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Michael Lends an Ear

Pilgrims Chief Executive to Hold Regular Surgeries for the Green Army

1 August 2018

ARGYLE Chief Executive Michael Dunford is to hold monthly Supporters’ Surgeries for the Green Army.

Michael, who recently began his second spell as the Pilgrims’ CEO, will conduct the first of his surgeries later this month, on Thursday, August 30.

The surgeries will take place, by appointment, at Plumer House, Crownhill, between 3-6pm.

Michael said: “It is important that supporters are able to directly address the people who are responsible for running their club about any issues or observations they have. 

“I am always delighted to meet face to face with fans and am looking forward to meeting them.

“I will happily discuss any club-related matter, other than that involving the playing side, which is Derek Adams’ domain. If discussions will benefit from the input of a member of the Senior Management Team at Home Park, they will also attend the surgery.”

Supporters have recently made their opinions known on a range of Argyle-related matters in a fans' summer survey and Michael said: “We are grateful to our supporters for providing valuable feedback across a wide range of subjects on your club.

“We always welcome the opinions of the Green Army, and we encourage supporters to express them to us.

“We will take note of these opinions as we continue to strive for excellence within your club’s vision and values.”

Anyone wishing to make an appointment for the CEO Surgery should send an email to argyle@pafc.co.uk, putting ‘Supporter Surgeries’ in the subject line, or apply in writing to Supporter Surgeries, Home Park, Plymouth PL2 3DQ.

Surgery Dates
Thursday, August 30
Thursday, September 27
Wednesday, October 24
Thursday, November 29.

Michael’s surgeries will be in addition to the Fans’ Forums staged by the club during the season.

Following the postponement of July’s Fans’ Forum, we invited questions from supporters, which we now publish, along with our responses.

Q: “I am a long-standing supporter, a Green Lottery member, and I used to be a season-ticket holder but, like many other supporters, am only now considering "returning to the fold".

"Given the club’s current emphasis on sustainability and longer term planning, have the club any views about offering supporters longer term deals when it comes to season tickets?

"I am thinking, for example, of a five-year ticket which would carry a benefit to the club with the longer term planning and supporters’ longer term commitment and a benefit for the supporter in getting a ticket at a reduced rate - presumably this would not be too difficult to calculate and as we all are told "things" (football clubs and investments!) can go down as well as up!”

Roger Dawe

A: Many thanks, Roger; welcome back to the fold!

We have not considered a ‘multi-season’ ticket outside of premium hospitality. It is a very interesting concept and we will ask our new CEO, Michael Dunford, and the marketing team to look at how such an offer might be structured and priced and what the anticipated level of demand would be (clearly the earliest we could introduce it would be for the 2019-20 season). Thank you for sharing the idea; we will update you within two months.

Q: “Hi my name’s Ryan Sonley. I have been an Argyle fan of 23 years and season-ticket holder for 11 years and I have been collecting autographs and having my pictures taken with players from the home side and the away side since ‘09-10 season. How will I be able to keep doing this during the redevelopment of the grandstand?”

Ryan Sonley

A: Many thanks Ryan. This issue has been raised by the Green Army Grandstand Working Group and much enhanced provision has been made for autograph collectors when the new development opens.

We will do our best during the building works to accommodate autograph collectors, but you will appreciate that there will be challenges. We will keep supporters updated as things progress.

Q: "Do the board feel that Argyle’s strong away following ultimately counts against them, by putting money into the coffers of our direct rivals, rather than into our own? Argyle take many more fans to away grounds, than the number of away fans they welcome to Home Park. Is there scope to petition the EFL for a fairer share of crowd revenue from away fans?"

John Lamerton

A: Many thanks John. The Board totally agrees that we have great away support and understand your concerns while we are in the lower leagues. Last year, our average away following was 1,010, while the average for League One was 777 and for League Two was 501. In the Championship, the position changes, however - the average was 1,579 - and we would have had a below average away following. We hope to grow our supporter base further as we go up the leagues but we think we need to be cautious in lobbying the EFL for such a change. 

Q: “Why does PAFC only publish abbreviated accounts when so many other clubs publish full accounts? While not a legal requirement, it does fly in the face of the promise of transparency made when Mr Brent took over.”

Sally Snow

A: As you correctly note, Sally, the law requires Argyle only to publish abbreviated accounts while, depending on their circumstances, other clubs are required to publish full accounts. The Board aims to balance the commercial interests of the club (in particular, disclosure of information to competitors) with transparency to supporters. The Green Army has a legitimate interest to know that the club is financially strong; in the Board’s view, the abbreviated accounts provide this assurance. We have always answered specific questions about the club’s finances – as long as they do not threaten our commercial interests - and will continue to do so.

Q: “The revised plans for the new proposed grandstand roof, submitted to the Council on June 21, show a much more simplified roof construction including for covering the lower tier with a lightweight translucent roof extension as part of Stage 2. The revised plans show approximately 1,400 seats in the lower tier as uncovered, with only the proposed 460 executive seats covered by the 4m proposed extension to the existing roof cover.

"I am concerned that the cost to cover the lower tier will be disproportionate as part of Stage 2 and, as a result, may not be done for many years. Like many others my formative years of supporting Argyle were on the Mayflower Terrace and I would like to return. However, the prospect of sitting in an uncovered seating area, with inclement weather, even allowing for a possible discount in price, is extremely unappealing.

"I wondered, therefore, if the Board would consider bringing the covering of the lower tier into Stage 1 on a self-funding basis* so that the opening of the Grandstand and its most welcome improvements to seating and spectator facilities is commensurate with the demonstrable will that all supporters should be seated under cover and in comfort as part of a modern and updated football stadium?"

"*Self-funding basis - Lower tier is approximately 50% of extended Stage 1 grandstand roof cover. Allowing for the lightweight nature of the Stage 2 lower tier cover construction and the need to structurally support it, an estimate of 50% of the reported cost of the main extended grandstand roof of £1m, 50% of that cost to cover the lower tier would seem a reasonable estimate, giving the savings of doing it at the same time, to provide it. If the loan facilities of £4.1m at 3% interest were extended to £4.6m, that would incur an annual additional cost to the club of around £32,000 per year in interest and capital repayments.

"Over a season of 26 home matches, that equates to around £1,200 per game. Given the assumption that the uncovered seats would be sold at a lesser price than the covered seats elsewhere in the ground, the equalisation in ticket price for the 1,400 uncovered seats should more than compensate for the additional £1,200 per game cost of the loan to the club.”

Graham Clark

A: Many thanks for these constructive thoughts, Graham. In deciding to proceed with the Grandstand redevelopment, the Board set three objectives:

a) To materially improve the environment for existing Grandstand supporters;

b) To attract new supporters to follow Argyle through improved facilities in the Grandstand; and

c) To increase the match-day and non match-day revenues to help fund Argyle’s progression back up the leagues.

Your point is clearly particularly relevant to Objective B above, but there are several issues here:

i)  Structural: The current plans see the roof of the grandstand extended as far towards the touchline as is possible without introducing additional and significant structural support.

When complete, the roof over the corners of the ground should provide the majority of this support.

As such, the c.4m extension towards the touchline is the maximum possible at this time unless we were to change the whole structure of the roof and cantilever from the back.

ii) Affordability: the figures given as an example are based upon near-maximum use of the new stand – however, until we start to see Home Park filled to capacity for every game, this is unlikely to happen. We also need to include repayment of the debt as well as payment of interest in your numbers.

iii) Funding: the terms of Simon and Jane’s loan are very favourable to the club but we have a limited amount of capital available to us. If we were to do the roof now, we would need to forego something else; we feel the opportunity cost would be too high.

Q: “I am a 69 year-old avid Argyle fan who lives just about 200 miles away in the north of Hampshire from Home Park. I attend as many Argyle Home matches as I can, usually on a Saturday as I have to travel by train. I have been a fan for over 60 years.

"I am not a season-ticket holder as I am never too sure whether, due to family circumstances (who to look after the wife), if I will be sure to attend. Consequently, I come to the bottom of the pile when trying to purchase tickets for very popular away matches and, in the last two seasons particularly, I have not been able to purchase tickets for a number of matches that have never been a problem before, Oxford, Portsmouth, Northampton, etc.

"Is there any possible way that Argyle can have a ‘special concession’ for long-distance travellers in a similar position to myself to be able to purchase away match tickets in a similar way to season-ticket holders? If perhaps a number, say 100, were allocated for those supporters who live more than 150 miles distance from Home Park to be released at the same time period as the season-ticket holders, and any not sold could then go on general sale?

"I shall be interested in your answer.”

David Gent

A: Many thanks, David. Thank you also for such support from such a distance.

It is important that we recognise our season-ticket holders, but the Board is conscious that our regular away supporters sometimes struggle to get tickets to the more popular matches. Therefore, we have specifically created the brand new 1886 Memberships for adults and under 18s which comes with a host of benefits but importantly to you, Level 2 priority on away games.

An 1886 Membership costs just £35 for a season for adults and £20 for under 18s and is a great way for our very much valued supporters throughout the country to feel part of the club and receive some perks and benefits along the way.

To ensure that we have got this spot on, we have asked our new CEO, Michael Dunford, to undertake a review and to report back within two months.


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