Walsall Football Club Supporters Working Party Meeting. Held via a Zoom conference call on Monday 1st June 2020, 3pm.
Stefan Gamble (SG) and Daniel Mole (DM) – Walsall Football Club
Chris Saunders (CS) – Walsall Supporters for Change
Ray Dale (RD) – Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust
Graham Whittaker (GW) – Walsall Football Club Supporter Liaison Officer
Independent Saddlers Supporters Association (ISSA)
Walsall Football Club Disabled Supporters Association (DSA)
Minutes: Sam Hadwen (SH)
SG and DM began by thanking everyone for attending the meeting.
DM began the meeting by giving an update from the club’s perspective. DM mentioned that the club has been extremely busy over the last month with DM and SG visiting the stadium alternatively through the week whilst working on ongoing projects and plans.
DM touched upon the indicative vote from League Two clubs to formally cease the 19/20 Season which took place on 15th May- DM indicated that the clubs now await updates from the EFL as to what happens next. Monday 8th June is a date which SG touched upon in regards to the conclusion of the season- a formal vote will be in place on this date for the league standings to be finalised via an unweighted points average. SG added that the club would take a hit financially should the decision be to play the remaining games in the season but believes with much certainty that this will be the agreed outcome and added that once this decision is made, supporters will then be able to contact clubs for refunds on tickets/season tickets for the remaining home games due to be played or take advantage of a package of benefits which Leigh Pomlett (LP) publicised via our social media channels a few weeks ago. CS responded by asking about details of the club’s refund package and when we can expect more information on this. DM reiterated by stating that details would be publicised as and when the current season is formally concluded. DM added that the story for this has been finalised and items have been agreed.
SG also stated that the next phase is to find out what arrangements are to be made for the 20/21 Season. Provisional dates for the return of the Premier League and Championship have been made public and SG stated that the provisional fixture schedules for these suggests that these will be finished on 30thJuly. SG said that the club have been working on a financial basis for an October start however if the timetable is achievable, he believes we could be looking at starting the new season in the first week of September; this is however speculative as things stand and subject to change and once we know more information on this we will make supporters aware via our media channels.
DM added to this stating that they are lobbying for a start date for the new season so that a body of work can be put in place and prepared e.g. re-opening of the training ground and stadium, return to training for first-team players, pre-season plans etc.
DM added the training ground and stadium are being prepared on a Covid-19 secure basis to be back up to speed and re-opened, with the possibility of players returning to training at the end of June and July for office staff; again subject to change. DM reiterated that he and SG alongside the board of directors and various other stakeholders are working hard on this to ensure that they are fit and safe to return to.
The Community Hub work was paused in March due to Covid-19 but DM stated that this work is expected to recommence on 8th June after receiving approval from local authorities. Completion date for this however is unsure due to the current circumstances that construction and other companies face but the club are hopeful that this will be completed at the earliest convenience.
DM concluded by stating that the pitch renovation and training ground issues are nearing completion and that the Executive Board of Directors (DM, SG and LP) continue to meet virtually twice a day, with another Zoom video call with the directors and manager Darrell Clarke (DC) to take place in due course to give supporters another insight into where things stand.
SG also added that since the last meeting the club have secured the finance and funding necessary to enable the club to get through the next 12 months, however this is subject to having matches being played in front of a crowd and the Conference & Events business reopening when safe to do so. RD responded by asking whether we could envisage supporters being allowed back into the stadium before Christmas, to which SG stated he is confident they will be but that may be via a reduced attendance with social distancing measures in place.
SG concluded by reiterating the club is in good shape compared to others with a number of players on contract for next year and insisted that this is a good time to readdress the imbalance in football to get costs under control and make things more sustainable, which SG believes will be in place in some form for the 20/21 Season.
Update from Walsall Supporter for Change:
CS began by asking if there was any update regarding the release date of next season’s kit now that we have a rough timescale of things.
DM reiterated that the kit is being manufactured as mentioned in the previous Working Party meeting and is hopeful of having all items in within the next 14 days. Once received, DM added that we could then look at having this publicised as soon as it is feasible to do so. DM did mention however that in order to do a normal launch there are some hurdles to overcome e.g. the need to have players wearing the kit, photoshoot and design work as well as getting our sponsors on board but stated that the club will be able to facilitate this when the time is right.
CS then asked about whether there would be a retained/released list being announced anytime soon. DM responded by saying that updates would be made as and when the current season is formally concluded. DM is aware that other clubs have announced their lists in the past few weeks but has indicated that these discussions have been had between the directors and DC and that this would be announced in due course. SG added by saying that the club has until 23rd June officially however if the vote goes as expected on 8th June, SG believes that players will be informed by DC as early as possible and this will follow suit with supporters being notified via our media channels.
CS then praised DM and the Communications team for the completion of the 260km running challenge which raised over £2500 for Acorns Children’s Hospice and the Community Hub project. DM thanked CS and added his delight of the amount of money raised for two worthy causes and stated that this will go a long way to completing the Community Hub and making it an accessible and exciting facility for all to use, both during the week and on matchdays.
CS asked if the Landlord had been approached with regards to rent payments during this difficult time. SG responded by saying the Club would not comment on specific matters other than to say that everyone - staff, players, supporters and suppliers - had all contributed significantly during this time to ensure the club is in as good a place as possible at this time.
Update from Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust:
RD began by stating that the 50/50 draw currently stands at £350, however he believes they will reach the £500 mark before Saturday’s draw which is being carried out by Queen of the South. The Mascot Package draw has reached £150 as things stand with 20 days remaining. RD asked DM and SG what their threshold would be for this. DM responded by stating that we will continue to run this regardless and push this on a more regular basis on the club website and social media platforms, with some videos to also be looked at from first-team players and management staff.
RD then touched upon the branded face masks which were made available for pre-order last week. DM stated that we have sold out of these and received some good feedback and engagement from it. This has since been gaged in the last few days to see if there was an appetite for a re-order and DM believes there has been. These have since been re-ordered and will be available to supporters in due course.
RD concluded by stating that the Trust are making a donation to the Alzheimer’s Society in memory of Ron Smith, father of ex Walsall player and manager Dean Smith. DM and SG responded by giving their sincere thanks to the Trust for their generosity.
The meeting closed at 15:40.
Next meeting to be held on Zoom on 6th July 2020 at 15:00.