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Club News

JEZ SAYS

6 December 2014

Jez Says

The last couple of weeks has seen a lot of change, on and off the pitch, progress in a number of areas and highlighted more challenges to come.  

What has made me proud is that everyone has responded and we've shown how many "teams behind the team" that we have at CUFC.  The culmination of the club's efforts is always reflected in the result on a Saturday.  The club is always judged by the results of our first team, not the balance sheet, the P&L, commercial income or the quality of our administration, academy, youth development programme or community trust.  However, they all contribute to the success on the pitch.  That's why it's so important to ensure the club moves forward as one together because every facet of the club is inextricably linked.

I would like to highlight a few developments and thank a lot of people along the way.

Firstly, you will have noticed a different front to the ground.  We had to make a decision to enhance the working environment for the staff within our business operation and improve the experience for our supporters.  We now have a larger retail provision and a functional ticket office.  Eventually, to improve the efficiency of getting larger crowds in and out of the stadium, all match day tickets will be exclusively sold from this location.  There will be a gradual transition from the existing arrangements.  We have plans to improve the frontage of the stadium still further and that will become evident in the coming weeks.  Before I go any further, I would like to say a big thank you to Colin Proctor for his help and support in the last two weeks with this project.  What Colin doesn't know about CUFC isn't worth knowing and his commitment to the cause is inspirational.  

Colin, as you know, is the fans elected director.  He works tirelessly with Dave Matthew-Jones and others to ensure that CFU continue to be a relevant representative group across the whole cross section of supporters, young and old, existing and new.  Their fundraising efforts often go under the radar so it is right and proper that today we have a presentation on the pitch to show another example of the fruit of their labours.  Their financial contribution to the club can be even greater but to enable that to happen, they need more members, more people joining their lottery scheme and other initiatives supported by everyone.  We will endeavour to work with them with the common goal of improving the club at every level, especially now we have the demands, financial scrutiny and challenges associated with our Football League status.  We already have some plans in mind.

I would also like to thank so many volunteers for their huge contribution over a long period of time, but most notably over the last couple of years when the club had to reduce it's staff to a bare minimum.  We hope to honour some of them on the pitch when Dave returns next Saturday, but I would like to mention some of them now.  Carol Looker, Josie Slack, James Taylor, Alan Giles and Brian Thorby have done an incredible job in manning the shop, the phones and the ticket office.  They are true stalwarts of the club, we are truly grateful to them for the many hours they have contributed for no remuneration and the success on the pitch over the last eighteen months could not have been achieved without them.  They will still be involved in the club but everything evolves and their roles will change.  We have a Retail & Ticket Manager starting their post in the New Year, a number of apprentices to be appointed, one of whom will have been serving you in the shop today, and more additions to the off field operation as we identify areas of potential to grow revenue and strengthen the business.  At the same time, we must keep the soul of the club, the personal touch and we must be a club for everyone as it's everyone's club.  We hope that can centre around the supporters club.  Paul Mayes has been brilliant in embracing some ideas and I am sure that we can create a real partnership, so that a community hub can emerge that will really serve our immediate locality during the week as well as our fans on match-day.  Watch this space!  And also, we launch the new U's Cafe on Monday.  I am convinced that with a little imagination and an innovative approach, we can really make this venue at the Abbey something that is more than a supporters club.

It can't be a case of "feast of famine".  We must grow, evolve and ensure a gradual transition of staff that is always affordable and increases our ability to generate more sustainable income.  That's the key.  We need to capitalise on the momentum created by the team and perform to an equally high standard across the whole club, especially within the commercial department.  We will keep raising the bar and challenge our staff to respond.  It happens on the pitch, so for us to truly be one organisation, the same needs to happen off the pitch.

As well as the physical change that you will have noticed, we have already seen a number changes amongst our personnel.  Paul Burling has taken over from Jason Fretwell as Catering & Functions Manager, Tom Lee has joined on initially a short-term contract as Commercial Manager, Andy Beattie is our new Operations Manager, which includes the role of football secretary, and Amy Ganderton has strengthened our community scheme.  She will be the bridge between the club and trust, as well as project managing new initiatives in 2015 including a scholarship programme to compliment our girls COE, Futsal, National Citizen Service and a vastly increased provision of soccer schools in our holiday programme to cover venues throughout Cambridge and neighbouring counties.  More about these plans towards the end of the year.  

There is a lot going on.  We are in the process of producing a new electronic brochure for our commercial products and a promotional DVD of the club.  We need to grow the number of businesses that regularly interact with Cambridge United.  We also need to revenue streams using all the opportunities available in this day and age.  That isn't necessarily the traditional perimeter boards and programme adverts.  They still have a place, but packaged offerings that create partnerships are the way forward, not simply trying to sell stand alone items.  We know our USP's so we must concentrate on what we do have and can do, not the limitations caused by our lack of facilities.  We also need to provide a pricing structure that caters for everyone, from the business that can sponsor our front of shirt, to the supporter who wants to sponsor a player.  Then it's simple.  Sell, sell, sell!

We know that customer service needs improving in some areas of the business.  We are changing the phone configuration to ensure that calls are answered promptly and you can quickly and easily get through to the right person.  To help us provide enhanced customer service, we are introducing a new ticket office line.  This number will allow the purchase of match tickets by phone to be far slicker and we will continue to work on the website to ensure that bookings online become so simple that more people migrate to this method of purchase.  And the Habbin Tea Bar will consistently serve hot food that is hot!

For those of you already bored with EPPP, I apologise but this is a big week for all involved with the academy, including Richard and myself.  Our audit starts on Thursday, just five months after we were given a provisional licence.  The demands on the staff has been incredible, culminating in the submission of our Academy Performance Plan two weeks ago along with all of the evidence required for the audit.  The time constraints have meant that in practice they were simultaneously writing the 800+ page document whilst delivering the new coaching programme and recording a plethora of information.  The whole process has been superbly led by Academy Manager, Mark Bonner, ably supported by Tom Pell and all the staff.  We have also produced an excellent and really informative DVD about the academy that we will get on the website ASAP. 

Finally, a welcome to Nick Clarke, recently appointed onto the board of our Community Trust.  Nick is a man of the highest calibre, who's CV speaks for itself and who's expertise, knowledge and experience will be invaluable in growing the governance capability of the trust and will play a pivotal role in helping the club to secure the stadium and sporting facilities that we need in order to prosper.  We will speak publicly about these plans, our aspirations and vision in the near future but rest assured, meetings with all the relevant parties are growing in frequency and intensity.  We want to be the masters of our own destiny and we are working hard, in tandem with the trust, to make that happen.  Nothing is more important to secure the long term future of the club.  And when the numbers of participating children in trust activities grows by the week, and our fan base grows by the game, we know that it's a battle worth fighting.  800+ fans at Wimbledon, 4000+ average home crowds, 8000+ children participating in trust activities over the last 12 months, 2500+ children being coached every week.  The numbers are compelling to ensure that our ambitions are greater than just demolishing some portakabins!

Dave is missing a rare game today but as he possibly sips the odd rum following the score this afternoon, I am pleased to report that he's set up the first branch of the U's supporters club in Barbados!  We expected nothing less!

Enjoy the game.  The same volume as last Saturday at Wimbledon, when your support was fantastic, will do just fine.

Jez 


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