Pre-Wolves Q&A Report
City majority shareholder Steve Lansdown met with supporters ahead of the Wolves game on Saturday in one of his regular away day question-and-answer sessions, run by the Supporters Club & Trust.
Here is a brief report from Stu Rogers, chairman of the Club & Trust.
Majority shareholder Steve Lansdown once again met with fans in a pub in Wolves (phot above) for an open and honest Q&A session, attended by around 180 fans.
Part of the Supporters Club & Trust fans representation strategy, this was the fifth such event with others previously at Rotherham United, Crystal Palace, Derby County and Norwich City.
Many topics were covered, ranging from players, managers, Financial Fair Play and stadia.
To kick-off, Steve spoke about how difficult it was to compete in the npower Championship these days, given increased parachute payments and foreign investment. Couple this with a current stadium that is only able to commercially provide for a top League Two side and the impending Financial Fair Play regulations, the priority is to make sure that the club is solvent and sustainable.
Asked whether signing players like David James helped commercially, the answer was 'yes, to a degree, but more can be done to maximise it'. Clubs like West Brom and Southampton have Academies in and around the Bristol area, which is frustrating and it is our scouting network that we have to get right, the legacy of which we are still feeling.
Our player recrutiment policy means we are starting to see a good calibre of players come in and ones which will be worth some money later in their careers. In answer to a question about also needing experience in the side, like Paul Hartley previously, Steve agreed and pointed to players who could gain that experience by the age of 26-28 when they are at their peak.
Foreign ownership has not gone down well in the Lansdown household. A recent visit to Cardiff City demonstrated it is no longer the club it once was. Playing Devil's advocate, Steve said 'they are top of the league, so it must be working'. However, fans in the room were very vocal about the importance of retaining our heritage and culture. Steve agreed and reiterated why he was committed to building a club that had a heart and was sustainable.
Asked if he would be favouring Bristol Rugby to get them into the Premiership first, the answer was no and that his interest in Bristol Rugby would not detract from his support for our football club.
Asked if Derek McInnes was not his preferred candidate for the job, Steve said this was not the case, although conceded that in theory we had the chance to appoint Sean O'Driscoll at that point, but he may or may not have accepted it if offered, who knows?
There was a lot of discussion about stadia and whilst there was some good banter, certain questions were tactfully answered or declined. We have planning permission for Ashton Vale and, in essence, nothing has changed. The consultation for a redeveloped Ashton Gate continues; both options provide the commercial benefits required.
Asked where the chairman of the football club was, again it was reaffirmed that Keith Dawe is not a public speaker, does a lot of good work behind the scenes, but personal circumstances and other commitments often make it difficult for him to travel. Steve feels he has good experience on the board through Keith and Doug Harman to work alongside Jon Lansdown, plus Steve is still close to things. Steve quipped that he does not actually have a job at the club, he "just pays the bills".
Finally, Steve retold a story of how it was his son (Jon) that first got him to go to Ashton Gate along with Des Williams, who was a client of his at Hargreaves Lansdown. Steve joked with Des that he obviously "liked to back losers" and Des, looking at his portfolio, shot back "obviously". This transpired into two free tickets to watch a game, which Steve joked "turned out to be the most expensive free tickets ever".
This was proper fan engagement. An upstairs room in a pub ahead of an away game, complete with sticky floors and hardcore City fans, who are passionate about our football club. If anyone had any doubts before, it is clear that our majority shareholder shares that passion too.
Afterwards Steve Lansdown said: "Maggie and I would like to thank the Supporters Club & Trust for organising the Q&A. We were both made very welcome and thoroughly enjoyed the occasion. The level of support and feeling for the club was once again evident and makes us feel very humble to be responsible for it. We would like to thank all those who attended and asked many and varied questions. The game didn't turn out as hoped for, but the fight is still there to be won, this season and in the future."