The following email letter was sent to OxVox members on 13 October. It includes detail on the latest progress and consideration regarding the East Stand Mural, as well as discussion of club finances and ongoing projects and issues with which OxVox is currently involved:
Hello and welcome to an update of what we have been doing over the past few weeks.
With the excitement of seeing this team full of potential burst into life and the West Ham game and this fabulous run still fresh in the memory it has been quite a few weeks to be an Oxford fan. While OxVox tends to stay clear of arguments over individual player and manager recruitment, we congratulate the board on the continuation of the player model that has seen young exciting talent join the club, supported by experienced pros. This policy has been welcomed by most, and the academy seems to be producing potential for the future, which is very encouraging to see.
We have consistently pressed the board to improve the communication with the supporters and it has been pleasing to see not only Tiger and Karl engaging with fans but also Zaki offering a much more personal insight into the workings of our club. This investment of time and effort does not go unnoticed and we make no apologies for supporting the club in their drive to get new and more occasional supporters in the stadium and to feed off the success of games like the West Ham. That said, as an independent trust we remain very mindful of the financial safety of the club and its future sustainability. We report below a meeting last week with the club’s Finance Director Tim Davies.
The Mural Project
The Mural project has reached its financial target and voting on the design was completed. Work has continued to move the project forward. We have been back to the ground and have been testing the images in situ and adapting those that lack clarity at that size. It has been a slow process but the decision was made to take the extra time to make it right. As reported, the vote between two of the styles was ridiculously close, one vote in fact. With that in mind we decided to make some adjustments to try and incorporate both styles in one, and offer a final choice between the two back to the supporters. We are currently finalising this process and will pass it back to you and all supporters to have a final vote. We realise this project has passed the original target date but I can assure you that this is not due to lack of effort: Ali and Simon and others have put in an incredible amount of work to ensure we get the best result possible.
To clear up a couple of points regarding The Mural, it has been suggested by some that prints of the old banners or some more abstract representation would be preferable to action pictures. We reviewed a lot of options before moving forward but the original idea put to Firoka some years ago was that of pictures. Given that seeking permission for a different design would inevitably create further delay, we felt our best option was to stick with the agreed format. We also spoke to many members and supporters and again, pictures were overwhelmingly the preferred option. We will never please all supporters in something that is so subjective but by involving fans from day one we feel we will produce something that will lift that end of the stadium and make it feel more like home. We cannot thank you enough for your generosity and patience and look forward to getting the final vote completed and work started on creating The Mural itself.
We met club finance director Tim Davies to follow up questions asked by OxVox at the AGM earlier this year. Tim answered all of our questions and was open about all areas discussed, but he did ask that we keep much of the conversation confidential for a while, as some areas were covered by legal confidentiality and some were reaching the end of delicate negotiations. We agreed, as we normally do, to keep certain information confidential if so required, but with the proviso as always that if anything that was potentially damaging to the club arose, we withheld the right to pass on that information where we felt was necessary. Tim respected that standpoint and the meeting continued.
We asked questions on all areas of financial health of the club. The general overview this year is very much improved on last year. Expenses and budgets have been trimmed to allow a more sustainable footing and historic debts are being managed and paid down. While no assurances were made that ‘blips’ may not disrupt the cash flow, the general health of the club, given the large loss we sustain every year without player sales and cup runs, is much improved. We were also told that the directors are looking to tackle the historic causes of our losses and looking to give the club a stable footing from which to operate.
We continue a constant dialogue with the club with regards to financial sustainability and future plans and we will pass on any information we can to members as soon as we have it.
Meanwhile, we are slowly going over the accounts posted at the AGM to understand better the current financial situation at the club. If there are any members with a professional accounting background who have looked at the accounts and would like to comment then please contact us. A fresh set of eyes is always welcome, as are your opinions on the matter.
We are proud to announce that we have now received the go ahead for the Blue Plaque to be placed on The Britannia in Headington to commemorate the founding of the club in 1893.
It is extremely rare for football clubs to be given this opportunity and we would like to take the opportunity to thank all the people who helped get this over the line and in particular Dave Thornton, whose perseverance kept the project on track.
Car wash and disabled parking
We have been looking into the loss of disabled parking spaces at the stadium due to the car washing service there operating on match days this season. We have contacted the club but understand that this is sanctioned by Firoka. We are following up with them and the council about the situation but in the meantime if you have had any problems with the reduced number of spaces then please let us know.
We were asked if we could help raise funds and awareness for the charity for one of the club’s young players Fenton Tutty who was diagnosed with Leukaemia. We were more than happy to do so. We intended to buy a home and away shirt and have them signed and auctioned off but Tiger kindly gave us the signed shirts when he heard what we were doing. Instead we decided to put £100 from our funds toward the charity. Once again the Oxford supporters dug deep and a total of over £500 was raised. We’d like to thank Connor and Stewart for their fabulously generous bids.
We are interested in engaging with younger supporters and are looking into what we may be able to offer junior members. We are looking at newsletters and competitions but would really like to know from parents of young supporters and more importantly juniors themselves as to what they would like to see. We’d love to know what you would want and get you active in OxVox.
A few months ago we contacted Bury FC supporters trust Forever Bury. They were very grateful for the communication and were still hopeful of a positive outcome but that hope has sadly been dashed with their expulsion. We have since been in contact and Bury had applied to the EFL to allow them to be reinstated in L2 next season. Forever Bury asked if we would support this appeal by contacting our directors and letting them know we agreed with their stance. Without time to poll members and supporters it was our opinion that if the finances of the club had been stabilised then the majority would support this application. I know if it was Oxford we would be pleading for the same support from fellow fans. We informed the board of our opinion. Unfortunately the EFL meeting declined to admit Bury FC to L2 and discussions are ongoing about a possible place elsewhere in the football pyramid next season. We also invited The Forever Bury board and any supporters who were now missing their Saturday fix of football to come down and be our guests at a home game. We hope they take us up on the offer soon as I know they will be warmly welcomed.
We continue to work hard with the amazing team of women from Jigsaw who run the Sensory Room at the stadium. This year they hope to spread the word of the work they do in providing a safe space for children and young adults on the spectrum who may be overwhelmed with the match day experience. For more information see the ‘match pack’ articles on the club website.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and please feel free to contact us with any questions you have with these points of any others that you may have. It’s almost impossible for us to keep up with everything being discussed on social media so we’d much rather hear from you via email or in person at one of the stands we operate at the stadium on match days.
As ever, COYY!
PS If you’ve recently received a reminder that your membership renewal is due, please action it by going to http://www.oxvox.org.uk/renew/ . We value every single member and we encourage you to renew within a reasonable time of your membership expiry. Life membership upgrade can be had for just £25 (£15 for senior members) and means that you will not be approached again for payment, as well as being able to take advantage of our Reward Scheme offers.