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Friday 06 June 2008
What's happening at Kingsmeadow - feature number 4

It is now three weeks until pre-season training starts.

On Wednesday evening we signed Chris Sullivan from Braintree. Chris is another of the players that Terry is recruiting with the aim of building a young team that plays attacking football, with lots of pace. Chris fits the bill perfectly. The wage negotiations were quickly concluded and Chris was delighted to join the club, as he explained on the club’s web site.

An issue re Chris is that, being 20 and having been on a contract at Braintree, he and we are subject to the ‘Bosman rules’. These say that if a player of his age has a contract which has ended, then he is free to sign for another club, but the club which signs him may need to pay a fee to his former club. In a perfect world, the fee is negotiated between the clubs, but if they can’t agree then the case goes to a tribunal. So, although Chris is our player, there is still this outstanding matter to resolve.

Meanwhile, Robin Shroot has promised to respond to Terry by this weekend, but he hadn’t done so at the time this was published. If Robin was to decide not to stay then the same Bosman principles would apply to him as will apply to Chris Sullivan, and we would be in the position of arguing about maximising, not minimising, that particular fee.

Finally, as regards players, we are looking for one more striker and have made enquiries about a couple this week, without yet identifying the right candidate.

Still on football, Terry convened a meeting of the first team and reserve team management this week to talk about their objectives for the coming season. Obviously, these include promotion, but there was a lot of discussion about the preferred formation, the ethos of the team, the training schedule etc. There was also some mundane, but important stuff, for example revising and updating the code of conduct for players and management.

Elsewhere, there was a lot of noise with the start of the building works. The first stage was preparatory work to make the building secure while the work is underway, and to disconnect the plumbing and electricity and generally make the building safe.

The main demolition work starts today, too late for us to include some photos, but we will do so in future weeks. At the time the attached photos were taken the only noticeable changes were the destruction of the old blue portacabin which used to sit just inside the gates at the Kingston Road end, as shown below.

The old blue portacabin is no more.

The other change was that work has started on the stand itself, with the removal of the end wall from block K, as shown.

The end wall from block K demolished.

By the time you are reading this, the roof will be gone from the Kingston Road tea bar and various other out-buildings will be coming down.

Behind the scenes, there have been several meetings about the building works, in particular, finalising our response to some of the safety issues. Implementing safety regulations in a new stadium is relatively straightforward, but in an existing stadium like ours it is a lot harder. After a lot of discussion with the council’s safety consultant and the fire brigade, we will be making some changes which are mainly designed to manage the flow of fans as they leave the stadium, as well as how we would deal with an emergency evacuation.

One consequence of these changes is that we will be installing a short barrier at the Kingston Road end to encourage fans leaving from that end to exit via the gate that leads directly onto Jack Goodchild Way. There will be some other changes to exit routes that fans may initially feel to be a little strange, but these practices are essential if we are to be allowed to use the new seats.

One building decision we have made is to cut back on the internal work that was proposed as part of the overall project. Instead, we are exploring how we can get some of our main needs in a simpler, less expensive way. Part of the reason for the decision to cut back is that we are likely to have to spend a substantial sum on remedying some of the issues arising from a water risk survey we commissioned earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the pitch looks in good shape, although the view from a distance flatters it a little bit, as the goalmouths and one or two other areas still show only patchy growth. However, we are starting with a pitch which was in good condition at the end of the season, so it is about a month ahead of where it was at this time last year, and there is plenty of time for the gaps to fill in.

The pitch looking very lush.

Talking about being a month ahead of last year, this is also the situation with season tickets, where sales to date are 1,163. The next few weeks will show whether or not this is merely an acceleration of sales or a real increase in the number of STs. But with new ST applications (after allowing for less known non-renewals) now over 100 we do think there will be an increase over last year when the season starts in nine weeks’ time.

Behind the scenes, planning meetings are taking place for various groups. The team which runs matchday ticketing and turnstiles etc is meeting next week to review their procedures and a couple of days later there is a meeting between some of the safety team and the police, to discuss the coming season and any changes and improvements we need.

This update appears a little bit earlier this week as we prepare to leave for the Conference agm at Blackpool this weekend. We will report back on that in due course. While the agm is going on, a team of volunteers will be here at the stadium, cleaning, painting and generally working on its maintenance. Volunteers are still being accepted – all you need to do is call the office or email here before 4.00 pm today.