Gateshead Soul open meeting on 4th July, 2019
Pelaw Social Club
Bernard McWilliams (Chair), Tracie Wilson (Secretary), Ross Black (Events and fundraising officer), Karl McInnes (Membership officer),
Special Guests: Neil Pinketon (GFC Chair), Trevor Clark (GFC Chair)
Attendance: approx. 80
BM welcomed everyone and thank those who have joined the Gateshead FC Soul for their financial support which means that 20% of the club is owned by the fans. This is an amazing achievement as the club was so close to going out of business and we nearly had to restart. NP along with other investors eventually bought club after some issues. The press released the names of other stakeholders at the weekend before the league had ratified them. They cannot yet be named officially for legal reasons.
BM welcomed NP and TC to join the panel.
NP arranged to buy the club on behalf of the Gateshead FC Soul on May 18th. Chris Dunphy and Bill Goodwin had decided to withdraw their interest and Alisha Henry contacted NP to see if they could do something to save the club. NP entered a difficult period of negotiation with Joseph Cala. He learned that JC had also sold the club to another person with a probable third party also involved. The whole situation was a mess.
TC was the other party who had bought the club, and had been previously involved and wanted what was best. Richard Bennett acted as a mediator - neither TC or NP were willing to walk away - with his help they worked together to get the sale of the club through. TC is 99% certain the club would not exist today if they had failed. They were at least 72 hours away from liquidation. However, lots of people were committed to keeping the club going.
TC- there are two types of people in football, those in for the good of their club and those in it for themselves. The people involved now are definitely in for the good of the club.
BM - the club was very close to liquidation and lots of matters could not be discussed openly. The decisions made by the league were directed at the club, not the owners so we were left to pick up the pieces. The press kept reporting the club had been sold, but without league ratification sales are not legal. Lots of people have asked why the appeal failed and why we didn’t put up more of a fight.
TC - we were defenceless against the accusations - players weren’t paid, they were paid late, this was all true. Varghese had no defence. We expected a large fine and points deduction and the penalties could have been even worse and resulted in our removal from the National League. We had less than a week to prepare for the appeal and organise documents etc. We were advised to give up as the sanctions were expected to be very harsh, but we persevered. The alternate was step 7 so we had to agree with the punishment. Speaking publicly during the process could have led to more penalties.
We lodged the appeal however the charged were factual and we had no real grounds to appeal other than we aren’t the previous owners. The only option was relegation down 1 league and this could have been a lot worse without NP and TC.
There are still many matters that cannot be openly shared and discussed. We are still dealing with a private business.
NP - we needed to appoint a manager and needed someone who knew what had happened at the club in the past. Ben Clark had already taken a job with NUFC. Mike Williamson had the ambition to become player-manager. Ian Watson has a lot of experience of the National League North. We have the full backing of Gateshead College and the academy is due to be rebranded. We are looking to build a team of young players along with those from higher up the pyramid.
Questions from the floor
What is the position with the bond? Is there anything left, are we getting it back? Do we need a bond for this season?
NP - half of the original bond is with the league. We have left there as insurance and have not tried to negotiate it back. We need to rectify things ourselves and prove ourselves, in time we might have it returned but out plans don’t rely on it. It does belong to the club and will be returned at some point. We need to be a sustainable club and get back to an even keel. We are 6 to 8 weeks behind our competitors in terms of preparation. We need to look at fundraising and improving the matchday experience.
Gateshead fans might not understand where the Gateshead Soul money goes. Is it vital?
NP - yes, and it makes us all equally involved. We would not have a club without the involvement of the Soul.
BM - so far we’ve had an outstanding effort from fans. Without the money, we would not exist. This is more than sustainability, this is the heart of the club. We may make mistakes as we have no experience, but we do have business brains behind this. We need to keep it going, we do not want to end up in the same situation as before. No one is in this for their ego. We need to grow as a club.
TC - every strand of budget means something. What if we get promoted? We have to keep thinking ahead. Every penny counts. Everything is going into the club. There’s no profit. Clubs lose money. Next season should be easier as at least we will be starting at the same time as everyone else.
Do we have a team for next week’s game? Will any of the academy players be invited back?
NP - we are still looking to recruit around 10 more players. The academy players, it depends on their ages. There is a lot of competition for under 19s as there can be lots of money involved.
Will existing academy players be able to complete their courses?
NP - if they are the right age, it is all up to the football coaches. The relationship with the College is still in place and there are some announcements coming soon.
Are they any plans to drive up attendances?
NP - MW and IW need to provide us with attractive football. Things are in place and we are looking at how to improve the matchday experience.
BM - now we are part of the club we can input in a way we never have before. We are recruiting volunteers on Saturday as we are lean in terms of staffing. We need people to add value - plus resources, time and experience. We all need to play a part, not just in Soul subscriptions. We need volunteers moving forward, along with the Soul committees, everyone can be involved. This a fans led club.
Why are Chris Dunphy and Bill Goodwin no longer involved?
BM - they didn’t think we needed them to take ownership, they are still involved and able to help if needed.
NP - CD assisted with the appeal. He was onboard but was happy the club was now in a good place.
How can we become more of a community club?
NP - look out for future announcements. Plans are afoot. We are playing catch up and are working through priorities. Our involvement with the community will be a priority.
Will 50/50 tickets and programs be available?
BM - yes, but we will need volunteers. We are looking at many ways to improve the matchday experience and to make money to create a good financial sustainable model.
Is a 10-year lease at the Stadium one of the conditions? Does this mean no new stadium? Lots of people have a negative impression of the GIS.
NB - there is no money for a new stadium. We have an excellent infrastructure and facilities. We are working with the council to improve revenue streams.
Is there a target crowd number for sustainability for both the club and the Soul?
NP - we have no crowd target as yet.
BM - the Soul needs to raise £25,000. Fundraising events help us to play our part. All suggestions welcome.
What is Trevor Clark’s background? Why did he want to be involved?
TC - I was born in Gateshead and grew up in the area. My business is in compressed air. I have been a supporter for 10 years and could see things were going wrong, I didn’t think we would see the season out. I was asked by RV to invest but was not confident the club could be saved. I decided I wanted to buy him out. I met CD and BG but was worried the sale would not go ahead. I knew we had to get owners out but was worried they would stay put. I resigned after a meeting with the league. I did not trust the owners and did not want to be associated with them. I wanted to be involved, I was a fan who didn’t want to see the club die and I couldn’t see anyone else saving it. Then Neil and I got together, thanks to RB. I am a businessman but I am a football fan. It is great to be part of this team and I am looking forward to Wednesday. We want to get more people involved but need to repair what we’ve got and we don’t want to make the mistakes of the past. There is a lot of hard work ahead and we need a team effort with everyone playing their part.
Can we expect any imminent signings? Any previous players?
NP - no idea! MW looks after the footballing side of things. There should be some announcements in the coming days. We had a promising trial game today.
What voluntary posts are there other than match day positions?
NP - please come along on Saturday to learn more. If you can’t make it, then get in touch.
There are 11 different children’s teams playing under the Gateshead name but they aren’t linked to the club. Could we strengthen these links, offer free tickets or invite them to be ball boys?
BM - this is exactly what we want to do. The College wants to create a development academy. We need to build bridges with these clubs, for that, we need advocates and volunteers. Opportunities to help may arise as the season progresses. There is a huge mess to clean up and getting the games on is a priority. Friendlies are a good revenue stream and good for the team. The mess will be sorted by people with the best interest of Gateshead at heart.
How can we get kids involved early?
NP - the free under 16 season ticket is a great incentive. All ideas are being taken on board.
NUFC are in turmoil. Are there any plans to reach out to disenfranchised fans through specific marketing?
TC - we’ve been in touch with Mathew Raisbeck who will help us to plug the club.
NP - we have to tread a fine line and show respect. We can’t alienate other clubs. It’s a good idea but care is needed.
BM - if you see a post about NUFC, encourage them to support non-league where they will be made welcome and be part of something.
Further questions from the floor
What about a leaflet campaign with incentives to encourage attendance?
BM - we need to look at the best use of resources. All suggestions are welcome and everything is up for discussion. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or we have a suggestion box at our meetings.
Could meetings be spread around the borough in order to attract fans from all over Gateshead?
KM - Pelaw club have been very supportive but we would consider other venues to get our message out. We recently held an event at Alledene Club. Meetings will be promoted in the program and on our social media channels. Please let us know if you have contacts at another venue. Pelaw is also very accessible via public transport but we are open to holding meetings elsewhere.
Will certain areas of the stadium still be cordoned off? Does it improve the atmosphere?
BM - we will be looking at this on Wednesday.
Any plans for a family area?
BM - TC is very keen on this idea. We need a volunteer to be Rooney the Goat. TC is very family orientated. We also want to work with fans, stewards and the police to make sure fans understand the implications if there is trouble - this can lead to costs to the club.
What about a prepaid bar to pre-order half time drinks?
BM - all avenues are being explored. We need to be prepared, we need to be making the money not the council. At present we can only exercise a certain amount of influence.
Gateshead Soul Update
RB - we recently held a band night and a comedy night and raised a lot of money. Thank you to those who came. We would like suggestions for future events, we need fresh ideas. We need to be consistent with fundraising. At the moment we are focussing on promoting season ticket sales and the start of the season.
KM - Since March we have raised £16000. We have 128 paying members with others showing interest. We raised £3500 from just two events. The Soul is the most important as it provides constant income. We cannot survive without the Soul. We already have good numbers but need more. If you have been waiting to see where the money goes - it goes 100% to the club. The more money we have, the better for Gateshead FC. For a minimum of £10 a month you get free entry to events. Membership cards will be available soon.
BM - if you are a member you are a shareholder. We are in the process of shifting from an association to a trust. The FSF are helping us with this. Due to the money we had we could raise the funds to secure the future of the club. Everything we do is to the benefit of fans.
RB - we are happy to announce a monthly prize draw for Soul members with the chance to win a ticket to corporate.
BM - be involved, Come along on Saturday and see how you can help the club work towards a sustainable model with a competitive playing budget.
Look out for some new merchandise - Soul members get a discount. Car stickers will be available soon.
Questions from floor
Can official and Soul merchandise be sold in the shop?
NP - no due to the contract with the kit sponsors. However, we could have two shops at different locations in the Stadium.
To join the Gateshead Soul - fill out a paper form (available at the meeting and on match days) or join via website www.gfcsoul.co.uk . Please get in touch if you need help. We are looking at improving our processes. You must set up your own standing order. Full details will be in the program.
RB and James Robinson will be organising away travel. Payment will be required in advance but prices will be available well in advance. And advertised in the program.
Is a Wembley Talk In still happening?
BM - yes and the lads are keen to do it, it just needs some planning, We also hope to hold a talk in with MW and the current squad.
RB - there will be a monthly fan’s meeting on the last Wednesday of every month. We will look at other venues but the first will take place at Pelaw Social Club on August 28th.
KM - we are trialling contact with members with Google groups. If you receive an email invitation please accept to keep up to date.