11:52AM, Friday 04 August 2017
Maidenhead United manager Alan Devonshire with new CEO Jon Adams
As Maidenhead United manager Alan Devonshire has spent the close season signing players and training the squad, there has been plenty of work behind the scenes, too.
The York Road faithful who attend the first home game against Wrexham on Tuesday, August 8 will notice some changes to their ground.
New CEO Jon Adams is responsible for those off-the-pitch improvements.
But while parts of the stadium, which the Football Association believes is the oldest pitch continuously-used by the same club in England, have been altered, Jon stresses the club itself will not change.
The 47-year-old said: “It’s all about accessibility, amenity, coping with large crowds. It’s still about us being a good quality non league club but we just want to make that experience a bit better for everybody.
“The ethos of the club is family, community,” he continued.
“The reality is that this is the place where they can come in for free – under 16s are free – and parents can bring them along and actually feel confident their kids can run around and that they’re in a safe environment and it’s a relatively family atmosphere.
“Obviously the more the crowds are, the more it becomes a bit more of a football environment, which is great, but we need to make sure that we retain that ethos.
“Ultimately we want families to come here and have a great day.
“Community’s big for us.”
The ground has the capacity to take 4,500 spectators but while Jon did not expect the club to push to that amount in the immediate future, he said they could ‘easily have another 3,500 game here’, such as the Ebbsfleet match last season.
Men’s and women’s toilets have been added on the southern side of the pitch, and a new tea bar will be serving next to the Alan Devonshire suite, which will improve the club’s hospitality offering. And Dev himself is set to benefit with a new and improved dugout.
That south side of York Road is where the bulk of Maidenhead United’s investment has gone. Though some extra capacity has been added elsewhere in the stadium, the most noticeable alterations have been made to the South-West corner, where the away fans will now sit.
“The beauty of that is that it also gives us flexibility, so if we speak to Leyton Orient and they say, we’re going to bring 1,200 fans, or we think we’re going to sell that many tickets, we then have the ability to open up a bit of the main stand if we wanted to,” Jon explained.
Away fans will now be segregated from the home fans.
The Bell Street entrance will become used only by the away fans, while home fans will continue to use the York Road gate.
Alcohol will also not be allowed in the stands during a game.
External bars, however, have been given 9ft fences within the ground to allow drinkers to continue enjoying a pint away from the pitch.
The club also hopes to eventually be able to add a third entrance to the ground.
Jon, who lives in Maidenhead, has been involved with the club for three years, when owner Peter Griffin asked him to come on board.
He previously ran Our Community Enterprise, a social enterprise company, and joined Maidenhead United as Community Development Officer.
They drew up a strategy which has seen the football improve, promotion to the National League and now expansion.
It is not a strategy that relies on its owner throwing endless amounts of cash at the club.
The watchwords are ‘consolidation’ and ‘stability’. Jon wants to ensure the Magpies need not rely on Griffin’s generosity.
“Our long-term vision at the moment is to continue to improve the facilities, as we can afford, and as the opportunities arise,” he said.
“We want to grow and improve here.”
He added: “This is year three of a longer-term plan which is about, 'let’s build a sustainable football club, rooted in the community', and it requires good facilities, it requires community engagement, it requires better management.
“All of those sorts of things are important in terms of making it more professional but at the same time making sure we don’t lose our heart as a club.
“Our priority at the moment is that we just need to consolidate where we are really. It’d be fantastic if we have a great season and we consolidate and we’re successful, and we stay up. That’s the priority as I think any other team’s that’s come up would be.
“Long term – you know, at the moment, we’re a National League club. We’re quite proud of being a non-league club. We’re quite proud of what that offers us in terms of the offer for fans – it’s different to a Premier League club.
“It’s not just about revenue, it’s about providing kids with the opportunity to come down here and have a first hand experience of football.
“Where else can you go where the kids can stand by the changing rooms, and they can come in, the players would come out, and they’ll shake their hand, they’ll say hello? They’ll have their photo taken. You don’t get any of that in the Premier League or the Championship.
“So we don’t want to lose that.”
With the club’s strategy succeeding for the last three years, Jon turned his attention to what the club would be in 2022.
“I would hope that we would have continued to make strides in terms of the quality of football that we’re offering," he said.
"I would hope that we’ve continued to make strides in terms of the scope of the facilities and how they are supported.”
Maidenhead itself is undergoing changes and with the town's regeneration at York Road under the spotlight, Jon said he didn't envision the Magpies leaving their old home - where they played their first game in February 1871, a match that pre-dates Queen Victoria's opening of the Royal Albert Hall by a month.
“I can quite clearly say that our long term future is here.
“It would be wrong of me to say that we are closed to engaging with, and talking with, the partners that are looking into developing and make the most of the York Road opportunity area. We actually want to be an integral part of that.
“And we believe that if you have a community sports facility that is rooted at the centre of the town centre, and the residential development and the arts development that surrounds that, that would be a good thing for the club but it would be would also be a good thing for the town centre."
The club kicks off away to Maidstone tomorrow (Saturday).
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