The Club's Chief Executive, Levi Gill, gives fans another update from behind the scenes at The Dunes Hotel Stadium.
Hello, everyone. It seems a long time since I sat down to write one of these updates, partly because July’s was missed. My apologies for that, and for missing the Q&A event in the Cross Bar at the end of July too. The update didn’t happen because the week of the Bolton Wanderers game was the most intense period of my time at the Club. Several staff and volunteers each clocked up over 100 hours on site as we made every effort to get the ground ready for the game. And then on the eve of kick-off, just hours before the Q&A began, I received a text requiring me to self-isolate due to close contact to a positive COVID-19 case from the prior weekend. So, all in all it was an interesting end to the month of July!
Below, I’ve captured a few of the key developments of the last two months as well as some clarifications as we go forward. As ever, if there’s something specific that you’d like to see in these updates then please speak to our SLO who will pass on the message.
Aston Villa and playing side update
I should begin by thanking Aston Villa for their incredible generosity in donating their share of the gate revenues for our Carabao Cup tie back to Barrow AFC. They’ve rightly received huge credit from the football community for the gesture, one which makes a huge difference to our club. Combined revenues (ticketing, sponsorship, TV money, match day hospitality and refreshments etc.) from the game fell just short of £200k, making it truly transformative to our season. This wouldn’t be possible without the fantastic support of Barrow fans who sold out the ground and made it a night to remember. There were a lot of new faces in the stadium that night and it would be great to see some of them back on a more regular basis.
What this cash injection means is that we can now step-up plans to professionalise the Club and put Football League infrastructure in place. It’s common knowledge that change is coming to our training set-up, and I’ll speak later on some of the off-field infrastructure that we’re working toward establishing. But in addition to both of these investments, we’re also working very hard to support the Manager in the transfer market before the window shuts. If the opportunity to strengthen the squad presents itself, even in these final hours, then we will pursue it.
Departures and off-field infrastructure
This week marks the end of Anya Wood’s time with the Club. Anya has held several roles, both voluntary and paid, since she began her Barrow AFC journey in 2015 and has been invaluable to me over the past 12 months. She took on a new role as Retail and Ticket Office Manager and has looked after both departments of the Club single-handedly. This has not always been easy for her and one of the biggest lessons of her tenure in this role is that the Club needs a bigger staff to effectively carry out all of our functions. However, Anya has always tackled the challenge with a smile and deserves all of the messages of thanks and support that fans have been sending her way. I’d like to add my own via this statement. Every Club needs people with the passion and enthusiasm of Anya, and replacing that commitment to our cause will not be easy. I’m sure she’ll reappear soon in some capacity because, once this Club gets into your system, it’s very hard to get it out again. But for now, on behalf of the Club, I wish her every success in her next challenge.
I can also confirm that Harry Gornall has left the Club having only recently taken on the role of Hospitality Manager. I regret the fact that his appointment hasn’t worked out, but ultimately Harry sees his future elsewhere and leaves us with no hard feelings. His arrival was crucial in bringing in expertise that we didn’t have elsewhere within the Club, setting up supplier relationships and ensuring that we had beer to pour through the lines when we needed it. Without that shot in the arm, our food and beverage provision would be a lot worse off and I’m grateful to Harry for the effort that he put into the role while he was with us.
Naturally, these departures will mean that the Club must recruit additional staff, but it has also presented an opportunity to look at the off-field structure and assess what we’re doing well and where we can improve. The whole Club is in a period of transformative change, and it was interesting to hear Mark Cooper’s comments on the Barrow AFC podcast recently when he said that putting Football League infrastructure in place at a previous non-league club takes 2-3 years. That goes for off-field departments as well as on-field, and the Board are committed to ensuring that we invest where required in order to bring this Club to the level we need it to be at. As a result, we’re reviewing the off-field structure and hope to create some new roles in the team in the near future.
Opening times and cash payments
I’ll finish by clarifying some recent changes to the way that the Club operates. This may be a little ‘fact heavy’, so apologies if there’s a lot to take in but feel free to refer back to this statement at a later date. All of this information can also be found in recent Club statements on our website.
On a normal day, the Club now opens at 10am rather than 9am. We still close at 4pm as normal, and will extend these hours when appropriate, as we have recently for the replica shirt launch and the sale of Aston Villa tickets.
If it’s a Tuesday and we have a home game, we won’t open until 2pm and then we remain open right through to kick-off. This applies both to Main Reception and the Club Shop. On a Saturday matchday we open at midday.
On the subject of cashless payments, having taken on board feedback from fans, we’ve made some small adjustments to the policy which gives a more freedom on a matchday. Firstly, the Ticket Booth in the Fan Zone is now able to take cash. This means that tickets can be bought with cash right up until kick-off, although the usual online options are still in place for people who prefer e-tickets. We’re also accepting cash in the Club Shop on a matchday, as this was a common request over the past few weeks.
Everybody involved with the Club, including the owners, is happy to acknowledge that we won’t get everything right first time. Nor that we can fix every issue immediately. COVID-19 has presented huge challenges across the sport, and there are bigger clubs than ours currently suffering far greater issues in supply chain, ticketing, retail and other areas of their clubs. All that I will ever ask of supporters is that challenges and criticism are kept respectful. Personal attacks on staff or anybody else associated with the Club are both unnecessary and unacceptable, and are a disservice to what is generally a fantastic supporter base here at Barrow. I’m happy to discuss anybody’s concerns on a matchday and please rest assured that if we can fix them, we will.
On a more positive note, we’re continuing to recruit casual matchday staff and the shortages in these areas are slowly improving. However, we always need more, so if you’re interested in being a member of our bar staff, turnstile and ticketing team or a steward, send your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of the team will get in touch with you.