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Cherries Trust Board-to-Board Minutes

Wednesday 9th September, 2020

In attendance:

Mark Dean – Chairperson, Cherries Trust
James Swyer – Secretary, Cherries Trust (via conference call)
Peter Ive – Treasurer, Cherries Trust
Brian Troake – Community, Cherries Trust
Tony Maycock – Board without position, Cherries Trust

Neill Blake – Chief Executive, AFC Bournemouth
Jeff Mostyn – Chairman, AFC Bournemouth
Liz Finney – Operations Director, AFC Bournemouth
Anthony Marshall – Head of Media and Communications, AFC Bournemouth

Apologies:
Stuart Orchard – Vice-chairman, Cherries Trust
Kerry Smith – Equalities and disabled fans, Cherries Trust

AGENDA

1. New training ground update. Is this still on the horizon or is it shelved for time being? We are aware the Project Manager is no longer in this position.

Neill Blake (NB) explained that some work has been carried out at the former Canford Magna Golf Club, which is the site of the new training complex.

It was explained the buildings on the site have been demolished and removed, and the land completely levelled.

NB continued that the Covid-19 lockdown in March meant work had to stop, and development projects have currently taken a back seat due to relegation, managerial changes and the quick turnaround between seasons.

He stated that when there is more certainty over Covid-19 and club finances then work on the site will recommence.

2. New stadium. Is this something the club still wish to pursue once the training ground has been completed? Think it would be beneficial to have a clear update on this.

NB explained that the board’s ambition has always been to complete the training complex development project, then make an assessment and hopefully a new stadium would follow.

He said he would love for the club to have a new stadium but only when it is financially viable to do so.

NB is aware that supporters will ask why there is a need to build a new stadium when there is already one in place that can be added to.

NB explained that the temporary South Stand will remain in place for as long as it is needed. The club have previously looked at making it bigger but that it doesn’t work from a financial perspective.

He said that when the club were looking to increase the capacity of the existing stadium, it was quoted figures similar to that of building a new stadium.

Liz Finney (LF) explained that the current site is a very small footprint, with two sides of the stadium bordered by housing and one side bordered by Kings Park. Therefore, trying to fit everything into a new building into such a small footprint would be incredibly tough.

Peter Ives (PI) asked what capacity Vitality Stadium could be taken up to?

NB responded that it would depend on what the club wanted but that it wouldn’t be possible to dig down too far due to being on the border of a tip. He believes that around 16-18,000 is the type of figure that is realistic.

LF stated that there would also have to be transport plans put in place for those extra supporters, too.

3. AFC Bournemouth finances. How are finances looking, seeing as we have dropped to the EFL? Will we comply with FFP with regard to parachute payments, plus clubs’ current financial position?

Fan question – how are the club going to balance the finances bearing in mind the loss of percentage of TV revenue, impact of COVID-19, sponsorship, ticket and merchandise sales?

Neill Blake (NB) explained that the club has two years to get its house in order with regards to Financial Fair Play (FFP) and is certain that will be achieved.

Peter Ives (PI) asked for clarification over the parachute payments the club receives.

NB responded that parachute payments are £91million over three years. He stated that the club will be among the top payers in the Championship but has structured its contracts to protect the club in terms of wages.

NB said the club will never financially struggle because of the owner’s commitment to the club and his desire to protect his business.

4. Has the club made funds available to Jason Tindall to make signings or loans?

Neill Blake (NB) explained that the club is very active in the transfer market but that it has been difficult because the club is not in the Premier League any more, and asking prices for players have risen due to the club bringing in money through player sales.

Peter Ives (PI) said that supporters are realistic and went into the close season knowing that the likes of Nathan Ake, Callum Wilson and Joshua King would be sold, as the club could not operate in the Championship with the same squad.

He stated that the sale of Aaron Ramsdale was disappointing but that he could understand it given the price.

NB responded that losing players was a negative but the amount of money received for them helps the long-term security of the club.

NB continued that the club has to have a team of players willing to take on the challenge of the Championship and the extra games, and that Jason Tindall has to know that everyone has bought into the plan of getting the club back into the Premier League.

Jeff Mostyn (JM) explained that there have been a number of historic examples where players have sulked and don’t want to the be at certain other clubs, but that you cannot afford to do that in the Championship.

5. What is the legacy from the Premier League for fans, players, staff and club sponsors?

Neill Blake (NB) explained that players who have come into the club like Nathan Ake, David Brooks and Lloyd Kelly – who in his opinion could go all the way to the very top – are part of the club’s legacy.

Jeff Mostyn (JM) said that the club received global recognition and brought huge wealth into the town and the region, adding that it is about the legacy to the community rather than just the football club.

Tony Maycock (TM) stated that people don’t realise how much the ground and its facilities have improved by being in the Premier League, and that the club’s infrastructure has taken big steps forward.

James Swyer (JS) said that part of the club’s legacy is the creation of a new generation of supporters, and that AFC Bournemouth shirts are more visible around the town than ever before. He stated that the club need to make the most of the legacy in that respect.

6. Fan question. Will the club allow fans who have deferred their season tickets to stream matches for free?

Liz Finney (LF) explained that supporters have not deferred season tickets. Some have paid in full and will be refunded in full for games they cannot attend, and a small number (ie, those shielding) chose to pay 10 per cent of the cost of their season ticket to secure it.

Anthony Marshall (AM) explained that the club opted to offer every season ticket holder a full refund for the fixtures they cannot attend, and then provide all supporters with the choice of being able to stream non-broadcast fixtures, at a £10 cost.

AM continued that the club were conscious of the large number of households who hold multiple season tickets but would only need one streaming pass. He explained that some supporters may not want to stream matches, some may not be able to and in the current financial climate the club wanted to offer refunds in full and then offer fans a choice.

Brian Troake (BT) asked what the uptake of season tickets has been for 2020/21.

LF responded that for the previous five or six years the club has been working on a 98 per cent renewal rate, and this season will be approximately 96 per cent, which the club are very pleased with given relegation and the current financial climate.

7. Fan question. Why is there no indoor sports hall on the new training ground?

Neill Blake (NB) explained that there is an indoor training pitch on the plans for the new training ground, which is clearly marked on the plans.

8. Fan question. Will the club consider selling season tickets to maximum point holders if the uptake falls short in final renewal numbers?

Liz Finney (LF) explained that the club do not sell any new season tickets to supporters , as its philosophy and preference has always been to release those seats to match-by-match sales, therefore allowing more supporters to attend games and build up loyalty points.

9. Fan question. Can we see an organisation chart for the club (anonymised but with staff numbers) to be better understand how the club is run?

Neill Blake (NB) explained that Maxim Demin is the owner of the club. In the organisational chart there is the board of directors, with Neill Blake as chief executive of the club running the day-to-day operations. Everyone else in the company falls below that.

10. Fan question. Maxim Demin said that he is committed to taking us back to the Premier League. What does this mean in terms of investment? A new owner and/or seeking a new investor?

Neill Blake (NB) explained that Maxim Demin is 100 per cent committed to the club and wants to get the club back to the Premier League as quickly as possible.

He stated that Maxim Demin has invested in excess of £160million of his own money into the club and has not taken any out.

He admitted that when you are a Premier League club, you suddenly become very attractive to overseas markets, as people want to own a Premier League club.

NB explained that the club is always looking for investment and that the board of directors are always interested to improve the football club.

However, Maxim Demin is not actively interested in selling the club and it has not got close to that stage, despite queries being made by groups regarding its sale.

11. Fan question. When is the next fans’ forum? Not been organised for some time now.

Liz Finney (LF) explained that the club is required to have structured dialogue with supporters and has worked hard to ensure that when that happens it is meaningful and transparent.

LF used the Cherries Trust board to board meetings as an example, which are held at least once a year, and also spoke about the vibrant supporter focus groups across all areas of the fan base that are regularly held with throughout the year.

Jeff Mostyn (JM) believes the meetings the club currently has with supporters are structured and respectful and he believes that is the best way of communicating, being able to reach and communicate with more of supporters.

12. Fan question. Stadium owners Structadene – when is the lease dated to end and what are the plans at that point? Is there an option at a more realistic value from them to purchase?

Neill Blake (NB) explained that Structadene’s lease on the stadium runs until 2030, and the covenant (controlled by Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council) states it has to remain a sporting venue.

He stated that the club has previously had offers rejected to purchase the stadium and that it has told Structadene that it has a depreciating asset.

NB said that the relationship between the club and Structadene is now very good, having improved over recent years.

13. Fan question. Will the media sections of the stadium now reduce to allow more fans’ ticket sales?

Liz Finney (LF) explained that while the club’s media requirements are less in the EFL, given the club’s ambition to return to the Premier League next season it does not make sense to take away facilities just to potentially have to reinstall them.

LF also explained that during Premier League fixtures where press desks in the East Stand were not required, the club made these available for general sale to supporters in order to utilise all available space.

14. Fan question. Streaming of matches. How long is it planned to continue?

Anthony Marshall (AM) explained that in normal circumstances, the EFL allows its clubs to stream matches which are not Saturday 3pm kick-offs or being broadcast live on Sky.

However, while fans are not allowed in stadiums – and until there is full capacity inside stadiums again – the EFL is allowing clubs to stream every match.

15. Cherries Trust membership update.

Mark Dean (MD) explained that Cherries Trust has focussed on growing its online presence through social media and has seen its follower numbers increase, but it now need to turn that interest into members.

James Swyer (JS) stated that there are approximately 325 Cherries Trust members.

Jeff Mostyn (JM) offered the suggestion of looking at ways to enhance the membership of Cherries Trust by reaching out to supporters.

Liz Finney (LF) asked about the data of Cherries Trust members, as that would help to better understand the supporters and its members, in order to make it as open and supportive as possible.

16. Any other business.

Liz Finney (LF) explained about the current return of supporter protocols, although said the guidance is constantly changing.

LF said supporters will not have their own, regular seat but that the club are looking at being able to have six seats together from a maximum of two households.

Because of this, the stadium capacity will change from game to game due to who is successful in the ticket ballot.

LF said there are also a number of other things to take into account including the capacity of concourses, width of gangways and queuing for turnstiles.

LF explained that the popular option with most clubs is contactless tickets, which can be printed out at home or shown on a mobile phone, but that they haven’t worked well at test events.

Brian Troake (BT) asked about the ticket ballots and whether you would be able to be drawn out on multiple occasions?

LF answered that you would not be able to attend another fixture until everyone has been successful in the ballot.

Tony Maycock (TM) asked about portable barcode readers for tickets.

LF said they are on their way and it is something the club will be taking up.

Peter Ives (PI) asked about last season’s Aston Villa vs Sheffield United game, which saw Hawk-Eye fail to award a goal despite the ball clearly crossing the goal line.

Neill Blake explained that the PGMOL and Hawk-Eye made an apology after the game and that the club had to accept that. He stated that there were 37 other games to keep the team in the Premier League and that it would not be right to point to one fixture.

James Swyer (JS) wanted to place on the record that the club’s Head of Community Sports Trust, Steve Cuss, has been “incredible” in the supporter-led mental health initiative. Everyone was in agreement.

Mark Dean (MD) stated that supporters want Balti pies introduced to the concourse menus.

LF responded that it was unlikely at this stage, as when fans return to stadiums under reduced capacity, the club will almost certainly be operating on a reduced, easy menu.

However, LF said this could be revisited at a later date.

MD asked about access to the changing places toilet at Vitality Stadium, having been told that some supporters have been refused access by stewards.

LF said she would investigate this and that the club has introduced a card for supporters with hidden disabilities to show stewards and supporter services

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