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  • Julen Beer

Grecian Groups Meeting | March 2021

Updated: Mar 19

Major news regarding investments in St James Park and changes to the structure of Club governance were announced to representatives of the majority of Grecian Groups last night.


Grecian Groups met (virtually) for the first time since February 5, 2020 last night, with the main topics covering the return of fans to stadiums and the new Club governance structure. The group began on June 27, 2005 with the aim of keeping the various leads of different groups updated and to enable a platform for them to share their messages and activities.


There has been a change since the group met over a year ago, with Clive Harrison taking over leadership of the group from Andy Gillard, who has now taken on the role of Club secretary.


Clive gave a few small announcements regarding the supporters returning to SJP before handing over to Trust chairman Nick Hawker for the main news of the evening. Those smaller announcements covered the reopening of the club shop on April 12 and the implementation of a new ticketing system. It is hoped season tickets will go on sale at the end of next month and that fans will be able to return to SJP by the beginning of next season.


Club Matters


The first of the major announcements of the night related to governance changes within the Club. Nick reminded attendees that the Trust had achieved parity on the Club board some years ago, but that further changes have been implemented going forward.


Those changes include specific roles for the Trustees sitting on the Club board and a restructuring of the governance of the Club. Clive Harrison is the Director of Supporter Engagement, Elaine Davis is the Director of Community Engagement and Pete Holding is the Director of Finance and Governance, with these roles reflecting the Trust's working groups.


As part of the restructuring of the governance of the Club, three sub-committees have been created that give the Trust a much more direct involvement in the running of the Club. Nick was keen to stress that this meant we were achieving something other clubs could only dream of in terms of governance. The sub-committees are:

  • Supporter Experience: headed by Clive Harrison. This group will look after everything supporter related: hospitality, retail, etc. Community will also come under the remit of the group and, therefore, Elaine Davis will also be involved.

  • Finance and Governance: headed by Pete Holding. This is an amalgamation of groups that already existed and will cover club budgeting, club capital expenditure, club governance and the creation of club policies (such as safeguarding or employment), amongst other things. Nick Hawker will also be involved.

  • Audit, Risk and Compliance: headed up by Richard Pym, Club chairman. This group will not be Trust-led, and will instead be managed by professionals in their field who will ensure the business of the Club is run in compliance with legislation. The Club are currently searching for additions to this group: an employed Chief Financial Officer and two non-executive directors with commercial and business knowledge on an unpaid basis. These additions will add much needed experience to the boardroom.

The second (and last) of the major announcements on the night was around how windfalls from the sale of academy players would be invested in the club. These investments, which have subsequently been announced by the Club and Trust, are:

  • The purchase of an electronic screen and scoreboard: This will be installed before the start of next season and will provide revenue from sponsorship.

  • The purchase of the OTR building: This is the building where the Centre Spot Bar, offices and conferencing rooms are located. OTR are a group of "kind hearted folk" who purchased and then leased the building back at a favourable rate when the Club was "on its knees".

  • The pitch: The hope is that there will be enough time at the end of the. season to make expensive and much needed renovations to the pitch. This will be a considerable investment. A potential issue around this is time, there needs to be a lot of time to get all of the work done and potentially being involved in the play offs could cause issues with the timings. Much research has gone into this investment, with the Club having sought the expertise of groundskeepers, contractors and other EFL clubs. Contractors are lined up to commence work as soon as the season is finished.

  • Planning permission at the Cliff Hill: There is no firm commitment as to when or what work will be done. Further meetings will be taking place in the near future regarding this.

Nick wrapped up the update on Club matters by saying that the Club were currently feeling very ambitious, and that Richard Pym had issued the challenge to be able to sustain a League One playing budget through revenue and not windfalls.


Trust Matters


Nick proceeded to update the groups on how the Trust has progressed over the past year. Rather than settling for sustainability, the aim of the Trust is to drive membership and increase subscriptions, a process that has already begun.



Mark Cordell, Trustee, explained that a focus group has been created to focus on driving up membership numbers, but that no fans at SJP has made this difficult. Despite this, numbers have increased slightly over the course of the pandemic. The Trust are currently running the 'Be part of it' campaign to engage with people and using Facebook advertising to promote the Trust within Exeter. The Trust are also aware that just under half of season ticket holders are not members and that methods. for engaging with these fans are being investigated.


Corporate membership has so far proven to be a great success. Nick explained that they ask very little in return and that they are all supporters of the Club, and urged fans to use corporate members services if possible and to promote them as much as possible. Elaine gave further updates, noting that 18 corporate members had come together to sponsor the Club's U14s side and that the STARS campaign had managed to raise £12,500. Signs Express will be creating a roll of honour for those organisations that donated £500 or more to the campaign.

The Trust's newest Trustee, Kayleigh-Jade West, is currently leading on a project called My City, My Shirt, which will feature a number of fans in various City shirts having their photos taken of them around the city. This is being run in conjunction with the FSA and Fans for Diversity and the hope is that this will gain recognition on a national level.


The Communications and Engagement Working Group have continued to grow, launching a new website, increasing the Trust's profile on social media and setting up a podcast all in the last year. Trust snoods were hugely successful, bringing in a significant amount of money to the Club, with further Trust branded merchandise hopefully being brought out in the future.


Other Boardroom Updates


Julian Tagg was the next to provide updates during the evening on a number of different topics:


CITY Community Trust


A large number of the courses have been curtailed due to Covid-19, but special praise was reserved for how quickly CCT had adapted to the situation to continue making a difference in the community.


One third of all food deliveries, food parcels and prescription deliveries in Exeter have been carried out by CCT, working in conjunction with Exeter City Council, and this has had a positive impact on the Exeter City brand within the community.


The Supporters' Trust, via Grecian Goal, have helped cover money lost by the lack of bucket collections at SJP, and Julian urged anyone who knows of any sponsorship or fundraising opportunities that could help CCT to get in touch with Elaine.



Academy

A large proportion of the core of the first team is now made up of academy graduates. The succession planning put in place has made a big impact on this: Matt Taylor, Wayne Carlisle and Dan Green, who are now a big part of the first team coaching staff, have all previously worked with our academy and our youngsters. The lack of lower league football will have affected the development of some of the younger professionals who have had their loan spells cut short due to the curtailment of the season.


The plan is to replace the temporary main building at the Cliff Hill, which was originally erected in the 1970s, and the Club board are keen to get this done.


Women

Ian Barber, Women's club secretary, explained that prior to the pandemic there were 46 registered players at the club and that he is currently in the process of applying for grants to bring in much needed funds. Crowds have been steadily increasing at first team matches.

The current season has been curtailed for the senior team, but the season is not null-and-void, meaning that teams who believe they merit promotion can apply to do so. The hope is that the dominant Southampton team will apply and be successful, giving the club's promotion hopes a big boost next season.


The fate of the second team's season is still undecided. They have had an excellent season up until it stopped and the hope is that promotion can be achieved in order to establish a third team. Julian added further to this, explaining that the ambition to establish a third team is to ensure there is progression and stressed that the women's team is a very important part of the Club.


A strategy is being established to raise enough money to pay staff and players. The development centre currently goes down to age 12, but the ideal scenario would see this go down to age eight or possibly below. This will, however, take time and money. Responsibility for the women's team currently sits with CCT.



Andy Beer finished off the round of updates by explaining that The Exeter City Women's Supporters' Club was set up in October last year with the aim of increasing the supporter base, promoting the team, providing volunteers on matchdays and raising funds for the team. The group is already a member of the FSA, but they have not yet been able to do much due to Covid-19.


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