Following the appointment of Karl Evans last week, we felt it was imperative to try and get a meeting as soon as possible. We wanted to introduce ourselves as a group including explanations as to why we set up in October 2019 and to speak about our purpose and aims. We are appreciative of Mr Evans taking the time to meet us at such short notice and being proactive in the arranging of this meeting. We acknowledge that Mr Evans is new to the role and won’t immediately have answers to all fans questions at this stage, so we wanted to obtain a commitment to future meetings so these issues can be discussed. Our key aims for yesterday were as follows, and to achieve this we split the meeting into 4 parts:
– Past – how did we get here?
– Present – what matters to fans right now?
– Future – where does the club go from here?
In our introductions it was established Karl Evans was in the role of CEO for the non playing side of the business, the team isn’t his responsibility. Anything related to the non-playing side of things would in some way shape or form, fall under the remit of his role (supporter services/matchday experience etc). Karl explained his past at Manchester United, Salford City, Bury and more recently Harrogate in a consultancy role to prepare them for the prospect of league football. It was clear from our talks that Karl has had happy times in football as well regrets over his time at Bury but believed he did everything he could, including paying some bills for the club in his last few weeks before leaving. He said while money was coming in, people were getting paid it was very hard to question anything that was going on. The first his suspicions were raised were when Steve Dale turned up to view the club and things moved very quickly after that.
Abdallah approached Karl after this but he felt it wasn’t the right time as he wanted some time away from the game to reflect on what happened with Bury. After more time has elapsed, Karl admitted he wanted a new challenge and this is why he accepted the role. He has told Abdallah that from day 1 he wants him to be totally straight with him.
We explained the recent history of the club both on and off the pitch to provide a level of context. When you live and breathe this 24/7, it’s easy, but for someone who has come in as recently as last week, we appreciate there is a lot Karl will have to catch up on to try and understand fans frustrations. It can be a lot of information to take in and we offered to help with that. We raised the following concerns which brought us to where we are today;
– False promises/information released
– Treatment of staff (playing staff and otherwise) and fans
– Lack of engagement with supporters from owners/senior management and missed commercial opportunities
– Team interference resulting in, amongst other things, an Oldham fan refusing to stay on in his dream role.
– Manager turnover
We talked about where we are currently in terms of the real burning issues at the club (from the viewpoint of supporters). The following points were raised with him;
Urgency required to get the North Stand open. We spoke about how long this had been going on for and while we appreciate Karl would have no answers this early in his tenure, we did make it perfectly clear how important it was in the eyes of supporters. Karl did also acknowledge that commercially this is so important for the club both on matchdays and non-matchdays given the extra income it is capable of generating.
Why is David Wheater frozen out and training with the youth team? Again we requested honesty from the manager/owner regarding the reasons behind this as we have seen this with other players under his tenure. While there was some debate around this on the call, we agreed that the situation would play out and all would become clear in due course.
Why are fans walking away in their droves? We have provided our survey results to Karl following the data collected. Karl was grateful for this information. We wanted to ensure we were dealing purely on the facts presented, as we always have done. We explained that these surveys were sadly ignored previously by the club and that a lot of the red flags raised (inc lack of ST’s sold and the ongoing North Stand issue) are now coming to fruition. For us it was definitely a positive sign to see the CEO take a real interest in supporters views and we hope this can be followed through and acted upon.
Karl admitted that it was his choice to put the season ticket number in the public domain. He said that it’s a true number and he would be very open and honest about if in future there are a number of complementary tickets being offered out. He also advised that last season we had circa 2,500 + 1,000 complementary tickets.
We added that while wins on the pitch help, in the eyes of some fans more is required from the club now. Stability off the pitch will lead to success off it (and not the other way around).
We discussed how Karl has found things so far, what his vision is for the club and how he intends to achieve this. This as well as trying to ascertain the remit that Karl has been given by the club to make required changes.
He knows we need more staff to help out behind the scenes and he will make a start on this. He wanted to get to know everyone at the club top to bottom and has already made a start on this. He mentioned Boundary Park and that fans should take pride in its appearance, he’s noticed quite a few things he would change at little cost and will act on these where possible. This is not withstanding other obvious issues regarding the stadium which we have already touched on.
Karl Evans & PTB
Karl asked us what our expectations were for the relationship going forward. How often we meet/speak and what information we would want. We initially said that no contact with us and total honesty and transparency over club matters with all fans would suit us but we are obviously more than happy to be involved and act on behalf of the fans we represent.
As mentioned previously, getting and maintaining traction with the club has been somewhat difficult over the last few months, so we wanted to ensure the door for future dialogue remained firmly open (both ways). We also explained the full extent of neglect and lack of respect that supporters have felt in the last few years and how this has resulted in a number of long-standing season ticket holders now walking away from the club. We also addressed the fact that may have stated they would not return until their was a change in ownership. We offered advice around how the club can go about rebuilding trust with the fanbase. They HAVE to be more open with communication with fans (whether relaying good or bad news) and while it may be difficult at first, with criticism thrown at them from different quarters, they have to start somewhere. Karl acknowledged this.
We are happy to offer the thoughts of fans and we advised that while he may not always hear what he wants to hear, it will always be a constructive viewpoint based on a view FOR the fans, FROM the fans. We want to be firm but fair, and create an open door policy to bridge the ever widening gap between fans and the club. It’s evident that little progress has been made in this area as a result of ignoring the views of supporters.
It was clear that we can expect more communication and that Mr Evans won’t shirk any meeting with the fans whether that by via PTB, the Trust or in any other format. He said he loves football and likes to think he understands it and what fans want, despite admittedly not being an Oldham fan.
Because you support us in the way you do, it makes our collective voice so much louder and one that simply can’t be ignored. We are hopeful that by having the ear of someone willing to listen to the voices of supporters, we can start to see significant development around the areas that REALLY matter to supporters and we can start to be treated the way that we, as loyal supporters who have followed this club through thick and thin, up and down the country, deserve.
Overall, we thought it was a positive first meeting and Karl came across as an honest man who definitely has the interest of fans at the heart of how he wants to communicate and move forwards. We shared views and hopefully conveyed a constructive message and hopefully put his mind at rest over common misconceptions about PTB. Hopefully this will be the start of more positive and regular engagement with the club so that fans voices can finally be heard.
We have committed to a call once a month for now plus any additional contact when required. As soon as government guidelines allow, we will conduct a face to face meeting.
If you have any feedback following this, please let us know and as soon as we have another meeting lined up, we will open this up for queries from supporters so we can get as many questions answered as possible.
Reclaim The Faith