a message to town fans
Following a productive meeting with Harrogate Town Supporters Club, Managing Director Garry Plant would like to issue the following message:
As always at our football club, everything is moving on at quite a pace. However, with a moment to pause for breath, I would like to confirm our stance on a number of points which are currently the topic of discussion amongst supporters.
Just last week, I was invited to a meeting of the Harrogate Town Supporters Club. I was there primarily to answer questions regarding the changing face of stewarding at our home matches, and the increased frequency of segregated matches this season.
To put this discussion in context, the growing attendances at The CNG Stadium have been a pleasure to witness, and this is a trend we all want to see continue. We are regularly welcoming guests who have never been to watch Town before, welcoming back supporters who have not been for a long time and of course, our existing supporters.
The average attendance at The CNG Stadium this season is likely to exceed 850 by the time this campaign is out, which is a far cry from just a few seasons ago when we were beside ourselves if 350 people came to watch Town! The increased attendance and the growing profile of the club brings with it increased responsibilities around safety, the stewarding of matches and our ability to deal with any number of situations.
At any given time, as has happened this season, we may be faced with a bigger crowd than anticipated, a sudden need to cordon off or segregate or the implementation of other contingency plans.
As a growing professional football club, we no longer only answer to ourselves. We are a full-time operation, and on the radar of the local authority, our residents and neighbours, the local licensing office and the police. It goes without saying that our loyal band of volunteer stewards are highly capable, and we are thankful for their service. However, to ensure we meet the highest standards of all concerned parties we have this season brought in professional, external security and stewarding agencies to help us on our journey.
To clear things up regarding segregation, I am happy to share with supporters that the call to segregate football matches is generally made after a lengthy intelligence gathering process by the football club and the police. This is carried out both on a local level and with the police force of the opposing team.
Further to this, we only implement stop and search at the turnstiles if directed by the police or other agencies and we have to cover this across the board with both home and away fans. Again, we must aim to provide a safe environment for every supporter, as well as the best possible match day experience.
To keep everyone in the loop, it is likely that our home fixture against FC Halifax Town will be segregated, and away fans will likely be allocated The Henderson Insurance Stand. More details about that match will be issued very shortly, as we are all looking forward to a great day of football played in front of a bumper crowd and in a great atmosphere.
A final point I’d like to address is closely linked to the above, and has been on my mind since meeting with the supporters club last week. This is to answer the questions being raised regarding our stance on independently organised away travel.
As a football club, we do not have any control over the experience supporters encounter on independently organised travel to away matches. On any independent trip, such as those organised by Harrogate Town Supporters Club, the club holds no liability for any damages incurred, and cannot be held responsible for the actions of any individual or groups of individuals on these journeys.
With the changing landscape of football, and of society as a whole, we will never endorse any activity which we can’t be confident meets the highest standards in terms of safeguarding young people and vulnerable adults.
Clearly, we have no understanding of whether independently organised travel has processes in place, and as such, for us to actively promote such practices would be inappropriate.
Alongside my staff, I will actively be seeking a meeting with the Chairman of Harrogate Town Supporters Group in the coming weeks to constitute our relationship, to ensure that statements of this nature aren’t necessary in the future.
The informal relationship between club and supporters club worked for a long time, as did matchday stewarding run largely by volunteers, as did part-time players and off-field staff. As George Bernard Shaw put it “Progress is impossible without change”.
It is worth remembering that all these discussion points are nothing more than the consequences of success and growth, and I for one am confident that 2017/18 will be a new dawn for Harrogate Town AFC.