NOTES FROM SFU FANS FORUM
Stags Fans United Fans Forum with John Radford in the Kevin Bird Suite, One Call Stadium, 07May2014. Chaired by Darren Shaw, MTFC supporter non-executive director from Stags Fans United
Thank you very much to John Radford for coming to the forum.
Notes by Martin Shaw, for Stags Fans United members unable to attend the forum.
Please contact me (email address on Stagsnet Latest News page) if something is not quite accurate, I’ve done my best to write the notes faithfully. Please don’t paste elsewhere without agreement of SFU.
Question (Darren): In the New Year everybody was seeing if we were going to sign more players, then things seemed to take a turn where you had to be a bit more cautious with the spending at the football club.
John Radford: Is that a question? Obviously I had to be a bit more cautious. Andy (Saunders) is in here (in the audience), I’m being sued by Andy and Steve (Hymas), the football club is not in profit, and you’ve got to sort out that situation. But fortunately it worked out very well for the club, we didn’t spend a lot of money in the transfer window, I had to do that at the time because my legal team told me stop spending because you’re getting sued.
Question (Darren): So the decision not to sign Emile Sinclair was a brilliant decision by you?
John Radford: A manager will always want to make striker signings. It came very close, and it did nearly go through, but then they wanted another £50k at the last minute, so I said no.
Question (Steve Danby): I take it the budget is smaller next year, are we looking at literally a smaller squad of 20-22 players with some youngsters coming through?
John Radford: The size of the squad will be smaller. I feel sorry for the players that have not played. You get disharmony. We will keep the squad size down. And we’ll have loans options. But that doesn’t mean the budget will be any less.
Question (Steve Danby): ... two or three players that we’ve had for two years without actually see them kick a ball? Has it steeled you up a bit and made you stronger?
John Radford: I’m a bit wiser now, as regards restraining budget, and not to let a manager have everything he wants. I don’t know about stronger. Financially probably a little bit weaker.
Question (Darren): Do you think we overpaid some players in the Conference? I know you said at a previous fans forum that we signed some players just because we didn’t want other clubs to sign them.
John Radford: That’s an easy answer. No. We were champions. And Luton did the same as we did. So that’s how you can do it. It took me three years to get my head round that. This is a different league. I don’t think I can buy myself out of this league. It’s got to be the quality of the squad that we look at. I’m the chairman, I’m not the manager, so I will say to the manager this is the size of squad you can have, these are the age groups of the players, and I can set rules like that, but he will pick the squad not me, I can only set guidelines for the manager.
Question (Luke): Since the January situation which everyone is well aware of, rumours have been flying everywhere. One that I’ve heard is that you have offered the club to another individual. Please help me if that’s true, or not true, or you can’t comment.
John Radford: I’m quite ok to comment. Andy (Saunders) is in here. I want to get the club into a situation where it doesn’t have a debt on its book. At the moment it’s got about a £5.5m debt on its book. And so I spoke to Steve and Andy and said I spent x amount on the stadium why don’t you convert your shares into shares in the stadium or things like that. And they were all up for that. To go back a little bit, when I bought the stadium from Haslam it was payable over 7 years. If I miss a payment it could revert to Haslam. The latest payment was due a month or so ago. So I said to Steve and Andy why not let’s get this situation sorted at the football club, why don’t you convert your shares into the stadium and help me out. So Steve said yes they’d like to do that and then they backed out. So I’ve sorted that out myself and I’m still in court with them at the moment. So yes I did. It’s not something that makes you money, it costs you money. If you want to take up the gauntlet yourself then you can do. They didn’t want to take up the gauntlet. I was putting all my cards on the table with them. Everything I do is right for the club. But I won’t let the club go to someone who can’t afford to run it.
Comment (Dean): Can I just make a comment and say thank you to you John because from where I’m sitting if you don’t carry on funding the football club then we haven’t got a football club. So I know there’s lot of questions, and I’ve never known you not answer anything, but every so often it’s right to say thanks for what you’re doing, you’ve kept us going, you got us promoted, we’ve finished 11th and a month ago if someone had said that we’d have snapped their hand off. I think occasionally some people need to say thanks.
John Radford: I do appreciate it. If anybody wants to come and join me in the Board room, it’s getting people to put their hands in their pockets for the club. As I stated last season, the club need 4,500 fans through the gates to break even. We’ve been getting 3000-3500. So that makes us short by a little bit. That is down to results, we started quite well, then went downhill. Hopefully next season we start well and keep the train going. At least I’ve had the experience of a year in this league. What I will say is that since I’ve been in charge, every year I have had a higher and higher position so I do know I’ve made mistakes but I will battle for this club.
Question (Darren): So have you adjusted the break even figure for next year?
John Radford: 4,500 is the break even figure that I need to get so I can win this league without any extra money on top of that.
Question (Darren): So you’ve got no intentions of selling the club and you’re still committed to the club for the long term?
John Radford: Yes. There are some tax benefits if you’re from the middle east or Asia or from outside the European Union coming in and owning a football club. So if someone comes along and says there’s £20 million and it should get you promoted this season, then as your chairman I wouldn’t be doing you justice and not getting that money and spending it on the football club. So for argument’s sake if I was an Indian company that had £6million on its books I could possibly spend that as a tax write-off on an English football club, but as an English company you can’t do that. But I don’t think that’s going to happen, it’s very unlikely. But if someone came along with a good figure, and it would have to be surplus of £20 million, then I would look at that.
Question (Darren): So when the next Russian billionaire comes along, you’d still consider the proposal!
John Radford: Yes, you never know. At the moment, you’ve just got me, I’m afraid.
Question (Chris): Just as unlikely as the Russian billionaire, is that you’re going to get 4500 fans every Saturday even if we’re doing relatively well I suspect. So given that you’re likely to have a financial shortfall on that basis, will that money be made available from either One Call or from yourself in order to make up the shortfall?
John Radford: Yes I always try my best to make up the shortfall. But it would be nice if you could get it so that we were getting close to that 4500. Running a football club is not a one man job, it should be a case of you’ve got to get the fans behind the football club. The only argument I’m getting at the moment to why the fans aren’t coming in is the style of play. Whether that will get another thousand fans in is something that I don’t think will happen. But I think if we’re in the play-offs or top 3, then I think we’ll get very close to 4000 or 4200 and it makes it comfortable running in the football league. So I need to make sure the manager’s got the right backing in place to get results at the start of the season.
Question (Andy St): You were quoted a while ago saying that we’ve got the third biggest budget in the league, and there was a little confusion about that because some people thought that meant playing budget and some people thought it meant overall budget.
John Radford: That was playing budget as defined by the league. In October you get your stats through from the league because obviously the league get all the players’ contracts through and so they add up all the players’ contracts and bonuses and some mathematician does it for all the clubs exactly what all the clubs have paid. You get to see everyone’s results but I only know that I was team number 4 (clarification by Martin: all the teams are allocated a number to identify them, rather than identify them by name, and each chairman is just told the number used to identify his club). Unless teams pay their players in brown envelopes .. and as far as the league’s stats were concerned we were third highest.
Question (Andy St): Is it still the case post January?
John Radford: We didn’t get one after January.
Question (Mark): How do you stand on this idea from Greg Dyke about Premiership B teams?
John Radford: They shouldn’t get automatic entry into the league system. I’m going to a conference in Portugal at the start of June. It’s not going to happen. If they start their way right at the bottom and work their way up, that’s probably the way of doing it, but there’d be sharing stadium issues and things like that. I don’t think it’s going to happen. It’s just a bit of controversy.
Question (Richard): Are there any ground redevelopment plans, eg Bishop Street and the training facility outside here?
John Radford: Regarding the training facility, we’re redeveloping Woburn Lane in Pleasley and that should be ready for the start of new season. We’ve put a 3G pitch outside here, we’re waiting to see if we can get any help towards building a leisure centre type facility on there (outside here), but that’s not going to happen next season. As far as Bishop Street is concerned, we were going to have Rotherham Titans come to the ground, but negotiations broke down, so they’re not coming. If they did come to the ground we were going to take the advertising boards back and it was going to cost us about £30k to put terracing/seats in there, but now it’s not worth spending the money on there when we’re not filling the rest of the ground. So we’ll make it as pretty as possible and makes sure the cameras aren’t pointing on it when we’re on TV.
Question (Christine): Thanks to you for keeping Paul Cox as the manager, a lot were against him as you well know, but the lad proved himself and with your help he came through.
John Radford: I must admit I wobbled a little bit at one point.
Question: Were you frightened before December?
John Radford: Not really. It was a case of him settling down. I wasn’t worried about being in a relegation battle. I must say when I let John McCombe go to York, I should have stood by my guns then. I had the player just wanting to play football, and Paul wasn’t playing him. He had an offer from York and I had to pay money to get rid of him. He went to York and they’ve not lost a game since. I regret letting him go. But what’s the point of having a player signed up for 2 years with you that’s not going to get played for 2 years. Myself and Paul made a mistake. Paul is learning all the time, and sometimes my (or his?) management skills leave something to be desired. So I wasn’t worried, but I shouldn’t have let John McCombe go.
Question (Chris): What plans do you have for re-uniting the ground and the club, given that you said in your early days that you had a desire to get the ground back for the fans or get the ground back for the club?
John Radford: but currently I’m being sued, so I’ve got to protect the ground, because that’s the only asset that the club has so not put it in the club’s name.
Question (Chris): But the club doesn’t really have that asset though does it.
John Radford: No but if I’m being sued for a million pounds why do I want to put that asset in the club’s name. I don’t think there’s any reason that the ground should ever be re-united with the club. There should be a peppercorn rental set for the club, but I don’t think the football club should have that asset. Football clubs get sued all the time. If that football club gets sued for a million pounds, we can’t have that football club have an asset that could go to someone suing them. So it’s basically for legal reasons. Ideally yes I’d like to say yes let’s join them back up but let’s say 10 years down the line I’m not here and MTFC gets sued or something like that then the ground can be attainable or can be taken as part of the assets of the football club. I’d rather keep it separate, keep it in a trust. If I’m looking at this as far as a business in concerned, to protect the football club, it’s better that the ground is safe in a trust.
Question (Chris): The club is currently paying a rent for the ground isn’t it?
John Radford: No the club can’t afford to pay the rent so I am paying the rent on the club’s behalf, but its peppercorn. The money that is paid is £214k each year for 7 years to Haslam; I paid the first bulk amount that was a lot more than that, and then 214k each year. The club is not paying that £214k, I’m sorting all that out.
Question (Darren): When you did reach a settlement with Mr Haslam you did have to sign this over-arch agreement where part of the deal was that you are not allowed to transfer the ground even to a supporters trust, unless Mr Haslam agrees to it. I think the agreement is that if you develop the ground in the next 20 years, 50% of the profits have to be paid to Keith Haslam.
John Radford: Yes that’s exactly correct. The reason I managed to get a reasonable price off Haslam was I was prepared to sign that this stays with MTFC at least for the next 20 years. He thought I was coming in as a property developer, but that’s not the case.
Question: What would happen if Keith fell under a bus?
John Radford: I guess it would have to go to his next of kin. There are another 5 payments of £214k to go, until 2019.
Question (Steve Danby): Is it the same for the training facilities?
John Radford: Woburn Lane is already in a trust, to protect the training facility from the football club. If the football club owned it and got sued, the football club could lose that asset. There’s nothing sinister underlying it. There’s lot of rumours fly around but they’re totally unfounded.
Question (Mark): Has Paul discussed with you who he wants to bring in?
John Radford: Yes he’s looking at a few guys already. We have got 8 players on board to start with. And if I’m running a squad of 22, that allows 14 more, so he’s got to be quite selective. There’s already 8 signed up for next season (Clucas, Tafazolli, Palmer, Murray all had contracts for next year) ... Beevers, Riley, Sutton, Rhead: these are the 8 so far signed up for next season.
Question (Darren): You said in January you didn’t want Paul Cox to sign anybody who was over 27. Was it 27?
John Radford: It sounds like I’m ageist. (Laughing) That’s because for the last 3 years I’ve been really unlucky with players of that age group, paying them, and not seeing them on the field. So I did put that rule in place.
Question (Andy St): Liam Hearn is 28 isn’t he?
John Radford: Yes there are a few exceptions!
Question (Gary): The responsibility of bringing in new players in terms of the reduced squad, is that all down to Paul Cox or has he got any scouts with him helping him out?
John Radford: He has got Paul Ogden who goes and scouts for other players, and Coops and himself go to a lot of matches.
Question (Andy St): Is the goalkeeper Price a consideration?
John Radford: Yes of course he is a consideration for next season, we’ll see, we’re in negotiations.
Question (Chris): Why didn’t you consult with the fans representative on season ticket prices?
John Radford: It came down to the court case from Andy and Steve and that next payment to Keith Haslam, and I thought well I’ll try and get them to get involved with this. So I was playing poker at the time. And if you noticed that was the d-day for the next payment. So I had to make out I couldn’t afford to pay it. It didn’t work and they called my bluff. It was nice that 480 people took up the offer. I just didn’t have time to consult.
Question: Is Carolyn still on maternity leave?
John Radford: No, she’s been back in work and we had a good run of form when she came back to work. (laughing). She’s spending a lot of time with Hugo but she does come in and do some work.
Question: With rushing through the early bird season ticket offer, and this being the traditional time for an early bird, is there any chance that you could offer say somewhere in between for those who traditionally get in at this time and probably didn’t have the money when you sprung it on them back in March?
John Radford: I did what I did at the time to try and get money in to sort a payment out. And I was playing poker. So I did wrong there but I was trying to do best for the club because I wanted that payment to be met and I didn’t want Haslam to take the stadium back. Someone’s shaking his head? (looks at Chris).
Question (Chris): But I’m confused now because you just said the club is not making payment for ground, so why did you need the season ticket money to help you make the payment?
John Radford: Because I was trying to get Steve and Andy to get involved and say I didn’t have money at the time so I had to find it from somewhere else. You can do the maths on it yourself and I had to make the payment myself. I was playing poker at the time. Basically I’ve got to do the best for the club and leave the prices as they are.
Question (Darren): I think John was referring to earlier, that part of the deal was offering to Steve and Andy that they would buy shares in the stadium company and then that would be used to help pay the next instalment to Keith Haslam.
Question: So not the season ticket money at all then?
John Radford: No. That’s why I put that out there, to say that I was desperate, and was trying to get money in. I was just playing poker.
Question (Chris): Maybe we could arrange a poker night at the club?
John Radford: I’d probably lose!
Question (Richard): You said you need 4500 to break even. What’s your projection for the league above?
John Radford: I would say it wouldn’t be much more. Previously when we were in that league we were getting 5200. I would say if we can get into the division above, that would be a division that we would live quite comfortably in, so that’s my target really. But we’ve got to get there from League Two. League Two 4500. League One 5000 probably.
Question (Andy St): I think a lot of us would believe that pre-season has not been one of Paul Cox’s strong points. He seems to play players in pre-season that he goes on not to play. We don’t seem to learn very much before the season starts.
John Radford: The squad’s getting reduced to 22. So he’ll have less players to choose from and we’ll see a more cohesive, focussed team going forward.
Question (Darren): On pre-season friendlies, there’s rumours of Aston Villa and others.
John Radford: I’m supposed to keep this close to my chest. Until the final paperwork is signed. But you should find it quite an interesting pre-season.
Question (Darren): I know with some of these pre-season friendlies, some clubs want more money than others. I know in the past Sheffield United were just happy to have their bus paid for, but Nottingham Forest wanted half of the gate receipts.
John Radford: That’s entirely correct. Yes some clubs just want their bus paid for, and I’ll mention that in the programme. If it’s a big club coming, I don’t mind sharing some of the gate, and making it enjoyable for the fans.
Question: Any idea how long it is before the online ticketing?
John Radford: The new ticketing system was sold on the basis that you could go online and buy a ticket. Lots of promises and they’ve not delivered on it at the moment. Hopefully soon! I’ve not really chased it.
Paul Nyland: Pre-season.
Question on allocated seating.
John Radford: It helps with getting so we can have 100% capacity.
Some further discussion on seating.
Question (Mark): How strict do you think our Safety Advisory Group are?
John Radford: They have to do their job and abide by the laws.
Paul Taylor: SAG look after Forest and Mansfield, but not Notts County as they come under Nottingham City council.
John Radford: I was disappointed we didn’t sell all our tickets for the Chesterfield (home game), I thought we might have got more people in, and so we could have sold more to Chesterfield fans.
Question (Steve Danby): Now that Green Energy have left what are you looking at with that area?
John Radford: I’m hoping to turn the rooms vacated by Green Energy into corporate hospitality. There’s capability there of seating 300, it’s at least twice the size of this, if not 3 times. Hopefully it can be knocked out to one big room. Paul Nyland has been delegated that job.
Question: Are you happy with how the Sandy Pate bar is going?
John Radford: Yes the Sandy Pate bar is going well, getting used on a regular basis, and the 3G pitch is getting used, and this room’s getting booked out. Really happy and it’s making us a hub of the community. Everything is going in the right direction.
Question (Pete): Where does John Radford Stadium Ltd get its income from?
John Radford: A bit coming from One Call, and from me. Now, this year, it’s from me personally. Income from the bars, and from the turnstiles, goes to pay the players’ wages and the staff wages.
Question: Going back to the online ticketing, will we be able to print at home?
John Radford: I hope so!!
Paul Nyland: Yes.
John Radford: I’m not promising. Paul Nyland is promising!
Question (Darren): One point that was raised at the SFU AGM was about stewarding.
John Radford: I know this season we’ve gone out to three companies for stewarding. I don’t know off the top of my head which company’s got it this coming season. That’s something I’ve left Paul and Tina to deal with. But I did ask them to go to three companies for tender and I know they’ve done that. Stewards can sometimes be a bit over-zealous. But the stewards are doing a better and better job. I think it’s time to get realistic that we are allowed to make a noise and bang the drum.
Question (Andy St): One nice feature at Northampton was that stewards welcomed you outside the ground and said Welcome to Northampton. It doesn’t cost anything.
John Radford: That’s a nice feature, I think we should try and get that.
Darren: There’s no more questions, so thank you once again to John for attending the SFU Fans Forum and answering the question and can we give him a round of applause.
John Radford: Well Darren, thank you for inviting me. It’s nice to see you all and I really thank you for your support. Hopefully you feel I’ve answered all your questions honestly. I’ll tell you exactly how it is. Thank you very much.
Raffle winners picked: (bottles of wine and goals of the season DVDs).
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