Almost a year on from the last protests meeting with Bonser!


#1

Minutes of meeting held on at Bescot Stadium on 1st February 2018

Attendees: -

Jeff Bonser Chairman, Walsall Football Club

Stefan Gamble Chief Executive, Walsall Football Club

Daniel Mole Director, Walsall Football Club

Dean Neville, representing Walsall Supporters Trust

Ian Astbury, representing Walsall Supporters Trust

Matt Ellison

Dave Olly Beckett

Kevin Paddock

The meeting took place in the 1888 Lounge.

Meeting started at 09:32am

Ian led the meeting and firstly thanked Jeff Bonser, Stefan Gamble and Daniel Mole for agreeing to meet with fans today to discuss issues surrounding the club.

The fans meeting agenda advised: -

• Jeff’s exit strategy

• The ground freehold

• Playing budget & deadline day

• Club accounts

• The Venue

• Saddlers Club

• The current manager

• The planned protest march

• Any other items

JB’s Exit Strategy

JB advised that he wants to retire and sell his shares in the club and via his and his brother’s pension fund with Suffolk Life, sell the ground. Note Suffolk Life legally own the stadium freehold. JB wants to enjoy a retirement and once more become a normal fan.

In JB’s view the best solutions are: -

  1. For the club to buy the freehold, either using a windfall from a sell on clause or by finance, however despite talking to numerous banks around the world, no bank will lend to a football club, even one such as WFC which is profitable with the security of a long lease. Other methods of finance recently investigated by SG are prohibitive at the moment due to high interest charges.

  2. For Walsall Council to buy the stadium using prudential low interest borrowing. The rent would be then paid to the council who could then spend the money for running Walsall Borough. The present council leadership however are not interested, despite investing the Saddlers Centre at a higher costs and lower return. JB suggested that fans groups including the Trust should lobby local councillors to consider and support this option. Any agreement with the council would include the option to buy the freehold if WFC had a transfer sell on clause windfall. Council control and so their viewpoint does change frequently, so dialogue will continue.

The fans suggested that if Walsall Council are not interested in acquiring the freehold would the Council’s pension fund be interested, with the same option to buy clause. SG is to consider / investigate this.

Any third party is welcome to offer to purchase the club and the land, however they must have the interests of the WFC at the forefront. JB advised that 6 serious bids have been received for the club but they didn’t materialise as Jeff doesn’t want the club to fall into the hands of people who do not have the club’s best interests at heart and who could be a detriment to the club.

JB hopes that thirty years from now we have a club in the Premier League, but mainly there is still a Walsall Football Club.

If the freehold cannot be sold before he passes away, then to pension fund containing the stadium freehold would pass to his next of kin / descendants.

Ground Freehold

The fans advised that we didn’t particularly want to discuss the past history regarding the freehold as this is already in the public domain. The fans wanted to discuss the present and the future, not the past.

JB however felt it was important to discuss past events as it has a direct bearing on the situation today. JB then advised for an hour or so, the full history of the freehold starting from when Terry Ramsden got involved with the club until present day. This was done in great detail and included the involvement and investment of £3m by Jeff’s and his brother Robert’s pension fund with Suffolk Life into capital projects at the stadium which have been rentalised up but generate a commercial return to the club forever.

JB was keen to dispel the myths and the rumours regarding the freehold & the pension fund involvement and give a true record of the past events.

Following this, the fans asked why JB couldn’t attend a Focus Group meeting and personally deliver this information. JB advised that he will not do this as there is a small element of fans, who do not even attend matches, who would never accept what he said, shout him down with chaos ensuing at any meeting.

The fans then suggested that JB’s account be written up and made available on the clubs website on a history page for all to view. This was agreed to by the club and this will be done with archive supporting documents added in .pdf format.

Playing Budget & Deadline Day.

The fans asked if the 50/50 policy relating to transfer income can be reviewed with more money going into the transfer budget. After all, the transfer income comes from the playing side, so why doesn’t 100% go back into it?

JB – Yes we can look at that. The 50/50 split is only a guide, we often do more, but bear in mind that we have high costs in developing that player, training ground, staff etc.

In the last accounts we repaid part of the Director’s loans. £288K was repaid to JB. In view of the current situation with the squad depth and quality could repayments be reduced to increase the playing budget?

JB – Yes we will consider this. The Director’s loans must be paid at some point however.

Significant funds were available for team strengthening up until the transfer deadline.

We had agreed a 6 figure fee with a club for a player and terms with a player who was driving to WFC to sign, however that player received a phone call from another club while on route who offered him a better package and the player diverted his journey and signed for the other club.

SG stated that the club has also made a number of other bids to pay a transfer fee to acquire the permanent registration of players but these were rejected by their clubs.

Transfer deadline day was a stressful, long day for the club. Many players that the club had been courting for several weeks left their options open until the last day.

The club wanted to sign more experienced players, but circumstances dictated that only younger players could be brought in. The club conceded that this was not ideal, but they needed more players / more bodies and although young, the players brought in are highly rated.

Permanent signings were desired, but the deals just didn’t materialise.

The club pays “Low to middle of the table” in terms of player wages compared to other clubs in our league. However, it is difficult to compare budgets between clubs as all clubs include different components when talking about ‘Player Budget’.

The club had turn offers for 4 of our players in the last month or so, including 2 former Academy players. The fans asked why the club hadn’t shared this with the fans as positive PR and the club acknowledged it would have been worth doing this, however there is a lengthy piece written by SG in relation to the Transfer Window in Saturdays match programme.

Club Accounts 2016 / 2017

Fans questions answered as follows: -

In 2016 / 2017 accounts Intangible assets were up by £110K (Zero the year previously) – This covered registration fees for players.

A new unsecured loan of £200K from JB– This covered new display screens for the large advertising structure. £150K of which has already been paid back from the profit the sign generates.

Turnover from match receipts is down 28% when attendances only down 18 %. – SG advised that this was due to WFC having lucrative matches versus Chelsea and the 2 leg play off semi-final versus Barnsley. The Chelsea match brought in over £100K of revenue alone.

The club also advised that their accounts comply with Companies House requirements and the full detail of the trading account will not be disclosed as this is commercial sensitive.

Also Walsall Football Club has been voted as one of the top ten well run clubs by Deloitte (Financial services firm).

The Venue

The club advised that this is going from strength to strength and this that part of the business supports the football side of the business which is and always will be the primary part of the business. The Venue activity is always invoice by The Walsall Football Club Ltd and will not be segregated or hived off.

The Saddlers Club

WFC is the landlord and is owed a lot of rent. This has affected the playing budget.

The Saddlers Club is a separate business to WFC and it is up to the SC to resolve their issue. The club are watching the situation, but at this stage cannot get involved.

The current manager.

The fans expressed their unhappiness with the current manager and our slide towards the second division.

The club acknowledge that we are in a relegation battle and that the manager’s position is regularly discussed. It is a results driven position. The work in the transfer market yesterday was necessary to help alleviate the threat of relegation.

JB supported the appointment of Jon Whitney 100% at the time and felt Jon deserved his chance of managing the club due to his 15 years’ service. Jon had been around the club for a long period and has experienced the dressing room during this time.

JB admitted that we may have lost our way a bit with regards to the clubs philosophy but reiterated that the club will be getting back to that philosophy very quickly.

JB stated the club would cope with relegation but we definitely don’t want it. He then reiterated his desire to get the club back into the Championship and said everyone must pull together.

The Planned Protest March on Saturday 3rd February

First question to JB was why do you think the fans are protesting?

JB “I was going to ask you that. I don’t know why. Is there a hidden agenda?”

Fans advised that it was to do with the uncertainty surrounding the club which had come more vociferous following results on the pitch.

JB suggested that the performances on the pitch may change on Saturday with the new signings brought into the club yesterday. JB reiterated that he was always doing the best for the club and the football would always be his 100% focus. JB gets angry with what he sees on the pitch just like any other fan.

The club said whilst it could not stop supporters protesting it hoped that the protest does not go ahead, highlighting the negative consequences of continuing the protests. Whilst they understand the frustration of the fans and appreciate that fans are the most important part of any football club. A protest now will affect the confidence of new and existing players and put off any investors who may be interested in the club. We’re in a relegation battle. Saturday’s match is a 6 pointer. We need to all pull together and support the team.

Other items

Supporters Trust

Dean Neville asked if there could be trust representation on the board as the Trust is the 12th largest club shareholder. Jeff said he would always welcome a trust member on the board as long as investment to the club, that matched the other Directors, was made through that representation.

Dan Mole feels that the Trust is currently split. The Trust acknowledged there are faults at present but are working on them.

Dean also asked if the club and the Trust could run a promotion on a match day which would improve the atmosphere during this relegation battle period. The club are open to suggestions on this.

Dan asked for more structured meetings to continue between the Trust, other fans groups and the board at regular monthiy intervals.

Stadium

Fans asked questions regarding the stadium infrastructure and improvements. The club are to undertake work during the summer in the toilets and the Bescot Bar to improve these facilities.

The fans thanked Jeff, Stefan and Daniel for attending.

Meeting came to a close at 12:16pm.


#2

Surprisingly not a lots changed! :+1::rofl:


#3

Oh wow, I take it all back, amazing progress has been made…

I won’t be fobbed off again, if this protest dies a death I simply will not attend another Walsall game until there is a change.


#4

First mistake was thanking them for attending as immediately puts them in the ascendency and makes you look servile and like a little boy asking for more.:bowl_with_spoon:


#5

Were any details shared regarding the “6 serious bids” for the club and were these for the club and ground (the whole shooting match) as a package?

Would be interesting to know if these were British or foreign led, speculative developers or consortia with a track record in football or some other type of interest.


#6

I’d like to know this too.
What exactly was determined detrimental to the club by Bonser… considering the current situation where the club is having £450k a year taken out of its budget.
Or is it a case that these bids were considered not high enough in money to let go of the golden goose as many fans suspect?:thinking:


#7

There’s a lot of subjects there that are exactly what has been complained about recently. Many of the answers are “we can look into that”. Sowas anything actually done?

Right at the end there’s stuff about the toilets and Bescot Bar. I assume the summertime revamp was basically a few coats of paint and not much has changed.:thinking:


#8

Think we still had a few tins of paint left over from being runners up in the JPT. A few years back.


#9

Fair play to them for trying something but history proves talking does nothing and at a time when the protest was beginning to get a lot of supporters it was such a huge mistake to stop the protests. As we can see, action speaks louder than words and nothing had been done since.
The only good to come of that meeting is that it’ll be a lesson to the next campaign, talking does nothing.


#10

To be honest i am surprised at the fact the last lot of protesters believed there would be change? knowing bonzo’s track record, and even after this next round of protests, as good as i think it will be, i still don’t think things will change :neutral_face:


#11

He really means detrimental to him … losing £450K out of his Pension


#12

I came out of said meeting and stated that In my oppinion what bonser said was the best fairytale I’ve ever heard,

I also was against postponement of protest,s but went with the majority vote in favour of giving them the benefit of the doubt, despite firmly believing it was the wrong choice being made

I think all concerned would now admit the wrong choice was made at time, and with hindsight protests should have continued as they where slowly gaining support

As for the bids recieved he wouldn’t go into detail Other than to say. He felt they did not have club at heart, But he was always going to say that, to keep hold of the golden egg

It is common knowledge that the guy who went on to invest heavily into Bristol city, after his bid for Walsall was turned down, Was reported to have said
It’s a good set up, but it concentrates to much on the comercial side and not enough on the main reason it exists I’e football, and a cussed our esteemed owner of constantly changing the goalposts during negotiations

As I’ve always said Walsall football club never has or never will be for sale in his lifetime
Any protest must be aimed at forcing him to treat the footballing side of the buisness more fairly, that is a more realistic goal , than forcing him out, as like I say this will never be achieved

Starving him of money is the only way to force a change in operating policies As let’s be honest, he has far more to loose than anyone else,


#13

completely agree he has no intention of ever selling the club and will not be forced out either.best you can do is make things uncomfortable and difficult over a sustained period of time to try and force his hand in regards to how money is spent.We dont ask for much just to compete at this level for a few decent players would be enough for most fans i know.


#14

Well this time there should be no let up


#15

Yep. We tried and got bonser to the table. Apart from a few titbits it wasn’t really worth it.

I suppose we found out they were human and ultimately, can legitimately say that we’ve done the talking bit and nothing has changed, which we can refer to when they say ‘lets talk’ again.


#16

Totally agree But if there is any of the other guys on here who attended that meeting, they will confirm lots will pledge support and promise this that and the other, but when push comes to shove will be in the various bars up there contributing further to the downfall of our club

No one can force anyone to protest, I accept that, and respect there view not to
But you can bet they are also the most vocal ones ,
Who continually want him gone, but in fact give him the perfect reason to stay

I to go in stadium suite but don’t spend a penny in there, and Havant done since original protest,
I get. Double rounds in both prior to and after the game with the guys I attend with, As they know and respect my view ,that he won’t get a single penny of me other than my entrance fee

Would only need a few hundred more to adopt the same principle, See how quick he reacts
By not spending does not stop anyone supporting the team, And those who say this will only impact on playing budget How can it. Seeing it’s almost non existent anyway, , he loves nothing more than reading that, And as said in previous comments, he has far more to loose than anyone,


#17

That is what gets to me, i can understand fans wanting to support the team, i get it, it is in my blood as well, BUT all i would ask is for those fans not to buy anything in the ground, just to give the protesters a bit of support? after all we are doing it for THEIR benefit as well.


#18

As Matt will confirm this was what we where at pains to get fans to commit to, And as Matt can also testify the very ones who promised to do this where in bescot bar as we and A few other hardy souls stood outside freezing to death
Don’t be fooled by those backing the protests on here or other social media sites because as said when push comes to shove 99% will be no where to be seen.
And that in itself is a sad reflection of how bonser has brainwashed them into believing without him there will be no wfc


#19

In that case then when we turn up on monday nobody buy a drink ■■■■ em :fu:


#20

Maybe Bonser will be ‘in the chair’ and buy us all one …:crazy_face: