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Auntie Merge
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Post by Auntie Merge » Fri Jan 11, 2019 8:51 pm

These are the notes from the Daggers Fans Forum held in the Ted Hardy Suite at DRFC on
Friday, 11th January 2019.

Please DO NOT copy these notes to reproduce elsewhere, but share the link, so any corrections, anomalies or facts in reporting (as they were typed up live) can be easily corrected or adjusted. Thank you.

Those present:
Dave Bennett - DB
Peter B Freund - PF
Tim Howard - TH
Steve Thompson - ST
Craig Unger - CU

Introduction from PF - Great to see all your faces. The last time we were here we had 9 points! Peter Taylor has done an amazing job and with the additions we have been able to make you can see what Peter can do. I think we are very lucky to have him.
Steve Thompson and I talk every day. Steve works harder for this club that any of you can imagine.
When we started this project, this is a long term project, we talked to the players today that we have some really important league games coming up after the trophy game tomorrow. I do think we have at least solidified the club for the time being.
Craig was working with Steve on finances this afternoon.
Being in a room with Tim, Craig and Peter Taylor and talking about the vision and the players and the club, really brings value to this football club. We really value Tim and thank him for making this trip.


Q The money that has been spent so far, renewing all the seats and the new scoreboard on is on the way. Before Christmas the urinal was blocked and it wasn’t until the whole toilet was flooded before it was fixed. Surely this should have been given priority?

ST - During the summer there was no maintenance done on the club. In September we had plumbers in and they did all that was needed to be done.
Someone by accident or deliberately pulled a handbasin off in the Gents under the Carling Stand and purposely blocked the urinals. That has now been repaired and was repaired before the last home game. It is disappointing when someone has gone to that length to disrupt the toilets in the Carling stand.

Q In your opening speech you mentioned visions and plans. How have they developed.

PF - It is something that me and all of us want to be proud of. It starts with the toilets, the clubhouse, the ground. Our vision is to be back in the English Football League. I must admit that when we beat Salford and Orient Boxing Day I did start to dream a little of the playoffs. And say what you want about the Boreham Wood game to come back from 3-0 down shows great resilience.

Q I’ve been a Dagenham fan for at least 50 years. Personally can I thank you for saving the club and what you’ve done for the club I love. Where do you think our natural home will be in the football as regards the level of football.

PB - This club survived 8 years in League 2 so I believe that League 2 is a realistic expectation. Our eye is to get back there and to be comfortable there, and then to see where we are then.
We’ve seen off the top 2 teams in the table and we’ve beaten them, so it is a realistic proposition.

Q - There have been some really good squad additions since October. Are there any plans to add to the squad?

PB - Yes. The reality is we know where our holes are and we plan to rectify that in the future. We know we need additional players and resources and we are planning to bring more in.

Q - is Tim going to get a squad number?

TH - There is always a chance. One more season then I’ll have a lot of time on my hands.

Q - It seems at this level no one is really on a real long term contract or is a loan. How do you approach that as owners. Do you really think you should start looking at longer term contracts in order to build a team?

TH - I share the frustration and so does Peter Taylor. Football only works if you are trying to get better as a squad every single moment. You can rest assured that every single opportunity we have the option to sign a player we will do so. If we can’t get the player we want we will look for someone else.

Q - We don’t have the biggest fan base in the world. I think the phrase quality over quantity represents us best. Interested to see what you are planning with marketing to bring in more fans.

CU - We had a conversation about that today. If we can draw 200-300 more fans in every game and that will allow us to do more things and bring in more things. I think as we can go forward we plan to bring in more fans in. It comes back to the facilities. If you walk up to the facility and are proud of the facility that helps. There is more to be done on the marketing side. Some of the guys here have been doing a good job putting out instagrams, social media.

Q - Is there some research being done as to where our fan base is? Is it in Dagenham or a wider area?

CU - There is all plans within marketing to do this, surveys and ask people if they are aware if there is a match on Saturday. At the end it does have an effect on the club, the facilities and the success of the team.

Q - The demographic of the population around the ground has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. Lots of people from Eastern European and Asian communities were given free tickets via local schools. There were people who had been given free tickets in the ground and who never came back. Were they followed up? Is the club following up when they give free tickets?

CU - It is hard. It isn’t just a challenge here, it is a challenge in the USA too. It has to be an authentic reach out to people to come and join within the club and make them want to come back.

Q - No one has asked about the update on the scoreboard? A tour of the USA with the Daggers?

CU - Tour of the USA - it has been discussed. There are a lot of logistical and scheduling issues especially in Memphis. We need to make sure the timing is right as regards the playing seasons.
There is also the potential of having the Memphis squad coming over to the UK either this year or next year. I think it will be a blast and fun.

PB - The reality is it will be installed in the middle of February.
ST - It was originally going where the original scoreboard is. The scoreboard is so heavy that it needs structure to be fixed on to, so it will be where the old club shop was. We are having concrete blocks put in, in order to support it.

Q - Last time you were here there was a lot of scepticism about Peter Taylor. How do you feel now.

PB - Peter Taylor impressed me since the day we first met him. We are really lucky to have a manager of the calibre of Peter. He is incredibly thoughtful.
A Chairman of a football club sent me a text about how lucky we were to have him.
TH has a long personal relationship with Peter. I’m not a shrewd football owner who wants to replace football owners every six months, we want to build something together.

Q - I do think in the past that the sponsors should be thanked more. My son sponsored the game and was not even given a car parking space for the ground when he sponsored.
The actual sponsors of the club who have supported the club and put money into the club should be looked after.

PB I agree. From a respect standpoint if people commit to club we will be looking after the sponsors and showing them respect.

Q Can I ask how D & R came on to your radar and what made you decide to invest in our club.

PB Steve Horowitz who is stood over in the corner over there put us and Steve Thompson together. It was us who wanted to get involved in English football and not knowing how to get involved. It was about being able to fly into London City and get to the club within 15 minutes. The commitment showed by those who are within the club and work within the club and those of who put their money into the club during the difficult time, tells an awful lot. (I didn’t think we could be relegated if we were in the National League!). I am pleased we took the opportunity to get involved with you all not only the times we’re here, but on social media and email. You are all passionate and engaged and everyone cares about this club.

Q You just spoke about your passion for this club. Have you ever exposed yourself like this before? Done this before?

PB There is no parallel to English Football. We did take a small club in Pennsylvania and revamp their ground and this is not that different. There in Pennsylvania we were able to create a legacy and we hope we can do the same here. One of the reasons why I am so proud and happy to have TH has a partner is he has lived and played here, he knows what it takes and what is involved.

Q. Tim - did they persuade you or did you persuade them?

TH - What you have that you might not realise you have is soul. In the USA we don’t yet have that. Because over the course of time. But when you ask when you have taken a club and revitalised. This is what we do. Bringing Dagenham from where it is now to where we want it to be is a passion and it seems to bring Peter B Freund more joy than I have ever seen.

Q As a football club it is quite noticeable that a lot of young people don’t have respect for non league football. Is there a strategy going forward to target that lower demographic?

TH. - People are motivated by winning games. And its about winning games, facilities and club to attract a younger audience.

Q It would be interesting to know what the football strategy is. In recent times we’ve been a selling club. Is that going to change?

PB - I think its a mixture of the two. I think what we will see moving forward is a mix. I’m not here to make money from transfer fees. I’m here to build a club. This is where TH and Peter Taylor can encourage players to come to the club and play because they are in a great showcase. We need players here for a long term but at the same time players want to progress.

Q How serious is the club about the FA Trophy?

PB We’re all in for the Trophy. You don’t have many opportunities to play at Wembley and this is our opportunity to put our stamp on this season. I’ don’t take lightly to being away from my family but I’m over here for the Trophy game.

Q I’m old enough to remember the Trophy. We had 30,000 at Wembley and some came after I’m really heartened to hear that we are taking it seriously.

Q Apart from the scoreboard what other plans are there to improve the ground?

PB - Part of the community being aware that we are here starts at Victoria Road. So it starts with the corner of Victoria Road. It is new signage a new entrance, removal of the current club shop and offices. It is all depending on planning permission and building permission we hope to build a new club shop. Once you’re in the ground it is unbelievable but we are looking at first impressions.

Q Is there any plans to put a bar in for the home fans.

PB There is not at the current time.
ST There were plans to put a new stand in a Bury Road End and we had 3-4 lots of plans drawn up when Glyn Hopkin was involved but there isn’t the space. The biggest problem is getting people into the North Stand (Sieve) via the Bury Road End.
The amount of people you can get in there at any one time and that is the problem but there isn’t the space to do it.

Q Will there be a roof on the Bury Road End?

ST I wouldn’t rule it out. One of the problems that we’ve got, Dover did this a few years ago. When Dover got promoted they had to remove it because they were only allowed to count the number of supporters that could get under the cover. If we put a cover up, it would reduce our official capacity to less than 6000. It isn’t at the top of the priority list.

Q I want to mention something from previous forums. Someone suggested that we put a sign up at the underground station, and that happened. Can we put something up at the back of the ground, on the back of the A13 stand to make people aware there is a football club here?

PB Signage is at the top of my list. Whatever signage that we are allowed to do and is tasteful will be done. We’ve been to several football ground and looking at what they do and take the best practice from each place to see what we can do. I love this project because there are so many grounds we can take the best from every place and bring it to this club.

Q Thanks for everything. Really enjoying tonight. A real buzz around the club. On the negative side the catering inside the ground is very tired. Also can we have some food in the clubhouse both before and after the games.

PB Comments like that are exactly why we have a fans forum. It is the first time it has been raised to me. I think we need to have a good look at this and it is one thing we do well.
Our number one selling item in Memphis is BBQ Nachos. We will be looking at the catering.

Q I mentioned starting a micro brewery at the club last year.

PB As fun as it is, we need to focus on the priorities but we will get there!

Q At the moment it seems that we are struggling on the away support numbers. There is only 20 on the coach tomorrow.

PB Fair enough.

Q Thank you for coming out tonight. ` I still can’t believe that you are Dagenham. Some of us have a lot of skills here. Is there any chance that any of us can help you out?

PB. The reality is yes, of course. We need as much help as we can get. One thing that we have to got assess is that this club has been run on a shoestring. We haven’t had full time professional commercial staff reaching out to the community and doing outreach. Here you have such a diverse group. It is really critical that we create some supporter groups from every area of Dagenham and we will need your help in doing that. This is not a box ticking exercise. We will never turn away any one who wants to help create a bigger fanbase.

CU. This is what we are talking about. It is a Friday night and this room is packed with people. Tell your friends, bring them along to the next game. The best salespeople are yourselves. You tell people and they want to join you here. We need to get into a new cycle with the building, the ground and everything else. You need to go out and sell the fun that you have here. You as an individual this is how you can impact this. Discuss the club on social media, tell your friends about how much you love it here and people come and they come back. You are the best resource that we have to grow this club.

Q Previous question about the coaches. The supporters club are losing £300 on the Salford Coach alone. Is there any way if the supporters club are running a coach at a loss, that it can be subsided in some way.

PB It is a good question. It isn’t something that I’ve thought about. If I knew that if I put a free bus out the front tomorrow, it would be full, then yes, it is something that we would consider. Let me think about what we can do going forward. Maybe we will select 2 or 3 or 4 games going forward to help attract away supporters. But its a grey area and let me think about it.

Q Is there going to be a statue of John Still in the ground?

Q This is a question for Tim. With all your connections are you able to bring players in?

TH People have already made approaches to me. There are lots of people who have reached out to me and this is something that may happen in the future.

PB Tim is a differentiating factor for us. When we have a player who is on the fence to have Tim Howard call the player and tell the player our vision and that we want them to be part of it, is a huge factor.

Q Will there be more variety in the retail shop?

CU I see a lot of new jackets that we had out in the audience tonight. There is a new lot of stock coming in. Yes we more variety. We want things for Men, Women, Kids, for everyone.

Q What plans do you have for the club house?

CU I think ST and the team do a fabulous job for what they do now. The more we talk about bringing in more fans the more we make this a community centre. We invite people to use this facility in a variety of different ways. In Memphis we have 100 events a year outside sporting events. I’d like 100 more as every time someone comes in it makes them come back. Let’s invite people into our clubhouse and they will continue to come back.

Q I’m one of the programme sellers here and people come up to me when its raining and ask why their programmes are wet. Is there any chance of programme stand to keep me dry and a coat that says programme

PB My answer to the programme is wet is it is England. But I think you’ve raised some valid points and I will look into it.

Q Borehamwood have some sort of sponsorship deal with Elstree. Are we doing the same with the new film centre?

ST We already do have a lot of filming going on here. The deal for the film studio hasn’t been signed yet. The hotel and data centres being built, we are already on the case. But there is an awful long way to go before that is ready.

Q I am so pleased to see you here BUT I’m approaching 70 but the cynic in me says what are you getting out of this and what do you want to

PB I’ve been very fortunate in my life and I ran a family business for 20 years and dealt with a high pressure lifestyle and when I decided to move into sport full time it was about personal fulfilment. I'm in the for the right reasons. I’m not in this to get rich or make money. I’m pretty sure all our assets are behind the bar. If we have to liquidate we have a bottle of Malibu!
There is no way to make money. We may screw some stuff up but it will all be made for the right reasons and we plan on being successful.

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Post by Alan » Fri Jan 11, 2019 9:10 pm

Thanks for doing that, Merge.

Am I wrong to be most excited about nachos?

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Post by RayleighDagger1986 » Fri Jan 11, 2019 9:13 pm

Well written Merge. Thanks very much

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Post by honestjohn » Fri Jan 11, 2019 10:32 pm

Well done Merge...A brilliant report Sorry I could not make it

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Post by dagger4eva » Fri Jan 11, 2019 10:58 pm

Great write up - thanks Suzanne!!

When you listen to all 3 of our wonderful American friends speak, you just cant help but get drawn in and excited by their enthusiasm to make changes and a real difference. And not in a lets chuck endless money and turn the club into a circus kind of way, like the clown did for 12 months at Billericay - bit instead, doing it with a level headed approach, realising its a project and things can be changed piece by piece and step by step.

I've a feeling we could be about to start 1 hell of a ride!!
Oh and we hopefully wont have to tolerate Julie's mouldy burgers and stale pot noodles for much longer either...

Bring on the 'BBQ revolution Nachos'!! Woop woop

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Post by bloke down the pub » Fri Jan 11, 2019 11:03 pm

Thank you . Good report.

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Post by Granddad » Fri Jan 11, 2019 11:42 pm

Probably won't get much sleep tonight because Im still buzzing. How lucky we are to have such brilliant owners.

Out of curiosity does anyone know if our owners read this forum and if not can a direct line to them be set up so if any of us come up with money-saving or making ideas they will see them?

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Post by EssexDagger! » Sat Jan 12, 2019 12:25 am

Thank you merge for taking the time to do that!
A Fantastic read!!!

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Post by DevonDagger » Sat Jan 12, 2019 12:50 am

Granddad wrote:
Fri Jan 11, 2019 11:42 pm
Probably won't get much sleep tonight because Im still buzzing. How lucky we are to have such brilliant owners.

Out of curiosity does anyone know if our owners read this forum and if not can a direct line to them be set up so if any of us come up with money-saving or making ideas they will see them?
Even now it still seems almost too good to be true. They sound like very humble and professional people.

I’m virtually certain the club do keep an eye on here. I would do the same - even if just to gauge feedback on new things such as the new apparel. After all, it’s a business which provides a service/product and honest feedback is important for running a successful business.

Craig and Peter are both active and pretty responsive on Twitter. I know some people don’t like the site but I believe you can still read tweets without logging in.

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Post by ARNU » Sat Jan 12, 2019 1:35 am

Good report Auntie Merge.

Roofy roofy roof roof !!
Be alert, the world needs more lerts!

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Post by stanton101 » Sat Jan 12, 2019 1:40 am

Cheers Merge for taking the time to write that.

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Post by NBDag » Sat Jan 12, 2019 7:35 am

An interesting read- thanks.

Very good to see that marketing is being taken very seriously. It’s what Americans do best and hopefully it will be a great success. Would love to see another couple of hundred home fans regularly over here!

Disappointing for me to see that there aren’t any plans to open a terrace bar. Whenever I bring new people over it’s probably the thing that they dislike the most. Would say it’s my least favourite thing about the Sieve too. Whether we agree with it or not, beer is a big part of football culture and I think we’re missing a trick by not offering it.

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Post by ARNU » Sat Jan 12, 2019 10:37 am

Is it really still that big a part of football culture? If you’re happy spending 4-5 quid on a pint why not just go in the tbs for a few quid more and drink in that bar. I’m not saying don’t have a bar but I’d be surprised if that many people really need one.
Be alert, the world needs more lerts!

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Post by BB-Dagger » Sat Jan 12, 2019 11:04 am

Almost every other ground I’ve been to has a bar of some sort and mostly they sell from cans or plastic bottles, (at hugely inflated prices)
I can’t understand the problem in having a kiosk somewhere around the back of the sieve area or Bury Rd end to do this while enabling drinkers to stay away from the terrace. Personally it doesn’t bother me one way or another because I have a drink before the game and that suits me, but over the festive period I had a few friends come to the games and they were puzzled as to why only away fans have this facility. But for me it’s not the be all end all, I’m not drink dependent and I do have my hip flask :thumbu:

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Post by NBDag » Sat Jan 12, 2019 11:47 am

ARNU wrote:
Sat Jan 12, 2019 10:37 am
Is it really still that big a part of football culture? If you’re happy spending 4-5 quid on a pint why not just go in the tbs for a few quid more and drink in that bar. I’m not saying don’t have a bar but I’d be surprised if that many people really need one.
Well maybe it’s not a big part of it for all the piss drippers that are at the club, but for the younger fan it’s what we want to do at football with our mates (probably why so many go into the TBS). Imagine not being a Dagenham fan at that Barnet game, the ones I brought were so bored and disinterested. The fact that they couldn’t even have a beer made them want to leave at half time as there was literally nothing for them to stay for.

The new owners have spoken a lot, and quite rightly, about improving the customer experience. Especially for new fans. In my opinion this is a simple way to make an improvement.

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