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Members Vote - Some questions answered.

The members’ vote has prompted considerable debate amongst supporters, which the club is delighted with, such debate is the very basis for democracy and shows that supporters continue to feel passionately about their club and what it represents.

The debate has resulted in a number of questions being asked of the board, both formally and informally. We cannot answer every question in detail and there has to remain a level of confidentiality in certain areas for obvious reasons, however below we hopefully address some of the common themes that have arisen.

The original notes that accompanied the vote explained the board’s reasoning whilst avoiding so much detail that we could be accused of ’swaying the vote’ in a particular direction.

There also has to be an element of trust from members that the board are making these recommendations honestly and accurately and in keeping with the club’s philosophy that you elect us to uphold. However we also recognise that we need to earn that trust and part of that process is to communicate with our members better. That cannot always be done on a day-to-day basis and to the level of detail that some might wish, but we will nevertheless try and improve on this area.

For instance the club is currently working on plans to overhaul the format of the AGM and General Meetings so that they become far more ’interactive’ and allow us all, board, staff, members, to discuss the direction of the club in much more detail together. We hope to announce those changes soon; in the meantime the following should answer some of the questions already raised:

Why has the vote been left until a couple of weeks before the new season?

Until July we weren’t even sure how many fixtures we would play next season. We also wanted to see how season ticket sales went. We have also been in negotiations with Bury FC throughout the summer with regards to our current costs and matchday income possibilities. We should be in a position to announce some positive developments on this soon. We could have had the vote on gate prices some months ago, but the board would not have been able to make a recommendation that was based on all the facts. The board is confident that in waiting until now we have given as accurate a recommendation as is possible.

Why are we voting on Season Ticket prices when the ’challenge’ was met? Shouldn’t the price freeze promised therefore be automatic?

The board is clearly and explicitly recommending that season ticket prices be frozen but we felt it important that we give members the opportunity to exercise their democratic right.

In the accompanying notes you say that the penalty for not wearing a UniBond patch is ’severe’. How do we know that is true and how severe is ’severe’?

The potential penalties for not wearing the patch are contained in the board minutes that all members have the access to. The word severe is not there by accident.

Why a 50p rise on adult gate prices? What’s the justification for it?

The board have to set a budget for the coming season. The intention is to set a break-even budget, which we believe we have done, albeit with a small amount of ’slack’ that accounts for potential fluctuations (crowds, merchandise etc).

The board will never adopt a "how high can we get away with?" approach to recommending prices that is unfortunately prevalent throughout football. It will always be our philosophy and indeed practice to recommend prices at the lowest possible level that allows the club to break even and yet also remain viable and successful.

In our second season we invested heavily in a number of areas that the board and members have recognised as important to us as a club. We started a reserve and youth team and increased our community work significantly. The reserves and youth team cost over £27k to run last season and the community work cost over £30k but both these areas of activity are central to our core philosophy and show that we are a different kind of club that wishes to invest in its local community for the community’s sake, using football in a positive way. These activities also mean that we have a number agencies queuing up to work with us and local authorities wanting to talk to us about helping us build our own ground.

This level of investment in our second season has had a significant impact on our finances, which will become clear at our AGM. The impact was easier to absorb last year because of the successes of our first season, but in order to maintain this level of investment a small increase in gate prices in our third season is unfortunately necessary.

Surely the problem then, is the amount of money we pay Bury for hire of the ground?

The rent and associated costs are probably the biggest drain on our finances, true. As mentioned however we have been negotiating with Bury over the summer with a view to both reducing our costs and increasing our revenue at home matches. Those talks have progressed positively, which we thank Bury for, and we should be able to announce further details very soon. Although it should be noted that in order for our plans to be a success we will need to increase the amount of volunteers and the work they do on a matchday.

So you’re hopefully reducing costs and increasing matchday revenue and yet you’re still recommending prices rise?

As detailed the board have set a ’just above break-even’ budget for the season. (’Just above’ meaning just that, to allow for fluctuations) The club has also recently undertaken a thorough cost and revenue review, and continue to do so at regular intervals and as such is confident in the recommendation made.

It should also be noted that only adult gate prices are increasing slightly. All categories of season ticket prices, along with OAP, unwaged and under-18 gate prices are recommended will stay the same for our third season.

In that case isn’t the answer to move away from Gigg Lane and why did the board sign a 3-year deal to remain there after only our first year?

When we signed the three year deal with Bury we did so because it gave FC some stability and assurance of future costs for those three years, if there had been a change of ownership at Gigg Lane there was nothing to stop a new regime charging us more. The three-year deal mitigates that risk. And as has been demonstrated this summer we have been able to use that relationship with Bury to our benefit.

Hiring another ground is not as straightforward as many think. Supporters will be aware of the lengths that we went to in 2005 to find a ground and as we explained then that far from taking a rushed view on Gigg Lane there are very few options available to us. Rest assured though that we review our arrangements for ground hire year on year.

Many other clubs in our league charge less than us, how do they cope?

Other clubs don’t have the ground hire costs that we do. Nor do they invest in community work at the level that we do, or if they do it is supported by grant funding (which we are aiming to do over coming years). There are also other considerations for FC that other clubs do not face. Our large crowd means it costs us over £2000 per match on stewarding and turnstiles alone. 40% of our crowd is either under 18 or a concession, concessions that we price deliberately low.

We have stated on the record previously that it is our aim in coming years to be the cheapest, or at the very least amongst the cheapest clubs in our particular league. When we achieve our goal of getting our own ground this will hopefully be possible.

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First Posted ~ 00:56 Mon 13 Aug 2007
News ID ~ 1091
Last Updated ~ 12:55 Mon 21 May 2018