ISSA Members Questions Forwarded To The Club

Dear Mr Chairman

I am writing on behalf of the committee of the Independent Saddlers Supporters Association, and many of our members who have contacted us.

Following the more than disappointing defeat at home to Barrow, we have received many messages and questions that our members would like us to put forwards to Walsall Football Club. I think it is a fair statement when saying this is one of if not the biggest crisis Walsall Football Club has faced in living memory. Not just the fact we are in real danger of dropping out of the Football League, but how quickly the club has declined and continue to do so at an alarming rate. We have sorted through all of the messages that were sent to us and selected the questions we feel are in desperate need of answering or questions that were asked multiple times.

Before I begin I would like to say the following. This is not an attack on anyone. We all want what is best for Walsall Football Club and there are serious concerns about the way the club is heading. It is not just a Football Club to our supporters it is a way of life. This may sound like a cliché but the truth in it is undeniable. We have supporters of all ages that have completely dedicated their lives to following Walsall. The lengths they have gone to in their lives just to get to Walsall games is way above and beyond what anyone could imagine. Many have lost friends and family that either started their journey being a Walsall supporter or were there from the beginning and find that connection is kept alive through their love of Walsall Football Club. Please don’t underestimate what the club means to the supporters, it is far more than a Saturday afternoon pass time. I understand some of the questions may be hard-hitting, but they are asked with the best of intentions from people who love Walsall Football Club.

The video updates that you have been releasing regularly have been a breath of fresh air, especially after many years of silence from our previous Chairman. However, unless they contain answers that fans want answering they are in danger of becoming nothing more than a PR exercise. I am sure that is not the intention, you come across as a very genuine man with the best intentions of Walsall Football Club at heart. However, there are certain questions that fans want answers to that either get talked around or passed off as commercially sensitive. You mentioned in one of your previous videos about fans speculating and “talking nonsense” on social media. Is this not brought on by a lack of straight answers to questions asked? There are indeed people who will make their own minds up regardless but I feel most supporters are just crying out for honest information.

We have received several questions regarding the video you released when you talked about mentoring Brian Dutton. Would you accept in hindsight this was ill-advised? Could you elaborate on what you meant by “mentoring”

Nothing against Brian Dutton at all, it is clear he is giving everything he has got for Walsall Football Club. However, with dropping out of the league now being a realistic possibility surely, it is time to call an end to this experiment and bring in someone with experience. Firstly to ensure we are in the Football League next season and moving forwards don’t end up in this situation again. Do you now feel like putting such an inexperienced manager in charge when our league status was far from secure was a mistake? Or was it a case of underestimating the seriousness of the situation?

I think we can all appreciate the difficult situation you have found yourself in with the pandemic. Everyone has been affected by it in different ways. All football clubs outside of the Premier League have been affected in the same way. Our supporters have all been hit hard by the pandemic too. Job losses, furlough, businesses collapsing, and at the very least a very uncertain future. These same supporters have still gone above and beyond to try and support the Club. An astonishing amount of supporters left their season ticket money in the club with no real hope of seeing a ball kicked live this season. Fans have made efforts to raise money to support the club and also helped out with jobs at the ground. I do note that you have been quick to thank supporters for their efforts. Supporters haven’t asked for much in return for their dedication to Walsall Football Club but at this point, several recurring questions are being asked.

Will there be a competitive playing budget for next season? Assuming we survive this season and we all pray for that, so we don’t end up in this situation again.

Can we survive dropping out of the Football League? Is there a plan in place for this scenario?

As I mentioned above the pandemic has hit football clubs at this level extremely hard. However, this situation hasn’t happened overnight, the club has been in decline for some time now. The long term goal was to be an established Championship club. We are clearly a long way from this right now, even becoming an established League 1 side feels a long way off. A lot of supporters have asked this question and in return for their loyalty to the club, I would like to ask if you could give fans a revised five-year plan of how the club plans to move forwards and begin to achieve some of its goals. We can’t just keep doing the same things and expect things to improve. I understand the decline started way before you took over as Chairman, and the awful hand you have been dealt so far. We are where we are though. It would be nice to know how you plan to make progress moving forwards. It would be nice if this could be put on the official website and social media to give supporters something they can buy into and believe in rather than just drifting aimlessly, which is what it feels like right now.

There have been many questions regarding the freehold and the rent. I am sure you have heard these questions many times. I can’t speak for every fan but I do know for a fact that these are huge issues for a lot of fans especially fans of a certain age. It has been an ongoing issue for many years and I think all supporters would appreciate some honest answers. It’s a well-known fact that there are supporters who stopped attending Walsall home games because of the rent. I also know for a fact some fans stopped donating money to fundraisers during this pandemic because it was unclear what was being paid in rent. I personally know several Walsall fans who had once been die-hard fans that didn’t even go to Wembley based on this alone. You could say that is cutting off their nose to spite their face, but that is how strong the feeling is with some of our fans. We want these supporters back at games spending their money and fully behind Walsall Football Club. I don’t think the club and fans will ever truly be pulling completely in the same direction until these issues are either resolved or at the very least there is a clear picture of the true extent of the situation. I know you have mentioned several times other clubs pay rent which is of course true. However, they didn’t previously own their ground in the first place. The feeling regarding the rent at Walsall Football Club amongst supporters is a pretty unique one I think. I understand that during a time where the club has no real income may not be the time to be thinking about such matters, but it is an important part of our future. They are questions that desperately need answers.

Is there any realistic chance of the club being reunited with the freehold?

If so what is required to do so? For example how much is it realistically going to cost and what other obstacles are there?

If not, has the club considered moving away from Bescot? Is this a realistic possibility in the future? Many supporters have never taken to Bescot as our home for a number of reasons, including the issues mentioned above. If there is no realistic chance of the club ever being reunited with the freehold this could possibly be an alternative?

Has the debt that was owed to our previous owner now been removed from the books? If it hasn’t it is now owed to you? And if so, how is this debt to be repaid?

Are the American investors still wanting to come on board?

If no investment is forthcoming can you personally guarantee to keep the club viable?

Are the current board of directors willing to put in financially out of their own pockets as supporters have been requested to do many times, and have done so willingly?

There have been a lot of questions asked about people working behind the scenes making decisions. I’m not going to mention any names, as I said earlier this isn’t about personal attacks, we have no doubt everyone is doing their best for Walsall Football Club. However, I think it is fair to say at this point as a club we are failing. Would you in your previous business life not look to have made changes if you were failing? Is this something you have considered, or would consider to refresh things, bring in some fresh ideas and take a much-needed change in direction?

I understand there are a lot of questions in there. Please believe me when I say that we have cut it down significantly from all that we have received and only included the most important questions.

Thank you for taking the time to read what I have had to say and the questions our members have asked. I write personally from my heart as a life long Walsall supporter who is hurting from the inside right now. Each of our members who took the time to write to us will have their own Walsall story and be hurting just the same. Everyone involved with the Independent Saddlers Supporters Association is right behind you and are more than willing to help in any way possible.

Yours Sincerely

Mark Cassell - Secretary for the Independent Saddlers Supporters Association.

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Excellent work Mark.
I hope you and we all get the response that we deserve as supporters

Great work, the groups should definitely be doing this too as it does help with the impact. I saw that WSA had shared the SLO email on Twitter too. Genuinely unsure if the Trust have done anything, any idea?

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A well constructed and respectfully worded request, which I hope will get the full attention of our Chairman. It’s sometimes difficult to avoid being over- emotional in this type of communication, but facts have been clearly laid out here, and cover much of the discontent amongst saddlers’ fans.

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Well written and hopefully this gets some open answers.

To follow on from what Dan has said I think it would be good if all 4 supporters groups could work together in this.

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I’ve said it before but it seems a lot more urgent now, there is a lot more at stake. More than ever before we need a unified voice.

Surely if is the difference between survival and a future, compared with god knows what, all parties can at least give it a try?! (I accept we are probably not including the trust in this btw - lost cause). Every one of these organisations make valid points, but they need to be brought together.

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Excellent all questions that are needed to be asked, without being aggressive or in your face well constructed letter.

No one should be excluded.
As you said this should be a unified voice.

There have been disagreements in the past and no doubt there will be in the future. I don’t see a problem with that as long as it’s dealt with respectfully.

The one thing that unites us all is we’re Saddlers and we ALL want the best for the club.
It’s time for everyone to come together and work with the club to fix things. The club also needs to listen and that will be easier to do when we’re constantly all pushing them as one voice.

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I’m not going to go into great detail on this matter, it could almost have run its own thread. As far as I see it the Trust aren’t excluded from anything, they seem to distance themselves as is their right to do so. We have a good working relationship as far as I am concerned with the WSA and the DSA. Every thread regarding ISSA seems to have the Trust brought in to it, but we have no control at all over what they think, believe or do.

The letter was sent in response to a large amount of messages we received from members since the defeat Friday night. I put all the points together in the most polite and respectful way I was capable of. The trust never even entered my mind. Personally, hand on heart, I have nothing against them at all and never have. I have only ever written facts.

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We hope that the chairman gives answers to the questions sent too, many of which he should hopefully already have from the last WPM as @chriss5471 forwarded them on.

All of us need some clarity on the situation and the future because it’s clear it will not be swept under the carpet any longer.

Hopefully tomorrow he will answer a lot of things. Here’s hoping!

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I have received a response from our Chairman to the questions that were put forwards. We have had his permission to share that response. I must say all credit to him for answering on a Sunday afternoon/evening.

Mark,

Thanks for the questions which are well crafted and thought out.

Trust me the videos I do are not a PR exercise, simply a genuine attempt to do what I set out to do which is to keep the fans informed which I committed to do 18 months ago when I took over.

In my video tomorrow I cannot possibly cover all of these questions but I can cover some of them and subject to confidentiality agreements I will give you straight answers to questions.

I do not retract my comment that some of the posting on social media is nonsense and do not agree that this is because of a lack of answers to questions in all cases. Some people just make stuff up no matter how many questions are answered. This is quite simply unhelpful.

As I said I cannot possibly answer all of the questions in the video but am more than prepared to answer each of the questions in a separate zoom call with you if that would help when we can go through each questions you have posed.

On some I suspect we will disagree but so be it, that’s football.

There is no doubt that coronavirus has been an incredibly difficult challenge to face and most of my focus this year has been to make sure that the club survives. That is true for all clubs and I am of the view that COVID 19 will take not just one year to recover from but possibly one or two years more.

I know that the club means so much to many people and I am one of them. It is so much more than a Saturday afternoon pass-time and I acknowledge that.

It is a real battle at the moment and I am at the stadium every day dealing with issues of which there are many.

Anyway, I will deal with some areas on the video tomorrow but not all but the offer is there for a separate meeting.

I genuinely try to respect supporters who have been excellent in supporting the club through this very tough phase but I cannot always make popular decisions.

Leigh

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Decent reply and fair play on a Sunday night. Nobody can question whether he cares or not, he definitely does. I still don’t think he should bring up fans talking ‘nonsense’. Of course there are some that talk ■■■■ but by coming out and saying that you end up with more than those few thinking ‘does he mean me for questioning whether X, Y or Z has happened because he hasn’t answered it?’.

I look forward to tomorrow’s video. This pretty much confirms that it’s a video where he’s basically going to tell us how difficult it is at the moment…

Hopefully @simon is able to get this reply out on the UTS Twitter so more people are aware that he has replied.

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Credit where credits due dan. And he has had the decency to take time out. On what is a big family day today

I’ve put his response out on other platforms but not on twitter so as said hopefully si i or rob will sort that

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Done.

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Fair play to him for taking time out.

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Can it be requested that this meeting is with all supporters groups together?

Also, I saw in the last WPM minutes the plan was to vote on allowing ISSA back in April with a view to them attending in May. Surely in this day and age things can move quicker than that?

Can The Trust, WSA and DSA all state they will vote them back in ASAP and then just get a meeting setup?

He must have saw the scooby doo meme :joy:

Pleased he’s answered credit to him for that let’s sort this out before it’s too late we all want the same thing to see the club do well it’s just very frustrating at how far we have fallen in recent years.I don’t think anyone dislikes Leigh he seems like a genuine fan and cares about the club like we do but something has to change and quickly

Credit to him him for a speedy response, but I can tell by his reply anyone expecting radical changes or promising news are in for a shock.

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This tells me we will have a reduced budget for the next couple of seasons, which could potentially see us in the national league in the not so distant future. Very depressing times has a walsall fan.

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