RE: Situations around the future of the club, the board, volunteers and the Supporters Club.
As a board we feel at the start of this season, that now is the right time to openly discuss the position the club is in, addressing the steps we are looking to undertake to secure the future of the club moving forwards. We want our fans to be the first to hear directly from the Club rather than through rumour, third party or the currently fashionable term “fake news”, as the club suffers immensely from the actions of a few individuals across our online platforms. So, our aim is for our supporters, partners and stakeholders to be able to have an open conversation about the state of play at our Club.
Our Board and Volunteers
For those that do not know, our board is currently made up of 5 members (4 voluntary, 1 part time), who conduct the all business for the club, whilst also running the clubhouse as a separate business. This group of people run the club on a day to day basis covering every element of the club men’s first team and the academy. Not forgetting working daily with the other volunteers that run our women’s, wheelchair, youth and Frome Town Sport teams, as well as a number of individuals supporting our media and communications. The board is supported in this by a small group of volunteers and it’s only right of us to name check these people to show our continued gratitude: Maurice Cox, Gordon Perry, John Turner, Paul Knowles, Simon Harding and Sally Lacey.
However, the club continues to struggle to attract the volunteer support to help with other tasks and we are not in position to invest into salaries at this stage of our development.
With individuals actively discouraging people, who are interested in helping, to stay away this does not help facilitate growth or improvement.
Progress and the Supporters Club
Over recent years, the board has delivered a level of football not seen before at Frome Town and made some very significant ground improvements – perimeter fencing, 2 new stands, seats in the main stand, refurbishment of the club house, pitch improvements and of course the new floodlights. Much of this would not have been achieved without your donations and the help of the Supporters Club’s fund raising.
However, it’s hard for us to admit that the relationship between the board and the Supporters Club is currently broken. This is as a result of their undermining and interference in matters that should not concern a supporter’s club and 3 directors have announced their intention to step down as a result.
The board has made mistakes as we have tried to grow over the years. Some decisions and rationale may have been against the thoughts or wishes of the Supporters Club. However, the Supporters Club’s actions over the recent years have reached the point where this can not continue.
We need to be very clear at this point that the Frome Town Supporters Club, for informational and legal reasons, do not represent the club in any business-related activities. The board wants to let businesses and other relevant individuals know that any contact from the Supporters Club directly should be passed onto the club. We cannot abide by the Supporters Club attempting to represent the Club officially. In addition, we have to remain clear that the Supporters Club also do not represent the members of the Club (Club Members) or that of the Trustees.
Over the last 12 months the board has reached out, first directly, then by intermediary, then by agreed agenda meetings, all of which have fallen short with a response to the latest request for a meeting met with suspicion. The Supporters Club have continually stated that there is an issue with “Trust” with the board but trust has to work both ways.
Funding, revenues and sponsorships
This break in the relationship is causing the club to suffer both on and off the field as rumours of misplaced funds or funds being removed from the club are spread to the detriment of the standing of the club. The board have personally invested significantly over the years to keep the club in existence and not once taken any funds from the club.
We are keen to praise and highlight those who help contribute and raise donations, such as our sponsors, the Supporters Club and our paying fans. The situation currently remains in a poor state of affairs. It takes around £120,000 per year to keep the club at the Southern League level and last season we fell short with us only achieving around £20,000 from our commercial deals. Gate numbers staying constant around the 250 people mark are an issue, where the club needs to attract around 500 per game to remain competitive, as well as to create the atmosphere the club needs and the fans want.
Like with any business a lack of funds leads to decisions that are not popular, discontinuing the programme being a prime example. In this example, many have thought the demise of the printed programme as a club choice. However, we had to change printing supplier due to the situation where the existing supplier was unable to produce the programme we wanted. We were able to find a more cost-effective solution with an improved quality of programme for the investment. However, sales of the programmes reached an all-time low with sometimes as little as 10 purchased at games. We understand that like anything in this world, people want things to exist but when asked “when did you last buy one”, the answers are never quite so simple. The decision to make the programme digital actually sees us reach 10-20 times more people with our club information and details. This and many other initiatives have been propped up by funds from the board directly and it’s not able to continue.
The clubhouse is our single largest generator of funds to drive the football team, followed by the gate revenue. However, the club has to still compete with rumours that the clubhouse should be avoided and that it is a “members only” bar. We have also had to make the decision to close one of the entrance gates at times, due to a lack of volunteers, and to ensure that people coming to games still pay their entrance money. The club is aware that some people come early and that will pay at some point.
Even so the number of non-payers is increasing and the club never want to be in position to shame these individuals. We do know who the regular offenders are. This last month, we have seen individuals remove barriers, climb over fences and even encourage others to do the same.
The club is currently behind for this season with our commercial deals, which will ultimately affect the playing squad we are able to field. We have a number of committed local supporters, to name a few Frome Times, Frome Auto Electrical, The Carpet Factory Frome, IMS, Storagebase, LettingsRUS, Cooper Tanner.
Although, the club is desperate to attract new business contacts and connections, and we have a communications team in place to support the promotion of their businesses strongly we need more help in this area from out supporters and the local business community.
The club are also keen to state that we are in discussions around the future of the club and securing its future financially. We are at a point where, legally, we cannot discuss the specific details around this. However, we have been waiting since January ’19 to make a club wide announcement. When this news breaks (which we hope will be in the upcoming weeks), please know that these decisions are based on making sure the club is in a safe and secure position that will protect it for the next generation.
A brighter future
This is not meant to be a message of doom and gloom. Frome is a great club in a great town with the potential to grow bigger and aim high. We are determined to gain the backing of our supporters, the general public and local businesses to make this Club as successful as it can be.
We want to engage with our Supporters Club and promote their growth and development but not on a “them and us” basis where every conversation is a confrontation or a challenge as we are fans too. We don’t want to block turnstiles and doors. We want to see the return of a paper programme, the return of more children and our younger robins at the ground.
But, above all we can’t have our dirty linen, rumours or worse false claims aired in public with no chance to reply. This has cost us significant high-level sponsorship opportunities over recent years.
As an action we would like to come together to ask people to share their thoughts with us good or bad. So that we can actively address these in a more public way. What we are hoping to achieve is that if we all pull together there is no reason we cannot move back to the Southern Premier League or even one step higher.
We need to attract more fans back to the club and new members to the Supporters Club, and to help involve new commercial partners and drive the club forward.
This season could potentially be one of the biggest in our history if all the plans fall into place, so there’s no better time to get involved as a volunteer, sponsor or supporter to help play your part in the success of the club.