Heading into its tenth season of ownership at Cork City FC, the Friends of the Rebel Army Society (FORAS) continues to be the driving force behind improvements at the football club. That was the message heard by the trustees that came from across Ireland to attend the 2019 AGM at the Metropole Hotel in Cork earlier this month.
The meeting got underway with a minute’s applause for board member Pat Shine, who passed away last November. Pat was integral to the setting up of FORAS, having had the vision to see that supporters have a very important part to play in the club’s long-term future well over a decade ago.
Before the formal agenda got underway, first-team manager John Caulfield was invited to share his thoughts about the new season. He paid tribute to the efforts of the outgoing board, trustees, volunteers and supporters alike, calling on everyone to get behind the team ahead of what is likely to be a very competitive campaign.
Outgoing chairman Pat Lyons thanked the outgoing board, highlighting the length of service given by himself, Darren O’Keeffe, Wyon Stansfeld (6 years of continuous service) and Shane O’Connor (3 years). He expressed his thanks that all of the club’s main partners remain committed to supporting the ideals of CCFC and FORAS, and said that the exceptional work of staff and volunteers was a key reason the club was awarded the SSE Airtricity League ‘Club of the Year’ for the second consecutive time.
Pat also heads up the Infrastructure working group and reported on the improvements made to Turners Cross in time for the 2018 season. He also confirmed that efforts continue to try and secure the necessary funding for the FAI’s Centre of Excellence in Glanmire, a project that will provide FORAS with a permanent base and a state-of-the-art training facility in future years.
Treasurer Wyon Stansfeld confirmed that the club had made a profit for the fifth consecutive year, an achievement that was not to be underestimated. Match night income and prize money had fallen back in 2018 compared to the double-winning success of 2017, but the areas of merchandise and sponsorship had continued to grow regardless. Costs, as ever, were monitored closely but the club will have 8 teams competing in 2019, compared to just 2 in 2015. CCFC has also recruited additional staff for the office in the same period – including the recent appointment of former player Paul Deasy as Commercial and Marketing Manager.
Vice-chairman Darren O’Keeffe gave an update on trust matters, confirming that FORAS now has 570 members. This number includes new members and also former members rejoining. Darren revealed the the funds that the trust has contributed to the club to date since 2010, with a much lower contribution needed in recent years. Further enhancements to the membership offering will be rolled out in 2019.
Next, Declan Carey outlined the efforts made around merchandise and marketing. Following the appointment of Merchandise manager David O’Rourke and renewed focus by the board, a range of new stock was made available throughout 2018. The #BacktoBlack campaign had made a significant impact with the new black and white shirt already the best selling jersey of recent years. A new third kit, voted on by on FORAS members last year, will launch in March while the club shop and online e-commerce website have both been revamped.
In terms of marketing, Cork City is now the best supported League of Ireland club on social media with over 110,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Declan paid tribute to the work of David Geary in particular, who moved on to pastures new in December. Two specific campaigns were highlighted: the blue FAI Cup shirt that was worn in support of men’s cancer – raising almost €8,000 for the Mercy Hospital Foundation – and the inclusion of Cork Samaritans as the club’s charity partner while playing in Europe. Declan also announced that a new book of poetry called Rebel Rhymes – written by FORAS member Tony Tobin – would be available to purchase from February.
The meeting continued with a presentation of the club’s ‘City in the Community’ programme by Football Enterprise Coordinator Erika Ni Thuama. Through the initiative, CCFC is now actively promoting numeracy and a ‘Run the Club’ training series in schools across Cork, helping to raise over €30,000 for various organisations through its activities in the process. The Family Enclosure welcomed over 2,000 people from different groups throughout last season, with almost 1,000 children taking part in the half-time games on match nights. The Cork City FC amputee team, meanwhile, won the first ever Amputee League in Ireland, a group coached by ‘More than a Club’ staff member Chris McDermott.
Board member Mike Derham reported on the club’s efforts around the supporter liaison officer (SLO) role. The position came into its own around the European games in particular he said, and two of the club’s SLOs had been invited to attend a European SLO network meeting in Denmark by the FAI as a result. Mike thanked Niamh O’Mahony and John Kennedy for leading the club’s work within the Irish Supporters Network (ISN). Niamh gave a brief update on ISN’s plans for 2019, before giving some detail on how a new Advisory Board, as approved by trustees 12 months previously, will be set up shortly.
Having heard all updates, Trust secretary Shane O’Connor then oversaw the election of the new board as well as voting on a range of motions put to the meeting. Five positions were available and after excellent addresses by all involved, the following trustees were elected to the board of management: John Paul Clifford, Garrett Fleming, Conor Hallahan, Colm McAuliffe and Damien Sreenan. The new officers of the board have since been confirmed as: Declan Carey (chairman), Mike Derham (vice-chairman), Conor Hallahan (treasurer) and Garrett Fleming (secretary). The meeting concluded with Any Other Business.
Membership of FORAS is open to all and allows trustees have a voice in shaping the activities and future of Cork City FC. New members are always welcome and can sign up online or at Turners Cross on match days.