Barrow Chief Executive Levi Gill provides some insight into the Club's exciting plans to keep on progressing on and off the pitch after League Two survival was confirmed.
I hope that everybody is sleeping a little better since Tuesday night? It’s amazing how much pressure and stress has released since our survival has been confirmed, and how much more positive and exciting the future for Barrow AFC now looks.
It’s been a while since my last update (although I’ve managed not to miss a calendar month – just!) but, now that Rob Kelly has steered us over the magic line to safety, it seems a good time to take a breath and update everybody on recent and upcoming activities from around the Club.
Where else could I start but Tuesday night’s crucial win at The New Lawn? In many ways it epitomised the influence of Rob Kelly since he became Caretaker Manager: hard work and a willingness to put bodies on the line, coupled with a little tactical flair in starting Calvin Andrew and the right substitutions at the right time. What Rob and his staff and all the players have achieved in recent months has been nothing short of incredible and it’s impossible to put into words what their success means to the town. Now supporters can plan for a ‘real’ start to life in the EFL and once again becoming the heart and soul of this Football Club every Saturday.
On behalf of everybody associated with Barrow AFC, I’d like to thank Rob and his team for accomplishing what every fan must have felt at certain points this season (Morecambe at home, anyone?) wouldn’t be possible. Now we’ve done it, and everybody deserves to share in the relief and joy of this moment. I for one am looking forward to seeing the Kelly’s Heroes banner displayed on Saturday and, we hope, into next season.
As a lot of fans will be aware, there’s a requirement for the Club to increase the size of our dressing rooms to comply with EFL regulations. We’ve looked at various solutions during the season and in the end, we’ve decided to remodel the ground floor of the existing Cross Bar building in order to expand the current dressing rooms to the required size.
This solution comes with a number of advantages, but the key deciding factor was the ongoing discussions on where an additional circa 800 seats could be installed next summer. These are required in order for us to reach 2,000 total seats, another EFL obligation.
A commonly discussed alternative was to move the changing rooms under the Main Stand, and this was closely considered. Ultimately, we felt that any construction that we undertook under the Main Stand to accommodate dressing rooms now would make subsequent extension/rebuilding more challenging in the future should that emerge as the preferred solution for providing additional seats. At the moment it’s important to stress that no final decision has been made on how best to accommodate the extra seating, but the Board are committed to finding the best solution and felt that as many options as possible should be left on the table. As a result, we want to disturb as little of the existing ground outside the main building as possible this summer.
The remodelling work will commence as soon as the final home game against Southend United is played. We’re pleased to have been able to partner with local companies to undertake the work for us, which will be concluded in time to allow pre-season matches to take place. In addition to extending the dressing rooms, we’re taking the opportunity to make several other improvements to professionalise and improve the running of the Club, such as a new kit room and laundry, improved office spaces and new equipment, and an increase to the size of the Club Shop. We’ll also be renovating the Director’s Area underneath the Main Stand so that we can make a fourth corporate room available for fans on matchdays by freeing up the current Chairman’s Room.
Alongside this package of work, supporters will have noticed on our iFollow coverage that 112 new seats are being installed in the away supporters’ section. This will complete next week and – once again – ensures compliance with an EFL regulation. Also starting next week will be a full resurfacing of the pitch and pitch drainage installation, and work to extend the dugouts to the required capacity.
These are exciting times. Survival has allowed us to explore ambitious ideas for the future of the Club, as alluded to by Paul Hornby on BBC Radio Cumbria yesterday morning. Our Football League status has been preserved, but we can’t allow this to be the end of the story; we feel we’re barely past the beginning.
2021/22 Season Tickets
Qualifying Season Ticket holders will soon receive an email from the Club explaining our intentions for next season and how they will be able to redeem their 20% discount on a new Season Ticket. This was promised as part of a package of benefits for those who did not request a refund, despite being unable to attend games this season, and includes a signed poster. Details on the poster will also be included in the email. At the same time as this communication goes out, there will also be a Club statement to explain the launch date, prices and other key information for those who are not currently Season Ticket holders but wish to become one next season.
2021/22 shirt design and replica kit launch
We’re almost ready to reveal the designs for next season’s kits and confirm when supporters will be able to order replicas. I’m also delighted to announce that the Club will be able to offer personalisation of kits next season, including pressing of names, numbers and EFL sleeve badges onto shirts. We’re particularly excited about this and hope it proves to be a popular addition for fans who have long called for this service to be offered.
Fan Zone opening
On Friday there will be a test event in the Fan Zone, delivered on behalf of the Club by the Bluebirds Trust. They have chosen to invite those who sponsored tables earlier this year, as well as a number of volunteers who have contributed to the Club during the pandemic and, in particular, have helped to put the finishing touches to the facility.
A full schedule of events taking place in the Fan Zone during the summer will be announced by the Trust shortly. It’s important that we review the first test event before confirming a detailed calendar, although I won’t be giving too much away by saying that it’s our intention to be able to offer supporters the chance to come to the Fan Zone for key fixtures in the global football calendar, including England’s fixtures at the re-arranged Euro 2020 tournament. Details on how to book tables for Fan Zone events throughout the summer will be given alongside the published calendar.
A second chance
This season has come with unique challenges both on and off the field. I want to finish by thanking everybody for their patience and support during a frustrating period for us all. I also want to reassure fans that the owners and directors of this Club are not satisfied with our league position this season. We understand the mistakes that have been made but the lessons have been learned and we will all reflect on a pretty bruising first EFL experience. But the work starts now to come back stronger. We believe that this Club has the potential to be an established name in the Football League and every decision taken over the coming weeks and months will be with that aim in mind.
This is a growing Club, as will soon be proven by the appointment of a Commercial Manager and a Hospitality Manager to strengthen our off-field team. We have the core of a talented side which the owners stand ready to support and improve, and we have a vision for this ground which will eventually bring it closer to the facilities enjoyed by those clubs around us who haven’t endured five decades in the non-league wilderness. We understand the challenges before us, but this survival allows us the opportunity to face them.
So, enjoy the moment and enjoy tomorrow’s game. Keep an eye on the Official Website in the coming days and weeks as some of the announcements I’ve alluded to above start to appear. We want to maintain the momentum of this week’s success and hopefully give Bluebirds around the world a few reasons to smile as we come to the end of a 12-month period that all of us will be keen to move past.
Happily, both at Barrow AFC and in the wider world, the future now looks infinitely brighter.