(Tuesday 6th September 2005)
Wanderers' Managing Director Steve Hayes revealed that new 'investors' were just six to eight weeks away from being announced when he spoke at the Fans Forum held on Tuesday 6th September 2005. Hayes was quizzed on the success of the conversion of the Football Club to a plc but responded by suggesting that without the change it was his opinion that the Club would have gone into administration and would also have been threatened with the ground being bought on the cheap by London Wasps. Hayes said he was looking at it from a business point of view, saying "The losses would have got more and more, the bank would have had enough and ultimately we would have gone into administration and possibly into receivership. For what I see because this was built on Green Belt and as an asset if you were to knock it down you wouldn’t be able to do anything with it, so from my point of view who would have bought it? Well the tenant would have bought it." He added ”Chris Wright (London Wasps Chairman) is a business man and he could have picked if up for next to nothing because there wouldn’t have been anybody bidding for it”.
Fans Forum panel - 6th September 2005 Hayes admitted that he didn't put money into the Club before the change because it would have just been a 'gift' and it was likely the losses would have continued. Following the change, his share purchase of £250,000 was the single major new investor of cash when the plc was instigated shortly before the start of the 2004/5 season. It's estimated that the total share capital raised during the conversion was in the order of £1m and therefore Hayes' shareholding currently equates to approximately the maximum of 25% allowed under the new structure. He has also pumped in close to £1m of loan notes into the Club which has gone some way to increasing the previous debt of the Club from £2.2m to £2.7m. It is now Hayes' intention to invite in new investors that would raise the total issued shares of the Club and allow him to convert most of his loan notes to share equity but still fall within the 25% threshold. Commenting on the new investors, Hayes said, “They are liked minded people who want an involvement in the Club and want to see success and want to be involved in success. That’s is what anybody who invests in football is ever going to get out of it.”
Speaking earlier at the Forum, Wycombe Wanderers Supporters' Trust Chairman Francis Glenister explained that the Supporters' Trust had also become a significant player amongst the investors. The £100,000 shareholding taken out in February 2005 was the largest new cash investor outside of Steve Hayes, Ivor Beeks and Brian Kane. Glenister also emphasised that any shares taken up by the Trust gave the opportunity for others on the maximum shareholding to convert the equivalent in loan notes to equity and still fall within the 25% ruling. In effect, with Hayes, Beeks and Kane each understood to be holding a 25% stake in the Club, this could see the debt cut by £4 for each £1 the Trust invests. Glenister commented, "Personally I find that taking out debt never bothers me, it is repaying it. And I think what Wycombe Wanderers needs to worry about is, are we funded with debt or with equity? The nice thing with equity is that people have to buy you out of that." Glenister concluded by urging Supporters that hadn't already joined the Supporters' Trust to consider membership and get involved. A funding raising 'Race Night' has been arranged for Thursday 29th September in the Vere Suite, Adams Park, starting at 7.30pm.
Wanderers Operations Manager Garry Adamson gave an update on the much talked about CRM system currently undergoing implementation at the Club. Adamson explained that the aim was to create a single database of customer information that would be linked with the option to purchase tickets and other club related services via an online system. He added ”It is about how we provide better service, combined with more efficient sales, aided by better technology.”
Steve Hayes returned to the CRM topic at frequent intervals during the evening, suggesting that it could provide important feedback on such controversial topics as the naming rights for the ground, closing the terracing for low key games and moving games away from the traditional Saturday afternoon.
The CRM response came after the Club were asked to ensure that the Valley End terracing would be open for all First Team games in the future. Hayes apologised for the confusion over the proposal to close the only terracing in the ground for the pre-season friendly with Wolves, adding "It was a decision that wasn't made by the Board. It was something that just got out of hand. What we do want to do of course with the CRM system, is in the future we do want to know what supporters want and only by getting the information can we sort these things out." Founders' Trust representative Ian Mather added that a policy was being put together for future 'reduced capacity' games.
On the sometimes heated subject of selling off the name of ground for sponsorship, Hayes said he understood fully the heritage side and those opposed to the change but added, "”If over 10 years I said we were getting £1m or £1.5m in sponsorship for the name would you be the majority or the minority, I’ve got no idea, so it’s a bit of a quandary.” Hayes went on to say that an idea had been proposed to retain the Adams Park name as the location of the stadium that would include a sponsors name but he had yet to obtain any feedback. “I’d like to be able to speak to the fans to see what they actually do want but we don’t have that facility at the moment and unless they get onto CRM they don’t.”

Fans Forum report - part 2 - comments from John Gorman

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