Fans Forum - September 2012

Minutes of the Fans Forum held at the New Den at 7.00 pm on 13 September 2012
Presided by Bob Asprey, MSC Chairman

Part one: Kenny Jackett (KJ:) (Football Club Manager) and Scott Fitzgerald (SF) (Head of Youth Football)

Q: With the new academy set up do we stand a better chance of keeping the good young players or will they still go?
SF: We stand more chance of keeping them as we can now offer them a lot more than we have been able to in the past, in terms of facilities and contact hours. But ultimately it is going to come down to the boy concerned and his parents. It is up to us, the youth team staff and the first team staff to create an environment that makes the players want to stay, and have a clear career path so that if they are good enough they will get the opportunities with the first team.

Q: Is that because of the gap being bridged now between the U18s and the first team with the new U21s or the new facilities we have?
SF: I think it's a bit of both; we are now running U21s so the jump up from U18s isn't that big. There are not that many 17/18 year olds playing in the Championship, so we need to have a middle ground that we now have, which gives the players time to develop. The U21s are now playing at stadiums like The Den and others giving the stadium experience so that when they do step up they won’t be caught up in the experience like a rabbit in headlights.

Q: Kenny, what was the thinking behind letting both Tony Craig and Scott Barron leave the club at virtually the same time leaving us under cover at the left back position? I know that Lowry can cover here but is it still a position you are looking to fill? And was it a decision from the players to leave or was it a club decision?
KJ: I have replaced them with Lowry and Malone. Whilst Lowry has been here slightly longer it will be interesting to see how Malone develops. Shane is 23 and Scott Malone is 21. Tony in particular was very keen to play at left centre back as opposed to left back; however he would have played in any position for Millwall. I had just edged Lowry above him if I am truthful. However, I would have been happy for both of them to stay (Craig and Barron), to compete and be squad players. Neither of them wanted to do that and both wanted to move on under those circumstances. It's a tough call because myself personally, not wanting to speak ill of either as they both did very well for me, but in some situations we needed better than those guys to some degree but they would be great to be around. However there is only so far you can go with people if they aren't really the main players without it affecting their progress and the team. Both were a tough call, but for Tony Craig we got £150,000 as well, which does help and contribute when we are trying to move forward. Tony particularly was a hard one for me, but the in the last 6sixmonths I have replaced them both with Lowry and Malone and we will see how the season unfolds.

Q: Do you see Lowry as more of a left back or a centre back?
KJ: I think his preferred position is left centre back, but I think he could do a job for us if we have injuries at left back. Hopefully however, with Malone, he can give us the edge attacking forward at the left back position, which we have been missing in recent years, particularly at home. But I do think Lowry's best position is centre back but he is fully capable to play left back if injuries occur.

Q: When a young player just isn't cutting it, how do you tell somebody that this isn't working and it isn't for them and how do you tell the parents?
SF: This is possibly the toughest part of the job and obviously we deal with boys from the age of 9 up to 21, so to sit and tell a 9 year old that he isn't good enough is a tough thing to do. We have different ways of telling them and have different exit routes for the boys as well, be it other teams or Sunday clubs and we track their progress as they move to these as well. So maybe if they have left us we would send another scout out to see them between 6-12 weeks after they have left just to check that they are comfortable at that level and the new club. In short it is very hard and unfortunately there is no easy way of doing it. We have to do it every year in April and for me personally that is the hardest month.

There is protocol for the process, obviously we have a different coach at each of the age groups and we try to let them down as gently as possible but it is no good keeping someone if it is not going to be for the good of them either in the long term.

Q: Is there a point in your job when you know a player isn't going to make it?
SF: No, I think I have let players go at 12 or 14 and they have come back when they are 16 or 17. They never stop learning or progressing and it is up to us to track them. We let a guy go at the age of 16 and we took him back at 17 and he now has a professional contract with the club.

Q: A few years ago we was fortunate in having a group of young players all coming through at the same time, and in the last few years things have waned off. Do you see in the foreseeable future where you have a group of youngsters that could all make the breakthrough?
SF: I think it is going to be really tough now because to get a group of 4, 5 or 6 players in one age group is going to be very tough. This is due to the amount of money that the bigger clubs are spending on recruitment. They can come into the ground, watch the players and there will be a fee to pay. It is getting tougher and tougher to keep the promising ones owing to the fees being paid for them by the bigger clubs. That's why I go back to make the environment to make the players want to stay as we do have some very good players in our academy.

KJ: That is exactly what our aim is, and it has to be, to produce as many as we possibly can. We have to give it a go and it has changed considerably over the last ten years, mainly due to the struggle of the national game in my opinion. Now academies, Centres of Excellence and youth set ups are so good and extensive and it is right that they are. As an individual club however, to make it work you have to get those players through. That’s our aim, we are not doing it not to, and that's what we want.

Q: Kenny, firstly the tail-end of last season was probably the best we've played for a while and was possibly promotion form. But last season I asked you a question about Liam Trotter and during that period of those last 12 games he didn't play owing to injuries and other reasons. The question I asked you last year is during the games he seems to drift in and out of games. This year he has chipped in with two goals. This season he seems to make a good run, but then he is out the game for the next five minutes as the game goes past him. That's one of my only concerns about the side in the midfield and do we at times pick the side to accommodate Trotter? But without wanting to have a repeat of last year’s goal famine before Christmas, what happens to Darius Henderson and that case regarding forwards, no issue with John Marquis or Shaun Batt as I think they can do it, but really the fans would have liked to have a bigger signing in the summer. On the point of the left side we brought Taylor; I can remember him playing against us for Oldham. At Crawley you played him behind the forwards but when it came to Blackpool when we needed 4-4-2 and played Malone there. The left is a key position, and I'm just wondering your thoughts behind Liam Trotter and what is our contingency behind Henderson and again with Taylor who we signed only on a one year contract and he isn't featuring in the squad.
KJ: Say from last season, if you look at when we got knocked out the FA Cup by Bolton, from thereon in I think our form improved but we weren't quite getting the results. But after this we was then putting in the performances and getting the results. And you're right up until Ipswich, it was without Liam and the combination of Abdou and Wright worked really well. And then towards the end I ended up playing all three of them and I have a fluent front three in Kane, Keogh and Henry, so we were flexible to go from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 within that front six. In terms of Liam Trotter he can be and is, I understand, a frustrating player. I do think he is a talented player. I don’t think we could move past him if he was playing against us. Although he is a big guy, he sees himself as a ball player, a flair player. I think he can defend, mark, fetch and carry if you like but he wants a little bit of freedom to go and create, and he can do that and get a goal, especially a key/crucial goal. There is a talent there and getting the best out of him on a consistent basis is my challenge.

Going on to where we have been this year, there is a good case for Wright, Trotter and Abdou to all be in the team and if I am looking at a front six of any formation including Henderson and Keogh that is a very good front six, we have had a lot worse, and it excites me. This formation and their form, has kept Chris Taylor out really. It's taken me a while with Malone because he has been a very good attacking left back, I didn’t know whether he would be able to start straight away at left back and be sound enough defensively but he has, and is a lot better at left back than he is wide left. But really now the way with him is keep him at left back and coach him; that is what I have learnt very quickly. And then the front six have kept Taylor out. The fact he is on a one year contract isn't a problem as we could move at any time to extend that. He is happy at the club as well. I feel very good about the situation at the moment because as a manager I feel like I have got one up my sleeve. It's a long season, and I have been pleased with him and last year wasn't a successful season for him; looking back 18 months Oldham wanted £750,000 for him.

Looking back at the front six, Trotter is key, and if I can get him going in some capacity where he is having the freedom to run and be a free spirit, I do believe he can create chances and score. I certainly think that at the moment in recent games playing all three in the same team is worth it as they are all good players.

Regarding Henderson, his court case is at the end of October. He and his legal team are quite confident, although I can't predict anything and really as a manager there is little I can do as it is all in the hands of the authorities and all I can do is wait and see. Also centre forwards at Championship level are very expensive and we are not going to have loads stacked up and waiting, it's going to be young players developing or returning from injury. It would be hard for us to get to four or six strikers of the Henderson/Keogh calibre. Loans are more likely than signing strikers and keep them in the background waiting.

In terms of squad size we have 23 senior players and three of them are goalkeepers. I’m not necessarily unhappy with it as it is evenly distributed across the positions. If a hole appears at any position either through form or injury I will need to look to fill it, but we can't have the depth of squad to cover it straight away.

Q: Firstly you have Tam coming back in the next couple of months and the season before last he had an incredible season as a defensive midfielder, but at the moment we have a lot of scope in that position. When he comes back do you see him slotting back in there or at centre back? Secondly regarding James Henry, all of us have seen that he can be a fantastic player but also incredibly frustrating, but something seems to have clicked with him recently, in his responsibilities defensively as well as attacking. Do you think that this is just his maturity or something else?
KJ: Regarding James Henry I think this is down to two things, one is maturity and the other is competition. He has Liam Feeney sat there who is a good player in his own right so the hunger is there to hold his place.

In terms of Tam, I think he was a key player a couple of seasons ago and has the personality to be a steady midfielder, right back or centre back although before coming to us he was predominately a centre back. I think with Tam he needs a bit of time, whilst his knee is fine, he needs a bit of time to get to match fitness; he still has a way to go, I wouldn't put a time span on it, but he is very professional and diligent, but whatever position he comes back in, he will be an asset and I have every confidence it will happen, although it won't be right now.

Q: How are we fixed in terms of development squad matches?
SF: We have 20 games over the course of the season and they are sporadic. In between the structured season we are able to put in fixtures whenever we want so, on average it is two a month. It is up to me to fill the gaps, and when we have first team players coming back from injury then it is my job to go and get us some fixtures in order that they can get the minutes they need.

Q: Can you get promoted out of the development league or do you have to develop the club to go in to the next division?
SF: It’s categorised 1, 2, 3 and 4 and you stay in the relevant category for 16s, 18s and 21s. At the moment we are in category 2. So before when it was Academy and Centre of Excellence, there were only two divisions as such; however, now it is split into four.

Q: With the uncertainty of Darius Henderson what is the position with Danny N'Guessan? Is he going to go, or if he stays do we need him?
KJ: We have five strikers so currently playing Henderson and Keogh, Batt and Marquis have been substitutes and N'Guessan has been the fifth. To have five strikers I don't think is an embarrassment of riches. He has been unsettled and it has been public. We are not going to let him go for nothing as buying Championship strikers is not cheap; he will only go if it works right for us. Marquis has an injury at the moment. So looking at Saturday we have three big games in eight days; so if we need to play him, I think he will do well.

The situation with Danny is that he is 25 and wants to play football, but doesn't want to do it through the route of being a substitute; I am saying to him that he has to wait and work towards it. As a club we are not going to walk away and sidestep the situation and not get what we think is the right value in a market which is tough to bring players in, and leave ourselves short.

Q: Kenny, the last three or four games of last season, and in to this, the way we played was absolutely brilliant and the way we play when we are away we seem to be playing some good football and are really strong, we seem to be moving the ball around and we look very hard to beat. I honestly think we have a very good team.
KJ: Yes we have got a good side; I have mentioned the front six. Football is changing all the time and what we want to do is stay in the upper leagues. We want to play proper football, stylish football and also retain a bit of Millwall spirit, our fans like to see two upfront. So if we can do all that as well as evolve the game we can establish ourselves at this level and keep working away and then one year it will be our year and we will surprise everyone. But we won't do this unless we adapt our style and play constructive football from the back; we are trying to get good players to pass from the back to create chances. What we do from this point when we are in the opposition half is a new challenge to convert the chances from the controlled football into goals. This is a big challenge for the club but we must do it and must do it with purpose.

Q: We have a way that the first team play; how does this impact on the way the youth teams play?
SF: Obviously through the age groups it changes. The closest age group to the first team we will try to mirror the senior formation. However with the younger age groups, we try to set up as a possession based academy with the work ethic, desire and hunger which is part of us and the club. With younger age groups, winning isn't the main thing; however, further up the age groups obviously it does.

Q: You said other teams with more money can take our better players from the academy, can we not start to do that to the teams below us?
SF: We can do, we don't do it, but we can. This is our first season in category 2. It has been set up this year and we are looking to move it forward. Initially we have our own group of players. Moving forward it is something we should look at, but first and foremost I want to develop our own players in our academy. If we go down this route though, it is going to cost more money, even with the fixed fees for age groups.

KJ: 13 people now working within the youth set up and have very good facilities, which we hope is a big attraction across all age groups to stay, join or build a future.

Q: Does it give you a buzz when you sign players of the calibre of Josh Wright for nothing and Keogh for a rumoured £500,000, but then see people spending £3m for someone like Mackail-Smith?
KJ: I think Keogh was £300,000 but definitely yes I do. You talk about those two players, Keogh and Wright and they have made big strides, Josh particularly who came in initially for a week, then a month, then until the end of the season and now we have signed him. Every challenge he has matched and he has great character and enthusiasm and really wants to play for the club.

Q: Going on from the last question, how big is our scouting network and have we got any contacts abroad?
KJ: From my point of view I have got a chief scout who is full time and then four part timers.

SF: We have one chief of recruitment and then six part time, and then a team of scouts who work for nothing, primarily in London areas.

KJ: No scouts work abroad. I have plenty of contacts; you can get players from abroad, but if you are going to get someone from there you really have to do it properly and invest a lot. If you do it through contacts all you will get is the people that they are trying to get rid of. I would never sign a player I haven't seen play and me going to France to watch a player may mean I miss out on someone closer to home like Harry Kane.

Q: Kenny, do you use the ex players network, for example Rhino in Australia. Surely they must have some players and they all have affection for the club.
KJ: Again, it's time management for the manager and while I am doing that I am away from the club. Part of the U21 development squad is that it will allow us to have trialists and play them in games. Time management and energy are big things in management and you can't spread yourself too thin. In terms of the ex players, it’s certainly something that Scott can do and he had him over last year for a month.

SF: Yes, I am I contact with him once a month and spoke to him yesterday. His son is over at the moment on trial so I speak to him quite a bit.

Q: You must be as frustrated as the rest of us with what seems to be last minute (91/92 minute) goals that go in. How do you and the team cope when that happens? Is it the captain’s responsibility on the pitch to try and stem the flow or do you try and keep the ball away?
KJ: The Sheffield Wednesday game is the one this year. It is frustrating as you have no time to get back. I think it should happen to us some of the time, where we get the late goals. In terms of responsibility ultimately it lies with myself, there is no doubt about it.

I do think at Sheffield that if Robbo had been there it would have been different but it is something I haven't got an excuse, reason or secret formula to solve, I wish I did. But certainly it’s my own responsibility.

Q: Kenny, you had Shittu stripped off ready to go on in the last ¼ of an hour of the Sheffield game, was there an injury? Why didn’t he go on?
KJ: No, there wasn't. With hindsight I should have gone to two up front as the atmosphere at the ground was fantastic. The referee wasn't helping us and everything was a foul; it was a big side physically and everything was 50/50. A fresh forward and Danny in there would have been better with hindsight.

Q: Scott, David Amoo left and went to Liverpool; he has been sold on after to Bury, was he any good, and when players like that are sold on is there any of the fee passed back or a buy back clause?
SF: I actually wasn't here when he went so I can't answer fully for you. But there are different clauses in contracts, but initially it’s to the club they go to and not the follow on club.

Q: Kenny, I have seen today that you are 4/1 to be the next Wales manager. What are your thoughts on international management over championship management?
KJ: I'm very happy here; I think it is a brilliant club. In terms of the international one, I try to take no notice of these things as they can trip you up in preparing for the next game.

Q: I was at the Sheffield Wednesday game and one player I thought looked very sharp when he came on was Racon. It was the first time I had seen him play and I would like to know how you see him fitting in this season.
KJ: At the time when I took him he was out of contract and was very excited at the time. He has had a year out through injury. Central midfield is a very strong position for us. It has taken a long time to get over the injury and it was a very bad tackle. He has worked hard to get back to fitness and get his spring back and there is no reason why he cannot now turn it round and be a very good player for Millwall. He is a centre midfielder, a short passer and has good acceleration, typical central midfield player who can get it and give and be everywhere.

Q: What is the position with David Forde, he had three great seasons and then a start of a poor season. I don't think anyone would put him in front of Maik Taylor now but he suddenly found himself in a position being a number two keeper. How do you deal with the expectations of someone like him who has been used to playing in the first team and suddenly now isn't?
KJ: Well that’s football isn't it, you can be established at one place and as you say he had three very good seasons for us, but I felt it was right to bring another goalkeeper in. I have been pleased with Maik. I hope now that they can bring the best out of each other and they can drive each other on. For David he needs to come to terms with it and work hard; it is up to him to fight for it and when his chance comes again he needs to be ready to take it.

Q: Recently we have been linked with Chris Wood. Is this a realistic target and do you think we will sign him or not?
KJ: Chris Wood, he is someone we have scouted, we try to stay one step ahead if we can in terms of loans/players coming in. He is one of a number of high quality players who has been on loan in this division and no one has bought him yet so you can start to whittle down and look at the players who may be available in July and those you could potentially buy. We have looked at him, but I wouldn't say it was imminent that we will sign him, or anyone else for that matter. But I won't lie we have definitely scouted him, and we have played against him a number of times.

Q: When we had a poor start last season, was there any point you questioned yourself and asked yourself if you could carry on with this. Did you ever doubt yourself during the poor run?
KJ: You do get to a point like that; you wouldn't be human if you didn't. I always try to look at myself first; you have to. In terms of being sat in my seat as the manager, that's the question for someone else to answer as to how far the club goes with a certain person, me or anyone else.

I am committed to football club management and if I am truthful I enjoy it. It is a tough industry and you doubt yourself, but you have to come out fighting again and prove yourself. I see the role as a very privileged position and always try to give myself an honest assessment of what could have gone better after I have watched the games back. The people in judgement are ultimately the board of directors, the supporters and the press.

Q: What is the position with Jack Smith and once he is fit again will you put him straight back in the side?
KJ: Jack has got a hamstring injury; he isn't far away from fitness. I do like him, since he has been at the club he has shown constant improvement, been a sound defender and a good distributor from both feet; improving every season. We gave him a new two year contract in the summer and he is worth that and has a lot to give the club. In terms of coming back in, he won't be available for the Hull fixture, and then after that we will see what people do and where it is. We are a small squad and would like him back; he is a good player to have around, not only the starting team but the squad themselves. It has been a battle between Jack and Alan Dunne and towards the back of last season and of late Jack has had the better, it is down to Alan to battle back and regain his place.

Q: Kenny, penalties: I think going back to last season when Henderson missed a penalty against Leeds, but following the Crawley penalty shoot-out who is the club's penalty taker?
KJ: Liam Trotter is the penalty taker although James Henry is piping up a lot. In terms of the cleanest striker of the ball he could do well. Darius is a strong personality in the dressing room and has good leadership roles as well.

Q: Because of the change from U18 and reserves to the U21 is there now more chance to use the younger players in to the first team and get squad games?
SF: The reason behind the U21s is to give the guys a couple of years extra development so they will be closer to the team tactically, physically and ability wise to push in to the team.

KJ: the authorities recategorised the youth facilities in the summer, this forced the hands of many clubs to make a stand of where they are. In terms of preparation, last Christmas we looked at where we wanted to be. For us to go to a category 1 club it would cost £2m per year. We have done very well to get the category 2 grading with our set up, staff and facilities.

Q: Would you be happy if someone was able at the age of 16 to bypass the U18s and go straight to the U21s.
SF: Yes not a problem at all; we have a couple of players this year who might do just that and have already been playing in the U18s. If they are good enough we will bump them up.

Q: I wondered if sometimes when Kenny is standing on the touchline with ten or so minutes to go, with the crowd screaming names for substitutions; does this influence you at all in the decisions?
KJ: What I believe is, the link between the players and the crowd is a big one and very important. And as a manager I can influence that as well and link the crowd to the players. If one goes negative the other will very quickly too. It is down to the players to encourage the fans to show the passion. During times last year I missed players coming on as substitutes of the calibre of Neil Harris, who was a great crowd person and drew the positives from them. It's something as manager I have to be aware of

Q: Kenny, I am interested to know who you think is a player to watch in the Championship this year?
KJ: In terms of at other clubs, I am interested right the way through, Jordan Rhodes: the expectation with the big price tag. Joe Allen: going to the Premier League. When I was at Swansea he was a 16 year old boy training with the first team and now is a £15m player.

Q: Is there any news on Jimmy Abdou and Liam Trotter’s new contracts and does it worry you with Andy Ambler coming out saying we are over budget already and this will eat away more at it?
KJ: In terms of the board and myself, we work closely anyway. The fact is this season there is 25% less TV money for every championship club than there was last season and that does impact us because we only get crowds of 10,000 and whilst we are aware that other clubs spend big, we are not going to do a Portsmouth and fall through the floor.

In terms of the contracts, Liam has two years left and Jimmy has one year left. We are talking about them, I don't like to comment until it is all signed and yes I do want to keep both of them, and see them with a future here. We will work hard and keep them here irrespective of the budget.

Q: Injuries to Tam and Robbo at the start of the season and so we brought Shittu, who does seem very fit and suit the style of play. How does he fit in with your plans?
KJ: He can run the ball out in terms of passing, he is positive and can eat the ground up. He is substitute at the moment and we do need to have cover. I do think at the moment pitches are very good and the weather is good. As the winter comes you need some power there as well and as the season goes on he will become an asset for us. He has got and is getting fitter.

Part Two: Andy Ambler, Football Club Chief Executive Officer (AA) and Peter Garston, Fan On The Board (PG)

Q: What is the long term future of the club?  Kenny was saying that we was just going to sit here and take our chance if it comes.  Do we have any long term plans, and what if we get relegated?
AA: The ultimate plan is to get the club to the Premier League, however we are not going to do it an 'any cost'.  We aren't going to do it at the cost of the club not being here any more, the chairman is ambitious, the manager is ambitious, and we all are.  However, we believe to do that in the current Championship that we are sitting in is a tough gig for us.  But I think that we know that we cannot compete financially with a lot of the other clubs but everyone talks about the budget, what we have got to spend and that we are over budget.  But the reality is that the chairman has been involved now for six year this coming December and over that time there is £21m that he has put in to the club.  Now £21m over 6 years is a lot of money, but we have improved and got better and now that one good season away from that season that could see us replicate Blackpool and that is what we aspire to do.  If we get in to the top six and the play offs we have as good a chance as any from that position as it is the sort of thing that we thrive on.  So the ambition of the club is to get there, but I would say to answer that we will not be doing it at any cost.

And relegation, we know how tough it is back there, we have seen some big clubs go there and struggle.  We struggled long enough, I think that we have to stay in this division at all costs, but all costs relative to what the chairman is prepared to put in.  The League One financial position looks awful now  with a salary cap and only being able to spend 60% of your income on player.  We would drop from a turnover of around £11.5m to £5.5m we have structured the player’s salaries to reduce in this event.

Q: This business with the Financial Fair Play, I saw an email a while a go and one of the things that concerns me is that from time to time we pick up the Southwark New, South London Press or occasionally one of the Nationals and people start trying to explain what it means.  I accept that it is probably a good situation but I would like to think at some point the club could put something out in plain English so that people know exactly what it means.
AA: When I know I can tell you.  Fair play, fair is not the right word for it as no regulation is totally 100% fair.  There are different regulations coming in to each division.  The Premier league is UEFA base, the Championship has voted to bring it in.  Basically for me it does not have any teeth for 5 years.  By this I mean that, for it to get voted through some of the clubs will say that they are already running at huge losses and they couldn’t possibly manage to get it down to breakeven, cos at the end of the day what football should be doing as a business is trying to breakeven so that we don’t have the debt problem.  The issue with this is you do not want to stop a clubs dream of being up there with the big boys.  But in a controlled environment it does become fairer.  We have a chairman who puts in £3-4m a year to keep the club going.  In five years time under the current regulations that will be ok as there will be what is called an acceptable loss, as long as the debt isn't being increased on the club with input from the chairman this will be acceptable deviation.  At the moment that figure is something like £16m as some of the bigger clubs would not vote through a lower figure as they have big debts and big wage bills.

What that has fuelled at the moment is the Premier league has announced that their TV deals has gone from £1,7b to £3b over three years, the pot there just got bigger that we all hope to get into.  So there are certain clubs that see these as a gamble.  A gamble that they are making with the future of the owners clubs.  This is something we do not want to be and are not in.

The championship is a self governing league, and the rules could change within 5 years and the whole system is complicated more by parachute payments and 6 teams leaving the league each year and TV rights money is reducing.

Q: You touched on the Parachute payments, with West Ham being promoted last season, what happens to the parachute payment they should have been having this season, is that shared amongst the other clubs?  My other question is, we have heard over the last 10 years regarding the regeneration around the ground.  What does this mean financially to the club?
AA: Regarding parachute payments, that goes back in to the Premier League pot.  If the club goes back up the premier league has more money to distribute to their clubs.  The Premier League does however give a solidarity payment to the Football League and to Millwall this season it is worth £2m.  The Football league's job is now to go to the Premier League with their new TV deal and convince them that they should be looking after the good of the game and look to increase the payments received by league clubs from the Premier League.

The Regeneration – We have been doing a lot over the last 2 years, the world has moved on economically since the talk all first started.  But, what have we been doing?  Firstly the outline planning application made by Renewal, the main company planning the development has been successful.  We managed to ensure that Millwall FC remains the centre of this planning and therefore retains the future of the club at The Den.  That was our first and foremost task.  We had to engage in services of lawyers in order to make sure we could continue here as the rest of the development went about.  Further more, we also said to the council that we don’t want to just stay here, we want the ability to expand the stadium if we ever need to and we got the ability to go up to a 26,000 capacity should we need it in the future.

As regards the next phase we had to deal with, we had to  agree a section 106 agreement, this means  that the people given permission to develop the area around us, there are certain costs of infrastructure that need to be put in place, road, transport etc.  Along time ago the club were put in a position where they were being told they had to pay for the new rail network etc, we turned around and said , we are a football club, if you have a property developer  doing this, they should pay for all of this.  Luckily this was agreed.

At the current property values this development probably wouldn't be worth much financially to the club, but in 10 years time maybe when the economy has turned and property prices are up that could mean something totally different to us.  The value of developing the local areas could be valuable to the club.  The real value, the commercial value to us as a club is on the first 2 or 3 floors of the new high rise buildings.  I think a lot of that on the first 2 levels can’t be residential, we hope that we can obtain some sort of rental income from retail establishments as landlord and thus provide us with a secondary income stream.

We are in a good place, but there are still some battles to be done with the council and the developers.  If there are occasions where we need additional pressure from the fan base we will come to you as we are all in this together.

We will benefit from the whole scenario as the area will be a nicer area to be in.  I believe we will be the football club closest to the business centre of the city and in an environment that welcomes them and the existing fan base to the area and the ground.

Q: The train service to South Bermondsey will be deteriorating from December and the London Bridge Denmark Hill service is going to be terminated.
AA: Yes it is which means possibly fans will need to travel to Peckham Rye and pick up a service from there.  Whist it will be an inconvenience we are used to it with the Silwood underpass being previously closed off whilst the tracks on the East London Line were being place.  In the next few years the Bolina Road area will be closed off for the development of the Thameslink line finally.  This builds and underpass for one of the other networks for 4 years.  After this once completed there will be a number of improvements for pedestrians to walk through.  Whilst there will be inconveniences through all the various projects, we need to look at the end result which will be beneficial for us all.

Q: You say about the capacity being increased to 26,000, however the Police will not let us fill it up now as it is.
AA: They will if we have the ability and the requirements to do so.  Brighton on the 22ns September has an  allocation of 3,000 if they want them, at the moment they have sold 1,500.  There are certain games, Charlton as you know a few years ago had the lower tier of the North Stand, obviously not the games of the Leeds United statue but we are getting there and we do want to use it as much as we possibly can.

I think we can dependant on our opposition and we are moving on towards getting this.  At the end of the day we need to have enough away fans wanting to come to allow us to open the lower tier.

For us to increase capacity to 26,000 lets face we will need to be in the Premier League and have stayed there for a season or two, if we are in this position you would like to think that there are games where you would have a higher demand for seats than there are available.  My background is I have come from a club that has done just that starting with a capacity of 13,000 and is now 22,000 and increasing to 30,000 shortly.

Q:  But why won't the Police allow us to do this now.
PG:The North Stand is for the visiting supporters only and for some games, like Leeds United they will not allow it, but they will allow other home blocks to be open where there is the demand and these areas can be policed better.

But is the stadium capacity was raised to 26,000 the away supporters allocation would be a smaller percentage of the crowd and the stadium would mainly be Millwall fans.

Q: On the new station, I was wondering, if anyone comes in with any ideas of walkways, kick that in to touch because we  don't want a repetition of what we have to put up with at South Bermondsey.
If you take Wembley, they have cup finals, internationals etc there.  When that stations opens or shuts it is not the decision of the Police, that is the decision of London Underground in consultation with the Police as ultimately it is them that is responsible for peoples safety.  What they will not do is give that decision to the Police.
AA: Im glad you raised this as I spoke to the Police yesterday who told me that this year they are going to look at holding back the away fans and letting the home fans go first.  Previously they have advised in previous years that they will change this on a match by match basis dependant on the away support.

They don't like to do hold backs if they can avoid it for obvious reasons and I think it's about time we got to go through first.  However, British Transport do have a massive say in this element of the match day as whether we like it or not London Bridge is a connection where a lot of fans go through and this is what they are trying to manage as well.

However, we now have dialogue running between the services so we can see what happens.  What they do try and do is have a train come in so that they can get the away supporters away on block.

Q:  I just want to go back to the Regen, you was saying about this great infrastructure that will be in place in the future.  However, no one is going to come here, have a walk round and have a starbucks etc.  If things are not good on the pitch people aren't going to come.
AA:  Yes I fully appreciate that.  It's the same as any club.  However, at least we may have the chance of getting those that won't come at the moment.  Even when we do put together a run and play well there are people that still don't come here.

PG:  The whole idea of the retail outlets is that they are for the local residents and to pull people to the area and be sustainable throughout the year, not just the 23 days a year Millwall are playing.  However, hopefully some of those people being drawn in for the shopping may come and see the football as well and therefore help increase our support. 

Q: I've been coming to this club a long time and never had any problems coming in.  If there are changes to the Zampa Road entrance I make allowance for it.  Secondly, are we still playing Leeds at 3pm kick off as I hate these 12.30 ones.  But more importantly has the Regen cost us any money?
AA: Leeds this year is 1pm on a Sunday as Sky Sports have picked it as a live game.  Unfortunately Sky, whether we like it or not pay us and all the clubs a lot of money to get the pick of the games and this is the only TV game we have before Christmas.  However, if this hadn't been picked by Sky, I had already had the conversation with the Police and the fixture would have been 3pm on a Saturday because we are used to doing it and we do it well.

The Regeneration has cost us money, in the past it has been more, in the last couple of years we have spent a couple of hundred thousand a year on fees to advisers and management experts as we have had to be in a defensive position to secure the long term future of the club, this was going to go ahead with or without us so we needed to protect our interests.

Q: As you know I do the coaches, what have you come up with for Leeds away this season?
AA: As you know, it’s complicated, I think the voucher system is ridiculous and should be lifted and it is now time that we are treated properly by South Yorkshire Police, and I say that because Leeds United would welcome us with open arms, we have a very good relationship with them at board level.

As you may or may not be aware, Leeds United have just successfully sued South Yorkshire Police and they now owe Leeds United over £1m in over charged Policing costs and therefore I don’t think the relationship between the two parties is a happy one.  Whilst I will go and say that we want away with the voucher scheme, I am sure there will be opposition from the Police up there against it.

Cardiff have already been told I understand that they will have to go down this route again.  I have had a discussion with Bobs and other MSC Committee members about this today, and it is going to be up to you as supporters what you do about it.  As a club I don't want to be in a position to turn around to another club and say 'We don't want your tickets'  So it would be down to you as a group of fans as to what you do.

It is a difficult situation and I wish I could wave a magic wand and sort it out.  I think it will however end up being Woolley Edge again.  I have been there myself and been through it personally so I know what you have to go through.

There are many clubs now that we go to a get praised from the home club and as such this is having a knock on effect with their local Police.

Q: Why can't we put the same restrictions for Leeds coming here as they do to us?
AA:  Because we want their money.  I have had this question many times, simply 2000 Leeds fans coming down does not cost a lot more in policing and stewarding.

Q: Brighton Away, the time of year that it is there is no transport to or from the ground, so if you are driving where are you able to park?  I go to the FSF meetings and they have said there is a few disabled supporter spaces, however en mass there would be no parking facilities at the ground or close by.
AA:  I wish I had the answer to this!  The fixtures haven't been kind to us.  Brighton haven't put a Boxing Day fixture on since the Amex Stadium opened.  It is a ground heavily reliant of train, coach and park and ride transportation, something that someone somewhere hasn't realised will not be around on Boxing Day.  Brighton fans will have the same issues as 70% of their fans travel via the rail network.

This fixture is being discussed between the Football League and Brighton.  Brighton phoned me a week ago and asked if we could reverse fixtures, at which point it was too late and the Football League also said they couldn't. I don't know the solution.

Whilst Brighton could theoretically request not to have Christmas fixtures, the league have said that they cannot have a club unable to fulfil a Christmas fixture.

Q: I have proposed a campaign to help re brand the image of the club through the media and I would just like to know how you would encourage the fans to respond to it?
AA: I spoke to Quince earlier on the phone, and I think he said you have a fan all of your life, I think what you are wanting to do is create a short film to show what a good club and a welcoming club this is.  Is this correct?  I think as I said earlier, you can have as much access to the club, the players etc if it is a short film to go on YouTube or whatever to show the positive of Millwall because this benefits us all.  I would think Pete, the MSC and the supporters all need to help you in order to show what you want to show.

Fundamentally it is at the heart of what we have spoken about earlier in this meeting about increasing numbers and encouraging people to come and follow Millwall.

Q: Just talking about the ticket issue again.  The Crystal Palace game, season on season these have gone from 6,00 to 2,600.  is there any indication of what our allocation will be this year?  They seem to give Leeds etc thousand yet we do not understand why ours get reduced.  But the perception is this gets reduced by the Police, however the majority of these tickets go to Season Ticket Holders and not Hooligans so you are in control of who these get sold to.
AA: We are trying to get as many tickets as we can for this fixture, we are lobbying for 4,000 tickets.  They do however want a 1pm Kick off which we understand.  However, we do not know what we will end up with.  Our Police have told Croydon Police that they more we get the better as it will avoid our fans buying tickets in home areas or hanging around outside the ground.

However, we have been told there may be a resourcing issue as there is a TUC March in Central London that they cannot resource both.

It makes more sense from a resourcing issue to have our fans together and not in home ends.  However I think there may be more to it in terms of Police costs etc.

Q: What you here in the press and all over the country is about Human Right and all sorts, however, when it comes down to Millwall Supporters it all seems to go completely out the window and we have no rights at all. 
AA:  As I say, I don't disagree.  But certain grounds and Police forces are changing and appreciate more, Cardiff are one of the big clubs that have come to this way of thinking.  So we are winning in certain areas of the country.

What I would put to all these police forces is talk to each other and find out what their experiences have been of us.  It is mainly policed by the commander on the day and their opinions  and his opinions rule.

PG: What happens is we fall foul of the perception of our reputation.

AA:  Hull is another example of how things have improved since the FA Cup incidents and year on year since we have been there things have got better and better and now they have no problems with us ago.

Q:  Is there any chance of anytime soon changing the Stewarding company from Wise as they do not do a very good job, some times they are not watching the crowd and when something does happen different stories are getting told etc.
AA:  Interesting point which I would like to know some specific issues of these instances.  I'm not sure if we can change mid season, however I will have conversations with them.  I am however pleased to hear that the Millwall stewards are doing a good job.

PG:  We did have a lot of issues with the stewards at the end of last season and since then we have had them brought in and further training has been given in customer care / how to behave, and since this there has been no further issues.

In the last 3 months of the last year there have been 11 letters of complaint.  5 from the same person, some where arrestable offences which is something we cannot get involved in from a complaint / appeal point of view and the others where about cars being driven at supporters.   All these have been addressed.

Q: I had an issue with stewarding last season.  I sit in the family stand with my 2 children and it got to a point where Ken Chapman had to ring me after every match where people in front of me, who had no kids where constantly standing up and the stewards could see a number of getting agitated and yet did nothing.  I now have to pay an extra £80 to sit elsewhere in the ground near the away fans.  And another issue I have is where there have been games where tensions have got high, for people with kids or disabled supporters, the stewards have come and stand and don't move out the way so people cannot see and this also caused a lot of problems last year.
AA:  I will speak to the supervisor in that area and see what we can do in that area.  We had an incident in the Family Enclosure in the last home game where a guy was abusing the officials badly with his 8 year old boy next to him.  The officials complained at half time, and I feared that if we took no action we would be on another FA Report, so the guy got ejected and he isn't  a season ticket holder, he holds his hands up and is transpires that he is actually a referee in the lower leagues!  But his language was appalling and abusive and a lot of complaints were made and it got dealt with.

As a result we had to put extra stewards and the officials need to see that we are doing things to try and calm the situation.

There have been issues with people trying to get through on underage tickets, and this is down to the turnstile operators to be more vigilant, but I will speak to the ticket office regarding this to find out what has been going on.

There are about 90 people who have had season tickets in that area since the ground opened and I don't think that this is them causing trouble, they do have a letter sent to them on an annual basis.

We have also now introduced under 12 season tickets at £23 across all areas of the ground to help people solve issues and give all families an option to sit elsewhere if they wish.

Q: Is there any chance of getting betting facilities back in the ground?
AA:  we now have the stadium license and the fundamental problem is companies do not want to do it as they want people to use their phones and bet on line, so they will not go to the expense of staffing and setting it up.

Last year we had a small facility available in the Executive Area and limited in the boxes and it doesn't work for these large national companies as all the advertising is geared to mobile / internet use.

Most other grounds have it where they have had the facility for many many years and have tried and tested procedures in place.  We only licensed the stadium a couple of years ago and have been to every single bookmaker in the country to try and get them in to the stadium.

PG:  whilst we see it as a service the companies see it as a business and if they do not make money they will not want to come in and do it.

Q: Colour Clashes – we have had two home league games so far this season where the stewards wore orange high vis jackets  which clashed with the Blackpool Kit and at Middlesborough the officials wore black which could get confused with our Navy coloured kit.  Is no thought given by referees or officials before the game about this?
AA:  in theory yes, the officials should come here playing in a very dark navy kit and it was noted by the referee’s assessor who was at the game and sat in the stands.  We have to submit our kits to the football league and it is all there for referees to take note on and they should do their home work before the game to avoid any colour clashes.

BA  Brought the Fans Forum to a close and thanked everyone for attending.

 

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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