By Gareth Walker
Earlier this week, Bradford City Joint Chairmen Mark Lawn was guest speaker at the Skipton and Craven Bantams supporters club meeting and answered questions on a variety of topics. Here is a summary of what Lawn had to say.
Q: Do you still enjoy being Chairman?
A: Lawn said that he’d prefer to just be a fan. Last year was a tough year for him personally, but he is proud that he can tell his grandkids that he was club custodian when they went to Wembley twice.
Q: Have contract negotiations started with Stephen Darby yet?
A: No new contract negotiations have started with anyone yet. The decision has been taken to wait until club is safe in this league.
Darby enjoys being at the club. He is happy and Lawn thinks that Darby (and many other current players) would struggle to earn their current wages elsewhere at this level; because when he signed in summer 2012 he was given League One wages and furthermore earned a bonus when promotion was achieved.
Darby and Gary Jones spoke to the Chairmen last year when there was the prospect of the club being sponsored by The Sun newspaper for their trip to Wembley. They said that they didn’t feel comfortable with that as Liverpudlians, because of The Sun’s reporting of the Hillsborough disaster.
Q: What convinced Aaron McLean to sign for City?
A: The size of the club, its level of support and the stadium.
Q: What is the current situation with Matty Dolan?
A: It’s going okay. The loan window isn’t open yet. Lawn didn’t think Middlesbrough were being realistic in their negotiations over a permanent deal.
Q: Who is the one player you are disappointed that City didn’t sign whilst you have been in charge?
A: Leon Clarke. Lawn was upset that we missed out on him last summer – Phil Parkinson didn’t want him due to his reputation. Parkinson’s emphasis is on team spirit. Sometimes he simply refuses to sign who the board want.
Q: What was the reason behind the decision to freeze season ticket prices?
A: Lawn wanted to put prices up by £20, but the club calculated that sales would drop by 10%. It is expected that the monthly payment plan will continue.
Q: Has the fan base increased post Wembley?
A: Sales of Season Tickets including Flexi Cards have risen from approximately 10,000 to approximately 11,000.
Q: The point was raised how all other Yorkshire clubs advertise at Catterick that free entry to games can be gained if a person produces their warrant card when purchasing a ticket, but City is always missing from the list of clubs that do this.
A: Lawn said that City do operate this policy and he will see to it that it is made clear on the club website.
Q: Why do clubs sometimes have undisclosed transfer fees?
A: Usually the buying club want this to make their supporters think that they have paid more than they actually have.
Q: Were you happy with the Nahki Wells transfer?
A: Lawn had words with Nahki and advisor prior to the move because he was not happy with Wells’ performances in December. Lawn says that he understands the fans’ bitterness. Nahki wanted to play in the Championship.
We get lots of bonuses and add-ons from the deal. Lawn sees it as a win-win. It’s a good deal for City if Wells fails and it’s a good deal for City if he does well.
Q: Do you think that Wells was tapped up?
A: No comment.
Q: Why is the club shop so short of stock?
A: The shop usually sells between 8,000 and 10,000 replica shirts per year, but they had sold 10,500 before the start of this season because of the two Wembley trips. They ordered another 5,000 but it still hasn’t been enough.
Lawn was not happy that the stock design second kit was not available from Nike when they requested it. All manufacturers are the same – Surridge and Nike have proven very similar. He agrees that the shop probably don’t have enough stock. However, the club gets an agreed level of income from the franchising of the shop whereas when they owned it, it always made a loss.
Q: Were there any offers for any players other then Wells during the transfer window?
A: No. Carlisle offered 50k for James Hanson in the 2013 January window.
Q: What are your thoughts on agents?
A: Everyone has an agent. Luke Sharry had an agent despite only earning £120pw.
Q: Does Nahki Wells’ agent represent any other City players?
A: Yes, he is Robbie Threlfall’s brother but he is not the most difficult agent to deal with.
Q: Is there interest in any of our youth players currently?
A: No and the club have decided that they won’t let youth players go to top clubs on trial anymore because too many were having their heads turned and then demanding to leave. If other clubs want our youth players then they have to pay the money upfront.
Q: How many squad changes do you expect in the summer?
A: Four or five out and four or five in. The club needs to replace some current squad members with proven League One players. The nucleus is there. Parkinson is eyeing players up for next year already. We could look at some Premiership players on loan.
Q: Would you have liked to have kept any of the players that we released last summer?
A: Personally would have liked to have seen Zavon Hines and Blair Turgott stay.
Q: Why don’t we have a second goalkeeper on the books to compete with Jon McLaughlin?
A: The budget doesn’t allow for a second goalkeeper. Premiership clubs will only let you have one of their young keepers on loan if he is going to play regularly.
Q: How much do agents get paid?
A: Agents typically get 5% over the terms of the contact. It is in their interest to unsettle players. They can get sometimes get players to sign for a club for less money. Clubs and players pay their own legal fees. Agents started in the 1980s.
Lawn told the story of how he was influential in Stuart McCall re-signing for Bradford City in 1998. McCall was going to sign for Barnsley, but Lawn was on a night out with him and heard about this. He rang Geoffrey Richmond and told him to get in quick and sign him before he signed for the Tykes on the Monday.
Q: How confident are you on the Mark Stewart case?
A: City would win in a court of law. Falkirk are claiming training costs from eight years old to 21 years old but he was first team player at 19.
Q: Will next year’s playing budget be lower than this year’s?
A: Yes, the budget will be lower next year. We had mid League One budget last year when we got promoted from League Two and we might have had to sell Nahki last January if we hadn’t have drawn Arsenal in the cup.
Q: Were we interested in signing Nouha Dicko and why didn’t it happen?
A: Yes we were interested, but Dicko was adamant that he didn’t want to step into Nahki’s shoes.
Q: Are you still happy with Phil Parkinson and is Phil Parkinson still happy at City?
A: Yes and yes but the club will always tell Phil if another club wants him and Phil is obviously feeling the pressure at moment due to the bad run of form.
Q: What do you think is causing the current bad run?
A: In Lawn’s opinion the problem is three fold: Davies injury, Nahki’s attitude and performances, refereeing decisions.
Q: Do you think that Kyel Reid will be here next season?
A: Probably not because he has a young family in London. Lawn is a big fan of Reid.
Q: Why has no outside investment into the club been forthcoming?
A: Lawn says that he would love to get someone in with money at City but nobody is interested. The pressure of the job is affecting his health. He was really struggling a couple of years ago when he thought that as a fan he might end up taking the club out of existence.
He believes that the reason for the lack of interest might be because we aren’t in the Championship and we don’t own our ground. The cost of the ground rent is currently manageable.
Q: Why hasn’t the Jason Kennedy signing worked out so far?
A: He doesn’t know; it could be playing in front of large crowds or the fact that his confidence was low due to not going into team straight away.
Q: What strides do you think that the club has made since your last visit (to Skipton Bantams)?
A: Fitness, nutrition, backroom staff, training ground.
Q: What were you personal highlights from last season?
A: i) Villa away when his daughter’s muscles and joints froze due to the tension and excitement and she needed medical treatment.
ii) Burton away when his son climbed down to see him on the pitch.
iii) Going on the pitch with his wife after victory at Wembley.
Q: When do the changing rooms need to be upgraded by?
A: The changing rooms have to be done by 2014/15 but it would cost £300k for the cheapest option, which is to move them into the corner where the scoreboard is. So the club have asked for five years dispensation. Arsenal changed at a hotel again for the cup game last year
Q: What is your view on safe standing?
A: It would be okay if someone would pay for it. Club can’t afford it currently. He doesn’t think it will happen anyway because he doesn’t think that the law will be overturned.
Q: How long is Adam Reach on loan with us for?
A: Currently one month but it can be extended until the end of the season. There is no chance of making this deal permanent because he is under contract and highly rated at Middlesbrough.
Q: What are your views on Steve Evans?
A: Lawn doesn’t like him. Nobody has a good word for him. Lawn would never employ him. Rotherham’s chairman is a friend and Lawn asked him why he employed Evans, only to be told that he would get results. Lawn replied that he is not that desperate for success.
We might have to change our playing style a little bit now that Nahki has gone, because McLean needs the ball in the box, maybe this might help us beat them!
Q: What is your view on Oli McBurnie?
A: Phil Parkinson says that McBurnie is the best finisher that he’s seen. Left foot, right foot and head.
Q: Why hasn’t Mark Yeates been a success so far?
A: He’s been disappointing but he works really hard in training. Yeates just seems to want to play central when his best position is on the left wing.
Q: If we had a fully fit squad what would be your current starting line up?
A: McLaughlin. Darby, Meredith, McArdle, Davies, Jones, Atkinson, Reach, Bennett, Hanson, McLean.
Q: Would any of last season’s side get into your all time City XI?
Andrew Davies would. Nahki Wells would only just miss out – he would push Robbie Blake very close.
Q: What is your long term plan for the club?
A: Lawn believes that he and Julian Rhodes could get the club into the Championship but outside investment would be needed to take it further from there.
Q: What is the current condition of the pitch in view of Saturday’s game?
A: The pitch is very heavy at the moment. The club are doing all that they can because they have enough Tuesday night games coming up already but the weather forecast is not good.