Trust report on SUFC 11/12 AGM

The 2011/12 accounts were accepted unanimously, with Rex Garton and Jason Oxenforth re-elected unanimously as directors, Forrester Boyd unanimously as auditors, John Godfrey unanimously as president and the vice-presidents unanimously en bloc.

Brian Laws answered questions on the team, key points were:

  • He believes the current players are talented enough to stay up
  • The first team squad is “quiet and insular”
  • Reserve team will enter a league again next season
  • Does not intend to use Scout7 beyond the current contract for this season.
  • Will make an offer for Leon Clarke in January, but believes is unlikely we will secure him due to higher wage offers from other clubs. He is available on a free transfer from Charlton after falling out with Addicks boss Chris Powell.

The SUFC board answered numerous questions, starting off with several from the Iron Trust. Below are detailed answers to questions put to the board by the Trust.

Trust Question: What is the club’s view of the Elite Player Performance Plan youth development system? With the current financial constraints, can the club assure fans that the youth team will continue to receive at least the same support both financially and through the management structure. Does the board feel that the youth policy has provided the number of first team players that it expected from the current set-up.
Board member Keith Wagstaff, who oversees the club’s academy system, responded. He highlighted that previously between the ages of 9-21, young players coming though the club’s academy received 3,700 hours of coaching time. This is less than in Holland (6,000) or France (5,600), and substantially less time than a youngster coming through development schemes at British Cycling or the Royal Ballet School (both 10,000).

Under the EPPP, clubs are stringently tied in to the amount of staff, qualifications they must hold and facilities that must be provided – highlighted as an obvious difficulty for a club the size of Scunthorpe.

There are some positives and some negatives, more positives I think as we are now involved more in coaching the boys. It is very complicated, but long-term it is going to improve our footballers. Over the past three years we have seen a big improvement of our U16s, and in the U9/10/11 ages we are beginning to see big changes.
Keith Wagstaff 

Mr Wagstaff pointed out that it was harder to bring through players at Championship level, but also that the last significant group of players to come through included the likes of Matty Sparrow, Andy Butler and Marcus Williams – who all broke into the team under Brian Laws during his previous tenure as manager. There is a set compensation limit for players up to the age of 16, but Mr Wagstaff stressed that if players sign on as trainees then the current transfer system applies. The club may sell schoolboy players, but only if they and their parents have pushed for a move (Charles Vernam’s move to Derby County earlier this season was cited as an example). The club spend £105,000 per annum on the system, with funding of £210,000 received. The board confirmed their commitment to developing young players in the future. Mr Wagstaff highlighted that he sees an increasing number of scouts at the Iron’s academy games, and that it has been praised by clubs including Everton and Manchester City.

The Premier League have made life so difficult that you have to be a Premier League club to afford the top tier. The Premier League will get the top class boys, I think, because they are the only ones able to afford to run top academies.
Steve Wharton 

David Beeby, the club’s general manager, explained there is a four-tier system for academies, and the Iron were in the third tier. The top tier costs £1million a year and is currently only used by top Premier League clubs. Some Football League clubs have abandoned their youth teams altogether to save cost – Yeovil Town was given as an example.

Trust question: Given the reduction in matchday catering revenues, will the club look into upgrading refreshments for fans, possibly using local food producers as a means of attracting more matchday revenue?
Steve Wharton explained the club have franchised out catering since the start of this season, so any decision on suppliers is theirs to make. He pointed out that where possible the club had always tried to use local product. Mr Wharton suggested this was something to be discussed at management level and that the Trust could develop it further in meetings with the club. David Beeby said the drop in revenue for catering was consistent with the drop experienced in other areas associated with matchday revenue, that have dropped due to falling attendances.

Trust question: Some of the toilet areas at Glanford Park have been refurbished. Does the board have any plan to refurbish the other toilets?
Steve Wharton said the club did, and stressed it was an ongoing process to improve facilities at Glanford Park.

Trust question: Over the past year there have been significant reductions in staffing in some areas of SUFC activity. Has reduced activity or the need to make financial cuts necessitated these reductions? How many of the reductions were compulsory redundancies?
Steve Wharton said financial constraints mean there has been a reduction of staff, but is a discussion for management rather than discussion in an AGM. Stressed that decisions were made due to finances.

David Beeby added that the majority of reductions were in matchday casual staff, and there was only one compulsory redundancy among the club’s full-time non-football staff.

Trust question: In the event that no one comes forward by the end of the season to take over from Steve Wharton as chairman, what contingency plans do the remaining directors have?
Steve Wharton said that if no one comes forward to bring additional investment or take over his shares, that the remaining directors will have to nominate a chairman themselves.

There were few other questions, but noteworthy comments included:

  • David Beeby said the club’s playing budget for this season is the 12th highest in League One, and last season was the 10th.
  • All Football League clubs are unhappy with the new company providing official websites, and the chairman of the Football League has written to all member clubs apologising. It was highlighted that at times the club’s media manager is unable to add stories due to the backoffice system not working.
  • Steve Wharton said he and the board were “exploring all possibilities” for the future of the club once he retires at the end of the season.
  • Steve Wharton said he would welcome additional board members from anyone who thought they could help the club.

One question received by the Trust ahead of the meeting asked for information about the specific roles of directors, and the services they provide. After discussion between the Trust and the club, it was felt this was already answered in the accounts. As we recognise many members will not have seen these documents we have scanned them and include them below. Vice-chairman Rex Garton oversees the SUFC Trust (formerly Football in the Community), while Keith Wagstaff oversees the club’s academy with the assistance of Jason Oxenforth.

The documents are:
Rex Garton’s SUFC Community Sports & Education Trust report (link)
Keith Wagstaff’s youth report (link, please note this covers two pages)
Related party disclosures (link)