Recapping a tense Roar Forum

**The following is a re-post of something I posted over at Football Central- originally dated 01/10/15

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It was a tense night which threatened to flow over into full out anger at times last night at the Brisbane Roar fans forum, with many fans not missing the opportunity to ask some very strong questions of the ownership group.

The panel, which consisted of Bakrie Group representatives Dimas Djamaoeddin and Rahim Soekasah, FFA Head of A-League Damien de Bohun, Brisbane Roar interim CEO David Pourre and Fox Sports pundit Mark Bosnich were bombarded with tough questions for over two hours.

The night began with opening remarks from Pourre who said the night was about honesty while acknowledging the challenges of the past 12 months, before asking how many in the room were members which lead some to believe the night was a part of a membership drive.

The first questions of the night was in relation to the owners commitment to the Roar and if he intends to keep the licence and the makeup of the Roar board, with Soekasah reading a statement from the owner himself which said “No. The Bakries will definitely not sell the club” before assuring fans the club would be restored.

Djamaoeddin also revealed that the first they heard of the reported sale was through media reports, which brings into question Chris Fong and what he was doing in Europe recently meeting with potential buyers.

It was also revealed that Fong remains on the Roar board for now, with the ownership waiting on the 2014-15 financial records to be settled before a new advisory board is likely to be implemented.

Later in the evening we got a bit of a glimpse in the way Mr. Bakrie would like to see the club run with Djamaoeddin citing the clubs performance in the NYL last year as “potential” before adding it’s the owner’s vision to groom young talent.

The phrase of the night became ‘new Brisbane Roar’ with both Bakrie Group representatives, Pourre and de Bohun uttering the line many times, with the clear message coming from the ownership that the ‘new Brisbane’ is coming.

De Bohun then provided the FFA perspective on the events of the past few months, indicating that this was the best course of action given the situation, while also admitting that the communication on what has been happening has been slow.

There was then an interruption from the floor, with one fan angrily making the assertion to de Bohun that he wouldn’t allow this to happen to Melbourne Victory or Sydney FC, a claim de Bohun flatly denied which only lead to the majority in the room voicing their disagreement.

The FFA Head of A-League went on to outline how two clubs had gotten themselves into trouble 3 years ago –Brisbane and Newcastle- and both clubs financial issues in recent times had stemmed from that. A question came back from the floor asking how that can be allowed, a question that de Bohun answered by stating that the measures they use are two fold; monthly distributions going straight to players, and embargo’s on clubs who do fall behind.

De Bohun was also confronted over the transaction which saw the Bakries purchase the Roar, 70% upfront before later picking up the other 30%. Allegedly not paying that money, with one fan outlining that the debt figure –a reported 3.5 million- correlating with the unpaid 30%.

While he didn’t acknowledge the figures to be correct, he did outline that the group hadn’t paid the 30%, and that money was taken out of the clubs annual distribution for the past three years.

Proceedings then moved on to the strategy going forward and the payment of players and staff, with de Bohun confirming that the ownership group had cleared a major hurdle in recent weeks with the last round of player payments and part of the debt.

The head of the A-League went on to say that the process of restoring the club and paying all of the debt would be completed by January, a comment which was met with anger and several rebuttal’s over the remainder of the night.

The microphone was then handed to Pourre who outlined the challenges he and the rest of the staff has faced over the past months with a lack of certainty, before outlining he was grateful the ownership have now provided that certainty so they can begin to plan ahead and move forward.

‘Getting closer’ was a phrase the CEO mentioned, and among the promises made or things the interim Roar CEO mentioned were that there will be another fan forum like this before the end of the season. They are also working on a unique opportunity for members and fans in the round 2 clash with Central Coast.

The big touchstone of the night was on the point of trust, with de Bohun turning that question back on those in attendance, asking what actions would you like to see to build that trust, an act which lead to the most hostile responses of the night.

After a host of strong responses, among the things that would be considered the bare minimum were things such as the payment of players and staff on time, investment in the team, improved communications, more community engagement and a vastly improved advertising campaign.

Conversation then moved to community engagement where it was again consensus among those present that the club doesn’t do enough. However on this point both CEO Pourre and the nights MC Brendan Boss –who doubles as the clubs community engagement manager- provided a countering view.

It was stated by Boss that since July 30, the club has done more community work than in the whole of 2014, stating that the problem was that the message on what has been done isn’t getting out and they are working through issues to get that information out via the relevant social media platforms.

A point made from the floor on the lack of a fan day, with most agreeing that was a great chance for kids to meet the players. Pourre saying he only got the commitment on things like this recently and couldn’t promise it previously.  The interim CEO went on to say that the fan day, an event traditionally held in the weeks leading up to the season would now be held before Christmas.

Another touchstone was the Luke Brattan situation, with many supporters angry at the fact his departure was the end result of a four year problem. Pourre outlined that the clubs public statements had been accurate, and everything would eventually come out into the public on that front, an answer that he repeated on the Mike Mulvey front.

Promotions and advertising came up from the floor, with Pourre outlining the club had entered into an agreement with Triple M for radio advertising for the upcoming season. He also said that the club hadn’t done much ‘above the line marketing’ and that he hoped he’d be able to change that, while de Bohun outlined the league’s marketing strategy being aimed at digital marketing to attract a younger audience.

The stadium issue came up briefly, with both Pourre and de Bohun indicated a hope that a second Brisbane stadium could be built in the foreseeable future, but there was no news on this topic and it seemed unlikely. De Bohun did however acknowledge the recent investment in training facilities for both the cities NRL and Netball teams did set a precedent however and wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

On field issues were briefly discussed, with Pourre admitting that head coach John Aloisi was kept off this panel due to family reasons, and they opted against brining Craig Moore in to discuss on field issues as they view Aloisi as the leader and answers should come from him.

There was a suggestion that those answers may come as soon as next week, with the club keen on Aloisi meeting the supporters prior to the start of the season and outlining his plans for the team.

It was asked if the club is using the full salary cap this season, with Pourre saying that the club was committed to spending the full salary cap and are close to that figure.

In one of the few light hearted moments, the dreaded ‘philosophy’ word came up in a question, with Pourre joking that he didn’t know what that word meant, before going on to say that’s not a line that he’s going to be using this season.

The high profile departures from the W-League side also came up, with Pourre indicating those weren’t solely due to the financial situation, before going on to say that they have full faith in the coach –Belinda Wilson- who has put together a new team and that their commitment to the women’s game hasn’t changed.

Bosnich indicated that he believed the Roar were a dark horse this season before saying that he absolutely believes Brisbane will be competing in the finals series this upcoming season despite the loss of Brattan which he described as ‘massive’.

Towards the end of the night a question from the floor came asking the panel what they took from the night with Pourre admitting it was a tough night but the honesty was a good thing. While Bosnich said that he was shocked at just how much anger existed here in Brisbane and hoped for some kind of agreement between the ownership representatives and the crowd.

That seems an unlikely proposition however with one response from the crowd saying, “I’ve heard nothing tonight that makes me want to invest my money into the club.”

The evening ended with a comment from Djamaoeddin that they are fully aware of their commitments, and the feedback they received on the night would stick with them, and in turn would be transferred to the ownership back in Indonesia. Time will tell.

To close this out there was a bit of generic Australian football news from de Bohun, with perhaps the biggest take away being that an agreement is close to being reached between the PFA and the FFA over the CBA.

In addition it was confirmed that there is likely to be some fan ownership at the Jets, and it’s a model the league is considering adopting in the future, while the reported sanctions on the Wanderers fans are overblown and are “no chance” of happening.

Finally, and in a nod towards the women’s game, Fox will apparently be showing games on both Saturdays and Sundays according to Bosnich, with a dedicated W-League show also in the works. As Bosnich put it last night, this is about “giving the girls the coverage they deserve”.

Just to wrap this up, here’s few thoughts I had following the forum last night and this morning.

1) The consensus amongst supporters I spoke to last night is that last night wasn’t enough to engender belief in the Bakrie Group going forward, with actions needed on the things listed above in order for trust to be regained.

2) There wasn’t a great deal to come out of the night in terms of news but it was a good opportunity for supporters who’ve been burnt by the events of the past six months to express their anger. Mark Bosnich may have been surprised by the degree of anger, however for mine the night delivered what was expected.

3) There was very little in the way of promises made, however few that were made –fan forum & fan day before Christmas, debts cleared by January- will need to be met if the ownership are intent on regaining any level of trust.

4) The sale stuff was interesting, although I’m not sure I fully buy the fact that Fong essentially acted rogue in attempting to sell the club without telling anyone.

5) The only question I would have liked to ask them is in relation to Djamaoeddin’s statement on the ownership’s commitment to youth, and why in that case did the team forfeit two NPL Queensland games in North Queensland midway through the season. Other than that the tough questions were asked.

6) There was a lot of talk about the ‘new’ Brisbane Roar, and I don’t think that message really got through. There was no real plan of action outlined, only promises to clean things up by January. If they had plans for a new Brisbane Roar, last night was the perfect time to articulate what those were and how they intended to get there.

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