BLUES AGM 2014
Bedford Blues shareholders took their places in the Scrum Bar on Wednesday evening to listen to the latest from the Board at the Annual Group Meeting.
Results may not have turned out quite the way that fans, players, coaches and the directors would have wanted this season, but there remains an air of optimism within the club and shareholders remained extremely positive with a wide range of topics being discussed.
Speaking about the meeting Bedford Blues chairman Geoff Irvine, said: "Tonight has been an opportunity for us to speak directly with shareholders and overall there has been a really good vibe around the room. Yes, we have all been disappointed with the way this season has turned out but we've had tough seasons before and we've always managed to bounce back. We'll take this season on the chin, pick ourselves up and move forward.
"One of the key points that we needed to convey was that given the huge amount of success that we had on the pitch last season, namely reaching the final of the Championship and semi-final of the British & Irish Cup, we didn't come close to the magic breaking even point and it is clear that the model that we have isn't working.
"We need to address funding and launching a Rights Issue is one way of generating some much needed funds that can be used to build the team, maintain the ground and turn the debt that we have into equity," said Mr Irvine.
"Quite soon the board is also hoping to host a meeting with some influential people within Bedford in order to look at raising much needed funds. There are people in the town who want to be involved with the club but may not be able to throw themselves into it 100 per cent. We want to look at ways in which we can accommodate these people in a way that would be beneficial to them and the club."
Talking about the on-field situation, Mr Irvine said: "I've had talks with Mike Rayer about what we can do on the pitch and I can reassure everyone that the recruitment process for next season is already well underway and we have identified a number of areas that need strengthening.
"We have also discussed the possibilty of being able to spend more time with the players than the handful of hours we do at the moment. This way Mike can have not only extra hours for training, but also more time to spend on analysis. In order to achieve this, Mike is insistant that players must live within a certain radius of Bedford so that they are here and available.
"Is this full time? No, but it is us dipping our toes in the water to see if we can bridge that gap. Is full time the answer? Well, there are teams below us in the league who are full time and it is fair to say that it hasn't quite worked for them. What I will say is that we are looking at a transition and we want to do something positive to get us back up the right end of the table.
"We continue to have a great working relationship with Saracens but in all honesty we did not benefit from it this time around as we have previously. Saracens suffered a huge amount of injuries this year and as a result they needed their players and we had to live with that. It was tough especially as we had so many injuries ourselves and as a result, Mike (Rayer) hasn't been able to have the consistency that I'm sure he would have liked.
"You also have to remember, and again we have been the victims of our own success, last season - from the start of pre-season to the final again Newcastle - was 333 days. This season is even longer. It is ridiculous and needs to be looked at. The lads who left us to join Wasps only had ten days off!"
The open floor session after the 'business' section of the meeting allowed shareholders to raise a number of issues and pass on their congratulations to Aaron Morris who made his debut for England Under 20s in the recent Six Nations - scoring a try against Italy.
"Aaron is a great example of what this club does well," said Mr Irvine. "He is a talented sportsman but his parents also listened to what we had to say about developing him as a player and as a result he made it into the England Under 20s despite not coming through an RFU funded academy. Unfortunately he got injured while with England and we may have to wait a little while to see him in a Blues shirt again.
"There was a question about our reasons for playing tough pre-season friendlies against Northampton and Saracens and whether that knocked confidence with a first competitive game against the relegated Premiership side. Well hindsight is a wonderful thing but those fixtures brought in a large amout of money for this club - the biggest of the season - and we have to remember that we are a business as well and cannot turn our back on large sums of money.
"We also discussed the British & Irish Cup which continues to be a competition that more people are buying in to, the fixture lists, the double-header (which won't be happening next season) and the current kit.
"Overall, everything was very positive and I'm glad that so many shareholders were able to come along and have their voices heard. Hopefully I was able to answer the questions and address the issues that were raised and now we can all look forward to completing this season as strongly as possible and then start the building work for the coming campaign."