Fans Forum - September 2011

Minutes of the Fans Forum held at the New Den at 7.00 pm on 15 September 2011

Panel (Part One) - John Berylson: club chairman. Kenny Jackett: team manager. Bob Asprey: MSC chairman.
Panel (Part Two) - Andy Ambler: chief executive. Peter Garston: fan on the board. Bob Asprey: MSC chairman.

Bob Asprey opened the meeting by thanking John and Kenny for taking the time to attend and answer the fans’ questions.

Q: It has recently been reported that John Marquis is suffering from a hernia injury and has been playing with this for a few weeks. Will this not exacerbate the injury?
KJ: John has just this week been diagnosed with a double hernia that will require surgery; however the surgery can be delayed as the injury can only deteriorate to a certain level. John can train but feels soreness at the end of the session and was sent to see a specialist when this situation didn’t improve after a week or so. If the injury were chronic, it would obviously be dealt with urgently but the operation may take place, for example, during the next international break, so allowing John to be unavailable for as few games as possible. The club physio would suggest immediate attention but the injury can be managed. An example is Alan Dunne last season, who was diagnosed with a similar injury in February, but the surgery took place in the close season.

Q: Last season we had the third best defence in the league. This season, maybe 90% of our goals have been avoidable. What are your concerns here and are you looking at loans to improve things?
KJ: We have six points from six games and we’re in the third round of the League Cup, so this is a fair start. However, we do want to stop conceding goals and we want to score more. The defence was tightened up over the course of last season and this season we need to keep possession more. I think there’s enough cover in the squad and good competition for places. I feel I just need to find the right balance and haven’t done that yet.

Q: How do transfers work? Who is involved in the process?
KJ: It starts as a three way process between the manager, chairman and chief executive with the wider board brought in as the situation progresses. Sometimes there is urgency and it isn’t possible to include everybody immediately. This is a competitive business and the club is looking to finish in the top ten of the division, so it’s becoming harder to make good transfers. The process is first to ask the player’s existing club for permission to talk to the player and he will then be invited to the club. The financial side is dealt with by AA and the football side by KJ. Often the deciding factor is other offers the player has received.

Q: A recent report says that Millwall paid out the third lowest amount in the division in agents’ fees last season. Have we lost out on players because of this?
KJ: No. Bosman (free) transfers sometimes mean the agent receives a greater fee. The club is not against using agents, the most important criteria is the quality of the player involved and sensible agents’ fees will be paid. This policy has never affected a signing.

Q: First, thanks to the manager for an excellent season last season (applause). Opinion that left back was a weak area last season and hopefully Jordan Stewart can help resolve that. When Liam Trotter plays well, the whole team seems to play well and so we need another passing midfielder, is that the thinking behind Therry Racon’s signing? Why isn’t Jimmy (Abdou) playing? McQuoid isn’t currently playing well; at least with Marquis he will come in and mix the game up a bit. There’s no time in this division to invest in bringing young players through.
KJ: This is a good assessment. Even though some of the comments are hard to hear, they are valid and I have to get these things right. I always want to back my players and I agree that Tony Craig fits better at centre half than full back. His passion for Millwall is so important. Yes, we need cover for Trotter, a quality player, and Racon was brought in with that in mind. Trotter has some fitness issues where he’s still growing into his body and he finds it difficult to play two games a week for a prolonged period. Saying that he played 37 games last season and the fitness team are doing a great job in keeping him fit and the player himself is working hard. Things haven’t flowed as easily for Tam this season as last and Jimmy came back from international duty not fully fit. Mobility in defence is required. It’s hard to bring in players that are the finished article and it’s necessary to have some young players that are looking to make the grade that the club can cultivate and bring through. As the manager, I will always back and support my players.

Q: The club received £2.8 million for Morison. Why wasn’t he replaced?
KJ: Darius Henderson was brought in as replacement and other players have also signed. All the transfer money has been spent. The fee included an amount that had to be paid to Stevenage (Morison’s previous club) and is also payable over two years. This will provide stability and the club will be on a steady footing because of it. We have good players on long term contracts and this will also help the club. I have to get the equation right and, as things stand, should signings be needed in January, these should be possible.

Q: Where do you see the club in three years’ time?
JB: I’m looking for improvement every day. History shows that perseverance pays. In the US, Ronald Reagan bid for the presidency three times before he was successful and he is now held in great esteem. Abraham Lincoln was a similar case, as was Gladstone in the UK. Cardiff spent a great deal of money last year and didn’t achieve promotion; this year, things are difficult for them. Leicester have spent money last season and this but who knows what will happen if they fail this season as well. It’s important to keep your eye on the prize, be that a play off position or a place in the Premier League. I don’t anticipate any team or club management changes. Kenny and I talk constantly and this conversation will always include players. It is my responsibility to give Kenny the confidence to bring his assessment of players forward. There is no other manager in the country that I would rather have at the club.

Q: What does McQuoid need to do to improve?
KJ: He knows he has disappointed recently, but he is a goalscorer and he needs to get his head down, work hard and improve. Forwards are at a premium and it’s important to have strikers at the club, including young players looking to break through.

Q: Jason Puncheon came to club and did well. Was it a poor decision not to raise our bid to sign the player permanently?
KJ: The difference in the values was considerably more than the £200,000 reported. It was considered a priority that the player was at a Premier League club and he went to Blackpool, who paid a loan fee. I would rather sign a player permanently than pay a loan fee. However, the player is on loan again at QPR and this situation is not over yet.
JB: We did increase our initial bid but the Southampton chairman had a figure in mind and would not consider anything lower. However, nobody else has met that figure as the player is now on loan at QPR, who have also paid a loan fee. The fact is that Jason’s best games were those he played for Millwall, so we may try again in future. Other examples are Tam, who came to the club after 18 months’ effort and Andros Townsend, who took a year.

Q: Is it true that Darius Henderson’s wages will double next season?
KJ: No.

Q: You just said that there’s no other manager you’d want at the club but just last week the manager said that the players lacked belief. Why would that be: they’ve either lost trust in the manager or they don’t have faith in the other players?
JB: If players say that they will be playing elsewhere soon. Managers can only do so much and players have to have confidence and heart; it has to come from within. We’ll see how things go, it can change. Opportunities will come and they have to be taken. An example is Boston’s win in the Stanley Cup this season against all the odds.
KJ: The quote regarding belief was a reporter asking if I agreed that the players looked as though they didn’t believe they would score and I replied ‘yes’, so it was misquoted. At the Birmingham game, I felt that we played well in the first half and were disappointing in the second.

Q: I feel the previous question was trying to undermine the manager and I think most people here support the manager 100% (applause). You’ve said that you back the manager and will spend money. Do you regret not spending money last season when we had a real chance of promotion, which may be difficult to repeat?
JB: I can’t control the press and things are not always as they are reported. The relationship between me and the manager is easygoing and the board will always ask the manager what help he needs. Nobody wants to be reckless and find themselves as Plymouth do now. The year of our playoff defeat to Scunthorpe (2009), we suffered a soft spell and the manager was offered whatever help he wanted but he turned it around regardless. The board trusts the manager’s assessment of players’ values but cannot spend £3million on one player. Last year, Morison had signed an improved contract but fell away from a playing perspective anyhow and so the club tried to sign Puncheon. This season we have Jay Simpson back, the club is financially secure and ticket prices are fair.

Q: There has been a lot of player change over the summer and the new players need time to bed in. How has that affected the atmosphere?
KJ: It’s a balance between ability and personality. Also, Millwall is a unique club and needs a unique type of player, who can make an impression quickly. New players are signed partly to make an immediate impact. The team needs to change its style of play and evolve into a top ten club. This might leave some people behind but will create opportunities for other. Our aim is to be one of the top thirty clubs in the country; as a minimum this would take us into a play off place and we’d see where things might go from there.

Q: At what point do you send a team out to play to our strengths compard to adapting our game to the opposition?
KJ:  It’s 50/50, you must capitalise on your strengths but eradicate those of your opponents.

Q: Regarding the West Ham game, do the players appreciate how important it is to the supporters?
KJ: Yes, they are well aware and the more experienced players will fill the younger players in. If anybody is in any doubt, they’ll soon realise when they come out for the warm up?

Q: There seems to be some issues with our away form and also we appear to be unable to come from behind.
KJ: This has been discussed. We do well when we take the lead but need to improve when conceding first. A couple more away wins last season would have taken us into a play off place.

Q: How will the new ‘fair play rules’ affect the club?
JB: The rules have not been finalised, however essentially they will eliminate the ability to overleverage. For example, with the West Ham buyout, £50million was purchase and £50million debt commitment. Clubs’ balance sheets need to be improved. Millwall is a public company and has to adhere to plc rules; it began to align itself to the fair play rules with the share consolidation. Private clubs can turn debt to equity fairly easily. The idea is to make teams play to consistent rules. I am a fan of the salary cap, which works in American sports. Another option is a distribution system; for example, for every £1 spent, 50p goes for equal distribution to all teams.

Q: Will clubs really disappear because of financial problems? Something always seems to work out.
JB: We’ll see, look at Plymouth and Coventry right now. I don’t think it’s a good thing for any club to disappear. Foreign money has been coming into these clubs but there’s nothing to say they will be involved for the long term. I have no intention of going anywhere.

Q: Do you think it’s too easy for people to come in and clear debt?
JB: I think it’s too easy to declare bankruptcy, with Leeds an example of that. I think it’s wrong to use bankruptcy in this way.

Q: Has your investment strategy changed? How was transfer deadline day?
JB:I’ve no idea what the strategy is; it’s whatever the manager says! It’s critical to find more income streams. Yes, deadline day was stressful; we were speaking to Jason Puncheon just three hours before the deadline and Jay Simpson signed about three minutes before deadline.
KJ: There is a domino effect and it’s frustrating that it has to go to the wire. However, it’s necessary and stressful, with office staff working until midnight, but it’s exciting and good TV.

Time was up. Bob thanked the chairman and manager and the meeting broke for a short while.

Q: Why wasn’t the West Ham game for home supporters only?
AA: I think that’s a minority view. The game is for supporters and the atmosphere is better with away fans. I think it’s a backward step to ban away fans. We’re lucky that we can segregate away fans and have use of the walkway to the railway station. I share your issues and concerns but this could be a watershed game that enhances our reputation and we have to make the effort.

Q: Can you speak to the police so that home fans aren’t held back to let away fans get away? When the walkway was built, we were told that it would help with crowd management and the departure of away fans?
AA: The police view changes and they make decisions on a game by game basis; that makes it impossible for the club to make any guarantees. I hope that it is the away fans that are held and we will request this of the police. There have been many meetings in respect of this game, with the first in March earlier this year. However, once the game is on, the police and match commander are in charge.

Q: The police got it right for the Cardiff game last season. I don’t know any other club where away fan departure takes precendence.
AA: Also, when we beat Charlton 4-0, they were kept in even though they were desperate to leave. There has been a lot of planning for the West Ham game and Lewisham police have worked very hard. There will be inconvenience: Zampa Road will be closed (to bring in the away fans), the club shop will be closed. But the game is the most important thing, especially after the away game in 2009. If anything happens on Saturday, we will be fined by the FA.

Q: Would no away fans be better for the club, given the costs involved in stewarding and policing the game?
AA: Banning away fans causes its own trouble: people will still try to get into the game. When Leeds came down, 2,500 fans paid £25 each and I’m happy to take their money.

Q: There is a lot of contingency in place, and West Ham have restricted ticket sales. Could it all work against us?
AA: Away fans help the atmosphere. The game has generated five times as much usual media interest.

Q: So why let the media in? Are they news or sports reporters?
AA: We have to play the game and let in appropriate media. Some foreign press requested accrediation but were declined, as they were not interested in reporting purely on the match.
Deano Standing: The media at the game will be sports reporters; we usually have 30-40 but there will be 80 on Saturday. For those we declined this time, we invited them to come report on our game with Doncaster! However, we do have friends in the media.
AA: After the 2009 events, some of the media turned our way. Michael Calvin will be here to write a ‘behind the scenes’ article for his Sunday Mirror column.

Q: Why don’t we impose similar ticketing restrictions on Leeds as they do on us?
AA: The Leeds restrictions are a combination of police and club demands. It’s good for us to play them at 3pm on a Saturday at home but previous events mean that won’t be the case for the away game. We have to be sensitive because of the incident with the waving of Turkish flags. I’m continuing to look for compromises.

Q: What has the reaction been to the Michael Calvin book?
AA: There has been only positive feedback from anybody that’s read the book. Some clubs have given a copy to their coach as an insight into a successful season. I’ve sent copies to the FA and FL, etc. Michael has now found a publisher for the book (the previous print was something he arranged himself). As such, this will generate more publicity and as part of the deal, Michael is writing an update. This edition should be available in the new year.

Q: In terms of football, the West Ham game will be very passionate. I hope that the game is remembered for the right reasons, especially as West Ham seem to think they’re going to win 4-0!
AA: Yes, it’s a massive game, both for the result on the pitch and what happens outside the ground. The BBC Football League show will be down and they want to talk about the traditional and historic rivalry, with the dockers, etc. Let’s hope their piece can concentrate on that.

Q: Let’s hope that the police hold the away fans in, when we’re 4-0 up! Presumably, this game will affect our allocation for the return game?
AA: Yes, that’s correct. No decisions have been made on ticketing the return game yet.

Q: We seem to be one of the best clubs at putting on these types of games.
AA: And it’s no accident that we were at home first this season for this fixture.

Q: Why do we bother with the club shop and replica kits? The kits are late on sale, difficult to find, and expensive.
AA: The retail side of the club is not functioning as it should and it’s a priority to improve this. I’ve just come back from the Macron factory in Italy and it’s been a useful exercise. They are a major European supplier and maybe they are too big for Millwall’s needs. For example, Leeds order 90,000 shirts and we order 12,000. The club shop needs to be bigger; its a service to fans and a revenue generator. It’s not an area that’s received investment but floor space needs to increase and merchandise needs to improve; this is a priority. Bukta was probably a mistake but Macron provide top quality goods. I’ve received feedback from fans that they’re looking for better quality products and are prepared to pay the relevant price for this. The club marketing team will be concentrating on the retail side.

Q: Why can’t Decathlon sell our shirts?
AA: Yes, I’ve a meeting with them next week to discuss this. Decathlon are strongly supporting youth initiatives at the club, including the upcoming Family Day.
Andy asked that anybody with any ideas for improvements to the retail side to let him know, as he is very open to suggestions.

Q: Why are there no catalogues available?
AA: They are being prepared now in readiness for Christmas. Many clubs no longer produce a catalogue, because of the internet, but I think it’s important for this club to provide this and they will be available.

Q: I was reading a history of the club and we used to have the biggest clock in football at the old Den. Could we bring this back?
PG: If we could do this, it would certainly be unique. However, given the cost of such things, the price would probably buy us a new striker!

Q: There was recently an article in the Southwark News talking of extending the ground capacity to 26,500. Is there a model of the proposed changes?
AA: There is no model but there are drawings. The background is that Lewisham Council have put a clause into the proposed regeneration that it should not adversely affect the club, which must stay in the borough. Given the club’s aspirations, we therefore submitted provisional plans for an increased ground capacity. These are now in place if and when they are needed.

Q: Would the 26,500 be an operational capacity?
AA: The existing ground capacity is 20,000 but, with segregation and non use of the away lower, 16,000. The figure of 26,500 would be subject to segregation. The current style of the stadium is not the most suitable for needs.

Q: How can we, and what is being done to, increase attendances?
AA: August is a difficult month, due to summer holidays, etc and we were disappointed with the attendance for the Forest game. There are a number of initiatives: the club participated in the Sun offer for the Barnsley and Peterborough games, and season ticket holders can bring a ‘friend for a fiver’ for the Burnley game. However, we always need to be conscious of giving the best value to season ticket holders. The best way to increase attendances is to win matches.

Q: We seem to have a lot of foreign fans. Why is that?
AA: Some may be tourists that can’t get tickets for premier league games but we do have a large foreign membership and they love to attend games. A number of Millwall fans are taxi drivers and concierges, etc and they should spread the word!

Q: Are tickets made available to schools and community groups?
AA: Yes, and we’re looking to increase this. At the start of each home game, there is a ‘guard of honour’ of children from a local/Kent school. Getting the fans young is definitely the way forward. We’re also promoting to students at the local universities. The community scheme is very locally based at present and we’re looking to expand into the Dartford area. We’ll be speaking to the players to see if they might ‘adopt a school’ and visit a couple of times a year. We have carried out a lot of research on our fan base (6,000 season tickets, 8,500 members) and will be using this. The proposed new station on the East London Line extension would be fantastic for the club.

Q: There are a number of local children and young teenagers that would like to come to games but given the difficult journey, their parents won’t allow it. Could a coach be laid on?
AA: Yes, this could be considered but would probably best be organised via the children’s school(s). The family enclosure is now 80% season ticket holders but young teenagers don’t want to attend games with their parents, so ideas such as these need to be considered. Again, the new train station would be ideal and we hope it might be built within 2-3 years.
Another suggestion of a steward/volunteer to walk the children to the ground was also made.

Q: During the summer, the club sent a mailshot that contained the name, address, email address and telephone number of the member. Given concerns over the reliability of the postal service, is printing all this private and personal information on a letter a good idea?
AA:  I was not aware of this and will look into it.

Q: Has progress be made on securing the name of the new railway station?
AA: The priority at the moment is securing the funding for the station. Obviously we would like to have some influence over its name. Currently, it seems likely it will be called Surrey Canal station.

Q: There is talk of bringing back safe standing to football grounds. If it were allowed, would Millwall consider it?
AA: Yes, if it were legal, we would consider it. More useful and more easily legislated would be the law against drinking pitchside, as I think the present system simply encourages people to drink too quickly. In respect of standing, I think the big clubs will oppose it and it’s unlikely to happen, although there’s no reason why terrace capacity can’t be limited for safety reasons.
Bob suggested joining the Football Supporters’ Federation, which is lobbying for and promoting standing areas at grounds.

Bob thanked everybody at the club for enabling the Forum to take place. The meeting concluded at 9.30pm.

   Fans Forum - April 2011

Notes of the Fans Forum held at the New Den at 7.00 pm on Thursday 7 April 2011

Bob Asprey (Chairman of Millwall Supporters Club) thanked everyone for coming and explained that the meeting would be held in two parts.

Part 1 - Bob welcomed Kenny Jackett (Club manager) and Darren Purse and Josh McQuoid (players). Bob congratulated Kenny on the steady improvement since his arrival at the club. He said that this season has been very enjoyable, irrespective of what happens in the next few weeks. Bob then invited questions from the floor.

Q. Why do we no longer have a reserve team?
Kenny Jackett said that we do still play reserve games. However, the concept of how we play reserve games has changed. It is now important to have a better pitch and surface on which to play first team games. Therefore we cannot play reserve games on the pitch.
Kenny said that we now play reserve games at the training ground. The downside of this is that the games are played on midweek afternoons without supporters present. However our training ground pitch is better than the pitches of some of the lower and non-league teams the reserves used to play and the Board is investing £150,000 in further improving the training ground, including the pitch. Also we can now arrange for the reserves to play top class opponents. Kenny said that we no longer advertise reserve games but supporters who come to the training ground are not turned away but he would look at whether we can give more publicity to reserve games.

Q. What is the difference between being a top 10 and top 2 side in the Championship?
Darren Purse said that the difference is in goalscorers. He said we have a very good defensive record but top 2 teams have several goalscorers capable of scoring 20-25 goals per season, eg Cardif and QPR. Kenny said that the challenge for us is to make the best use of the resources available to us. He said that we need to work hard, add to the team where we can without losing what we have.

Q. Why have you brought in too may centre backs and forwards? Why are you playing Liam Trotter off a single front man when we have other forwards who are not getting a game?
Kenny said that we need a squad where there is competition for places and one which provides cover for injuries. He commented that we went to Leicester with 5 centre backs injured. Kenny said that he had experimented with Liam Trotter working off a front man, particularly when we faced teams with a very strong midfield. However, we mainly play with two up front.

Q. Is there any substance in reports that the club will be using a European network of scouts? Would it not be better to look at getting in players from non-league clubs?
Kenny said a European network may be something we can use to add to we do already but he did not want to miss what is under our nose. He said that it is important that whoever we bring in should be close to being able to play in the first team and therefore the timing must be right.

Q. Question to both of the players present - Josh why did you choose to come to Millwall? & Darren why did it take you so long to get here?
Josh McQuoid said that he knew some of the players at Millwall, including David Forde and James Henry, and felt it was the right move for him. He said he is enjoying it at the club. Darren Purse said he was lucky to be able to come to play for the team he supported. He didn't know why it had taken him so long but that he was enjoying the challenge.

Q. What is the position on inward loans?
Kenny said that we have Hameur Bouzza on a short-term loan to the end of the season. We must let Arles, his parent club, know by 30 April if we want to take him on a permanent contract. Craig Eastmond is with us on a youth loan until the end of the season. This is a flexible arrangement - for example he can go back to Arsenal in the week for training. Andros Townsend is also on loan until the end of the season. Subject to any decisions taken by both players' parent clubs at the end of the season Kenny would consider taking them on a permanent basis. All of these loans can be extended if we reach the play-offs.

Q. Kenny, why were you at Loftus Road on Monday evening?
Kenny said that he was generally looking at future players.

Q. We tend to play well when we have someone playing well on the left side. Are you looking to strengthen our left side on a permanent basis? Other than Steve Morrison we do not have another out and out centre forward. Is that not risky?
Kenny said that we are very strong on the right side and he is looking to strengthen the left side so that we can create goals from both sides. If Steve Morrison was injured we would need to react at that point and would have a better chance of getting in a more experienced player on an emergency loan.

Q. Can you comment on reports of player unrest - eg Theo Robinson and Danny Schofield?
Kenny said that he was not aware of any player unrest. Danny Schofield has done well for the club but will be unhappy at not playing at the moment. Also there my be a personal situation with him as he comes from the north but is down here in the south. He said that he had to take a decision on Theo Robinson and thought it best if we parted company with him.

Q. What is your view of players using social networking sites?
Kenny said that he did not think this was a problem with our players. However, he thought that use of such sites would become part of league players' contracts at some time in the future.

Q. Are you disappointed that we took Jason Puncheon on loan and turned him into a better player but we were not then able to secure him on a permanent basis?
Kenny said that we had the option initially of taking him on a permanent basis rather than on loan and with hindsight it would have been better if we had done that.

Q. What is the position of our players out on loan?
Ashley Grimes, Lewis Grabban, Marc Laird, Andy Frampton and John Sullivan are all on loan until the end of the season when they will be out of contract. They are all trying to get regular football. They are being continually monitored and then an assessment will be made at the end of the season. There was some comment as to why Ashley Grimes was doing so well at Lincoln but had not been given a chance here. Kenny said that he had brought Ashley to Millwall from Manchester City where he had worked with him as reserve team coach. He had subsequently taken a view that Ashley would not be able to help us move forward so had wanted to let him go on loan somewhere of a good standard where he could do well. He was not able to arrange a move for Ashley until January and would have done it earlier if that would have been possible.

Q. Do you see Neil Harris having a coaching role at the club?
Kenny said that Neil has a playing contract next season and may play beyond that. He feels that players like Neil and Paul Robinson will make a natural progression to other roles at the club at some stage.

Q. Do you feel we are vulnerable at left back? 
Kenny said that Tony Craig and Scott Barron each bring something different to the position. Ideally he would like to be able to mould the two of them into one. Jack Smith is two footed and can play at left back but has not been available to play on a consistent basis because of injury. Kenny feels that we are stronger on the right side and is looking at the position on the left.

Q. What about the campaign to show more respect to match officials? Officials have to earn respect. Why don't they have to explain their decisions?Darren Purse said that match officials are now professionals and should have something in their contract to require them to do interviews with the press, in the same way as managers. Kenny Jackett said that some form of video technology is needed to help them. He said that it we have to take responsibility for our own actions. We cannot take responsibility for referees. Nevertheless he thought there needed to be some outlet for them to explain their decisions - perhaps through the referees' association.

Q. Why do we bring everyone back for corners? 
Kenny said that our priority is to defend the corner and not concede. When we are confident we can win the first header we can think about keeping someone upfield. However, we are not there yet.

Q. Question for Josh McQuoid - what feedback would you give to Kenny?
Josh said that the manager has been great to him. He said he just needs to bide his time and work hard to get into the team.

Q. Why does Steve Morrison often drift over to the right wing, leaving nobody in the box?
Kenny said that Steve Morrison does some good work down the right channel and he does not want to stop him from playing his natural game. He can pull the opposing defence about and create holes. We need to get others in to capitalise on those gaps that have been created.

Q. Why are we so vulnerable at free kicks around our box?
Kenny said that this season we have stepped up in class and are facing much better players who can take full advantage of free kicks around our box. The key for us is not to concede free kicks in those areas. David Forde's approach is to stand slightly wide of the wall so that he can see the ball. Sometimes he may stand slightly too wide and leave a gap. This is something Kenny has discussed with him.

Q. We are very fortunate to have had Kenny here and he has taken some good decisions. What is Kenny's view of his time here?
Kenny said that he has a good rapport with the supporters which is much appreciated and this helps the team to play well. However, he is a realist and knows that things can go wrong. Therefore we need to keep our eye on the ball and have short-term and long-term aspirations. Kenny said he hopes things continue well but he knows things can change.

Q. What is the mood amongst the players?
Darren Purse said the squad was very close knit and there is a very good work ethic.

Q. How do you turn things round - for example after the loss to Sheffield United?
Kenny said that he didn't think that we deserved to lose that game. We created more chances than them and were one step away from being successful. He thought that we had been competitive all season. There is a thin dividing line and the key is how to turn a loss into a win. He was confident that we have not been overawed in this division.

Q. What is the position with Kevin Lisbie?
Kenny said that Kevin's contract with Ipswich expires at the end of this season. He is a proven striker who started the season well but then was unlucky with injuries. Kevin has said that he would like to stay but Kenny will need to look at the construction of the side with, for example, Shaun Batt coming back from injury at the beginning of pre-season.

Q. Does Kenny agree that Tam Mkandawire has been outstanding?
Kenny said that Tam has been playing well. He had been tracking him for some years and took him on a free transfer at the end of his contract at Leyton Orient. He did not envisage him playing in midfield. That is something that has evolved.

Bob Asprey thanked Kenny, Darren and Josh for coming and for their open and frank answers.

Part 2 - Bob Asprey introduced John Berylson (Chairman of the Club), Andy Ambler (Chief Executive) and Peter Garston (Fan on the Board). Bob said that we could not have made the progress we had over the last few years without John Berylson. It has been a good three years. He welcomed his openness and that we were able to ask him questions face to face and get honest answers. We appreciated him coming to the Fans Forum.

Q. Can something be done about smoking in the West Lower stand?
Andy Ambler said that by next season there would be smoking areas outside all the stands except the West stand where there is a problem with access for emergency vehicles. The FA had taken the decision that all stadia should be non smoking. However, this was difficult to police effectively. The club is working to educate fans on this but it will not happen overnight. Lewisham Council will be sending a team to the ground at some point to inspect how we are complying with the non smoking requirement.

Q. A fan present complained that he had been unjustly banned and had been refused permission to stand for election as Fan on the Board. He asked to be able to meet the Chairman to put his case to him direct.
John Berylson said that he did not know the details of this issue and invited the fan to write to him. He would then discuss it with Andy and Pete. The last thing he wanted was to ban fans unfairly. John said that Peter Garston does a marvellous job in bringing fan issues to the Board. He relied on Pete for his advice.

Q. A fan said that under John's Chairmanship, Kenny Jackett and Andy Ambler have moved us forward very successfully. The Chairman has stuck by us even when things have got difficult. The Fans are very warm towards him and we hope that he will stay with us. [This comment was met with loud applause from the floor]
The Chairman said he was most grateful for those very kind remarks. He wants the club to become even better and tries to do his best to improve things for those who come every week. He is proud of being our Chairman and has never had a bad experience here. He said his short-term and long-term expectations are to be here.

Q. A number of small shareholders were very disappointed in losing their shares at the recent share consolidation. Why was the share consolidation necessary?
The Chairman said that we had too much debt to equity and were in danger of breaking League rules. After taking advice from investment bankers and lawyers it was clear to him that the only thing to do was to convert debt to equity. He also mentioned that the Club was spending £250,000 a year to keep the many people who only had as little as one share informed. This was wasted money.

Q. Is the club being taken private?
The Chairman said that he now owns 71% of the stock. He did not know whether the club would become a private company but was looking at the options. However, he said that he estimated that the cost of our club being a public company was in the order of £300,000 - £400,000 each year.

Q. Why is it that the media hype up incidents at our club out of all proportion - eg the Sky TV response to the game with Middlesborough?
The Chairman said that he thought that bottle throwing was cowardly and will not put up with it. He thought it was important to have good relations with the FA and that is something we have been working on quite hard. Andy Ambler said that the West Ham game was a watershed for us. We had a chance to prove our case and the fact that the Chairman paid for a top QC to fight our case proved crucial. He said that a lot of work goes on behind the scenes and we do take action - for instance two people were arrested at the Middlesborough game. The FA do take this into account but we need to be aware every game. It only takes a few people and we are in trouble again.

Q. Why can't the stewards do better?
Andy said there are different types of steward and it is difficult. On the whole he believed the stewards do a good job. He gave the example of the two stewards who stopped the supporter running on the pitch to get to the linesman at the Middlesborough game. If they had not done that then the consequences for the club would have been most serious.

Q. Why are Millwall supporters held back at times at South Bermondsey station to let the away supporters go first?
Andy said that the original agreement when the walkway was built was to hold back the away fans. However, the police Match Commander had the final say on this and sometimes has decided to hold back the Millwall fans. However, the police were not consistent. He agreed to ask the police to come along to the next Fans Forum to explain their actions.

Q. Why has the Cardiff fan who fell from the north upper stand not apologised?
Andy said that we wanted him arrested. However, Cardiff have banned him for three years. He said that the ball boys at the north end had had a traumatic experience and the club was making sure they were being looked after.

Q. What are you doing to stop premier league clubs from taking Academy players?
The Chairman said that a calculation is made for a payment made for a young overseas player who is brought to this country. This is based on a number of factors including the number of years the young players has been with his club. He thought that the Football League were likely to do something similar for young players bought from clubs in this country. However, the level of compensation to be paid to clubs will be important.

Q. What is the gap between what we can pay our players and what other Championship clubs pay?
The Chairman said that he does not want a big gap between our top and lowest paid players at the club as that is not good for morale. He said that some clubs who had received parachute payments on relegation from the Premiership were paying very high wages to some players and gave the example of Jay Simpson who is being paid £14,000 a week at Hull and is usually a sub. The Chairman believed that we had a strong squad and were competitive. He said that we have a budget for players wages and our strategy is to try to get more value from the money we have. The club seeks to do this gradually with the aim of getting stronger everyday. Other teams pay high wages using borrowed money but this was simply not sustainable.

Q. Why are not more of our games televised?
Andy said that this was something we did not have any control over. He said that it was perhaps inevitable that the bigger teams would have more of their games televised. However, this is something the club is working on. He mentioned that the upcoming game with Preston is to be televised.

Q. How was Kenny Jackett selected as manager?
The Chairman said that he had been criticised for the time it had taken to select the new manager. However, he believed that the quality of the club depended on the quality of its people and it was very important to get the appointment of Manager right. He said that he had personally met a large number of candidates and had taken advice from the people he trusted. All the directors met the main candidates and Kenny Jackett was the unanimous decision of the whole Board.

Q. Is it true that John Berylson's son might take over as Chairman?
The Chairman said if at some point in the future his son was to take over as Chairman it was unlikely that we would see much difference in approach. He referred to his own health and problems with his knees and other joints which were painful and which affected his mobility from time to time.

Q. Is the Board satisfied with attendances?
The Chairman said that on the whole he was pleased that our attendances had risen given that some other clubs were not doing so well. However we still need to attract more people and thought we should be aiming to average 14,000 -15,000 which would make us stronger financially. He expressed concern over rules which the League are considering which would restrict clubs' pay budgets to their ability to attract fans. Andy said that already 2,300 season tickets had been sold for next season, including 350 new season ticket holders. This is was very encouraging.

Q. What is the position with the proposed regeneration scheme?
Andy said that an application for outline planning permission had been submitted. We are monitoring the situation and need to wait and see what happens.

Q. Quite often the catering staff cannot understand what people are ordering. Can we do something so sort out the catering?
Andy said that catering has been outsourced. He has received complaints about the catering and had discussed this at a meeting with the MSC earlier that evening. A report highlighting all the problems is being drawn up and will be sent to the Catering company and the club will press them to address the issues raised.

Q. What has happened to Mr Ferguson Lacey?
The Chairman said that Mr Ferguson Lacey supported the share consolidation even though this had led to his share of the club's stock falling from 28% to 4%. This means that he can no longer call an EGM every so often. However, his relationship with the Chairman had changed for the better and he was providing helpful advice on the proposed regeneration scheme.

There being no further questions the meeting closed at 9.40 pm. Bob Asprey thanked everyone for coming, especially the Chairman and Manager.

 

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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