My Racecourse

My Racecourse – Mark Thompson

Nathan Lee Davies is a key member of the Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association, who is right behind our My Racecourse campaign. Despite a debilitating condition he does all he can to contribute to Wrexham AFC’s success. He has agreed to pen for us a series of short stories over the summer detailing what the Racecourse means to fans and former players alike. As Euro 2016 approaches, Nathan talks to matchday programme contributor Mark Thompson about international football at the Racecourse, quiz nights with former managers and Christmas carols with television soap stars.

12/05/73

Wales v Scotland

Home International Tournament

Racecourse Ground

Result: 0-2

Wales: Sprake, Rodrigues, Thomas, Hockey, England, Roberts, James, Mahoney, Toshack, Yorath (Davies 69), Evans (O’Sullivan 78)

Scotland: McCloy, McGrain, Donachie, Graham, Holton, Johnstone, Dalglish (Macari 84), Stanton, Parlane (Stein 80), Hay, Morgan

Goalscorer: Graham (60, 70)

Attendance: 18,682

With Wales about to play in their first major tournament since 1958 – or more accurately 1976 – I’ve been in a reflective international mood. I’d like to focus on my first international match at the Racecourse back in 1973 when Wales played Scotland in the Home International Tournament.

It was Wales’ first game since a 2-0 win over Poland at Ninian Park, which got the World Cup ’74 qualifying campaign off to a cracking start.  At school – Rhosddu Juniors – lots of my classmates were talking about a ‘new era’ having started for Wales. This was the first time I’d heard that phrase, but as a long-suffering Welshman it was certainly not the last.

The day of the match was overcast and a bit chilly while I was charged 10p to gain access to the Kop through the Boys turnstile.  My pal Neil Roberts and I were amongst the first in the ground.  After an abortive attempt to climb a floodlight pylon, we pottered down towards the Tech End in search of some pre-match entertainment.  We lingered on the terrace that became known as the Yale Paddock, but in those days it was just the terracing in front of the New Stand.  Once at the Tech End we sat on the wall behind the goal with our legs tucked in behind the advertising hoardings and watched the terraces filling up with Scotsmen behind us.  They all seemed to have those yellow flags with a red lion on them – AKA the Royal Standard of Scotland – not the traditional Saltire.  I remember us shouting “Get a dragon on them” with ridiculous bravado.

It was goalless at half-time. Unlike the football, the half-time entertainment was terrific. It comprised of a display by police dogs catching criminals. This got us warmed up for the second half, but our enthusiasm and excitement were soon extinguished…

As we were right next to the goal we had an excellent view of Wales goalkeeper Gary Sprake going down in instalments as Arsenal’s George Graham side-footed past him to put Scotland 0-1 up.  Ten minutes later, Graham scored his second goal as Scotland won 0-2.  After these goals I spent the rest of the game eating my packet of Spangles.

At the final whistle we ran on the pitch and I managed to secure an autograph from Rod Thomas of Swindon. Oh the glamour.

The following Tuesday, Wales lost 0-3 to England at Wembley. Wales’ new era looked a lot like the old one.

***

‘My Racecourse’ memories don’t have to be about matches attended. I vividly recall football quizzes from early/mid 1980s in the old Wrexham AFC Social Club. They were also held in the upstairs bar at the Centenary Club.

Usually I was on a team with former Chief Executive Dave Roberts, which was a very luck break as he has a thorough knowledge of football trivia.  Quizmaster Dave Davies also held quizzes where the competitors entered as individuals.  In one of them, I finished with the same score as manager Bobby Roberts. It was strangely satisfying to know exactly as much about football as the Boss.  I bumped into Bobby recently in Leicester and he told me that the Wrexham job was the most difficult of his career.

***

Of course, ‘My Racecourse’ memories don’t have to be about football. For example, I recall a Christmas carol concert in 1976 that featured Coronation Street actor Peter Adamson – AKA Len Fairclough – as the star guest.

Earlier that same year, the Racecourse held a ‘Festival of Entertainment’, culminating in people riding round the pitch on horseback dressed as characters from Planet of the Apes.  Trust me, it happened. I was there and not on drugs. Honest.

***

Over the summer months, Nathan Lee Davies hopes to compile a series of articles about our treasured Racecourse memories. We hope that this will promote the My Racecourse brand by showing how much this venue means to so many people and illustrate that it can be used by all of the community to create more memories in the future.

My Racecourse – Stuart Roberts

Nathan Lee Davies is a key member of the Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association, who is right behind our My Racecourse campaign. Despite a debilitating condition he does all he can to contribute to Wrexham AFC’s success. He has agreed to pen for us a series of short stories over the summer detailing what the Racecourse means to fans and former players alike. This week Nathan talks to WST board member Stuart Roberts about the day his love for Wrexham AFC and the Racecourse was cemented:

28-12-87

Wrexham v Hereford United

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 0-0

Wrexham: Morris, Williams, Cunnington, Hinnigan, Cooke, Bowden, Buxton, Hunter, Kearns, Russell, Emson (Preece)

Hereford United: Rose, Jones, Devine, Powell, Pejic, Spooner, Rodgerson, Bowyer, Stevens, Stant, Dalziel

Attendance: 2,443

 Being a child in a forces family, attending the Racecourse regularly wasn’t an option as we were living outside of the area. I got to see a few of the bigger matches, but I grew up as an armchair Liverpool fan as they were the dominant team of the seventies.   At school in the Midlands, I almost succumbed to the pressure from my classmates to join them as Molineux regulars, but after watching Wrexham lose there in the FA Cup Fifth Round in 1981, I found that my hometown team was more important than the men in old gold could ever be.

My first game without a guardian was at Christmas time in 1987. I got a lift with my cousin and his father-in-law, and absolutely loved my first experience of the quirky architecture of the old Mold Road Stand. People were spilling out of the Centre Spot and the Turf full of festive cheer and that is where the excitement started for me.  Then it was around the corner to the Kop….

WOW.

Even though the Kop was still fairly subdued, it gave me such a buzz to push my frame through those cold, iron turnstiles. Those of you reading this now will know that once you have felt the enigmatic mystique of the Racecourse combined with the intoxicating stench of fried onions and tobacco, not to mention the rush of pre-match adrenaline pumping around your body, there really is no going back.  The emotion of the event won me over in less than five minutes. We were only playing Hereford United in front of a couple of thousand beleaguered souls, but there was no where else I’d rather be showing off my new Christmas clobber.

Those feelings were probably enough to make sure I made a return to the Racecourse but it was pretty much guaranteed after making my way to the back of the Kop. I remember walking up the steps on the right hand side with people laughing and joking and obviously enjoying the experience as much as I was.  There were kids who were also starting their education in football and I don’t doubt that they soon learnt what supporting your local team meant and why they are probably taking their kids or grandchildren on a Saturday now, as I do with my daughter who shows as much passion for our great club as any proud dad could ask for.

Once at the back of the Kop I came across THAT guy who starts the songs. Everyone knew him and everyone wanted to stand by him.  He was and still is, relentless.  If a few minutes passed without a song, then you just knew a terrace anthem would soon be booming out. I think his name is Jacko…

“Everywhere we go
People want to know
Who’re the boys in red and white”…

As for the game in question, I had chosen to attend the only 0-0 draw of the whole season – home or away. This was just my luck. The day be0fore this game we had drawn 1-1 at Stockport County and now we struggled to find a way past a Hereford side that sat deep with ten men behind the ball at all times. I don’t remember any real scoring chances and this was a very depressing way to say goodbye to 1987. Dixie McNeil said afterwards that “1988 has to be an improvement on 1987!”

The fact that I wanted to come back for more shows that there is more to being part of a community of football fans than the “entertainment” we often have to endure.

***

Over the summer months, Nathan Lee Davies hopes to compile a series of articles about our treasured Racecourse memories. We hope that this will promote the My Racecourse brand by showing how much this venue means to so many people and illustrate that it can be used by all of the community to create more memories in the future.

My Racecourse

Taken from the Wrexham AFC official website

Nathan Davies is a key member of the Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association, who is right behind our My Racecourse campaign. Despite a debilitating condition he does all he can to contribute to Wrexham AFC’s success.

He has agreed to pen for us a series of short stories over the summer detailing what the Racecourse means to fans and former players alike.

Here is the first and it the shares Nathan’s moving story of his My Racecourse memory against Barnet from nearly 25 years ago:

26/09/92

Wrexham v Barnet

Division Three

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-3

Wrexham: Hughes, Jones, Pejic, Phillips, Humes, Sertori, Bennett, Owen, Connolly, Thomas, Paskin (Taylor)

Goalscorers: Bennett 35, Thomas 78

Barnet: Phillips, Howell, Cooper, Bodley, Barnett, Horton, Payne, Carter, Bull, Lowe (Stein), Showler (Naylor)

Goalscorers: Bull 21, 47, Carter 33

Attendance: 3,078

School days are supposed to be the best days of your life, but I can assure you that in my case nothing could be further from the truth. Academically there was no problem, but I was the victim of merciless bullies who I would do anything to avoid due to their repressive catcalls and punishing fists.

The problem was that I wasn’t like everyone else and in the black and white world of childhood being different is impossibly isolating.

I walked with a involuntary drunken stagger, which caused much amusement to my immature class mates. I was later to find out that my lack of co-ordination was caused by a progressive, genetic disease of the nervous system known as Friedreich’s Ataxia, but at the time clueless doctors just labelled me as lazy and clumsy. I had few friends and felt that no one understood me.

As you can imagine, I lived for the weekends and had started going to the Racecourse in the late eighties. One particular Saturday, my friends could not make it to the Cae Ras, so I had to decide whether to miss out on an afternoon’s entertainment – which had also been previewed on Saint and Greavsie – or go it alone…

It was ridiculously early. I purchased a copy of the matchday programme and spent the last few pounds of my pocket money to gain access to the near-deserted Kop. I had my choice of crush barriers to stand behind and after choosing a position on the upper left of this much loved terrace, I sat on the cold concrete steps to read about our 2-0 victory over Shrewsbury Town a couple of weeks previously.

This welcome three points against the Shrews had come against the formbook, which did little to suggest that season 1992/93 would be anything else other than our usual scrap amongst the dead men. Less than a month into the season we’d already suffered heavy-defeats on the road as Bury, York City and Gillingham had all scored four goals past us in three successive away defeats. How on earth would we cope against a second-placed Barnet side?

As the Kop slowly filled I realised that I was uncharacteristically relaxed and comfortable with those around me. I was not nervous or worried about being judged and took comfort from the fact that we were all there with the same aim in mind – three points for Wrexham. One bloke asked me the time, an old chap read the team line-ups from my programme and his mate shared his bar of Bourneville with me. Such interaction and unity with other human beings made a refreshing change from the assassination of my uniqueness by playground bullies.

I could be myself at the Racecourse…

I don’t remember too much about the game other than the novelty of Barnet boss Barry Fry running down the touchline in celebration of his side’s first half goals, Gary Bennett’s first league goal for the club, a disappointing attendance and the sliver of hope provided by Mickey Thomas when he reduced the deficit to 3-2 on 78 minutes.

We may have lost the game and left the ground full of frustration, but it didn’t matter to me, as I had enjoyed the afternoon of inclusion with my fellow Wrexham fans. This was my first real memory of acceptance by a group of supporters who have since become my extended family.

***
Inclusion and acceptance is what the Racecourse means to me. Over the summer months, I hope to compile a series of articles about our treasured Racecourse memories. We hope that this will promote the My Racecourse brand by showing how much this venue means to so many people and illustrate that it can be used by all of the community to create more memories in the future.

Wrexham Supporters Trust members give go ahead to Racecourse Lease

On Tuesday, March 29 I was part of history when I attended a Wrexham Supporters Trust Special General Meeting. Details of the evening can be found below:

 

MyRacecourseAt a packed Special General Meeting held at the Catrin Finch Centre on Tuesday night, members heard presentations from Board members recommending the entering into a 99 year lease for the Racecourse Ground as well as the transfer of the stadium operations and staff to WAFC. Detailed information had already been made available to the membership including on the website.

Trust Chairman Peter Jones introduced members of the Board and set out the background to this momentous decision which, if passed, would see the Club taking back control of its iconic home, the Racecourse Ground.

Gavin Jones, Board member and lead negotiator with Glyndwr (ably assisted by Trust member and solicitor Rob Parry), explained that under the lease there would be a Rent of £100,000 per annum payable between WST Assets Ltd and Glyndwr University with the Ability to make capital payments to reduce the rent for the residue of the term based on a value of £1.35m being retained throughout the term of the lease.

Responsibility for all statutory compliance and carrying out any works associated with compliance with the stadium safety certificate would rest with the Club who would be able to sublet or licence the use of the Stadium to Crusaders Rugby League Club (or a successor club).

Should we remain under the current licence agreement with Glyndwr costs would rise from £205,000 pa to £350,000 pa anyway with no ability to increase income from the Stadium.

The proposed deal also included the Transfer of all stadium operations and staff to Wrexham AFC, subject to consultation, with the Club to honour existing bookings. The premises alcohol license will be transferred to Wrexham AFC and all sponsorship including stadium naming rights, the GUS stand and title shirt sponsors will cease at the end of 2015/16 with the Club able to secure future deals.

There then followed a question and answer session with Board members about the implications of the proposed deal.

The University did not wish to sell the freehold. A 99 year lease was the next best option to secure the Clubs tenure at our historic ground. The creation of WST Assets Ltd was to ensure that the lease was safe from “predatory hands” and was separate from the Club. One of the resolutions ensured that members had to approve the selling of shares etc. in that company.

The proposed deal did not include Colliers Park which was a separate piece of real estate but talks had begun about its future use and plans put in place should the Club not have access to it in the future.

As well as those present at the meeting, members had the opportunity to vote on the resolutions online and by proxy.

Voting

Independent Trust Secretary Alan Fox announced the results of voting on the seven resolutions necessary to authorise the lease and the transfer of stadium operations etc. as follows:

Resolution 1 (directing the Board to enter into the 99 year lease between WST Assets Ltd and Glyndwr University etc. on the terms of the heads of terms)
For: 777
Against: 11
Abstain: 1
This motion was carried

Resolution 2 (directing the Board to give guarantees by the Trust in favour of Glyndwr University to the obligations of WST Assets Ltd pursuant to the lease)
For: 772
Against: 12
Abstain: 5
This motion was carried

Resolution 3 (authorising the Board to direct WAFCs acquisition of the business operation of the Racecourse from Glyndwr University on the terms of the heads of terms)
For: 779
Against: 8
Abstain: 2
This motion was carried

Resolution 4 (directing the Board to direct that WAFC gives guarantees in favour of Glyndwr University to the obligations of WST Assets Ltd pursuant to the lease)
For: 768
Against: 10
Abstain: 11
This motion was carried

Resolution 5 (authoring the Board to enter into such agreements and take such actions necessary to give effect to these resolutions)
For: 774
Against: 10
Abstain: 5
This motion was carried

Special Resolution 6 (that the Rules of the Society be amended so that it may not sell etc. its interest in WST Assets Ltd without a special resolution passed by Trust members)
For: 778
Against: 7
Abstain: 4
This motion was carried

Special Resolution 7 (that the Articles of WST Assets Ltd be amended so that it cannot sell etc. the lease without a special resolution of Trust members )
For: 780
Against: 6
Abstain: 3
This motion was carried

All the resolutions necessary to direct the Board to complete the deal were therefore passed with very large majorities.
Spencer Harris, Trust and Club Board member then gave a presentation outlining the Boards vision for the future of the stadium and how we could meet the significant challenges which lie ahead.

The key issues were:
• Racecourse is not being fully utilised throughout the year and loses money
• The Racecourse is an expensive asset
• It will take time to turn around the stadium fortunes
• We need to minimise the impact on the first team and quest for success

We need to rescue the Racecourse

We together will need to turn around the business as there is currently a gap of around £200k and we have to close it one way or another. That means generating income both on match days and crucially throughout the year.

“My Racecourse” is going to be our way of positioning the Racecourse to generate income on matchday and non matchday – to use the stadium for parties, conferences and concerts.

My Racecourse is the plan for how we engage people to utilise the stadium and fans to help us generate breathing space.

Members shared their memories of what the Racecourse meant to them.

We need to Generate Breathing space – buy ourselves time to turn things around and, if we get that breathing space, we need to build the offer and infrastructure to generate income. That offer needs to be good quality and make people want to come back for more. This needs to be worked through and can only be delivered over time and is why we need the breathing space. Longer term, building the offer should lead to us strengthening the club financially’

The breathing space challenge means we need to generate an additional £200k income for next season.
• We have a gap on day 1
• We cannot magic another £200k per annum income overnight. £200k is an additional £550 profit every day for 365 days in the year over and above what the Racecourse does today
 Our Vision is that the Racecourse impact is eradicated by 2019
• 2019 onwards if we’ve done a great job then we hope the Racecourse can be a profit generator to go into the first team
• We would build the business year on year and therefore the breathing space challenge will lessen

We ALL need to pitch in if we are to achieve this.

My Membership- If 2,000 members upped their club ownership contribution by £1per week in a standing order -just £1 this would give us £100k and put us a long way on the road to generating the breathing space we need. That’s just half of our membership making this conscious decision.

My Commitment-If we can get a crowd of 7,000 plus at the My Racecourse “house warming” game v Braintree this would be an additional £40k
– If we could get on average every fan through the gate next season to spend £1 come earlier, drink in the centenary, the 1873 suite not in town this is £100k
– Think about using the Racecourse for any non matchday occasions you might be looking for a venue:
– Birthday Parties / Anniversary Celebrations
– Persuade your boss or if you have your own business use the Racecourse for your Christmas Party

My Donation-If 2,000 season ticket holders donated back their early bird discount [£30 for an adult] again equivalent to £1 per week this would give us £60k and give us the breathing space we need. If our average crowd donated £25 each equivalent to 50p per week this would give us £100k and the breathing space we need.

We need to turn around the Racecourse

Again it’s fallen to this generation of fans to secure a community asset for North Wales.

Breathing Space is vital to give us the time to do it, if everything suggested tonight came true that would give £300k into the budget and help us minimise the impact on the first team and our quest for success.

We all have to help create that breathing space whilst we build the offer and the business of the Racecourse.

What we do together will be the sacrifice that will continue to be enjoyed by your childrens, childrens, childrens children.

The meeting discussed ways to create this Breathing Space.

Chair Peter Jones closed the meeting by thanking everyone for using their vote to authorise the Board to bring the Racecourse back within the control of the Club and its owners- the fans.

The full WST SGM 2016 Presentation is available HERE