The latest Northampton Town Supporters Advisory Panel meeting took place in Carr’s Bar at the PTS Academy Stadium on Thursday night.
For those who were unable to attend, a review of the meeting can be found below:
Chairman Kelvin Thomas, Chief Executive James Whiting, Head of Media Gareth Willsher and Supporters Liaison Officer Wendy Lambell attended from the club.
The first topic discussed was the safe standing barrier testing process that James Whiting explained is ongoing. One part of the test has been completed and work is continuing with the engineers before a consultation period with supporters will begin.
A discussion on the advantages and disadvantages followed with some supporters in favour and some against but the club stressed the consultation period is still to come and this is a very important part of the process
Praise was offered for the value of a season ticket in the Sheinman Opticians Stand, before the discussion moved on to the club store, with Wendy Lambell asking for feedback on the store, is it suiting the needs of supporters or are there items missing that supporters would like to see stocked?
The size of the replica kit was discussed as was the introduction of a queuing system when the shop gets busy. A discussion followed regarding the West Stand kiosk queues, particularly at half time. James Whiting said this is an area the club are conscious of, and improvements have been made since the club brought the kiosks back in house and card payment facilities is a project the club are looking at. Wendy Lambell said the club are looking at trying to reduce and manage the queues. Other ideas being looked at include pre-ordering food/drink from your phone.
A question was asked about having more bar staff for the bar behind the Sheinman Opticians Stand and the club are now pre-pouring some drinks to try and reduce waiting times.
The South gravel car park issue came up. James Whiting advised the club operated the car park under licence until the landowner sold the car park. James said the club were told on Boxing Day morning that the sale was due to complete and we couldn’t use the car park. The club are trying to talk to the new owners but there has been a long period between exchange of contracts and completion of sale and as yet lawyers haven’t been able to either grant us permission to use the car park or to speak to the new owners, but the club are chasing this matter constantly.
A question was asked about whether the Northampton Town Ladies can play a home game at the PTS Academy Stadium again. Blisworth, who host most of the Ladies games currently, have been very good to the club allowing the Ladies team to play there and the club are certainly open to hosting some future games at the main stadium subject to costs and pitch conditions.
A question was asked about the ongoing ownership of the club.
The club confirmed they are always open to investors or partners who have the desire, willingness and finance to take the club forward but until then it is business as usual, and this won’t have any detrimental impact on any budgets for next season. There are no financial issues and the current Board of Directors are able to fund the club for as long as they want or as long as is required. The Supporters Trust’s ownership plans were then questioned, and some brief discussion was had.
The club confirmed they had some initial discussion with the Supporters Trust about 5 months ago but not much detail had been given since and they are interested to see what plan the Trust announce at their meeting on March 10th. A key point of that presentation has to be the finance and where that is coming from as if the Trust did want to purchase the club then that would require significant funding itself, then of course the club requires ongoing funding.
Off the field the club is strong, stable and healthy. Trust ownership usually evolves from a crisis situation and luckily that is not the case here. The Trust have indicated they may be looking to put together a hybrid model with private investors and individuals and if that was the case, it was agreed, that it was important for transparency for the identity of those investors to be released at the meeting on March 10th if not before.
Discussion then moved on to the East Stand:
Discussions are continuing with Northampton Borough Council over the East Stand and they are very positive. The relationship is excellent and the club and the Borough Council are working together to complete the East Stand in a way that is best for the club, the supporters and the Borough Council and the club will make an announcement and update supporters as soon as they can but we need to allow the process to be completed.
A supporter asked if any drawings and plans for the East Stand could be released. The club explained that while the situation remains fluid, the club are still reluctant to do so until the situation is resolved and can be explained with certainty. The club understood the frustration this can cause and it is also frustrating for the club.
A question about the Academy and the youth team followed which James Whiting responded:
“We are delighted with the Academy and the progress they are making. A strong Academy does require funding – there have been a number of EFL clubs who have closed their Academy because of funding - but we are happy to continue to financially support our Academy to bring these local players through and a sign of our strength is that we have had a new Head of Academy coming to join us from a League 1 club.
“The Education programme is another big positive, we have a fabulous facility there and we think that new programme and the Academy’s strength means the club’s infrastructure is unrecognisable from where it was five years ago.”
James Whiting added that investment in the infrastructure is ongoing: “Not many years ago the club didn’t have a full time sports scientist or analyst for the first team, now we have both not just for the first team but for the Academy too. The success of the Academy isn’t happening by accident, the club is continuing to invest in the future.”
We would like to thank all supporters who attended the meeting for their time and input which is always appreciated.