AFC Fylde welcomed Chief Executive, Jonty Castle to his position last week. Having began his role, the Coasters’ new CEO gave an insight into his remit at Mill Farm.
Jonty, welcome to the club. Can you tell us a bit about your background in football to date?
Firstly I would like to thank David Haythornthwaite for the opportunity of working at AFC Fylde, I am really excited to be here and I am looking forward to being a part of the club.
On my previous experience, I was Head of Football Operations at Oxford United meaning I had responsibility player recruitment, analysis, medical and sports science as well as football logistics and operations, so everything football related that wasn’t coaching. We successively achieved automatic promotion and got to the Football League Trophy final as a League Two side which was a success. I then moved to Wigan Athletic in the Championship to gain further experience across the commercial side of football, my title there was Head of Business Development and Customer Experience. I covered every customer touch point at the football club which included non-match day conference events, football sponsorships and partnerships, marketing and communications along with ticketing, retail and concourse catering.
You have a wealth of experience on both the business element and the playing side of a football club, why have you chosen to join AFC Fylde in the next step in your career and what will your remit be within your role as Chief Executive?
AFC Fylde are an ambitious club that are looking to realise a dream of being in the Football League, which is an attractive proposition for anyone. I am looking to use my experience of working within the Football League at Championship level to bring in strong knowledge on both the playing side as well as bringing high standards on the business side.
We want the ethos within the building and across all departments that we are a club operating with Championship standards that is currently playing its football in the National League. When we are preparing for games, we must ensure that the manager has everything available at his disposal to get the three points on the board. Although the club staff can’t necessarily control what happens within the 90 minutes, if our preparation is right and we are all working hard together and towards the same objectives, we can give the first team the best possible chance to get out on the pitch and win as many football matches as possible.
For people looking from the outside, the ambition is clear, and the goals of reaching the Football League have been fully communicated. The stadium is just as impressive and that must make AFC Fylde an attractive club on both a playing and commercial side?
The facilities here are incredible. Everyone from the outside can see that as soon as they turn up at Mill Farm Stadium. Through my early conversations with the Chairman, there are further plans in the pipeline for us to keep improving the club.
On the commercial side we are an attractive proposition, and we have the ability to maximise opportunities by engaging with fans of the future and ensuring they want to come and watch AFC Fylde. I have started the process of liaising with commercial sponsors and partners to increase our revenue streams as well as developing a fan engagement strategy to help to grow the connection between the club and its fanbase. That makes this the perfect place in my mind to take the next step in my career, to develop my skills further within the game.
The club have had a disappointing season up to now, what are we doing to try and stay in the division with 13 games remaining?
The Chairman has been very clear in his vision. He wants to get into the Football League by 2022 and it is obvious to all that we are not currently achieving this season’s objectives. It’s my first week in the building but already the Chairman, Jim and I have sat down and put together a plan to do everything possible to stay in the division. We will then use the summer to put new systems and processes in place with Football League standards to give ourselves the best opportunity to realise the Chairman’s dream. I haven’t joined this club to not reach the Football League, neither has Jim, and our aim is to achieve that together.
There are 13 games to go. We have a relatively lean squad so we need to provide the manager with some more players at his disposal for a busy games programme in the final two months of the season.
One thing that we are looking to immediately improve following a turbulent week, would be the pitch. Can you give us an update on that?
We have had three postponements in the last few weeks due to the unprecedented weather that the country has been suffering with. We’re not the only club to have this problem but we can improve things, so we have put in place a pitch maintenance plan and the fans can expect to see an immediate improvement on this. We want to make sure we minimise the risk that any future matches will be postponed.
What would be your message to the supporters for the rest of this season?
I will be out and about at all home games from now until the end of the season. The fans will have an opportunity to get to know me and will see me around, I feel it is key that I engage with the local community and supporters who are the true lifeblood of this club. I am all about communication and transparency, we need everyone’s support for this big finish and continue to give us the backing that you have been doing already. If we can all pull together and stay in this division, it gets us one step closer to realising the dream that we have of reaching the Football League.
My direct message would be to please feel free to come and have a chat when you see me around.
Having been in the office a week now, what are you first impressions of the people working at the club?
We’ve brought in new staff to the club that have a lot of experience within football to help support an already excellent group of people. The existing staff here have been great in the short time that I have been in the building, everyone has an ‘all hands-on deck’ approach and want to work hard for the club and community which has been clear to see from day one. We are committed to having a Championship working-level approach behind-the-scenes in order to give the club the best possible chance of succeeding both on and off the pitch and I couldn’t be happier with the staff who are giving everything to try and do this.
We’re a club that has a multi-purpose venue facility, what do you think of the set up here including the bar, restaurants, hotel, the academy and of course the first team football facilities?
The club’s investment in the facilities are unprecedented at this level. I have visited and worked at many grounds across the Football League and clearly this would fit in and match at any of those levels. That clearly makes players want to join us, because we can offer them instant support through the fact we have our own accommodation that we can put players straight into, as well as having our own on-site hotel. We have a new full size 3G and our training ground is only down the road, it’s a really impressive set-up.
Our Community Foundation is doing some tremendous work and I have seen examples of this already. I will be moving onto the charities Board of Trustees, as I believe there should be a real connection between the club and the foundation. This synergy will deliver a joined-up approach so we can deliver a positive impact to as many people as possible on the Fylde Coast.
This is a club that is right at the heart of its community and I am really excited by the opportunity to work here.