Here are the first 20 answers from this seasons Q&A with Chairman Tony Kleanthous
1. Can you please try out a test period for away fan coaches like at most clubs in our division to boost away attendances?
AAK. We persisted with coaches to away matches for a number of years and unfortunately, they were very rarely used. If we had a regular commitment from 40 or 50 fans then we would be happy to reintroduce this.
2. Can you shed light on rumours about players paying for their lunches and medical rehabilitation?
AAK. We do not provide lunch for players and do not know of many teams outside of the Premier League and Championship that do. All our players have FULL Medical Insurance and with the opening of TIC Health, we actually have the most extensive medical diagnostic facilities of any Club in Europe right on our doorstep. You will have also noticed that the back of our Club shirts features The Schoen Clinic in Wigmore Street which is one of the foremost MSK specialist Centres in Europe and where most of our players (depending on the type of injury) are now treated. I think someone is pulling your leg…
3. What plans do you have for the team for the next 5 years or so?
AAK. Same as always, win matches, get promoted!
4. What is your relationship like with DC and have there been any approaches for him from other clubs?
AAK. I believe my relationship with Darren is pretty good and I have not had any approaches.
5. When will we get the premier of the Underhill movie because a lot of fans are fascinated about the film including myself?
AAK. We have screened it here a few times and had planned to run a “Directors Cut” with the Opening of Legends which was going to involve Barry, Paul and Martin, the three managers who won us three titles. Events at the time precluded this Event from going ahead but it’s a great film and I know Simon Emmet is working hard on trying to get this broadcast in the near future.
6. With the sad demise of Bury FC a prime example of where overspending can lead, do you feel obligated to spend as cautiously as possible? I ask this because I am sure me and many other fans will be wondering what the money from our FA cup run ended up going towards, as well as the money received from the sale of John Akinde to Lincoln. Furthermore, Ricardo Santos was bought for £100k a few seasons back. With this in mind, it would be useful for some kind of transparency with regards to the clubs income and spending power.
AAK. I am a little surprised by this question as I feel we are as transparent as can be and more so than most Clubs. It’s no secret that our salaries are around £100k per month and our matchday income is a quarter of this. The investment I have made into The Hive has meant that we now have income streams seven days a week that feed into the team and bridge the gap, otherwise, we would be showing losses of over £1m per season.
New accounting rules mean that group costs will be even more transparent than ever and last year’s accounts are likely to show a loss of approximately £500k and that’s including the Cup revenue. With regards to spending, the Club is not allowed to spend more than a percentage of its income, although we did recently pay a very good fee to sign Alfie Pavey from Dover.
The most important point to remember is that players in the National League are earning similar amounts to those in League Two but our income has dropped by about £1.25m per season.
7. Do you think the drop in attendances could be addressed if we moved back to Barnet and is this a realistic possibility in the medium term?
AAK. Of course moving back to Barnet would be every supporters preferred option and if Barnet Council offered us a viable alternative we would be there. You may recall at the time that Brian Coleman admitted in one of his blogs how the Council had NO INTENTION of allowing us to build a bigger stadium.
I spent hundreds of thousands of pounds drawing up the plans for Copthall and South Underhill, only for them to be refused and then incredibly, the sites given away for FREE to other Clubs, all this to prevent us expanding in the Borough!
Time moves on and the misdeeds of others does not mean that Barnet may not one day have an honest administration who would welcome us back and I would gladly entertain anyone in Barnet Council who was a supporter of Barnet FC.
8. The club has totally lost its community/family feel. What are the plans to re-engage with the fans that have drifted away over the years? What can be done to rebuild bridges and trust in a club that’s been broken?
AAK. Unfortunately, I agree that the bridge of trust has been broken.
I believe this was caused by the horrible attempt from a few misguided supporters to form a Trust and take over our great Supporters Association for their own motives. However, that’s in the past now and to try and move the Club forward, we helped set up a Liaison Group which is open to all supporters. I have to say they are a great bunch and really help bridge the gap by bringing issues to our attention and I hope they will want to get more involved this coming season.
The Over 50s football group are also amazing and they have been doing some magnificent PR behind the scenes, so slowly we are starting to build together again.
Ultimately, it needs to come from you the supporters because you are the lifeblood of the Club.
9. Tony, there’s a general feeling amongst fans that you’ve lost interest in Barnet FC and don’t have the appetite or the ambition to get us back into the EFL. Apart from the annual Q&A, we hardly hear from you or receive updates about your intentions or future plans for the Club. What are your personal goals as Chairman and your plans for the Club over the next 5 years?
AAK. I think this is called getting older!
It’s no secret I have had my fair share of health scares and the strain of being at the helm for so long does show from time to time but never doubt my enthusiasm, the fire still burns…
Of course, I rely on managers and coaches and yes I have been let down by quite a few but I have continued to build and invest and everything we do here feeds into providing the best team we can. I know supporters all want success on the pitch but that’s not really something I can control so I try to keep my focus on the things I can do rather than complain about the things I can’t.
As for the next five years, well we are currently working on the next phase of development here at The Hive which I hope will give everyone a lift so watch out for some big news in the coming weeks.
10. Tony, we seem to be identifying more as orange than amber. From the replica kit, the colours used around the ground, to the limited merchandise in the Club shop. Is there a reason for this and can you guarantee the Club name won’t be changing too?
AAK. It’s true, our Amber has definitely moved more towards Orange than Yellow! This was simply because our numbers were small and purchasing things in bespoke colours makes merchandise incredibly expensive so we have had to go more towards a standard colour. We chose orange as opposed to yellow so we could keep our individuality and not be identified or confused with our neighbours up the road. The important thing is our colours are unique to our Club.
11. With dwindling crowds, no atmosphere and poor matchday experience, do you regret the move from Barnet? Do you also regret saying that we could survive on crowds of 300-400 due to the set-up of the Hive?
AAK. I regret having to leave Barnet but not the move from Underhill as I know there would have been no Club left at all if we hadn’t had the strength and support to organise an alternative home.
Some have rose tinted glasses as our crowds were dwindling long before our move and the atmosphere was not the best either but this is not unique to us. This is a general problem that all Clubs are now facing in the modern era with only a few that have a strong local identity and recent success bucking the trend.
I believe the fact that we are still managing and competing on very low crowds also proves my survival point but what everyone wants is for us to thrive and not just survive and for that, we need to start filling the stadium…
12. Why do Barnet no longer appear at the Barnet Christmas fair?? To involve young fans (how I got to my first game?)
AKK. I didn’t know we were no longer represented so I have taken this up with Dan Martin, our new Group Marketing Manager and new Head of Bees in the Community who has already reached out to the organisers of the event and we are looking to get involved so watch this space.
13. Over the last year, we’ve had a couple of occasions in the form of games against Brentford and Potters Bar where tickets have gone on sale only to personal callers at the Hive. While I understand that these were both in situations where the game was arranged at short notice, it is nevertheless difficult for many fans to get there. I personally travel from Cambridge to games and I know that others travel even further. In future, in such situations, is it possible to offer the option of sending them by special delivery, with of course the recipient paying the cost and accepting that if the ticket goes missing in the post then tough? I would certainly appreciate it and I am sure many others would as well.
AAK. Due to logistics and the general increase in credit card fraud, we no longer take phone orders so this is a fair point. However, we should come up with a plan, if only at least for our members so I will talk with the ticketing staff about this.
14. Why did it take so long to get a number 9 and then when we did get one, why did it get to the stage of becoming desperate and anyone will do?
AAK. We previously agreed terms with two other players but Darren wasn’t convinced and wanted to make sure he got exactly the right fit for the role he had in mind. Eventually, we had to purchase someone from a rival so it’s very wrong to say “anyone will do” and very disrespectful to the player who has given his best and I’m sure will come good once fit again.
Ultimately, it’s the managers who decides on the players they want.
15. Forget the stadium for a moment and The Hive site. Is it fair to say you have failed with regards to matters on the pitch? In all the years you have been our Chairman, all we are is a yoyo team and never been close to League 1. What can you do to prove to supporters (those left) that you care about the football side and not just the other money making areas around the Hive?
AAK. I remember us winning the Football Conference with Bristol Rovers finishing second and then both starting the following season with a home crowd of 1,600 versus theirs of 11,600!!! This is why we yoyo and unless supporters get behind the team then the team will not improve.
You make your own luck in life and it’s about time we started to shout loud and proud if we want to get back to the Football League.
With regards the money making areas…..what do you think is paying for the football you watch week in week out!
16. Is it too much to ask for the screen opposite the main stand to be fixed? It’s been broken for nearly 2 months? What is the issue?
AAK. Job done, let’s hope it lasts this time!
17. You have been Chairman of Barnet FC for a long time. Simply, would it be fair to say you have lost your enthusiasm for the football side? If as I expect you will say you are as enthusiastic now as you were when you came, prove it, as things like signing Graham Westley as Manager surely you knew how that would end up?
AAK. See number 9.
The Graham Westley appointment was by Mark McGhee and he made that clear in his interviews at the time but I accept I authorised this.
18. Appreciate the overlarge squad had to be cut, but is there still money in budget for emergency loans/transfers that could be crucial in hitting promotion/play-off target?
AAK. We just seem to have sooo many players and we are still paying for our last loan signing who last week was playing in the QPR under 23s!
The sheer squad numbers proves how much support I provide my team staff and I always will but sometimes we need to spend our money much, much, more wisely!
19. With the squad that we have, will we sign any players in January in order to push for promotion and help with the FA Cup run?
AAK. See 18.
20. Is there a possibility of lowering the football shirt prices as they are the same price as Premier League shirts?
AAK. Premier League shirts cost about a third of the price of our shirts to produce due to the difference in volume. We are fortunate that we can even match their prices with a good quality shirt given some of the kit worn at this level.