Every month, the members of the Magpies Trust meet at Victory Park and have their chance to vote on matters and ask questions directly to senior figures at the club & trust. This month was the Trust AGM and we welcomed Tom Clarke who is a Senior Club official and part of the new operations team at Victory Park.
GW - Graham Watkinson (Club Secretary)
TC - Tom Clarke (Senior Club Official)
JV - Julian Vass (Magpies Trust Chair)
Q: Are you going to reinstate the away travel coach?
TC: It’s not something I’ve put much thought into. It’s something we can look at doing. I guess from my point of view I want to gauge what that away fans support looks like and if there’s enough demand there to do it and we can do it financially, there’s no reason why we can’t entertain it.
Q: We’ve heard very little in direction, is the playing side going to be better? Do we have more funds? Is the new ownership looking at getting links with local EFL clubs who have got youth teams. Over the last few seasons we’ve managed on 16/17 players but after 3 games, Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, we’ve looked tired.
TC: We have increased the player budget which has given us more flexibility. Ultimately the football side sits with [Andy] Preecy and Terry Robinson. There are already a number of links in place with some of the local [clubs] and further afield.
GW: There’s a chance of a couple of players coming up from Stoke.
TC: We are going further afield to try and get the best talent we possibly can for the team.
GW: We have 19 what we class as first teamers signed on and are still looking at strengthening that. We have another 7 we class as fringe players which we will look at loaning out.
Q: We’ve not had Not a single comment from first team manager since you came in.
TC: Andy is working with us quite closely and I am speaking him almost daily.
Q: Nothing for supporters to see on Facebook or other platforms as to what Andy’s opinion is about what is happening at the club.
GW: Currently Andy is away on jury duty.
TC: Will ask Andy to get something out about his opinion about us being involved.
Q: In general Chorley FC is poor at reporting to the supporters. Updates on player injuries.
JV: When Graham attends the Trust meetings each month, the first update we receive is player injuries. The update is also given by Preece in the post-match interviews which is then put onto YouTube. The shorter version is on Twitter with a link to YouTube.
Q: Why can’t that be on the Chorley website?
JV: The club are trying to get people to those other platforms. You can get on Twitter and YouTube without an account. The Club are trying to expand the brand with more people visiting those channels which will help the Club grow.
TC: We have a fairly expansive experience with marketing and SEO [Search Engine Optimisation] and that is how it works. We are looking at building a new website which we hope to be live early July. I don’t see a major reason why the news feed can’t be dragged into it, but I cannot promise. Ultimately I am here to try and understand what you guys want and it’s why I want to be here.
Q: I took up early bird season ticket offer and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to extend the offer with the new owners coming in. A few have stayed away but might have returned with new start, new people. And there is no offer that might coax supporters to come back.
TC: I am aware of that. Not going to make that offer [to extend early bird]. There’s an alternative being put in place. Existing season ticket holders will not gain any benefit from this potential new offer.
Q: When is the release of the new shirts?
TC: Expecting them in 2ish weeks, week and a half. We will do a shirt release which will launch on social media and the website. Hopefully coincide with the launch of website where you can pre-order. They’re very nice.
Q: Have you got a sample to show?
TC: Yes I have a sample, but not to show, sorry.
Q: What’s the aim for this season? Is it to go up?
TC: Ultimately yeah, the end goal has got to be promotion. There’s no question there. Along the way I think there’s a lot of things I’d like to make better. We have given a larger budget to Preecy for the players so hopefully that will get a better standard [of players]. Trying to get fixed training facilities to provide more structure. We’ve done good deals with physios on performance testing so we can target injuries and give correct rehabilitation, traditionally it should be around £35k but we’ve secured it for less. We’re trying to make it better for supporters too with changes around the ground. Make supporters experience at the ground better.
Q: Can you detail what they are? The PA is laughable, the toilets are disgraceful. If you said you’re going to do something about the PA you’d get support and instead of a “we’ll see”. Proof is in the pudding.
TC: Words are quite empty and actions speak much lounder which I intend on doing. PA is on the agenda and someone to possibly come out on Tuesday to add speakers and look at the equipment. It’s something we’re aware of and it will be done.
Q: Would it be possible to flag the ideas up and create positivity online?
TC: I’d like to show people what things are happening as they happen. Some things are going to start happening right now. New goals have recently been delivered. Work is starting on fan zone a week on Sunday. I would rather share that information when it’s done rather than here’s something being delivered or here’s what is happening. I will share everything but I’d like to show you the finish article.
Q: Any problems pre-season as we only have 2 decent friendlies? There’s usually a league club but there isn’t one this season?
GW: We were meant to play Blackpool at home but the new manager had a change of plans. We’re currently trying to replace that fixture.
Q: When the Club changed hands, where we in debt? Are we not? Has the debt been paid off?
TC: The club has been massively financially strangled. Very tightly run and there’s been a lot of debt around the club for a number of reasons. Huge amount of money has gone into maintenance into the site. The club is in a much better financial position. There are debts still around the club but as it stands at the moment it is far more financially stable and it will continue that way.
Comment: When someone comes in, supporters may have thought that you would have cleared the debt and pumped money in.
TC: We’ve not come in to throw millions at it and ultimately we don’t want to lose [money] it either. We don’t want a penny out of the club. If the club decides to bring in 3-4k [supporters] per game we still don’t want to take money out of the club, we just want to put it back in to make it better for supporters. We want to generate more revenue in areas where we haven’t recently. Open the bar up as an actual bar to be used for the community. We want the club to break even and it’s not a million miles away from it. The guys [Graham and Co] have done a phenomenal job on the budget they’ve had.
Q: Are we staying at Victory Park and if so, what are the short, medium and long term plans for Victory Park?
TC: Yes initially we are to stay at Victory Park. We recognise there is a huge amount of heritage and history here. Short term is to improve the facilities for the supporters. The fan zone, toilets and PA system are on the agenda. Overall lick of paint to get the place looking nicer. Medium term goal is digital signage around the area to generate more income streams. Longer term is to introduce a new stand along DP Stand and corperate hospitality box along this [Ashby Street] side of the pitch. Probably between the next 18 months-2 years. We want to get more supporters to the club. We’re not messing about and we want to make changes quickly. We want you to see something fundamentally different both on and off the pitch.
Q: Are we staying grass or going plastic [pitch]?
TC: Grass. The cost to put in the [artificial] pitch we need here, we can’t see the financial reason to do it. We’ve spent a lot of money on maintenance and Callum has now joined us full time which we’re really happy about.
Q: In the plans, business model and financial forecast submitted to National League and FA as part of change ownership there was said to be some investment into the club as part of that. So, how much was in the plan? How much [investment] has been made? Is it equity or debt? And if not, when will it be?
TC: I don’t really want to comment on that and it’s not my place to comment. That’s not where I think this meeting should be going and there’s more important things that we’re doing which will generate a better position for you supporters to be in. We’re paying bills, we’re paying people off. Everything that was set out to the FA that we had to pay, has been paid.
Q – Directed at Graham: In the plan which was submitted was there any investment as part of that plan as equity or debt and has that been paid. Can you disclose that?
GW: I agree with Tom.
Q: Do Chorley Council still own the football pitch?
TC: Yes, Chorley council own the pitch and I had a meeting booked in for Friday but I can’t attend that now so it has been moved to Tuesday. Initial agreement which has come from them is to extend a tenure to a much longer period that we currently have, it’s pre agreed and the meeting was to make it official.
Q: Going forward if we’re renting off them, would you be doing ground improvements on their ground?
TC: Effectively, yes, in the short term.
Q; Full time or part time? There’s a lot of full time in this league.
TC: At the moment the plan is to remain part time. Preece wants to introduce a hybrid system within a time period but we’re not sure what that period looks like yet. It’s a future aspiration. Every person in that team aspires to play football full time. If we can give them that, we will as ultimately that will improve results on the field as well.
Q: What is the new owners motivation with regards to buying Chorley?
TC: It’s not financial. Prince has done a number of community projects around the UK. He went to Manchester University and he has friends around the area. This Club became available and Prince made the decision. Community outreach is where the motivation lies. What we can for the community. What we can introduce is what we think is a very exciting prospect. We’ve got some fairly exciting things happening what other businesses are involved in and we can take that technology and introduce into Chorley Football Club and it would be quite ground breaking. Most of the motivation is the community and a small amount is what we can do here differently and make English football sustainable.
Q: It’s been reported that Jay Cannon is part of the ownership team. What’s the official relationship between Jay Cannon, Prince and Reset Events companies?
TC: Reset Global sits at the top of all of the companies. Reset Events sits alongside the companies such as Reset Drinks and Reset Sporting. The Cannon Run, Jay Cannon’s business, is a completely separate entity and in no way shape or form is linked to Reset, Chorley or anything of the sort as a company link at all. The Cannon Run has become a sponsor of Chorley Football Club. When we talk about funding and investment, that’s where some of our money has come from.
Q: Jay Cannon doesn’t own the Football Club? It’s just Prince?
TC: There is no ownership there. Correct about Prince.
Q: People will go on the website instead of Twitter, Facebook. On the main website there’s nothing.
TC: Take that on board, and that could be something short sighted by me. Ultimately if I am not giving information to our Social Media team then they haven’t got it to share. I recognise this today and it’s something I will take away from this.
Q: What sort of crowds are you trying to get in? To get to 2-3k there’ll have to be some big changes
TC: Some of those big changes are things I’ve already spoken about such as ground improvements. Making this a better supporters club for the community is what we want to do to try get more supporters here. We are working with outreach team in the community to get children through the door with free tickets. 300 kids out there bringing the atmosphere will make it a better place and looking after the future generations.
JV: When you talk about going into schools with outreach programmes, does that involve the Community Foundation?
TC: Myself and Darren [Chair, Community Foundation] have been speaking at length about that. Little did I know that Darren was doing that, but as soon as I found out he was doing that we met up and chatted about it. We’re doing it together and building on it.
Comment: We need to creative positivity. Get some good news out, new signings, new kit launched, get fans back to the ground.
TC: I like the energy as that’s what I am like.
Q: What signings are you looking to get?
TC: Messi or Ronaldo!
Q: What’s the situation with Ken and Graham?
TC: I’m hoping to see Ken here as a supporter, Graham is our Club Secretary and he will be sticking about. He is my football knowledge.
Q: is there an honorary position for Ken at the club?
TC: Pass. Someone who has been around for as long as he has it goes without saying. It’s not something that we have discussed at much length at the moment.
Comment: As fans our information is limited, we never know much and now we have a chance.
TC: One of the things I’d like to do is reignite a fluid relationship between the Trust and the Supporters and give a smoother flow of information. I’ll do the best I can.
Q: The Trust has 2 Board seats, who is on the [Club] Board? Are you employed by the Club? Are we having Board meetings?
TC: No, I’m not employed by the Club. There will be Board meetings and the [Club] Board is to be confirmed.
Q: Will Prince be turning up at any of the games?
TC: Yes he will. Prince sends his apologies that he can’t be here today due to personal reasons. He was meant to be here and I did speak with Julian to say I would try and get him here. He will be making appearances at multiple games as well as events like this in the future.