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SPECIAL FANS' JURY WITH NEW TOWN CHAIRMAN SIR WILLIAM PATEY
ON MONDAY, Sir William Patey was named as the new chairman of Swindon Town. Here, in a Swindon Advertiser Fans’ Jury special, the former British ambassador to Sudan and Afghanistan answers readers’ questions on the pressing issues at the County Ground – and cheese…
Is the development of the County Ground still firmly in the plans of the board to commence this summer?
“The near future would be a little optimistic but we’re in discussions with the council. Redeveloping the ground is certainly part of the future plans and it may determine who comes onto the board.
“Nick Watkins, the CEO, is already in discussion with the council and we’ll be working closely with them. My understanding of the council is that they’re very keen to make that happen so it’s a good starting position.”
Why now, and why Swindon, to be chairman of a football club?
“I’m available, I’ve just retired from the diplomatic service so I wouldn’t have been able to do it until a few months ago. Why now? Because I was asked. Why Swindon? Why not?
“At least I’d heard of Swindon’s history, I knew a bit about Swindon. I knew about Lou Macari, Glenn Hoddle, Don Rogers, the Anglo-Italian cup – so at least it was a club I knew about. You’ve had the odd Scotsman here. I was pleased to be asked.
“I didn’t go looking out to be chairman of a football club, that wasn’t necessarily part of my post-foreign office gameplan, but it fits in.
“I’m on the board of a major bank, I advise a major international company so that experience and those contacts I will hopefully be able to use to the benefit of Swindon.”
Will you be able to use your experience negotiating with the Taliban when negotiating with the manager here?
“This has been said to me many times – I’m moving from one hostile environment to another. I don’t think Paolo’s that bad honestly. I expect to have a lot better relationship with Paolo than I ever had with the Taliban.”
Is it still redevelopment of the County Ground that the club is looking at, or a new site?
“We haven’t ruled out either, it depends what’s best for the club and what would be most achievable. Redevelopment has some advantages but going for a new site may be an option.
“I can’t say any more than that at the moment.”
When will the embargo be lifted?
“I don’t know. My aim is to get it lifted as soon as possible and I would be very disappointed if we haven’t got it lifted by the January transfer window.”
What will you be doing at the club differently to your predecessor?
“Jeremy by his own admission would say he focused pretty much on the football. You can’t be chairman of a football club and not be focused on the football but I also hope to marry that with a closer focus on the future development of the ground and getting the commercial side right and maintaining good open lines of communication with the owners.
“Making sure that they’re comfortable, that they feel that the propositions being put to them are in their interests as well as the club’s. It may well be a more wholistic approach is how I would describe it.
“I’m not running the club, let’s be clear on that, a non-executive chairman does not run the club. We have an excellent CEO and an excellent manager. My job will be to make sure that the strategy is in place and that those two can get on with their jobs, which is to deliver the plan to get Swindon into the Championship.”
Is the playing budget to be reduced over the next couple of seasons?
“No, the playing budget was set in the summer and that will be there. There’s no reduction in that, the owners are committed to that. It was structured in a way that we had a certain amount set aside with some other money set aside if we were in a good position in January to challenge for promotion. That’s still there.
“We’ve actually overspent our playing budget which is why we are actually in embargo so I won’t be cutting it but I’ll be trying to bring the overall budget within the rules the league have set.”
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What’s your favourite cheese?
“I was just in Dubai yesterday and I was at a cheese buffet where I tried 24 different kinds of cheese, but I think it would have to be Scottish goats’ cheese. Why do they always ask about cheese?
“I’m actually a bit of a cheese fanatic, so if we have any Swindon fans who are cheesemongers they just have to contact me.”