To 3G or not to 3G – BCFC 2018

Twerton Park Pitch
An open discussion

Part One

It’s taken a while to write this due to work and social commitments away from football. I’d like to give my views on the 3G debate for Bath City FC (Part Two) but first I will go through what happened at the Society’s discussion night (Part One).

I didn’t stay for the whole night so some of the debate, at the end of the night, will have been missed. Ironically I had to dash out at quarter to 9 to go and play 6 a side on Odd Down’s 3G pitch – more on that later!

Michael Clayton, Society chairman, opened the night and hailed it as a fantastic opportunity to have an open and frank talk about the options for the pitch. He went on to introduce Nick Blofeld (football club chairman) who would be answering the questions from the floor and present the slide show with Michael.

It was very disappointing to see a low number of Society members in the room, over half of whom were already volunteers for the club in some capacity.

Purpose of the night

  • opportunity to air views for members
  • educate each other
  • address any unknowns
  • be able to make an informed decision

Important dates – for main stand redevelopment

  • 11-14th April for next discussion
  • Pre-planning meeting mid/late April – to give an indication of whether to explore 3G
  • Planning submission Autumn 2018
  • Planning decision Jan/Feb 2019
  • Start on site Aug 2019
  • Completion April 2021

The pitch will be levelled as part of the main stand redevelopment.

Financial Sustainability

  • It has been harder to rent the space than initially thought it would be when the Bid was started
  • It took longer to complete the takeover – So a new business plan was needed and a new main stand is vital to that plan

Community Role

  • Key goal since the take over – they want a vision and values that work for the community
  • 3G is a widely useable pitch – it will save Bath City Youth 20K a year – you can rent it out all week – give reduced rent to charities – The Bath City Foundation support this
  • A grass pitch is unable to support the above

We were then given the Bath City FC CREDO (a statement of the beliefs or aims which guide someone’s actions)

We want to achieve success on and off the pitch, as an authentic and progressive Club, which is owned by the community and predominantly run by a dedicated team of volunteers.

We aim to be successful, professional and efficient and to achieve long-term financial sustainability, whilst being open, inclusive, considerate and diverse.

We will bring people together by hosting exciting, entertaining football matches, played with good spirit, and in a great atmosphere.

We will organise other events to contribute to the wider community, so that Twerton Park becomes a hub for activities, organisations and services for people of the surrounding area.

We intent to be an integral part of city life, not only in Twerton, but the whole of Bath, owned by hundreds of supporters, and followed by many more. We are truly the people’s club.

Commercial impact

  • 3G is in demand in BANES
  • Conservative profit of 65K a year
  • Need to reduce the 90K a year loss the club has currently – NET capital is required
  • Other commodities sold will go up with a 3G pitch – drinks etc

Football quality

  • The 3G would be international standard – FIFA quality Pro – with careful maintenance
  • Ambition and promotion of Bath City FC – League Two clubs will vote in June as Sutton look likely to go up (with a 3G pitch) – 3G can be reversed back to grass – the pitch life is 3-7 years – Jerry Gill (Bath City manager) believes it will help his style

Board’s view is subject to:

  • Supporters
  • Clarity on Football League’s stance
  • Funding
  • Further analysis
  • Inclusion re-development and community contribution

So that is the briefest outline of the slides presented (you can find the whole feasibility study here for more information) – the room was alive with questions after that…

Q – Based on the funding outlined (in the feasibility study) of 600K to redevelop the pitch it will take 10 years to pay this money back?

A – Informed that funding will be available through grants and a wealthy individual. More information will be coming if the 3G option is explored (it was questioned again but the room was told once we go down the 3G route in more detail there isn’t much more to say on the topic).

Q – How will it be staffed? and is their costing been included in the proposal?

A – The club already has one FT member of staff and based on Sutton’s model this will suffice. Volunteers will also help maintain and manage it.

Q – About where will the 600K come from?

A – Only just being explored now so no more information to give.

Q – How much will it cost for grass to be put back on?

A – Don’t know. This wasn’t written into the redevelopment of the ground – only the levelling of the pitch.

Q – Would local people object?

A – Unknown as they haven’t been asked yet as this is the first stage of the discussion

Q – Rental process is based on 35 hours a week maximum (to come to 60K profit a year). If the club takes 7 hours for training and games and then you have the youth teams and foundation taking premium evening slots, who will take up the 9am-5pm slots?

A – Local schools and community will use it during those times – funding is available – Odd Down is fully booked during these times – demand is so high in the area

Q – Why didn’t you speak to Lewes (which is a negative example of 3G)?

A – Didn’t think of it – will look into it

Q (statement) – You can’t give away too many ‘cheap slots’ to make the profit needed

A – Still need to look into it – there are no guarantees that we will make 60K a year in profit

Q – Have you thought about the players we currently have (if we moved to 3G)?

A – Can’t be answered tonight as still in the very early planning stages

Q (statement) – Moving away from grass would mean that the authentic charm is gone

A – It depends on your view of authentic

Q – What is Jerry Gill’s view? & why has he changed his mind (he was anti 3G earlier this season)?

A – He understands it better now with the different variety of grades available

Q – Could Jerry Gill ask the local football league clubs whether they would still loan us players with a 3G pitch?

A – Yes he would if we were to consider going down that route. (There was also a strong emphasis on not being tied into forever and a day with this, could only be 3-7 years)

Q – What would happen if 3G was a success on and off the field and we were the position to go up in the Football League? Would it rip it up again and put grass down, saying goodbye to all of the local youngsters who have benefited from it?

A – Based on this season and Sutton (and the impending league vote) then yes we would – although this is a long way off and a lot can happen in the rules of the game between now and then

Q – Twerton Park has very good drainage at the moment, would drainage be an issue once levelled?

A – 60K of the 600K is for drainage measures.

Q – Holland are looking into the health implications of the black crumb on 3G pitches, is this a concern?

A – It’s in the back of our minds but nothing is stopping 3G being laid in the UK currently.

Q – What impact on the local community would the lights have (being on every night)?

A – It’s not been looked into in detail yet but the lights would have to be changed to run along the stand.

My time at the meeting ended with an emotional statement from the floor:

Crowds are not going up as we would have wanted yet, the club is losing over 90k a season. What can we do to raise the extra money? Nothing has worked up to this point, what would the pro grass supporters do to make up this short fall? It’s not ideal going to 3G but if it means we have a club in the future then we must seriously look at this as an option as the club can’t keep losing money.

Looking at the size of this article I’m going to wrap it up here. I’ll give my views in Part Two. There is plenty of healthy debate on the forum too!

Apologies if this angers anyone or that I have left anything out. I made brief notes on the night and didn’t put names to statements. If the club, Society, Supporters Club or an individuals want to step forward and help contribute then get in touch.

Despite the passionate debates (on both side of the 3G debate) the only thing anybody wants is to see a vibrant and successful football club for the short term and long term.

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