Skip to main content Skip to site footer
Club News

The Chairman Writes

4 October 2014

Darryl Eales' notes in the Newport County matchday magazine


First of all, I would like to extend a warm welcome from Oxford United to Les Scadding, Justin Edinburgh and all officials and fans of Newport County.

It is a couple of weeks since our CEO Mark Ashton, our head coach Michael Appleton and I held our first fans' forum and I would like to offer some reflections on the evening and also to update you on our plans and actions as a result.

The turnout was excellent, and a big thank you to everyone who gave up their time to attend. The atmosphere was relaxed and positive, and Chris Williams did a superb job in marshalling the evening.

The questions were wide-ranging, informed and relevant and my overarching impression is that Oxford United is fortunate to have so many fans who are passionate about the club, but who are also realistic about the size of the challenge we have as we all seek to build sustainable success for the club, both on and off the park.

It is difficult to do justice to the evening here, but I have tried to reflect the discussion by breaking down the questions into four principal areas:

* ownership and funding
* match day experience
* playing, coaching and recruitment
* stadium


Ownership and Funding

There was a healthy exchange of views regarding the funding of the football club and the motives of myself, Mark and Michael.

I hope we answered all questions directly and gave complete answers. To be clear, our motivation is to work in the best interests of Oxford United Football Club and build foundations that will bring long-term success and stability to the club.

We have also made it clear to all fans that we are open and transparent and will try to answer any of your questions, subject, of course, only to matters of confidentiality or commercial sensitivity.

The brutal reality is that the club is currently loss making and we have exacerbated this by our investment in playing, coaching and recruitment resources. This investment is essential to build for success on the pitch.

The only way to address the loss rate – in the absence of cutting expenditure – is to drive more income into the club. Attendances are lower than we would like and improving them is the quickest route to bringing in much-needed income. We also need a much sharper commercial focus, allied to a stronger community programme. Some progress has been made but we have a long way to go.

We will fund the club for the long term, but it is far better that funding goes into strengthening the team and the coaching set-up rather than subsidising losses.

Your help in encouraging your family and friends to come to games and watch Michael's exciting brand of football is essential. Moreover, any assistance in bringing in new sponsors and promoting greater community links would be hugely appreciated.

Matchday Experience

Above all other to-do items, this is the one that requires urgent action and significant surgery. It links back to poor attendances and the feeling that, as one supporter so rightly observed, "The Kassam is a house, not a home."

I will cover the stadium below, but we can only play the hand we have.

There are multiple actions, initiatives and innovations that we can implement to ensure the whole match day becomes more inclusive, more uplifting and more fun and makes the game into a real occasion.

Mark and the commercial team are working tirelessly to change things for the better and make the stadium more of a home.

Alongside this, we are working in tandem with the Yellow Army to accelerate progress in enhancing all aspects of match days.

There is much to do and it will take time, but even for today's game, I hope you will see there is some progress, with plenty more to come.


Playing, Coaching and Recruitment

I have consistently maintained that I watch games as a fan. I have my views and obviously I am disappointed with results to date - results not performances, I hasten to add!

In my view, to succeed in anything over the long term, you must put in place strong foundations and focus on getting the right infrastructure. If we are successful in this, I am certain that the desired results will follow.

Over 100 days, I am delighted with the progress Mark and Michael have made in terms of improving the depth of the coaching staff and the quality of the coaching sessions, the strengthening of the playing squad and the setting-up of a structured recruitment programme.

These actions are essential if we are to build for success in higher divisions while also building a squad that is high quality and affordable when set in the context of the club's overall finances.

Mark has expertly set out the principles underlying our recruitment model and Michael has clearly set out the playing philosophy that he wants to embed throughout the whole club.

We also understand that to earn the right to a long-term future, you have to take care of the short term. No-one is more frustrated with results than Michael but, as he consistently says, "We will not take a backward step and we will turn performances into wins."   

I completely endorse this sentiment and urge all supporters to stay positive, and get behind Michael and the team!


Stadium

This is the one area where I feel we underestimated the depth of feeling among fans.

The forum provided the opportunity to bring things up to date and give clarity on our views and aspirations.

Michael, Mark and I share the view that we would like long-term security and control over both our stadium and our training ground.

Critically, we are flexible on how this is achieved, providing that, in the long term, the club can regard both stadium and training ground as a home and plan accordingly.

Specifically, in respect of the stadium, this means control of all commercial and community activities 365 days of the year.

In terms of ownership, it is essential the club has security of tenure. Preferably, this may be outright ownership but, equally, partnership with the relevant local councils and authorities would be an excellent long-term solution and would put us in the same position.

What I do know is that the current situation is complex and the range of stakeholders who need to be engaged with should not be underestimated. Over-simplifying the position serves no one's best interests.

What I can say is that as a Board, we are working on the issue and will work as hard as we can to bring about the solution that gives the club long-term security and makes the stadium a real home.

To conclude, I am delighted to have become involved at Oxford United. It is a wonderful club with a committed, passionate and significant fan base and has, undoubtedly, massive potential.

The first 100 days have been a whirlwind and I think we have a much stronger grip on the key issues to address. The forum and the general feedback from fans has been an essential ingredient in formulating our priorities and I expect to make progress on all fronts throughout the season.

Darryl Eales

You can read these notes, along with the rest of the matchday magazine, online at www.matchdayfix.com/oufc.

Advertisement block