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Northampton Town Chairman Kelvin Thomas, Chief Executive James Whiting and supporters representative Tom Cliffe were all present at Thursday's Open Forum, hosted by the It's All Cobblers To Me podcast at Sixfields.

Among the items discussed were the East Stand and development, the club's relationship with the Trust board, the new ticketing system and big screen, the Fan led Review, the Supporters Representative, the club's 125th anniversary and Football Investment including the training ground, before a Q&A session took place with those supporters present.

At the meeting, the Chairman explained the reasons for the current East Stand delays after agreeing a deal approved by the West Northamptonshire Council Cabinet back in March. Both delays are totally outside the club’s control and they include the invoking of the ACV and a possible judicial review.

He also explained that one of the complications for the club with the existing leases is a remediation clause meaning remediation on the wider land has to be in place by 2024. Therefore, to protect the club and simplify matters, he further explained that the club had instructed local planning consultant firm CC Town Planning alongside national planning consultants and environmental impact experts Lichfields to advise on all aspects of planning, but especially the remediation strategy and work that is essential to protect the land as a club asset. The club fully expects remediation will be dealt with satisfactorily as required by the lease.


Open Forum presentation

The Chairman also confirmed, once again, that the club will complete the East Stand to a good standard as part of the development and there will be protections in the final contract with West Northamptonshire Council to that that effect. He also showed the room both media reports and correspondence with the Trust from both the club and West Northamptonshire Council in April that confirmed this.

The Chairman went on to highlight some of the investment in football at the club which includes the current squad, Academy, analytical software, scouting network and exciting improvements at the training ground which will hopefully see the club have its first ever private training base and building. The goal of this investment is to produce the best training environment the club has ever had.

The full meeting is available to be heard via the It's All Cobblers To Me podcast below.


Q: Is there any chance of any more games at Sixfields for Northampton Town Women?
JW: It is great they have won promotion and their profile is rising. We have had some conversations and are looking at dates and we hope to announce some home games here at Sixfields shortly.

Q: I am a Trust Life Member but neither I nor anyone else I know support the current Trust board. I was not invited to vote on the ACV decision and they should not be pretending to speak on behalf of supporters. I also believe the Trust board is split between some good members and some I would rather not comment on.
KT: I believe if you represent a body that you should act in such a way to represent that body. I am baffled by the actions of the Trust. How can you allegedly make a £3 million bid and not speak to the leaseholder and not speak to the fans three weeks on? Someone leaked the apparent bid to a media organisation and that is all anyone knows. It is very strange and it is the least open and transparent action you could ever see and I believe that supporters deserve better.
This is an Open Forum so where are the Trust board? This is an ideal opportunity to ask us questions. You don’t have to make statements. Come and have a debate. Come and make your point. Explain your actions. Talk to your members. Talk to the fans.
If any of the club board acted in the way the Trust board have in the correspondence or social media posts you have seen tonight, I would be demanding their resignation immediately.
TC: I am incredibly proud to be a Director of the club. It is the biggest responsibility I have ever had. I attending meetings and take part in conversations to represent you as supporters, not to impose my views on things. The club is incredibly open, if ever supporters have a question then please just ask and I can seek answers. If I ask something I get meaningful answers that are open and honest.

Q: Thank you to Kelvin and David Bower for their continuity you have given the Football Club. If the Judicial Review is sorted, is everything set in place to move forward and can you give any timeframes?
KT: The reality is we will then go to contract which will take around three months. Our commitment is that as soon as we can, we will get on with things. It makes no sense for us to delay things. There is income waiting there for the club when the stand is completed and to delay makes no sense.

Q: There has been some speculation linking Jon Brady with Huddersfield Town. Is there any truth in that?
KT: We have had no approach or any conversations. I am sure Jon will attract interest as he is doing very well and when your manager is linked it is a sign you are doing well. He is under contract and we are very happy with where we are.

Q: What sustainable projects could we see from the club in the near future?
KT: We are in conversations about installing electric vehicle chargers at Sixfields.
Damon Fox from Community Trust : W will be having a sustainability day at the Newport game on October 29th to highlight some of the work we are doing.

Q: What is the plan once the land is built on and the club is developed and we are where we want to be?
KT: Football Club plans evolve. We have probably been here longer than we expected to be but we have been on this plan to finish the stand sensibly and prudently for the club. When we get that done it improves things for the club and we will continue the investment, continue the training ground improvements and we will continue operating as a community club at the best level we can. We have a very good, community football club here with good people running the club day to day and we can be very proud of that. We have never just been here for the re-development. That is a false narrative that is not true. There is misconception that we will get the land and then sell it the next day. That is wrong and just not realistic. We love our football and we will continue investing in a sensible way and being part of the club for as long as we feel we can make a difference and we enjoy doing so.

Q: Are there any plans to change kick off times to reduce energy costs?
JW: There is not much talk at the moment, much of the chat is in the media rather than from clubs. It is not currently on the agenda. You might save money on floodlights but then you might lose on bar takings etc but it is not something high on the EFL agenda at the moment.

Q: How much will the training ground improvements help attract players?
JW: Over the last 5 or 6 years it has become a bigger issue for players. More and more platers want to see your facilities and this summer we beat off a lot of League 1 clubs to some of our signings because they saw the facilities at Moulton and that is a big selling point for us.

Q: What can we do to help even more academy players in to the first team?
KT: It is a gradual process. Shaun McWilliams took some time to develop. He is 24 now and he benefitted from some loan spells in non-league. We have produced some very good players who we have lost through EPPP, for example Carney Chukwuemeka and others who would be in the first team here had they still been here. I think we do a good job of getting the best players in to the academy, whether we are able to keep them through to regular first team level is a challenge under the current guidelines.
JW: We have a technical board at the club and we sit down with all the scholars to decide their development pathway. We see them going out on loan as a huge part of their development but with some of the young pros, with the injuries we have, we need them on our bench on the moment. The average number of professional debuts for an EFL club are three a year and that reduces to 0.6 per year for a league debut and we target to try and over achieve on that. With the investment from the owners, the facilities we now have and the increased number of staff we have in the academy, we think we will see the rewards from that in the future.

Q: Car parking is an issue at Sixfields. We have to arrive earlier and earlier and if crowds go up we will have problems parking. Are there any solutions?
KT: We have started conversations with the University about other car parks, about park and rides and we would like to add more parking behind the East Stand. I think we can do some work to tighten up and use space better so there a lot of conversations we have. That said, there are plenty of other grounds which have much less parking than we do.

Q: When Martin Foyle left we were worried, but the recruitment since has been very good.
KT: It is nice of you to say that about the recruitment, Martin leaving created a bigger conversation that led to us looking at things a little differently. We didn’t want to rely on one person. Our system now is very robust, we have an in depth recruitment system that involves a number of staff and is not reliant on one individual.

Q: We will receive a fee for Carney Chukwuemeka moving to Chelsea, will that go back in to the academy?
KT: It was a good deal and we are really pleased for Carney. As owners, we invest a lot in to the academy to fund it each year anyway. We cannot comment on numbers involved with the Carney transaction as there are strict confidentiality clauses attached to EPPP deals however the money will be spread over a number of seasons. We will take a view at the time on how it is to be used, and for example it may well go to the training ground improvements or something else, but either way the Academy is important to us and will continue to be funded.

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