Fans' Forum minutes: 06/02/05
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CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB SUPPORTERS CONSULTATIVE FORUM 2004/ 2005 SEASON
Meeting held at Chelsea F.C. at 11.00am on Sunday, 6th February 2005.
ATTENDEES/ group represented
- Bacchus, Gary (BlueandWhiteArmy.net)
- Bromfield, Gillian (season ticket holder)
- Coleman, John (family section)
- Essex, Roger (branch)
- Goodliff, Ryan (16 - 21 age group)
- Hazard, Kevin (season ticket holder)
- Hine, Tom (member)
- Mann, Roger (branch)
- Michael, Richard (member)
- Monasingh, Marc (member)
- O’Callaghan, Terry (branch)
- Paul, Dennis (over 60 age group)
- Polk, Jamie (disabled section)
- Walters, Jez (CFC.net)
- Weller, Jim (season ticket holder)
- Arthur, Simon (Chelsea F.C. Operations Director)
- Buck, Bruce (Chelsea F.C. Chairman)
- Gardner, Michelle (Chelsea F.C. Disability Liaison Officer)
- Greenberg, Simon (Chelsea F.C. Communications Director)
- Kenyon, Peter (Chelsea F.C. Chief Executive)
- Newby, David (Chelsea F.C. Marketing Manager)
- Regan, Andy (Electoral Reform Services, Forum services)
Apologies were received from:-
- Michaelson, Bob (exec member/ box holder)
(Action points are in bold and underlined.)
CHANGES TO THE MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING/ MATTERS ARISING FROM PREVIOUS MINUTES
Forum: No changes to the previous minutes.
Club: Chelsea TV will film some of today’s discussion to spread coverage, if that’s okay with the Forum.
Action points from the last minutes include the following:-
Centenary celebrations: There was a suggestion that the Club use the media to publicise the request for memorabilia. We are getting quite a lot in now following media appeals in the Standard and Club media. We visited the National Football Museum in Preston for memorabilia and for presentational ideas. We’ve appointed an archivist/ curator to coordinate the process - we may go to auction sites for items as well. Interactive and educational aspects would be attractive too, but need to be costed. We’re also archiving existing Club items, including original player contracts. The exhibition should be starting in May and runs for at least a year. Ron Hockings will play a major part in this as well.
After a year, we may continue the exhibition in the Centenary Hall or disburse items around the ground - the tour will certainly start there for the next year. If we charge for the exhibition we would want to ensure that we don’t price Chelsea fans out of visiting it.
The first event will be on March 14th - centenary of the founding of the Club at the Green Room. This will be a limited access event, with the Forum being invited to represent fans - there will be a significant list of guests.
Re the fans satisfaction survey, this is being run at present. This would provide a clear benchmark of what we need to improve on, and provide measurement of improvement. There are likely to be new issues annually, though we would need some continuity to see how we have progressed over a year. The outside experts will still be invited in at some stage to speak to the Forum.
We have also tried to better publicise the smoking ban. We are rolling out more signs in the ground - and we have consultants trying to promote the message better. We are particularly targeting toilets and corporate areas, where the ban may not have been upheld fully yet. The ban is clearly intended for the whole stadium.
The final point concerned the Club Charter - we will revamp the Charter annually and include the salient points from our meeting. Whatever we decide to adopt for the Charter is implemented immediately though.
Club: The Forum obviously can’t write the complete document for the Club, given the time available. We have had discussions with Jamie Polk, the disability representative on the Forum, who has helped to produce the policy. Club policy on this is now published on the website.
Fans (Jamie) : There are a few issues to report back on. The majority of the wheelchair seats are in the West Lower - though there are a few other possible locations, including the East Upper. There will be a choice of views therefore.
Secondly, if you arrive early to see the players warm up, other fans tend to stand in front. Stewards will help to ensure that the view is not blocked in the West Lower.
Also, there are problems with access to the bar. There will be a lower section of the bar by the start of next season to assist with this. A similar problem exists with the box office layout.
Disabled fans also welcome the appointment of a Disabilities Liaison Officer - Michelle Gardner - contact details will also be on the internet.
Club: In regard to the box office layout, we will change the layout accordingly. In the interim, any ticket issues for those with disabilities should contact Michelle.
Fans: Disabled fans seem to be paying a premium for their season ticket, on top of paying on a match by match basis. We have been told by the Club that this is an administrative error, as the individual match basis is £23.50 (50% of the standard ticket price), whereas the season ticket was being charged at the full price.
Club: We sent out all the cheques on Friday to reimburse those who have overpaid, and we apologise for the problem.
Fans: However, the Club are going to raise the cost to the full amount next season. A 100% increase would not look good for the Club.
Club: This is one of the idiosyncrasies of implementing the Disability Discrimination Act. We will be charging the full price for a disability ticket next season to ensure against discrimination in any way - a helper can still accompany them for free.
Fans: Few Premiership clubs charge full price at present - some allow free access.
Club: We expect that situation to change for other clubs. However, as far as Chelsea policy is concerned, we don’t want to risk a claim of discrimination against us in any way. The Premier League has agreed with the appropriateness of a 100% charge.
Fans: Perhaps it’s possible to ensure that where there are a range of prices, those with disabilities at least get the lower price. Also, what is the Club doing about other disability issues, such as Bobby compliance?
Club: We are incorporating a range of measures, including Bobby compliance for the website. Our HR department are ensuring open applications where possible for instance, so the measures are pervading throughout the Club. For blind fans, there is a complimentary loop that can be used for anywhere in the ground. We want best practice on all these issues.
Fans: It is important for the Club to advertise the facilities in this regard as well, to show that it is taking the issue seriously.
Club: We want to be able to cater for as much demand as there is from disabled fans - minimum access facilities are certainly a major issue.
Fans: Could the Club find specific sponsorship for a disability area?
Club: This could be considered discrimination in itself. Safety is also a factor - at present it is up to the Club to move disabled fans to a particular refuge area and the emergency facilities move them to a place of safety. Full responsibility for both stages will transfer to the Club.
Fans: Most disabled fans are usually happy to have a specific area together - it makes sense. More assistance from stewards getting into and out of the ground would be very welcome though. There is inconsistency in standards of stewarding on this.
Also, more space for the helper would be useful next to the wheelchair areas.
Club: Jill Dawson, our Safety Officer, is looking into how to better steward that area.
Fans: There are other types of disability, e.g. mental disability. It sounds as if there is only one area that is particularly appropriate in the ground.
Club: Any area should be usable by any fan - although safety issues can override that.
Generally, this is a great example of how specific expertise within the Forum can be utilised to develop policy.
Fans: Have disabled area tickets been fixed for next season?
Club: Not yet, as with other ticketing prices, they are up for discussion.
Club: This is the chance to clarify the present situation, and for fans to raise issues, prior to making decisions for next season. As an overriding issue, we will be increasing prices next season, though we haven’t decided at what level prices will be set. For non-corporate increases, these are likely to be less than last year and may be around 5% overall.
We want to improve the clarity of our policy on ticketing, and want to improve publicising that policy once in place. Fans should know how long in advance tickets will be sold, how allocation issues are dealt with, how away tickets are sold - either domestically or overseas, and we want to make purchase of ticketing far easier. For that last aim, we will be introducing real-time internet purchases so you have immediate confirmation of a purchase.
We also want to institute a clearly defined supporter club ticketing policy, for domestic and international clubs. We also want to improve Club website information on the Box Office, and tried to make the process clear for the forthcoming Carling Cup Final. For that match, tickets were available for application two days before they were sold - this eased the flow of applications. We will need to redesign the system again when we move to real-time internet purchases.
Consequently though, only 40 fans were at the box office at opening time to queue for tickets, so it has been a really good process to date. The only issue was that fans turning up could choose their seat area, unlike the internet option.
Fans: Can’t we be shown the stadium plan with different ticket cost areas on the internet? This would let fans buying over the net know more accurately where they were applying for.
Club: We can certainly look at that for the future. We also want to show each domestic away section on the net for fans purchasing next season.
Generally, we want to move away from telesales, as internet sales are so much easier for all concerned.
Fans: When will members be informed about the Carling Cup Final spare tickets?
Club: We will publicise this soon. There will only be a very small number left: we have about 40,000 members and there are only likely to be about 1,000 tickets for members after season ticket holders and corporate members take up the bulk of the 29,000 allocation. We will sell the members tickets on a loyalty basis.
Fans: We would certainly welcome an improved internet system - there is a lot of inconsistency at present.
In respect to supporter clubs, there is no clarity as to what happens with non-League matches. The system at present seems dependent on individuals being season ticket holders. Individuals with membership however would not necessarily register for loyalty points if the supporter club applies for them instead.
Club: In the future we want to have an allocation for supporter clubs for bigger matches as well, and will announce in due course. We had a starting point last Saturday night for supporter club recognition, and that will continue for supporter club ticketing issues.
For home matches, there has been a low priority for supporter club seat locations in the past, but that will now change.
We want supporter clubs to help encourage new support domestically and abroad, so it is in the Club’s interest to make the package appealing to those who follow the team in this way.
Fans: Issues that some of the supporters clubs have raised include the timing of purchases (having to pay in batches), the location of the tickets when applied for early, and juvenile prices for tickets - but we know the Club are addressing those issues.
For supporter club away matches, there is often uncertainty as to when an application for a particular match has been successful until the ticket arises, also it would be useful to have an away season ticket system for us.
There seems to be an underlying trend of genuine long-term fans in supporters clubs finding it hard to get tickets. Fans also have to pay the Club to be a member and the supporters club separately. Supporter clubs do advertise at some matches, and we provide newsletters each month.
Club: As an example, we are taking 5,000 tickets for the Newcastle Cup game so we are trying to take large allocations - we will want the nearest supporter clubs to Newcastle to help publicise the availability though.
We have a postcode map of where there are and aren’t supporter clubs - that is not to guarantee that we will end up covering every area. We will help empower the supporter clubs locally - though we are questioning whether the Club needs to charge clubs £125 per year. We will continue to accredit clubs though, and will ensure there is a consistency of regulation. One executive member of staff will try and get to a meeting for each club every year. Joining the supporter clubs should be a publicised choice for fans outside London.
Fans: The loyalty system for some matches is unclear. For Barcelona for instance, some fans have been to a huge number of matches including the home European matches, yet missed out on home tickets for this match.
Club: For the away match, we had a loyalty system in place which covered everyone who had been to all three away matches.
For home and away matches, there are always going to be debates over what is loyalty, so we can’t please everyone. However, what is vital is that fans go through official channels in getting tickets for all matches so that we can register loyalty points.
We will set out the various loyalty categories on the website.
Fans: We used to have junior blues away match travel which has now been abolished. Can we bring the system back?
For the Barcelona away match, only personal caller tickets were available for the last two days. Can we have a more efficient system for this? Also for Barcelona away, the priority for ticket sales was spelt out in the Manchester United Carling Cup programme: Why is there a different approach for going through Chelsea Village Travel as opposed to going independently?
Club: We will look into the junior blues travel possibility.
We know that the Forum previously suggested having a registered post system for tickets and will report back. We need a more efficient system than regular post after the problems with the Zola match.
On the issue of away travelling, there has not been a consistency of approach in the past. The police domestically and abroad want us to encourage fans to travel with the Club. Chelsea Village Travel (CVT) sold on a loyalty basis initially (931 tickets, as opposed to c.3,300 to individuals), but there may be fans sold packages that way who hadn’t been to other matches. We want to encourage fans to use CVT, and want CVT to provide planes from other parts of the country for instance. Their prices have also come down. We don’t own CVT any more, but this can help us to insist on a good standard of service - otherwise we can go elsewhere.
With a smaller allocation we will need to rethink that ratio of ticket split. For Cardiff though, CVT are providing the £18 coach return so they can supply services and costs that fans would be happy with. Having said that, with low cost airlines you could never get charter prices at the same price, but we are working on better deals.
Fans: Many fans still have suspicions from the Bates era for travel prices, in which few thought it cost effective to travel with the Club. Again, it is worth the Club publicising their developments on this.
CVT could help supporters’ branches with details of flights from the fans’ areas to away matches, for instance.
The Chelsea Charter refers to a maximum of 70% of home tickets going to season tickets - are we at that figure?
Club: We have c27,000 corporate and regular season tickets out of a 42,000 capacity. Although there are arguably reasons for a higher season ticket ratio (guaranteed money, easier distribution of tickets) we also see membership as being vital in helping fans, promoting the Club and renewing the supporter base.
Fans: Are the West Stand padded seats for transfers only?
Club: This is not the case. We are considering an offer to East Stand season ticket holders to move to the better facilities in the West Stand. We are aware of the slow queuing in the East Stand, and it seems fairer to have occasional visitors in the East Stand instead. We have charged an extra £100 in the past for the season ticket.
We can’t make a significant improvement to the flow of fans in the East Stand given the physical constraints. It is another reason why having away fans in the top sections is not ideal as we see it at the moment.
Fans: We should also acknowledge that the success of the Club is driving the additional demand - it is a nice problem to have.
Club: That is why demand is likely to increase - we have to set the criteria for the loyalty issues now.
(A document was provided by the Club with an update of away match allocations taken.)
Fans: Have we taken the full allocation for Bolton? Can allocations be detailed on the website, as well as asking for a register of interest?
Club: Yes we have taken the full Bolton allocation. We have taken a total of nearly 1,500 tickets that we haven’t sold - in some cases very small amounts per match though, and some are restricted view.
Fans: For some matches it is stated that the allocation is full yet we find out later there are spare tickets, such as Birmingham. At Blackburn you can still pay at the gate, as with Bolton. Accurate information can also encourage local supporter clubs to demonstrate to fans that there are tickets when the Club is in their area.
Hopefully with Newcastle, many of the members who can’t get to the Carling Cup Final will be encouraged to go to that instead.
Club: We are considering hiring a train for the Newcastle match as well.
Fans: We would like the Club to reconsider moving away fans to the Matthew Harding Lower Tier in the event of a big cup match.
(A petition was handed to the Club in by BlueandWhiteArmy.net signed by over 1,000 fans from the website plus others.)
Club: The Club understands the strong feelings on the issue. We are looking into various options.
Fans: Is the £1.50 administration charge per ticket being reconsidered? Also, juvenile tickets are only available in the top or bottom rows of the Matthew Harding Lower Tier - this provides terrible views for young fans.
Club: The fee is being considered for next season - some of it gets passed on to the credit card company and postage costs though.
We are likewise looking at where juvenile tickets should be situated.
Fans: When juvenile tickets are on general sale, are checks instituted?
Club: No - though they are for membership etc when the membership package is sold.
Fans: How old does a child have to be for a seat to be paid for?
Club: There is no official rule in place. The guideline at present is generally that if a child sits on your lap then they would not be paid for, though it admittedly becomes a tricky issue.
Fans: As regards the possible price rise of 5%, we did have cup games taken away from the season ticket this year, which entailed a far bigger outlay for fans affected.
Club: The overall increase was 10% last year for various reasons. The rationale for removing cup games as an automatic right for season ticket holders was correct, as it enabled new fans to come to cup games and also we have been able to reduce prices for cup games. Overall we are happy with that decision, so there is no intention to reintroduce cup games for the season ticket.
Fans: There is a general price issue here - seat prices overall are going up dramatically over recent years so regular fans are being priced out.
Also, can the juvenile price issue be extended to those in higher education, and possibly further education - it seems unfair for students to pay full price.
Club: We are aware of the balance. However, we are improving the surrounding aspects of coming to a match - not only with the team doing well - but we are also trying to be self-sufficient so need to build up revenue.
Re the juvenile ticket issue, we are looking at all of these issues for next season.
We know ticket prices represent a difficult balance to get right.
Fans: Can the Box Office section of the website include an email address for queries or complaints? Can ticket sale alerts be sent by text to fans if they choose? Also, some away season ticket holders seem to always get rows at the front or the back, so perhaps the Club could mix these up. Also, fans often don’t know if they’ve got tickets until not long before a match - especially for away matches.
Club: We will consider text alerts. We will ask the box office to allocate the away tickets more randomly to season ticket holders.
For internet bookings, the new real-time system will largely get round timing problems in most cases. We will be able to process 5,000 applications an hour - an e-mail for queries will be provided.
We sold 13,000 applications yesterday and sold about 2,000 on the day at the box office - this is a big improvement in systems.
Fans: There was a package system for the group matches in the Champions League last season. This seemed to work really well and helped boost attendances. There was also some surprise that the cost of the Barcelona home tickets is the same as for the group matches (on an individual basis).
Club: We have tried to move away from packages for tickets this year but will review all of these aspects for next season. In terms of individual matches, we have no variable prices for matches - apart from the general concessions for cup matches.
Fans: For supporter clubs, presumably the season ticket and membership information databases could be used to analyse where fans live, and hence where supporter clubs should be constituted.
Club: We would have to observe data protection issues but that apart we can use the information we hold.
Fans: If fans have to be moved from the Matthew Harding Lower Tier to accommodate away fans, then it would be useful to place all moved fans in one place, as they are likely to be singers. This would help atmosphere.
Club: We are looking at all options, though having said that we will not have away fans above home fans. Any options involve the displacement of season ticket holders. We also have to consider access areas, such as the disability area in the West Stand. There is also the possibility of the Shed Upper & Lower, though again we don’t want away fans by the Family Centre, and perhaps don’t want away fans by our ticketing area.
An alternative idea is a form of rotation - either each match or each season - to move away fans to different locations so one group is not always inconvienced. We do recognise that the atmosphere can suffer when fans from the Matthew Harding Stand are displaced. Some have suggested the opposite though - that anti-Spurs racist songs are less likely when we don’t have singing fans together in the Matthew Harding Lower - stopping those may be a quid pro quo for moving away fans elsewhere.
We are looking at the location of away fans for Premier League matches anyway.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Fans: Why do we not have white nets at present?
Club: UEFA wanted black nets for the first Champions League match of the season. Steve Clarke and Jose queried this, but as we did well in that match, they want us to keep them!
Fans: What happened with the policing at the home Carling Cup match against Manchester United? We were held in at Old Trafford and some fans queried this.
Club: There were problems in Fulham Road, and we question whether segregation was well managed by the police. It is up to the police as to whether to hold fans back, and that would have been an option, with hindsight. Policing at away matches is up to the other Club’s police.
Fans: Could the programme include details of the number of away fans brought to matches at Stamford Bridge?
Club: We will consider including away fan attendances at Stamford Bridge in future programmes.
Some additional issues:
We have now scheduled 16th February for the Chelsea TV debate (Jeremy and Gary to do the first show).
On Thursday 17th February we will hold another open day at 10.30am at Stamford Bridge. This will be well publicised, and will last about 1 ½ hours probably. We will have to work out a system for autographs as it is too much of a crush for fans on the day. We could possibly have pre-autographed posters to give out.
We also still intend to have a Fans Forum trip to the new training ground in Cobham. It may not be practical to have the last meeting of the season held there, but we could have one there next season.
(The meeting finished at 1.05pm.)
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