Thursday, February 16, 2017
By Posh Bull
On Saturday 11th February at 12.30pm in The Hereford Suite, Martin Brain, HFC Commercial Manager, opened the Special Hospitality Event, welcoming the 50 fans present, to Hereford FC and sharing a viewing of the Corporate Commercial Video, shown to potential sponsors.
Interesting facts of achievements since reforming as Hereford FC:
1768 - Season Tickets sold
2700 – Average Attendance
700+ - Junior Bulls
£2000 – raised for Hospital Children’s Ward
£5000 – raised for British Legion
£3000 – donations of signed merchandise
60 – Volunteers
350,000 – monthly web page views
9561 – FB Likes
16,000 – Twitter followers
1000 – Reach on Radio Hereford FC
Chris Ammonds hosted the Q&A Session, introduced Ken Kinnersley and opened by asking him his thoughts on the Club so far and how he reflected back on the first day of Season Ticket sales back in April 2015.
‘It was an emotional time at the beginning when we first opened the doors to the Club not knowing what we would find on entering the building for the first time after receiving the keys.’
Ken went on to explain how a lot of fans said, “They didn’t think they would ever walk through the doors again”, but support has not only come from the fans but also the community. It was difficult, at that time, to see how a football club could recover from the hurt and upset and there was also the enormity of the challenge ahead. There were no processes in place when we opened the doors to fans, everyone was totally unprepared – not even a receipt book ready, but we just got on with it and a major factor that affected the level of support was the fact that “You don't realise what you've got - until you lose it” and our fans just wanted a club.
Ken’s initial introduction to what lay ahead with the reformed club was a call from Martin Watson of HUST.
Martin rang to enquire if HUST could put my name forward to HFC as someone to set up a volunteer force and to co-ordinate the volunteers and the various trades that were working in the stadium. It was to be both a heavy short term and a lighter longer term job.
“The volunteers have been fantastic in their support and the Club needs them more so now in order to continue to grow the Club.”
What have been the Highlights over the 2 years so far?
“Every Match Day!
The level of support from fans at every home match. The Volunteers Party at the end of the first year, so well deserved for all their time and effort into the Club. They also make a vital contribution to the cash saving of the Club as we would not be in as good a position financially without their support. The stadium clearance - 11 x 20 m3 skips of rubbish were taken from the buildings before any repairs could be started and the endless weekends and evenings work to get the Club to a decent standard to begin to think about hosting football. There has been a huge amount of goodwill. There are still areas to attend to around the ground, the standard of the toilets for one and these will be addressed as soon as possible.”
How do you see your new role as Chairman?
“To make sure we don’t run out of money and to live within our means. We have a Board of excellent people with considerable business experience and particularly George Webb who has been the main brains behind driving the income into the Club but we work as a whole team, it’s a team effort”
Which is the next league we are likely to play in? (Question from the floor)
“There has been some talk of the Northern Premier league but (assuming we achieve promotion this year) the general feeling is it will be the Southern Premier League.”
How long before we see a return to National League? (from the floor)
“It was always in the plan to achieve 2 promotions in 3 years. Everything is crossed that this is going to be 2 in 2 at the end of this season. Then we will need to allow some leeway in the Premier Division as we come to terms with the standard, it will cost more to play in that league, realistically it may then take 2 years possibly more before looking at the next promotion.”
Will the Manager be looking at full-time footballers? (from the floor)
“Finances will dictate. If we reach the North/South National, we could possibly have a selection of full and part time players. We are currently projecting the finances looking ahead to assess the financial viability. You, the fans, or put another way the commercial income and gate receipts will ultimately dictate both, what we are able to achieve and the standard of football.”
Any Plans for the Blackfriars End? (from the floor)
“No firm plans at present. Taking advice from the Clubs property advisor the club does not want the liability of the area as it is unsafe for spectators and there would be many additional associated costs. There are also redevelopment challenges for the council who are concerned about the general appearance relative to the Old Market. The end is, however, vitally important to HFC as all the utilities are routed through there and it houses 2 x 10,000 litre water tanks for pitch irrigation, plus access to the pitch.
The council are currently engaged in selecting a long term Development Partner and I'm pleased to say the Club have been closely involved in discussions with and in presenting to the three main bidders. I believe we will be involved in ongoing development discussions. This is key because it is not possible to discuss redevelopment of one end without having regard for the effect on the other end i.e. the Meadow End. There is a firm “understanding” that the Club will benefit from the development with a 1200 to1500 seater stand to return the stadium to four sides and thus comply with the League ground grading regulations. Time scale for work to commence is only a guestimate of a minimum of 5 years. Funding for the stand is subject to financial modelling consequent upon the bidders’ final submissions but it would be a combination of finance from the redevelopment, FA / Football Foundations grant aided funding and a contribution from HFC.”
Currently known as Hereford FC now is there a move to go back to Hereford United? (from the floor)
“That is an interesting and at the same time a difficult question! Die-hard fans want it back to United but the wave of new fans may want to see Hereford FC continue building its own history. There is a legal constraint due to liquidation and the insolvency regulations, as well as the FA regs, that prevents “United” being used for a period of 5 years (I think). At this point no formal Board discussion has taken place regarding a change back to United, but the Board will look into the constraints in due course.
My personal view is that it is a topic of such importance that it is something not for the Board but for our fans to decide, probably in a referendum vote but it would need to be more inclusive than just the HUST membership. I think it would also need to be controlled so that only fans are able to vote but how that would be achieved I don't know. However, that is something for the future when all other constraints are lifted.”
Sale of yellow shirts – is this possible? (from the floor)
“There has been a conscious decision from the Club not to put fans under financial pressure to buy shirts by continually introducing new strips – we did not foresee the FA Vase and I hope they will forgive that additional kit option, particularly, as there was a lot of other Wembley merchandise too. I do know George has plans to introduce the yellow shirt in the near future but I can't say when.”
Is the Club building a financial future – a nest egg? (from the floor)
The room was assured that the Board were doing everything to make every penny they can whilst, at the same time being as fair to the fans as possible.
“The club has kept the ticket cost for the Meadow End down and will try for as long as possible to keep the cost for adult and child to watch from the Meadow End at £10. All rooms at the Club are available for hire for both match and non-match days, at a commercial rate. We save money where ever we can. The Club cannot afford to run any aspect of the business at a loss and that means we are sometime uncompetitive on price for room hire and functions and I can understand why the fans sometime don't understand when events take place elsewhere. The support of every fan is vitally important to the finances of the club to help keep us on a sound financial footing.
Currently the Bars in the Stadium are outsourced – are there plans to bring them back into the Club? (from the floor)
“They are not out sourced as such – it is a partnership. In the beginning the situation was appraised by professionals and we were advised that we would be lucky to get anyone to run the bars due to the existing credit rating the club had at that time. The most we were advised we could expect in income was £10k.
Initially, there was some interest in operating the bars from a group of fans, possibly with HUST involvement, not sure on that point, so the Club requested a business plan be presented from any interested group for discussion. Business plans were never produced or delivered, to my knowledge - so in the end it wasn't an option.
We also took advice from other Clubs in a similar position. Eventually we had discussions with James Smith – who did present and business plan - and the club entered into an Event partnership with him. It was the right thing in terms of managing the risk as the liability was then handed over to James rather than the Club. Basically his means the Club has no worries over food stocks, food hygiene, licensing, H&S, stock management in all its forms, staffing, I.e. bar staff, kitchen staff, waitresses, chefs, cover for illness, or the general management of either events or staff. It is very difficult to operate a business when you only trade on average two days a month and staff labour is only required on those days. Originally Sidney Phillips estimated a £10,000 maximum income but with James Smith the Club has actually secured £30,000 income from the partnership. James Smith is now operating an “open book” policy with his accounts and one of the HFC Directors conducts regular inspections so we better understand the financial implications of the arrangement.
A lot of fans believe that the Club is being “done over” with this arrangement but Ken does not believe that is the case.
Chris Ammonds added that when the club were first trying to make a decision on the bars, he spoke to officials from Merthyr Town with George Webb about lessons they learned when they restarted. Of all the advice Merthyr offered, the one thing they absolutely advised against was running the bars in-house while we were trying to get the club off the ground. They did and it crippled them. It caused them headaches they didn’t need and they spent far too much time trying to keep the bars going rather than on moving the club itself forward.
Chris Ammonds asked: As a fan what are your personal highlights?
‘The biggest highlight for me was the win at Salisbury in the Vase Semi-Final meaning we were going to Wembley! For the first time ever we were going to Wembley!
I like watching Pabs and Jimmy Oates. We have a group of really nice lads in the squad and they have taken on the task of the rebirth of the Club.
That’s difficult – I'll say the goal scored by Pabs 2 weeks ago (against Tiverton). We have played some fantastic football, coming back from 3-0 down at North Leigh showed determination and dedication.”
Score Prediction today? (home against Wimborne)
“I’m known in the office for my predictions as a pessimist – thankfully usually the opposite of what happens…so I will say we’ll lose 2-0!’
Final Thank Yous
Ken thanked those present for their continued support of the Club and the importance, as we go higher in the leagues for long term loyal supporters as they are the most important people in the Club as without them there is no Club.