Fans Forum - August 2008

Notes from the Fans Forum held at the New Den on Tuesday 5 Augustl 2008

The forum format was similar to recent events as it was split into two parts. The first section involved a panel containing the team manager and two players, and in the second part the fans were able to question a panel of Board members. Bob Asprey (MSC Chairman) introduced the first panel, which contained Kenny Jackett (the manager) and two players Ahmet Brkovic (midfielder) and Marcus Bignot (defender). Bob said that questions to this panel would last an hour and then asked for the first question from the 120 / 150 who attended.

Question (to the players) - It must have been a shock to you when Kenny announced at the Player Of The Year function that you would be involved in three training sessions a day in pre-season. How have you been coping with this?
Marcus Bignot replied that it had indeed been a shock to the system. The players had to set their alarm clocks to 5.30am just to get to training on time and it felt like we were working even harder than you lot, who have full time jobs. Sometimes we lost track of time thinking it was lunchtime when in fact it was only 10 o'clock. Seriously though, it has brought the squad together as well as improving our fitness. We need a fast start and we hope that the hard work now will bring rewards by the end of the season.

Question - Kenny, we still seem to have a poor squad as our result at Exeter showed (disagreement from those attending). Do you agree?
Kenny replied we were poor at Exeter, and did not create much up front. Even so their goalkeeper was voted man of the match by their own fans. We will improve, in the end we went too direct. I like my teams to pass through midfield and to involve the wingers. Whilst I am constantly looking at ways to improve the squad I am generally happy and know we can be much better.

Question - Have lessons been learnt from the injury ravaged last season?
Kenny replied yes I am aiming to get a good group of committed and fit players who want to ensure team success. Injuries are also a matter of luck and you need a good scouting system to ensure you are updated with who is available should a replacement be required.

Question - Are funds available to strengthen the squad and are you going to make any further signings?
Kenny replied I am aware that we have no one really big and frightening in our forward line and have made extensive enquiries in this area. I have made enquiries about Kandol from Leeds and Akinde from Ebbsfleet. Ebbsfleet are very reluctant to let their young talent depart. A signing could happen soon we shall have to see. I am aware of a lack of force up front. Generally, I am never completely happy with my squad and am always looking to improve and I have funds to do so.

Question - Kenny, could you explain what part Jon Goodman is playing in our fitness regime?
He is playing an important part and will be used on a regular basis next season. He is a very bright chap with his own sports fitness company, which comes from a football angle. He employs different experts in various performance areas (such as weight training, etc.) and he will refer you to them for their specific area of responsibility.

Question - Kenny, will you be using many loan players next season?
Kenny replied I do not like loans and you will not find many in the successful teams next season. You need a settled and determined squad to be successful. Loans are only useful when you hit injuries. If I am using them just to improve what I've got then it seems I am fire fighting and getting things wrong.

Question - What's your prognosis for next season and who do you think will be the top teams in the division?
Kenny replied I think this will be an open league and certainly feel that we have the ground, the training facilities and the fanbase to do very well. We must have a good start, as this will give the players belief. I am not interested in the other teams, only twice a season when we play them.

Question - Kenny, can you keep your squad together?
Kenny responded yes, I am under no pressure to sell.

Question - What is the position with Lenny Pidgley and Dave Brammer?
Kenny replied Lenny went to Motherwell on trial but nothing has resulted from this. He is now back and training hard. He could be played if conditions dictate. Dave has been out for some 7 weeks with a knee injury and again is now back in training after an operation. Due to the strength of the PFA, you just cannot get rid of the high earners easily. You must honour their contracts. This is fairly unique to football.

Question - What is your current injury situation?
Kenny said Danny Senda is out until around Christmas. Marcus Bignot and Dave Brammer are now back in training. Dave Martin and Ryan Smith have slight knocks and but could be available this weekend.

Question - Kenny how do you compare this club with others you've been at?
In the London area, I consider Millwall to be bigger than the 2 other clubs where I have worked, QPR and Watford. Manchester City is obviously a very big club, particularly in Manchester itself, as more United fans tend to come from outside the local area. Swansea is also a big club, as it benefits from having no competition for 50 miles.

Question - Can you tell us about the possibility of signing Jem Karacan, Jay Simpson or Bryan Hodge?
Kenny replied I have asked Reading about Jem and Arsenal about Jay. Reading have told me they intend to use Jem this season, particularly considering their relegation. Jay is similar having spent pre-season back at Arsenal, although I did notice he was not to be seen for the Emirates Cup last weekend so there could be mileage there. Bryan Hodge is probably not needed now as I think I have strengthened midfield considerably and will be looking for goals from that area next season with players bursting through to support the attack. Danny Spiller has had a particularly good pre-season. Getting first refusal on any of these players is difficult and you must have a very good relationship with the selling club. Jay is a difficult one as where would you play him? The answer from the audience seemed to be as a striker but Kenny thought that although he had improved, he was not guaranteed to score a great amount of goals.

Question - You seemed to change your formation last season from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3, will you hopefully settle on a 4-4-2 formation this season?
Kenny replied I believe 433 will work in this division provided the wide forward of the 3 works hard to support attacks and gets shots in. I will of course go with the formation which suits the players and is therefore most successful. If I play a formation and it's not successful, obviously I will change it.

Question - In the light of your change of mind concerning Neil Harris, do you think you bow to fan pressure or are you your own man?
Kenny said I am aware of what the fans are saying as you can hear a lot from the dugout and if I've missed it my family will relay it to me after the end of the game. I think I'm my own man and rely on my own judgement. You've got to be true to yourself and try to give back what the players have given to you.

Question - Whilst you are your own man, which managers have influenced you?
I think I admire Alex Ferguson, who is always aware of what is going on and on top of his job. Once, when Swansea lost the playoff final to Barnsley on penalties, Ferguson called me a couple of days later to encourage me to keep up the good work. I did not think he knew I existed.

Question - Kenny can you explain the diabolical signing of Tony Craig (the questioner was jeered in the room)?
Kenny replied I re-signed Craig because when I took him on loan last year, he played well, seemed a Millwall player and added to the positive mood in the dressing room.

Question - Kenny what is your ideal squad number for next season?
Kenny said I think a squad of 18 / 20 players is adequate and in that squad you would like a few youth team players pushing through as established professionals start to lose interest if they are not involved in the first team on a regular basis. As I've said we need more punch up front but we also need to get the youth pushing forward.

Question - Do you like the transfer windows or do you find it puts more pressure on you to find the right players?
Kenny responded I don't like the current set up at all, and I think it is a poor rule. Good for the media but not for football team managers.

Question (to the players) - What is the atmosphere like in the dressing room?
Ahmet replied the players have a good spirit and determination for the new season. We all get on well with one another, and yesterday we went paintballing (from the floor - did you hit the target? - general laughter) Marcus continued the players are focussed on a good start, they are aware of how they underperformed last season.

Question - Who will play right back?
Kenny replied at present Marcus is favourite. Alan Dunne has played there for some of pre-season, but did not do so well there on Saturday. Dunney is currently still troubled by his toe injury. It is not a problem position for me.

Question (to Ahmet) - You were at the club for a trial period, can you tell us the differences in the club then and now?
Ahmet replied when I was at the club before, there were several good players including Tim Cahill, Lucas Neill and Neil Harris. Now the squad is younger but has a good team spirit. At the time the managers were Keith Stevens and Alan McLeary, but it didn't work out and I signed for Leyton Orient.

Question - Kenny do you think the younger players will benefit from last season's tough experience?
Kenny responded yes. When building a squad at our level you need to get players before they come good. We need to bring players on. We need to concentrate on the age group 18-24. We can't afford to buy players who are right at the top of their games.

Question - Kenny, how will you treat the cup competitions this season?
Kenny replied of course you want to win every game but I think the League is the priority. Players need momentum so winning Cup and League games adds to this. The Johnson's Paint games also give an opportunity to fringe players and those returning from injury.

Question - What do you consider to be a good points return after 10 games?
Kenny responded I suppose most managers will say 20 points, but I want to see positives like being fitter, stronger and faster to the ball compared to the opposition. And I want us to be in touch with the leaders.

Question -Kenny how do you think the downgrading of the Academy to a Centre Of Excellence will affect your work?
Kenny replied well I think the club will benefit, as the Centre Of Excellence is less expensive. We will now play against Championship level clubs downwards, as the Premiership operate in an elitist way. We will continue to train teams three times a week as we did when we had academy status. However, the Centre Of Excellence will mean that we will not have to pay as many top level staff. I am convinced that 15 / 16 /17 year olds will be brought through despite the change.

Question - I don't think your team was consistent enough last season.
Kenny said I agree and we are working on this.

Question - Did you speak to Darren Byfield about a return to the Club?
Kenny said no.

Question - After last season, I see the Club doctor left the club?
Kenny replied that the last doctor has moved on for personal reasons and we have had his replacement throughout pre-season and now for the new campaign.

Bob ended the first session of the forum by wishing the players and management well for the new season and following a break the Directors panel was assembled.

Part 2 - Questions to the Board

Following the departure of the players and the manager Bob then introduced the Directors Panel, which contained Stewart Till (Football Club Vice Chairman), Trevor Keyse, Pete Garston (Fan Director) and Andy Ambler (Chief Operating Officer). Apologies were received from Heather Rabbatts, who was dealing with the bereavement of a close family friend. Bob then asked for questions from the floor.

Question - Following the defeat of Mr Ferguson Lacey's resolutions at the EGM, do we know what his next move is likely to be?
Andy Ambler responded that the Club has yet to hear from Ferguson Lacey since the EGM. He is probably waiting to see how things progress but may contact the Club again in September / October, closer to the next AGM. Stewart Till added that there had been attempts to buy Lacey off but he is still holding on. His persistence in asking for the EGM has cost £130,000 and embarrassed his lawyers who attended the meeting. Trevor Keyse continued that Lacey had only attended a couple of games last season and had hit the Club when it was struggling against relegation and therefore could not be a real fan. Peter Garston stated that although he had been in some dialogue with Lacey before the EGM, Lacey had not come back to him after the result and had certainly not answered any of his ten questions, which he had put to him. Not surprisingly, this led Peter to believe Lacey had no real interest in the future of football operations at the Club.

Question - Could the Board overturn the restrictions which Lacey successfully imposed at the last AGM whereby new investment had to be in the form of loans rather than the issuing of new shares?
Andy Ambler admitted that this was an important point. Currently the loans cannot be converted into shares and so this has meant that the Club is paying unnecessary interest. It should be noted that Mr Lacey's interest in the club had been diminished to 22% with Mr Berylson's recent share conversion. It is likely that the board will seek section 89 & 90 approval, thereby removing Mr Lacey's block, at the next AGM.

Question - Is it possible with the current economic climate that planning permission might be secured for the regeneration but the club finds nobody with the funds to carry out the development?
Stewart replied by saying firstly reiterating that Heather was intending to be present but had a bereavement to deal with. He continued that although the planning process was slow, he was 90% sure that permission for the regeneration scheme would be granted. Heather has agreed to call a forum with fans when she is able to go public with the progress. The club has to be at the centre of the regeneration, to ensure that the surrounding uses dovetail into the club's commercial operations. Trevor said that he was sure the regeneration would go ahead and the Club should be in a prime position to benefit financially.

Question - Can the Board confirm that a new investor who wanted to put £1m into the Club has now been deterred from making that investment?
Stewart replied that he thought that John Berylson, the PLC Chairman, was in touch with a potential new investor and far from walking away, negotiations were continuing. It may not be as much as £1m however.

Question (to Pete) - Are you planning another Dockers Day, and if so, when?
Pete replied that he is planning another event for next February. This may involve a team of ex players from the 1980s. Also he is looking to arrange something on the same day to commemorate the fans who had died in an accident in Basingstoke on their way to a match in the 1970's.

Question - In the light of falling season ticket sales, how much longer can the club survive on raising capital through share issues or relying on the personal wealth of one individual?
Andy admitted that the reduction in season ticket sales was a problem. Sales were down from 4,500 this time last year to 3,800 now. Whilst Mr Berylson could keep the Club going a little longer, he would not want to pour his cash away and the club must work towards break even. The Club is currently cutting costs and trying to maximise revenues in order to achieve this. Andy is once again pushing the Club's conference facilities with the City being such a short distance away. But he also recognised the need for success on the pitch. Next year would be a good time to be promoted, as the Championship was due to enjoy the riches of a new TV deal. Trevor Keyes re-inforced this statement. After the last few disappointing seasons, which had almost certainly had their effect on season ticket sales, there was a need to get promoted and he thought Kenny Jackett was the manager who could provide this success.

Question - Do you see a time when Millwall games will be live on the internet?
Stewart Till replied with the advent of 'convergence', where the functionality of TVs and computers will be combined, this is a possibility and could happen in 2 to 3 years time. The Club must be in a position to take advantage of these developments in technology. It must have a strong brand and high profile.

Question - You have mentioned lapsed season ticket holders, are you aware that due to the current credit crunch people are finding it hard to bear the costs of travelling to games from Kent and purchasing season tickets? Can you not follow Charlton's example and provide coaches from Kent towns?
Andy Ambler replied that he recognises that as well as the credit crunch, the price of petrol has gone up and this on top of three poor seasons. He has been in contact with lapsed season ticket holders via e-mail, and the possibility of providing transport from Kent has been mentioned. It will be considered if feasible.

Question - There is a feeling that you do not do enough for long-term season ticket holders, the people who have stuck with the Club through the recent thin years. Can you not give them free access into the early rounds of Cup games like Northampton?
Andy replied that he recognised that the people who signed up for early bird season tickets especially were the lifeblood of the Club. There is a difficulty in giving free access to Cup games, as there was an obligation on the home team to give the opposition 40% of the gate takings. The opposing team would therefore need to accept the scheme. Inevitably, if cup games were included, the price would rise. There is no guarantee that Millwall will have ANY home cup matches. The Board is currently looking into rewarding long-term season ticket holders and maybe something different for the Johnsons Paint Trophy games will be considered. However, season ticket holders are getting a £2 discount on the Carling Cup match v Northampton, and can buy a ticket for £9.

Question - Can the Chairman attend one of these forums?
Stewart replied that he had every intention of doing so and indeed he would. He missed this one due to a family holiday, which he is cutting short to see the Southend game. His love for the Club is growing and when he attends games, he is often to be found in 'Arry's or the Executive Club talking to the supporters. Peter Garston added that he had frequently asked on the message boards last season whether any fans wished to meet with Board members and he received minimal response. He will be asking the same again this season.

Question - In the light of the failure of the Ghana v Senegal international match last season, will you be staging any more international games?
Andy replied that far from being a failure, the Ghana game was something of a success. Not only did the Club hire out the ground and therefore took money from the event but also it got us recognised as being ready and able to stage international matches. The Club is pursuing this area actively as a means of increasing revenue and was even looking at teams like Poland who may be interested. Staging football games is our strength.
Boxing has been considered and Stewart has been in touch with music promoters like Harvey Goldsmith but it is felt that arenas such as the O2 offer better, all weather venues for these activities. The Soccer Six again was a success. It yielded money from the hire of the stadium and the organisers were very pleased with the venue. Unfortunately, the organisers are committed to go North of the River next year. As regards the media, we had the Bill TV episode filmed here as well as many adverts, including the Nike one featuring Wayne Rooney, Cesc Fabregas, Arsene Wenger and many others. Stewart has also forged a relationship with Film London with a view to further filming at the Den.

Question - Is the Club going to offer the long awaited testimonial to Richard Sadlier?
Stewart replied yes. He had been in touch with Richard a year ago and Sunderland had agreed, and a date was fixed. Unfortunately, the intended opponents pulled out. He spoke to Richard again six months ago but no opposing team was available at that time. If an appropriate team can be found the testimonial can still happen.

Question - Why were there no home friendlies this season and could this fact be responsible for the fall in season ticket numbers?
Andy replied that he thought the fall in season ticket sales could be due to the economic conditions and he expected membership numbers to rise. However, the lack of home friendlies leading to a decline in ticket sales was mentioned on Lions Live last week and this has to be taken into consideration. The Club had decided against home friendlies this season due to the enormous rise in police costs in the Metropolitan Police area. Guidelines are set down for policing costs for league and cup matches but the Met are losing money hand over fist and are trying to make some back on other events, such as friendly games. The Club will review the policy next season.

Question - The catering in the ground is still poor. What is the Club doing about it?
Andy replied that we need feedback of examples of poor service either through him or the MSC.

Question - Can the club be included in the Soccer Legends Tournament?
Andy replied that this was normally arranged via ex-players. Clubs had nothing to do with it.

Question - Can our Chairman arrange a pre-season tour of America next year?
Stewart responded that he thought Mr Berylson would be proud to take a Millwall team to America. However, the climate may be a problem, as Boston gets very hot in the summer, and suitable opposition would be needed for pre-season matches.

Question (to Trevor and Stewart) - You have supported Millwall for many years. Where have you sat in both the old and new grounds?
Trevor replied that at the old ground he had started on the terraces, and then moved on to the Executive Club and the Gold and Premier Suites before becoming a director. Stewart had started in the old grandstand, and moved into the Executive Suite at the new stadium. He was proud to say that when his son collected his Degree from Manchester last week, he was wearing a Millwall tie. Furthermore, he was very proud to have had his stag night at the Old Den, possibly the only person ever to do so. Apparently the catering was shocking.

There being no other questions, Bob rounded off the Forum at 9.45 pm by wishing everyone, players, managers, directors and supporters, a very good and successful season.

   Fans Forum - May 2008

Notes from the Fans Forum held at the New Den on Tuesday 6 May 2008

Bob Asprey (Millwall Supporter's Club Chairman) introduced the event and thanked everyone for attending. He explained that the forum would be held in two sections. In the first part, the panel would be made up of the manager and two players and in the second part questions would be answered by Board members. Bob then introduced manager Kenny Jackett and players Zak Whitbread and Gary Alexander.

Question - Kenny what progress do you think you have made since you took over as manager?
Kenny replied I think I have seen an evolution of the team. Zak Whitbread has replaced Richard Shaw at centre half and now I believe we have the basis of a good squad. We have now brought in some good young players who are our own and have not been loaned. Off field, the club setup is now far better and much more stable. There is a basis to go forward provided I make the right signings.

Question - Which Players have you offered contracts to for next season?
Kenny said contracts had been offered to Chris Hackett, Chris Zebroski, Neil Harris and Richard Shaw, who has a new role at the Club. I have released 9 players the most high profile being Rhys Evans. We need to streamline the squad and bring in more quality.

Question - Any change of securing Jay Simpson or Jem Karacan?
Kenny replied I have been in contact with Arsenal several times regarding Jay but it seems the club and the player will not make a decision regarding his future for several months. As regards Jem, Reading will not decide until they are aware what Division they are in next season. I see both players as being useful additions and will continue to pursue.

Question - What about Bryan Hodge?
Kenny said Blackburn require a fee for him. I don't believe he should attract a fee so that's it but I await developments.

Question - What is the situation regarding Danny Senda's injury?
Kenny answered Danny has a dislocated knee cap which is very painful. The surgeon believes the ligaments are ok but he is undergoing surgery tomorrow to establish the overall condition of the knee. It could be a long-term injury, which is very disappointing for him, as I believe he was developing and improving as a player throughout the season.

Question - Have you got a good sum to strengthen in the summer and are you keeping hold of Paul Robinson?
Kenny said the sum available is competitive for this division. I must be aware that it is to last throughout the season as sometimes changes may be necessary mid season if the team hits a dip in form or we suffer injuries. The team you put out at the start is rarely the one you end with. As regards Robbo, of course he will be here, he has 2 years left of his contract.

Question - You say offers have been made. Have the players accepted them?
Kenny said I expect all to accept. Neil Harris WILL sign (general laughter).

Question - You must be looking for a 20 goal a season striker?
Kenny replied yes I would like 5 strikers here as this gives you various permutations.

Question - Are you now happy with the medical staff?
Kenny answered yes I changed the medical staff completely and I now hope and believe I've got it right.

Question - Kenny well done for keeping us up. Last season we needed a centre forward and can you explain the goalkeeping situation? What about Preston Edwards?
Kenny replied I've said that I'm looking at striking options. As regards the keepers, I've let Rhys go because although he is very competent, he did not strike me as a keeper who could win me games. Preston is still young and I see him as a number 2 keeper at present. Tony Craig is still in my thoughts. At the moment I can't see anybody who will step up from the youth team next year.

Question - We need players here who are Millwall through and through and understand the Club and its fans.
Kenny answered yes but they've also got to be good enough. You have to ally passion with ability. You have to have both.

Question for Gary / Zak - Did you find the manager's changes in formation difficult to come to terms with last season?
Gary said I prefer to play alongside a partner but am happy to contribute in any formation. I prefer 4-4-2. Zak said his preferred position is centre half but I can also play at left back having played for Liverpool there in the past. Kenny said the 4-5-1 formation had proved successful, particularly away at games like Yeovil. I like to get the ball down and play. This is feasible with 4-4-2 so long as you have a strong midfield. I am working on this. Zak Whitbread was praised by the meeting for having the character to come back to achieve a high level of performance this year after not his best season last year, or indeed the beginning of this season.

Question for Gary / Zak - Can you tell us about your injuries and how they are shaping up?
Gary replied I sustained my injury at Yeovil from a bad tackle by Marvin Williams. I had a small crack in my shin but I ran for the first time yesterday in 8 weeks. Zak answered I was injured in the Luton home game when towards the end I fell awkwardly and sustained a small chip in my shoulder bone. It seems to be healing again now. Both should be 100% by the time they report back on 1st July.

Question for Gary / Zak - What is the best game you have played in for Millwall?
Gary said that must be Brighton at home when I scored my hat trick after a barren spell. Zak replied I think Orient away when I got the winning goal, we ghot the 3 points and it was a great performance by the fans too.

Question for Kenny - You've had a lot of injuries this year and in some games you've lacked some strength in midfield. Are you looking to get more physical strength into midfield?
He replied yes I am. We are very conscious of the need to look at players' injury records before we sign them.

Question - Is there anything we can do about the standards of refereeing. It seems that once they have a Millwall game, they feel they have a point to prove?
Kenny answered are you seriously asking a football manager about referees? Perhaps Andy can say something here. Andy Ambler said the club are in touch with the FA and the new referee manager regarding refs, and they do try to send experienced ones to Millwall. The ref for the Carlisle match I thought was very good. They do, however, have young refs coming through and sometimes they have their first game at the Den and we, like other Clubs, just have to put up with this.

Question - Is there any way that Lenny Pidgeley can be sold?
Kenny replied I don't see him being in the first team squad next season except for injuries. Lenny is keen to play and I have circulated his name to clubs as being available for transfer.

Question - Kenny what are your views about the youth scheme and why was the Dagenham feeder centre closed down?
Under League rules such centres have to be positioned within one and a half hours of the ground and Dagenham certainly is. Kenny said I know nothing about the closure of Dagenham and I will look into this. I support the development of youth players and class Fuseini and Edwards as youth products. At present nothing seems to be coming through but we will persevere and put the right people in place to foster youth development. Crystal Palace are currently showing what can be done with a good youth policy.

Question - What was your stand out performance of the season Kenny?
Kenny said the win at Swansea. Not just because it was over a team I had managed but it finally showed I had the makings of a side.

Question - Kenny what are your aims for next season?
He replied from 1st July when the players return to training it will be promotion from this League. I have the off field backing for it and that will be our aim.

Question - What is your ideal squad number Kenny and are you happy with your backroom staff?
Kenny replied I have no ideal number except to say that with their massive squad Chelsea have not benefitted when certain key players are out. Rather than looking at squad size you have to have a good scouting system, which allows you to know where likely targets are. When Marc Laird got suspended I was able to bring Jem Karacan in almost straight away. We also need to be able to move players on if they are not performing. I am now happy with my backroom staff having secured former Lion Jon Goodman for fitness training and Richard Shaw for support. Elvis is alive!

Question - Kenny, I believe you have made a big mistake with Neil Harris and you have allowed the fans to influence your decision. Harris is finished at this level, he just doesn't score goals. You have given a place on a small budget to a player who won't perform next year.
Kenny said that Neil's contract has been offered on the basis that if he does under perform, he could be moved on. It was my decision, no one else's. I thought through the financial implications. Neil's attitude showed me that I was wrong in my initial assessment of him. He will work in a permutation of striking options next season.

Question - What do you think about Danny Spiller and Chris Hackett?
Kenny replied the season just ran out for them. Both seem good, hungry players who will be part of my plans next year.

Question - Will Dave Brammer and Alan Dunne be here next season?
Kenny said yes David has another year of his contract to run and Alan is about two weeks away from fitness.

Question - Does Dave Brammer still live up north?
Yes, he still lives in Chester.

Question to Gary / Zak - What do you think of Lenny Pidgeley's nightclub antics?
Gary replied Lenny apologised to the players and that these things happen sometimes.

Kenny ended the session by thanking the supporters for their support. He now faces the intriguing task of spending the summer building a team for promotion next season.

Part 2 - Questions to the Board

With the departure of Kenny Jackett, Gary Alexander and Zak Whitbread, Bob then introduced the Directors team .This included Heather Rabbatts (Executive Deputy Chairman) , Stewart Till (Football Club Vice Chairman), Trevor Keyse, Andy Ambler (Chief Operating Officer) and Peter Garston (fan director). Jeff Burnige (director) and Dean Leigh (Police Liaison Officer) were also in attendance. Mr Berylson (PLC / Football Club Chairman) was unfortunately not able to attend as he had just undergone surgery on his leg.

Question - My son goes to school in Slade Green and whilst Chelsea and Arsenal run soccer schools in the area and QPR leaflet the school, there is no Millwall presence. Why is there no Millwall presence beyond Bexleyheath and into Kent?
Heather explained that the Millwall Community Scheme currently operates in Southwark and Lewisham and that the Club's resources are concentrated in this area although the Community Scheme did host a competition recently involving schools outside these boroughs. The Club requires more resources to cater for a larger area than it has at present. Andy Ambler continued that in marketing the Club is looking to expand. Bukta, the Club's shirt maker is seeking to get a limited number of Millwall products in local Asda Superstores and he was currently interrogating the membership database to identify stores with 10% of the fanbase in close proximity.

Question - The accounts have not made the best of reading recently with costs far outweighing revenues. Have we got enough cash flow for next season?
Heather replied that thanks to the efforts of Mr Berylson the Club had funds and monies for team strengthening. Mr Berylson had committed £5 million at the last AGM and had recently made another £3 million pounds available. The Board was committed to cost cutting and indeed had made significant savings already. The cost of covering for injured players was way above normal squad expenditure but the stability of finding John Berylson as Chairman and Kenny Jackett as Manager bodes well for the future. Trevor Keyse added that Mr Berylson wants to win and its taking an active interest in the Club having long telephone calls several times a week with the Manager and the Board. He will hopefully see his way to making more funds available as the team progresses on the pitch.

Question - How is Mr Berylson's funds made up?
Heather responded that the first £5 million was made up of a loan convertible into shares at a 9% interest rate. The Club currently does not pay interest. The £3 million is a loan at 10% interest. The loan had to be made in this way as Mr Ferguson Lacey, the Club's largest shareholder had forced through a resolution at the last AGM not to increase the Club's shareholding. 10% interest should be considered very reasonable bearing in mind that other Club's are borrowing at rates closer to 15%.

Question-What are the Board doing about the large losses already incurred?
Heather said that there was a great desire by the Board to drive costs down. Trevor pointed out that some of the past expenditure should be viewed as investing in the infrastructure of the Club. The training ground had been vastly improved and the Stadium pitch was now of a higher quality than in recent years. Jeff Burnige insisted that Fans should support Mr Berylson and hoped he would soon see on pitch success for his investment. The Club had gone through a damaging period of 6 Chairman in 3 years and now it appeared that stability had finally been obtained.

Question - Is Mr Ferguson Lacey holding back the progress of the Club?
Heather answered no but his interference is annoying and costly. He is currently the largest shareholder with 28.8% of the company but if he increases his holding to 29.9% he will have to make a bid for the Company under Stock Exchange rules. It is doubtful at present that he wants to make this bid but his recent calls for an EGM to vote on enforcing the Board to subject their everyday decisions to shareholder approval shows that he wants to control the Board via the backdoor. He has now had 2 requests for an EGM turned down and now he may be seeking legal advice.

Question - What are his aims and motivations?
Stewart Till replied that he was undoubtedly attracted by the regeneration project and that is not too bad as long as he is prepared to see the Club get more than enough out of the scheme. His treatment of Mr Berylson is unhelpful and his habit of saying he is going to turn up for games and then pulling out at the last moment is annoying and is probably stimulated by his desire not to talk to Board members about his plans.

Question - Is Mr Lacey connected to Mr de Savary?
Stewart replied no as Mr de Savary supports the Board and is still in contact with it.

Question - What percentage of the company does Mr Berylson currently own? What percentage will Mr Berylson own after he has converted his loan to shares and can he do this before any showdown meeting with Mr Lacey?
Heather replied at present Mr Berylson owns 10%. If he converts his loan, he will own 45% and tactically it may not be sensible for Mr Berylson to convert to shares before any meeting.

Question - What is the position regarding FA fines?
Andy Ambler replied that the players currently have a suspended fine of £40,000 hanging over them for bad behaviour and this might be called in by the FA if the Club appear in the top 3 or 4 of the offenders again this season. As regards the fans, the FA has received some 8 reports of poor behaviour and this is much more than any other Club. We are currently in a dialogue with the FA and it is hoped that the Club can avoid serious punishment.

Question - When are we going to see any concrete regeneration proposals. What has the regeneration cost so far and has it impacted on the football budget?
Heather said that she hoped to have more concrete information within the next month. Things have been held up as she has been seeking a change of use around the Stadium's immediate area from industrial to mixed use. She thought she had achieved this but then some new planning legislation was introduced involving local strategic planning which meant that the local authorities could carry out more local consultation. Boris Johnson could bring in more planning legislation which could mean the scheme could be mired again. It was hoped that approval would be given to a scheme that would include a hotel, improved leisure facilities, enhanced local shopping and better housing to improve the area. There is a 120 year lease on the Stadium which means that Millwall Football Club will be at the centre of any scheme built. Allsops will be used as planning consultants as they are a major company and have already a working relationship with many local authorities.

Question - Whilst building works are being carried out, will the Club have to move?
Heather/ Andy replied no.

Question - What will the Club make out of the scheme?
Heather said that until plans are hardened up she could not say.

Question - Are the Club taking advantage of the 2012 Olympics?
Heather replied that the covered facilities of the community centre are earmarked for some pre-training for teams. There maybe more opportunities later.

Question - Can the Club put up a sign on the back of the Stand overlooking the Railway?
Mr Berylson is currently looking at this proposal.

Question - Why were Leeds not given the lower tier of the North Stand and why was there such a heavy Police presence at Swindon?
Dean Leigh / Andy Ambler stated that the number of Leeds fans were restricted at The Den due to severe crowd problems at the Elland Road fixture earlier in the season. The restriction was on Police advice. As regards Swindon, unfortunately Millwall's reputation means that some Forces over react. Only improved crowd behaviour will solve this problem.

Question - When will the Club look after its season ticket holders better? Particularly those who buy under the Earlybird scheme.
Andy Ambler replied that the Club had recognised that season ticket holders will get the best deal possible.

Bob thanked the supporters for their attendance and the Board members for their time. The meeting ended at 9.45 pm

 

Millwall Supporters Club, c/o The Den, Zampa Road, London SE16 3LN  -  phone: 07895 022 325  -  email: info@millwallsupportersclub.co.uk

 


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