The meeting minutes from the latest Albion Assembly meeting can be found below.
Albion Assembly Meeting – the Training Ground
Thursday, December 1, 2022 - 7pm
Club staff in attendance: Ron Gourlay (RG), Ian Skidmore (IS), Rob Lake (RL), Cindy Joyce (CJ) and Rachel Smallman (RS).
Apologies: Kevin Candon, Shin Aujla, Sukhbir Gill, Mark Miles.
Albion Assembly members were given a tour of the training ground ahead of the meeting.
Albion Assembly recruitment update
As decided in the previous meeting, IS conducted a recruitment drive for new Albion Assembly members. There were an initial 359 applicants, which were filtered down to 159 strong applications, before being shortlisted to 30 people based on the need for greater diversity in the group. These were then looked at by a subcommittee of current members, who recruited 17 new members. The new members will be introduced at the next meeting.
RG then introduced Rachel Smallman, the club’s Head of Marketing, to the group, before addressing a number of topics sent in by members for discussion.
Guochuan Lai Loan
RG started his update by saying he had been assured by Guochuan Lai that the £4.95million loan owed to the football club by Wisdom Smart will be repaid by the revised deadline of December 31, 2022. He said he has made it clear in board meetings, including those prior to the publication of Albion’s accounts in June, that this debt must be repaid so it can be reinvested. RG also stated that supporters will be informed when the loan is repaid, and reassured members that no money will leave the club in the same way while he is Chief Executive.
In regards to recent fan protests, RG praised the passion shown by supporters, said he understood their frustration and added that he hopes the repayment of the loan will allay some of their fears.
RG confirmed he has authorised an independent investigation into an earlier 2014 loan, which predates the current ownership and is owed to the club by its holdings company.
Further loans & investments
RG added that, despite the previously mentioned challenges, the club remains financially in the black. However, should promotion not be achieved this season, Albion will be without Premier League parachute payments. Therefore, to maintain financial security and ensure funds are available for investment, the owner is considering a number of options – including the possibility of a loan – but it will only be used for the benefit of West Bromwich Albion Football Club. Members asked how the loan is likely to be structured, but RG said he could not confirm those details publicly at this time.
Holdings Company & Asset of Community Value application
RG stated that a new Jersey-based holdings company has little to no impact on the football club and has been created at the discretion of the controlling shareholder. He also, once again, reiterated his support for the ACV application by Shareholders for Albion in relation to The Hawthorns.
RG said he has discussed the difficulties experienced by supporters and staff at the Junction 1 motorway island with the local council. Talks are ongoing around a long-term solution, which will require significant government investment and large-scale works. But short-term fixes are available that will help, and further information should be released in the coming weeks.
Non-Executive Directors & the Football Technical Board
RG said unforeseen delays had meant prospective new directors were not yet available to join, but that it remains an important step in bolstering the football experience at the club and he hopes there will be an update soon.
RG added that Carlos Corberán has, in his role as Head Coach, joined the Football Technical Board, and will attend their next meeting, joining Academy Manager Richard Stevens, Head of Recruitment Ian Pearce, Director of Medical Tony Strudwick and other essential personnel. This group means that a Director of Football Operations is not a necessity at the moment, as he believes in a collaborative approach rather than placing too much power in one person’s hands. RG said he would continue to monitor the situation and said he would not rule an appointment out in the future.
Recruitment & The Academy
RG conveyed his confidence in the club’s current recruitment process, including Ian Pearce and his team, and said they have invested heavily in technology and a modern approach to scouting.
He also talked about the Academy and their continued development of players, particularly highlighting the development of Alex Palmer, Dara O’Shea, Taylor Gardner-Hickman and Reyes Cleary this season.
Following audits of Albion’s Academy and safeguarding operations, RG said they have tackled, improved, and overcome issues that not only satisfy the required criteria, but go above and beyond to ensure they are a leader in these fields. At the next audit he is confident the club will see its EPPP Category 1 status extended for a further three years.
Deadline Day, Administration & Communications
RG spoke of previous issues around administration, including the well-publicised difficulties on deadline day. He said changes to the department in the short term have stood them in good stead, and he plans to appoint a Director of Football Administration. He also added that he wanted to deal with the deadline day problems behind closed doors, rather than making a public statement.
He further reiterated his desire to continue communicating with key stakeholders, the fanbase, the Assembly and the media, who he will talk to again in the near future.
Lastly, he addressed the appointment of Carlos as Albion’s Head Coach, and praised his impact so far, as well as his attention to detail, drive and passionate approach. RG believes Albion have a squad that will flourish under him and mentioned the trip to Spain, which has been crucial in building a togetherness.
The Albion Foundation
RL spoke about the ‘Brunty v Mozza: Clash of the Legends’ charity game – saying they raised between £150,000 to £160,000 profit. Feedback from the day was positive, and the Foundation are proud of what they achieved on the day.
RL spoke about the Regis Academy – an independent school that opened a year ago. The Regis Academy is a primary school for children on the verge of exclusion and who need support in order to return to mainstream learning.
RL announced The Regis Academy was recently inspected by Ofsted and was rated good overall and outstanding for behaviour and attitude, which is an exceptional outcome for a newly-opened school.
TAF are trying to get some extra funding from the Council as the school currently costs the Foundation £150,000 per year and to be able to maintain this, they need extra financial support. All the children that have been through the school last year have returned to mainstream education.
He confirmed the Foundation are again operating internationally, with recent trips to Sweden and Nigeria and hopefully one to Australia in the Summer. This is an income generator for the Foundation and it helps develop staff and the game in other parts of the world.
Members brought forward topics regarding the quality of food in the concourses and the exterior of The Hawthorns looking untidy. Feedback was taken on board by RG and IS and an update will be provided at the next meeting.
The Junior Baggies Christmas party was raised and RS confirmed the club plans to have an event next year.
Half-time entertainment was also discussed and RS confirmed the club is trying to build up an improved programme of events and activities.
Next Meeting – Thursday, March 9, 2023