STANDARD sports editor Craig Gibbons is at the Victoria Ground this evening as Bromsgrove Sporting hosts its latest supporters’ forum.
Over the next few hours chairman Mike Burke, manager Paul Smith, and other club officials will face the Rouslers faithful who without doubt have plenty of serious questions to ask.
Supporters called for a forum at the end of October after they were left outraged by the news that one of the club’s founding fathers, Rob McLaren, was voted off of the board of directors following a ballot based on shareholdings.
Following the vote at a club AGM, Mr McLaren released a statement which made several allegations regarding the ‘fractured’ relationship between the board and manager, the rejection of outside investment and the refusal of the board to accept his resignation.
We expect the answers to these allegations this evening.
And that concludes this forum! It has certainly been quite an entertaining few hours but the fans have had their answers for now.
Thanks for following this evening and good night.
Mike Burke did say there had been brief discussions about doing such a thing. If Worcester do move from the Victoria Ground, then Mike said they would consider the option.
Chairman is talking to City chiefs in couple of weeks over future plans.
One final question from Bren Kelly. Is the club got something in the pipeline to set up an academy?
Point now brought up on child ticket prices. One fan saying there should be a review on making sure all under-18s enter for free or at the most just a £1. “How much do we really lose on £3 a game.”
Stern response from Mike Burke: “We lose two-thirds.”
Been a bit of rant again over New Year’s Day game being called off. But after a hefty argument among the whole room, the topic is moved on once again.
Paul Smith stating that him and Mike Burke don’t always getting on but he respects the chairman and expects that in return.
One fan who has followed for Bromsgrove has now stressed the importance of a good relationship between the board and the manager.
He wants to see this club, who have a “great manager”, to share ideas about moving forward.
“We do not want to see this club go downhill once again,” he added.
One final statement coming from Paul Smith as we approach final 15 minutes. The issue is all about “money” and once again he says outside investment is desperately needed for success!
“We are not good enough for the next level,” he said.
A line has been drawn under this as the matter is very “emotive”. Chris Fox stating manager and Mike Burke should speak to the players before something official is released over the matter.
Mike Burke stating the club needs to be more professional as some of the comments made on social media are “very Sunday league.”
Defender Aaron Roberts also stated a meeting with the players was needed to discuss the issue of wages.
Manager Paul Smith stating that unless everybody at the club is heading in the same direction, Sporting will not succeed and “blow up in our faces.”
One fan now speaks up about players airing their opinions on social media. Quick response of “a new code of conduct” is going to be put in place.
Paul Smith saying these kind of these happens: “The age they are now the first thing they do is grab their phones.
“It does not make it right but we act on instinct. I understand their feeling and yes could have gone about it better.
“But I put it to the board and they said no. Players are still going to have their beliefs but what is important is that it needs to be addressed so it does not happen again.”
Smith adding the players deserved a wage, even if it was not a full one.
“I am stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. I understand Mike’s position and the player’s position.”
Mike responds with Sporting are like all non-League clubs: “If players don’t play, they don’t get paid.
“The budget we have is in the top six for this league. I put £4,000 of my own money at the end of the season for the club bonus and all players shared that.”
Moving on to more serious matters, we are onto the topic of the non-paying of players from the Boxing Day match.
Smith: “By the letter of the law, players were paid for Boxing Day because there is a Saturday and Tuesday game. As season goes on, they play Tuesday for free and paid on the Saturday.
“Expenses not just for playing. It is for training too as some players have to travel some 50-miles to get here.
“We have had three postponements and lads have come in and trained. This money is needed for bills and it is huge for them.
“On the back of that, they have not said nothing major but have mentioned it to me.
“In this club structure, if game is called off they get nothing but still training.
“The issue players have got is they have trained, we got to Christmas and players have usually had a bonus, but they have not had one this year.
“They have stayed in on New Year’s Eve and had no game. They hoped after 12 training sessions they would be given a Boxing Day wage.
“Postponed games now no Tuesday which means they don’t need to be paid, players put it on me to be paid on Boxing Day.
“I put it to the board and Mike said no.”
Moving on to the Wisbech performance. Smith joking Jason Cowley did kick the ball out of the Wisbech keeper’s hands for the second penalty but “did not care less”.
He praised a superb defensive performance in the first half and the effort Reece Francis did to perform, despite being subject to racial abuse on the day.
Now question has been raised about what the money made from FA Vase etc is used.
Short and sweet response from Mike Burke, stating it is pumped back into the club.
“The idea is to keep that money to move the club forward. We do not want to spend the money straight away. We don’t want to jeopardise this club and end up with another Rovers.”
Smith: “Everything is geared up for this club to find the next level.
“I do not want to be in the FA Vase next season, I want to be in the FA Trophy. To do that we need people in place who are hard-working and can take us to that level.”
Now the question has been asked how teams without huge fan base have the budget to compete.
Mike Burke stating it could be outside investors who are happy for now but when they are not happy, then they move on, leaving clubs in trouble.
Paul Smith stating Sporting Khalsa’s money comes from family business and Coleshill Town due to the 3G pitch. He jokes if Sporting had a 3G pitch he’d “leave immediately” because he is not a fan of an artificial surface.
Only issue he has is that at some stage it is important to get money into the club not coming from fans and secondly got to have people in position that have right skillsets to take club further.
Next question asked if Aaron Roberts will get a contract. Paul Smith replies “he’s got no chance”.
Room bursts with laughter!
Rob McLaren asking now that Alvechurch were given an extra £550 a week (allegedly) to go for promotion, and would Sporting do the same.
Mike Burke replies with Sporting currently have the budget to go for promotion this year.
Paul Smith stressing there should be no speculation on what Richard Thorndike (Alvechurch chairman) is spending is wrong. “We are top of a very strong league. Nobody in this room can know what Worcester are paying, what Khalsa are paying, what Sphinx are paying. Where we are, we have a very competitive budget.”
“So far I am being quoted £800 for one of those machines but I want to try and get it cheaper than that.
“The people that have donated so far are the real heroes.”
Focus is going to be more on football and player-related questions. But first we discuss the defib campaign from Paul Smith who has raised more than £2,000.
“I was reading about Rick at Alvechurch and one of these machines saved him three times before the air ambulancee arrived.
“As I was reading about it, a notification came up Liverpool spent £75million on a new defender.
“I jsut thought I would do my bit and raise a few quid for one machine for one club – that was my aim.
“Luckily through good people’s nature and belive in what I put we have managed to more than £2,000.
“I am in talks to try and get these machines at a cheap rate.”
Earlier a question had been asked about why the BSSS abstained from voting at the AGM last year. Unfortunately the answer was not sufficient and the topic was moved on quickly.
We will soon be back underway. Just waiting for the gaffer to resume position.
Question has been asked about Ahmed Ali as well as Joe Ward who is contracted but is yet to really appear for Sporting.
Paul Smith says Ward has not fitted in this level of football and even though Ward is not playing, it does come out the budget. However, the gaffer stressed it is not about the individual, although Ward is struggling with injuries.
Smith adding the drop from WBA to Bromsgrove has been difficult to Ward but was quick to move to praise other contracted players in Robbie Bunn and Jason Cowley.
Gaffer also confirming he would have Ahmed Ali “back like a shot.”
“He got in with the wrong crowd but got to give the lad a chance and he will be back in training on January 27 all being well.”
Mike Burke also adding the board would want Ali back.
TEN MINUTE BREAK NOW!
Question has now been asked if the club is following up the alleged racism at Wisbech Town towards Reece Francis. Club secretary Dave Stephens said a process is in place but evidence needed to be gathered.
Phil Baker now confirming there will now be a 5-man executive committee now rather than having quarterly meetings.
Currently going through the list of everyone on the board – although I believe this is being read from the website.
Rob McLaren has now asked the question to Mike Burke to state who is on the board and what their role actually is.
Phil also confirming fans have been banned but priority is to prevent these things from happening in the first place!
Phil Baker has now confirmed four new safety officers will be put in place, stating flare throwing can put club in serious trouble, i.e games being banned or even worse, the Victoria Ground being completely closed down by local authorities!
Moving on, question has now been raised about preventing flare throwing after club chaplain’s son got hit in the eye by one at Wisbech Town on Saturday.
Mike Burke says fans will be searched but down to fans to police themselves as well in order to prevent these issues from happening again.
Supporters’ Society saying they raised £10,000 last year for the club to use as well as money towards the wages of players, equipment of kitchen, pay for the under-18s squad etc.
Mike Burke categorically stating Sporting are “more open” than they have ever been with the fans.
One fan now claiming there is a “detachment” between the fans and the board.
I asked Paul Smith why Sporting came so close to losing Paul Smith in the summer due to a resignation.
The gaffer admitting there were some issues between him and the board but because “he loves the club so much” that he would keep “battling on”, keep “winning game” and keeping the fans happy.
Answer met with a huge round of applause.
Now there are applauds as a contract has been confirmed for Paul Smith. Mike Burke claiming it is currently being looked at by solicitors.
Question has been asked about the “outside funding” and that person involved wanted to replace Mike Burke in his role.
Paul has revealed the person in question had since come back to take on a different role of the club. “This club needs external investment.”
Mike Birke does not want “sugardaddy” involved in the club. He wants to keep Sporting progress slowly to prevent the club from folding – again!
Smith: “Outside revenues are key to go up the leagues. A fan base, without sounding disrespectful, is just a bonus.”
Paul states that the club cannot rely on the crowds for funding to cover the expenses of players: “The board has to find ways of bringing money externally. This club will plateua and the fan base will drop off. When they drop off, that is when you need to find extra money to get up and running again.”
Question now asked on finances over rumours over Worcester City moving elsewhere and if Sporting could survive at the level above.
Mike Burke straight to the point, stating the club is self-sufficient without the City money and given the huge fan base, that only adds to that confidence of being able to survive at Step Four.
Now the question has been asked if the board is happy with the manager and the manager is asked with the board.
Mike Burke states the manager has been well supported and given a ‘fair budget’.
Paul replies with the club is run “differently” how to anything he has been used. He confirms there are “issues”.
However, with the deadline for applications on Sunday, Mike confirmed there was little time for the club to submit an application. But stressed fans should help for a bid for next year.
Mike Burke has urged fans to come up with ideas as to what improvements can be made at the Victoria Ground before an official application should be submitted.
Next question has been asked if Sporting have applied for the Buildbase £50,000. Chairman confirms the club has not done so.
Fans not impressed with that response…
Paul Smith makes his first comments, thanking the ground staff for all their work as volunteers: “they do not get the credit they deserve”.
He stresses lessons would have been learnt from such a postponement and if there any problems with forecast, the club “could have sheeted the pitch”.
Paul also reiterates groundsmen not at fault for the postponement.
Next question has been asked about why the fixture was scheduled on New Year’s Day when league games are scheduled for the previous Saturday. That decision was made before the season, confirms Mike Burke. It was a decision made earlier to get a bigger gate.
Mike Birke confirms the club has received advice in terms of how to keep goalmouths clear of water to prevent future postponements.
Already a heated discussion just on the postponement. Wonder what will happen later when more serious topics are discussed!
Question has been asked who called it off early. Mike Burke has said a referee called it off – “unless we bribed the ref there was no other way it would have been postponed” he said.
Chairman Mike Burke stating the game did not go ahead because of the weather, despite the best efforts of ground sales. Reason for not all ticket was to maximise crowd attendance.
First question at forum as to why Bromsgrove Sporting’s New Year’s Day was not all-ticket.
Just going through some ground rules this evening. Soon have the first question.
And we are underway.
Only five minutes to go. Follow all the drama with us throughout the night.
Not long now until the forum begins.
Aaron Roberts has also entered the building. I think given what has happened on social media regarding midweek player expenses, I expect players to have some questions.
Some of the players are also going to be in attendance today. Already spotted keeper Reece Francis among the strong contingent in the bar.
Before we get ourselves ready for what could be a dramatic evening, here is our report of Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Wisbech Town in the last 32 of the FA Vase, a victory which has set up a tie at Thatcham Town on Saturday, February 3.
Forum officially starts at 8pm.
Room can apparently cater for 120 people. My guess is a figure close to that will be in attendance this evening.
Club chairman Mike Burke and manager Paul Smith are on the panel this evening. Unsure who else will be on it but expecting a Bromsgrove Sporting Supporters’ Society official to be there.
Fans slowly starting to make their way in for tonight’s forum. Plenty to be discussed.
We are now in place for the start of the forum. Follow us for all the details from throughout the night.