Part 2 of the Fans Forum is as follows:
Who would you rate as your best ever signing for Dartford FC?
TB: Too many too mention.
After this seasons good cup runs and the bonuses coming in, there was an interesting tweet on Transfer Deadline Day about as a fan if you could see Dartford sign any footballer in the whole world, who would it be. Not many fans responded with famous footballers, most seeming to prefer what we already have, what do you think about that?
SI: The bonus money from those cup wins isn’t sat there waiting to be spent on the big projects, as if you look back we didn’t have the money coming in from pre-season games ahead of the 2015/16 Season. The 3G pitch was also shut for a while with the recent refurbishment so we’ve had to be sensible as a club what we spend. These bonus bits of money help in those situations and it has been tighter all round because of things off the field. Having the good cup runs this season has meant it’s helped when we’ve taken into account those losses.
TB: When you look back at our defining moments as a club, people now get anxious when we don’t sign players. At the last fans forum I was questioned as to why I wasn’t signing players, and I still believe I made the players I wanted to sign some decent offers. It took a whole month to sign Duane Ofori-Acheampong and it felt like we had waited for ages. I won’t announce to the fans that I’ve signed a player until their signature is on the paperwork. Look at the Duane situation, I could have told you about him, but he hadn’t actually signed for us and he was still looking round. He came to us unfit as well. People think that we should have a squad of 20+ players signed and ready to go but we can’t always do that, so it’s good to have the fall back of the academy players. There were players I didn’t manage to sign in the summer for whatever reason and Tom Murphy was one of those. He was offered a National League side and he took it, of which I don’t blame him. He always said if he signed for a National South team it would be Dartford, and eventually because he wasn’t going to sign for us I signed someone else. When Tom Gardiner came to me in December to say he wanted to go elsewhere, I was then able to sign Tom Murphy as a result of him leaving.
Do you think that because only pay our players for 38 weeks and not 52 weeks we lose out on players?
TB: Definitely. We lose out on players who want to be paid to come in during the pre-season to train. Tom Murphy wanted to try his hand at a higher level first and that’s what he did. Other players know what they’ve got to earn to keep their head above water, and they might want to sign for us but we can’t offer them the money they need, and they end up going elsewhere too.
What about bringing in loan players?
TB: I’m careful where loan players are concerned because I don’t want to bring players in who might be coming back from injury. I want them to come in and be game changers. I did look at loan players at one point of players who had been here before, but that didn’t work out. Anyway, in the end we won games without bringing in loan players so we didn’t need them anyway.
Steve Irving then took the opportunity to thank Mick How and the other members of the DFCSA Committee as they don’t always get credit for the work that they do. Mick How then added “We all have other roles to perform at the club and not just our committee roles. If you want to help out then please come and speak to me after.”
What is the normal everyday training schedule at DFC? Do the coaches like Tom Bonner, Deren Ibrahim and Andy Pugh train with the first team and the academy?
TB: The schedule we have for our SCL students is everyone is in for 9.30am. The first years will train first for a couple of hours with Pughy and Tom whilst the second year students will be in the classroom. Then they swap over. They do this on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday is game day for all the teams, Thursday is a catch up day for any coursework and Friday is back to the training and classroom work. Deren, Tom and Pughy will all be involved in training however they won’t do a full session as they’re the coaches. Tom Murphy and Ben Francis have been in a few times and trained with the lads to keep their fitness up as well and some of the academy players then train on Mondays and Thursdays with the First Team. I go out and watch training or help out with the coaching, but during the week I am also a Director so I oversee Lauren, Jack and James on reception. On the Wednesdays I go to an academy game and on a Tuesday evening I normally go and watch another National South side especially if we’re playing a team in the coming weeks. There is plenty to do and be done during the week.
When we go to other grounds they have club mascots – why don’t we have one?
LW: Because nobody will wear the outfit!
SI: We did used to have someone and they got verbally abused every time they went near the away fans! So in the end they didn’t want to do it anymore. If we have volunteers who are willing to do it again then we will.
Tony do you get frustrated with injuries and suspensions and some players simply just not being up to it on the pitch? And when you do, do you bang your fists on the table and ask for more players?
TB: Yes. I get frustrated with any injuries the players pick up and again, touch wood it’s been pretty reasonable this season. When I sign players its nice when they can play in another position than their preferred one. Fans would ask questions as to why I’m not playing them in their usual space but that’s something I have to get on with. Working closely with the academy boys we have to have a little bit of faith to hand them an opportunity. It might backfire and sometimes it has but it’s not all bad, I think the team proved that at Wealdstone. It does make me want to bang my head against a wall but this season it’s been excellent so far and I’ve not had to do that.
Now we have Deren Ibrahim playing for Gibraltar and we’re going to possibly lose him again soon for international duty, will Tony Coxall be given the opportunity to start or will you look to loan someone in?
TB: Is Tony Coxall ready to be called upon yet? I don’t think he’s just quite there. He came on at Welling United and he did alright but that was random and not expected. He’s around the team already and he’s a part of that now, but I think if I said to him the week before he’s going to start he may overthink it. And then he’d go out there and not play to his full potential. I’d probably still look to bringing in a loan goalkeeper and then keep him for the whole of April as well as a ‘just in case’ situation.
We have the main 3G pitch and also the golf course, Footgolf and mini pitches. What happens to the revenue from all these facilities and what percentage does the club get to keep?
JS: The 3G income is all ours, and the mini pitches we look after on behalf of the council. The council then pay all the renovation costs when needed and we get to keep a percentage of the profits from the bookings. The golf course profits are all ours as well, and then the Footgolf is shared. It was a 50-50 split but that has now changed as I felt the conditions of the contract weren’t right. Hopefully in May it will be a 90-10 split. We’ve also made it easier to book so it can be done online now.
Does the club have any plans to take over the catering?
SI: Not at this stage no as we’re tied into a contract. The tea bars are being looked at though as we’re not fixed into a contract with those.
Why don’t we charge for using the car park on a matchday?
SI: It’s something that has been considered but the logistics of doing it aren’t great. The reserved spaces we have already are parked in by anyone as people don’t abide by the signage in place. Again that would need volunteers to help run it on a matchday and our car park users in the evenings and weekends aren’t always here to watch the football. Autoglass currently pay us to use a section of the car park all the time and the Winners Chapel Church pay us also to use the car park on a Sunday. There are conversations ongoing about other businesses using it more.
We’ve got the Defluo Bar in the ground and it never seems to be used. Are there are plans to use it on a matchday for anything?
SI: We have tried to open that bar on a matchday but people have told us they’d prefer to be in the two main bars than separated away from fans. The extra costs involved to run that bar when not many people use it would be too much as well. We have talked about using it again if we get promoted.
DS: During the week it’s used by the Academy as a classroom.
What is the general opinion of the food pods?
LW: Fans have told me the food is very much hit and miss. Some weeks it’s cold, greasy and not nice. The next week it’s really good. Other fans have said they won’t use the food pods because the club don’t get any money from them but that’s not true.
JS: The club get a percentage back every game ever if they don’t sell all their food. The percentage we get back is done on attendance.
Why does the club charge half from for an OAP when other clubs we visit charge more?
SI: Because we’re generous and thoughtful I’d like to think. We will take it on board and look at our pricing structure in the summer.
Have you ever considered charging for seats?
DS: We have but again it’s down to the logistics. Where can we station someone to start taking £1 off people who want to sit down?
SI: We would probably have to pay someone to collect the money and it wouldn’t be worth it.
TB: We could pay all our volunteers if we wanted to but then my playing budget would be cut! And we all know you don’t want that.
SI: We would need eight additional volunteers to collect the money so it’s not something we could do.
You send out tickets to the schools which I think works really well but it could be better. Have you thought about getting players into the schools to tell the children in an assembly about Dartford to get them interested?
TB: We have done a little bit of that but probably not enough.
JS: We currently contact lots of schools so we could expand on that list.
LW: Again it’s down to the logistics of getting the players there. Most of our players work outside of Dartford so they couldn’t go during the day. The ones that do still have jobs, and the coaches who are here are with the academy most of the day. It’s not impossible to arrange – Ben Francis and Tony Coxall have been to help out with a school fun day, and Kaka is well known in the primary schools from his job as well as Deren. I’ve been to lots of school recruitment evenings where the children are familiar with the likes of Hayzie and Ronnie so children do know who they are. It’s just getting them there during a working day. It’s a big project but we can try and develop the idea.
SI: We’re hoping to develop our community projects any way, it’s all work in progress.
Is there any reason the Dartford FC gates at the top aren’t open on a matchday?
DS: Technically they’re not locked as they are an access point for emergency vehicles. There isn’t really a reason why they are shut.
SI: It’s not something we’ve ever really thought about but for the next home match we’ll give it a go.
Adam Flanagan has gone on to manage Concord Rangers. Do you feel any of the First Team could be managers?
TB: If you look at Pughy and Bonner they’re coaches already and it looks to me like they would go down that route. Keaton Wood is coaching at Southampton Academy and he’s also looking to progress that way I think. There is a bit of potential there for our players to do that. Deren might do it as well, after all he wants my job doesn’t he! But I am going to be the manager of this club as long as I’m enjoying it.
Is Lee Noble out for the season?
TB: No. Unfortunately the injury he has is a foot injury that he did last year and he hasn’t fully recovered. It’s taking some time for him to get back fit but he won’t be out for the rest of the season.
Are there any plans to increase the match advertising around Dartford and surrounding areas?
LW: We currently have posters in lots of locations around Dartford. Mick How, Maurice and Mervyn all go out at the beginning of each month with a fixtures poster and put them up in shops/bars/pubs. There are lots of locations. Marketing in bigger locations such as billboards and on roundabouts or on the radio is so expensive and not something we have the funds to do all the time. We’re in Dartford Living magazine and the Dartford Messenger frequently which are two large publications that are distributed all over. We advertise on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram none stop as well.
Does the club not think it would be a good idea to offer brunch/light meals/bar meals on matchday and serve them in the function rooms? Clubs like Chelmsford City do well from it.
LW: We offer matchday hospitality at selected games throughout the season which all season ticket holders get a discount for but you don’t seem to want to come along! The meal is a one course meal served pre match and isn’t ‘fancy’ or corporate – it’s usually Shepherd’s Pie, Lasagne, Fish and Chips, Curry – those kind of meals. Because of the catering contract as well, we’re tied into them knowing beforehand how many meals we are going to serve otherwise even if I order 50 meals of one thing and 50 meals of another, the wastage will still be chargeable. It’s too much of a risk to take. I’ve put offers out there to get discounts if you purchase two matchday meals – not one season ticket holder has taken up the offer so far though. So we do offer food yes, it’s up to you now to make the booking.
Many clubs film an interview with the First Team Manager after each game, especially the home games, whereas we rely on the interviews of someone else as an audio. Have you thought about filming the interviews?
LW: Yes of course, but again who is going to do it? I struggled enough to set up the live match Twitter feed and took a lot of criticism for it at first, now I have Groomy who helps out so the strain is off at the home games for me. We’ve eventually got someone to produce the highlights for us, but unfortunately we don’t have any journalist or media trained people to conduct the interviews. I’ve looked into someone from the local secondary schools helping out, particularly those students who are on a media course so hopefully soon we’ll have someone. Or if you really want after match interviews I suppose I could give it a go! It’s all developing at the moment. We have got the Twitter running, and Instagram which has been good and received good feedback so leave it with me and I’m sure we’ll be able to do something with it soon.
Another Fans Forum will be held in August 2017, and details will be announced closer to the time
Thank you to everyone who took the time out to attend on Monday evening.
If you do have any further questions, please feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org