General OxVox Update 01/02/2024

OxVox Statement

Our meeting with Tim Williams and Adam Benson took place last Thursday, 25th January, at the Kassam Stadium: vice chair Ali Wolfe and I were in attendance. Having not had a meeting with Tim for some time, there was a lot to get through and after a brief chat on all things flood-related, we began the discussion on the stadium and planning submission.

It is probably worth pointing out that throughout our discussions we were made aware that Tim and Adam feel it better to not communicate until they have full and finalised information to pass on. While we understand the reasoning behind this, we made it clear we felt this was counter-productive and leads to unnecessary tension and misunderstandings among supporters. This is a fundamental difference of opinion, as we feel it is vital to keep supporters updated, but more on that later.

Planning submission and stadium related issues

Our first question was to ask if they could reassure supporters on the planning application submission. Why was there a delay and could they reassure us that everything was still going ahead as planned? In summing up the answer we should say we take what was said, some of which was in confidence, and add that to what we know from other people connected to the council, planning, and the club to form our opinion.

The planning submission is going ahead as planned and I can vouch for the complexity involved when not only putting in a huge submission but dealing with the separate issue of the council cabinet. The view being taken, and rightly so in my opinion, is that it is better to be fully prepared than stumble in without taking into account any late problems that arise. Whether those problems could have been avoided earlier is another matter.

Where our problem lies is in communication. Supporters understand the need for confidentiality, but to leave us without meaningful updates on the situation underestimates the intelligence of our fanbase. There are clearly some issues being squared away but they assure us these are in hand.

Asked about a timescale Tim was very reluctant to put anything down that might have to be bumped back, given the nature of all the moving parts. That being said we will state that in our view planning will be submitted in the first quarter of this year. That suggests March at the latest.

As a follow on we asked if the club were confident that if the process was delayed further at any point that we have contingency plans in place to play our games in the period after our licence at the Kassam ends and before the stadium is ready for use.

As with many things, to trumpet plans in hand would just allow those looking to oppose the community stadium another straw to clutch at regarding our desperate need to move. Suffice to say Tim agreed it would be negligent not to have examined temporary options for that potential period and that the process was in hand.

We then spoke at length about the financing options and debt burden and also the safeguards needed once built to avoid the situation we are in arising again. While again there are areas of confidentiality here, we are reassured by the club once again standing behind the assurances we discussed early in this project.

The stadium will be wedded to the club both through the council lease agreement and, we understand, contractually by the club. This should cover future owners and offer peace of mind for as long as we are at the new ground. We have also discussed there being a ceiling on any rental costs there may be and protection against being priced out of a sustainable range in comparison to the rest of the league. We will of course continue to push to see the written confirmation of these agreements but both owners and directors of the club have publicly stated their intention to safeguard the club in these ways.

With regard to financing and loans taken out against the club there is a level at which the club can generate finance which will of course be governed by much stricter terms than in the past. It is clear that additional funding streams will need to be raised and that process is ongoing. It is also clear that equity from the owners will be put into the project and that underpins their longer term commitment to the club. There was also discussion that could secure revenue from the hotel and ancillaries at the stadium going to the club to finance any debt and support its growth in perpetuity. These are by no means finalised or agreed upon but this again would be a massive signal of intent from our owners.

Again, we are pushing for more details and access to written agreements, but these are positive communications in what is massively important stage in our club’s history.

The discussion widened to the intentions of the owners and the long-term feasibility given their investment. It seems obvious that the stadium would not be a short term ‘flip’. None of us can truly guarantee an owner’s intention but with little in the way of assets to strip, and the money invested in developing our club so far, it would seem reasonable to follow the suggestion from owners and board that they are sports supporters and have a history in taking clubs forward and creating extra value in them. As our revenue grows the value of the club increases and were we to be a Championship side in a new ground we owned with our catchment area, that would prove a significant upturn in value. Fears will always remain, and our history reminds us to be cautious, which we will be, but at each step the owners are investing and supporting our club at levels that many, if any, have seen before.

CAB/FAB

Having spent some time on the stadium we moved on to the club’s intention to set up a Club Advisory Board, or Fan Advisory Board as it looks more likely to be called if put in place. This signalled a more heated debate as we struggled to get our concerns over.

The FAB would be part of the club’s fan engagement program and would meet with club officials four times a year to pass on ideas and discuss various club related topics. Adam Benson would in effect run the club’s participation and ideas would be passed from the FAB to the club’s board of directors. The Chairman and CEO would agree to issue four updates a year between them on the back of this. As part of the engagement process the club would sign up to two Fans Forums a year, one with the Chairman and senior directors and one with the manager and playing staff.

While not included in the original meetings to discuss the formation of the FAB, OxVox have been offered a single permanent seat on the board, along with OUSP and four other supporters. We have been sent more details of the function of the FAB which we have looked over. Our initial reaction was one of extreme caution. Given our reduced access and sometimes tense discussions with the club, our fear was and remains that without any real bite or full independence, that this FAB could be a tick box exercise that could be used to further limit the access and influence of the independent supporters’ trust. We had informed Adam that it was unlikely that we would support the CAB in its current form and that we would also put the question out to members.

OxVox has always been staunchly independent and dedicated to listening to its growing membership. Now more than ever your views are paramount in what we do. Tim and Adam are keen to push through the FAB quickly as part of their engagement strategy and while we back any move that will increase transparency and communication we again voiced doubts. Among our issues were OxVox’s lack of initial involvement; the make-up of the FAB not being more heavily weighted to supporters’ groups rather than individual supporters; the absence of a means of direct communication with supporters; the lack of a guarantee of direct involvement with the board above Adam; and the lack of accountability or ability to report back to supporters independently.

While no doubt frustrated by what was perceived as a negative approach to the FAB we tried to express our genuine concerns and those of members we have already spoken to. Tim and Adam asked what could be done to bridge that divide and make the board workable. We told them that we would need to take the framework and rework it to reflect ownership of the FAB by the fans and to try to secure a proper, meaningful dialogue. Our biggest concern remains that while we are working hard to improve what has become increasing limited and difficult communication, that this could be an easy way to avoid tougher questions in a more controlled environment.

After further discussion from both sides Adam asked what points could be changed to satisfy us and our members. Some will have seen the early details of the proposal, but Adam has asked us to wait until they can make alterations before publishing updated details of the framework which we will send out to members and offer both the chance to email back in with comments and vote on your preferred course of action. Until then we would love to have your emails and comments and initial thoughts so far on the overall concept of the FAB.

We would never abdicate responsibility for these decisions but a clear voice from members is part of what makes OxVox strong. Please email us at enquiries@oxvox.org.uk to express any initial thoughts you have.

Fans Forum

The arrangements for the fans forum are well under way and we have a provisional date which we will share with supporters as soon as we have confirmation, but it will likely be early March and an evening event.

We also raised the prospect of reviving the weekly Five (fifteen) Minute Fans Forum on BBC Radio Oxford. The idea was not enthusiastically received and Adam and Tim felt the effort required outweighed any benefit. We pressed the fact that supporters appreciated the effort and the chance to send in questions and persevered. Eventually we suggested a less frequent running. It is our hope that we can secure a monthly ‘Fifteen Minute Fans Forum’ to help supporters get greater access to our club.

Michael and Sue and the match day stall

We once again raised the subject of the fabulous supporters who run the match day stall and who recently handed yet another cheque over to the community trust for over £5,000.

While it is clear that there will be no flexibility on the branding stance, we also feel disappointed by the manner and tone of the club in dealing with this matter. It may be how larger clubs treat supporters, but part of our distinct ‘brand’ is our connection with supporters. Talks are ongoing with the club and ourselves and the community trust on a plan they have to replace the revenue and help keep the stall running. Our hope is that the club will be fully behind these plans, and we will help in any way we can.

Communication with OxVox and supporters

As mentioned earlier there appears to be a fundamental change in the way Tim and Adam want to communicate with supporters and we were surprised and disappointed to hear Tim say he thought we as a club ‘over communicated’ previously and he wanted to rein that in. We have felt that change here at OxVox and feel it has been detrimental to us, supporters, and the club. It underestimates the supporters to assume they cannot understand confidentiality where needed but also understand the details and challenges of what are often complex negotiations. It also put into focus for us the pitfalls that may exist with the FAB if that same approach is followed through there.

Once we did get the chance to sit down with Tim, we did manage to cover a lot of ground. Sadly, too often though in getting to that point things have been too adversarial. OxVox remain a ‘critical friend’ and part of that role includes feeding back concerns and criticisms. We have been incredibly supportive of the good work being done by the club but they cannot become defensive over genuine concerns voiced by the supporters’ trust.

We hope that this meeting will open the lines of communication a little more, but either way we will keep fighting to improve communication and transparency between supporters and club and to make sure members and supporters still have a strong, independent, and engaged trust to represent them.

We’d like to thank Tim and Adam for taking what turned out to be a long meeting with us. We hope it will help move things forward as we all want this club to succeed.

Finally, a huge thank you to members for reading what is a long update and for your continued support. Your feedback is vital to us and if you have any opinion on the early details of the FAB then please feed back to us via email. It will be our members that steer our decision on this and the more of you we hear from the more representative that decision will be.

Thank you all and as always…..COYY

Paul Peros
Chairman

 
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SteMerritt

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Big update just dropped to members, thank you to the committee for this. Good news about the Fans Forum moving forward but it is concerning reading the way the club are looking at the relationship with the fan base. Suggestions that the club have been 'over communicating' in the past and it needs to be reined in are really concerning.

Check your mailboxes if you haven't seen it yet, I'd say an essential read.
 
Always saying we just hear to much from Grant, fella doesn’t stop talking, surprised he can fit a round in with all the over communicating he does.
 
A good update.
The ground sounds promising at least.
I am fully behind Paul and Oxvox's stance on this.
Williams and Benson do not seem to get the need to communicate with the supporters. This buys an awful lot of goodwill, which is especially useful when things go wrong ( which happens sometimes)
 
Big update just dropped to members, thank you to the committee for this. Good news about the Fans Forum moving forward but it is concerning reading the way the club are looking at the relationship with the fan base. Suggestions that the club have been 'over communicating' in the past and it needs to be reined in are really concerning.

Check your mailboxes if you haven't seen it yet, I'd say an essential read.
Seen, replied, as OxVox requested ( and mentioned my thoughts already on The Board & Senior Management thread),

I am sick and tired of the seemingly contemptuous treatment of ELECTED ( and Unelected- as in OUSP) supporters representatives , when raising concerns and issues on OUR behalf. Contant and continual fobbing off is simply not good enough by the club officials ( especially Adam Benson) . Im going purely on responses reported in the minutes of meetings with OxVox and OUSP representatives.

If you are not a member of OxVox already, please sign up now ( its less than the price of a matchday ticket for 3 years membership)
 
Among our issues were OxVox’s lack of initial involvement; the make-up of the FAB not being more heavily weighted to supporters’ groups rather than individual supporters; the absence of a means of direct communication with supporters; the lack of a guarantee of direct involvement with the board above Adam; and the lack of accountability or ability to report back to supporters independently.
I would love to know who these individual supporters are that the club is planning on having involved in this new ‘board’.

Presumably a selection of braindead stooges and professional kiss arses.
 
Thanks Paul for the early access public update. I've finally signed-up as an Oxvox member now!

I'm no fan of TW to date, nor his poncy corporate speak, and agree that the lack of off-field communication and general engagement is disheartening.

However, reading between the lines, I do wonder if the 'we over-communicated' line has more to do with showing off the new stadium CGI's and going on record to say the planning application would be going in by November?

You were at the table, was there more to this line than just the planning app?

The CAB feels like the club wants to have way too much control. Look how different Wreham's CAB is structured. :confused:
 
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However, reading between the lines, I do wonder if the 'we over-communicated' line has more to do with showing off the new stadium CGI's and going on record to say the planning application would be going in by November?
I am not sure that this is over communicating?.
Over promising maybe.
 
I would love to know who these individual supporters are that the club is planning on having involved in this new ‘board’.

Presumably a selection of braindead stooges and professional kiss arses.

I think we know the answer to that..................... shall I make my suggestion? :)

If it did not exist then it wouldn`t be a possibility.

Time for it to go under the umbrella of the organisation that gets in hard.
 
That is another disheartening update TBH. The club really seems to be forgetting what it's major asset is. It isn't the players, the corporate image or the ego of a couple of jobsworths - it is the supporters.

Tim W seems to have a really thin skin, and I suspect the reaction to his now rather infamous 'match day activations' press release has irked him - he thought he was being clever and instead was just laughed at. The other bloke (Benson) seems like a right piece of work.

'Over-communication'? Do us a favour. The Oxford supporter base contains a lot of very capable people in many walks of life - very many will have become well used to corporate bullshit. Just treat people like intelligent adults and you'll get some respect Tim - stop communicating or keep putting out drivel and people will soon see though you.

It seems like a strained meeting, which must have been unpleasant - thanks to those from OxVox who are trying to fight our corner against what appears to be a confrontational, secretive and quite unprofessional club management.
 
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A good update and one that is very useful for the fan base.
Another positive is the news about the planning on the stadium and the clubs long term future once it is built.

It also highlights that we have very good owners that we should feel very lucky to have, that said though, they are being let down so so badly by Tim & co.
They come across as arrogant individuals who have a distain for the people they are actually trying to get money from.
If their attitude towards the fan base continues then I would actually call for some form of action to get these commercial chancers out of our club and get the board to listen that the fan base aren’t happy with the way we are being treated.
I’m sure Bakri & co would not be happy if they built a new stadium but couldn’t fill it due to Tim, Grant & Adam’s behaviour towards their fan base.

I said it yesterday on a separate thread but I’ll also put it here…Adam Benson was employed by Wasps rugby club to take the club forward, 2 years later they were in administration.
 
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