This report sets out a response to issues raised by Councillor Maple concerning the sponsorship agreement between the Council and Gillingham Football Club.
Members considered a report which set out a response to issues raised by Councillor Maple concerning the sponsorship agreement between the Council and Gillingham Football Club.
Councillor Maple introduced his item by stating that he, along with all Members, wanted Gillingham FC to succeed but the agreement reached had raised some concerns. The decision to enter into the agreement had been taken quickly and, as the Leader of the Opposition, he had been unaware of it when approached by the media asking for a comment. He welcomed the Council’s decision to then make public all of the responses to FOI requests about the agreement, together with the details of the sponsorship agreement itself. Going forward he proposed that the Council draw up a protocol on corporate sponsorship which, before being agreed, should be subject to scrutiny by the Committee.
The Director of Regeneration, Culture, Environment and Transformation and Deputy Chief Executive responded by saying he considered the Council had entered into a very positive arrangement with Gillingham FC. The club was important for Medway and the agreement helped further a number of the Council’s strategic objectives as well as promoting Medway on a wider stage, secured investment in Council facilities at no cost to the authority, while also giving the club access to a wider range of facilities in a way which protected the Council’s interests.
A Member asked why the deal was only for one year if there were so many positives and questioned whether the 2019 local elections were a consideration in the timing. The Director of Regeneration, Culture, Environment and Transformation and Deputy Chief Executive advised that at this stage it was a one year deal and officers would carefully monitor how it progressed. In relation to the timing query, he assured Members this was a genuine attempt to make Council facilities available to the club and community groups.
A Member commented that this was a positive and innovative development for Medway which had the potential to inspire young people to become active in sports and also noted there were other councils who had sponsored their local football team at a significant cost to the authority, which was not the case in Medway.
A Member made the point that the agreement had been reached very quickly with no details being made public at first and no scrutiny of it had been possible. One concern was the extra demand that would be placed on the Council’s marketing team and whether this would lead to missed opportunities. Some of the language used in the answers to some of the questions raised in the Member’s item was loose and did not rule out extra costs being incurred by the Council. The answer to Question 14 about the Purdah period was unsatisfactory as it did not give a commitment that the Purdah advice would definitely address the aspects of the agreement concerning publicity.
The Director of Regeneration, Culture, Environment and Transformation and Deputy Chief Executive acknowledged the speed of the decision to enter into the agreement but he considered it had been correct to seize the opportunity. A key task of the marketing team was to promote Medway and the work arising from the agreement was part of that and would not be onerous. In terms of the reference to anticipated costs, he would be closely monitoring the agreement. He also advised that, as usual, very clear advice would be given about the Purdah period. The Council had acted transparently by publishing all of the responses to FOI requests about the agreement, together with full details of it on its website.
Referring to the answer to Question 4, a Member asked how it had been decided that there would be no additional costs. The Director of Regeneration, Culture, Environment and Transformation and Deputy Chief Executive advised that there were a number of safeguards in place whereby the club would further invest in the facilities. He was aware some community groups were concerned the condition of the pitches would deteriorate, but he gave a commitment they would be maintained as set out in the agreement.
Referring to the answer to Question 14, a Member stated that, whilst the response was satisfactory, the issue about racial victimisation had broader implications for future sponsorship deals. The Director of Regeneration, Culture, Environment and Transformation and Deputy Chief Executive commented that if Members supported the production of a protocol then this point could be incorporated.
The Director of Regeneration, Culture, Environment and Transformation and Deputy Chief Executive, in response to a question, stated that he could not at this point say how long it would take to write a sponsorship protocol. He advised that one had not been required over the last 20 years, albeit he could see some merit in the proposal as it would guide officers in the formulation of any future agreements. However, he added that committing officer time to developing this should be seen in the context of the Council’s wider priorities.
Councillor Maple commented he was somewhat re-assured by the responses to his Member’s item and what had been said this evening. He would like the dialogue with community football groups to continue. Noting that the pitches were not used much outside of weekends, he suggested that the Council should look to develop a marketing strategy for its sports facilities. He also queried who was managing the terms of the licence as the club’s fixture list for 2018/19 did not refer to the stadium as “The Medway Priestfield Stadium”. The Director of Regeneration, Culture, Environment and Transformation & Deputy Chief Executive commented that there were references to Medway Priestfield Stadium on the club’s website but he would raise the issue about the fixtures list with the club.
It was then proposed that a briefing paper be produced giving a more detailed response to questions 7 and 8; a report be submitted to the first meeting in the next municipal year reviewing the sponsorship arrangements and that a report be submitted to the Committee detailing a draft corporate sponsorship protocol for scrutiny prior to any decision being made on whether to adopt such a protocol.
The Committee agreed to:
a) request a briefing paper giving more detail in response to questions 7 and 8 in the Member’s item;
b) ask for a report be submitted to the first meeting in the next municipal year reviewing the sponsorship arrangements, and;
c) ask for a report to be submitted to the November 2018 meeting of the Committee detailing a draft corporate sponsorship protocol.