The fourth installment of the Q&A with Chairman Tony Kleanthous is available below.
31 - Will we ever play in Barnet again under your control?
A very good question and I would not rule out the possibility. In order for this to happen we would need a good site similar to The Hive and a supportive Council, to date both of these have eluded us in the borough of Barnet but who knows…
32 - Seeing as The Hive was always intended to be a training facility, and only a temporary venue for home games, has there been any work done towards finding a permanent home in Barnet? If so, what progress has been made?
I announced two or three years ago now that I was going to focus on building a new home at The Hive and that’s what we have been doing. It was made clear to me by Barnet Council that they had nothing for us and this was subsequently confirmed by Cllr Coleman when he let the truth slip out during one of his many rants and blogs. I am aware that there is a group of supporters who wish to persevere with Barnet Council and credit to them for their faith but after nearly twenty years and over a million pounds of expenditure chasing this red herring, I’m afraid I just do not share their enthusiasm anymore. I have had to endure a lot of personal criticism over this decision (some very personal) and there are a lot of myths flying around but I have always been transparent and clearly published our aspirations in the two “Working Together” documents, Harrow Council met these and Barnet Council did not. Constantly raking over this old issue serves little purpose, breeds negativity and just divides support.
33 - Why have we been through so many managers?
I have pondered this myself but if you take out temporary and interim appointments then I think we are about average for a lower division club. We have tried managers with previous experience as well as others highly rated in the game but have a generally mixed record with our appointments. We seem to do well in the National League and poorly in the Football League but there is no simple formula to employing a manager and you can see this from the other clubs who do well and then lose their manager and end up back where they started. It’s very rare for us to appoint someone that has not been generally well received so you can only use your best judgement at the time and hope it works out.
34 - Would you consider selling the club?
This has cropped up previously and the answer is of course yes. The game has changed considerably during my tenure and I have done my best to steer us through this turbulence but Barnet FC has now become a big project and we need to start making the best of the facilities we have to offer. This means success on the pitch and any change, be it in ownership structure or otherwise, that provides the investment needed to progress further must be considered.
35 - Do you have any plans to further our success as a team?
That’s the constant preoccupation and we are investing to improve, trust me, no one here is happy at our League position.
36 - Why do you treat us like customers and not fans that have been a part of this community for years?
I am very sorry if you do not feel part of our community, the intention is to treat you as both and with the utmost respect. The problem is I just can’t guarantee results and when the team is doing badly the organisation tends to focus solely on this and then we end up leaving loose ends all over the place. An example of this is the catering which needed more time and attention but there was a change in the ownership of the operating company and we didn’t focus on doing the little things properly. This is not an excuse, just an explanation, and hence why we decided to outsource the concessions to another contractor in November.
37 - Do you intend to reconsider ticket prices if we get relegated?
This really is a difficult one for us because a reduction would also reduce our playing budget which makes it harder to attract the players we need. In fact our ENTIRE gate receipts for the season just about cover the costs of our top two paid players so you can see what we are up against. We did freeze prices for three years and when they were increased by an average of ten percent we had a huge backlash yet over the same period player wages had increased by over fifty per cent therefore it really is a balancing act. I have said many a time that I would half the price if it would double the crowd, hence the membership promotion, so I am open to suggestions. If you have ideas of how to improve things then please inform your liaison group as they create a good forum to discuss these things.
38- What happened to our forever promised promotion push which was the reason for the original ticket increase?
Oh my, talk about shoot yourself in the foot. I really believed we would push up this season and but for injuries I am certain we would have been in a play-off position but this is football after all! Sorry if I let my enthusiasm run away with me but I too am a supporter, lesson learnt!
39 - How would you describe the role of James Thorne since he was appointed and what are his objectives for the next 12 months?
James is still settling in but his job is to knit together the administration, marketing and commercial functions of the Club with the football requirements. Effectively, he runs the operation.
40 - Does the complete lack of atmosphere at The Hive concern you?
Yes terribly. On a good day the atmosphere is amazing but these are too far between and I accept the results have not helped in this regard. When we played Morecambe, I remember walking out into the stadium everyone was singing and upbeat. We started the game slowly but the singing continued and the positivity fed through to the team and we had a good win. Several players told me after the game that the crowd picked them up that day so never underestimate the difference you make. I also thought the Indian drummers that came for a couple of matches were excellent so hopefully we will see more of them.