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    Afc telford united peer review Afc telford united peer review Document Transcript

    • FOREWORDThis is to the best of our knowledge the first time that a football club at any level inthe UK game has subjected itself to the disciplines of the Peer Review ImprovementProcess. It is our firm view that for doing so its Chairman and the Board deserve realcredit in inviting us to put them ‘under the microscope’, that showed real leadershipand courage.As the report makes clear, the decision to subject itself to this process is not all thatAFC Telford United and the wider ‘Club Community’ deserve credit for. As in everyorganisation, there is room for improvement, in this case in each of the four themesin the benchmark that we have developed and measured the Club against. However,there is justifiable reason for everyone associated with the club to feel enormouspride and satisfaction.The new Club’s achievements, both on and off the field, since it arose Phoenix-likefrom the ashes of the former club in 2004, are considerable. However, and mostencouragingly, we did not detect a trace of complacency from any of the 100+people we spoke to, only a burning desire and ambition to continue to demonstratethe importance and value of Supporter Owned Community Clubs as the model forfootball club ownership for the future.Of equal importance in the passion for the Club that we experienced was the pride inthe extensive and valuable work the Club does in the community. For many that wespoke to this aspect was arguably more important than success on the field.However, the on the field aspect of the Club’s success has also been considerable.In seven seasons the club has featured in promotion playoffs five times including twopromotions. At the time of writing, AFC Telford United has been promoted again tothe Conference Premier division.For many clubs this would be more than enough but for everyone associated withAFC Telford United there is still a real hunger for success in football terms, in theopportunities to work with and for the community and to contribute personally in somany different ways to that success. The pride that people feel is palpable and fullyjustified.The Peer Review Team themselves also deserve credit for their incredibly hardwork, which like so much else we discovered about the Club has been entirelyvoluntary effort. I would like to take this opportunity to briefly acknowledge theircontributions.Vinny Thompson, Promotions Officer at FC United of Manchester. Vinny shared hisown capacity for innovation with many brilliant ideas and experiences from FCUM.Tom Hall, Director of Policy at Supporters Direct. Tom brought huge credibility to thework by virtue of his national role and experience which was invaluable to the team.Mark Berry, has a community brief for the Church of England working mainly withunder 40’s. Described as the ‘’Rocking Vicar. . . just brilliant!’’ by Vinny Thompson. Page 1 of 23
    • Steve Wellings a former Chief Executive of Telford & Wrekin Council with over thirtyyears finance experience, who negotiated the stadium purchase from the bank in2004.Pete Jackson deserves special mention. He was much more than Project Manager.He used his local government Peer Review experience to develop the Football ClubBenchmark, provided the energy and enthusiasm to insist on a full-scale Peer reviewexercise and in his own words ‘’worked harder than he had ever worked before’’ ateach stage of the project. If the success of this is down to just one person it is Pete.In addition on behalf of the team I would like to acknowledge the imaginative andinvaluable work on the ‘Census’ of fans and volunteers as part of this exercise.Particular thanks go to Richard Smith and Asif Saleem of Capgemini, the Clubsmain sponsor and to Mike Sheridan and Stuart Massey who provide voluntarysupport to the Club on ICT and the website. All four worked closely with PeteJackson and Mark Berry on the Census. Finally thanks to Derrick Moore, for hisadministrative support to the review.It has been a real pleasure for everyone in the Peer Review Team to be part of thisprocess and a real privilege to have met so many committed and passionate people.Michael Frater CBEPeer Review Team LeaderFormer Chief Executive, Telford and Wrekin Council. Page 2 of 23
    • 1. BACKGROUND1.1. The peer review approach to organisational improvement has been usedsuccessfully in public sector organisations and in business and is designed toidentify achievements, areas for improvement and capacity for change. The peerreview is not an inspection. Instead, it offers a supportive approach, undertaken byfriends, albeit, ‘critical friends’. This review, commissioned by AFC Telford United,has involved the whole Club community in helping to identify what is required tocontinue the Club’s success, both on and off the field.1.2. The review involved the gathering of information by the team from a range ofsources that enables an assessment of the Club to be made, against a benchmark ofthe ‘Ideal Football Club’. The benchmark comprised the following themes: · Leadership and Governance · Engagement with supporters, communities and partners · Resources and performance management · Organisation and people1.3. The team was at the Club from 26th to 28th April 2011 when most of theinterviews took place. Due to availability, a number of interviews took place in boththe week before and the week after. The programme included activities to enablethe members of the team to meet and listen to all of the Club’s community. Theseactivities included: · Census of Club community (300+ replies) · Self-assessment by the Board · Tour of the facilities · Interviews with 100+ people · Focus groups with fans, partners and players1.4. Our feedback to the Club community on the last night of the review, gave anoverview of the key messages. This report builds on the initial findings and gives adetailed account of the review. The report is structured around four areas of the‘Ideal Football Club Benchmark’ listed above and includes areas for considerationand our key recommendations.1.5. Finally a few points about conventions adopted in this report in relation toattributing comments made by those participating in the review. Participants areadvised that remarks they make will not identify the individual but where they arepart of a focus or other group the general source may be identified. However, thisreport has drawn upon the book “Never forget – Our stories Our Club” compiled bythe Supporters Trust . Quotes at the beginning and end of a section are from thisbook where they are attributed and consequently their source is identified here aswell. Page 3 of 23
    • 2. NATIONAL CONTEXT2.1. Examining all aspects of the Clubs governance structure and day-to-dayoperations, the Peer Review at AFC Telford is not only important as an internaldocument, but it is also set to provide a crucial perspective to the on-going debateconcerning the wider governance of the game. Football governance, and theassociated issues, have not only become a matter of concern for the footballindustry, but are now being examined and potentially addressed at governmentallevel. This can be seen in the pledge set out in the Coalition Agreement to“encourage the reform of football governance rules to support the co-operativeownership of football clubs by supporters”, and the Department for Culture, Mediaand Sport Select Committees inquiry into the way the game is run.2.2. As one of the leading lights in the Supporter Ownership movement, AFC Telfordare well-placed to provide a telling contribution to the debate over whether co-operative ownership is a more appropriate model for football than the benefactorone. The recent history of the club is also instructive in terms of the levels of debtand dependency on benefactors across the game. Unfortunately, Telfords story isnot an atypical one: 52 clubs that are or have been amongst the top 92 clubs have entered insolvency proceedings since the Premier League was established in 1992. By way of comparison, no Bundesliga club has found themselves in a similar situation since the league was founded in 1963. Bundesliga clubs are predominantly community-owned, and are subject to strict regulation, which requires them to operate sustainably. It is estimated the aggregate debt in the Premier League stands at over £3 billion. Between 2001/02-2005/06 the 92 clubs in the top four divisions lost a total of over £1 billion (although around one quarter of this total can be attributed to Chelsea).2.3. Many clubs only stay solvent due to soft loans from owners, creating a cleardependency. When these loans evaporate the club faces a massive shortfall thatcan gravely endanger their future. AFC Telford United provides a differentperspective, having at least broken even financially for the last seven years. It couldbe suggested that the absence of a private owner (and the accompanying soft loans)requires the club to generate their own revenue streams, making them a moresustainable enterprise.2.4. AFC Telford United is part of a growing supporter movement nationally with over250,000 members: an umbrella organisation called Supporters Direct. Themovement includes over 160 supporters’ trusts and 20 clubs in the English footballpyramid which are either supporter or community-owned. The forthcoming LocalismBill could potentially offer an exciting opportunity with a proposed Right to BuyCommunity Assets clause, which could conceivably cover sports stadia. This would Page 4 of 23
    • allow community groups to purchase their local stadium, safeguarding it for currentand future generations.2.5. For the supporter ownership movement as a whole, as well as individual clubslike AFC Telford United, this is an exciting time. Supporters Direct believes thatplacing supporters at the heart of the game‘s future is key to delivering a ‘bottom up’remedy to football’s numerous governance-related ailments. At a time when manyclubs are struggling to stay afloat, AFC Telford United is striving to improvethemselves with initiatives such as the Peer Review. A commitment to transparent,sustainable practices should surely form part of a blueprint for the wider game goingforward.Tom HallDirector of PolicySupporters Direct. Page 5 of 23
    • 3. LEADERSHIP AND GOVERNANCE“During the first pre-season in the summer of 2004, I immediately becameaware of the passion of everyone at both the football club and the supporterstrust. The determination and hard work of everyone to start the first season,almost against the odds was inspiring. It was a stimulating experience to bepart of this. There was a belief and determination that the club would besuccessful on and off the field and progress back up the football pyramid.” IanDosser, Board Member/ Capgemini3.1. The spirit, determination and passion to make AFC Telford United succeed onand off the pitch is still evident amongst the Board, Trust and fans alike. The storyof the rebirth of the football club still retains legendary status in the minds of theClub’s supporters. The wider club community feels passionately about theirownership of the club - “my club”, “community club”, “fans owned”, “proper footballclub”, came up numerous times in discussion. A focus group member commented,“Not everyone sees the importance or understands clearly the relationship betweenthe supporters and the governance of the club.”3.2. Throughout the Club community there is a strongly held belief that the fans’ownership of the club is essential to safeguarding the long term future of the club.There is however a lack of clarity about how the model works in practice andconfusion about the relationship between the roles undertaken by the Board and theTrust Board. “Are we a fan-owned, or a fan-run club?” highlights the lack of claritythat exists The Supporters’ Trust’s objective of being the “preserver, promoter andprotector” of football in Telford is shared by the Football Club Board. “It is reallyimportant to promote AFC Telford United as one brand. It is key to ensuring that theclub continues to move forward”. Two separate but similar logos for the Club andthe Trust vividly highlight the need to clarify roles, responsibilities and relationshipsbetween the two Boards as part of one organisation.3.3. The Board and the Trust have worked hard at building and strengthening therelationships between the two bodies. There is increasingly a shared agenda withbetter relationships, improved communication and more accessible information.However, this is largely dependent on the “personalities” getting on and making itwork. One Trust member summed this up when he said, “It would be helpful if theroles and responsibilities of the two Boards were more clearly defined, and the rolesthat individual members play were more specific.”3.4. The Board understand that to achieve their vision they need a much wider baseof people who are committed to that vision. They need to increase existing income,as well as establishing new income streams in order to support a full time club whilstat the same time not compromising the Club’s values. “We need to aspire to be moreprofessional in everything that the Club does.” The values of the Club, in terms ofbeing ‘supporter owned’ ‘community focused’ and a “co-operative club”, are evidentfrom the whole Club community and are seen as being as important, if not moreimportant, than the Club’s performances on the pitch. However, beyond these highlevel values, the Club’s values are quite possibly understood but remain largelyimplicit or unstated yet as one fan observed, “The club’s values are key to furtherbuilding the Club’s support’. Page 6 of 23
    • 3.5. However, as one partner commented, “The Club is too reliant on too fewindividuals who carry enormous pressure and stress to hold the club together. Thesystems off the field are reactive, and the planning appears short term.” And, as oneBoard member commented, “The Board is too reactive, too operational, and notstrategic enough”. In particular the workload and burden carried by the Chairmanwas frequently remarked upon as was that of the Club Secretary. The Team believethis situation is aggravated by the apparent absence of clear terms of referencebetween the two Boards and a lack of policies. Moreover, whilst there are identifiedresponsibilities for Board Members they are operational in nature because of theabsence of staff for these functions. Consequently Board members find it difficult tofocus on strategic issues because ‘’the urgent takes precedence over the important’’.3.6. There is clear evidence of the Board being prepared to take tough decisionswhen required. These include the change of Team Manager last year, the recentnegotiation of a 150 year lease on the ground, the development of the 5-a-sidefacility, and the appointment of a new commercial manager - which all indicate anawareness of future challenges.3.7. The inspirational role that the Chairman has played and continues to play isrecognised by all. His approach of having an “open door” and of instinctivelyunderstanding the fears and aspirations of the supporters is a tremendous asset forthe club. This “get-at-ability” (as described by one Board member) is also aweakness as it leads to short term and reactive planning that does not use the skillsand vision of the Board members to best effect. The Chairman in particular is reliedupon too heavily. Clarity around his role and capacity needs to be provided to avoidthis “single dependency” becoming a significant and ultimately unsustainablestructural weakness in the Club’s long term development.3.8. The Peer team observed that with the exception of the financial informationproduced for the board, the development of the clubs business lacks structure and,in many instances isn’t as inclusive as it should be for a forward looking organisation.The absence of a clear business plan and the need to resource a part-time orvolunteer book keeper are examples of basic requirements that are not currently inplace. The Board members share this sense of responsibility and adhere to theClub’s guiding principles but are not always able to evidence their commitment todelivering it. There is a strong recognition of the need to look to the future and notbecome a “time capsule club that looks only to its past achievements”.“Fans have got to take the Supporters Trust forward. Somebody’s got to behere to be the football club director and the chairman. It’s a healthy thing. Overtime there must be a renewal of people coming through the club, taking it indifferent directions, forcing it forward, developing it and helping it grow withfresh energy and ideas all the time.” David Embery – Chairman of SupportersTrust Page 7 of 23
    • 3.9. Areas for consideration · Is AFCTU a fan owned or fan run club? Are the values clear? · There is confusion about how the governance arrangements should work and about respective roles of the Trust Board and the Club Board. · Many see the Trust as principally a fundraiser, not as the elected voice of the owners with a responsibility to hold the Club Board to account. · The Club Board has remained small with a lack of understanding of how to change the membership. There is good but not a comprehensive range of skills evident. · If the Club went ‘belly-up’ it is understood to be the Trust who would be accountable yet the Trust Board / Treasurer are not generally given in-year financial or performance information nor have they sought it. · Due to the confusion about how the governance arrangements should work there is a lack of clarity and inconsistency in the involvement of the Trustees in the business of the Club’s Board. · Whilst the club is impressive in its day to day operational activity there is insufficient strategic focus and capacity on either Board. · The leadership role of the Chairman is widely admired but is unsustainable for him personally and the dependence on him for so much is a significant vulnerability for AFCTU. · There are no clear roles and responsibilities for each Board or for many individual members of the Boards, and where they exist they are invariably operational. Therefore they are not working optimally and inadvertently adding to pressure on the Chairman. · There appear to be no clear Terms of Reference between the two Boards and also a lack of policies.3.10. RecommendationsR. 1. The Club should commission urgently an independent review of its governancearrangements, to include a clarification of the process for appointing new people tothe Board, through Supporters Direct and look for external support to finance this.R. 2. The Trust and Club Board should, in consultation with fans, review and confirmthe Club’s co-operative values which should then be widely publicised.R. 3. The Club Board and the Board of Trustees should carry out a ‘skills audit’ todetermine which areas of expertise need strengthening Page 8 of 23
    • 4. ENGAGING WITH SUPPORTERS, THE COMMUNITY AND PARTNERS.’We’ve got professional people, we’ve got very working class people andwe’ve got kids with rich parents. We’ve got kids with no money and everyoneis treated the same and everybody expects to be treated the same. It’s veryegalitarian’. Rob Palin.Supporters4.1. The success of the club has been built on the involvement of the fans, therecognition of the key role that football plays in raising the aspirations of thecommunity and by engagement with a wide variety of partners.4.2. The fans forums, the range of Club events and the use of social media, includingBucks Chat and electronic communication, have all contributed to building a closeand strong bond between the club and its supporters. The commitment, humour andsheer enthusiasm shown by the supporters who congregate in SN3 was commentedon positively by the players, is appreciated by all sections of the ground and is a keyfactor in generating the match day atmosphere. The suggestion of building on thissupport and learning lessons from FC United of Manchester should be pursued.‘When we are attacking the ‘Hutch’ and the fans in SN3 are chanting, they almostsuck the ball into the net’. (Players focus group)4.3. The Board listens to the views of the fans. The idea of “You Said – We Did”has recently been developed from the club census with very positive effect. Mostnotable amongst the responses has been the re-opening of the Frank Nagingtonstand for home fans. This clearly illustrates a Club that listens to its fans.Community4.4. ’’Marketing here is not just about advertising – it’s about engaging withcommunities.” The Board is conscious of making the Club accessible to all sectionsof the community and striving to involve all of the various groups who have beentraditionally excluded by football. There have been several offers of assistance fromsupporters (“we should be more creative in engaging “non-traditional” football fans tothe club and making them feel welcome”). These groups include black and ethnicminority people, women, gay football fans, families and people with disabilities. The‘kids for a quid’ initiative and the targeting of south Telford communities were verysuccessful in the first few years of the Club’s existence but have not had the samefocus and resource to build on this of late. This is a big gap that needs to beaddressed. “Building and sustaining the fan base is the most effective way ofincreasing the Club’s income whilst retaining the values.”4.5. The Club has taken many initiatives to engage with different parts of thecommunity. The annual Kabadhi tournament attracted over 2000 people last year,the numerous charity collections held raising thousands of pounds and the themeddays for armed services, cancer, hospital staff etc. have all bought new people in tothe ground. As one new supporter said “The Club’s work in the community is secondto none”. The Learning Centre acts as a focus for a range of groups such as those Page 9 of 23
    • excluded from school, the Deaf Club, the local residents’ association, and an array ofcommunity groups and many others who make use of the facilities.4.6. The Club has also instigated a range of projects focused on addressing socialissues of concern to the community; mini moto training, 4000 children engaged inextra curricula activities. The Local Police Inspector commented that “Working withthe local residents’ group around the ground on environmental improvements andpromoting community cohesion have contributed to building the clubs reputation. “This work is not always given the profile it deserves and as one volunteer said “TheClub needs to be better at shining a spotlight on its successes”. The original vision ofreaching out from the Club’s base to the wider community has had some realsuccesses which are reflected in the postcode map produced of fans completing thecensus.” The breaking of the various attendance records in the early daysdemonstrated the potential of the club and the importance of investing in futuregenerations of the clubs fans.”4.7. “We have a huge number of young fans and they are the future of our club. Iwork in local schools and am very proud to be associated with the club”. Takingplayers, and more recently the manager, into schools and to work with communitygroups has paid dividends at the turnstiles. “We need to reinvigorate that approach”,a long-term supporter observed.Partners4.8. “Partnership” has been a watchword of the Club with Telford & Wrekin Councilbeing instrumental in the original formation of the Club. This is widely recognised,“The Council’s support of the club has been immense”. Likewise, TCAT has providedan excellent link geographically and with a key part of the fans base “The location ofthe Club next to TCAT has provided lots of opportunities for joint working in the pastand will do so in the future”. The Primary Care Trust, Local Policing Team and manyothers have all contributed and benefitted from their involvement with the Club.Reductions in public spending have had a noticeable impact on these partnerships inrecent years but their importance to the future of the Club remains as crucial as ever.4.9. The relationship with the Shropshire Football Association has been tense attimes not least during the review over the timing of the Shropshire Senior Cup Final.However, there are opportunities to improve this relationship and the offer by the FAto use space in the Learning Centre to provide a point of contact between Telfordand the FA should be pursued.4.10. The importance of attracting new young supporters is vital and the relationshipwith junior football in the borough is also important to promote the reach of the cluband the brand. A local Head Teacher commented that “There are concerns about theconfusion over who is doing what under what banner in terms of grass roots footballin the town” This view was echoed by others and is an area that should beaddressed. There were major concerns raised about some of the quality of thecommunity services delivered by people who, whilst wearing the AFC Telford Unitedbadge, are not under the accountability structures of the Club. It was suggested onseveral occasions that this has resulted in damage being done to the reputation ofthe Club. Page 10 of 23
    • 4.11. The Club has relationships with numerous community football clubs includingthe Ladies team, the Fans team, a Muslim team, a Gay and Lesbian team and Juniorteams, many of whom actively promote the AFC Telford United brand in the widercommunity. It was felt that this needs to be recognised and supported by the Club ina more proactive way.“AFC Telford United is a positive force for good in the community. It bringspeople together, is forward thinking, innovative and trail blazing”.Roy Waterfield Shropshire Football Association Chief Executive Officer4.12 Areas for consideration· Overall there is excellent engagement with supporters highlighted by the ‘Census’ though there is scope to improve the social networking arrangements and the Club should making use of the volunteers who have come forward to assist in this area· Work to develop the fan base in the first few years of the new club has not been systematically sustained and urgently needs to be re-invigorated. Responsibility for leading on this issue should be resolved as part of the proposed Governance Review (Rec. 1.)· Funding for many of the community projects established in the early years of the new Club has come to an end and public spending cuts mean this will be extremely difficult to replace. Consideration of how to pursue community objectives is needed.· The infrastructure and provision of junior football and coaching in schools and the community are unclear to many and could benefit from rationalisation.· The Club’s logo is used for the marketing and promotion of a wide range of activities. The importance of the Club’s brand / logo cannot be overstated; it has cachet and therefore value compared to various organisations that wish to be associated with it. It is unclear whether all of its uses are being properly monitored and quality assured by the Club.· The Club’s overall relationship with the Business community in Telford should be reviewed.· The Bucks Business Club has not developed as anticipated in numbers or influence. Its purpose and operation need to be reviewed - either expanded as a ‘smaller businesses’ club or enlarged to incorporate larger businesses who currently aren’t engaged. Page 11 of 23
    • 4.13. RecommendationsR.4. The Club needs to take a major initiative to develop its immediate and long termfan base. The Club should as a Supporters Owned Club, consider whether thisinitiative should be the responsibility of the Trust Board or the Club Board or ashared responsibility. This should be developed as a matter of urgency over theclosed season so that initiatives can start from the beginning of the 2011/12 season.R.5. The Club should, with key partners, commission a review of the variousarrangements and infrastructure for junior football, academy, schools coaching andcommunity coaching.R.6. The Club’s relationship with the Telford Business Community and the purposeand operation of the Bucks Business Club should be reviewed with a view to a stepchange in business engagement and sponsorship.R.7. The Club should review all initiatives branded with the Club’s logo and put inplace a simple process for quality assuring all future initiatives promoted with theClub’s brand.5. RESOURCE AND PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT“52 clubs that are or have been amongst the top 92 clubs have enteredinsolvency proceedings since the Premier League was established in 1992.AFC Telford United have operated at a profit every year of their existence andare a great example of a football club being run properly” (Tom Hall,Supporters Direct).5.1. 2011 could, with success in the Play-off Final on 15th May, represent a financialwatershed for the Club. If this doesn’t happen this year, whenever promotion to thetop tier of non-league football takes place the present financial structure cannotsustain the cost of promotion to the Conference Premier League. This issue will haveto be addressed at some stage, possibly urgently if the Club is successful in the nextfew days. Added to these pressures are those of lost grants which hitherto financedthe modest salary of the Chairman and income for the Learning Centre.5.2. The Board recognises that there are significant financial costs arising fromsuccess. To date, the Board has used its limited resources to maximum effect. Thefact is that the club has made a small profit in every year since its formation. Thishas often been in difficult and uncertain circumstances including the context of thegeneral plight of football clubs and the economic downturn. This is testimony to thepragmatic and responsive budget management of the club over the last seven yearswhich could be described as a delicate annual balancing act.5.3. “Each year the Board has set its budget in March and endeavoured to stick to itno matter what the pressures and circumstances have been”. It is however fair tosay that given that the Club inherited an almost new asset and has been unable toprovide for asset maintenance and replacement given that they started from and withnothing. In reaching a view on this it has to be acknowledged that because of Page 12 of 23
    • success on the pitch for five of the last seven seasons the Club has also had tomake its next year’s budget without knowing which league it would be playing in forthe following season. This situation is unsustainable in the long term in our view.5.4. The general awareness within the Trust of the day to day financial operation ofthe Club is low and as one Trust member reflected, “Do we have a business plan?”,which is an indication of the need for a more forward-looking approach to financialmanagement and a greater shared understanding by the Trust of the Club’smanagement challenges.5.5. The Club inherited a tremendous facility in the stadium itself. “The stadium is theenvy of non-league football and many league teams would love our ground”, one fansaid. It is the Club’s biggest asset after the Club’s people. Staff and volunteers alikeacknowledged that to maintain it will cost increasing amounts of money and it isessential that the Club proactively invests in its maintenance if it is to remain a topquality facility. Similarly with the pitch which is cared for by Telford & WrekinServices and some very committed individuals who take great pride in its condition.This season it will host over 80 games. This puts tremendous pressure on it andplayers and fans alike are concerned to ensure that the quality of the playing surfaceis retained and improved.5.6. The Learning Centre is a real asset for the club. The Club’s ambition to makethe centre self-sustaining and an ‘earner’ for the Club is under pressure as publicsector reductions eat into some of the activities that have hitherto been hosted. ATrust member commented “We need to consider how we maximise the income fromthe centre whilst again retaining the ethos upon which it was built”. The office space,bar area and training rooms all provide opportunities to accommodate activities andfunctions that would further enhance the Club’s income and reputation. But as oneuser of the Centre asked, “Is the space in the Learning Centre being used to besteffect?” The Team did not have the time to explore this but the question needs to beaddressed.5.7. The Club Census asked for satisfaction ratings against all the services that theclub provides and very high levels of satisfaction were given for all areas. TheCatering was seen to have greatly improved and there was an appreciation of thechanges made over the last 12 months as a result of listening to fans ideas. TheClub shop, which is run by volunteers, is seen to be well stocked and highly valuedby the fans. There were a number of suggestions for improvement and anunderstanding of the constraints provided by the physical size of the shop and theexcellent work done by the volunteer staff. The development of online sales is still atan early stage and there is potential for expanding this side of the Club’s business.5.8. The Club has used ICT throughout its existence and has plans to exploit thebenefits of technology to all parts of the Club’s operation. This is particularlyimportant in terms of further improving the website and the use of social media –Face-Book, Twitter, and e-mail - to extend the reach of the Club and improve two-way communications with the fans. To do this properly will require somedevelopmental investment. Page 13 of 23
    • 5.9. The building of the new five a side pitches that will be completed in the autumnwill provide a new resource that will need to be managed and promoted to maximisethe investment that has been put in. There will also be opportunities to revisit and inthe longer term develop the sports village concept with the creation of Shropshire’sfirst 3G pitch at TCAT.5.10. The Club Census identified a number of major capital projects such asproviding a roof for the east terrace, as well as investment in the PA system,floodlights and pitch. To raise capital for such projects will be difficult given the tightfinancial restrictions that are placed on the club. However there are individuals withinthe club community with expertise in this field and they should be called upon to helpadvise on how best to raise capital to invest in the Club’s physical infrastructure.5.11. The partnerships with the business community have been central to the Club’sfinancial strategy. “Great support from Capgemini, Banks‘s, Simmonds, Transport,TCC and hundreds of others have bought in skills, resources and voluntary help thathas added enormous value to the atmosphere around the club”, said one Trustmember. The number of sponsor signs themselves reflect the esteem in which theClub is held and the breadth of support. One business supporter commented, “Youcould use your sponsors and business partners more creatively” and it is clear thatthere are still many businesses in and around Telford and Wrekin that have yet to beapproached. With the appointment of a new commercial manager the Club is wellpositioned to exploit these opportunities. With both existing and new sponsors thereis the opportunity to discuss deals for more than twelve months at a time, whichwould provide more certainty about future revenue.5.12. Like all businesses the need to identify efficiencies is important to the Club andthe review team identified opportunities to make savings through the bettermanagement of utility costs. A number of partners thought that the Club couldbecome more ‘green’ and be better at recycling, and even using solar power to fuelthe floodlights. The suggestion by a local head teacher and TWS to undertake anenvironmental audit of the Club is a good one that merits consideration by the Board.5.13. If the Club is to increase its income levels it must look at ways of increasingattendance at home games. “Our attendance levels look really good for a non-leagueclub, but aren’t really for a town of Telford’s size. Why can’t we aim for at least 2% ofthe town’s population as our average gate?” Focus group member5.14. Areas for consideration · The club has major ‘on the pitch’ ambitions for league football and ‘off the pitch’ ambitions for a Community Sports Trust. It is currently not resourced to achieve or sustain either in our view. · The Club is a significant business but does not have a three year rolling business plan. · Despite the remarkable success in achieving a positive financial outcome each year, the financial and performance management has been Page 14 of 23
    • understandably short term and dependant on a welcome five figure contribution from the Trust each year. · The Club inherited an almost brand new stadium and equipment but there is no sinking fund to sustain and maintain the stadium (which is on a 150 year lease) or the Club’s equipment and fittings such as the tractor or the PA system · Third party ownership of the West Stand is a material barrier to the development of the football club. ‘ · The five a side pitches will provide an income stream but will require additional resources to manage them properly and the community use agreement requires the Club to do this. · Despite some notable successes (e.g. with Capgemini and TTC) the Club has not maximised its opportunities with larger businesses within Telford and Wrekin. More could also be done with the Bucks Business Club if this is intended to focus on the small business community · The Learning Centre is a symbol of the Club’s community focus and a significant source of income but its use and marketing needs to be reviewed especially in view of public spending cuts. · Credit control and cash flow management is a critically important function , which is currently done by the Chairman and the Club Secretary. This should be given more priority.5.15. RecommendationsR. 8. The Board should develop a three year rolling business plan (with clearlyexplained aims and targets for the short and medium term) that sets out how thefootball and community aspirations are to be supported and resourced.R. 9. The Trust Board and the Club Board need to give full consideration to theissue of the West Stand.R. 10. The Club should establish a sinking fund for asset replacement and should doso in conjunction with any proposals for development funding. These arrangementsshould include a possible Community Share Issue and advice on this should besought from the wider Co-operative movement.R. 11. Assets such as the five-a-side pitches and the Learning Centre (and anywhich might be acquired in the future) should have arrangements developed for theirmanagement to maximise efficiency and income.R. 12. The new commercial manager has been set more explicit targets to achieveincreased income through sponsorship and commercial earnings. These targetsshould be rigorously monitored. Page 15 of 23
    • R. 13. Consideration should be given to acquiring the services of a part timebookkeeper, ideally on a voluntary basis.6. ORGANISATION AND PEOPLE.“We achieve more collectively together than we achieve alone”. David WrightMP for TelfordThere is a strong sense at the Club of there being a strong team ethos both on andoff the pitch. Lee Carter and Andy Sinton both provide strong leadership and have aclearly optimistic “glass half-full” approach which is transmitted to the players and thewider club community. This translates into a very positive “can do” culture at alllevels in the Club. The Club has a small staff team, 2 full time and 3 part time, whoare all extremely dedicated and who are vital to the overall operation. The staff workclosely together and there is a family feel with a good working environment andregular communication.6.1. This small group of staff grows to over 100 on match days with the inclusion ofturnstile operators and stewards together with an army of volunteers, ensuring thatthe match day experience is always positive. This mixture of staff provides for realchallenges to ensure consistency and quality and the capacity of staff and existingvolunteers to meet all of the issues thrown at them. The Club provides someexcellent professional development for its staff, including attendance on the FootballAdministrators National Diploma, a range of NVQ awards for stewards and cateringstaff, and a commitment to endeavour to respond to training needs that areidentified.6.2. The Club has an amazing number of people who volunteer their time and skills.Speaking to volunteers the peer team was struck by the commitment and modestythat the volunteers demonstrate. The value that people personally get fromvolunteering was also clear to see. “When I volunteer I feel I have a purpose: itprovides me with a strong sense of being part of a community with a common aim.”A short list of examples provides a feel for the commitment that volunteers show tothe club. It cannot capture the passion and emotion that provides the motivation forpeople to give their time week in week out. The peer team spoke to people whoorganise away travel, the ball boys and girls, club events, litter picking, maintenanceof the stadium, selling programmes, draw tickets, running the shop, counting cash,running the website, all done without any financial gain but because they love theClub.6.3. The Club census identified over 100 further people prepared to volunteer theirtime and skills to the club and this is an area where the review team believes theclub could further benefit. The suggestion, “Why don’t we have a Dragon’s Denapproach” to attract new ideas for extending the fan base through the ideas andconnections of the clubs volunteers is one that has great merit and should beexplored. The simplest idea suggested was that, “Saying thank you”, makes such adifference to people feeling valued and costs nothing. Page 16 of 23
    • 6.4. As well as the supporters who regularly volunteer there is a whole army ofpeople who, unofficially, promote the Club in their schools, workplaces andcommunities. The membership of the various media such as, Facebook, Twitter andBucks Chat, indicates the passion that exists to find out more about the working ofthe club and to debate everything from team selection to mushy peas. This providesfurther opportunities to recruit people to act more formally as ambassadors for theclub or “Buck-an-ears” as one fan put it. A recent example of providing match dayposters online for people to distribute electronically to their friends and family or toprint and display in retail and other premises should be further developed.6.5. The relationship between the fans and the players was explored during thereview and the importance the players place on the volume of support and theencouragement they get was highlighted. As one player said, “The support we getfrom SN3 is phenomenal. It was great at the Alfreton game this season to hearnoise coming from the whole ground.” The players are very keen to increase thelevel of contact with the fans and the fans equally are very enthusiastic aboutstrengthening that relationship.6.6. The relationship between the fans and the stewards was also an area of muchdebate. It was recognised as one young fan commented that, “The Club has beenswift to deal with bad behaviour and to encourage better relationships between usand the stewards”. Getting this relationship right is very important and the effortsmade by the stewards recently to engage positively with the young fans in particularhas been greatly appreciated. The local Police equally are full of praise for the Club’sliaison and the, “impressive knowledge and skills of the Club’s senior stewards.”6.7. A number of women supporters commented on the safe environment within theground and the fact that people with physical and learning difficulties were cateredfor. As one carer commented, “The Club thinks about the different needs of itssupporters”. This is again important and links back to the values of the Club. Thereare further opportunities that the staff and volunteers have identified to extend thewelcome of the Club to all sections of the community.6.8. One part of the Club’s community that has almost universal respect is the mediateam that provides written, audio and photographic coverage of all of the Club’sgames. This resource provided by the Shropshire Star, BBC Radio Shropshire andthe Wellington News, provides a service second to none at this level of football andassists supporters far and wide to keep in touch with the Club’s performances.However, if promotion to the Premier Division is achieved, consideration will need tobe given to increasing the space and facilities provided for the media on match days,as well as providing information swiftly (e.g. match day team sheets).“To be honest, I am very proud of what I’ve done for the Club and you know,hopefully, I’ll continue to do as much as I can. My dreams for the future are tosecure a league berth. I think with a town the size of Telford we could do aWigan Athletic. It can be done; we are living the dream and why shouldn’t wecontinue to dream that little bit higher”. Club Volunteer6.9. – Areas for Consideration. Page 17 of 23
    • · The Club is insufficiently resourced in terms of staff to carry out the many tasks related to staging football matches, pursuing community objectives and sustaining relations with the wider Club community. · Far too great a burden is carried by the Chairman and the Club Secretary which means an inappropriate imbalance between short term operational matters and long term strategic ambitions. · The staff numbers grow from five to over one hundred on match days. Some of the functions carried out by paid staff on match days are carried out by volunteers in some supporters owned clubs. · The Club has done some initial work on a ICT strategy – this work should be developed further to take advantage of new technologies and improve further the clubs Social Media presence · The Club will need to review its provision for the media if it achieves promotion to the Premier Division, and should involve the local media in that review. · The Club’s reliance on volunteers is both a strength and vulnerability. Harnessing further voluntary effort identified in the Census must be a priority.6.10. RecommendationsR. 14. The Trust and Club Boards should both seriously consider how to address theexcessive workloads of existing staff including (and especially) the Chairman andClub Secretary and consider ways of financing an Operations Manager.R. 15. In parallel, or as part of a wider exercise, the Club should carry out an audit ofthe work done by volunteers and match day staff in particular. This would be mainlyto maximise the use and skills of volunteers and to celebrate the work that they do.This should include the development of a strategy to organise volunteering at alllevels, to encourage participation and to ensure improved communication.R. 16. The Trust Board should consider whether some of the money it raises shouldbe used to support voluntary initiatives or community projects. The Board couldoperate as a ‘Dragons Den’ in considering requests for funding for these initiatives.This may need to be phased given the Trust’s contribution to the Club’s finances. Page 18 of 23
    • 7. NEXT STEPSThe report contains significant areas for consideration and recommendations for theBoard, Supporters Trust and the wider club community to reflect upon. The PeerTeam are conscious that not everything will be agreed with or will be able to bedelivered overnight. We have also left a lot out, there were literally hundreds of ideasand suggestions for improvement that we have captured but were unable to includein this report.The Peer Team believes that the report should be circulated widely and thediscussion, ideas and debate continue - this after all is what a fan’s football club is allabout. We also suggest that we meet with the Board and the Supporters Trust,preferably in a joint meeting, to formally present our findings and to help create anaction plan that is owned and endorsed by both Boards.The Peer Team has also offered to provide on-going support to the Club to assist inmonitoring progress and to provide mentoring support and advice where required.AFC Telford United can be justifiably proud not only of its outstanding success onand off the field but also for its innovation in piloting this Peer Review process whichwe are sure will be of interest throughout the football world.RecommendationsR.17 The report should be circulated widely and a workshop arranged involving theBoard and the Supporters Trust to formally present the findings and to agree anaction plan that is owned and endorsed by both Boards.POSTSCRIPTSince the review was carried out and as this report was being finalised AFC TelfordUnited won their play-off final against Guiseley AFC and next season return to theConference Premier Division. The Peer Review Team offer their congratulations foran outcome that is richly deserved.However, we would draw attention to a recurring theme during the review. Theambition and desire for promotion expressed by many was often tempered by agenuine concern that the club would not be sufficiently resourced to compete withclubs that are mostly full time. It was also pointed out that the fans have got highaspirations and have got used to success on the field with three promotions out offive playoffs in just seven seasons. If the club struggles in the Conference Premierwill the fans and volunteers start to drift away and what will that mean for financesand what can be spent on players.It is the firm view of the Peer Review Team that if next seasons on the pitchchallenges are to be met successfully then the off the pitch challenges identified inour report must be addressed with vigour and determination as a matter of urgency.The next few months of the closed season provide an ideal opportunity to do so andposition the club so that it can compete successfully in the Conference PremierDivision. Page 19 of 23
    • Appendix OneRecommendationsLEADERSHIP AND GOVERNANCER. 1. The Club should commission urgently an independent review of its governancearrangements, to include a clarification of the process for appointing new people tothe Board, through Supporters Direct and look for external support to finance this.R. 2. The Trust and Club Board should, in consultation with fans, review and confirmthe Club’s co-operative values which should then be widely publicised.R. 3. The Club Board and the Board of Trustees should carry out a ‘skills audit’ todetermine which areas of expertise need strengthening ENGAGING WITH SUPPORTERS, THE COMMUNITY AND PARTNERS.R.4. The Club needs to take a major initiative to develop its immediate and long termfan base. The Club should as a Supporters Owned Club, consider whether thisinitiative should be the responsibility of the Trust Board or the Club Board or ashared responsibility. This should be developed as a matter of urgency over theclosed season so that initiatives can start from the beginning of the 2011/12 season.R.5. The Club should, with key partners, commission a review of the variousarrangements and infrastructure for junior football, academy, schools coaching andcommunity coaching.R.6. The Club’s relationship with the Telford Business Community and the purposeand operation of the Bucks Business Club should be reviewed with a view to a stepchange in business engagement and sponsorship.R.7. The Club should review all initiatives branded with the Club’s logo and put inplace a simple process for quality assuring all future initiatives promoted with theClub’s brand. RESOURCE AND PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENTR. 8. The Board should develop a three year rolling business plan (with clearlyexplained aims and targets for the short and medium term) that sets out how thefootball and community aspirations are to be supported and resourced. Page 20 of 23
    • R. 9.The Trust board and the Club Board need to give full consideration to the issueof the West Stand.R. 10. The Club should establish a sinking fund for asset replacement and should doso in conjunction with any proposals for development funding. These arrangementsshould include a possible Community Share Issue and advice on this should besought from the wider Co-operative movement.R. 11. Assets such as the five-a-side pitches and the Learning Centre (and anywhich might be acquired in the future) should have arrangements developed for theirmanagement to maximise efficiency and income.R. 12. The new commercial manager has been set more explicit targets to achieveincreased income through sponsorship and commercial earnings. These targetsshould be rigorously monitored.R. 13. Consideration should be given to acquiring the services of a part timebookkeeper, ideally on a voluntary basis. ORGANISATION AND PEOPLER. 14. The Trust and Club Boards should both seriously consider how to address theexcessive workloads of existing staff including (and especially) the Chairman andClub Secretary and consider ways of financing an Operations Manager.R. 15. In parallel, or as part of a wider exercise, the Club should carry out an audit ofthe work done by volunteers and match day staff in particular. This would be mainlyto maximise the use and skills of volunteers and to celebrate the work that they do.This should include the development of a strategy to organise volunteering at alllevels, to encourage participation and to ensure improved communication.R. 16. The Trust Board should consider whether some of the money it raises shouldbe used to support voluntary initiatives or community projects. The Board couldoperate as a ‘Dragons Den’ in considering requests for funding for these initiatives.This may need to be phased given the Trust’s contribution to the Club’s finances WAY FORWARDR.17 The report should be circulated widely and a workshop arranged involving theBoard and the Supporters Trust to formally present the findings and to agree anaction plan that is owned and endorsed by both Boards. Page 21 of 23
    • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThe Peer Review team have found this experience to be a thoroughly enjoyable one.If there is one thing above all that gives us great hope for the future of this footballclub it is the people we have met and the values they embody, values shared byplaying staff, supporters, volunteers, operational staff, community partners,sponsors, the supporters trust, board members and not least the Chairman. It hasbeen a privilege to speak to so many people who have such passion andcommitment to AFC Telford United, people whose love for the Club and thecommunity goes beyond Ninety minutes sporting entertainment.The Peer review would very much like to thank all who took part, filled in the censusand came to the presentation evening. We would like to thank by name those whomade us welcome and gave their time to meet with us personally. There are manypeople to thank and no doubt we will have missed a name or two, please accept ourutmost apologies if this includes you.Dave Topping, David Wright MP, Ian Tyrer, Ian Dosser, Wynn Price, David Embery,Dewi Barlow, Christine Cartwright, Mike Claridge, Stephen Clark, Andrew Corfield,Tony Edwards, Alison Hay, Andrew Jennings, Jonathan Martin, Stuart Massey,Diane Morris, Phil Shieber, Derek Wellings, Mick Conway, Adrian Collins, LouiseBartholomew, Lisa O’Hanlon, John Bradbury, Jim Robinson, Maureen Lawley, FayShieber, Roxanne Pritchard, Toni Pritchard, Mike Sheridan, Derrick Moore, GeorgeFletcher, Charlie Fletcher, John Dayus, Pat Grainger, Anne Johnson, Rob Palin,Sophie Griffiths, Rachel Threadgold, Stuart Davidson, Colin Walker, PaulSanderson, Vic Maher, Inspector Richard Langton, Debbie Jones, ChristineBradbury, Neil Simmonds, Jenny Wynn, Anton Gunter, Graham Wynn, Adam Myatt,Phil Walker, Peter McPhillips, Tony Conlon, Pete Llewellyn, Richard Sheehan, AlanJones, Roy Waterfield, Dave Howells, Cliff Broome, Kuldip Sahota, Richard Overton,Paul Kalinaukas, Luke Fearnell, Alan Palin, Adam Guest, Lee Simmonds, BobGroome, Tom Sinton, Steve Humbles, James Baylis, Chris Hudson, Nick Southall,James Bond, Chris Peak, Peter Peak, Andy Sinton, Darren Read, Brin May, StuartWhitehead, Ryan Young, Jon Adams, Carl Rogers, Will Stoodley, Pat McCarthy,Olly Jones, Nick Brockis, Richard Boulter, Mike Nadal, Rob Udakis, Paul Ferguson,John Phillips, Richard Baugh, Sharon Bowyer, Paul Riley and Lee Carter.Numquam ObliviscereContacts and further informationIf you would like more information or the opportunity to speak to the team. Pleasecontact:-Pete Jackson Lee CarterReview Manager Chairman, AFC Telford Unitedpete@jacksonlawley.co.uk lee.carter@telfordutd.co.uk Page 22 of 23
    • Notes Page 23 of 23