Those of you who have attended a pre-season game at the Cygnet Health Care Stadium in the past couple of weeks may have noticed various works being carried out around the ground. Chairman Kevin Sturmey brought us up to date with what’s going on and what is in the pipeline.

“You will all notice changes at the Cygnet Health Care Stadium over the coming months and years. Some are enforced upon us, some will be to improve facilities, and some will allow us to upgrade to comply with the requirements of Step 1 and beyond.

What we ask as a club is please realise this is very much work in progress, as while we have three years to complete most of the work, we want to complete the essential works by 31st March 2023. These essential works will allow us to compete in play-offs to get to the next level. We will never say we are going to finish in a certain position, but I am sure like me everyone would want to have the opportunity to sneak into the play offs which will be subject to us improving our Stadium.

The new dugouts will be completed very soon and that is the only necessity by 6th August, the date of our first National League match. We have gone above the minimum requirements as part of our short, medium, and long term planning. With 11 seats required, the new dugouts can actually accommodate up to 15 seats, with 14 in place now.

The other upgrades will be New LED lighting for the floodlights as while we could upgrade what we have to reach lux levels, we feel it’s the right time to embrace not only better technology but better value and greater energy efficiency and flexibility. We also need to upgrade the electrics on the South side of the ground, so it makes total sense to do this as part of the Floodlight upgrade.

A new turnstile block at the Travis Perkins End will be installed. This will be required to take us to six turnstiles to allow for easy segregation as eventually we will have a home end and an away end with separate access required for both. We have planning permission in place and now we can embark on getting the three quotes required to help secure funding for the whole project which will include a base as well as improving the car park and fire exit area around the new block.

There will also be new and extra seating in the Les Marsh Carpets Stand where I’m sure some people will have noticed a change. We were aware that 500 covered seats are required at Step 1 but what we weren’t aware of was that they have to be in 4 rows, not 3. No idea why and it does seem strange as we could have accommodated about 700 in three rows in both stands but I queried it and the NL said it has to be that way. Hence moving all the claret seats in to 4 rows in the Les Marsh Carpets Stand with a view to doing several things to improve it but as I previously said this is work in progress and we will find the best solution to improve that area. We have always wanted our club colours on seats but being non-standard colours unlike red or blue (which you can buy off the shelf) makes it more difficult to source seats and also in the quantities we need. We think we may have found a suitable supplier who will provide seats in hundreds, not thousands, but of course the more you buy the cheaper they are! The plan will be to fix sky blue seats either side of the current claret ones.

The first stage we believe will be to move the perimeter barrier forward and drop the height to 1.1 metres and install another concrete walkway, this will mean having to re-secure the uprights into the new concrete pathway. Lots of work for what it will achieve but does look the best solution at present.

We also need to complete some upgrades to the Taunton Plumbing & Heating Stand to comply with the National League rules to provide 4 rows of seats and a minimum of 100 seats. The simplest way to achieve this is to create a walkway behind the TPH Stand and then install a new row of seats on the lowest tier and utilising the spare seats we have already.

Moving forward we will create “home” and “away” ends and if the FIU tell us to segregate, we will have to comply but for most League games this shouldn’t apply as long as fans behave correctly. We believe while not urgent we will need to at least double the size of the “home” end and we are currently in discussion with a company to look at this as well as increasing the number of tiers in the TPH Stand. We will also enclose the “away” end in line with our plans for the future and planning permission we have in place and some of the works have now been completed to create extra areas including wheelchair accessible viewing. The company I am in dialogue with have built stands for many clubs and have recently completed a new stand for Exeter City, so we know they come well recommended.

We can access funding usually up to 70% of projects but will need to obtain the 30% from other sources but no works can start unless funding is in place so it’s now vital we start getting all the quotes we need and focus on completing all the tasks in a structured fashion.

Whatever any of us thought, stepping up from the Southern League to the National League is a mighty step as in simple terms it’s one step from fully professional football so we all have to change to adapt to this new level. You only now need to look at teams only one level above us like Oldham (founder members of the Premier League), Scunthorpe United, Wrexham etc. to put things in perspective! We have already seen off the pitch that everything is lot more professional and there are also a lot more contractual obligations with the National League due to their Partnerships with Vanarama, BT Sport and New Balance so if we want to progress, we have to change the way we manage and run matchdays for one thing!

While the changes do not affect alcohol at League games yet at Step 2, we are still classed as Designated Matches (we weren’t in the Southern League) which brings us to the attention of the Football Intelligence Unit (Police) for all matches and when we play a team from Step 1 and above we have to comply with alcohol rules which date back to an Act from 1985! We don’t agree with those rules and as a Licensee for 27 years I feel I have fair bit of knowledge in managing people and alcohol but do the Authorities want to listen or bury their heads in the sand based on an act created in 1985 when crowds at football were very different?! We pride ourselves on being an inclusive club with a diverse fan base and “herding” fans into an indoor space and creating confrontation and making people rush their drinking of alcohol is in my humble opinion decades out of date! Why can you not have a leisurely pint at a football match in 2022 when you can drink at Cricket, Rugby, Tennis, Horseracing etc. My philosophy has always been the same, respect alcohol and it will respect you. We do not have drunken people at our matches and the only time we did was Barrow in the FA Cup 1st round proper when guess what, these restrictions were in place!!

We will hold a Fans Forum after the Monday’s AGM at 8.15pm. You do not have to be a Company Member to attend the Fans Forum and would urge as many people as possible to come so we can outline plans and answer any questions relating to matters on and off the pitch. Rob Dray will also be attending to answer questions for footballing matters.”

A reminder then the Football Club AGM will be held at the ground on Monday evening (25th July) beginning at 7.00pm for club members only which will be followed by the Fans Forum. Season Tickets will be on sale during the evening.