We continue our Q&A with the operational board…
Neil Lloyd & Gerard Lister asked a similar question: What is going on with the kop? and... Why aren't the welsh assembly/FA putting up cash to help?
Spencer Harris: Hi Neil and Gerard, we got quite a few questions about this so have grouped them together. A Vision was launched back in July 2019 between Welsh Government, Wrexham AFC, Glyndwr and Wrexham Council to build a 5,000-seater stand on the KOP. These plans are ongoing and came about because of the lobbying the WST have done with Stakeholders since 2017. We believe this is a very realistic prospect, is of strategic National importance and hope to share more news in the first few months of 2020 on progress.
Things of this scale do not happen overnight but we firmly believe we are on track to deliver this. The fact that we are Community Owned makes this much easier to attract public money.
On the FAW by the end of this season we will have had seven international fixtures at the Racecourse within a calendar 12 months. We are working closely with the FAW and believe they are an important part of our future partnering together.
Daryl Holmes and Owen Jones asked a similar question: Why does the board always go against the wishes of the supporters? We have been in this league far too long we need investment so sell the club and get back the ground.
Mark Williams: As a member’s owned club then we have to follow any resolution that directs the Board. We signed a 99-year lease in 2016, approved by the members, that gives us control over Operation of the Racecourse Ground.
Neil Lloyd asked: When the Racecourse is on TV, the faded seats look embarrassing, surely there is some kind of acrylic paint that can freshen these seats up, imagine the whole ground with nice shiny red seats, not important but surely a cheap fix and may lift morale around the place slightly...
Phil Salmon: Hello Neil. There have been a number of seats that have been replaced, due to UV damage, not sure if it is feasible to spray them, but the cost to replace is quite expensive. We had a quotation in the summer to replace the Wrex Rent Stand Upper tier and the remaining blue seats in the bKoncepts stand that was over £75,000 Due to the age of the seats we also have to replace the fittings and this is driving up the cost.
Gerard Lister asked: There is growing realisation that the club needs outside investment in order to take the club forward and gain promotion. Can the Board report on how it plans to encourage outside investment from serious, local companies or individuals, such as Moneypenny or Hays Travel?
Gavin Jones: The WST does have a facility for outside investment namely community shares. If you mean a change of ownership - this is a question for the WST board. At present the WST board doesn’t have any mandate to pro-actively seek outside investment. It has a procedure in place to manage the process to accommodate a potential investment approach. Both companies listed in your question to sponsor the club.
Kyle Davies asked: Are we really showing enough ambition on the footballing side of things? The last player I remember the club buying and making a big statement was Andy Mangan, every year we sign free agents (again some good signings) but 80% are simply not good enough, we seem to be getting cast offs every season...
John Mills: Thanks for getting in touch Kyle. We have paid a number of fees for players over the years and have continued to do so this season and these can be found in our audited accounts listed as player registrations under intangible fixed assets. However, we do not pay over the value of that player based on the managers valuation. To refer to previous answers to Andrew Griffiths and Gary Salisbury, we set a budget for the season, and try to stick within it. However, if the manager comes to the board and tells us that in his opinion the purchase of a particular player would greatly enhance the team and improve our chances of success, we would find the funds where possible. We still have to remain within our available funds, and we will not put the club at risk for ‘trophy’ signings. We have seen in the past that players are like the weather, unpredictable.
Rich Stratton asked: Given the size and history of Wrexham AFC and our stated ambition to return to the football League, when will see a return to a fully professional club, with a full time CEO and a Director of football? The role of the board is to optimise the club's footballing achievements.It is not for the board to wait for the fans to give instruction, it is for the board to come up with solutions and put them to the fans. Have there been any parties interested in investment?
Spencer Harris: The club is fully professional. Should we appoint any other paid off field roles this would come from the First Team Playing budget. It may surprise people to learn about what has happened with budgets in our division this season. Despite the fact that Salford City who were investing heavily have been promoted (and Leyton Orient for that matter) the average playing budget across the division went up by almost £100,000 versus last season. In our view it is not realistic for us to take money out of the First Team budget to pay for additional off pitch roles whilst in this climate in the National League and expect to compete. It would lessen our workload for sure to do it but we have already grown the business to such an extent it would be very difficult for those roles to generate more income and there is no guarantee it would change things on the pitch. Dixie McNeil has joined the Board to give us footballing industry experience of having been part of the Football Management and Playing cultures on the Board.
In terms of investment, we have not had a serious approach regarding investment in the club to date who have been willing to comply with the stage gate approach as voted on two years ago and mandated by the owners of the club (you the members) and ratified in last year’s AGM for the second time defeating a motion seeking to change it.
Tom Williams asks: There has been unprecedented levels of animosity between different fractions of the club ownership over recent months on a number of topics. Do the board believe they have done everything possible to unite the fans, and ensure the focus remains on supporting the team and achieving the common goal of being back in the football league? If not, what lessons have been learned?
John Mills: Hello Tom. When you have a football club at the centre of your community, emotions are always much higher when things are not going to plan, and what may have been easily solved disagreements become highly charged arguments very easily. Sometimes, however difficult, everyone should step back and take stock of this, and try to look at what is good, and then solve the other issues with a more open attitude, which is what we are attempting.
Naturally, because of where we find ourselves on the pitch, strong feelings have come to the surface. The WST and Club Board have consistently put out messages urging supporting the team, taking on the blame for our position, and tried to engage fans wherever possible.
One main lesson learned has been that communication is king. We have been guilty of not sharing our concerns externally in a timely manner. We are at the very base of it, all fans ourselves, and have been experiencing the same pain and anger, and have been making a number of changes to ensure the Club moves forward and up the league table. And one of the changes is this Q&A, so we can open up with as much information as possible to the fanbase. There will always be areas where information cannot be shared for legal or other reasons, but we will always reveal any information we can. This has been happening, but not always on such a public platform, I myself have received many emails with questions and have answered every one (apart from any abusive and threatening ones obviously!)
Barry Daniels asked: The "Danny Ward Money" is mentioned a lot. Without divulging confidential details have we received it all yet? If not when will payment be completed?
Mark Williams: Hello Barry. I confirmed at the WST meeting in October 2019 that all money has been received, although there is the possibility of further receipts but these are outside of our control.
Bryn Law asked: For full transparency, how much did the club receive for Danny Ward and a breakdown of how has it been spent?
Mark Williams: Thank you for emailing Bryn. We are in process of finalising our audit accounts and the amounts received will be detailed in the audited accounts. As part of the AGM we also provide variances to the original budget which will also identify where additional money has been spent. Please note that not all the cash was received until the current financial year and we also have to hold money back to cover corporation tax payments. These will be detailed in the accounts at the upcoming AGM.
Alan Pritchard, John Jenkins & Ian Morris asked a similar question: Why was Brian Hughes appointed as manager, and how was the decision made?
Spencer Harris: This came about because of the decision of Graham Barrow to step down as manager due to personal reasons regarding his health. It was ours and Graham’s plan that he returned to Assistant Manager, a role he had performed extremely well under Sam Ricketts. We spoke to a manager at another club who the timing wasn’t right for and reviewed candidates who had previously applied.
We were happy to bring in a less experienced Manager to work with Graham as the managers who have worked best under Trust ownership who have performed the best have been First Time Managers (Morrell, Keates, Ricketts). We had previously spoken to Bryan on a separate matter to that of First Team Manager and he had come across very well.
The Board interviewed candidates and Bryan Hughes was the outstanding interviewee, and interviewed in a very similar way to which Sam Ricketts had done by the Board. Bryan also had an additional bonus of a big affinity for the club who gave him his chance and given we had lost managers to other clubs higher up the period it was an added bonus to have a manager with an emotional attachment to Wrexham AFC. Graham also spoke to Bryan about the role.
Unfortunately, before Graham informed us officially that he was not going to stay as Assistant Manager and that appeared on a social media platform which means that someone else was told before the Board and the rest is history – Graham re-joining Sam Rickets at Shrewsbury.