Phoenix FM were at the AGP Arena this evening for the lates Billericay Town Fans Forum.
Sitting on the top table to answer fans’ questions were Owners Glenn Tamplin and Andy Cosias, Chairman Dan Groves, CEO Paul Webster, Assistant Managers Harry Wheeler and Danny Hazle and players Dean Inman – the new club captain – as well as Robbie Evans and Billy Bricknell.
Glenn Tamplin opened the meeting and thanked a crowd of more than 100 fans for coming out tonight.
He started by talking about his plan for self sufficiency. Glenn said that he wants the club to run itself financially in the next 2-3 years, with no further financial input from himself.
Glenn also introduced Andy Cosias, who currently owns 10% of the club. He said that he is willing to give up 40% of the club to new investors if it will help to advance the club.
Andy Cosias spoke about why he has invested in the club, and his desire to keep progressing and add quality to the team. He plans to increase his shareholding to 20%. He was asked what would happen to his investment, and Andy expressed his desire to get more new players and a 4G training pitch. Andy was a former Arsenal youth player and also played for Leyton Orient and Charlton.
Dan Groves spoke about his current operational role at the club. He announced that half-season tickets will be available from 1st January and asked anyone interested to get in touch with the club as soon as possible. Prices will be adults £99, concessions £66 and children £33.
Dan also spoke about away day travel. The club will be organising supporters’ coaches for any journeys over an hour.
He went on to talk about the Essex Senior Cup and said that the club will offer half-price admission for these games, starting with Thursday’s fixture against Basildon United.
Dan mentioned that there has been so much interest in the club from overseas as well as the UK that the club is looking to introduce a streaming and commentary subscription service on the official website. Glenn has asked for fans to give suggestions about what they would like to see on the club’s social media.
Paul Webster introduced himself, talking about his own footballing background firstly as a Leyton Orient youth player and then as a football coach. Paul is a former director of Chelmsford City FC but left the club because he felt there was no vision; he came to Billericay Town because of the vision that is being followed through at the moment.
He explained his role is to make the club sustainable and self-sufficient. He is responsible for introducing the club’s new online ticketeing system, and the club’s new online commerical directory The Blue Book.
Paul also spoke at the new 130 seat function and matchday hopsitality suite which is currently being built. He expects a matchday package in the suite with a 2 course meal on a matchday to cost £30-£35.
He said that the BTFC website is getting 250,000 – 750,000 views a week and social media is getting about 400,000 daily views.
Paul said that he intends that Billericay Town FC will be operating with the mentality of a Football League club, while keeping the family-friendly feeling that currently exists.
Paul also introduced Sharon, the club’s new commercial events manager who will be helping to get businesses outside the area involved in the club.
He is looking to get involved with local events in Billericay and mentioned that they hope to stage a three-day festival on Bank Holiday Monday. He’s hoping to get Madness playing at the club, although was unsuccessful in tempting Lee Evans out of retirement!
Glenn Tamplin then opened up the room to questions for players.
Dean Inman was asked why he wanted to come to Billericay – he said that he was very impressed with the club’s ambition.
Billy Bricknell said that he hopes to be out for just three weeks and he’s very happy with the atmosphere at the club. Glenn added that Billy has been working very hard and has improved his game considerably.
Another fan remarked that the fitness of the squad has been remarkable this season, particularly towards the end of games where the club has been getting results due to their higher fitness levels. Glenn said that this is partly due to the increased competition for places at the club.
Robbie Evans was asked about the transition from Wrexham to Billericay. He said that he found moving away from his family hard at first but is now loving his time at the club.
The players were asked by a fan that they felt opponents are now raising their game, particularly physically. Billy said that the players have noticed this but are dealing with it as best they can.
Harry Wheeler was asked how the players are coping with the many games and he replied that the club was concentrating hard to make sure they are managing the squad and their playing system to make sure they can stay on top of this.
Harry then spoke about his own background and explained that he came to the club because of the ambition the owners have already demonstrated. He spoke with great detail about his approach in training and matches.
A fan asked about the club’s substitution policy and felt that substitutions were made too early within a game. Harry said he’s got confidence with his bench in every game and early substitutions have been right most of the time. Glenn added that the club have 20 players good enough to start and he needs to give them a lot of playing time to keep them all happy.
Harry was asked by a fan who he thought had improved the most since he had joined. He felt that all the players had improved but he felt that Sam Deering was maybe the one who has come on the most. Glenn added that he has persuaded Sam to drink no alcohol and that he is subject to random breath tests! As a result Sam has managed to maximise his performance on the pitch.
A fan remarked that the club often doesn’t name a goalkeeper among its substitutes – Harry said this is quite common in non-league football and the club are not too concerned about this backfiring.
A fan asked what has happened to Jeremy Lynch. Harry said that he is still part of the club but he has got a lucrative contract to work overseas and the club did not stand in his way. Glenn added that Jeremy is available to bring a lot to the club off the pitch but has not been able to commit to regular training. He’s not being paid by the club.
Glenn then took the floor to talk about his first year (he bought the club on 10 December last year). He said it’s been very hard and he has been worried about negative comments that are received on social media. He told the forum that he has a genuine love of the club – nothing has come easy but he knows it will be worth it in the end.
He’s very proud of the team he’s built and asks if he can do that in 11 months, what could he do in 3 years?
Glenn spoke with passion about his own commitment. He said that he needs help from the fans to take it further – he wants more people at games and wants the fans to bring more people to the games to support the club.
He then went on to talk about the club’s charity work. Ten years ago he was personally in a very bad place and owed his life to the charity and help from others. He is determined to put something back in the community and feels fortunate that he is in a position to do so.
He intends to set up a charitable trust at the club to help the good work that the club is doing.
Glenn then went on to talk about players who have recently left the club.
He said that Joe Ellul is a great player but he was not happy with sitting on the bench. No other players are guaranteed a start every game and Glenn could not give Joe that guarantee either, as it would not be fair on other players. He is now doing well at Braintree Town.
Glenn then said that Paul Konchesky left for the same reason. He said he understands why players wanted to start every week and he wishes them all the best.
He went on to talk about the club’s family and community atmosphere and energy within. He’s very proud of the fans who he feels are a great credit to the club.
The floor was opened up to questions again. One fan was concerned that the players were announcing their departure rather than the club. Glenn said that he had allowed players to do this, although he felt that was wrong in hindsight and plans not to allow it again.
Another fan asked if the capacity of 3,400 was full. Glenn said that the official capacity of the ground is now 3,800 but the capacity was lower on the day due to agreement with BT Sport. He then mentioned that he wants to ensure that Billericay has more fans than Dulwich Hamlet, and also added that he hopes to win the league at Leatherhead on 31 March!
Another fan mentioned that the local pubs were full of people watching the FA Cup game.
One fan asked if he thought that Glenn’s presence on social media was a problem, given the level of abuse he gets. He said there is no chance he will give up social media. He does regret some of the reactions he has given and feels he needs to improve personally. Glenn does feel that social media is important but the club needs to be on it for the right reasons.
Glenn was asked about the improvements around the ground. He said that he wanted to open the new building as a bar but Basildon Borough Council stopped him from doing so. He feels that the club is already looking at extending the new stands.
Glenn was asked if the ground was leased – it is, and there is only 22 months left on the lease. He is still negotiating with them over an extension of the lease. The possibility exists that a new facility supplied by the council could be built.
Another fan asked about the recent U23 match between West Ham and Benfica. Glenn says he has a good relationship with West Ham’s Academy manager Terry Westley and the U23 team plan to play their matches at the AGP Arena next year.
Glenn was asked about parking and he replied that he feels there is adequate parking at the ground, which is superior to many bigger non-league clubs.
In response to another question about increasing support in the community, Glenn said he can’t feel that he can do any more and wants to recruit the Supporters’ Trust to help out. They will continue to work with Paul Webster to make this happen, although Paul asked everyone not to leave it to the Trust and to help out individually if there is anything they can offer.
A final question concerned the food on offer at matchdays and it was confirmed that more options would now be available due to equpiment upgrades.
Glenn wrapped up the meeting by offering everyone in attendance a free drink!