2015-02-12 Dunfermline Athletic Supporters Council Minutes
Around 80 supporters attended.
Chair: Nicola Campbell
Minutes: John Simpson
Nicola Campbell welcomed all supporters and outlined the Agenda. DAFC Board Members Bob Garmory, Billy Braisby, Ian Hunter, Margaret Ross were present to answer questions, along with General Manager David McMorrine and First Team Coach John Potter. Ewan Masson from Dunfermline Advocacy was the guest speaker. Selections from the DASC shop were also on sale.
2 View from the Boardroom
Bob Garmory gave a brief explanation for the change in manager since the last meeting. The club had certain expectations and targets of where it would be by November (eg league position, cup progress) and when these were not achieved the matter was put to Jim Jefferies. Jim felt he had taken the players as far as he could so it was mutually agreed that he should step aside and allow the club to bring forward from the end of the season the appointment of John Potter, so he had time to make his own assessments and operate in the transfer window.
Bob then reported on the relocation from Pitreavie to the club’s “home” at EEP, which had finally been achieved after a great deal of legal wrangling and expense – approx £50k - although a few issues remain to be resolved. Bob paid tribute to the club’s legal adviser Alistair Drummond of DLA Piper, and to those who had worked so hard to convert the undercroft for use by the team (trade suppliers such as AK Moyes, the Purvis Group and Steven Vaughan, plus the regular band of volunteer supporters.) Thanks were also due to Eric Spreng and the Dunfermline Cricket Club for the arrangement to use McKane Park for training.
Bob then refuted any suggestion that the Board had decided or stated that the club would be part-time if promotion was not achieved. While the club would always live within its means, the process is that once it is clear which division we are in for next season the Board will discuss with the manager the best way forward and how to get the best players for that division. Bob noted that the costs of a small full-time squad might not be significantly different from the costs of a large part-time squad. Anyway, he has been convinced since Lewis Martin’s last-minute goal at Stirling that the club will be in the Championship next season!
3 The Manager’s View
John Potter was warmly welcomed to his first Supporters’ Council meeting as Manager.
John said it was a massive privilege for him to be Manager of DAFC, and that he loves every minute of the job, even if it sometimes hard on a Saturday night after a defeat!
He had given the squad a couple of weeks to prove themselves, but then decided things had to be done his way. He told the squad they had to train harder and longer, to work on strength and fitness and to take advantage of being full-time. It had to start immediately, and not wait until the close season, because results were unsatisfactory and confidence had dipped. Every player bought into it and even though results on the pitch didn’t immediately turn around he can see the difference and believes it will pay off – it is his job to improve every player’s performance for the rest of the season. He wants them to get back to the mindset and standards of last season, when they played with freedom and believed they would succeed (eg coming back from being a goal down on numerous occasions). He believes we have the best squad in the league and fans can be assured they will always give 100%. He wanted Pars players to concern themselves only with winning the game, and then let other teams worry about Dunfermline.
John said it had been his decision alone to make changes and to bring in new players, to freshen up the squad and provide more competition for places. The squad is now better balanced and even though he knows the realities of the league table he is convinced that whichever team goes on a run now will win the league, and he wants it to be DAFC. He appreciated the full support the Board had given him and he would still like to bring in another loan player if possible.
Moving back to EEP from Pitreavie had been better than he had expected, and it had helped the camaraderie of the squad when not training (darts, pool, table tennis etc). McKane Park is exactly what they wanted and players now do double training: 10.00-12.00, 14.00-16.00.
His objectives now as manager had changed from his U20 role – instead of developing players it is now all about the result on Saturdays.
4 Questions and Answers
Questions were put from the floor, and (remotely) by posters on dafc.net.
Q (dafc.net): Can the canvasses in the NW Stand be lifted, please?
A (Bob Garmory): We will consider this, especially if we are in the Championship next season. However, having them there reduces stewarding costs, which are calculated on available seats.
Q (Stewart Mckenzie): Can you train someone to take a long throw-in?
A (John Potter): Yes, but it takes time and a lot of practice. Rory Delap, formerly of Stoke City, is a friend of Neil McCann and came to Pitreavie 6 weeks ago to teach his technique, especially to the full-backs as it can be a very effective weapon. Hopefully this will pay off over time.
Q (Allan McLeod): What is the current injury situation?
A (John Potter): Ryan Williamson joined in full-time training this week and may play for U20s against Kilmarnock next week. There were problems getting to the root of Ryan Wallace’s pelvis injury and he needed 8 weeks’ complete rest. Then he got another small fracture but has been able to keep his fitness up and should be back training next week.
Q (Niall Shaw): What effect has Andy Goram had?
A (John Potter): He’s been fantastic. We didn’t want to change things too much when Brian Potter left, and when Brian tipped us off that Andy was available Neil McCann spoke to him and he was delighted to come and help. As well as working with the keepers he’s another experienced football brain to help us.
Q (Eric Spreng): What’s the situation with the captaincy?
A (John Potter): I felt that being the captain was affecting Andy Geggan’s play, whether that was correct or not. I think Josh Falkingham plays better when he wears the armband, so he is the club captain and if he plays he will be team captain – but there is no guarantee he will play. If he doesn’t, then Gregor Buchanan is the vice-captain and is thrilled about it! I was captain as a centre-back and I think it’s a good position to see things from.
Q (Colin ?): The team started the season well, so what was the turning point, when did management decide things weren’t working?
A John Potter): I don’t think there was a particular moment. When we played against teams from higher divisions (Raith, St Mirren, Falkirk) we had more space and were able to play a passing game. Teams in this division sit in more, and although we were defending well we started to miss chances, it became disheartening, we became nervous when we conceded and there was a dip in form around the Forfar game. I’m confident we can go on a run and get the good times back.
Q (Margaret Ross): Does negativity from fans and on social media affect players?
A (John Potter): I’ve had it as a player and personally I’m not bothered by it, but young lads use social media more so they also need to be big enough and strong enough to take the criticism, as fans pay their money and are entitled to their opinions. Last season when things were going well we told them to stay away from social media and not believe all the praise as it could easily turn. It’s particularly difficult when certain players seem to be targeted – I’ve told them to ignore it but even if they try to then deep down it probably hurts and affects some people.
Q (Alistair Campbell): Is the club concerned about the governance of the SFA and SPFL, particularly over sponsorship, TV deals etc, and if so what is being done about it?
A (Bob Garmory): DAFC is a member club so we play our part in various football bodies. We are making our way back and getting our credibility back – we’re now seen by several clubs as well-run and fan-owned, but money talks and there are much louder clubs than us in Scotland. We don’t think there is enough money coming down the leagues to grass roots football.
Q (Drew Main): Why is the pitch in such poor condition?
A: (Bob Garmory): We’re using pretty much the same regime as before, although the goal areas have had to be relaid. It’s probably been a combination of poor weather and too many games, so we’ll protect it (eg by playing U20 matches elsewhere) and use the summer to make any improvements. We need a good surface for our team to perform at its best.
[A comment was made from the floor that although the deep drainage was good the ground had become compacted due to machines being removed at administration and not replaced, so hollow tine machines and scarifiers were needed. However, since the meeting, Ross McArthur has confirmed that the club already has a verti-drain machine which is used every six weeks. With the club securing training facilities at McKane Park, all of the existing grass cutting equipment is being assessed to ensure we have the best possible equipment for both locations.]
Q: Has consideration been given to a synthetic pitch?
A (David McMorrine): No serious consideration. The capital cost is enormous and Fife Council have several existing or planned 3G pitches in the locality, so there could be an over-supply of pitches and therefore no guarantee of extra income.
A (John Potter): The players much prefer grass, and McKane Park is ideal for training.
[Two questions were posed later in the meeting but are included here for ease of comprehension]
Q (dafc.net): What has happened to Faissal, why is he not being considered for the team?
A (John Potter): He was on a good run then had a few niggling injuries and I felt he wasn’t performing at the right level, either in training or on the pitch. He was unhappy about being left out of the squad - which was fine, it’s the right attitude, so I went over with him what he did well and what needed to improve. When on form he is a very good player and he has done really well in 3 full matches in the last week so he is right back in my plans.
Q (Niall Shaw): Can the concept of “Pars United” be revitalised, as it seemed to have been diluted in recent months, with individual groups each doing their own thing. We have too small a fanbase to have lots of different groups and we lack a central point for enquiries, volunteers, fundraising etc so we might be deterring people from helping because we don’t know about them.
A (Bob Garmory): We’ve always had lots of different groups (PST, DASC, Centenary Club etc) and each is vital in its own way. Dave Blackburn is always contactable for volunteers, but maybe we need to reinvigorate the Volunteers’ Register.
A (Margaret Ross): It’s not just the stadium maintenance volunteers to be considered, we have or will have lots of people doing voluntary work who are solicitors, plumbers, joiners, match buddies, museum curator etc. What we lack is someone to pull it all together. We are discussing with Fife Voluntary Action a package to get funding for a part-time volunteer co-ordinator, and hope to be able to announce something in the next month or so.
5 Dunfermline Advocacy
Ewan Masson, who is a Development Worker at Dunfermline Advocacy, described the charity’s work with disadvantaged adults. The aim is to bring together local citizens with vulnerable people, providing long and short term support, understanding and friendship to those who need it. Ewan thanked the ex-pat Dunfermline Athletic fans who have provided season tickets for their use, and Dunfermline Advocacy also hopes to do joint fundraising with The Pars Foundation.
There are 80-90 partnerships in West Fife, where the charity matches up their clients with citizen advocates who have a common interest and visit maybe a couple of times a week or month, building up trust, befriending the client and helping them with information, benefits etc. There is no specified time commitment, and training is given after PVG checks and references.
Ewan instanced a client who is a DA fan but is very isolated, and who would appreciate the chance just to chat about the club with someone. He challenged the Pars support to match the success of the locally-based Hearts Supporters Club, who had two volunteers.
Anyone wanting to help, or just to get more information, should contact Ewan at 01383 624382 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Dunfermline Advocacy, 2 Halbeath Road, Dunfermline KY12 7QX.
6 Schools Engagement Programme
Dave Dawson explained the work he, Willie Oliphant and Gennaro Giudice had been doing, in conjunction with The Pars Foundation.
They started talking to Fife Education a year ago, and then with heads of local primary schools. Everyone was very positive and since the projects got underway in November they have had 40 bookings involving 700 schoolchildren with DAFC. The aim is to reach P6/P7 children before they go to secondary school.
There are 3 distinct but related projects, each benefitting the pupils while at the same time building a connection to DAFC. This is consistent with the club’s philosophy of community engagement, and supports the schools’ aim of making their pupils’ learning relevant to the world outside school.
(1) “Pars Media Stars”. Willie Oliphant spends about 4 hours with P6/P7 pupils, concentrating on general literacy (learning, reading, talking, listening) all around the Pars theme, eg the build-up to the match, commentary etc. Then a couple of Pars players arrive, photos are taken and they all have a kick-about together.
(2) “Pars Tackle Health”. Gennaro Giudice and the players talk to pupils about the importance of diet, fitness, training, relaxation, motivation, resilience and confidence. There’s then a Q&A session and a kick-about.
(3) “Tours for Schools”. Dave Dawson arranges school tours of EEP, which concentrate on behind-the-scenes jobs such as the office, shop, ground maintenance, hospitality and physiotherapy. They get to talk with the staff and discuss qualifications etc, and get hands-on experience with the physio, and a mock post-match interview with photos.
The projects had all been enthusiastically received by the schools and the pupils, and Dave illustrated this with slides and quotations (eg "I enjoyed seeing all the photos of the past players"; "I want to be a physio"; "I didn't know about the community stuff"; "It's brilliant getting season tickets for kids" etc.)
Dave paid tribute to all who were helping in this, in particular the players, Kenny Murray, Craig Brown, Margaret Miller, Matt Ford, Kelly Armstrong, Tesco for their sponsorship, volunteers such as Stuart Arnott and Dave Allan, and current teachers Karyn Rennie and Stuart Holland.
They have lots of ideas about how other engagement projects could be developed, and while these would all be worthwhile they would need more resource, both financial and people.
7 Volunteer Maintenance Work
Dave Blackburn outlined some of what had been achieved by volunteers in the last year, and hopefully everyone could see the difference, with the stadium having been transformed after years of neglect. Some help had also been given through the “Community Payback” scheme and by the local Mormon Church. Initially 35 supporters had offered to help, but this had now dwindled to 7 regulars, all of whom were in the “Last of the Summer Wine” age-group! They would continue to work away at what still needs to be done, but there is definitely a need for more helpers during the close season, especially younger people, along with skilled tradesmen and materials.
8 Disabled Access Group
John Simpson outlined progress since the Group was set up following the Supporters’ Council meeting in February 2014.
By Scottish standards EEP is an excellent stadium for disabled fans (rated joint best by disabled supporters’ associations) but much remains to be done. The club appointed Ishbel Russell as its Disability Champion, and a professional Accessibility Audit of the stadium was prepared (at no cost) by ESL Services Ltd to set out what needed to be done to comply with the Equality Act 2010. The Group has been working through this, with a huge amount of help from local suppliers and others:
• Weather screens on platforms (Purvis Group and PST)
• New disabled platform (Purvis Group and ESPC)
• New disabled toilet (Pete Campbell, Stephen Vaughan, AK Moyes)
• Yellow nosings on steps (DAFC Volunteers)
• Induction Loop systems (Alan Todd – “Rigger Al”)
• Hospitality for disabled fans (ESL Services Ltd)
• Alarms in toilets (Stephen Vaughan)
• Fleeces for disabled fans (DA Supporters Club)
• Commentary for visually disabled fans (David Henderson)
• Toilets for ambulant disabled (DAFC)
• Extra disabled parking spaces (DAFC)
• Season tickets for Dunfermline Advocacy (ex-pat Pars fans)
Coming soon we would hope to have Match Buddies for disabled fans, “Bovril shelves” on the viewing platforms, an ambulant disabled seating area in the Norrie, handrails for the steps at the shop entrance and a better ramp for the existing lift.
We have examined all sorts of solutions for access to the 1st Floor (external/internal lifts, proprietary stairclimbers, even a ramp) but the problem is that EEP was designed before many of the current building standards came into effect. Drew Main and Jim Henderson will be presenting a paper to the DAFC Board within the next fortnight, but any solution will be expensive as it will also involve provision of disabled toilets and a fire refuge, and even then may not provide access to Charlie D’s.
As a long term objective, the Group would like wheelchair access to the North and Main Stands, so that there are no restrictions on access at EEP.
Gennaro Giudice put forward a proposition on behalf of Richard Emslie (“Rhino Par”).
Richard felt that after the success of the “Save/Buy/Keep The Pars” campaigns there was now a need for a campaign to “Support The Pars”, whereby fans pool ideas to help become the team’s “12th man”. Richard understands that something similar had been done by St Johnstone with a lot of success. Some suggestions already made were that the players had a message to the fans before each match; that we should major on “We’re all in this together”; that there should be a “fan of the week” award; that we should encourage more vocal support to drown out abuse.
Donald Adamson said there was a lot to be said for some positive leadership and thinking, and he will take this forward and invite everyone to join in.
Nicola Campbell closed the meeting at 8.45 pm. The next meeting will be in May, date to be announced later.
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