Counting down to the new Southern League season, caught up with Club Chairman Kevin Sturmey for his thoughts:

It’s been a very different pre-season so far and if anyone believes the pandemic is over, please have a look at Rob Dray’s phone. Last Tuesday was very difficult with Rob keeping me updated with players who were testing positive and after setting up the squad’s kit, I started taking it back down!! At least we managed to get a squad on the pitch against Yeovil which I thought was a great game as both teams did not have big squads on the night! We had to create a “circuit break” and postpone the Frome match as we may have a carrier in the squad with no symptoms. This awful virus does not discriminate and while we are coming out of it slowly, we still need to think sensibly and keep everyone as safe as we can. Supporter Guidelines have now been updated and are available to view on the website.

As from Tuesday’s game against Bristol City U23’s we will be opening the bar indoors. The bar will be well ventilated, and our staff will be wearing masks, and while we can’t insist, we would recommend masks are worn in all indoor areas when practical. To make the bar accessible to everyone we will politely request moving outside once you have been served to avoid close contact and reduce the impact of crowded indoor areas. Once we get beyond the 16thAugust we hope to see normality return with indoor seating available. We will have to provide space for opposition Directors indoors although I believe this is an unnecessary extra burden while cases remain high and there are more important things to consider as congregating indoors will still create higher risks. The magnificent vaccination rollout has allowed us all to get to near normality and we don’t want to create unnecessary risks when we are so close to coming out of this Pandemic.

We will currently only be selling cans in the clubhouse bar as this creates less risk and also keeps our costs down which allows us to pass these savings on to our fans. We are not a pub or social club and therefore draught products do not work for us at present due to wastage and fobbing which occurs unless you use draught lines every day (those days are long gone!) while we can serve cans a lot quicker during busy periods and keep the cost down to a competitive level. The cost to deliver draught is also going to make things even tougher for the pub/club trade. As we have all seen recently there is a shortage of HGV drivers (100,000 according to the RTA) and there is also a restriction of five cases at Booker per day on most products due to the same issue which has been exacerbated by staff shortages due to self-isolating and high Covid cases in the working population. We had to write off over £5000 worth of bar stock after the first lockdown (Merthyr were due here on 14th March last year) and we will not be taking that risk again. The bar is an add-on to the football, and we know some fans like an alcoholic drink or two, but it complements everything else hence the added outlets to improve our match day experience for everyone. The new Coffee Barista Van is going down a storm as I’m sure many of us can’t survive without coffee which is now the second biggest liquid seller in the UK.

We have made the decision to sell tickets online as we feel this is the quickest way to get all fans through the turnstiles (600 is a lot of people and a QR code is the quickest way) as quickly and safely as possible and also comply with the recommendations for businesses. We cater for a lot more fans than most clubs at our level and when adding in players, management, staff, and volunteers, you can add at least 100 to the attendance who all have to be registered to keep the Stadium as safe as possible. We hope to attract many more fans this season and will be launching several new projects soon.

On to more normal things… there will be a few awards given out over the next two matches from the 2019/20 season which is to recognise what has gone on behind the scenes as we couldn’t give player awards when the season wasn’t complete. However, one very important award is Supporter of the Year which will be given for 19/20 because over the years some fans have not missed very many matches.

One very important area I believe moving forward out of the last 18 months is Supporter Liaison and consequently we want to create a Fans Liaison Group. In the “old days” all clubs would have had a Supporters Club but like a lot of areas in football it needs updating to dovetail with modern society. While we will not be back to normal yet we need to start planning our pathway out of the pandemic to help grow the club and brand. I feel we need fans driving certain parts of a match day e.g. music, entrance music for the teams, away travel & support, and fundraising events. If you feel you could help contribute to a Fans Group, please email me We feel a diverse group of 6-8 people would be ideal. The new food and drink village has gone down well, and we wanted to test an outside bar alongside the other outlets so fans get used to walking through the “village” and sampling what’s on offer as the range of food and drink is I believe important to keep improving our match day experience.

Finally, while fans may not like some things we do, we have to always make decisions on what we feel the majority will support. We will never get every decision right but as custodians of the club we have to make decisions rather than have opinions. Opinions are important as long as they are based on both sides of the coin, and we are always prepared to listen if they are constructive, not destructive. Please bear in mind nothing will ever be perfect or set in stone here and just be thankful we are all able to watch football, albeit it’s not quite the same yet but without the vaccine we would still be in lockdown!

I am always happy to talk to all fans but on a match day is not the right time as if I’m not on the pitch, I’ll be doing the kitman role or covering the PA or whatever else may need doing! My email is above and always happy to communicate with any fan, but it may sometimes not be straight away especially at the moment when we have lost a few members of staff!