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Chairman's Q&A: The Answers

27 August 2015

The Chairman answers your questions...

Barnet FC Chairman Tony Kleanthous has responded to all the questions sent to the club, as part of his annual Q&A with Bees fans:


What are your timescales for improving the various parts of The Hive to which we have planning permission? Do you foresee any future development over and above what we currently have permission for?

There is no fixed timescale. As we obtain planning permission we will carry out various phases of the development, subject to finance, seasonal requirements etc. The next parts of the development are the new South East corner building, which we hope will start in the autumn, and the new North Stand scheduled for next summer.
We are on a continued growth and development plan for The Hive so there will be a lot more progress on infrastructure improvements over and above what we currently have permission for.


At the end of last season you joked about being bored of the League + wanting Premiership action [!] To what extent could it be possible/realistic for us to emulate Swansea / Burnley / Hull etc? And what do you think the barriers to this would be?

We were able to add substantial funds over and above last season’s budget, and managed to secure all of the manager’s first choice signings bar one. So there are no real restrictions anymore to our “on” pitch and “off” pitch ambitions. In simple terms, a club is only limited by its facilities and size of its support base. If I can continue to build the facilities we need to create revenue, and you all help me grow the support base, then there is no reason why we can’t be as big as we dream to be.

Has the idea of a Barnet "brand" of football been dismissed? If so, are you concerned that the link between the youth team and first team will be more tenuous and make it harder for youth players to progress to the first team?
Many thanks for all the years of hard work and great successes you have brought to Barnet FC. Winning the Conference for the third time last season was a fantastic achievement.

The problem with developing a “brand” between Conference football, where we were, League Two football, where we are, and League One football, where we would like to be, is that the playing style can differ markedly. To obtain success you have to adjust your style to suit your level and I think we are having to refine our play to what the manager feels will best suit us for promotion.
As far as the younger youth players are concerned, we have a system that we adhere to which is primarily focussed on developing their talent to the best of the individual’s ability. However, for the players to progress further in their careers they have to experience every style and challenge, so we feel adapting the “brand” from time to time will enhance their overall career development.


Congratulations on promotion. What pressures are there on the manager to blood the exciting crop of youngsters into the first team to progress their development…and what financial considerations do you have to eventually sell this talent.

There is no pressure. We’d like the manager to blood as many of the youngsters as possible, but his first and number one priority is always to obtain promotion. He needs to assess what players he feels are ready and able to assist him in achieving that goal.
There are no particular financial considerations creating a need to sell our talent. The real difficulty is dealing with the myriad of agents whose general business is to profit from player transfers. The more unscrupulous of these hide behind anonymity to make fictitious comments to the media or public forums, to destabilise the relationship with a club and prompt a move.

As the subject arises a lot re: Paul Fairclough, does he hold any position within the club now?

Paul has no formal position with the club but continues to be a big supporter and friend of the club.

I feel the shuttle bus would run better if it only picked up at Underhill - quicker and more efficient. Supporters came there anyway when we played, they now just get on a coach instead, then dropped back & there where they were when the game used to finish. It's central to all pick ups and no better place to start!

This a very difficult one and the service we have is effectively a bus service for very little cost to the supporters. Our intention is to get as many supporters travelling to the game as possible and we think the current service is the most efficient and affordable way to do so.

Have you thought about the possibility of having a sign made with 'TRIPLE CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS' on it? What prestige that would bring to The Hive, especially if it was mounted on the east stand - don't forget who
told you.  Let's celebrate this wonderful achievement.

We’ve investigated a number of ideas for different signs around the ground and you will see these appear around the site more and more, as we make decisions about what type of sign we want and the best place to locate it.

How does the playing budget for the coming season compare to three years ago when we were last in the football league?

It is much greater. We have made a significantly larger budget available to the manager this season when compared with previous seasons, but player demands are greater. The spend is no longer reflected in transfer fees but in the whole player package, which nowadays includes agents fees, relocation packages, basic wages and bonuses. The average cost is about five times what it used to be when I first joined the club.

Do you plan to build a new north stand at the Hive and if so when will construction start?

Yes we do. Hopefully at the end of this season.

What has happened to the proposed Toshiba medical centre to be located at The Hive?

We’ve had some planning delays, but we’re hoping that construction on this will begin in September.

What did you enjoy most about last season?

Winning!

Which game in the coming season are you looking forward to most and why?

The last game, because I hope it’s the one where we’re lifting the trophy!

What is the worst piece of advice you have heard an agent give a Barnet player?

Don’t sign for Barnet!

Please could we have proper names for the stands at the Hive, rather than the rather boring north, south, east and west. How about compiling a list of former Barnet greats and let the fans vote on names for the stands?

The intention in the future is to sponsor the stands, which will help with much needed commercial revenue. We have not exploited this at present and it’s an area which we need to develop, but we don’t want to rush into doing anything that will affect future commercial opportunity so need a measured approach.

What if anything do miss about playing at Underhill?

There was a sense of tradition and history at Underhill, which I miss at The Hive. I suppose that would apply to any new stadium versus any old stadium but other than that there is no real comparison. I don’t really miss any of the daily operational challenges we had there. The Hive is far superior in every respect.

I thought my shirt buying days were over, but I was wrong. Why has it taken so long to go with a Black and Amber hooped shirt?

Our marketing people realised that if we have lots of pent up demand then we’ll sell more shirts and their cunning plan seems to be working!

What further improvement to the Hive can we look forward to?

We have a number of ideas in the pipeline, ranging from improved shop, catering and restaurant facilities, to an indoor hall, an indoor playing surface, and new bigger stands behind the goals. Then there’s site accommodation for scholars, medical facilities and other ideas too. These will be over many years so we are just taking one step at a time.

Please could you arrange for the date, time and location of future youth team matches to be communicated in the program/on the web site?

I don’t see why not, I thought these were already on the youth section of the website. Please write to “tell us” if you feel that you’re not getting regular updates on this subject. I read every email complaint sent to this address.

Will the club be entering a development team into an organised league this season?

I was quite disappointed about this. I think that as it stands at moment we don’t have enough players to be able to play in a recognised development league and the management felt they would do better to have more friendlies.

How hard did you try to persuade Luisma to stay?

I’d have loved Luisma to stay, and I even contacted him the other day to ask if he wishes he was still here! But his heart is with his family in Spain and sometimes you have to recognise that things happen for the best reasons, even if they’re not what we’d like them to be.

Why is the ticket office now unable to post out tickets to away games?

The money taken for the away tickets belongs to away clubs. When we post the tickets out and they don’t arrive with supporters, they end up coming to us for a refund – even though it’s not our revenue. So it ends up costing the club quite a lot of money. There are too many problems with the post to rely on it, so we’d prefer if people just came and purchased their tickets at The Hive. But I will ask the ticket staff to review this again.

I have been waiting 40 years to watch Barnet at Wembley, as I was two the last time it happened. Could you therefore get Martin Allen to take the JPT seriously please!

There is a rule that you should play a strong team in the JPT, so hopefully he will take it seriously. But I know in general he puts League promotion, which is the primary target, ahead of cup games. I don’t like to know the team until they run out so, like you, I generally don’t know his intentions before they take the field.

Why does the club wait until 2-3 days before an away game to give details of coach travel? With most fixtures already known, travel details should be given 2-3 weeks in advance so people know and can make arrangements.

I agree; I will have a word with our media man Will to make sure that this happens.

Now that we are back in our rightful place in the football league will more emphasis be placed on spending more on the first team to at a minimum keeping us in the league and hopefully future promotions so we end the yoyo syndrome of up and down to the conference?

We are spending more and more money on the first team, and our budget is now very competitive for the division. In the past this has been very hard to do. But the extra income that we generate from The Hive has made us able to sign a much higher calibre of player.

What developments to the stadium can the supporters expect to see happen this season, if any?

For safety reasons, it’s very hard to do any construction work during the season but we hope to start on the South East corner building - the new banqueting entrance and medical centre, in late September. But new stands will probably have to wait until the end of the season.

Has the Hive site been fully developed?

Far from it, there is a lot more to come.

What are your expectations for this coming season?

Promotion.

Have you managed to get Martin Allen and big John Akinde to sign a long contract ?

John is already on a good contract and we have a team of scientists working on Martin’s contract! Hopefully they’ll come to a conclusion soon.

Will the film on the history of Underhill be made available to buy on DVD any time soon - as demand would be high.

We’re hoping that a major TV channel will be broadcasting the film soon so, fingers crossed, so let’s see how that progresses.

As I live in Harrogate and travel to the majority of home games I can shop with my members discount fairly easily. But many time I would like to shop but have to wait or pay extra (post excluded). Can member discounts be included in the online shop?

There is nothing in the pipeline at the moment to introduce this but it is an interesting question - I will certainly consider it and pass it on to our software developers.

As a fan and someone who has had a bet on Barnet to get back to back promotions can you tell me if you will keep John Akinde until the end of the season irrespective of any offers or if you considered an offer what sort of money would it take to reluctantly part with John?

I would love to keep John until the end of the season. Ultimately whether John stays or goes will be up to him. He’s been a fantastic model professional and a big part of everything that we do here. But if a serious club came in for him with a serious offer, I wouldn’t want to stand in his way if he wanted to go. The important thing for everybody to note is that we are not a selling club, and haven’t been for a while now so we don’t have to sell.

Now that Underhill is being sold, what is the likelihood of the old South stand being dismantled and re-erected at The Hive? Would it be cost effective to do so, and would a further Planning Consent be required?

The intention was always to move the South Stand here. However, having started to build The Hive that’s something that we’re still thinking about.

We’ve now been at the Hive for two seasons but I see little sign of the Club trying to attract local residents to games.  An ideal opportunity would have been when we first arrived in the area but having missed that we have another with the return to the League as Conference Champions.  What is the Club’s strategy regarding attracting new support and what plans are there to increase attendances?

When we first arrived in the area we met a lot of opposition, and we felt that it was important to bed down and have everything running correctly as we didn’t want to risk our operation causing problems to people in the local area. We are now on top of this and have started a monthly booklet drop to 40,000 local residents, with special offers to come to games amongst other things. We’ve done this on three occasions in the last three months and will continue to do so. We hope to encourage more local residents to games over the coming weeks.

Have you thought of getting a ...'THE HOME OF BARNET FC'banner on the back of the south terrace, so as you come in the ground Bees fans get the buzz, & the away fans knows exactly where they are. ps: don't forget the trains that go by too.

As answered in a previous question there is a lot more signage to come – you’ll just have to be a little more patient whilst we assess this.

Somewhere I read that, by your own admission,that you are a pessimist so hand on heart, how long did you think it would take to get back to L2 having been relegated & left Underhill in one hit? 1-2 yrs, 2-5 yrs, 5-10 yrs ...or never? Then you hired Martin Allen, so now how long?

If we hadn’t have left Underhill I don’t think we would have made it back to the FL. Once we were at The Hive, I was confident that we would make it. I was pleasantly surprised that we managed to do it in two years. When Martin first arrived I thought he would at least get us to the play-offs, but obviously I’m very happy that he got us automatically promoted.

Do you believe you have done enough PR work around the local community to boost attendances? Our average attendance last season was just under 2000 which in my opinion is pretty poor. Could it do much harm to hand out 1000 tickets for free to local schools, businesses or residents? The extra income received from food, merchandise and parking would surely be worth the leg work. This would boost the profile of the club in the area as well as the match day atmosphere.

We actually do a lot of work with the local community. We provide tickets for local schools and businesses, and we are promoting the club to local residents. But our priorities were: 1. Relocate, settle in and get the operation right, 2. Get out of the Conference, 3. Build the attendances. So we are now pushing on with phase three.

Are you mindful of the fact we struggled to progress last time we got promoted to the football league? It’s clear to see we have invested heavily on the hive but the supporters now expect to see investment on the playing staff. How dedicated are you to ensure Barnet improve the strength of the squad and kick on up the football ladder?

I don’t think I could demonstrate our intent to supporters better than the money we have laid out this summer on players. Remember that it is not about transfer fees anymore, it’s about the whole player package. I can assure you that we have the most expensive group of players that I have ever had.

A lot of other clubs let the fans decide the teams kit by a voting poll. I am very disappointed with the kit’s over the past few seasons. The away kit has been purple and white for the last 4 years and I do not understand why? Furthermore the home kit appears to be becoming more orange than amber? Black and amber is part of the clubs identity and I feel this has been lost in recent seasons. 

We chose purple and white as our away colours because at the time nobody used those colours and we wanted to be distinctive. But it seems that a few clubs are now copying us! As far as black and amber is concerned, you will notice that this year we have gone back to a more traditional amber so I hope that satisfies your request.

How come the club only seem to give players and management 1 or 2 year contracts and yet higher league clubs offer longer contract?

Player’s agents prefer only 1 or 2 year deals because they themselves are only allowed 2 year contracts with their player. So they want the ability to move them around to earn more money.
Nowadays, I think my general preference for management and coaching contracts are to have simple one season or rolling contracts with a month’s notice. The nature of the game has made football coaches and managers very transient. In my experience longer contracts just end in costly legal disputes and arguments when either party wants to make a change. In my opinion, if people want to stay they should stay and if they want to go they should serve notice and go just like in every other job. I don’t really want to have people here if they don’t want to be here, and would rather work with those who do.


Will the club ever do a Pre-season abroad?

If it’s the right place at the right time and we can get sponsorship then we probably will.

Will the club ever give a fan the chance to play in a pre-season game again to help raise money for the club? ( If yes I will open the bid at £250!)

We did this once; a well-known grey haired fan played and nearly injured everyone so we decided it was best to stay away from this in future! Joking aside, we are always open to fund raising ideas but you will need to up your offer significantly……

If the club had a good cup run and a few good away draws what would the club do with the money raised?

Spend it on the team.

Is there anything that the supporters can do that don't live local to help the club except buy the shirts and so on?

Bring a friend, bring two friends. Bring the family. Bring everyone you can! Let’s grow the support base and grow the club.

Are the club any nearer tying up the NAMING RIGHTS for The Hive Stadium? - as I have a suggestion or two. These companies are both linked with bees & honey. WAGGLE DANCE Hive & THE TOBLERONE HIVE.

We have a bit of a dilemma with this. The original intention was to have a site sponsor, but the Hive name has become a brand in itself. The Hive London has become an iconic international training venue so for us to tie up a naming rights sponsor, it would have to be for very good financial reasons.

I'm fully supportive of the move to the Hive, but I'm worried about how our future supporter base is going to be developed. The club no longer has any presence in the area of its spiritual home (which of course continues to bear the club's name), so people aren't generally talking about it. But we also don't seem to be doing a great deal to develop a new supporter base around the area of our new location. Maybe the latter is to do with not wanting to tread on other clubs' toes, but it worries me as to how we're going to boost support and recognition for the club locally in the longer term. What are you views on this?

As I explained in previous answers, we are now working harder to grow the support in the local area.

Could you please give us an update about the planned medical centre for the east side of the ground. I believe that it was scheduled to be completed last year but there has been no official news about it for some time. Toshiba were involved in the financing and development of the centre; there has been some disturbing news recently about their finances so I wonder here we are with the equipping and commencement of this part of the east stand.

The relationship is very healthy and we have a very strong partnership with Toshiba. We hope to begin work on this in the next couple of months.

My Son and I have been Bees Supporters for only 6 Years but in that short time have seen the Club take huge steps forward. While I can understand some Supporters feelings of being let down with the move away from Underhill, the Hive is a great Ground with massive potential. So my Question is this: Do you intend to make the Hive the permanent Home of Barnet FC? and if so how far can Barnet grow as a Football Club?
Good luck to all at Barnet and let's hope "We're on our Way."

I wanted the club to have the best training facility they could have, and I’ve been really pleased with what we now have at The Hive. As far as the stadium is concerned; the problems with Barnet Council meant we needed a new home and as we already had the two small terraces here it made sense to build the stadium. Whether we develop it any further will really depend on the local authority. If they are prepared to work with us as a club then I’m sure we can look at doing more in the future, but otherwise we will continue to look at alternatives. The sad thing is that although other authorities have shown interest, we haven’t had anything positive come back from Barnet Council.

Has the club ever thought about a 'MURAL' on the east stand tocheer it up a little. Battleship grey isn't exactly black and amber.
Ideas:
1, a terrace of supporters like Highbury a few years back.
2, a honeycomb effect right across in amber.
3, amber stripes (hoops!) all the way along.
Just a thought, costs I know, but get a college involved and their name in 'lights' - then they'll do it ...for free?! 

Yes we are considering different designs, and we hope to provide an answer to this shortly.

Could you please update us on the development of the Hive and building timetables.

I’ve given an answer to this in a response to previous questions.


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