'On Board, In Person' - March 2020

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Event details

Thursday 12th March 2020, 1869 Suite, Rugby Park

Present:

- Cathy Jamieson (Trust Club Director, Kilmarnock Football Club)
- James Fowler (Head of Football Operations, Kilmarnock Football Club)
- Jim Thomson (Chairman, The Killie Trust)

In attendance: 51

 
Opening remarks

Jim Thomson (JT) opened the meeting, thanking the audience for their attendance. He also reported that Trust membership was rising steadily: an average of one member per day since the start of February.
 
Trust Club Director update

Cathy Jamieson (CJ) reminded attendees that the Killie Trust is a major shareholder in the Club and, in that context, she encouraged members to put questions to her generally. She confirmed that her update would be based on her report to the Football Club Annual General Meeting of February 2020.

Salaries

A summary of Scottish Premiership average player salaries – as appeared in the media – was referred to, with Kilmarnock placed 6th.

Ticketing and attendance

Mobile ticket sales represent 1,900 per match on average. Over 30% of season tickets were bought online.

Average matchday attendances have increased over the past three consecutive seasons.

Kit manufacture

The kit deal with Nike finishes at the end of this season. The Hummel kit deal, starting in season 2020/21, is a new club record. Retail rights will no longer be with Just Sport and will be coming back to the Club.

Hospitality

Hospitality venues are now run by the Club, with profits coming directly to the Club. Money was spent in this area as an investment to improve facilities.

Expenditure

This has been significant this year, with some key areas being replacing the pitch, improving facilities, fixtures and fittings and additional staff.

Sponsorship

In addition to the new primary partner, Brownings, more commercial partners will be announced soon, including a sponsor for the Youth Academy.

Moffat Stand redevelopment

Plans were shown of the proposed redevelopment, which Billy Bowie (BB) is leading on.

CJ said that she was aware that concerns had been raised about the future of the personalised bricks in the Moffat Stand wall. She confirmed that she had spoken with BB and that there would be a replica constructed in the new development if the existing wall had to move and those who paid for bricks will not lose out. The funding for the memorial garden comes from external funding secured by Ray Montgomerie and the player budget is not affected in any way.
 
150th Anniversary

CJ gave an overview of the 150th anniversary activities and made specific reference to:
  • ‘Killie Forever’ exhibition being one of the most popular hosted by the Scottish Football Museum. It has now been extended to April.
  • The 150th Anniversary book production. A huge amount of work has been put in by John Livingston and Richard Cairns, supported by Gregg McEwan.
 
Community and Engagement

Kilmarnock Community Sports Trust (KCST) and Crosshouse Children’s Fund are this year’s official charity partners. CJ advised that Christine Cuthbertson (CC) is the lead person dealing with charity and fundraising requests. If members are looking for donation for charity fundraiser, they can approach CC and they will get two complementary match tickets.

The Killie Cares Fund has replaced the Killie Lotto, and a new App is available to join online.  After running costs and prizes, the profits will be shared between the Youth Academy, KCST and Kilmarnock Women’s Team.
 
Current issues

Covid-19 was addressed. Karen Costello has contacted the SFA and SPFL seeking clarity on the possibility of ‘closed doors’ matches. CJ added that the SFA and SPFL are holding joint meetings on a daily basis but that no decision has yet been made. She had made enquires about the possibility of offering live broadcast of closed door matches via KillieTV would be in breach of broadcasting contract at present. 

(During the course of the meeting CJ received and read out an email from SPFL / SFA joint group, confirming that matches would go ahead at the weekend.)
 
Head of Football Operations update
 

James Fowler (JF) pointed out that the presentation was the one used at the AGM in February 2020. He said that he was delighted to be back at Kilmarnock. His aim is to keep the club moving forward and successful. The youth pathway is very important and selling players should be part of the business model. In addition, supporting young players in difficult times is important. JF asks all football personnel in the club to come to him with anything – as there is no Chief Executive, he is the person present most often.

JF commented that experience of being a coach and assistant manager has given him an insight into what his current role requires: strategic planning of all football operations, leading on recruitment and talent identification and strengthening the pathway between the academy and the first team.
 
 
Targets in the role

These include producing more home-grown players, regularly pushing to attain ‘Top 6’ finishes, and being the most successful provincial club - all while remaining profitable.
 
Recruitment policy

Key elements of this will include: looking at what players the Club already has in the Academy, creating sellable assets, increasing scouting network and investing in new technology to assist backroom staff to speed up the recruitment process.

A further component is creating player profiles for each position, utilising scout reports and combining these with live data.

References from players, coaches and staff are an important part of the recruitment process and to an extent explain the lack of recruitment in January. JF knew Nicke Kabamba and knows players who had played with him: they could not speak highly enough of him as a person and as a player. While conceding that wages are important, JF stated that the Club does not want that to be the primary factor in a player choosing to move to Kilmarnock. JF cited his own time at the Club, stating that money should not be the primary motive.
 
Academy update

School of Football programme is proving successful and running well.

Two academy players have been given debuts by Alex Dyer and there are other players capable of making the step up.

Major clubs are interested in the Club’s Academy talents. One young player, Liam Smith, is close to leaving. Although this is a shame for the Club, on financial grounds it is difficult to turn down the offer. Likewise, the opportunity is difficult for the player to turn down.

The youth teams will compete in the Milk Cup in August 2020 – this is seen as a great opportunity to grow as players and as people.

Paul McDonald is championing Modern Apprenticeships.
 
Killie Women

Killie Women FC have been brought back under the auspices of the club. JF believes that the new manager is a great appointment: a good coach and interested in Academy players as well as the first team.
 
Question and answer

JT opened by encouraging questions. He stated that both CJ and JF are approachable and that members will struggle to find a more open person than CJ in her role. He added that ‘festering’ on social media is not necessary - the Club is involved in the ‘On Board, In Person’ events to increase transparency.

 
Q: What will the process be for selecting a manager in the summer?

JF: There are many variables. Alex Dyer was chosen as he had the best understanding of the players. More generally, the Club requires: a coach who is willing to play young players, has done well elsewhere and has good references.

CJ: The process last summer was an open process with a significant number of applications. CJ said she was very disappointed that it had not worked out with Angelo Alessio but could not go into detail as to why it had not worked out.

CJ added, in relation to the process in the summer: part of the issue with a proper recruitment strategy is that it sometimes takes time, as was the case in the summer. It probably took longer than the Club might have liked but partly that was down to the rigorous process.
 
Q: Was a formal report made after the opening league game of the season?

CJ: There has been no published report - information was supplied to footballing authorities and Police Scotland. She had been advised that there was no evidence that bar codes had been shared by visiting supporters.

The Club has made a number of changes to matchday operations. All Chadwick Stand turnstiles are now available for visiting supporters at Old Firm and busy matches. The Club has worked closely with the police and East Ayrshire Council and has received very positive feedback after subsequent visits by the Old Firm clubs. Full details cannot be released but action was taken, and people were pursued by police as appropriate following the first game of the season.
 
Q: What happened in the January transfer market?

JF: January was tough with the change of manager, but the target positions did not really change. Aaron Tshibola spoke to the manager about coming back but he decided to go to Portugal. A deal for player on loan from England was close but Kilmarnock decided against it. The Club missed out on five or six players on deadline day.

Lessons have been learned from the experience. Alex Dyer was keen to get the right players rather than players just to make up the numbers.
 
Q: Is the artificial pitch a problem when recruiting players?

JF: It does not come up regularly but those with pre-existing injuries can be a bit more wary. Younger players are fine with it as they have grown up playing on these surfaces.
 
Q: What will be the likely impact of any Coronavirus on the budget?

CJ: It will have a significant impact on football clubs as it will have on all sorts of other businesses and organisations.
 
Q: Were we interested in signing Youssouf Mulumbu in January?

JF: He had been in contact with a backroom staff member and he had been invited to train with the Club during the winter break. That never materialised. He has the manager’s number, should he wish to contact him.
 
Q: Will there be a competition to design the new kit?

CJ: The tight timescales mean that this is not an option. The new kit design is being worked on at present.
The Club hopes to receive the second batch of retro strips by Easter, but the Coronavirus impact on supply chains might mean that does not happen.
 
Q: When will we see the rebirth of Nutz?

CJ: It is hoped that the new mascot will be introduced on Saturday at the St Mirren game – although it will not be Nutz. The best ideas from the competition to design the mascot have been amalgamated into one creation. The BBC have followed the story of the mascot’s creation. It was the intention have a fan zone for kids on Saturday to tie in with launch of the new mascot but Coronavirus means that will not be possible.
 
Q: Will recruitment in the summer depend on who the manager is?

JF: A lot of it depends on the player profiles that we have created. But the manager plays a role in that too.
 
Q: What happens if the league is cancelled today due to Coronavirus?

CJ: While not aware of anything in place, CJ commented that the authorities will probably be talking about that scenario but the Club have heard nothing, official or unofficial.
 
Q: Is there any chance the new strip will be launched before we go on holiday?

CJ: It is hoped so but manufacturing processes are not entirely within the Club’s control.
 
Q: Should we not start the application process now for the manager’s role to have him in place early on?

JF: We are monitoring candidates who previously applied as well as those doing well in Scotland and England. It is all about building up a network of knowledge.
 
Q: How far could we utilise Hummel’s back catalogue?

CJ: One of the reasons Hummel were chosen as kit supplier is the availability of bespoke kits as well as the range and availability of leisure wear. A range of sizes and ages are also available. Also, bringing the retail side of things back under the auspices of the club gives the opportunity to consider having different kinds of merchandise in the club shop. Identity is an important part of the kit deal. The Club wants to hear from the fans about the items people would like to buy, even if that is garden gnomes!
 
Q: Will the new club shop include a new ticket office?

CJ: The aim is to improve the whole experience, with offices, shop and ticket office all at one location. However, no date can be given at this stage for when the development process will start.
 
Q: How would relegation affect work being done around the Club?

CJ: Everything that the Club wants to do depends on money coming in. The Club does not have debt and the Board doesn’t want to have debt. The more money that comes in, the more can be done but sustainability is key. The Club looks at likely income and works accordingly. Any drop in income obviously has an effect.
 
Q: With the fan zone for kids, is there an option for fans in other stands to access that?

CJ: Absolutely - we want that to happen. We also want away fans to be able to have their kids in the fanzone. It is important that kids get to have a friendly rivalry but able to mix together.
 
Q: Can the Club allow children to enter the Killie Club?

Hospitality Manager Emma Wyper (EW) responded: a licence to allow this is being looked into for the new season although it is not something the Club can guarantee will be issued.

 Q: Was the trial opening of the Killie Club on away match days profitable?

EW replied that there was not a huge influx but it was a start. CJ commented that this was something fans asked for and it is being tried.

CJ referenced the return to using the Moffat Stand for home fans only at Old Firm fixtures – a decision made as a result of Kilmarnock supporters’ feedback. The Board made the decision knowing it had financial implications. CJ stated that she felt it is one of the best decisions the Club has made in her time on the Board and commended Billy Bowie and Phyllis McLeish for fully supporting the decision.
 
Q : Would ‘Kids for a Quid’ be an incentive to increase attendance?

JT: The Trust will always look at ways to incentivise attendance but the Club needs to make money. Creating the right atmosphere in the Moffat Stand is key to its success.
 
Q: Will the sponsorship deal with Brownings herald the return of the Killie Pie?

CJ:  Kilmarnock Pie is the brand which Brownings use.
 
Q: In the current circumstances surrounding the Coronavirus outbreak, has the Club checked its insurance policies?

CJ said that this has happened, and discussions are taking place. Decisions are need elsewhere before any action can be taken in this area.
 
Killie Trust - Chair's update

JT confirmed that a new voting App has been chosen to canvas Trust members’ opinions on proposed projects to be funded by ‘Trust In Killie’. Trust Communications Lead Gordon Gillen confirmed that the first vote will be going out soon, with three projects for subscribers to choose from.

Every department of the football club is suggesting ideas for projects. JT plans to also speak with Kilmarnock Women FC following their return to the formal structure of the Club.

Proposed and potential projects include:
  • The Club’s Media Team have suggested a camera to support their work.
  • Community Engagement Manger Paul Di Giacomo has proposed table tennis tables for football skill development.
  • Renewing the reserved season ticket seats.
  • A match day scoreboard.
  • Improving the match day experience for visually impaired and blind fans.
  • Handrails on staircases.
  • Upgrading the toilet facilities.
  • A goalkeeping academy to work in conjunction with the KCST community development programme. The long-term plan is to work along with local youth teams.
  • Creation of a sensory room.
 
JT added that ideas were welcome. The ‘Trust In Killie’ campaign is generating £6,000 per month. 25% will go small projects and 75% on longer-term projects.
 
General Trust business
  • Going to away games is expensive. The Trust is looking at possible proposals in this area.
  • The third Annual Golf Day is on 22 May.
  • The Trust Christmas party is booked for 27 November.
  • The Killie Club is open before matches - every single penny goes to the Club. At the request of supporters, it is also open before and after matches when the club are playing away. The Killie Club is also looking to get a Kids’ Licence for match days.
  • JT has been visiting young supporters’ associations in secondary schools across East Ayrshire. The question was asked about schools in North Ayrshire and JT said he would be keen for that to happen. schools. Although the Club cannot visit North Ayrshire schools, due to SFA policies, JT can visit, representing the Trust. JT is keen to have all schools represented at Rugby Park.
  • Mary Hubble has kindly gifted her father, Robert Fleeting’s, shares to the Trust. David Heath has also kindly donated his shares.
  • The Trust has nearly 300,000 shares in the Club.
Closing remarks

JT closed the meeting by paying tribute to CJ as a fantastic ambassador for the Trust and Club, adding that she will be hard to replace when the time comes. He reminded members that she does the role on a voluntary basis and is very approachable.

JT commented that the Trust is interested in wider aspects of Scottish football and the ‘greater good’. He stated that creating transparency is the aim of the ‘On Board’ events. JT again thanked JF for his contribution and openness.

JF in turn thanked the Trust, adding that it was great to find out more about all of the hard work being done.

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