Statements from club and supporters’ group

Date published: Saturday, May 2, 2015

IN a statement from the club, chairman Chris Hamilton said he made a commitment a few weeks ago to meet a group of supporters with concerns in relation to several club matters and this meeting was the positive outcome.

The list of concerns was discussed at length. The meeting was a productive one in which views on both sides were openly expressed, even to the point where some of those present were honest enough to state that, in more recent times, they had not attended matches regularly at Whitebank.

The future of the club and its prosperity on and off the field was the main focus and, while acknowledging that the club does have areas of its operation in which it can make improvements, there was also an acceptance of the role supporters can play in various ways to move the club forward.

The club was happy to approach Rugby Oldham to invite them to be represented at the next meeting on 1st of June and to seek assistance from the RFL’s digital development team in order to upgrade and improve its social media and digital communication with the fan base.By the next meeting we aim to be in a position to move things further forward.

It is important to stress that this entire process is still in its infancy. We need to ensure that the exceedingly promising start to the 2015 season, made by coaching staff and players, gets the full backing of supporters old and new while club and fans together work in concert to achieve similar success off the field.

In the period between now and the next meeting it would be extremely encouraging to all concerned, and hugely beneficial to the club which is at the centre of all our affections, to see at least some of those supporters who consider themselves to be “lapsed” back at Whitebank cheering on the great bunch of lads who are proud to wear the Oldham jersey.

(end of statement)

Statement from the fans’ group

The supporters who met with Roughyeds Chairman, Chris Hamilton, on Monday have released details of the background to the meeting and the discussions which took place.

We don’t claim to be the most regular attendees at matches or to have a particular business insight. Nor are we formally appointed representatives of all supporters. We just got fed up of moaning about some of the issues that had been heightened by low recent attendance figures and decided to try and do something about it.

We speak to other fans on a daily basis: socially, in person; at games; and on social media. We wrote to Chris Hamilton, highlighting some issues and requesting a meeting with him to discuss them. We raised an Agenda to focus on what we know are fans’ main concerns:

· the location of Whitebank Stadium and the condition or absence of supporter facilities

· a lack of regular structured two way communication between the club and fans

· lack of effective club website with dynamic content and feedback opportunities

· poor use of social media

· lack of clarity on the club’s overall financial position

· an opportunity for fans to own some or all of the club through a Supporter’s Trust, as at Rochdale and other clubs

Mr Hamilton was happy to meet with us and proposed the date and time.

The meeting was very positive. Chris was happy to admit that there are areas the club needs to take action to address. Equally we were happy to hear his point of view as he outlined some of the issues the club faces and the areas he would like supporters to help.

Chris acknowledged that facilities at Whitebank are below a minimum standard supporters should expect. He is personally disappointed by this but various issues have so far limited any development. However, he stated that he is hopeful that an imminent announcement will contribute to massive improvement possibilities at Whitebank. He is adamant that the site can be made to meet Championship level stadium criteria and arrangements will be in place to allow the club to take its place in the Championship should we secure promotion.

Mr Hamilton was also keen to scotch rumours that Whitebank has a restriction or covenant on the land that would prevent further development. There is no such restriction. Lease arrangements will also not limit building and he believes development plans will create a fit for purpose facility for players and fans alike. Chris committed to hold a meeting focusing on the stadium development schedule, as part of this series of meetings.

On the subject of the club’s overall financial position Chris confirmed that the club has historical debt, and that the huge majority of this debt is in the form of Director Loans, owed to him. However, he takes great pride in the fact that the club always meets its responsibilities to its employees and statutory creditors. This cannot be said of many clubs. Annual operating losses are relatively low, despite current revenue levels, and this could be redressed with small revenue increases. Larger revenue increases are needed to generate profit for development.

The club’s communication, marketing and digital media plans were discussed in detail. Supporters offered ideas and examples to impress upon the club’s management the importance of effective engagement with fans, partners and the wider world. Mr Hamilton committed to seek advice and support from the RFL’s digital development team and others to develop a communication plan for the club. Supporters offered personal expertise to help in this area.

Supporters asked if the club would develop stronger links with Rugby Oldham, the existing Rugby League Community Trust for Oldham. Supporters believe the Trust may have expertise and funding which could benefit the development of the club. Supporters suggested that representatives of Rugby Oldham could attend future meetings. Chris committed to pursue closer ties with the Trust and said he was more than happy to invite Rugby Oldham to future meetings.

Finally supporters questioned if Mr Hamilton would be open to any level of supporter ownership of the club through a properly constituted Supporters Trust such as Rugby Oldham. Chris stated that he is open to discussing ANY level of supporter ownership of the club, through any supporter group including Rugby Oldham.

Rugby Oldham has since stated they welcome the opportunity to develop closer links with the club, and will be happy to attend future meetings.

The next meeting has been set for the 1st of June. The detailed agenda for this meeting has not yet been set although Mr Hamilton will report back on progress with stadium development and the communications and social media plan. Closer working with the Supporter’s Trust and the possibility of supporter ownership will also be explored in more detail.