So here we are with the final installment of our reports from the Niall Quinn Roadshow which is currently taking place at pubs and clubs around the region.
Whilst the concept isn't exactly new, Niall Quinn along with Steve Walton should be praised to the hilt for going out on the road and answering fans questions so honestly and frankly at a time where people have lots to question them about.
Since most these events are taking place in pubs and clubs, and Niall beating the drum about the illegal showing of games in such venues, it seems a suitable place to kick off this article...Quinn told us some things we already knew; that his comments about despising those who watch illegally were calculated, and said to cause a reaction and bring press attention to the situation. Quinny got the column inches he desired, but went as far as criticising the press for picking up on the 'Quinn Despises Fans' angle, as opposed to the following lines in the initial press release which he said he understood that those under economic duress were not the target of his lament.
He also gave more reasoning as to why he wants people back, and it isn't about the money, there's a bigger plan a foot; the globalisation of the club. Quinn & Walton stressed that a full ground every week makes us a million times more attractive to the foreign market.
The pair also went on to talk about marketing of the club, and the influence of recent addition David Milliband. The former MP was brought on board to use his global contact book to introduce the club to powerful, and most importantly; wealthy people who could make a difference to the club be it through investment on a boardroom or sponsorship level. The subject of sponsorship also came up on the night, with Quinn stressing that it may be time to move on from the local sponsor route (Reg Vardy, Vaux, Tombola etc) to a more global, household name.
When it comes to finances, Steve Walton is the man in the know. Steve shed more light on the recently released accounts, stating that all of the big banks consider SAFC to be on a stable footing.
Both he and Quinn acknowledged that too many mistakes were made financially in the Roy Keane-era, and that was down to both Keane's inexperience, and Quinns. Too many players with not enough quality sitting on fat contracts, hence the problem shifting a few of them on. I'm looking at you David Healy.
These mistakes will not be repeated, and in order to stay in the banks' good books the club has drastically changed it's transfer policy. According to Niall, we are only targeting players who will appreciate in value, as opposed to depreciate. Obviously you can't make a 'hit' every time, but we're looking for young, talented players to play for SAFC, and will go on to big things.
And to round out the financial tittle-tattle, and tying everything up so far, Quinn is desperate to get more games on TV. Legal TV of course, as this not only brings more money, but also better exposure for the club nationally and internationally. Each club in the league receives the Sky cash for 10 games, whether they are shown 10 times or not. £500,000 is paid for every additional game, and the forthcoming Liverpool game will be our 11th on Sky this season.
Quinn has said he enjoys a good relationship with Sky. We like them, they like us, so hopefully more games will be shown in the future. Quinn didn't have the same love for the BBC however, ranting about us only getting 2 minutes on Match Of The Day whilst "clubs who contribute nothing to the Premier League" get all the airtime.
Perhaps the most hotly debated subject was the stadium, and the fans within. Quinn wants the fans back, thats not new news. Here is the news though on how Niall might get them back:
- Walton & Quinn both wanted to introduce 12 month payment schemes for Season Cards, but were unable to this season due to FSA rules. It is on the agenda for next season.
- Reduced ticket prices for games on TV was suggested, but Walton thought if that was done on a regular basis, it would undermine the Season Card holders who commit early.
- There is a huge issue with reduced prices for Cup games. Quinn cited an example this season against West Ham United, where the club wanted a spectacularly low ticket price, but WHU would not agree. In short, WHU would not agree, and threatened to run to the FA if they were not compensated as much as a 'standard' ticket.
Quinn is currently in discussions with the Government about giving tax breaks to clubs, on the condition tha every penny saved in tax would be passed to the fans by way of reduced ticket prices. The club are very much on the side of fans, and will do anything and everything in their power to make football more affordable to everyone.
But if the fans come back, what about the stadium, which in itself could do with a bit of a revamp? First of all everyone's favourite bug-bear; stewarding. Over-zealous stewarding, in particular the South West Corner. The club have taken on board all concerns raised in the recent Fan Survey, and are looking into making changes to the stewarding at home games. The problem lies in that Stewards are casual staff, and only seen on a Saturday. More training will hopefully be provided.
The other hot topics were Safe Standing, and the moving of away fans. Quinn said the club have looked at introducing both, but have encountered problems. With regards to Safe Standing there is nothing that can be done, and that's down to wanting to keep the ground open. If people stand, the council remove the Stadium Of Light's safety certificate. So that's a bit of a no-no.
On the subject of moving fans, all the staff are focussed on doing so. Ellis Short, along with Quinn & Walton are outraged that SAFC fans are continually charged extortionate prices for poor views, when away fans at the SOL enjoy good views and cheap tickets. Problems lie in the location of police cells and CCTV, but its something under consideration for the near future.
Cosmetic changes could be on the cards too. People have asked for years for big, massive 'Jumbotron' screens at the SOL, however whilst Quinn acknowledged the current scoreboards are a bit knackered, a screen of that magnitude would cost the club a "seven figure sum" which could well be used on playing staff than TV screens.
The club are also looking at changes to the reserve team. Plans have been drawn up to host reserve games at the Academy, with a stand erected there, however the pitch is not conducive to players recovering from injury at the moment, and would itself require substantial improvement.
There is also talk amongst Premier League teams to abandon reserve team football, and replace it with a U21 or U23 league to bridge the gap between academy and first team, and this could be implemented soon if all the clubs agree.
And that just about does it as far as our round up goes. I hope you've enjoed reading them the past three days. Quinn & Walton were both captivating public speakers, and have great plans for the club in the future. Not one fan will have walked away feeling negative about SAFC, and hopefully Quinn & Co turn on the same charm for sponsors, executives, officials and players.
The future's bright, it's red and white.