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'New era' as club secures sponsorship deal

by Andrew Gidley


MARGATE are aiming towards "a fresh start for a new future" according to director Keith Piper after announcing a new three-year sponsorship deal at a fans forum at Hartsdown Park on Wednesday.


The package, with Thanet-based Active, is worth five figures in the first year and includes financial incentives geared towards the club regaining their Conference National status.


The company will also be kit sponsors for the first team and the 13 youth teams, and Mr Piper says it represents a move in restoring confidence to the local community, and other potential commercial investors.


He said: "Active has been in touch for some time and we were aware they were interested in talking to us, and that triggered a series of meetings which concluded on Monday morning (June 13) when we finally agreed the terms with managing director Mitchel Taylor.


"It's a massive commitment by Active, and Mitchel was very keen to see his company come on board at the beginning of the new era, and be part of the club going forward.


"It was important to me, and I like the way they were prepared to commit themselves at the level they have, and this early. I believe they will become more than just club sponsors."


About 50 supporters turned up for the latest question and answer session with Mr Piper, chairman Colin Page, manager Chris Kinnear, company secretary Vicky Roby and football secretary Ken Tomlinson.


Mr Piper is also confident that Thanet Council will finally give their approval to the commercial development planned for the site at their next full meeting on Thursday, July 21.


He said: "We do have outline consent in place, but the issue that was causing planners concern was the medical centre which has now been removed.


"My understanding is that the members will be considering the detailed consent on July 20 with a recommendation to approve."


However, he ruled out returning to the position of chairman. He said: "We need a person with fresh ideas, enthusiasm, and funding that can take on the mantle, and deliver the club into a position I have tried to take it, but not been successful.


"I have done my stint as chairman, and worked hard for this football club, but I do feel the time is right, if the person is out there, to take it on.


"There are two local businessmen who are ready to join the board immediately. I can satisfy them that there is no debt liability which could cause embarrassment to them."


He re-iterated the reasons why the club went into administration in order to protect them from its creditors, and revealed the actual debt was less than £200,000, 85 per cent of which was due to the Inland Revenue.


Mr Piper said: "We had a verbal agreement with them to pay £10,000 a month from August 1, but they then refused in writing."


The fans also heard that a planned testimonial for long-serving defender Billy Edwards on August 6 had been postponed, while Kinnear admitted he was unclear how many players from last season's squad will return.


He said: "I have got no idea how many will stay at this stage. It's whether they can believe and trust that all the troubles are in the past.


"The last two years have been a nightmare for them. They have gone through such a lot, having not been paid for so long, but they have stayed loyal and hopefully now we have turned the corner will see the benefit.


"I have got a few ideas, and I know what I want. I have been treading water for the last two seasons and not had the opportunity to build a side.


"We were all totally worn out at the end of last season, but all of sudden there is a bit of enthusiasm around the place, and a spring in everybody's step."


One thing that did receive a poor response was the idea to return the club's colours to black and amber, which they wore when they first played at Hartsdown nearly 80 years ago.


Meanwhile turfing of the new pitch, which has cost £100,000 to lay, is due to be completed tomorrow, while a new commercial prospectus is also available on the club website.

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