September 18th, 2019
Wednesday night’s ‘On Board…in Person’ event at the newly refurbished 1869 Suite was hugely encouraging. The event promised to provide Killie Trust members and subscribers to the Trust In Killie initiative with an opportunity to hear from Cathy Jamieson on a range of topics and grill her with questions. It did exactly that. Both Cathy and Phyllis McLeish acknowledged that mistakes have been made but, on the basis of Wednesday night’s discussion at least, it genuinely seems that important lessons have been learned. Going forward the Club will look to implement a longer term sustainable strategic plan, adopting a proactive rather than reactive approach. I drove away from Rugby Park with a smile on my face, fully reassured that our Club is in more than safe hands.
Jim Thomson’s opening remarks
Jim Thomson began the evening with a few opening words, noting that he hopes to see nights like this organised three or four times a season. When Cathy Jamieson was appointed to the Board, the Killie Trust, its members and Trust in Killie subscribers were woven into the fabric of our great Club. We have an important role to play in safeguarding the future of our club and in encouraging others to sign up to both the Trust and its campaign. The unnerving demise of both Bury and Bolton serves to highlight the need for supporters’ involvement: we are lucky to have people in charge at Kilmarnock who have the interests of both the club and the community at heart and we can help to ensure that this remains the case for future generations.
The safe-standing sections in the East Stand and the Moffat Stand are on schedule. Both sections will be in place for the home match against Livingston on 19 October. We are of course the very first club in Britain to have a safe-standing section in a family stand, which in itself is something to be proud of.
New viewing platform for wheelchair users in the Moffat Stand
The new viewing platform for wheelchair users in the Moffat Stand is currently at the building and planning regulatory stage. Progress is however being made and it is clear that the Club wants to be more inclusive as a whole. Ruth Hopkins from the charity Level Playing Field recently spoke with Trust representatives. Hopkins was able to provide the Trust with a detailed plan designed to enable more people to come along to Rugby Park and experience the match day who otherwise simply would not manage. There are currently over one hundred disabled fans attending every home match and there is an evident desire to see this number continue to increase.
In other news, the new mascot is set to be launched later this year. This has been funded entirely by the Trust and KFCSA and we will see it out in the community raising awareness.
Supporter Liaison Officer - Allen Kyle
SLO Allen Kyle then discussed his role within the club. In essence, Allen acts as a human link improving communication between the fans and the Club. His work has seen him deal with fans left behind in Dundee, reach out to the authorities to implement greater safety measures at Hamilton. and ensure the son of a fan ejected at Motherwell had the appropriate follow-up support.
Since taking up the role almost two years ago, Allen has received 388 “issues”, of which he has resolved an impressive 369. His average response time is 2 days and his average resolution time is 5 days.
A number of issues are currently pending. These include privileged seat holders, post-Rangers match reaction and (bizarrely enough) an individual from Athens looking to set up a Greek Supporters’ Club.
Cathy Jamieson - Restructuring
Cathy Jamieson then took the microphone. She thanked everybody for coming along and engaging with the Board before saying a few words regarding her role. Her time on the Board so far has been interesting with highs and lows on and off the pitch. She has been made to feel very welcome and believes that she has been able to participate and contribute fully.
It was emphasised that we as a Club have to ensure that we put in place the infrastructure to match our ambition. We need to continue to be financially sound and sustainable, focusing on the well being of our own club before ultimately, at some point in the future, looking at how we can have an influence on the wider world of Scottish football.
Club Secretary and Head of Football Operations
The Club have already taken steps towards developing and implementing such an infrastructure. Significant efforts have been made to support the new manager and help him to settle in. Karen Costello has been appointed as Club Secretary, bringing with her a wealth of experience. The Club is also looking to appoint a Head of Football operations. This individual will be responsible for overseeing scouting, player identification, player recruitment and development as a whole at Kilmarnock. There will hopefully be a shift towards a more unified approach bringing together the youth team, the reserves and the first team in what will become more of an end-to-end process paving the way for a greater number of youth products to make the step up to the first team.
Certain departments have been reorganised and each department now has a “Head”: Commercial and Marketing; Media; Finance; Stadium Operations; and Human Resources. It was later confirmed that each of these heads have devolved power and delegated authority to make decisions in their own right. It is hoped that this will improve the efficiency of the day-to-day running of the Club. New individuals have been brought in who bring commercial experience and are commercially driven. The Club are looking to implement an efficient and sustainable infrastructure, highlighting that both the football and non-football side of things are equally important.
A higher calibre of player
Phyllis stated that the Club are ultimately looking to reach the stage where we can have a sustainable model whereby we can afford to bring in a higher calibre of player. With the change of manager in the summer, the Club asked itself the following question: do we really have the right infrastructure in place? It sounds like Steve Clarke’s departure has been a catalyst for much needed change that will clearly benefit the Club in the long term. In this respect, Phyllis referred to a “longer term strategic plan”.
January transfer targets
The club are already working on a target list of players for the January transfer market. While a Club like ours admittedly needs to exercise a degree of patience in any given transfer market, it was acknowledged that there is a clear need for a new plan to be put in place regarding player identification and recruitment.
Publishing the new structure on the Club website
At this point, a few questions were asked by those in the audience. It was asked if it would be possible for a chart with photographs outlining everybody at the club following the aforementioned reorganisation to be published on the website. This idea was warmly received by both Phyllis and Cathy and there are plans to introduce something like this once all remaining appointments have been made.
Head of Football Operations
Another member then asked about the possibility of hiring Graeme Mathie as the Head of Football Operations. Cathy and Phylliss were understandably reserved when answering this question, highlighting that Graeme is currently under contract with another club and that it would accordingly be inappropriate to discuss any potential recruitment publicly. They did however state that they are still actively seeking to identify candidates for the role.
Project Brave was then queried and it was confirmed that this is still ongoing. The “end-to-end” progress discussed earlier in the evening is designed to support Project Brave rather than undermine it: the Club are simply looking to create a more streamlined process in the hope that we will see more youth products make the step up to the first team.
Phyllis and Cathy were then asked if they had given any thought to the appointment of a full time Chairman. However, that is not being considered for the time being. Each member of the Board has their own commitments. There is a really healthy relationship between all three members.
Cathy Jamieson - Improving Fan Experience
Cathy then began to discuss the steps that are being taken to improve the fan experience. TicketCo visited the Club a couple of weeks ago in order to iron out the issues/ teething problems that have been experienced. It was highlighted that the online ticketing system allows the club to create a reliable database that will ultimately be used to prevent Old Firm fans from buying tickets for the home end. The database will also be potentially used to reward loyalty should there ever be a future instance where match tickets are limited for whatever reason.
Billy Bowie had suggested creating safe-standing in the Moffat Stand as well when the safe-standing had initially been suggested to him for the East Stand. It was again highlighted that we will be the first club in Britain to have a safe-standing section in a family stand.
150th Anniversary Kit
The 150th Anniversary kit is now one of the best-ever selling Kilmarnock kits, Cathy confirmed. Phyllis then stated that the process of securing the next kit supplier will be happening soon: it is hoped that the tendering process etc will be completed by Christmas.
Trust volunteering scheme
There is scope for a Trust volunteering scheme to be introduced at some point in the future. One aspect of that scheme will involve volunteers in and around Rugby Park on a match day pointing people in the right direction, answering questions, raising awareness about the Trust etc.
Social Media output
Cathy then addressed the fact that the social media output over the summer had not been as prevalent as last summer. This was purely down to the sheer volume of work. However, there are now two individuals in the media team so fans can expect to see a more noticeable presence on social media once again.
Tickets for school kids
A special initiative is being run for the game at home to Ross County on September 28th. Every single child in certain schools in the local area will be given a ticket for both themselves and (importantly) an accompanying adult. This is the latest measure in the ongoing attempt to fill up the Moffat Stand with the fans of tomorrow.
Avoiding a repeat of the ticketing issues for the away leg of the Connah’s Quay Nomads tie
At this point a question was asked regarding a potential situation in the future whereby the Club are playing a European game (or any game for that matter) away from home and tickets are restricted, with demand being greater than supply. In this respect, it is the intention that the online database (powered by TicketCo) will facilitate the fair distribution of tickets moving forward.
Online ticketing and the lack of cash gates
The suggestion was then made that the lack of cash gates is causing the club to miss out on the last-minute walk-up fan. However, Phyllis highlighted that the Ticket Office is always open and four cash pods are still in operation on a match day. Tickets can also be downloaded last-minute on a mobile phone as well. Cathy then stated that, following the Rangers game, the Club are under scrutiny as to how crowds are managed and online ticketing greatly facilitates crowd management. Over 70% of fans buying match tickets are now doing so online so it is clear that behaviours and mindsets are starting to change. Regarding online ticketing, we are moving towards a cashless society and the Club is simply reflecting that societal shift.
Concerns were however raised regarding the possibility of fraudulent QR codes potentially allowing multiple people access to a match for the price of one ticket. Both Cathy and Phyllis were however quick to dismiss this. Quite simply, once a QR code has been scanned it will only allow entry for that person: in the event that another person attempts to use the same QR code, the code will be rejected and that individual will not be able to gain entry with that code.
150th Anniversary celebrations
Attention then turned to the 150th Anniversary celebrations. Replica cups will be on display shortly: the Scottish Cup, the League Cup, and the league winners trophy. Elsewhere, young people are keen to set up youth supporters’ associations in their schools. This is hugely encouraging and would be particularly worthwhile from a legacy perspective.
Perhaps one of the most exciting points made was that there is scope for retro kits to be chosen to be manufacture (hopefully the fans will be involved in the selection process) and it is hoped that these will be available to buy in time for the Christmas period. A limited edition book is also being prepared by the Club’s historian and it is hoped that this will also be on sale for the Christmas period.
The Open Day did not happen purely due to timings. A Christmas Market at Rugby Park has however been agreed and the Club are currently planning this.
A member then asked if the Club had fully embraced the 150th year. Jim Thomson stated that he does not think so. A range of ideas had been generated but unfortunately have never materialised for one reason or another. The Club did not have the right infrastructure to support those ideas but we are now moving towards that. Notably, a pop-up museum with fan memorabilia had been considered but issues with a possible venue meant that this never came to fruition.
The Trust are organising a bus trip to the Club’s exhibition at Hampden for Trust members and their families.
Regarding a glamour friendly to celebrate the 150th year, the Board had been keen to arrange this but with the hectic fixture schedule and international breaks it had proven difficulty to find a free weekend for such a match to take place. Attempts were made to arrange a match against a number of sides but nothing materialised. Notably, Kaiserslautern had been contacted but their Board stated that they did not want to come and play on our artificial surface: it was not a case of our Board “cold shouldering” the Kaiserslautern fans who had wanted to make this happen. It was suggested that an Anniversary match could be arranged for the end of the season to bring things to a close and this idea was warmly received by both Cathy and Phyllis.
Murals and fan wall
Following a question from the audience, the Club would look to resolve the positioning of ambulances obstructing views of the murals and the cash pods similarly in front of the fan wall at the corner of the Moffat Stand.
The subject of potential investors was then discussed. Phyllis stated that the Board are happy with things as they are and that they are not actively seeking fresh investment. While this may disappoint some, Phyllis’ explanation was reassuring and demonstrative of the fact that our Board have the best interests of our Club and the local community at heart. It was explained that a company from London had approached Kilmarnock and other top-flight clubs with a view to making an investment. However, Phyllis had questioned their motives (most likely out to make a “quick buck”) and nothing came of it. For me, this was reassuring as it showed that that the Board will only take on investment where the investor has the appropriate motives and can demonstrate a connection with the town or club or, as the case may be, is willing to develop such a connection.
The Club are actively working on a new sponsor and are looking to have this finalised by Christmas. Phyllis said that the club will only be looking for family friendly sponsors: as such, gambling and drinking businesses will not be considered as potential options.
Greg Taylor fee
A member in the audience then asked if the fee for Greg Taylor was a club record fee. Understandably, both Cathy and Phyllis were hesitant to answer this fully. Cathy stated that “the best possible deal was achieved”. Indeed, when there had been a hold up regarding the two Celtic players who had perhaps been offered in exchange for Taylor, it was Angelo Alessio himself who had put his foot down and stated that the Club could not afford to wait any longer. He then went ahead and brought in his own, better quality players. This was particularly encouraging to hear.
Regarding player identification, Phyllis highlighted that Angelo Alessio had watched an incredible amount of footage over the past few months, conducting a staggering amount of research in the process. From what Phyllis and Cathy were saying, it is clear that the new management team as a whole is really starting to gel. Phyllis stated that the Alessio-Dyer relationship in particular is continuing to grow, blossom and develop: the celebrations following the win over Hibs on Saturday are but one occasion that is demonstrative of that. It was also clear that Alessio has an extremely positive relationship with the board: following Saturday’s win he had contacted Cathy to talk about how well the team had played. With the football and non-football changes that have been implemented and are lined up, there is no reason why Alessio cannot go to be a huge success at Kilmarnock Football Club.
As a relatively new Trust member and TiK subscriber, Wednesday night confirmed to me that the work Killie Trust has done, is doing, and will continue to do is exemplary. As members we now have a direct link into the heart of our club and the significance of that simply cannot be downplayed. Wednesday night also made it clear to me that the Board value and are utilising the input of supporters through both the Trust and the SLO. As Trust members we have an important role in galvanising our family, our friends, even the people who sit around us at Rugby Park, to back the Trust in any way they can. As Jim Thomson said in his opening remarks, the more Killie fans that sign up, the stronger we are as a Trust and the greater benefits we can bring to the Club and our community.
Report by Alasdair Madden.
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