Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Farnborough Football Club approach the Council for money

I have been assigned to three council committees: Environment Panel, Farnborough Business and Community Panel and Leisure and Youth Panel.

Last night I attended the first meeting of the Leisure and Youth panel. The first meeting of the year we elect a chairman, and I am pleased Ken Muschamp was re-elected with Sue Carter as his vice chairman.

We then had a presentation from Farnborough Football Club, which essentially was a request for £300,000 from the new owner Simon Hollis. Simon is a very nice chap, and obviously committed to football. He has put a huge amount of money into the club and spoke passionately about the game and about the vision he has for a new stadium.

Our panel has no authority to give money. That, under the cabinet system, is left to a group of seven councillors who get most of their decisions endorsed by the council as a whole. Under the political system we have, this effectively means that with a good Conservative majority it is highly unlikely that any decision the cabinet make will be overruled by council. Officers particularly like this system, as one can imagine. So the role of panels that I serve on is to advise or feedback to cabinet. It is a good opportunity to 'test the water' before a decision, and to 'scrutinise' after a decision.

I personally prefer the 'consultation before a decision' approach that our cabinet take. And the football club is a good example of that.

The presentation from the club lacked imagination in my view. I think we have potentially an exciting opportunity to build a 'coalition of support' for an inspirational project drawing on a few important themes:
1. Football Club under new management and with a growing supporter base.
2. Located in a deprived area with challenges that football can help tackle.
3. Close proximity to schools and colleges that can add an important educational dimension.
4. Good location, close access to M3

The challenges are:
1. No money anywhere, in fact it is a time of huge reductions and cuts.
2. Two football clubs in the Borough competing for money.
3. The club is a private company, not a social enterprise.
4. The club already has outstanding debts to the Council.

Positive factors:
1. Council own the land.
2. New management of the club that are enthusiastic and want to make a difference.

I am sure there are more that could be added to the above, but that is just a quick empty of my brain onto paper, which you will not be surprised did not take long.

My view for what it is worth is that we obviously have a talented chairman of the club, that is enthusiastic. The council is also talented and enthusiatic. And I think the two working together could come up with an imaginative solution that could achive a number of objectives that could benefit the club and the community without the Council giving a huge amount of money at a time of radical spending cuts.

The panel under the leadership of the chairman Ken Muschamp had an animated discussion after which the chairman summerised the feelings of the panel which will be passed on to the cabinet.

What would you do? What advice would you give to cabinet?


Anonymous said...

I think that the points you make are very valid, and the Council is in a difficult position. The Council should support their local football clubs as they can benefit the local economy (think Blackpool now in the premier league).

The problem is that there are two football clubs, and both are in much need of Council support. However, since their incredible achievement in returning to the football league, I feel of the two clubs, Aldershot are in a position to receive financial backing given the condition of the stadium, the rich history of the club and its influence on the hinterland, the delapidation of Aldershot as a place, and the national stature of the club (Aldershot were close to being promoted to the third tier of English football this year). Farnborough Town have and always will be the little local club and already benefit from a wealthy chairman who has already provided the club with a stadium and infrastructure well beyond its requirments for the level of football it plays in.

Rather than being reactionary, I think that the Council should be proactive and work with the local senior football league to progress football in the borough.

There is a widespread feeling that the Council have for a long while ignored Aldershot's influence, achievement and need for Councillor backing, and I feel that its time for change.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest you do not enter into any financial agreement commercial or otherwise with Simon Hollis and Farnborough FC. Both mr Hollis and the club have an exceptionally poor financial history with a string of CCJ's and winding up orders issued against them.