A well-attended members meeting took place in the Centenary Club on Thursday last following the news that manager Gary Mills had departed the club. Football club and trust board members were in attendance to answer questions from the floor. For the benefit of members who were unable to attend, what follows is a summary of the main points raised at the meeting.
WST Chairman Peter Jones opened the bi-monthly meeting by thanking former manager Gary Mills for his efforts which unfortunately had not worked out. The Board also expressed their appreciation including the dignified way Gary had dealt with the decision to bring his contract to amend and they wished him luck in the future.
Mark Richards asked about the budget. WAFC Finance Director and Trust Board member Mark Williams said that it was in line with last seasons and that the Club had gone “above the baseline” when signing Shaun Harrad and Jordan Evans. The budget is usually reviewed in November which the club will do as normal. WAFC Director Barry Horne said that the manager was told what the budget was when he joined the club and the “deal was that he had control of signings” and “if there was no money left that was because it was spent”. We will “try out best to support the new manager financially and if Gary didn’t think it was enough he did not say so. He was “a brilliant” person to work with”. The budget is “competitive” and when we first met him it was made clear that the play offs were our expectation and Gary said he “could bring success”.
Rob Evans asked whether it wasn’t better to find extra money now rather than wait until crowds began to fall, WAFC Chief Executive Don Bircham (DB) said that “we have to work within constraints” but if we generated extra income a percentage would go to the manager. David Williams asked about the attendance levels budgeted for by the club. Mark replied that these had been shared when members approved the budget at the last AGM, the figure was split between season tickets and paying attendees. To date “season tickets were on track but we were just behind on attendees”.
Barry said that it was the manager’s decision to offer one year contracts with an incentive to play a set number of games to earn another one. There was a discussion about contract lengths and whether certain players should be offered extensions during the season. Colin Williams asked about the “level of autonomy” enjoyed by the manager. Don said that the “scope changed” between Kevin Wilkin and Gary Mills. Barry had a "high level of responsibility" with Kevin but not Gary who was solely responsible for team affairs although he regularly reported to the board who raised any concerns with him. Don agreed that we need to “re-evaluate that relationship”. Mark McDougall asked whether Gary had resigned or was sacked. The board confirmed that they had terminated his contract. John Connah asked whether experienced managers would apply if they thought they would be under the control of a director of football. Barry said we shouldn’t worry about excluding managers. There would be huge interest in the post and they were already receiving applications/inquiries. All applications will be considered carefully and we “will endeavour to get the best manager”.
Mike Evans asked about speculation that Gary Mills was off to York. Barry said it’s up to him where he goes, we had no hold over him. We have had to pay what we are contractually obliged to a pay him and we would “act by the book”. Asked whether we could afford to pay compensation to attract a new manager, Mark said that each contract was different and it depended on the terms. We did pay compensation for Gary but not for Kevin.
Huw Davies said that it was too important to leave the playing side to just one person. He suggested that they look to a trusted former player who could work with the director of football. It was up to the fans, he said, to boost the budget by paying additional subscriptions. Don said they hadn’t ruled out former players, the structure is open to review and they have “ruled nothing in and nothing out”. It was confirmed that Darren Caskey was still employed by the club. Paul Evans asked about the timescale. Barry expected the applications “to have reached over 30 by the weekend” and that the Board would meet early next week to begin the process of considering them. Kerry Evans asked whether there was an application process. Don said they had tried various methods in the past including a formal job advert with short lists and interviews. However they had approached Gary direct.
Stephen Parrott said we had tried a wide variety of types of manager in the past and suggested that we needed someone who bought into the structure; had a long term plan and developed younger players. John Bevan congratulated the board for making the decision and asked where they saw the club in the next 5 years. Don said that “expectations never change” and with a competitive budget and the right manager he was sure we could achieve promotion.
Paul Howes asked about the ground and the lease and the current impact of that. Mark said we had only been in control since 1 August and "we will formally review the position shortly". Food sales were in line with expectations and bar takings were “above assumptions” but “we will review in the next few weeks”.
Barry said that agent’s fees came out of the playing budget but were not an “excessive” amount. Harry Thomas asked about getting players signed up before the new manager was in post. Barry said each situation was unique. In the past we had signed up Moult and Smith mid-season and its “not inconceivable that we might do that again”. We operate a “tight budget” and the lower leagues are moving more towards shorter contracts generally. It was only October and we might wait until the turn of the year.
Yvette Gardner asked about how the players had reacted. Barry said he had informed Sean Newton, there hadn’t been much time and that players usually reacted by expressing disappointment at times like these and the intention to work hard for and impress the new manager. It was a feature of professional football.
Asked about the training regime, Barry said that managers will expect to do things their way. It’s “an art not a science” and managers “live or die” by their decisions and methods. Much has been said about them but they were not “negligent or insufficient” in his view. Asked about Colliers Park, Gavin Jones (Trust and FC Board director) said that the youth teams still use it but at the moment the University wanted access to it during the day and so the first team train at Stansty as we had to make alternative arrangements which are adequate.
Asked about outside investment, Peter Jones said that they were not averse to outside investment but only two approaches had been made. One from Ireland which was probably not serious and another on behalf of an Italian group which seemed intent on using the club as a training ground for its young players. We had heard nothing further from them. Any such offer would need to be considered by the membership.
Mike Jones asked about expectations of the new manager. Don said we had to be realistic and it may take some time. We need to support the interim managers. Asked about the Glyndwr Wrexham Football Academy, Barry said it had been up to the manager to decide whether use GWA players. Although the intake would complete their education and play football, it was fair to say that “neither side had given it their full support”.
It was confirmed that the Club were planning concerts at the Racecourse next year.
Asked by Gareth Davies about having to pay compensation to the former manager, Barry said that the sum "was confidential, we were contractually obliged to pay it and the employee was protected by the law". Don said a manager usually “does not fall on his sword”. Tony Williams asked about the £200,000 stadium shortfall, Mark said again that gate receipts were slightly below budget but some costs were lower. At the moment it was too early to say.
A number of questions had been e mailed to Trust secretary Alan Fox but most concerned the previous manager and had already been answered during the course of the meeting.
John Edwards said that a lot of questions were based on hindsight and speculation. He wanted to thank the boards for the work they do.
The Fundraising team took the opportunity to remind members of forthcoming events including a Soul Night at the Centenary Club on 19 November. All welcome.
The meeting ended at 2110.