As we head into July, it doesn’t seem possible that the new season is only five weeks away!
There is always a lot of work going on behind the scenes over the close-season, but there has been even more this year as Barry Smith and Chris Barker settle into their new roles, and they look to be making really good progress in securing the players that they want to form the nucleus of a new squad.
So we enter the 2015-16 National League season with fresh optimism and the determination to enjoy a much better season on the pitch. Everyone around the Club knows how much this means to the supporters, so let’s hope we have plenty to cheer about. Looking out on The ESS pitch today it looks fantastic, and management can’t wait for the season to get started!
Over the past couple of weeks there has been much written and said about The Shots Trust, who held their AGM recently, and we feel it’s important to give an ‘official’ view from the ATFC Board. Since rescuing the Club in the summer of 2013 we have always sought to work closely with the Trust; however, we are sure both parties would admit that, whilst we share a common passion to see the Club thrive, we differ in our views of how best to deliver that.
We know there has been much heartache over the years, as the Club twice hit the buffers, and we realise this has left scars that will stay for a very long time, but we are working really hard to re-build the Club on a sound financial footing. We have just completed our latest financial year, to the end of June, and are pleased to have steered the Club to a very small profit for the second year running. This will used in the year ahead to help us strengthen further.
Whilst this performance has been achieved without any financial contributions from The Shots Trust, we feel the Club could achieve so much more if our combined efforts focused more on the current, rather than supporter fundraising being steered towards a rescue fund for the future. Whilst we respect the rationale put forward by The Shots Trust, many other teams in our league receive strong financial support from their supporters’ organisations, for example at Grimsby Town, where a recent fans fundraising appeal raised over £60,000 towards their player budget for the coming season. More locally, Woking fans have promised at least £30,000 for the season ahead, via The Cards Trust, following £40,000 of contributions last year. Elsewhere, Kidderminster Harriers received £25,000 and Macclesfield Town £41,000.
At this point, we want to recognise the excellent contribution that Shots supporters continue to make via Player Share, which is massively important to us, and we thank you for that. We are also very lucky to have many volunteers who donate their time in so many ways around the club, and give big thank you to them too.
In summary, we ask that The Shots Trust re-look at their fundraising objectives, and consider channelling more of their efforts towards helping the Club for the here-and-now, rather than solely fundraising for the future, as we all want to see this Club that we love pushing forward and enjoying better times. Our long term future is best secured by success on the pitch and pushing to regain League status, not by planning for failure.
As a Board, we see all Shots fans as equals – whether Trust members or not – and we’ll continue to work hard to build stronger relationships, with initiatives such as Fans Forums, that we hope place supporters closer to the heart of the Club.
We are shortly planning to meet with all interested groups to discuss a new initiative we will launch called Cash for Shots, designed to directly increase Barry’s playing budget, as we know that it is success on the pitch that will ultimately help the Club thrive.
We will shortly be announcing a new public Fans Forum, for the end of July, plus a special event which will help our younger supporters, in particular, to meet Barry and the players. Watch this space!
Here’s to a great season ahead…