Gateshead Soul Fans Open Meeting on 4th April, 2019
Pelaw Social Club
Bernard McWilliams, David Kenny, Karl McInnes, Tony Carter
Apologies: Ross Black, Tracie Wilson
Attendance = approx. 100
- Welcome and Introduction.
BM: The last meeting saw our committee officially set up and we’ve since met to agree a course of action which has included providing food for the first team for away games and planning our first fundraising event. There have been a lot of high profile activities and meetings behind the scenes.
BM: Friday 29th March was an exceptionally busy day, starting with club staff and players being asked to remove items and leave the GIS and culminating in a well needed social in the Nags Head with prospective owners Chris Dunphy and Bill Goodwin. CD and BG had previously visited the club and been impressed by the staff, facilities and links with the college. An agreement was made in principle for them to buy the club - they have a very clear vision for the future of Gateshead FC involving working with fans, local businesses and the local community. As certain actions didn’t progress as planned and on Tuesday, the players issued a statement pertaining to the non-payment of their wages with the GFCSSA responding with our own statement.
Last Wednesday, CD released a statement withdrawing his interest. But owing to certain movements behind the scenes he is now back in talks, with meetings planned in the coming weeks.
Message from CD: ‘Please tell the fans that I am still hoping to take over and am planning for the future, but there are still obstacles. I will have a better picture after I have met with the league and the council’.
Is the bond being released to pay players?
We believe this is the case but will be done via the accountant rather than giving money directly to the club.
Will Saturday’s game go ahead?
Yes, with a protest to let certain parties know how we feel.
Who will operate the turnstiles?
The stewards - Alisha Henry will provide more information. JC has been advised not to attend.
Non-payment of wages if against employment law. The PFA is a recognised trade union - why aren’t they doing anything?
Players in our league aren’t represented by the PFA.
What are the alternative training arrangements?
Hebburn Town has been fantastic and they have a great set up. Felling Magpies have helped the under 19s. Also, fans have been washing kit. Ben is very grateful for all the support.
I have spoken to my MP Ian Mearns and he has tried to contact RV to raise his concerns. He has had no response but will continue to raise this.
Ian Mearns and Martin Gannon (GMB Council leader) have both been very helpful. The council are helping us by allowing remaining fixtures to be played.
Alisha Henry, Dom Scurr and Mark Carruthers join the panel.
AH - Spent a lot of time with CD and BG and they are perfect for the club. Presently we are trying to sort out the witness statement (RV signed but without a witness, there is a question over legality). The League are willing to release the bond but there has been an unknown delay. Last week was difficult with being moved from our offices.
DS: Media coverage, though negative, is unprecedented with national coverage. Mark Carruthers was one of the first people to raise our story even though GFC is not necessarily under his remit. Also, Sean McCormack from Chronicle, Ross Gregory from Sunderland Echo and Matt Raisbeck from Radio Newcastle.
MC: In the media, you should give a balanced approach but it has been difficult to do so when witnessing the pressure the staff and the team are under. I have requested interviews with both JC and RV with limited success. Spoken to BD and CB and they would be perfect for the club - keen to work with fans and the community. An interview with them will be released if/when the takeover is completed. The club was very close to going under and that would be a huge shame, I will do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen, through my presence within the media. The interview with Ben Clark was very emotional, he thinks GFC has ‘lost its identity in the last year’. Four elements can change that - new owners, coaching staff, players and fans. MC fully behind fans. We will make sure we get this club back, we need to carry on. Keep doing what we are doing - this is a special, unique club with special people and I look forward to reporting that new owners are in place.
BM - The working conditions AH and DS have had to endure are shocking - from not being paid to a venomous environment. Thanks to AH and DS, we wouldn’t have got as far without them.
AH: Matchday operations - stewards will be operating turnstiles. Club has access to pitch, training areas and Ben Clark’s office. There will be no hospitality but the Mick Thornton Suite and concourse will be open. Gate money will be used to pay stewards, first aid and match officials. No card sales for a number of reasons.
BM: People have asked about a boycott but we need to support the players. Also, a boycott without attending the match would make it the responsibility of the local authority, if we attend the game it’s the responsibility of the club. We need a big crowd to support the team.
Why would anyone want to boycott when they have given us everything this season?
BM: A boycott was suggested to owners to make them worry about the loss of income.
Will there be any programmes or 50/50 tickets?
There are no volunteers on Saturday so no one to sell these. A programme has been created but not clear who will sell it.
Will there be a police presence on Saturday?
Police are aware of the demonstration and aware it will be a peaceful protest. Everyone needs to conduct themselves peacefully and self-police. Police don’t feel presence is necessary which is a credit to GFC fans. Volunteers from the previous meeting will self-steward.
What are we trying to achieve with the protest?
MC: Protest gives the media something visual to use - tv, newspapers. Be respectful - no swearing and not abusive. Give yourselves an identity and make a statement. The press will be there to give them visuals for the newspapers and footage for TV. There is interest from the national press. Make it count.
BM: A statement will be released concerning the protest.
MC: RV is concerned over press reports in Asia. The journalist who raised the story has been following events and plans a follow-up article. Visuals will help this.
BM: Banners and posters will be available. Social media has got the message out but not everyone on it - have had good coverage on BBC, Sky Sports etc but need to keep the story going.
BM: Reaching out to Ebbsfleet fans for their support as they are going through the same thing is a good idea. Fans working together for a common cause against regimes that are destroying football.
Gareth Cummings Football Supporters Federation joins panel:
GC: The FSF is a national supporters body representing individual fans and groups. Every club is important and championed no matter how big - everyone matters. There are people in football ruining clubs - even big clubs like Bolton, Blackpool and Charlton. The FSF work with fans and can put GFCSSA in touch with other fans groups and organisations. For a group formed only a month ago, it’s remarkable what you have achieved, the energy and enthusiasm and investment in time and money. Reach out to Ebbsfleet fans. Solidarity is important and you have more in common than you have differences. There can be big successes when fans come together. Any club would be happy to join in protests - you are not on your own. The FSF can help spread the message, they represent up to 300 fan groups and think our situation is important. FSF is due to meet with the National League and will work with the GFCSSA to stop this happening again, or to help us find a solution if it isn’t fixed.
BM: We will protest at every game under the current regime until they are gone. We need to be vocal in the stands with banners. Talk to other fans who may not use social media - let them know what we are aiming to achieve and what we want. Don’t leave it to the clothesline to make a noise - everyone needs to join in. Outside the ground, we will protest until the players leave the ground. Get the visuals and keep the story going.
CD and BG have a vision - to facilitate us to take back ownership of our club. Need to step up and continue with momentum and raise money - this money is to help us become owners of our club. If we are complacent we’ll end up back where we are. We step up or we don’t have a club.
Feed the lads: The team were very happy with meals provided by GFCSSA through Nu To Go. Food will be provided for both remaining away games.
Race night: Saturday, April 6th 7 pm. All races and horses have been sponsored, jockeys are still available for sponsorship for £5. Keiron Bowe will be performing for free.
Wristbands are on sale for £2 along with other GFCSSA merchandise.
End of season event April 27th. Players in attendance. £10, free to members
Membership: A minimum of £10 a month for full membership. Associate membership for a one-off donation. Aim to hit 100 subscribers by end of the season would give at least £12,000 a year, plus fundraising - this will show new owners we are committed.
Website: GFCSoul.co.uk. Join the GFCSSA online, get news, information on events and minutes of past meetings.