The second instalment of Chairman Tony Kleanthous' mid season supporter Q&A is now available.
9 - Over the years I’ve been a Barnet mascot and season ticket holder. I have bought many friends and family members to games in the hope they too would become fans. Some have, some haven’t. In the last month, for the first time, I have found myself no longer defending any of the goings on within the club. There are a range of opinions on the running of the club and the on field product. I have always considered myself a realist, and have spent many years defending the actions of the club to fellow supporters, both face to face and on various social media forums. As such my question is as follows: You’re clearly aware of the apathy and anger amongst Barnet supporters at the moment. Given the supporters are the lifeblood of the club, are you worried, and is it time for a comprehensive rethink in terms of how the club is run both on and off the pitch?
I am saddened at your disillusionment and it’s easy to get carried away with the emotion but factually we have had one of the worst seasons I can remember for injuries and although some of the players have now returned it does take a while for them to get back up to speed. However, despite our league position it’s important we keep perspective. Our off field activities allow us to increase our playing budget which is now the 10th largest in the division and despite our poor results, our losses have been marginal and we have blended in a number of youngsters which bodes well for the future.
Yes we have had problems with Heinekens fast pour system frothing and yes sometimes the tea huts run out of stock of some items but that doesn’t mean we are a poor club just that we run a tight ship and to control margins sometimes need to slim wastage. Our ticket prices are average for the division despite London costs and even though our support base is one of the lowest and costs in London are high we have managed to build facilities that are second to none. I recently came across a supporter who told me that because we were rubbish so he was now following Hadley…..really, is that what fans do, change teams when they’re losing…I don’t think so. Keep the faith, sing loud and proud and the team will win again, the tea will be warm, the burgers tasty and the beer will pour just right.
In answer to the last part of your question, other than win games of course, I’m not sure what we can do better but I suspect you are reacting to the fictional ramblings on social media so feel free to send any specific question that’s bothering you and I will be happy to reply with the facts and the background.
10 – Hate to mention the 'R' word, but what would relegation mean for Barnet FC, on and off the field?
Off the field there was a time when relegation almost meant the end of our club, particularly in the early days when I inherited huge debts and no facilities or income streams to support the loss of Football League income. However, we have moved on quite a bit since then and although, from a sporting perspective, it’s the worst thing that can happen, we are a far stronger institution today and better able to cope with the ups and downs of running a lower league football club. Don’t misunderstand, this does not make us ambivalent but just more measured in how we would handle the situation, our priority is still to try and push up the leagues. On the field, well there will be changes but I would rather not think about all this just yet, there are still matches to play.
11 - I'm sure I speak for a lot of the fans when I say that moving back to Barnet is more important to me than anything (including promotion/relegation). Do you want it to happen, I understand the logistical issues, but do you actually WANT it to happen?
I spent well over £1million and nearly twenty years trying to find a way to stay in Barnet so I find your question rather surprising. I can only affect those things that are in my control and right now my sole focus is developing what we have, hence why I gave up with the Back to Barnet campaign. Although well intentioned, they were just being given the same old run around by Barnet Council as everyone else before them and my job was to keep the Club alive. You don’t need to take my word for it though, you only have to witness how accommodating they have been to Saracens to see what could have been achieved but they always made clear to me they did not want a bigger football club.
12 - Why are ticket prices at £25 an adult, how can we attract fans when people don’t have a spare £25 to spend unless they are spoilt/slash rich, something unlikely in the Borough of Harrow?
£25 is our most expensive ticket you can buy. You can sit or stand for only £19 as an adult or 15% less if you are a Hive member or 30% less if you are a Club member. Don’t forget 20% of this goes to the taxman and in London we have the highest cost base in the whole country! Supporters should know that the EFL rules allow us to only use a MAXIMUM 55% of our TOTAL income for players salaries. Something to think about is that if we made tickets free then under the rules, based on 55% of zero our squad would have to play for free, how many players would do this? The simple truth is when you buy a pint at the pub the brewery gets the money, when you buy a pint at the club, the club not only gets the money but importantly is allowed to increase its playing budget accordingly. Remember, no one takes a penny out of Barnet FC so it all ends up in the playing budget, good or bad, win or lose.
13 - Why are we the one club apart from Blackburn rovers who charge £50 a home shirt?
I cannot comment for other clubs but simply because of the difference in quality and you need to compare like with like. There is a lot more to the make on a shirt than just the colours and we wear Jako which is like comparing Ralph Lauren with Woolworths. Bear in mind that Members also get a 15% discount and that the cost of shirts is also directly linked to volume which is quite small in our case.
14 - Last January and summer we had a great opportunity to appoint a notable name as manager. Why didn't this happen?
I have appointed experienced managers Fairclough, Sanchez, Still etc. and inexperienced managers Allen, Davids, Eames etc. and it’s very hard to know who will and who won’t bring you success, for me it’s been a mixed bag of results. Of course there have also been some interim managers which cloud the picture like Kevin Nugent last season but it can be difficult to get the person you want when the budget and crowd is quite small for the level we are playing at, hence our yoyo between divisions. However, as the infrastructure improves and the income streams allow us to increase our budget I am confident we will improve but this is an aspiration not a science.
15 - Most teams in our league use the loan market with great success i.e. grant at Notts County this season. Why don't we especially as were surrounded by teams in the area.
This is a very difficult subject. The rules were changed with the Premiership EPPP system which has allowed big teams to hoover up and take your players for next to nothing and then park them in big reserve squads hoping to get a competitive game at a lower league club on loan. The whole thing appears to be ridiculous and now some of the best young talent in our country is not even getting regular football which is a shame. Worse still, when you do loan a player and he does well with you, they just snatch him back to sit on the bench of their first team so again he doesn’t play….both your club and the player lose out. Because of this we try to be selective about how we go about our business and try to take a longer term view but I’m not saying we are right with this approach just that it’s the path we have chosen.
16 - Do you feel we have become over reliant on the youngsters over the last year or so?
Yes but only because injuries forced us to be, let’s hope they clear up and we can get some stability for the rest of this season.
17 - Numerous times this season, go to the snack hut, and no teas, chocolate bars. Never seems to change, why?
That’s a very good question and there is no excuse. Our new caterers have only been around a couple of months so hopefully this will be fixed going forward.
18 - Why have we gone 5 months without a defensive midfielder when we let two go last season?
Our coaching staff identified the need for this type of player and we thought a deal had gone through but we missed the transfer deadline so we had no choice but to utilise the squad at our disposal.
19 - Start of the season promised going for play offs/promotion, most competitive we've ever been. What's happened?
No one can guarantee results but the players we brought in and the money we spent was aimed at a serious promotion challenge and I personally believe it was only the injuries that derailed us. However, I will continue to back the team and support the boys, wherever we end up in the league and then next season we will go for it again. This is football after all…
20 - What's currently being done to ensure FL survival as communication leaves supporters feeling very distant at the moment?
We are looking at improving the coaching team and money is available to improve the squad, that’s all I can do.