NAIRN County FC held a Fans Forum this evening at the Royal British Legion.
Representing the club were Chairman Donald Matheson, Director of Football Graeme Macleod, manager Ronnie Sharp and Club Licencing Manager and Fans Liaison Ian Finlayson.
Donald Matheson opened the meeting by informing attendees that Gregg Main had signed a new contract and that the floodlight pylons are due to be painted using monies from the Fans Fund starting tomorrow. This is an urgent piece of work that needs done as Ian Finlayson reported that on his recent visit, the SFA Club Licencing manager, Brian Mann had picked up on their poor state due to not being painted for many years.
Ronnie Sharp was asked about targets for the new season. He said that the only targets were for the team to play as well as they can and try to improve where they can. He added that he did not want to set any targets to add any unnecessary pressure to the squad but it may be something that is looked at for the second half of the season after Christmas time once the first round of fixtures are played. However, he stated that undue influences that cannot be accounted for such as injuries or player unavailability can have an impact on achieving pre-season targets.
The manager was then asked if he expects any more players to leave and he said he does not with all but one member of his first team squad tied up for at least the next two seasons. He added that he is looking to recruit one or two additional players as Stevie Mackenzie has increased work commitments and Calum Riddell will not be fit to start the season with the squad. The best wishes of everyone at the meeting were extended to Calum.
Ronnie Sharp revealed that he currently has one player on trial with the squad and one other due to join the squad for training next week. He has spoken to Inverness CT about potential loan deals for players who could act as cover in the squad but the feedback was that they would be looking for loan fees, which would increase if a loanee was not used on matchdays.
He also added that three players from the under-20s squad are currently training with the first team and that he would not just take players in for the sake of it - it must be players in positions that need to be filled. Last season, he felt he was forced to play a back three due to personnel but has addressed that with the summer recruitment and intends to experiment with a back four during the close season.
He finished by saying that spirits are high at training with 16 players there for the first session on Saturday and 17 attending on Tuesday night.
Donald Matheson revealed that the bump in the playing surface at Station Park that has developed along the touchline in front of the away dugout due to the excessive amounts of sand that has been spread on it over the years will be repaired in the three weeks between the Inverness CT friendly match on Friday July 7th and the home Highland League fixture against Deveronvale.
He also informed the meeting that concrete bases for two new wooden poles at the Cawdor Road end of the ground to extend the netting are now in place with the poles and additional netting to be installed soon. He thanked the volunteers who have helped with the maintenance work over the close season and reported that the playing surface was in good condition.
The Chairman then said that the club is looking for a ballpark figure to construct a new toilet block within the ground.
Donald Wilson stated that with running costs of £250,000 and a wage bill of £170,000 last year, it would be interesting to see how figures for this year compare. Donald Matheson responded that the club was waiting for accounts to be signed off but expects both figures to be significantly reduced.
Mr Wilson asked if the club would have an open AGM for all supporters to attend. The Chairman will look into whether legislation permits this and report back. He also added that the club would not be progressing with a share issue as this is likely to cost the club more money than it would raise. He also added that any supporter wishing more details on the club's position on a share issue can visit Steven Bain at the Ritson Young office on Nairn High Street.
Ian Finlayson reported that on his recent visit to the club, SFA Club Licencing Manager Brian Mann wished to pass on his congratulations from the SFA to the club for all of the work done over the last year. It had been picked up on by the Association all of the community initiatives that the club was now engaged in and how well everyone involved with the club and the local community had done to ensure survival. The club anticipates successfully renewing its Entry Level Club Licence for the first team, youth team and finances and its Bronze Level Club Licence for the ground.
It was reported that the club's average attendance for games at Station Park during the 2016/17 campaign was 150-170 paying supporters. This was up from an average of 100 for the previous season. The pitch was also used for 40 games over the past season, almost double the year before yet the average pitch grading dropped only 0.3 points from 4.8 to 4.5.
Donald Wilson asked if the TV tower at Station Park could be moved as it was intrusive to some supporters. Donald Matheson will look into it.
It was reported that the club had received a Notification of Complaint from the SFA Compliance Officer due to being over 1.0 disciplinary points above the league average. The club has responded and are awaiting the tribunal hearing.
Donald Wilson conveyed his congratulations to the club for achieving a point-per-game average in the league and reaching two cup quarter finals after the situation they were left in 12 months ago. He also asked if the usage of Station Park would be reviewed going into the new season and was told it would be as the club felt they did not know how many games the surface could handle, so wished to gain a feel by staging as many games as possible last season. That will now be reviewed but all under-20s fixtures will still be played at Station Park.
Ronnie Sharp added that it is important to integrate the younger players to the first team and ensuring they are comfortable playing within the surroundings at Station Park. He added that every player is treated the same from 17 year olds to senior players. There are no egos anymore at the club and the team comes first. He said that anyone who steps out of line would be dropped from the team and if this did not resolve the issue, they would be transfer listed.
James Dunbar asked if it was possible to introduce an affordable hospitality package aimed at supporters as opposed to the corporate market. Donald Matheson reported that this was something the club was already looking at and discussions were ongoing.
Donald Wilson asked about a board outside Station Park to advertise the 50/50 prize for the half time draw and this is something Donald Matheson will look into while finally, Ian Finlayson will look into Gordie Ogg's suggestion about boards at either end of the town to advertise home fixtures.
The club are grateful to the Royal British Legion for hosting tonight's Fans Forum and thank everyone for their attendance.