Millers Trust Meeting With Tony Stewart 29th Jan 09
Posted by Steve Exley on February 04 2009 20:57:14

Enclosed is a full report of an hour long meeting Millers Trust had with Tony Stewart on 29th January 2009.  We hope you find these notes of interest?

Extended News
Report of Meeting between Millers Trust and Club Chairman Tony Stewart held on Thursday 29 January 2009 at Mangham House 

Present :
Tony Stewart RUFC Chairman
Julie Hunt RUFC Director
Rachael Bateson RUFC Commercial Manager
Mark Thomas  Trust Chairman
Steve Exley Trust Board
John Harrison Trust Board
Jeremy Mangham Trust Board 

1 Information
2 New Stadium
3 New Training Ground
4 Ticket Office and Shop
5 Don Valley
6 Commercial

 1 Information
We urged Tony Stewart to provide fans with as much information as possible about the club.  We highlighted the frustration of fans waiting for new stadium information.  We urged him to provide us with information for us to pass directly to the fans rather than information simply being fed through the press.   

2 New Stadium We were told that Tony Stewart continues to press for progress on securing a site. 8 sites have been under consideration. The site recently referred to in the Rotherham Advertiser as being close to the twin towers location is one of the 8. We referred to concerns expressed by some fans that the Meadowbank site is in Sheffield and that fans were concerned about contamination issues relating to the sewage beds. We put this in direct terms: would there be a smell inside a stadium in that location.  Tony Stewart said that there is absolutely no doubt that the Meadowbank site is in Rotherham and that in addition he was confident that if that site came to fruition there would be no smell from what he reminded us with a smile is a water filtration plant. He expressed his frustration that he is understandably pressed every week for information on this issue but that he cannot disclose matters which rely on confidentiality for progress. He assured us that the issue of a new ground remains at the top of his agenda. Terry Stewart has been to 26 football stadiums as part of the process of gathering information and building knowledge to assist the Club’s own plans.

   3 Training Ground 
·           We asked about possible location. Tony said he was not able to disclose a location at this stage. He said his intention is for a new training ground to provide a foundation for the long term development of the club by providing facilities suitable for all football sections of the club and with a view to attracting promising young players.  
·           At present, we have a Centre of Excellence.  
·           The club’s aim is to secure accreditation for Academy status.  
·           Tony Stewart said that to assist his preparations for a new training facility he has recently been to see the training facilities at Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday. 
·           We were shown a training ground plan containing five 104m x 64m pitches with good access points. 
·           The Club hope to be in a position to start work on a new training ground in February 2009.  
·           Tony Stewart said that realistically the training ground, changing facilities and pitches would be ready for 2011 and that we are secure to continue training at Doncaster in the meantime. 

 4 Ticket Office and Club Shop 
Logistically, the Club explained that they cannot set up a temporary Ticket Office at Don Valley – because of  the Club’s antiquated ticket system, they are fully aware that the club needs to upgrade and they want to move to a multi-site facility for purchasing tickets including an online facility and a ticket selling presence at Parkgate.   Tickets have to be physically printed off at Mangham House on a Friday – whilst churning out tickets for pay on gate for Saturday at Don Valley, no tickets can be sold.  

Tony Stewart emphasised that he likes solutions and at this stage invited Julie Hunt, a fellow RUFC Director to join the meeting and invited Julie and Rachael to consider the feedback from fans on ticketing and club Shop issues and to explain the practical difficulties the Club is faced with.
 We said that fans have expressed concern that they cannot purchase tickets on a Friday afternoon after 3:30pm or on a Saturday morning from Mangham House.  We asked if we can have the Ticket Office and shop open Saturday morning and Friday night.  Julie and Rachael stressed that the issue is the ticketing system we have got.  They have had numerous meetings with the ticketing people responsible for the system used by the Club to try to arrive at improvements in the system. These meetings have not achieved what the Club wants and they are therefore taking consultancy advice on setting up a ticket system at Don Valley. 

We asked the club whether they could take away tickets to
Don Valley.  They said that they would have to block print the tickets at Mangham House and take them to Don Valley.  Any unsold tickets would then have to be entered back onto the system at Mangham House.  Such a process would be time consuming and not cost-effective.  We stressed that it is not as easy to buy tickets now as it was when we were at Millmoor. 

It was agreed that Steve Exley and Julie Hunt will discuss the issue of how to make it easier for people to buy tickets and collate all the appropriate ticket information so that we can then help the club to make all that information available to fans in the most accessible way.  Steve Exley will also be discussing the availability of club merchandise and shop opening hours with Julie Hunt. 
 The club has installed a new phone system on 01709 843322.  This phone line contains a number of options, one of which indicates for which of the coming home games tickets can be purchased.  

 5 Don Valley
The scoreboard at Don Valley is an old one and at present – despite the efforts of Don Valley staff, and reminders from Rotherham United staff – the position is that Don Valley simply do not know why the scoreboard is not working.

 6 Commercial After the last period of administration at the club, a delegation from the Trust Board met with Paul Douglas (Chief Operating Officer) and Terry Stewart (Commercial Director) with a view to offering assistance with commercial revenue raising.  A document was submitted to the club containing ideas surrounding all aspects of Commercial revenue raising and sponsorship.  The framework of this document was collated after inviting ideas from external commercial professionals, the Trust Board, Trust members and fans on the various media outlets available (Millers Mad, Facebook, Trust website etc). 

At the time of the initial meeting, the document was extremely well received. We pointed out concerns echoed by a number of fans that the Commercial Department at the club had suffered from what appeared to be years of underinvestment under previous regimes and pointed out that Commercial and Sponsorship were areas which we believed could deliver both quick and much needed short-term revenue as well as a healthy long-term structure for the club to take forward.  
 As an extremely high-level overview, the document was split into various areas covering ideas for increasing Sponsorship, Corporate, Added Value to fans, increasing gates and merchandising amongst others. This was presented with the offer of hands-on assistance if and when required. 

Unfortunately at this time, the league share and
Don Valley issues raised their head and as such, the plan was put on the back burner with a view to re-reviewing once the waters were more settled and indeed the staffing levels at the club could support the proposed initiatives.   Late 2008 saw the introduction of Rachael Bateson as Commercial Manager at the club and as such, it was the perfect opportunity to again look at how we could assist the club in this area. 

It’s safe to say that Rachael has hit the ground running in this role and is extremely committed and driven in terms of raising the club’s revenues and indeed increasing the matchday experience and accessibility to the club for all fans.
 At present, Rachael and the Commercial team at the club have reviewed a revised document, considered some of the points for possible future discussion or implementation and indeed already have the wheels rolling on some of the areas highlighted.  Jeremy Mangham has further meetings scheduled with Rachael to discuss these ideas and drill down into more detail about workability, feasibility etc of these points and indeed how the Trust can help the club in terms of tangible resource to essentially get the cash in the tills to further strengthen the club’s long-term future whilst as importantly, to enhance the match day experience for us all.  Commercial is an area which we see as key to the long-term success of the club and as such, we aim to work alongside the club over the coming months and years in this area. We see the fact that with a new ground in the not too distant future will come a whole new set of commercial opportunities and indeed challenges. We are however confident that with the structure and enthusiasm starting to take shape, we will not only meet the bare minimum commercial requirements but we can make our club flag-bearers in this area for other clubs.