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Graham Bailie on Bangor FC, investing and the reality of being club president

An interview with Graham Bailie, by Callum McFadden for Wireless.

You are the President of Bangor Football Club, what does this role entail on a daily basis within the football club?

“We’re really lucky because we have a great team of volunteers who support us and help us move things forward from a board perspective.

“There are about nine people on the board who run the club on a day-to-day basis. Each of us has our own responsibility in terms of responsibilities and without each of these nine people the club doesn’t really function.

“This in turn trickles down to the other 120 volunteers we have involved in the club, all of whom have their own role to play in the operating model of the club and again, to be fair, without all these people the club wouldn’t be. It won’t be what it is today.

“In terms of my role as Chairman, I am responsible for engaging with the board as a whole as well as our manager Lee Feeney and his senior management team with an overview of the football side in more on the business side.

“I have to make sure that the coach, staff and players are taken care of as best as possible so that they can be as well prepared as possible to succeed while working in as comfortable an environment as possible.

“Overall, as chairman I have a small part to play in our aim to continue to grow the football club, as this would not be possible without everyone working behind the scenes.

“It’s exciting to see that the club is really well connected with our town and the local community as a whole.”

I spoke to Bangor legend Paul Byrne a few months ago and he spoke about the success he has had with the club and the hope that the club can return to the top of the Irish Football League . Lately things have changed within the club and there has obviously been a lot of progress. Can you tell me about the club’s journey over the last five years?

“Paul was responsible for the greatest moment in the club’s history, scoring the winning goal in the Irish Cup final and seeing us win the cup in the 1990s.

“Paul knows a lot about the club and when he was here it was a very special time in the early 90s. There is a lot of that early 90s spirit in what we are trying to revive at the club to come back where we feel we belong, competing in the Irish Premiership and sitting at the top again.

“That being said, we all know that just because you’ve already been there doesn’t automatically mean you have a divine right to be there.

“We have to make sure we give it our all in terms of effort and hard work to get there.”

“From our own point of view, over the last few years we have grown the club from being a one club team with the only focus being on the first team, to now around 15 or 16 teams of young people, who cover both women’s and men’s football.

“We also have a women’s team that competes in the football pyramid championship. The ambition is to get them to the Premiership, as well as getting the men’s team there.

“We have also invested a lot of money in our social club. We want to ensure there is a truly warm and welcoming environment for both our own members and visiting teams.

“Within the local community we incorporate things like walking football into what we offer and we have a team who use the club on Friday mornings.

“We’ve worked hard over the last few years to be there for the community rather than thinking the community should automatically be there for us.

“We have had fantastic commercial support from local businesses, which is obviously vital to moving the club forward from a financial point of view.

“However, when it comes to financial support, we also look to partner with businesses to ensure they see the value of what they invest in the football club and receive the reward.

“Additionally, we want to have as much success as possible on and off the field so we can find as many people wanting to get involved in moving Bangor forward.”

In recent years there has been a lot of investment in the Irish League. Larne have received investment from Kenny Bruce, Coleraine have just secured new investment and Carrick Rangers are another who have attracted investment from the United States. There have been rumors of potential investment in Bangor from foreign investors. Is there any truth to these rumors and and what are the club’s objectives in the years to come?

“As you said, it’s certainly an exciting time for the Irish League pyramid as a whole, with greater interest in the league from fans, media and investors.

“The work that Kenny Bruce and the guys have done at Larne to create the model that they have created is inspiring and I am very grateful for the advice they have given me and the open door policy they have in terms of sharing their ideas.

“They have raised the bar for clubs in Northern Ireland and the Irish League has benefited because we must always aim for the highest standards.

“In terms of investment in Bangor, we are still in discussions with players in North America regarding potential investment.

“I think that increase in investment would, I suppose, accelerate the club to where it would like to be.

“We are looking at companies like Larne, Glentoran and Linfield, looking at this full-time model and thinking about how it could work for us in the future.

“Does this look like a full-time, full-time model or is it a hybrid model that you should prioritize? These are questions that we ask ourselves because ultimately, this is the ambition of the club.

“Obviously, injecting capital into the football club allows you to do a lot more in a quicker space of time. However, everyone at the club knows that the main thing for us is to do the best thing for Bangor Football Club.

“That will always be at the center of any decision we make, we hope to have more clarity over the next four to six weeks on what that looks like and what that looks like for the club and then we can build that into the plan business if the investment proposal suits the club itself.

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