A statement from the Chairman
This at the moment as far as some owners, supporters and fans of the club are concerned quite a major topic of conversation is why does the club require an external security firm and surely the money could be better spent on players.
I thought that I would therefore take the opportunity to set out the reasoning and to try to explain why this action has been taken.
The club has always had a very loyal and able band of stewards to officiate at matches and events put on by the club outside of football. For many years I also was a steward and was aware that there were guidelines (The Green Guide) even when the club was in the Isthmian League about the need for stewards to be qualified up to NVQ level. This was fine all the time our crowds were manageable but we did struggle when larger crowds were expected and for those occasions the club utilised fully qualified gate staff often from Welling FC.
There are pros and cons of using an external company but the major benefit is that all the staff are qualified up to the required level and it is their responsibility to deal with any issues within the ground and to ensure the safety of all when visiting Longmead. If there is a problem in the crowd then this can be dealt with without the fear that our stewards will be involved in any unpleasantness which could result in their injury. The security guards are trained to handle and diffuse situations. Should a situation escalate then the security company will make the decision to call the police. I do not know the circumstances of the trouble at the Maidstone v Weymouth game but suffice to say the police were required to attend and it was a situation that I would not want our stewards have to face without professional help.
Now that the club is in the National League South we do come under the blanket of the National League regulations which cover clubs such as Notts County, Torquay United etc. It should also be remembered that the club is now in the top 150 clubs in the country based on the League pyramid. The rules are more stringent and yes, we can think that we do not need to comply with certain elements because we are a small club but if something goes wrong and it is shown that we have not adhered to the guidelines the club could well be fined and face additional sanctions. A particular issue is that of respect and the need to curb foul and abusive language.
All the clubs that we have played in the league so far have had private security companies acting in the stewarding capacity. Some are better than others. The club is working with AK Reliance which is a local company and whilst I appreciate that there will be teething problems. The club will be holding regular meetings with the security firm to discuss the way forward and how to minimise the concern that this is causing.
Now the club is in the National League South regular meetings have to held with the Safety at Grounds committee which comprises of representatives of the local authority and the emergency services. This group make recommendations to ensure the health and safety of everyone attending matches. All aspects of the ground are checked.
Charlie Cole and I had a meeting with the police liaison officer for ground safety and it will be he who advises on games and provides updates on the numbers that can be expected to attend games. It is on this information that the decision as to whether or not segregation is required is made.
Every cost incurred by the club is carefully scrutinised and there is always a fine balance to be maintained but the additional expenditure required to be incurred is one of the results of being in a higher league.
The Ground Rules as produced by the National League are available on the club’s webpage and there are copies at the ground and the Green Guide can be found on the internet.
I apologise if you have found this less than interesting but despite rumours and uninformed comments that have been made, all the Board want to achieve is a safe environment for everyone to enjoy a game of football.