This month we welcomed newly appointed Club Chair Jamie Vermilgio to our monthly meeting. We was also joined as usual by Graham Watkinson and this month we welcomed James who is part of the Club management team.
JV (Trust) – Julian Vass (Trust Chair)
JV (Club) – Jamie Vermiglio (Club Chair)
GW – Graham Watkinson (Club Secretary)
JW – James W (Part of the new management team)
AB – Alison Butler (Trust Secretary)
Q: Would you [Jamie] outline the major part ofyour role?
JV (Club): It’s still evolving but, in a nutshell, it's helping Preece with regards to the first team. To help feed information up to the owners and also facilitate in conversations going down. Also working with the fans, a long standing issue is with regards to communication. I am invested in making sure the fans know as much as we can tell you. There are ideas for programmes [which we are] hoping to put news out regularly maybe a chairman’s column or something similar. This isn’t finalised yet but there will be lots more to the role. I’m pretty committed with my head teacher role, but I will be here on matchdays where my role will be slightly different as I will be meeting and greeting the directors of other clubs and any other guests, answering any questions they may have and making them feel comfortable and also developing relationships with our fantastic sponsors. Also getting to know what the fans think the club needs in addition to the fantastic energy that has been brought over the last few months. As time goes by, I’m sure I will be doing a lot more and at the moment I am absolutely loving it so far. I am loving the conversations I am having and also the buzz around the place. It is great to see so many kids around, the community engagement and fan involvement. When I first came, I wondered If I wanted to get involved again but I left the room with a buzz thinking wow this is going somewhere and I want to be a part of it.
Q: An issue was raised that at the Carlisle game that there were problems for disabled people getting access to the disabled toilets either by being told they weren’t disabled enough or problems in the stewards opening the door for them. Could we please have a radar lock on the door?
JW: Yes, no problem. [Getting a radar lock]
JV (TRUST): Another point to take from that is if stewards are saying you’re not disabled enough that needs nipping in the bud.
GW: That needs feedbacking [to us]. That isn’t something I was aware of.
JV (Club): Can I ask how that gets to you guys before the club hears about it?
AB: I was approached at the beer festival a few days later.
JV (Club): We need to have some kind of mechanism as those things shouldn’t have to wait until a trust meeting. Anyone of us would try to immediately solve that. There is an element of training in that as well.
JV (TRUST): If we are notified on the day then we will obviously look to raise this with a club official straight away.
JV (Club): Do people know who to go to with any issues inthe ground?
JV (TRUST): Probably not. That’s what we are here as a trust for, to make everyone’s experience better. Also, to be the go between the fans and the club.
GW: We really need to take that on board and sort that.
JW: I have made a note for the programme to include information on who to contact in the ground. We have brand new doors for the toilets so when the renovation has started, we will have the new [radar] locks on them.
JV (Trust): Is there a fan liaison within the club or would you send them to us?
JW: We need to go through and decide who has what role. We are implementing a free programme. So, everyone coming into the ground has a programme when coming in. Which is there to give information about the club, events coming up, the Trust and so on. Also, we have talked about maybe a token system that gives rewardsand also possibly for discounts for members of the trust. So, the programme will be our information to fans in which we will have a page with who to contact when in the ground. If there is a reason for someone to be upset, we need to figure out why it has come to that point because it isn’t on.
JV (TRUST): We are happy that they came to speak to us because some people may keep that to themselves.
Q: Are you able to comment on what the playing side of the budget is? Has it been enhanced?
JV (Club): When new owners come in the fans want to see big players coming in, that is not a priority at the moment. The priority is to stabilise everything to get up to speed and get things functioning in a different sort of way. They are trying to digitalise the club at the moment and make the fan experience much better. The ground works are a real priority and also to re-engage with the fans who haven’t been to the ground for a while.
JW: The budget has been increased slightly. The main goal is to scale the club correctly in a timeframe where we can manage the extra fans and the extra expectations. As we scale, we create more revenue, as we create more revenue that feeds back down to the players. As we scale the people of Chorley take the credit not just some investors coming in.
Q: In the last few years, the number of players in the squad has been low and some weeks where we play multiple matches, we look tired. Is there a prospect for any more players coming in?
JW: There are better training facilities in place. Players are being tested and there are a lot more things behind the scenes going on with players.
JV (Club): Budgetary wise it’s not far off what it has been in recent years. But we now have a few young players coming through. Instead of just making up the numbers they are looking to push for the squad. The system is starting to reap rewards now. Preecey is still trying to strengthen the squad and he still has a small part of his budget available. Looking for a striker isn’t easy I have spoken to around 20 attacking players personally Preecey has spoken to who knows how many. There are a lot of clubs all looking for a striker. The goals lost from losing Connor Hall and Jon Ustabashi are something that Preecey is trying very hard to find. Hopefully Hazlehurst and Brittain and a few other players will pick up some of those goals. Goals do get you promoted but it’s about the defence as well and bringing in players like Mark Ellis strengthens that. Yes, we are after more attacking players. I am sure there will be a time where the money starts to be created so it can be seen on the pitch more, but it will all be done gradually.
Q: So, its organic growth without throwing aton of money at it straight away?
JW: We are here to support the Club and make sure the money is there if we need to go bigger but it has to be on Chorley’s merit. Let’s get the ground buzzing and the players happy. There is a masterplan coming later where we will get some higher-level players and a scheme that will reward everybody it’s all just the plan to get everything comfortable at the minute.
JW: There is a token reward scheme on the way which will interact with the fans more as they walk through the gate. Getting access to the players, access to the bars, pre-ordering drinks, there is so much more to come. We are futureproofing the club but that is going to take time to integrate into a business that is 140 years old. We don’t want to change so much so fast we need to get everyone’s support and for everyone to be comfortable with what is actually happening around the ground.
JW: To be able to see it, hear it, and feel it and watching that money getting invested back into the club. It’s not a profit-making exercise for us it is a community project where it’s an achievement. There are a lot of lower league clubs being acquired by famous people at the moment and they do struggle as the hospitality isn’t there. That is what our background is, so we know how to make fans and clients happy. Simple things, easy fixes like there aren’t enough taps that serve beer and people get fed up that they can’t get served for 20 minutes if we can spread that out and get served within 5 minutes. It’s not a bad problem to have that you can’t physically serve so many people but when you only have 3-4 days amonth where we take all of our revenue on hospitality, we need to make sure it’s on point.
JW: We try to get people to come before, during and after the game. Like having a happy hour after the game, get the players in so fans can speak to them. A massive point is the information being spread down to people. The more information we can give the more we can all work together.
Q: Have you tried to form links with other clubs?
JW: We proved the other night when we played Man City that we can host players from probably the best team in the world who have the best facilities. We held our own against them so now they may be comfortable to send their players to us and look after them, to train them and support our club to grow their players if they need us to. Building relationships like that is very important because that’s where we get high grade players at our level on loan. It’s a longer-term plan but we are bridging them.
JV (Club): With Bolton there is a link there, bute verything has to fall into place for that link to work. I spoke to Ian Evatt last week when I came into the role and asked him if they had any players good enough to play in the National League North and these are the positions we needed. I provided him the information but unfortunately, they haven’t got anyone suitable. But Manchester City even though they are probably the biggest club in the world at the moment we now have a link just starting so we know some good people there and the other night was just the start of it. So, we are looking to start working with them a little bit more.
Q: Will there be more player interaction with the fans?
JV (Club): There is a rule that every player will come into the social club after the game unless they have a valid reason not to.There will be a section just for the players. They will come in for half an hour or so. We want to build positivity.
JW: We have just been sponsored by a podcast company so we are building a media/podcast area in the stand so the players and manager will be interviewed and those interviews will be streamed around the club house both pre-game and after the game. It will give more of a feeling like you have got the news instantly.
Q: Having previously mentioned a place for the players in the club house will fans still be able to approach them?
JV (Club): There will be reserved tables in the clubhouse for players and their families. The players will still mingle with the fans.
Q: Are there any plans to mark the 140-year anniversary of the club this year?
There aren’t any plans to celebrate this at the moment, but many ideas were discussed with the help of Martin Ramsbotham. GW stated that we could look into getting the original trophy that the Club won whilst playing rugby, but we would need a museum curator.
Q: Can we expect Jamie to contribute to the club in a coaching capacity? As well as the league are the club looking to push to the later stages of the FA cup or the FA trophy?
JV (Club): In a coaching capacity there are no plans at all to do that. If Preecey asks for a favour for example if Ando is ill, will you cover a session of course I will. I don’t want to be a manager or coach again. I am more than happy doing this [Chairman] role.
JV (Club): With regards to the FA Cup, 100% Preecey wants the lads to be spurred on. Our recent history in the FA Cup has been phenomenal. Every game is important whether it’s the league game or Lancashire Cup, but to get another FA cup run the revenue is inevitably important but it's more about the buzz in the ground.
GW: The LFA has this year launched a veterans county cup for over 35’s. So, we are recruiting trying to get a team together.
Q: There are rumours of a scoreboard being put up is this something the club is looking at and if so when do we think it will happen?
JW: We are looking at a big LED scoreboard currently which will also double up for the fan zone for watching matches on. It will be mounted to a vehicle on an extended pole. That is currently in the process of being sorted and will be sorted imminently.
Q: When will the memorial gates be finished and painted?
GW: It is on the list of jobs to be done. Finding someone to come and do it is the main issue.
Q: Can the trust take charge of selling or giving out team sheets pre-match?
GW: The programme has to have the squad list in it. With regards to team sheets, we are in negotiations for people to sponsor the back of the team sheet. We literally do not have anyone to hand them out, if we did, we could give them away for free.
JV (Trust): The squad list on the back [of the programme] could contain boxes saying ‘played’, ‘subbed’, ‘goals’, like old style football league programmes had. As for teamsheets, the Trust will be happy to collect some to pass out to spectators and also put up at our HQ to give us some passing traffic.
GW: We could put up a barcode maybe so people can scan it.
JV (TRUST): We have the facilities to put a QR code on HQ for people to scan.
Q: But what about the people who are not tech savvy?
GW: It’s not a big job to print 50.
Q: What further groundworks are planned in the immediate future?
JW: The fan zone needs finishing, then the toilets need sorting out, then onto the Carlsberg box, and then under the stand.
JW: There are some renovations to the DP stand where we will add sides on to it for the winter also the same for the mainstand. A new pitch perimeter is also on order, which includes new fencing so all the concrete pillars along the pitch will get ripped out. We were trying to get it done preseason, but we must wait for a gap in the season where we can rip them out and reinstate the pitch boards before the next match. So, we have had to delay that slightly. All the sponsor boards will be aluminium boards.
Q: Is there plans for a roof on the fan zone?
JW: Yes, we are looking at telegraph poles with canopies. We need to speak to the council and planning first. Thats why the posts are left at the front so we can put Perspex there to block the wind.
Q: We asked before the takeover if there was apossibility of Ken being given a life president role is that something that is happening?
JW: Very much so. Him being an honourable member for life or something similar. He has done his duty at the club. We always mention the work done by Graham, Jon, and Ken. He will not go forgotten.