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Best fans' forum yet, says Paul Baker

7 November 2014

Cheltenham Town chairman Paul Baker on the Robins Trust fans' forum held at Whaddon Road on Thursday evening:

This was probably the most robust and challenging one of these we’ve had over the years. There were some really good questions and debate and the club will have learned something, which is the purpose of these events.
We managed to deal with some of the trickier questions, but with some of them we’ll just have to disagree.
Sometimes it’s hard for fans to understand the finances, but as directors running a business we have to think of the implications of every decision we make on pricing, or whatever it is. If we increase the prices or reduce them, as long as we understand the implications, we can make decisions and the important thing then is that if things work we can do them again.
There were some great questions. We can’t keep increasing free admission to keep people coming and it’s inevitable that there will be a drop off when people go from paying nothing at all to paying £6 or £7.
I thought Mark (Yates) dealt well with all the football related questions and the important thing for us is fan engagement.
The money left to the Trust by Bryan Jacob, which was a fantastic gesture by a great supporter and friend of the club, will enable them fairly soon to invest enough money in the club to have their place on the board.
I regard this as a positive thing, but they will have to carry on working hard as a Trust for the benefit of the club.
They will need to be a hard-working member of the board, increasing fan engagement and supporter numbers.
We’ll see a supporter elected through due process by the membership, so it’s a great opportunity for the Trust to increase its membership and get more people involved.
There will be certain strings attached to our offer, which will be a commitment to raise a certain amount year on year to be agreed.
Let’s hope the Trust can go from strength to strength and it would be great for us to be one of the few clubs to have a supporter engaged at board level.

Cakebridge Place:

The prefabs in Cakebridge Place are nearly all derelict and boarded up, presenting the council with a huge opportunity to build some houses which are fit for purpose and Cheltenham is in desperate for more housing, particularly low cost and social housing.
The site doesn’t lend itself to housing because it is prone to flooding because it has the river Chelt next to it.
So we have been having conversations about giving them a piece of the car park at the Whaddon Road end and in exchange we take the use of Cakebridge Place.
The council can build good quality housing on a site that doesn’t flood and we have an access onto Prestbury Road, which is much better than Whaddon Road.
We can have more car parking and I’d like to look at a commuter car park for people to walk into town.
We might be able to do a redevelopment of the stand without the restrictions of having houses right next to a potential development.
It’s exciting, works for both parties and I think it’ll work for the community too.
We can look at ways of generating income for the club by building something with office or residential options, which can generate money and also provide employment opportunities or homes.
We are not there yet, nothing has been finalised, but I am hopeful this scheme will go ahead.

Training ground:

It’s been a busy week, but a really good one. Our lease at Seasons is coming up shortly. It’s an important facility for the club and the meeting we had with Zurich was to discuss potential for extending our lease, on a basis which is comfortable for them and us. We are looking after the facility for them. It was a very positive meeting for us which is quite exciting.

Scoreboard:

It's disappointing we haven’t had it sorted out before now, because I miss it, but the 500 Club have agreed to pay the bulk of the cost. We want to make sure we get the right scoreboard, but it’s a big investment so we’ve thought about where it’ll go and how it can generate money for the club, possibly with replays and advertising too. We will get there, but we want to make sure it’s the right scoreboard for us.


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