Q&A With Angus McNab, Part 2: York9 FC’s Next Steps Off the Field

This is the second in a two-part series. You can read the first part of this interview here.

In the second part of our interview with York9 FC managing consultant Angus McNab, we look to the future with updates on rebranding, stadiums and gameday experiences:

What is the current situation regarding the idea of a rebrand, is this something the club is still considering?

AM: “To best condense the conversation so far: the number nine has become the focal point. Some people are keen to see it remain because of what it represents, and some of our fanbase are not convinced, particularly those outside the nine municipalities.

“Beyond that, in the wider soccer world, most people are confused by its presence, and from a credibility standpoint that shouldn’t be something you really need to explain. With the additional time we’ve found available to ourselves, there was the opportunity to have a conversation with stakeholders, starting with supporters, and get a better understanding of how they view the club.

“It’s not just about the name; it’s a much broader piece of research around the club and our brand, and what it is that we represent to the community. Any form of rebranding is a big job. You don’t have the idea over the weekend and get it changed by the following Friday, but we have made the most of the time we’ve had as a result of COVID-19 delaying the season.

“We need to speak to a lot of people and get everyone’s feedback together and take stock. We’re taking a holistic approach and our focus is on setting ourselves up for success, so we’re taking on board all the comments and we will proceed from there.”

There have been conversations around the potential of restoring the safe standing area – is it viable that this could return for next year?

AM: “The safe standing section is very important to a core group of our supporter base, and we have made a commitment to them that we will explore every avenue to return it for 2021.

“The passion from the terrace the night of the Montreal game in the Canadian Championship was fantastic and we want that replicated at all games. The growth of our new supporters’ groups, particularly the Green Lions, has been really pleasing. I see no reason why safe standing cannot be introduced if we continue to see an increase in the number of season tickets supporters’ groups are buying.

“The quality of the gameday experience is something that we had been doing a lot of work on before lockdown. We’d put a focus on Friday night football and planned to build initiatives around that to ensure we could cater for the wants and needs of all our fan groups.

“A terrace section, and more specifically, a home for our supporter groups, was an important part of our planning. It is a big piece that shapes the overall atmosphere and it adds to what we’re able to offer, making a visit to York Lions Stadium special.”

What other changes might we see at York Lions Stadium in 2021?

AM: “The athletics track is on course to be removed from around the field and the next phase after that will see the field extended so fans can be closer to the action. The grass will be replaced with artificial turf, which will be much better in providing access all year round if we can get a bubble fitted during the worst weather months.

“Jimmy [Brennan] is really pleased about the planned improvements. The pitch will be larger after the renovations and that suits the style he wants to play. We had over 80 percent passing accuracy last season, the most in the CPL, and made an average of 450 passes per game – again the best in the league. The extra space will be a big positive for us.

“The removal of the track also gives us much more flexibility with our layout and poses less restrictions. It’s why safe standing and other temporary enhancements are much more feasible as we’re not limited by needing to fit in with long jump pits, a track, a steeplechase water jump, etc.  We will also work with MediaPro and the league to explore what changes we may make regarding the principal broadcast camera angle.

“These are all enhancements we’re going to benefit from, and we are thankful for having a good partner in York University that is supporting our progress during the formative years of the club.”

Has any progress been made towards the objective of York9 FC playing in its own stadium one day?

AM: “Our long-term aim remains to have a home of our own. We’ve had conversations with landowners since I arrived around potential sites. The club is very fortunate to have the Baldassarra family as owners – people who have built their reputation around what they’ve done with land.

“In some ways, this is similar to the rebranding conversation; this is about speaking to lots of people, filtering the information and arriving at the right conclusion – no matter how long it takes.

“It’s about making the correct decision for the long-term benefit of the community. We are only just starting out with evaluating what makes the best opportunity for us, but we have a process and we’re going to continue moving forward.”