Albion Assembly Meeting, The Hawthorns
Thursday, August 25, 2022 – 7pm
Club staff in attendance: Ron Gourlay (RG), Ian Skidmore (IS), Steve Bruce (SB), Tony Strudwick (TS), Cindy Joyce (CJ), Sean Watts (SW).
Apologies: Ann Staniland, Rob Lake, Carl Burkitt, Mark Miles, Selwyn Owens, Rich Jefferson, Martin Grange, Dave Holloway, Kevin Candon.
Director of Communications, Ian Skidmore, opened the meeting and introduced the other staff members in attendance: Chief Executive, Ron Gourlay; Manager, Steve Bruce; Director of Medical, Tony Strudwick; Supporter Liaison Officer, Cindy Joyce; and Senior Communications Officer, Sean Watts.
IS explained the agenda for the evening, with the meeting beginning with introductions from SB and TS, followed by ‘Q&A’ sessions. RG would then give an overall club update and answer submitted questions from Albion Assembly members. It would finish, as normal, with ‘AOB’ and a date for the next meeting.
UPDATES FROM STEVE BRUCE & TONY STRUDWICK
SB became the first Albion Manager to attend an Assembly meeting and talked attendees through several subjects. This included evaluating last season, refreshing the squad via the summer transfer window, his desire to put together a team supporters can identify with, the addition of TS and thanking the fans for their support.
TS then introduced himself, spoke about his role and addressed topics such as linking up with SB again, the demands on modern players and the current squad, and the challenges of the last three Covid-affected campaigns combined with this year’s mid-season break for the World Cup.
SB and TS also answered questions on a variety of matters, including transfers, injuries, team selection, Academy graduates breaking into the senior team and how coaches and medical professionals must evolve as the sport continues to change.
FOOTBALL & GOVERNANCE – RON GOURLAY
Following a short interval, RG started his section by thanking SB and TS for attending the meeting and talking for close to an hour. He stated his intention to try and bring different staff members along to each meeting.
RG assessed the early summer transfer business and talked through the permanent signings of John Swift, Jed Wallace, Okay Yokuslu and Jayson Molumby, praising their impact on the club so far. He also spoke about trying to re-balance the squad during the most recent transfer window, though stressed it may take the next couple as well.
A positive update was given on season ticket sales, especially around young supporters, with almost 25 per cent now under the age of 18. He said ‘kids for a quid’ has been well received, as has the return of the Fanzone, the new family area inside The Hawthorns, this season’s kits, and the new Megastore opening hours.
Regarding senior management team appointments, RG said the appointment of TS is important for the whole club, the medical department, and the players, who have taken to him very well. He added that he’s still working to bring in more non-executive directors, with a variety of experience and backgrounds ranging from football to business.
He confirmed the club are offering additional support to the women’s team with an increase to their playing budget and further assistance off the pitch, which he said would continue to grow in the months and years to come.
RG addressed a question on fixtures being moved for Sky games, and reluctantly said he expects Albion to be on television roughly the same amount as in 2021/22 – which is unfortunately outside of the club’s control. He explained the current deal between Sky and the EFL is due to change next year, and it should then run more like the Premier League where picks are spread evenly among teams during the first half of the season.
A discussion was had around the potential to kick-off evening games at 7:45pm, rather than 8pm. RG and IS said the current time is in place owing to previous traffic disruptions, but that this would be discussed internally to see if it is possible.
Further questions around fan involvement at board level and the appointment of a Technical Director were asked. RG said that fan involvement on the board will be considered and plans to appoint a Director of Football Operations remain in place.
RG then addressed fan concerns regarding the club’s accounts, as well as external speculation around the sale of the stadium and/or training ground. RG stated the club is in the process of responding to queries raised by Shareholders For Albion (S4A) and confirmed he expects the £4.95m loan owed by Wisdom Smart Corporation Limited to be repaid, with interest, by December 31, 2022. He also stated that rumours the club is looking to sell the training ground and/or The Hawthorns are categorically untrue and would not happen. RG added the club would not object to a group applying for the stadium to become an Asset of Community Value (ACV).
Finally, he finished by saying he understood supporter frustrations and reaffirmed his commitment to greater communication with the fanbase through Albion Assembly meetings and other supporters’ club gatherings, in addition to media briefings.
ALBION ASSEMBLY RECRUITMENT
IS stated his intention to begin a recruitment drive for the Assembly. It will begin with current members being asked if they want to continue in their role, followed by a questionnaire to gain further information about the group, in line with the club’s EDI requirements, and to identify which areas may need further representation.
He put forward a motion for Lizzie Hayward - who is Albion’s new Her Game Too representative - to join the group, which was approved by members. For further additions, a sub-committee has been set-up to ensure impartiality, and the aim is that new recruits will attend the next meeting.
Discussions were also held regarding the main branch of the supporters’ club and the disabled supporters’ club. IS said Albion can’t intervene but stressed the importance of both and said the club will offer support wherever possible – and urged Assembly members to get involved.
Members brought forward topics such as standing in the stadium, pre-match music and entry into the Fanzone during the AOB section. RG and IS thanked members for their contributions and said feedback would be taken on board.
Date of next meeting: Thursday, December 1.