On Tuesday 17th. January 2017 two representatives from the Fulham Supporters’ Trust Board (Dan Crawford and Michael Gregg) met Alistair Mackintosh (AM, Chief Executive Officer) Sarah Brookes (SB, Communications and Marketing Director) Steven Day (SD, Chief Executive of the Fulham FC Foundation) and Huw Jennings (HJ, Academy Director) from Fulham Football Club at the Club’s Motspur Park training ground.
Fulham Foundation update
Following on from questions at previous meetings, SD was in attendance to provide an update on the Foundation’s work. A full impact report will be published in February, but we were given some headline figures and a summary of quarter one activities, which will be circulated separately to Trust members. Over the past year, more than 14,000 individuals received more than 19 contact hours with the Foundation across their various areas of operation.
The recent improvements to Motspur Park have allowed the Ladies’ side and the Fulham Badgers team to be based at the training ground. Both of these teams are self-funded, with the Foundation offering coaching and some other support as part of its remit. ‘Walking Football’ takes place once a week as part of the FanActiv programme and several local schools are starting to use the redeveloped facilities on a regular basis.
The Foundation’s education and football course (which caters for 16-19 year olds) now has 135 students on the programme, with 25 being based full-time at Motspur Park. While most of players are not at the level to play professionally for Fulham, several have gone to sign contracts elsewhere and four have recently earned scholarships to American universities.
The Fan Fit programme has just started its second year and anyone interested should contact the foundation to take part. It’s won several awards in the health and sporting categories.
The George Cohen statue fund raising finally raised £224K via donations from supporters that were matched by Chairman Shahid Khan. Around £85K is being used by the foundation on a number of projects that have been agreed with George Cohen. One of these initiatives is the successful Fulham Memories project, currently being run by the Foundation, and the Trust has offered to support this work on the club’s history.
The annual Fulham 10k run is taking place on February 26th. and the Foundation is actively seeking volunteers who can help facilitate the activities during the day. If any Trust member is interested in marshalling, stewarding or providing other assistance please let us know?
The annual Foundation family day has been confirmed as taking place on March 4th. when Fulham host Preston North End at Craven Cottage. The Foundation is planning a number of special activities and more information will be released about these in the near future.
Mike Rigg’s departure and playing matters
The Trust recognised that Mike Rigg had left his position as Chief Football Officer in the days following our December meeting at Motspur Park. AM stated that Mr. Rigg had helped to streamline the Club’s coaching approaches, helping to bring together all aspects of youth coaching and the senior team closer together, as part of an analysis of issues that had previously been identified, and worked together with HJ, Kit Symons and now Slavisa Jokanovic on recruitment. AM confirmed that following Mr. Rigg’s departure it would now be unlikely that the Club would seek to recruit a direct replacement, believing that sufficient structures have now been put place and that the improvements on the field indicate that things are moving in the right direction.
AM also confirmed that he had retaken control of transfer and contract negotiation during the summer and that the club’s scouting network had been revamped. The Club’s data analytics operation has also been increased and the Club receives regular input from Tony Khan and Craig Kline. AM stated that much of the media comment about the ‘two boxes ticked’ methodology was inaccurate and that, whilst input is received from the analytics team, the head coach’s input, detailed scouting reports and the financial balance of any proposed transfer are just as critical.
To illustrate this point, AM spoke about the acquisition of Floyd Ayite during the summer. Data analysis indicated that Ayite might be a player of interest to Fulham, so a full scouting report was requested. After that had been reviewed, Slavisa Jokanovic requested references on the player from his own contacts and, once the head coach was happy to proceed, the CEO commenced negotiations with Bastia.
At the time of meeting, the Club had not completed any signings during the transfer window, but the Trust was assured that the process of acquiring potential new arrivals was ongoing. Indeed, both AM and HJ arrived late to the meeting due to the pressures of the January window.
The Trust also raised the issue of Slavisa Jokanovic’s contract following media speculation suggesting he was a potential target for Werder Bremen and Malaga. AM said that the Club would not announce anything formally during this meeting, but that reports of a stand-off in negotiations were well wide of the mark.
HJ spoke about the impressive integration of several of the Club’s younger players into the first-team squad over the course of the season. Four of Fulham’s under-23 players now train daily with the first-team squad, which HJ believes is just as important as gaining game time in senior football since it aids their development. The Club monitors their development through performance plans and a decision would be taken over the course of January as to whether younger players should remain at Fulham or if they would benefit from first team football elsewhere on loan.
HJ said that it was always difficult to tell how a player will perform on loan. For some players, it can be the making of them and they will return ready to stake a claim for a first-team place, but for others it can be a tough experience away from their parent club. This is why the Club takes care to source the right opportunities for their players and HJ and AM confirmed that it was likely that several younger players and fringe members of the first team squad would go out on loan before the transfer window closes.
The Trust had been contacted by the EFL and the two national supporters’ bodies for their comments about the changes to the loan system and the Checkatrade Trophy that was introduced this year. HJ felt that the restrictions on youth loans – and the requirement that loans had to be for the duration of the period between transfer windows – desperately hindered the development of young players who were not getting a regular game. The flexibility afforded by short-term loans allowed players to gain valuable experience of senior football and their axing was a retrograde step.
The Club agreed with the Trust’s assessment that the Checkatrade Trophy was ill-thought out and rushed through without proper consultation with the member clubs. The disparity in rules around the fielding of younger players between the Premier League and the Championship academy sides and the League One and League Two teams created great uncertainty and it was clear from crowd attendances that the competition held little interest for fans. The Trust will compile a response to the authorities on both of these matters.
Fixture rearrangements – Hull City (FA Cup Fourth Round) and Burton Albion (away)
The Trust raised the issue of the rearrangement of Fulham’s FA Cup Fourth Round tie against Hull City for Sunday 29th. January, with a 12.30pm kick off. AM responded that, due to policing arrangements deriving from Chelsea being drawn at home to play on a Saturday, and with Hull City playing in the EFL Cup Semi Final Second Leg against Manchester United on Thursday 26th. January, there was no alternative but to move the game to a Sunday. Both clubs were keen to play the fixture as early as possible on the Sunday and, after consulting the train times for travelling fans, a 12.30pm kick off was agreed.
The Burton Albion fixture, originally scheduled for Tuesday 31st January, had to be moved at short notice, due to this fixture change. The Club appreciates the impact that this has had on supporters who had already booked train tickets and accommodation, but they had no choice under the EFL rulebook but to fulfill the fixture on the rearranged date of Wednesday 1st. February. The Trust will raise the issues of late rescheduling of fixtures in our future discussions with the EFL as well as the need to compensate travelling supporters who are badly affected.
Football Sexual Abuse Inquiry
The Trust had received representations from members regarding the ongoing police inquiry in allegations of sexual abuse of young footballers by coaches in the past. The Club is co-operating with the police inquiry, but has not been made aware of any allegations affecting Fulham Football Club. The Trust raised a representation it had received from The Offside Trust, an organisation set up by survivors of sexual abuse in football, and AM stated that the bravery of these footballers in coming forward and speaking out about their experiences was remarkable and should be applauded. The Club agreed to put representatives from The Offside Trust in touch with their recently-appointed safeguarding officer to discuss Fulham’s current policies.
Redevelopment of the Riverside Stand
The Trust asked AM for an update on the Riverside stand redevelopment and the status of the Thomas Heatherwick review commissioned by Shahid Khan. AM said that there was no significant update available at this time since the Club was still evaluating the various options presented to them by Heatherwick. AM stated that as soon as a decision had been made the Club would communicate this to the supporters. The Club also retains the planning permission it received from the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham Council in 2012 and could also opt to revive that project.
The Trust wanted to place on record its thanks to the Club’s ticket office for its quick response to requests for ticket numbers and availability of the QPR game and we hope that this is something that can continue going forward.
The meeting closed at 12.00