Fleet vice chairman Peter Varney has sought to clarify a number of issues after comments arising from last night’s stadium redevelopment meeting were made public.
“Some of the comments I believe are grossly unfair and a distortion of what was said at the meeting,” he said. “Our position is absolutely not a case of choosing commercial gain over fans.
“Firstly, the situation over bar arrangements is as follows: we are making provision to have three bars for fans immediately (using existing available areas/space) upon any demolition of the Plough End. The necessity of the redevelopment means the current bar of course has to go and we need to take temporary measures regarding its replacement as we are doing. I committed to a dedicated bigger bar in the future and yet the post-meeting comments seem to have overlooked this fact. I explained that our aspiration is to have a bigger matchday bar in one of the other two stands but the imperative at present is to reduce the funding deficit, hence the concentration on the two primary revenue-generating developments.
“Apart from the £5m Dr Abdulla is paying for the new main stand, he is subsidising the club to the tune of £1.2m pa. This level of funding cannot go on indefinitely and the new main stand will provide facilities which together with the hotel will start to redress the balance.
“I attended the meeting at the request of the Fleet Supporters Trust. The club did not call a meeting simply to undertake a “tick-box exercise” as has been the accusation. To call the Trust an irrelevance is an unfair slur on many people who work extremely hard for the Fleet Trust and who have, only recently as just one example, contributed £4,500 to our youth football teams.
“The reality is that we published our plans on the website and in the programme as they existed and it would have been wrong of us to create the impression they could be changed. The fact is they couldn’t due to the restricted size of the site in which we operate and the culvert that runs across the present ARC car-wash site. The meeting enabled us to address those points in more detail and to acknowledge and digest supporters’ concerns, which we have done.
“Finally, I would like to reiterate that we do not prioritise only the commercial imperative above our supporters. We have subsidised coach travel and spent £600,000 clearing the club’s debts (and we are now in a position where there is not a single penny of debt). We purchased the freehold on the ground and that is now owned for the first time by the football club. A further £300,000 went on making the ground weatherproof in 2013 and we have since upgraded the floodlights, completely renovated the pitch at a cost of some £100,000 with new drainage and so on while, as mentioned above, providing for a dedicated bar in due course as the development continues. I would like to think I speak for the owner and all the directors when I say we certainly do not see fans as an inconvenience.
“I can assure you we are investing heavily to ensure the club is here for the next 100 years. Gone are the days of a stadium being built for 24-odd days of the year I am afraid. I firmly believe the finished stadium will not become soulless as has been a concern mentioned last night and we will all have our part to play to that end. I want this club to prosper and grow and I believe we have the support of the vast majority of supporters in this quest.”