Week 6:  w/c 7th January 2013

Redditch home / Bashley away

The football week kicked off on Monday with a meeting at The George in Chesham with two guys from the youth section, Martin Woolnough and Dave Jeffrey from the community aspect of the club; they play an important role in being a link between several elements of the club.

The meeting came about because the Chairman of the Youth Section is about to stand down and there is a little concern that it could spell the end of the youth section. It is a shame that it has taken such a threat to bring a meeting with the club about, but I guess that is the nature of the beast and a common problem at the club – it is all too easy to talk about the need to bring the kids closer to the clubs, it is easy to talk about idyllic scenarios with us all being ONE CLUB…but getting off your arse to do something about it is different altogether.

In fairness to myself (and others) there have been attempts in the past to unite the groups closer, I have had meetings with various people, including those that currently run the set up. However, in hindsight I probably went in with completely the wrong approach and if anything, I may have scared them away from the club, or at least made them sceptical about the intentions.

I still picture a world where we can all be one club, run by one board, with one goal and…here was my flaw, one bank account and one finance person and treasurer. There are some very obvious benefits, including better buying of goods and equipment (economies of scale), better negotiating power for pitches and training facilities and even the benefits of the fact that the club itself is VAT registered. The main club I am sure could also take some of the cost out of running a junior section just by pooling some of the jobs and removing duplication of roles and expenses.

That world does not exist.

Of course it does not, and I must have been stupid to ever think that it did. What parent would trust their subscription money going into any football club? Particularly at this level where clubs are renowned for having desperate cashflow situations that can call for desperate measures. Last year, when I was Chairman, if we had a lump of money in the bank set aside for the kids’ section, and we had the brewery knocking on the door for a bill to be paid, would I have been tempted, or even forced, to delve into that money? I don’t want to answer that one.

All that said, there is a better scenario to be found than the one we currently face. To be honest, I did not realise that the junior section was as unstructured as it is – there is no committee, there seems to be no constitution, no accounts shared and very few people taking responsibility for different roles. Bluntly, I can see why the people currently running it began to despair.

As the discussions went on, the solutions seemed very obvious to me; I don’t know if it just because I have a lot of experience of setting up Supporters clubs and trusts, even main club boards, but the youth section is crying out for a new committee to be set up and start working with the main club to become an organisation that every young kid within a 15 mile radius wants to play for.

Next Monday there is a meeting for some of the managers of the youth section with the outgoing Chairman, the intention (we believe) is for various roles to be delegated out to those in attendance and if there are not the volunteers, well, the plug could be pulled.

That will not happen. Cannot happen. And there is no reason for it to happen. Rather than something to be afraid of, this is a massive opportunity for those that want to take the club forward.

On Monday we need the support of the section as a whole to agree that the way forward is to set up a small committee to manage the overall section in association with the parent club.

After that meeting we need an interim committee, which I am happy to be a part of, that will almost start from scratch to set up a structure, articles of association, club rules and guidelines – including what is booked and funded centrally and what is booked and funded by the individual age groups.

By a time agreed (possibly even the end of March) we need to be in a position to present that to managers, coaches and parents at an official meeting, elect a committee for the year and take the section forward as part of the club.

Skepticism about the club’s interest is understandable. The advantages of having a committee like this are numerous, including:

  • Becoming a more easily recognisable part of the club for the main board to associate with
  • Written Articles of Association and a Constitution that can safeguard the organisations’ finances
  • Kids and parents can be a recognised member of the organisation with season tickets, communications from the club
  • Recorded minutes or newsletters – That way, nobody can ever claim they do not know what is going on. Most people will not read it, but those doing the work can at least cover their own backsides from criticism
  • Transparency – clarification of what is paid for by whom
  • A club code of conduct for players and supporters
  • A more united front to build bonds with the Main club, the Ladies and the Supporters Trust

What is in it for the main club (if anyone asks)?

  • The club will benefit from having a thriving youth section with kids and parents that feel a part of the club
  • Kids in school telling their friends that they are supporting Chesham is the best advertising we could possibly get
  • Financial benefits will come from parents attending games, drinking in the bar. And yes, who knows, there might be parents out there with their own businesses who may become sponsors
  • We may find some fresh blood that takes an interest in the overall club.

 

Mrs Calder will kill me for getting involved in another committee, albeit an interim one to get a new organisation for the youth section off the ground, but I woke up Tuesday morning feeling quite excited about the idea, and also quite excited about the prospect of playing Redditch that evening.

 

I have quite a good little hospitality routine set up that has become a favourite midweek special occasion for me. When I have guests coming to a game as sponsors I like to start off with a couple of pints in The Fishery, Boxmoor, Hemel Hempstead. Since its recent refurbishment it has become a cosy bar, maintaining its public house history and character, but also successfully evolved into a restaurant that you would not be out of place taking your wife to on your anniversary…as indeed I have. Away from the restaurant the wooded floors and assortment of seating options, ranging from cosy armchairs to stools only really suitable to the shortest of short people, give some real character to support its idyllic setting next to the Grand Union Canal.

Oh yeah, and it means I can drop my car off after work and walk down to the pub!

For the Redditch game my guests were once again Printers I use in Swindon through work. Being “the customer” I am often offered the option of an evening out and rather fortunately they enjoy a visit to Chesham so a hospitality night out with the Printers tends to be at the football club I love – it works for me.

I met up with my guests bang on 5.30pm, although already dark so the canal side setting is arguably wasted, it remains a cosy place for a couple of pints, a few minutes chatting about the “proper job” and then I was able to provide a full briefing about our opponents, and in particular the shenanigans of last year’s game that was abandoned when a Redditch player chose to punch the referee when shown a red card.

That was perhaps one of the bleakest events in my time on the Board of Chesham United – It truly highlighted how two-faced boardrooms can be on a matchday at times. On the other hand, the occasion does put me down as one of only two people to go to Wembley representing Chesham United and winning!

Brian McCarthy and I represented the club at the quite bizarre appeal at Wembley stadium and were, after some really quite strange questions, awarded the three points from the game. A result for Chesham United. Possibly embarrassing for the Southern League. And Redditch were furious…I can possibly understand that, after all, the whole appeal process (us appealing against the Southern League demanding the game was replayed) was done without their involvement. That’s not our fault, and certainly does not justify the total and utter bullshit that came out in the Redditch local press after the outcome of the appeal was announced.

In all it was a very unsavoury occasion and perhaps wrong that we got so much publicity on the back of it. Sky Sports came down to the ground the next day, and even came over to my boys’ rugby club in Hemel Hempstead to interview me on the Sunday morning. Really quite bizarre times. Fortunately the appeal process confirmed that if you are 1-0 down in a game with about 12 minutes to go, and you have just conceded a penalty and received a red card…You can’t just punch the referee to get the game abandoned and replayed (despite that being what the original league decision wanted to suggest)!

Unfortunately what the appeal did not clarify was the fact that if you are in a visiting boardroom and being all apologetic and offering to pay for damage caused, it really does leave a bitter taste in the mouth when once you have gone you renege on all you said and instead criticise your hosts in your own local press. But I guess that is football.

Anyway, prior to each home match I circulate to those that need to know, a very brief document that gives important information for the game ahead – who the sponsors are, how many guests to expect etc. This week I added my own personal note: In the Boardroom there is always a lot of two-facedness and you often find yourself shaking hands, laughing and smiling with people that you might, well, people you might have differing opinions too. I guess that is part of the role, but in this instance, I was so angry, that I wanted to encourage my colleagues to show little sign of a jovial “ho ho ho, lets forgive and forget” atmosphere. Yes, of course we should be hospitable and professional, but let’s not pretend we are best mates.

 

A taxi picked us up from The Fishery Inn at about 6.45pm, arriving at the clubhouse in time for a couple more pints before the game. Judging by the number of officials in the bar rather than the boardroom, I’m guessing my pre-match document had been noted.

After twelve goals in our last two games, there was always a danger that this match was going to disappoint, and as a spectacle it did. Bruce Wilson gave Chesham the lead on 18 minutes, and we thought we might be on for another comfortable win, but it was not the case. Redditch equalised on the stroke of half-time and suddenly we knew we had a battle on our hands.

Although the football was not always great, the character was good. On the terraces, with my guests, Acorn Press, being given the privilege of picking the Man of the Match, we amused ourselves with discussions about who could be announced for this award. Normally a topic for objective debate, which it was, until about 3 minutes into the game when I was reminded that John Kyriacou had been involved in a verbal ding-dong when we had visited their place at the tail end of last season. I did not see or hear the altercation so cannot really comment, although I know JK was outraged by some of the comments made and allegations that followed. Let’s just say I struggled to sympathise with any of the allegations made against JK.

In the 86th minute Steve Wales, who had come off the bench, powered home a screaming drive into the back of the net. Two minutes later the Man of the Match was announced over the tanoy – John Kyriacou!

We won the game 2-1. That was good enough for me.

Part of the midweek routine when with a sponsor also involves staying in the clubhouse after the match until we are either kicked out, dragged out or fall out. This week I think I was all three on my way to getting into the taxi.

The two guys from Acorn Press are excellent company, naturally sociable and enjoy chatting with other supporters in the bar, the manager and my parents – the time (and the pints) flew by. In fact, they flew by to such an excellent that I fell foul of one of the golden rules of my marriage – If either of us are going to be home after midnight, we send a text to the other at home to let them know.  It is a fairly simple rule, and one that provides plenty of ammunition for Mr Sod and that law of his. If I remember to send the text, you can almost guarantee that Mrs Calder will be sound asleep and not see the message until the following morning, by which time I am safely home and tucked up in the bed beside her. But, if I happen to overlook this rule (usually due to alcohol consumption), you can bet your life that at 00.01am my phone will beep beep…

Clambering out of the taxi and sneaking in through the front door, I turned on my phone.

00.48am. Oops.

1 message. Double oops – “Well, where’s my text then?”

From downstairs in the kitchen I sent a text reply: “Blimey, is that the time, I didn’t realise xx

Hmmm” came the text response from upstairs. I downed my glass of water and knocked back the Alker Seltzer in one and made my way up through the mist that was seeping from beneath the bedroom door.

The next morning, I actually felt ok, and in fairness Mrs Calder showed no signs of anger. Presumably resigned to the fact that my mixing football with free beers is never going to result in me getting home early.

For the rest of the week the majority of my football commitment has involved helping to orchestrate the junior section coaching session with Andy Leese and Gary Breedon, and preparing for next week’s board meeting, and in particular preparing the financial presentation which remains important to me, even if not everyone takes as much notice as I feel they should.

My other worry now is over the Bar Manager, in particular the fact that he confirmed to me on Tuesday night (albeit very late at night) that he did have another offer on the table. Although he said he has no intention of going anywhere “at the moment”, it is something we have to consider. On top of that, the figures for the bar are not as great as I had hoped, in fact they are disappointing compared to the budget – albeit there are a number of reasons I can cite for this being the case.

Separate to the board meeting, there is going to need to be another meeting with the bar manager to discuss the turnover, the staffing and what it is we need to do to support our plans for increasing turnover and profit margin. The club needs to take some responsibility, and understand the consequences, for having not invested money in the clubhouse as we had discussed in previous meetings.

By Saturday I was really looking forward to a trip down to the New Forest to play Bashley, for the past two seasons we have been down there midweek, a long trip for a Tuesday night…

…And I am afraid it is going to be that again this week with the game being postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. A real shame, and a bit of a blow when we are on the back of a 100% record in 2013, it would have been nice to keep the momentum going; however, as soon as I took a call from my Dad at 9.15am to say there would be a pitch inspection at 10.00am, I knew it was unlikely. Sure enough, it was hardly even 10.00am when I saw on the Bashley forum that the game was off.

The weather forecast for next week features snow on Monday… That must cast some doubt over the game at Hitchin Town going ahead on Monday night.

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