there was no letter of intent and had to undertake an exercise of due diligence which could take some time. Witha winding order due to be commenced in the following 14 days, the board then unanimously agreed that Dave Reynolds return as Chairman. Some brief recent history was given of Reynolds, he bought shares in Aggborough Holdings via another board member and in 2009 when the embargo in place due to the dispute between Newton and Reynolds was lifted – he rejoined the boardroom.

In December 2009 the situation became apparent that the club needed money, Reynolds gave advice that wasn’t heeded. He then gifted the club an interest free loan of £50,000 with £1,000 to be paid back each month. After the third month the payments had stopped and the loan is still yet to be repaid. In April of the next year he was called to a board meeting asked if he could become Chairman, but due to the lack of financial information he couldn’t decipher how bad the financial circumstances were. On the 10th of October he was then asked to give a further £70,000 by which time he realised that the club was in a dire financial state. The overlying reason for all this information being given was to show his long term commitment to the club.

Serrell said he came to the club via a mutual friend, then gave a more in depth run through of the top table and asked why there were two boards. The reasons are that Aggborough Holdings has a 52% majority in terms of the shares that are held in the club, but the KHFC board make the decisions. This stops one person having control of the entire club. In terms of the debts – as of the 29thof October Reynolds had paid all of the staff along with paying off the tax and national insurance. Reynolds then announced that he would be getting an independent review of all of the books which may answer another one of the questions which asked – where had all the money from Wembley/Coventry/Big donations gone? Serrell answered he didn’t know however expensive player contracts, relocation costs, expenses paid to players and a lack of financial control would’ve taken up a fair part of that. It was then revealed that if things continue as they are – the club will make a £350,000 shortfall. Serrell then announced that there had been a series of donations –

£5,000 from Hire It

£1,000 from Fran Oborski

£500 from Dream Beds

Free cleaning products from Steve Hodge from ChemiKal on Hoo Farm.

 These were applauded enthusiastically.

With the savings that Reynolds and the board intend to make – the shortfall can be reduced to about £140,000-£160,000.

Serrell revealed that on the Friday the wages were paid and a review of the spending had started. The attendance trend was also looked at and the decline in numbers over the previous seasons was revealed withexplanations of non league status and the current financial climate having a negative effect.

He went on to state that if the situation didn’t continue fast, the club would be in danger of liquidation and administration with new directors and investors needed immediately.

Then was the time for questions – Roger Gittings got the ball rolling by asking had we been living beyond our means. The answer from life president Colin Youngjohns was simply yes we had and so has every other football club, we had however been bailed out by donations and gifts in the past. Pete Fryar then took to the mic and asked why we hadn’t been alerted to any problems previously, which was answered that the budget had been decided outside the board and also board members didn’t know we had signed a player until it became news on the Official site. It seems that communications between the board and Aggborough Holdings had also broken down.

Match-day caterer Brian Murdoch then asked about transfer fees and money in regards to where it had gone. Reynolds responded that he didn’t know the answer to the latter question but seemingly he had only ever been invited to board meetings when Barry had needed money. Reynolds had offered advice in the meeting in late March and a plan to get out of debt which was subsequently ignored. It was also made apparent that the centre of excellence being reinstated was a priority.

Ernie Lane of the Harriers Premier Group then told the room that he had proposed to pay the £8,000 shortfall in the wages but this was ignored. He also had two prospective investors who were prepared to put in £50,000 into the club each, who were put off by the ‘coup’ when Reynolds took over, and he is trying to get one of the investors to come back and put his money in. He also asked what Bob Dignam’s status was on the board. Reynolds responded this time by saying that the latter had resigned, he then stated that there were other offers to buy the club which were unsuitable and the supporters ‘wouldn’t have thanked him’ if they’d have come in. Reynolds also said that he was asked to pay the bills and if he didn’t, the club would’ve been wound up. 

Brendan Phillips spoke briefly about his interest in buying the club which ended at the Bath game. He initially came in to help Steve Burr with the club, and Phillips subsequently asked for information such as the cash-flow forecast which wasn’t forthcoming. Phillips then brought another investor to the club at the York game and was shunned; however now the club has changed hands the person is interested again and will be attending tomorrow nights game.

The room was told that minutes hadn’t been kept for board meetings for the last five years.

Then the question was asked, why was John Baldwin brought to the club? This was answered by Colin Youngjohns who described him as ‘Brilliant’ and a good football accountant, he advised that we sell the club a short time ago but he subsequently went on holiday which meant we were unable to do so. Youngjohns couldn’t  have spoken higher of the departed accountant, Baldwin offered to resign as soon as the chairmanship changed hands – however he was asked to wait.

 This was the last question about the past and it was time to move onto the present and the future. Firstly was the question about the facilities.

Jono Smith asked what will we do to increase revenue, and mentioned food in the Harriers arms as an example. Mark Serrell answered that with another question by asking what the people wanted. He proceeded to say the arms taking were good but were 5% down on previous years, which was in line with the attendance drop. On the same lines as the previous question, a fan who uses the Arms as his local asked about food and getting the traditional Sunday roasts back into the pub. He also mentioned that the staff used to have a lot of restrictions under the ‘old’ regime and they must be rewarded.

The topic of the club shop was brought up and the contract was revealed to be ending at the end of the season. It was also reported that the shop only made £900 last year profit and we are on a commission only basis.

Premier Sports were mentioned with the fact that we make £4000 from a home game being screened and £1000 from an away game. It was said that it costs that getting up there and staying over night. 

Attendance boosting measures were next on the agenda. Getting players into schools again to try and encourage youngsters to come to Harriers games was suggested, Reynolds said he’d look into this. Then an idea for a scheme of vouchers being introduced for season ticket holders of ‘big clubs’ in the area was put forward, which would allow them into games when the “big club” weren’t playing. Reynolds responded by saying that this would be looked into but it would seem unfair on season ticket holders. He did mention however that he is a fan of grading games A and B and this also would be looked into. Then Ernie Lane put forward the idea of getting the unemployed involved by giving reduced entry costs – this also was to be looked into.

The use of volunteers was raised, and Reynolds said that if we went back to using volunteers more often it would cut costs, this was followed by a question to Serrell directly about cutting costs, who answered by saying that area’s had been identified and waste would be cut.

This provoked a question from Harry Taylor about whether the club would be going back to part-time as it was during Reynold’s first reign as Chairman and a rumour that had been banded about for years. Reynolds said due to the calibre of players who play semi-professional today that there was no future in the semi-pro game. 

Serrell then summed up:

The club needs the support of its fans and the town more than ever.

The reality is that there isn’t enough money to get to the end of the season

Questions were then put to Steve Burr on subjects such as Nick Wright, how often loan signings play, the possible signing of Ryan Connor who has been training with the club and Chris McPhee’s training arrangements. To summarise, Wright has suffered a dip in form, the loanee’snow are getting games but Burr expects them to make an impact even if they are given five or fifty minutes on the pitch, Connor will not be joining and Chris McPhee who didn’t train with the club originally – now trains twice a week.

David Pountney summarised the work KHIST are doing alongside KHFC and urged all supporters to join to strengthen the “voice” of the fans and to support the 2020 lottery scheme as a way of financially contributing to the club.

This put the end to an interesting evening and one which will provide many talking points in the next week or so.

KHIST would like to again thank all those supporters that attended and donated to tonight’s bucket collection at the fans forum.

A total of £1878.87 was  handed over to the club on the night which included donations of £1000 from KHIST and £300 from the KHIST travel club run by Dave Williams.

KHIST will be leafleting all supporters at tonights game and will be collecting forms either inside each turnstile or in the Aggborough suite reception after the game.