Further questions answered by Club Chairman Tony Kleanthous...
15. There is a real issue with regard to safety of pedestrians leaving the South terrace and west stand having to walk across the car park and then use the zebra crossing whilst cars are leaving the site. Are there any plans to build a footpath behind the South Terrace so supporters can get between the East and West Stands without walking through the car park?
AAK: “I wasn’t aware of this issue but have had our contractors look into the problem and come up with a quick strategy. They now plan to create a safe walking zone from the west turnstiles down to the front of the car park which will be marked with cross hatching during the summer.”
16. How do you feel the membership scheme has gone?
AAK: “Exceptionally well and it enabled the club to continue with its investment both on and off the pitch despite the financial pain of relegation. The tremendous support of our fans making a regular financial contribution cannot be understated and all members should be applauded for their fantastic loyalty at a time of hardship. The membership scheme meant that we were able to put together a strong budget for a promotion push but ultimately it was having to sustain a playing squad of some 30 players that was our downfall and not the budget.”
17. Do you accept that changing prices and the 18.88% discount to 15% throughout the season may have upset some fans?
AAK: “No not really, the 18.88% discount was a very successful promotion but it was difficult to process regularly due to all the odd figures and change. I sometimes find it frustrating that people do not appreciate the effort we put in to try and give value and instead always find a negative spin on everything, we do our best with the resources we have.”
18. Do you feel the increase in child membership from £2 to £7.50pm was acceptable, it means I will no longer be bringing my children and that saddens me?
AAK: “There has been a lot of misrepresentation regarding this change and I am extremely disappointed you feel you cannot bring your children. We started the junior membership scheme at Underhill some twenty years ago and this allowed kids to watch the game for just £1. This was very successful and we tried to extend the scheme this season by making it a monthly charge with a guaranteed seat. The problem was that a number of supporters booked up the seats and either never used them, leaving lots of empty space in busy games or, worse still, would pass the membership to older age groups who would attend and cause problems with stewarding and turnstile staff. We knew the members responsible because every supporter has their photograph taken as they enter the turnstiles but we were very disappointed by the abuse of the system caused by some of our own supporters. We were faced with either getting confrontational with our own fans or scrapping the scheme, we chose the latter.
The new system still has some issues but if fans abuse this we can at least deal with the problem at the point of purchase which is easier than hostility on a busy matchday. The £1 Hive membership with a £1 ticket means any child can attend the game for £2 so the £7.50 charge only applies if you want to keep a designated seat and reflects the cost to the club. I hope this explains our reasons and although I know it’s not entirely satisfactory to you it still demonstrates the excellent value we try to offer for children.”
19. The membership scheme does not appear to have been marketed throughout the season, as it is a membership scheme I don't understand why this would be the case?
AAK: “We need to strengthen our marketing department as this very important area has fallen behind due to our relocation and planning problems along with the other issues we have had to deal with since relegation. The modern world insists on immediate media attention and although we have worked hard to improve communication it is hard to keep up with the digital demand. This is a definite a priority heading into next season.”
20. Has he considered, similar to theme parks, where someone can use a full price ticket as deposit to joining the scheme and having someone available on match days to advise on memberships and sign more people up. It's certainly a complaint I have heard from Broncos fans that they considered signing up but no one asked them?
AAK: “No we haven’t but I do like the idea so will consider the possibility. I believe the membership scheme offers fantastic value and its important our existing base always get the best deals so would prefer to grow this rather than constantly offering discounts outside of the scheme.”
21. Why can’t I buy membership discounted tickets online for future games on a matchday?
AAK: “I believe you can.”
22. Are there any plans for the future of Underhill?
AAK: “We are now looking to sell the site. We have had Broncos using the facilities keeping it ticking over but it is clearly deteriorating fast and the cost of maintaining the old stadium seems disproprtionate. I have waited until after the local elections to see whether the Back to Barnet campaign would have any success and to give local supporters every opportunity to influence the councillors looking to get elected but have not seen much activity. Ultimately we would all like to be in Barnet but this will require a concerted effort from a sizeable group of supporters and without the likes of Mike & Janet et al (remember how great the KBA was) to lead the way then I’m not too sure whether enough have the appetite anymore.”
23. Is this money needed to pay for the building of the Hive?
AAK: “Building work at The Hive is all practically paid for and has been funded by a further cash injection of nearly £7 million by me personally, some grant funding and also bank financing which I also personally guarantee on behalf of the group.”
24. Can we have the old clock from Underhill brought over and mounted on the East Stand?
AAK: “I’m afraid it no longer exists after I tried to get it repaired and it was deemed unserviceable. We are presently installing two large new LED picture quality scoreboards so I hope they will at least provide accurate timekeeping.”
25. Do you think that having Rugby played on the pitch as well as football had an impact in any way on results at home?
AAK: “Absolutely not at all, the pitch has held up fine but we have asked Martin to keep the ball in the air more… Just in case.”
26. Do you still support the Back2Barnet campaign and would you consider allowing posters and leaflets to be distributed at the Hive to support it?
AAK: “I do support the Back2Barnet campaign although there has not been too much activity of late. We do not generally allow flyers around the site because we have an obligation to keep the place tidy and they tend to end up on the floor and cause upset to our neighbours and the council.”
27. Has any discussion taken place with Barnet Council regarding the viability of South Underhill?
AAK: “Despite the assertions of the conspiracy theorists amongst us, Barnet Council are not and have not been interested in anything to do with Barnet Football Club since Underhill ward become politically sensitive in the local elections twelve years ago. Contrary to the rubbish written on blogs, forums and in the media, I do not support any political party and I have never provided any finance or gifts to any political party. My only sin was to fight the local council damn hard on the clubs behalf and have suffered a lot of cuts on the way, sometimes from our own camp! If the Council wanted Barnet FC we would have been offered South Underhill ages ago. The ONLY people that can make a difference and affect change in Barnet are all those who live and vote in Barnet.”
28. How do you feel last season went and what’s your expectation this season?
AAK: “Last season was poor. A talented squad underperformed and ultimately did not even make the play-offs finishing in the lowest position since I have been Chairman. I am embarrassed and very upset about it and my expectation for the coming season is to do a lot better. Our target, as always, is the play-offs.”
29. How long are we likely to be playing at the Hive?
AAK: “As long as is necessary until I can find a new site, preferably in Barnet, to build a modern new 10,000 seated stadium which has always been my stated goal.”
30. How hard has relegation hit the club and are we financially secure?
AAK: “The business is reasonably secure and although relegation hit us hard we are still just about managing to operate efficiently. However, cash flow is always difficult, particularly in the summer, and your support along with that of the London Broncos and London Bees will hopefully see us through.”
31. How much of the youth/development squad have we retained?
AAK: “As it stands I do not believe many of the current youth team will be retained. However, the younger kids are exceptional and I think they will progress quickly. The whole EPPP system has been a disaster for football and at the present time we are still awaiting confirmation on funding although we are told to expect another 50% cut. Regardless of this, we intend to stick by the kids and continue to provide them with the best environment to advance and build a career in football. As I type the vultures are circling and we have had to deal with many illegal approaches to our players but they are an extremely loyal, dedicated and talented group and I hope you will see them in action with the first team soon!”