Read all the minutes from the latest SCG meeting, including CCFC board member and Technical Director Mark Venus...
Wednesday 27 July 2016, 6.30pm
Butts Park Arena
Steve Barnett (SBA), Adam Brearley (AB), Steve Brown (SBR), David Busst (DB), Declan Connolly (DC), Darren Davies (DD), Michael Garlick (MG), Dale Hayward (DH), Colin Henderson (CH), Mark Hornby (MH), CJ Joiner (CJ), Chris McGrath (CM), Jan Mokrzycki (JM), Nicki Pollard (NP), Pat Raybould (PR), Tynan Scope (TS), Ray Stephens (RS), Jonathan Strange, chairman (JS), Robert Tidmarsh (RT), Jodie Turner (JT), Mark Venus (MV)
JS extended a warm welcome to Mark Venus, who is now on the Board of Directors, and Adam Brearley, the club’s new Commercial Director.
Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Pat Abel, Chris Anderson Jim Brown, Sandra Garlick, Kevin Heffernan and Peter Ward.
Circulated previously via email, the meeting accepted the minutes of the last meeting as a true and fair record.
NP confirmed that the police officer involved in an incident at a City match where he assaulted a supporter would not be returning to the Ricoh. In fact, he has moved to a different police force.
In terms of the private seat licence members receiving no information regarding where they fit in with season tickets and early bird deadline, MH confirmed that this information has since been published on the website.
There is still no update with regards to shareholders’ certificates/share registers.
JS sent a letter to the Coventry Telegraph last week inviting questions to forward to the meeting. There was a small response, outlined below, along with questions raised in the meeting:
• John Leekey and David Allen, two of the questioners, have been exchanging emails with MH to answer their specific concerns.
• John Leekey also asked if the additional charges for purchasing tickets can be put on the website. MH said there is already a tab on the e-ticketing website outlining all the charges - https://www.eticketing.co.uk/ccfc/CustomerNotice/FeeInformation. Mr Leekey also asked about phone charges and stated 7p a minute is very expensive. It was pointed out that this is only for the 08444539134 number. If you dial the 0333 321 3134, you get charged at local rate.
• Dave Wilkins and others asked about season ticket permits for car park C. MH put something on the website last Wednesday regarding this which can be found at the link below. Supporters can book car parking directly with the Ricoh Arena, by e-mailing Ricoh@apcoa.com. Please include your name and daytime telephone number. http://www.ccfc.co.uk/news/article/2016-17/ricoh-arena-car-parking-matchday-coventry-city-3197961.aspx.
• RS renewed his car parking permit today. The lady he spoke to on the phone wasn’t able to tell him if he could use it on different cars. TS added there has been a change of car park operators so the club is awaiting the answers to this and other questions, hopefully asap.
• Kev Monks put out a questionnaire regarding Ticketmaster: 56% said their experience had been bad, 44% good. He had forwarded a question asking whether there are ‘mechanisms in place to ensure that problems with Ticketmaster are dealt with by both the company and the club’. MH clarified that it is dependent on the issue but that it is outlined on the website. The club gives guidance to Ticketmaster where relevant. MH liaises with them regularly.
• JM asked if there was any feedback from Ticketmaster about how they thought it was going so far. MH had a conference call with Ticketmaster yesterday. There have been teething problems but on the whole it has been positive.
• There have been some difficulties with the Portsmouth cup tickets, a) in terms of the tickets not going directly onto the season ticket; this is because season tickets and numbers have not been issued yet so they can’t be linked – this will be resolved in time for the next cup game, and b) buying tickets for friends and family – this is now called ‘my network’ - a step-by-step guide on how to use the website will be put out for fans.
• JM asked if there would be a way on the system to upgrade concessionary tickets to adult tickets should the concession be unable to attend (i.e. evening games) – with only the difference being paid. MH said that this is to be discussed – Ticketmaster have also raised this.
• SBR asked if there would be a cash turnstile on the day of the Portsmouth game – AB said tickets could be purchased on the day from the Wasps ticket office. AB also confirmed that Shelagh Brock, who has worked at CCFC on and off since 2005, has re-joined the club. She will be based at the Wasps ticket office on match days and at the Butts ticket office the rest of the time. The ticket office at the Butts is moving to the rugby club ticket office by 8th August at the latest - this is a much better, fit-for-purpose facility.
• CH asked about print-at-home tickets – the terms and conditions on Ticketmaster said printed tickets is an option but there is no option to do this once you book a ticket – MH asked CH to email him about this as it is the first time it has been raised.
• TS confirmed that everyone will have their season tickets before the season starts.
• Match packages were discussed – nothing has yet been announced on this but the club are looking to finalise this next week. Away season tickets are now available, which had been discussed at the last SCG meeting.
• SBR had asked when the next board meeting would be – JS doesn’t have a date yet but it should be in the next 3-4 weeks.
Mark Venus – Current Issues
MV introduced himself and gave a brief summary of his background:
Ever since he has been a footballing coach, he has been interested in the business side of football and has had opinions on how a football club should be run. So he was delighted to take up this opportunity to help run the club better. MV was born in Hartlepool and signed for his hometown club in 1985. He moved to Leicester and played for them for three years before moving to Wolves for eleven years. At the time, Wolves were really in the doldrums. They had a lot of problems, had only two stands, and went through bankruptcy etc but they went from the old Fourth Division to the old Second Division and recovered well. He joined Ipswich in 1997 when he was thirty and spent six years there. During this time he won the First Division play-offs and finished fifth in the Premier League.
In 2004, he went to Hibernian as assistant manager to Tony Mowbray. He and Tony are very different people. MV considers himself to be very ‘black and white’ and Mowbray to be a bit more reflective, patient and understanding. The club were going through a hard time - budgets were tight, but they did what they could to bring players through to play attractive football and they upped the turnover, reaping £12millon from player sales which helped build a new stand. He followed Mowbray to West Brom two years later, where they inherited an aging team. They invested in younger players and got to the semi-finals of the FA Cup and were promoted to the Premier League. Unfortunately they were relegated in their first season.
The pair then went to Celtic . This was a difficult experience, finances were tight. After eight months they went to Middlesbrough – half of the team who were just promoted were brought in by them. Then he came to Coventry with Mowbray and was offered the position of technical director. The finances are better, money has been spent on players and money has been invested.
The aim is to take the club as high up the pyramid as possible, which means having to have an investment outlook on players. He was invited to be part of the board of directors. He is the type of guy who asks questions and likes detail, he feels he can only have impact if he knows all of the information. As a director, he is still learning about other aspects of the business besides football He hopes to build the trust of the supporters - even though they may not always agree, he believes in making decisions logically and intelligently. He said it is an amazing club to learn at and there is a lot to be achieved – the football club should be in a higher league and he aims to drive this forward.
A Q&A session ensued:
• JS asked MV what his role entailed. MV said that he manages the football budgets and player recruitment, the overall financial aspect of football at the club. He takes the admin side away from the manager. He interacts with the management and the board. Mowbray is responsible for which players we sign, tactics etc, MV is there to try to get him the best options and be as efficient with the finances as possible. MV also has input into travel, eating arrangements, physios, analysts and hiring and firing.
• JS asked to what extent could there be a conflict of interest with his new role and the footballing side of things. MV sees it as an opportunity to advise the board, as an ex-footballer, on how he believes a club should be run to help move it forward and grow. He wants to try to influence decisions being made and to have an impact.
• SBR asked what Tim Fisher’s role is now. MV replied that he is a figurehead of the football club and oversees all decisions. He is there for MV and Chris Anderson to fall back on. MV has found him very helpful and believes the club benefits from his overall contribution.
• SBA asked if there was an update with regards to the academy and asked MV’s thoughts on it. MV said the club has to have an academy. Over the last ten years, it has brought so many players through and this has been a huge source of income. It pays for itself and more. It also gives local lads an opportunity to play for their local club. It is paramount to our long-term plan that we do everything we can to ensure the academy’s future. However, MV doesn’t have a lot of involvement with this - it is Chris Anderson’s remit. Questions were asked again that were asked at the last meeting, i.e. for the club to look into the original funding and to see if there was anything in the conditions that stated the Higgs Centre needed to be used for footballing purposes – DC said this could have had a shelf life of ten years. MV doesn’t understand why the Coventry Sports Foundation would want to get rid of the club as we have been good tenants over the last ten years. JM and SBR added that the situation is not irretrievable and that the club should meet with Coventry Sports Foundation to try to find a resolution. However, certain Premier League and Football League criteria must be met so there is not much flexibility around negotiation. DB added that we are already borderline in terms of the requirements to keep Category 2 status. Chris Anderson is in charge of this so MV to feedback what was said at the meeting. MG added that Derek Higgs’ legacy was to help the football club and this should be used when dealing with them – he also suggested Amrik Bhabra getting involved in his role at the Chamber of Commerce.
• DD said there was a quote in the Telegraph that the club didn’t want to sell any more players, yet we sold Vincelot. MV responded that it was purely a footballing decision to sell Vincelot and MV believes it is the right one. Sometimes managers make decisions that fans don’t understand straight away. All the money will go back into the club, as has the Maddison money – none of that has been taken out.
• SBR commented that the squad is currently threadbare and the season is starting next week – there is a lot of concern/frustration amongst fans at the moment. MV responded that this time last year we had a threadbare squad and finished eighth in the league. The club wants to be sure it makes the right decisions – we are not scared to spend money but need to ensure the club/team benefits as much as possible. We are actively trying to sign footballers but we need to spend wisely.
• JM asked how our budget compares with last season’s, which was apparently in the top six. MV said he had no idea how to distinguish this and didn’t see last year’s graph. We have a business model where we invest what we can in the team. We do have a competitive budget but the market is expensive in all leagues. Whatever we generate we will re-invest.
• JM asked which of the youngsters coming through could make a difference this season. MV responded that we try to invest in our young footballers and try to give them an opportunity to develop into first team players. We currently have a lot of good under-20 players - we have high hopes for them all.
• SBA asked how the relationship with Tony Mowbray worked. MV has the money and goes through options with Tony, discussing what kind of players he would like, MV then tries to find them. Relationships are built with other clubs in terms of loan players, this is something Tony is instrumental in.
• JM asked if we had a scouting network. MV confirmed that we do and that they have also taken on a sports analyst.
• CH asked about the loan window and how the changes might impact on the club. MV believes we will be victims of it – we would have to keep any loan players signed by the end of August until January, even if they got injured. All clubs are in the same boat though – we would just prefer the emergency loan system.
• DH asked what the club is looking to do in terms of the number of loan players. MV doesn’t want to promise anything around loan players although he would like to limit the number of them. We want them to come in and be effective, but to play fewer games. We believe Armstrong played too many games last season. But ideally we would prefer permanent players. We are actively looking, and feel we need six more.
• SBR asked if we will have any more players coming in before 6th August. MV would hope so and would be really disappointed if not.
• SBR asked how he feels about the club playing against so many former players next season. MV said this is a part of football. Last season we had a number of players, signed under the last manager, finishing off two year contracts. In most cases, the manager felt he could improve the squad so let these players go. And finishing eighth in the league would attract other League One clubs to these players. There is no bitterness. We did offer John Fleck a new two year contract which would have made him the highest earner at the club. The manager openly stated how much he admired Fleck. However, we were unable to meet his financial expectations.
• DC asked how many players the club have lost out on. MV said a few, not all due to financial reasons. Some have been for logistical reasons and some went to a higher league. The market is expensive at the moment as MV has told the board.
• MG asked about whether we can still sign out-of-contract players anytime – MV confirmed we can. However, we want to get the right players in.
• SBR asked who we are playing in a friendly on Friday now that Doncaster have pulled out. MV was unsure but said a game would be taking place, hopefully a competitive one.
• CJ asked if Bradford City were the only club to make an offer for Vincelot. MV confirmed they were. Vincelot is thirty-one and had an injury (knee cruciate ligament) before he came to us. He did a great job last season, was a real warrior – but we believed selling him at this stage was the right thing to do.
• SBR asked what is happening with Reda Johnson. MV confirmed he is training with the club to build his fitness but he is not yet into full-time training. Mowbray admires Reda but needs to weigh up the history, record, game time etc to see if it is worth the risk of offering him a new contract.
• DH asked about the two trialists. If we don’t have a game on Friday we could possibly either lose out or have to take a gamble in signing them. MV said they have looked good and there is always a risk with trialists that another club might snap them up. We have to weigh up the risks and make a calculated decision. Ultimately it is the manager’s decision on whether we sign them.
• CJ asked about Bigirimana. MV responded that they have talked about him. He didn’t play as many games as we would have hoped last season. He is a good player, though, who ticks a lot of boxes.
JS asked Adam Brearley, new commercial director, to introduce himself and give a bit of background:
AB has joined the club from Stoke City, where he spent six years as Corporate Sales Manager. He has lived in Coventry for two-and-a-half years and has a young family. He experienced a lot of ups and downs at Stoke. Despite it being a Premier League club, the position was very demanding, but he enjoyed it. There was an opportunity to stay but he spoke to Chris Anderson and Tim Fisher beforehand and relished the big challenge of coming to Coventry. He is football mad and his home town club is Port Vale. His remit includes raising revenue through advertising, sponsorship, ticketing etc. He has a big budget to manage. He has been informally in contact with the club for two months, during which time he has been getting to know the staff. He is looking at working practices and hopes that the rest of the staff will now have greater opportunity to fulfil their roles. He wants to improve the supporter experience and to create a better atmosphere within the stadium for home games. There has been talk of a fan zone area and live music etc to improve the match-day experience - AB is speaking to his contacts at the Ricoh regarding this.
TS added that the club have needed a commercial director for a long time. Having one on board will allow us now to grow as a business.
Any Other Business
JS: It has been raised on the issues log about people buying tickets together for an away game only to find the stewards allowing fans to sit anywhere. The people with tickets together then have to sit separately. This was an issue at Swindon last season. There had been discussions with the Swindon safety officer. MH will seek clarity.
PR: The Brave the Shave Event in the Family Zone before the Northampton game involving a volunteer having her head shaved in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support (Brave the Shave Little Princess Trust will be given the hair to make wigs for children). There will be a current and former player (tbc) to cut off the volunteer’s pigtails.
TS: Any suggestions to improve match day experience, please email to MH.
RS: It’s very refreshing to have MV on the board as an ex-footballer.
JM: The club won’t be doing pro-rata season tickets. Will there be match packages available? AB confirmed details will be out by the end of next week.
CJ: Could Bruce Walker, who made the SBT transport presentation earlier this year, attend a future meeting to give an update? JS confirmed that he would contact Bruce to confirm this. Also, CJ needs to contact Alzheimer’s Trust with regards to the £500 we will be donating at the Northampton game.
MG: How many season tickets have now been sold? MH confirmed over 5000 normal season tickets and 450 commercial – both figures up on a year ago.
CJ: Has Joe Cole been contacted regarding returning to us on loan? MV said not at the moment. Joe is a brilliant guy and it would be down to the manager if he wanted to talk to him about returning.
CH: Are there extra tickets for Swindon? MH confirmed that we requested more on Tuesday night so they should hopefully be available by the end of the week. This will be communicated via Twitter.
JS: Thanks to all for attending, especially MV and AB. Good luck for the season.
Date of next meeting
7/8th September 2016 (date tbc)