With a number of your burning issues still needing answers, Barnet FC Chairman Tony Kleanthous dedicates his time to thoroughly and openly answer the questions you have sent in. This is Part 3 of 'Chairman's Q&A'...
SUPPORTER 16 - Michael King
Dear Mr Kleanthous
Should an opportunity arise to move to a site in the Barnet Borough after we have moved to The Hive , would this be considered ?
What guarantee is there that the name BARNET FC will remain, after it was quoted that the Club's profile would be increased in a different Borough? if this happens my support would die with the name.
Thank you for reading my questions and here's to a succesful and injury free season.
Chairman - I am surprised you have asked this as I thought it was common knowledge that staying in Barnet has always been my first choice, which is why it has taken nearly twenty years for me to finally accept that we need to move. In order for any club to be successful they must enjoy the support of their local council and it is quite evident we don’t have this in the borough of Barnet. This is the real crux of the problem. I will have more to say on the details of this after our relocation, but the end result is that in one stroke they cleansed 125 years of football history in favour of a rugby club with no connection to the area whatsoever!
I cannot guarantee the name will never change (who knows what the future will bring?) but I can assure you that I have no immediate plans to do so.
SUPPORTER 17 - Josh Ilan
Where do you see the club in five-years time (structure of club, stadium, division)?
Would you have considered staying at Underhill for a longer period of time had the council been more willing?
Who is the best player to have played for Barnet during your tenure as chairman?
Chairman - We have to be ambitious and aim to play our football at the highest level possible. However, our progression is restricted at Underhill because we are unable to expand the site to meet Championship criteria. Therefore League One is probably as high as we could go…for now! The Council convinced me that they would support us at Underhill and then, after I had spent nearly £2 million on upgrading the site, they failed to honour any of their previous assurances so we are unable to develop even the parts for which we already have planning permission. We have to accept that the current administration is NOT interested in keeping us in the borough and are just looking for a “relocation scapegoat” so that your venom is aimed at me rather than them. Contrast this with Harrow Council who have been supportive throughout and have therefore benefited from £15million investment at The Hive. Remember, our proposal for an Academy and training ground was first presented to and rejected by Barnet Council, so, unless there is a change in attitude towards us at the Council I can’t see the Club returning within five years.
There have been a number of players throughout my time at the Bees that I have admired, but it’s not fair for me to single any one player out. Sorry for the ‘political answer’!
SUPPORTER 18 - Derek Rocholl
Dear Mr Kleanthous,
Please find below a number of questions for the Q &A:
1. The Supporters Trust recently ran a consultation exercise which received 390 responses from Barnet supporters - a high number of the respondees expressed a dislike for league games being played on a Friday night - how does the club plan to respond to this feedback ?
2. In the same consultation a significant number of respondees identified having a choice or whether to sit or stand at games as being important to their enjoyment of the match day experience - will the stadium at the Hive have standing sections ?
3. When asked how they expected the move to the Hive to affect their attendance at home games 48% of respondents to the consultation said they expected to either attend less games or stop going altogether - what steps is the club taking to try to understand and address the reasons for this response ?
4. When first team games transfer to the Hive in 2013/14 what does the chairman plan to do with the existing Underhill site ?
5. What is the intention of the chairman in respect of the lease to the cricket club ground and Pavillion at Underhill ?
Chairman - Q1-3 Derek, we spoke at the end of April and, through you, I offered the new Supporters Trust an opportunity to collaborate with the Club this season on a comprehensive survey of supporters. This was so that we could gather better information about our fanbase which would help shape our future planning. However, you told me that the Trustees rejected my offer and had decided to rush ahead with what I considered to be a less satisfactory version of what I had envisaged. I thus feel it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the exercise itself or on the conclusions you may have drawn from it.
With regards to Questions 4 and 5, I have already covered these points in my answer to Richard Thomas (Supporter 3 in Part 1 of this years ‘Chairman’s Q&A)
SUPPORTER 19 - Neil Ruckman
As a local resident (to Underhill) I am very sad to see the club move, but fully understand the reasons why.
Does the club have any plans for Underhill Stadium once it leaves at the end of the coming season?
Chairman - Please see my answer to Richard Thomas (Supporter 3 in Part 1 of this years ‘Chairman’s Q&A). Just to reiterate, we have no plans as yet but we will be looking to get as much activity at the site as possible to cover the running costs. The most important thing to remember though is my pledge that EVERY penny from any sale will be invested in the club and our new home.
SUPPORTER 20 - Craig Clayton
Is the move to the Edgware next year a temporary measure (as has been suggested on various occasions) or is this considered to be a permanent new home for Barnet F.C.?
Do you believe this move to Edgware genuinely protects the history, traditions and fanbase associated with Barnet F.C. (i.e. essentially everything that makes the club what it is(including staff, location etc)) or is the primary purpose of this move to encourage development and progression of the Barnet F.C. company, bringing up to date with modern day standards?
Chairman - This is a temporary move and we have no other choice if we are to keep pace or even catch-up with modern day standards and supporter expectancy. I know some of our supporters would prefer we stay at Underhill, with little more than a concrete step and a tin roof, but I am tired of the expectation to compete whilst being forced to operate in a dilapidated facility with one of the lowest playing budgets in the entire Football League. Your question is well put and highlights the difficulty with the “tradition vs. modern facilities” argument faced by a number of clubs. I would normally vote for tradition but not when it’s at the expense of our team being able to compete and although in the past I was able to hold things together at Underhill, our infrastructure has become an embarrassment and I’m fed up with finishing near the bottom!
SUPPORTER 21 - Mick Jones
I would like to ask what the plans are for the Underhill site and who would receive the proceeds from any sale?
Chairman - The site belongs to Barnet FC Holdings which owns the Club, Underhill Stadium, the new Academy and The Hive. I have already pledged that any future proceeds will be reinvested into a new facility for Barnet FC, so it’s important we maximize the value in any sale.
SUPPORTER 22 - Mike Smit
Many thanks for this opportunity. As a long term (distant) fan I have been following your battles with Barnet Council and FULLY support your decision to move to the Hive.
Clearly for this to be a success we need to stay in the Football League and whilst the last few seasons have been exciting in their own way we have been close to relegation too often. Our new coach and the changed approach seems eminently sensible but so far his signings have been modest. Will you be allowing Mark to make some stronge signings this season in order that we can avoid another season when we have to bring in loan players to prop up the team?
Chairman - Every season our Manager/Head Coach is allocated the playing budget allowable within the League 2 squad budget rules, which states that about 55% of the clubs income can be spent on player salaries. Although there are certain parameters, he is generally given the authority to determine the best way to shape and balance the squad and I rarely get involved in all the player transactions, which allows him the freedom to choose whomever he wants. The average attendance in League 2 is over 4,000 so with 2,000 attendees we generally have a lot less available for team expenditure than others we compete with. The only way to grow our budget is to grow our income but I can’t do that at Underhill unless I double ticket prices, and I certainly don’t want to do that! This season the team is new so will need a little time, particularly at the start of the campaign, in order to gel but you’ll be pleased to know that money is available to strengthen if need be. I’m hoping we can improve on our last three disastrous campaigns and vociferous supporters getting behind the youngsters will play a big part in helping us get out of this recent slump.
SUPPORTER 23 - Kim Hunt
My question for the Chairman.
Is there going to be any provision for free or subsidised transport from Barnet to the Hive when Barnet FC move?
Chairman - Yes, this is the firm intention. Please see my answer to Margaret Cranfield (Supporter 15 in Part 2 of this years ‘Chairman’s Q&A)
SUPPORTER 24 - The Cranfields
I realise that we have to leave Underhill because of the intransigence of the Council and the difficulty in finding a suitable site in the local area. My only concern about moving to the Hive is the question of transport to the ground. We live in East Barnet and there are plenty of options by public transport and no problems about parking if we go by car. There is no easy bus route to the Hive so that option is not available. What is the parking situation? Are there any plans for buses from Barnet? I'm sure all of this is being thought about, but info on present thoughts would be appreciated.
Chairman - Please see my answer to Margaret Cranfield (Supporter 15 in Part 2 of this years ‘Chairman’s Q&A). We have onsite parking for 350 cars and hope to run a shuttle bus on match days from Underhill to The Hive but we have only just applied and received permission for the move so most of the logistics are still being worked out. We are running a number of consultations and once the details are finalised we will publish our plans on the website for all supporters to comment.
SUPPORTER 25 - Graham Duke
Will the club provide FREE transport from Underhill to the Hive and back on matchdays?
Will the club set up a car sharing scheme for matchdays?
Chairman - I don’t know the full costs yet so I’m not sure if it will be totally free, but certainly shuttle bus travel will be heavily subsidised for supporters. Any travel plan will probably involve discounted parking for those who are car sharing – something that we will look to actively encourage for travelling fans and of course, we also have ample coach parking for visiting supporters.
SUPPORTER 26 - Ian Wright
I am a season ticket holder x4 in the Main Stand and live locally.
One of the reasons I come to Underhill is the convenience and location of the ground.
This will probably be my last season watching Barnet as a season ticket holder as I can’t commit to travelling to the Hive.
I wonder how many other supporters feel the same?
Chairman - It’s the local supporters in the Borough, like yourselves, that I feel most saddened about by this relocation. If supporters and residents want Barnet FC to return to the Borough then they need to convince the Council that we are too important an asset to lose. It’s simple politics really - the more noise you make, the more they have to sit up and pay attention!
SUPPORTER 27 - Mr Williamson
Questions for the Chairman;
Please can you confirm, and dispel the rumour, that Barnet FC will undertake a name change in moving to the Hive, and that Barnet FC will remain the name of the football club.
If Barnet FC are ever to be able to return to the Barnet area it is going to need politicians to change their views and have will to accommodate the club. What would you like to see supporters doing to help that? What action could supporters be taking that would be beneficial to the Club?
Will fans have the opportunity to support /invest / donate funds into the Hive stadium by buying debenture seats, or the buy a brick scheme or other supporting methods as seen at other clubs?
Chairman - Please see my answer to Joe Clifford (SUPPORTER 8 in Part 1 of this years ‘Chairman’s Q&A). I repeat the simple answer which is ‘No’. There is no plan to change the name.
As far as returning to Barnet Borough is concerned then the issue is quite simple really, if we want Barnet FC to play in Barnet then we need a supportive Council. The current administration has watched us argue amongst ourselves rather than fight for a common cause and the actions of a few misguided individuals has allowed us to become so divided that we effectively became easy prey for those who wanted us out of the Borough. I believe Barnet FC should play in the Borough of Barnet but I cannot see that happening under the current Tory administration who have just given away the best asset in the Borough to Saracens for free whilst wanting to charge us to drive into our own ground!
Our move to The Hive will herald a new beginning for the club and hopefully the new infrastructure and technology available to us there will see us interact better with supporters on all levels.