Questions answered from the Forever Bury director's desk
I’d like to start by thanking everyone who has got in touch. We welcome any thoughts, ideas or suggestions and I’ll do my best to respond to everything. What we would like is more fans to get actively involved so please consider joining Forever Bury and if you’ve any time to spare or any skills that may be of use call in at the Forever Bury Cabin.
Q1 - Many clubs have set their age related concessions at 60 to capture the ' grey pound ' and retain those unable to afford ever increasing ticket prices. As many find it difficult to find employment if made redundant at this age and if in receipt of any company pension cannot get JS allowance. Can this issue be discussed?
A1. We are aware that pricing is an issue for some due to the state of the economy (although we are now technically out of the recession!). We do our best to freeze prices as much as possible, so the term ‘ever increasing prices’ is a little harsh. We do feel it is important that our loyal supporters are looked after, and although we can’t change prices mid-season due to Football League regulations, it is certainly something that we will seriously look at ahead of the 2013/2014 season.
Q2 - Why does FB not use some of the profit made from the Beer Festival to pay Bury FC the £8,000 per season that they get from Lindley Catering. Then set up their own catering operation. They can use some more money (£5k) to buy reduced kitchen equipment from Bridge (our major sponsor). Then they could run the catering stands like WRVS do in hospitals, and perhaps staff it with a number of volunteers.
If FB ran it as a social enterprise (I have expertise in this area) we could apply for a number of grants to help train volunteers. Volunteers could get experience of working, give something back etc. It would only need approximately 10 volunteers throughout the season (perhaps we could give a season ticket discount of £50/£75) in exchange for their service to the club FB could then have decent priced food / service / perhaps sell a wider range of food and make a profit that hits FB's bottom line.
I accept that this needs planning BUT we could use the rest of this season to observe sales to estimate the income, footfall, survey the customers and see what people really want before a launch for when the Lindley contract is over.
We have plenty of time to plan, recruit volunteers, train them and do the due diligence needed to get this right.
Can I have a reaction and detailed understanding of FB's reaction to this and if they are against it, why.
I am, on receiving some assurances about seriousness, happy to co-ordinate a project plan and do some financial analysis.
A2 - The Forever Bury Constitution is legally binding and only allows us to invest money in the club in return for shares which are held in common for all our members. We accept that the current catering service is not the best and is also over priced but at least the club have a direct revenue stream from it. If Forever Bury took it on they would lose that and have to give shares for any of the revenue we chose to invest. Secondly, I seriously doubt that we could find all the volunteers needed with 7 kiosks in the ground each needing at least 2 staff and more needed to cover sickness, etc. plus someone to manage things. All these volunteers wouldn’t be able to watch the matches.
Over the last 7 years Forever Bury has made concerted appeals to get more volunteers involved but it always comes down to about 10 people doing everything and 4 of these are over 60. We also can’t take the Beer Festival profits as guaranteed as Dave organises it by himself and if, for any reason, he can’t manage to do it I don’t think anyone else will take it on.
The club have investigated various options over the last few years and to refit all the kiosks would cost around £30,000 and any staff would have to hold all the necessary health and hygiene accreditation.
I’d like to thank you for putting the idea forward and if you’d like to discuss things further or have any other ideas please call in at The Cabin prior to any match for a chat.
Q3 - Can you ask Margaret to ask the board about what they are doing about improving the atmosphere at Gigg.
Mark Catlin was supposed to be, ’championing' this, this season and I personally was looking forward to this happening.
Can we possibly get a statement re this.
A3 - Away games always tend to have a better atmosphere than home for every team, mainly due to the ‘togetherness’ experienced through travelling and all being sat together. Closing a stand would perhaps increase the atmosphere, but isn’t really feasible. We have been to some grounds that have done this and it tends to kill the atmosphere rather than enhance it. The recent increase in performances and results under Kevin Blackwell has helped; as we saw against Portsmouth, and long may that continue. We also have the Bury Cheerleaders and the Club/School of the Day, and we’re always keen to listen to any ideas the Supporters may have. If you have any ideas please do let us know.
Q4 - Starkies - Underused, draught beer - poor, cellar too far away
A4 - There’s no real question here, so I’m not sure what to say. Starkies has always provided pre-match entertainment by means of a sit down meal and Peter Youngs’ infamous quiz and antique jokes! Many businesses take up this option which brings in revenue for the Club, and on the odd occasion it is under-booked, we have opened it up as a bar for both pre-match and half-time. Starkies has its own cellar so the beer lines in there are actually shorter than Legends, the 1885 Suite and even the Social Club. If I haven’t covered what your query was in this answer, if you let me know more details I will be happy to respond accordingly.
Q5 - What can be done, ideas for South stand - area under the stand, television, south stand club?
A4 - The infrastructure for the old South Stand is still in place under the new stand, it was built around it. The cost for establishing entrances and to do all the demolition work (by hand) is quite exorbitant. As with anything, another issue is man power. We can come up with ideas, the Fans can come up with ideas, but it needs people prepared to put their hands up and say ‘Go on, I’ll help out with that’. I can see this response being repeated many times, but we are ALWAYS open to ideas, some will be do-able, some won’t, but those that are agree-able will need bodies to help set-up and maintain them.
Q6 - Yeovil had a fans liaison director actually talk to the fans in the marquis yesterday, can Margaret do this as well?
A6 - On match days one of my responsibilities is to meet and greet the directors of our opponents so I’m not available however on behalf of Forever Bury I do organize Fans Forums at the ground and anyone is welcome to put their questions, suggestions and ideas to director’s, management and players. If anyone would like to meet up with me then please contact the club to arrange this. Alternatively anything in writing can be left at the club’s reception or at the Forever Bury Cabin on match days.
Q7 - More game advertising, why can the club not get another sign like the one on Manchester Road and advertise matches say at Bury Bridge?
A7 - The sign on Manchester Road was funded and is maintained by Forever Bury. Forever Bury have looked at other possible sites – motorway exits, Bury Bridge, etc but the Highways Agency isn’t keen on any additional signage near major junctions. This is an area where we’d like a volunteer to act as a Project Manager to find any potential sites and see if they can make any progress.
Q8 - If Margaret is the fans liaison director it would help if the fans knew who she was and how to contact her, it would help if she was seen to do this.
A8 - The re-introduction of these monthly statements is the first step on our mission to increase the communication between the triangle of entities – Fans, Forever Bury, and the Bury Board. There is a picture of me on the Who’s Who page of the club’s website and I can be contacted through the club or Forever Bury
Q9 - Another point is that Margaret (or someone) from the club should have in my opinion explained the decision as to why we had to play Carlisle on the same night as England were playing.
Silence from the club leads to all kind of suggestions and arguments.
Could this information flow get improved?
A9 – This season has been truncated by starting later and finishing sooner which has led to there being more night matches. With progressing in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and other possible cup replays leaving not many nights free the Football League were keen for the match to be played as soon as possible Again, we agree that the transparency could, and should, be improved with regards to decisions being relayed to the Fans. The Chairman and other directors all have businesses to run as well as volunteering the time that they do into our wonderful Club, which is why it is often difficult to release information in as timely a fashion as we, and you, would like. There are often rumours that do the rounds that some people ask for a statement about. I’m sure most will understand that we cannot comment on every single rumour that rears its head, but we will strive to improve our communication when decisions such as the example given have been confirmed.
Q10 - The club are proud of treasure line saying that it is an important revenue earner for the club.
I have paid for this by direct debit since its conception, I do not find out the winning numbers until I either read it in the Bury Times - 2-3 weeks later and or Gordon puts it on the message board - sometimes,
in this IT world we live in, can this be improved ?
A10 - First of all I’d like to thank you for being a loyal member of TreasureLine. It should go without saying that not only do we want to maintain our current members, but also to increase it too, so I will look into ways of improving how the winning numbers are relayed. I can’t see why they shouldn’t appear on the website as soon as they are known but I’ll also look into making more use of the scoreboard.
Q11 - I'd like to raise the issue of exploiting the use of IT, including the training of staff.
I'm prompted to do so after receiving a hand-written letter (for several years now) inviting me to renew my Treasure Line membership. In some ways, it's quite pleasant event to receive something in the post not electronically created - very unusual nowadays! However, it does strike me as being somewhat amateurish and suggests that the club has failed to move with the times.
A11 – The club does try to make the best use of technology and certainly the details of the AGM go out by email to those that have given us their email details. A weekly email also goes out to everyone on our database. For us to be able to use technology to its full effect we are reliant on fans letting us have their contact details, it would certainly make the process a lot quicker and cheaper with the spiralling postal costs.
Q12 - I would be very interested to know whether we are replacing Mark Catlin in his commercial role or what the plans are for commercial development. I am a season ticket holder and shareholder. I think it is crucial that the commercial momentum is maintained due to our small limited income base.
A12 - Mark was absolutely superb during his time with Bury, and for that we are really grateful, and pass on our thanks once again to Mark. Processes were put into place when Mark was here that remain in place and we are just as determined as the Fans are to continue the progress made. Peter Young and Laura Sherratt continue to work tirelessly behind the scenes, most of which often goes un-noticed to most.
Q13 - Last year I raised an idea with Mark Catlin (at one of the commercial meetings) that was taken up by Mark who then took it to Surridge who agreed to try it. I have heard nothing since and am worried that nothing will be done. The idea was to hold a competition among school pupils (primary and secondary ages) to design next season's kit(s). The club and Surridge would lay down the rules and would make a decision on who wins and prizes. I put this forward to raise the profile of Bury FC among local Bury Met schools with the hope of attracting more school pupils to watch The Shakers. Please update me on this. Prior to Mark resigning from the Bury FC Board he said he would be checking on its progress but I have not heard anything.
A13 - I brought this to Mark’s attention and this was his reply: “I recently had a meeting with Surridge about the new contract (Peter was present) and yet again raised this with them. They do not seem keen which is a shame as I think it’s a really good idea. I have explained that this will be popular and also raise the profile of the club throughout the schools, but it’s a Surridge call, not ours really.” If Surridge will take this up then Sport in the Community can play a major role.
Q14 - I am disappointed that Bury FC are pushing more and more website content onto Player, which costs fans money to use. I think this is unfair as I like to read interviews and keep up to date but don't like to be 'blackmailed' into paying out money for an extra service that has exclusivity on some interviews. Please will you guarantee that ALL interviews are transposed to the written word and placed on the general website?
A14 - Shakers Player is one of many sources of income to Bury FC, with 80% of each sign-up going to the Club. We don’t want anyone to feel blackmailed, but the content does hit Player members before being released for general viewing. If we opened this up to everyone free of charge right from the off, the revenue source would be cut off and that would mean less money coming into the Club. I’ll look into ways of ensuring that all content does get onto the website within a reasonable time.
Q15 - I have stopped using the main stand refreshments kiosk at Gigg because of the extortionate prices, e.g. a cup of tea costs £2.10, whereas on my travels to watch Bury (every game so far) I have seen the price of a cup of tea varying from £1.20 to £1.80. Pies, too, are excessively priced as a recent national survey has revealed. Our neighbour's Rochdale AFC has much cheaper prices yet still has attendances about the same size as at Gigg. Please explain how they can do this when Bury fans are being screwed.
A15 - Prices for food and drink at all sporting venues around the country are higher than you might otherwise find as it is convenience food – much the same as it is at a motorway service station. The catering company have a contract with Bury but it is completely up to them how much they charge for their stock. Whether they take into account attendances and geographical location is something we can’t answer, but we have no control over what they charge.
Q16 - Please can you ask Forever Bury through Margaret to seek an automatic right for the democratically elected nominee of Forever Bury (the largest active shareholder), and as far as i am aware, having more shares than anyone else on the board, to a seat on the board.
If the Forever Bury board is not willing to do this, I would like to ask why. And if the Bury FC board is not willing I would like to know the reasons why and who voted for or against the motion/paper
A16 – Very few clubs work as closely with their fans Trust as the Bury FC Board do with Forever Bury and not every Trust has a Board Room representation. As a board they have a responsibility to protect the interests of the club so therefore need to assure themselves that anyone the Trust elects will do a useful job. From Forever Bury’s point of view it is something that has already been raised and will be again. Anyone can apply to have a seat on the board via Forever Bury once they have served at least 12 months on the Forever Bury Board.
Q17 – Bury recently trialed a free magazine throughout the Bury area called ‘The Shaker’. It contained information on all things Bury FC related and was funded by sponsors (myself being one of them). What happened to this and are there any plans for it to return?
The Shaker magazine was a fantastic idea put forward by one of our fans from the Message Board, and is a superb example of how the Fans’ ideas are taken on board and implemented whenever possible. The beauty of The Shaker was that it helped get the name of Bury FC out into the community whilst combining advertising for Shakers fans’ and their businesses. The magazine was compiled superbly by 2 work experience lads, who have since left the club once their placement was up. This has meant the magazine has had to be put on hold, once again due to man power. We would have no problem whatsoever in getting this up and running again if someone or a group of people could take this on board. Unfortunately, it comes down to the age old problem of man-power again!