THE CLUB’S FUTURE PLANS
There has been mounting speculation and rumours about the owner’s plans for the Club on forums and among fans. The root of concern is the approach of the end of the 5 year plan announced by Clarke Osborne when he first acquired the Club and statements in the accounts of Riviera Stadium Ltd indicating financial support for the Club until the end of the 2020/21 season. The latest accounts indicated debts owed by the Club to RSL of approximately £3m at March 2020, an increase of £900k during the previous 12 months. It is widely expected that this debt will have increased by at least as much again during the latest 12 months. The importance of promotion to the EFL is recognised as critical and a clear objective of the current season as reiterated by this week’s announcement of additional funding for squad strengthening if the manager requires it. With this in mind the recent drop down the table has led to growing concerns as to the owner’s response if promotion is not achieved.
Whilst recognising the owner’s right to keep his intentions private, the lack of any recent communication regarding plans for the Club’s future including relocation of the stadium has fuelled speculation. There appears to be a lack of recognition that, whatever the ownership model may be, a football club is a community asset which supporters invest a lot of time and effort in and which is central to many people’s lives. Indeed, there had been a commitment by Clarke Osborne to involve all interested parties in the plans for the Club when he first arrived.
With all this in mind, TUST welcomed the opportunity to put the following questions to the directors at its recent meeting with Dominic Mee, the club’s Media and Supporter Liaison Co-ordinator;
- How does the owner view his return being realised for his significant investment to obtain promotion to the EFL?
- How does this tie in with the Five Year Plan and especially a new stadium?
- Can the club shed light on the apparent loan arrangement with the recently appointed Thai director?
We will advise our members of the response when we receive it.
LIAISON MEETING WITH DOMINIC MEE
Other items covered in our meeting with Dom included the return of supporters to Plainmoor. TUST congratulated the Club on its management of the return of supporters in December.
If the roadmap out of Covid goes to plan, and the local restrictions are lifted and lockdown rules are eased, supporters will be allowed back again for the final home game on 22nd May however this was by no means a certainty. TUST has offered its services to assist the Club in advance of this match or on the day of the game if required. It could mobilise a team of members if needed.
TUST also suggested some form of memorabilia to celebrate the return of fans such as stickers, badges or flags. Dom advised that the prospect of having fans back is exciting, however the Club does not feel any celebrations should take place until ALL supporters are able to return to Plainmoor.
TUST reported widespread support for the streaming service and appreciation for the opportunity it afforded many to watch games that they would not otherwise be able to experience. It had received many enquiries from members about whether the service might continue in future seasons. Dom said he had also received enquiries regarding this.
He explained that any decision would not be the Club’s alone as the provision of streaming was subject to regulation by the football authorities and also influenced by the TV companies.
TUST advised that feedback it had received suggested that most fans who were able to attend matches would prefer to return to the stadium even if streaming was available and that those who wanted to watch the stream were generally willing to pay a charge similar to the ground entrance fee to do so as long as the quality of the package was good.
TUST brought the Football Boot Bank initiative run by Plymouth Argyle to the Club’s attention. The idea is to provide collection points for unwanted kit (not just boots) donated by individuals or clubs for recycling for families in need. We are keen to support the scheme when current restrictions are eased.
In any other business, Dom noted that TUST had not been retweeting promotional postings made by the Club and wondered if there was a reason for this. Those present were not directly involved in TUST’s social media but reassured Dom that this was not a conscious decision and would be raised with those who managed its social media channels.
Dom said that George Edwards, CEO, was concerned that TUST was supporting a vote questioning whether Gary Johnson should stay or go, and asked why a member of TUST felt it necessary to use his article in a local newspaper to drum up activity as to whether he should stay and complete the season, or go?
Nick Brodrick apologised if his question had caused offence as this was certainly not his intention. He explained that, like it or not, speculation on the manager’s future was an increasing topic of debate amongst fans over that weekend and his column had merely reflected this. The piece itself certainly did not support calls for Gary Johnson to go and the question, which attracted the biggest response of any he had conducted in his column, was unanimous in its support of the manager. Nick did point out that a few weeks earlier he had asked opinions about whether there should be a statue erected in GJ’s honour as was raised in an edition of ‘Inside Plainmoor’. It was also stated that the TUST board were 100% supportive of the manager.
SUMMARY OF MARCH TUST BOARD MEETING
The Chairman reported that, whilst the attendance had been disappointing, the recent Zoom social meeting had been an enjoyable opportunity to liaise with those members who did attend and the two hour discussion had been both supportive of TUST and productive.
Topics covered had included the streaming of matches, the role of Exile groups, the owner’s plans for the Club and on-field matters.
It was agreed that a second event should be held towards the end of the season. It was suggested that this may attract more interest if there was a specific topic for discussion or a guest speaker. Date and format to be considered at next meeting.
Torquay United Community Sports Trust (TUCST)
Matt Anthony, manager of TUCST had advised that there were currently 24 signed up for the Inspirations Stay at Home Training Packs sponsored by TUST. More are expected to sign up when those with more severe disabilities are able to resume.
Torquay United Women’s Football Club
The current season had been terminated. Although the team were bottom of the league, there had been a recent improvement in its performances and there were grounds for optimism for the next season. The sponsorship for tracksuits agreed by TUST had not been requested but would be available when required for the new season.