Notes from October 2020 Trust Board meeting



OCTOBER 29, 2020, 7pm



ATTENDEES (Board members): Shaun Johnson (SJ, Chair), Kelly Anderson (KA) Mark Crook (MC), Mike Everett (ME), Colin Faulkner (CF), Gavin Foxall (GF), Bob Herrin (BH), Peter Madigan (PM), Paul Marks (PMa), Kevin Ward (KW).

ATTENDEES (Club staff): Nigel Stephenson (NS).

APOLOGIES: Ryan Courtney (RC).

    • The minutes of the Trust Board meeting held on September 24, 2020, were approved as an accurate record. 
    • None that are not included in agenda items. 
    • EFL (GF): GF reported that EFL (EFL chairman) were close to a rescue deal with the Premier League for Leagues One and Two. This would primarily cover lost ticket revenues.  The EFL has offered clubs emergency bridging loans to cover player wages etc ahead of a rescue package being finalised. Our current financial position means we do not need to take this. Clubs who have taken the loans will be subject to certain conditions
    • Covid protocols/impact on games (GF): GF reported that, providing all protocols are followed, there will be no punishment for clubs who cannot fulfil fixtures due to positive tests. The Sports Gounds Safety Authority (SGSA) is auditing all clubs and will be with us in November. GF has written to David Wetherall (EFL Youth Development Director) regarding the impact of Covid on scholars’ two-year contracts. A meeting has been arranged.
    • Operational update (NS): General – reporting by club departments via weekly reports now implemented with progress reviewed as part of twice-weekly staff meetings. Flexible furlough still in use to October 31. Office move to Rodney Parade is now complete. Ticketing – season ticket sales totalled 1,105. The Board again thanked supporters for their loyalty in difficult times for everyone. We are in the process of coordinating the new iFollow Season Ticket access process. We are awaiting further guidance regarding any move towards Stage 5 fixtures (return of crowds). Retail – revenue to date is above budget. White goods to be delivered by Hummel on December 9. Kingsway store is closed during the national firebreak lockdown. It will reopen on November 12. Shop opening will increase to 5 days a week w/c November 16. There will be regular social media promotion of the online store throughout the lockdown period. Christmas-related initiatives are being compiled. Academy – recruitment of Academy Physiotherapist and Administrator has taken place. Governance meeting took place on October 21. The LFE H&S Audit has been postponed until March 2021. Substantial progress is being made with safeguarding audit. Academy operation aligning to lockdown rules. Budget is on track. Football administration – summer transfer window navigated with no administrative issues. Squad list submitted aligned with EFL regs. Salary cap submitted aligned with EFL regs. EFL pension return completed. Media – we have agreed a partnership with the University of South Wales’ sports journalism degree course to provide students with work experience. We are starting a Facebook Live show before, at half-time and after home matches to provide content in addition to iFollow. Operations - Covid protocols continue to be reviewed, leading to a reconfiguration of the team coach. SGSA inspection/audit is scheduled for November 12. Covid protocols and processes reviewed and updated in conjunction with the club doctor and aligned with recent guidelines.
    • iFollow update (GF): The system is now up and running for all fixtures. iFollow passes are being sent to all season ticket holders for all home league games rather than passcodes for individual matches. This commences from the Harrogate fixture on October 31. Revenue for cup competitions (EFL Trophy, EFL Cup & FA Cup) will be split 50/50 between both participating clubs. FA Cup matches are to be available on iFollow except for those selected for TV broadcasts. We will continue to promote £10 match pass sales ahead of all our eligible fixtures. GF reminded the Board that, for away matches, we receive all revenue for any passes bought by County supporters after the first 500. 
    • Continued focus on expenditure control in all areas.
    • Flexible furlough will continue to the end of month. Job Support Scheme commences from November 1. It was anticipated that there would be a phased return of remainder of staff during October, but this has now been interrupted by the firebreak lockdown. The club will then look to take advantage of the Job Retention Grant in February 2021.
    • We are continuing to track attendance revenue shortfalls for potential EFL/PL support.
    • All key creditors i.e. HMRC, Pensions etc. are up to date in accordance with agreed arrangements.
    • Satisfactory performance against budget for the year to date – retail sales ahead of forecast, player wage costs in line with forecast, season ticket sales ahead of forecast. Revenue from Carabao Cup 4th Round tie was unbudgeted . Debtors’ list under control and the risk is low. 
    • PM gave an update on commercial revenue to date against budget.
    • Existing and returning sponsors accounted for 35% of revenue to date. Sponsors included Seren Fach, Hughes Forrest, Plumbstop, Hoodhill Motors, Pure Vans, Standard Signs and Kingsway.
    • The crowdfunder achieved its £40k target.
    • PM reported that new sponsors had generated 26% of commercial revenue to date. New sponsors included First Choice Utilities, Your FUT Card, 57 Tyres, Alfa Staff, Health Hut, Sport Five, Low 6, and Viking Print Studio.
    • Unbudgeted commercial revenue has been generated via the Newcastle game in the League Cup and Academy sponsorship opportunities.
    • Sharing sponsor-related social media posts, competitions, giveaways, and announcements is now a priority for the media team. We have seen considerable increases in our social media audiences as a result. 
    • Zero complaints received.
    • ‘Taking the knee’ had led to some controversy in the media following the Tranmere match. The Board reiterated its support for the club’s players and their choice of whether to ‘take the knee’ before kick-off.
    • FA Diversity Leadership Code – GF and CF meeting with FA on this and will report back to the November Board meeting.
    • CF said work was ongoing to re-establish Club LGBTQ and DSA groups.
    • We have ongoing engagement with our charity partners.
    • Mental health support video calls continue. We have started weekly mental health drop-in sessions via video, these are promoted on social media with the hashtag #ExilesHereToListen.
    • ‘Watchalongs’ on iFollow for season ticket holders have started. PMa suggested promoting this to Trust members as well. CF to explore to ensure it is allowable within EFL rules. 
    • PMa provided an update from the most recent meeting of the Trust Community Group on October 8.
    • Gold members who have not renewed their memberships are being contacted individually by Board members.
    • Supporter Joe Crocker is providing support on a survey of Trust members, and with graphics for the Trust’s social media pages.
    • Corporate members have all renewed. KW has provided PMa with an email template that Board members can send to their business contacts.
    • Membership remains stable despite the Covid pandemic but there was agreement that we need to do more to drive up membership numbers. 
    • There was 1 ongoing risk, and 1 new concern reported during the month.
    • KA provided a summary of October safeguarding activity, listing the areas of key focus along with meetings and training that had taken place. This included meetings with the FA and EFL, and DSO training.
    • November’s key focus areas include the safeguarding strategy and implementation plan, the safer recruitment policy, reviewing Academy risk assessments and scheduling Academy visits, reviewing the induction process, and beginning policy reviews. Meetings are scheduled, among others, with the FAW. 
    • PMa presented the ongoing list of closure activities and their RAG ratings. Four issues are ongoing or overdue. 
    • Stadium Focus Group: PMa reported that he, CF and KW had held a further video meeting with Joe Crocker and Mike Greenway to discuss a survey of Trust members, social media activity, and a possible event next year to mark the 40th anniversary of the Carl Zeiss Jena match.
    • Rodney Parade: GF reported he had held an initial conversation with Dragons MD Mark Jones with a meeting arranged for next week. We are now engaged on a joint approach with RP on many issues, not least our office relocation.
    • AGMs/Accounts: GF reported these have been delayed due to the Covid crisis. These are now likely to be filed with Companies House in early December. This will be the trigger for confirming and announcing AGM dates (subject to completion of Trust accounts).
    • Jamie Roberts fundraiser: GF confirmed the crowdfunder organised by supporter Jamie Roberts had raised £3,000 for the club. GF and Michael Flynn were holding a video call with Jamie tomorrow to thank him. The Board recorded its thanks to Jamie for his efforts.
    • Trust Board elections: ME asked if there was an update on this. PMa said he had spoken to Colin Everett and they were putting together proposed timetables.
    • Newsletter: KW said the quarterly Trust newsletter was now due for publication, but he proposed delaying this until the dates and details were available for the AGMs and elections. This was agreed.
    • Sponsored walk: CF said he had postponed the planned directors’ sponsored walk to the Forest Green Rovers match given the ongoing Covid situation. 

Meeting closed at 8.49pm.

Next meeting: Thursday, November 26, via video conference. Start time 7pm.