Fans' Forum minutes: 07/02/09
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CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB SUPPORTERS CONSULTATIVE FORUM 2008/09 SEASON
Meeting held at the Lord Attenborough Suite, Chelsea F.C. Hotel, at 10.30am on Saturday, 7th February 2009.
ATTENDEES/ group represented
- Auger, Cliff (Chelsea Supporters Group)
- Beard, Neil (CFCUK)
- Bowen-Jones, Will (member)
- Cook, Sophie (16 - 21 age group)
- Gerrard, Carol (home & away season ticket holder)
- Gourlay, Ron (Chelsea F.C. Chief Operating Officer)
- Greenberg, Simon (Chelsea F.C. Communications Director)
- Jarvis, Kevin (family section)
- Kemp, Pete (Chelsea Supporters Club)
- Law, Matthew (disabled section)
- Lister, Simon (member)
- Mantle, Darren (CFCnet)
- Newby, David (Chelsea F.C. Marketing Manager)
- Parsons, Veronica (branch)
- Phelps, Mary (exec member/ box holder)
- Regan, Andy (Electoral Reform Services, independent chair)
- Shaw, Michelle (season ticket holder)
- Smith, Graham (Chelsea F.C. Head of Ticketing)
- Smith, Ian (member)
- Sporle, Lee (non-UK branch)
- Whalley, Elizabeth (season ticket holder)
Apologies for absence
- Anastasi, Joe (non-UK branch)
- Goldston, Geoff (over 60 age group)
- Kenyon, Peter (Chelsea F.C. Chief Executive)
- Walters, Jez (CFCnet)
(Action points are in bold and underlined.)
ACCURACY/ MATTERS ARISING FROM THE LAST MINUTES
(There were no changes to the minutes.)
Club: There are several action points to report back on.
We have considered unreserved seating as requested. There are many issues that we have looked at concerning this, and have been told by the local authority that we would need to impose a 10% reduction of seat sales in the affected area. We have been told that we would lose a whole tier rather than a single block so if this was the case throughout the stadium, we would lose 4,000 seats. The issue will go to the Board though.
We have also been told that more stewards would be needed and we would review their duties (in moving fans along). We would also need to displace season ticket (“ST”) holders for the areas affected.
Fans: We would only want one section of the ground to trial this initially so 4,000 seats would not be lost. The introduction of this may well help atmosphere though. Fans would also be in the stadium earlier reducing congestion just prior to kick-off, and potentially increasing takings for the Club as fans have longer to buy food and drink.
If the idea were to be trialled in a cup game at some point, ST holders don’t have a right to their seat automatically so disruption would be less. The Matthew Harding (“MH”) Lower would be ideal.
Stewarding for the FA Youth Cup Final home leg was poor last season.
Club: We could write to ST holders in a particular area and if the majority there are happy to try this we may go for it. There will be no home pre-season friendlies at which to trial it.
Club to trial unallocated seating for Carling Cup home matches next season in part of the stadium.
As regards stewarding at the Youth Cup Final, we were unsure how many fans would turn up, but we will ensure stewards are trained to deal with the unallocated seats scenario.
An action point was for us to circulate possible dates for a tour of Cobham for the Forum. We propose 17th March, unless there is a sixth round replay that week. Forum members from last season will be invited too, with all able to bring a guest. Full details will be circulated.
A further action point was to consider improving the look of the area between the Shed End and the West Stand within the ground. There would be logistical issues with UEFA for Champions League (“UCL”) matches if we have graphics of players. We wouldn’t have to cover a mural of the Club crest. What do fans suggest?
Fans: The Club crest would be fine.
Club: We were asked to investigate complaints about the East Stand as listed last time. These complaints concerned rubbish left in the Stand and general cleanliness. We have checked and any problems seem to have been resolved.
We were asked to look at half-time catering facilities in the Shed Upper and check on the quality of draught lager. Catering numbers have stayed constant so the situation should not have deteriorated. As regards the lager, pipes are cleaned after each match unless there is another match in the following few days. New glasses have been introduced by Heineken but are the only alteration recently.
We have checked the Middle East TV package on offer from other clubs in comparison to Chelsea TV. This is a matter of perception. All the big teams are on the ART station. We are on the same channel as Liverpool but a different one to Manchester United. The rights are sold equally for all the big clubs to that station.
We have checked to ensure the Outlook calendar on the website is up to date and states that it is so.
Fans raised the issue of reducing the number of Club magazines being sent to multiple ST or member households. We are thinking of giving fans an option on their renewal forms to receive an emagazine instead of a paper one, and also of giving fans the option to have only one paper magazine sent to each household if they don’t want the emagazine format.
We are setting up an environmental policy sub-committee with Veronica, Neil, Simon and Carol volunteering to represent the Forum. Cliff has since asked to join.
Fans: We were approached by someone studying sustainability that wants to be involved.
Club: We suggest that only fans from the Forum are on this sub-committee to keep it manageable. We believe fans are about to have a meeting amongst themselves first and then meet with the Club.
On an additional action point, we have checked the audit logs for evidence of website problems for sales of Southend away tickets and the system seemed fine. The only problems were a few credit card rejections as happens sometimes.
Club: In the past, issues we have discussed here on ticketing have been reported in the media as being decisions of the Club. Decisions on ticketing are not made at this meeting and we appreciate the views of the Forum, but they are advisory only. All major decisions can only be taken by the Board.
We are already considering ticketing issues for next season, but decisions on pricing policy and other major issues have not yet been made. If certain proposals today seem attractive, we still have to go away and cost them before agreeing to implementation.
We will cover the points submitted by Forum members to us over recent months in no particular order:
Passport details. These are not kept on our system at all so we can’t maintain a database of them for fans travelling to UCL matches.
Direct debiting. We have met with those who deliver this for the away scheme. We are looking at this with a view to resolving the issue.
Increased concessionary tickets for the stadium. What is the issue with this?
Fans: There should be more on offer in each stand.
Club: The concession tickets often don’t sell out in the East Upper and East Lower though. If there are extra tickets offered to ST holders and members, the concession prices are offered as well.
Fans: Ticketing information on the website. The ticketing issues of most relevance to fans are not clear on the website. Information recently has been out of date and includes spelling mistakes (examples provided). The system has improved a lot but could be better. The website can give the perception that tickets are not available when they still are. The number of loyalty points needed for the Watford match was difficult to find on the site: when a big match is approaching, this is the kind of information we want quickly.
Supporter clubs are useful in this respect, by eradicating the need for fans to use the website on an individual basis. Fans also don’t pay the booking fee when ordering through supporter clubs.
Club: As regards incorrect details, different departments provide information for our website. Spelling should be correct regardless, however. We try to provide links with extra information about ticket details where relevant for each match.
Club to review ticketing information displayed on the website, and procedure for purchasing a ticket online.
Fans: Why has the Club announced that fans on the UCL away scheme don’t have to buy a ticket if they don’t intend to travel?
Club: We have about 100 fans that are on the scheme but don’t collect their tickets each time. As we are only getting 1,500 tickets for Juventus away, so we want tickets to go to fans that are genuinely travelling.
Fans: At Arsenal their ticketing policy for Europe in effect is that fans can pass on their tickets. This is partly for corporate season tickets that don’t name the individuals on their form.
Club: We don’t allow multiple ST holders to have multiple tickets if other individuals are seeking tickets. We have the same policy as Arsenal regarding corporate season tickets where the relevant organisation can name an individual to travel on that ticket.
Fans: Is the Club concerned about ticket sales in the near future in the light of the economic climate?
Club: We have sold out most Premier League (“FAPL”) games and have only gone to general sale on two European games.
We send out targeted emails and text messages regarding seat availability and that has proved superb for assisting sales.
Fans: Why can’t fans buy for season ticket holders and members on the friends and family page?
Club: We have split the process as fans were entering such details at the point of purchase for much of the time instead of buying tickets.
Fans: General sale away match tickets. Would the Club consider putting away tickets on general sale for matches where we get a big allocation and don’t usually sell out, such as Wigan, Blackburn and Middlesbrough? This may encourage fans to become members as well once they start going to away matches. Millwall and ourselves are the only London clubs who don’t.
Club: We would be concerned that we don’t know who that person is and they could tout the tickets. We think the present system of extra tickets going on sale to members and ST holders works well. We will consider the idea for next season though.
We are currently investigating how 27 tickets in the away section at Anfield ended up with Liverpool fans. That makes us more wary of tickets going on general sale.
Fans: Extra tickets should be offered to local supporter clubs before going on general sale.
Fans who have multiple tickets for a match sent to a lead member may have problems meeting up to distribute them. The previous system of having tickets only sent to individuals worked better.
Club: We got a lot of criticism for the previous system and fewer tickets are going missing in the post now we send tickets to just the lead person.
Fans: One individual in the Centenary area feels he has been penalised as he is charged higher prices along with the corporate attendees. The increase has been over 50% in recent years. Also, individuals in that area don’t get the benefits of cheaper UCL tickets provided throughout the rest of the ground.
(Other fans:) If this is the market rate then fans in that area should accept it.
Club: We don’t want to return to the days where fans within a particular area are each paying different rates. We have 5,000 corporates and it does bring in good revenue. We have filled the ground all season mostly so can’t have been charging too much for that area. There is a market price. If individual corporate fans don’t want to sit there any more, they can contact Ron and he will try to relocate them. This happened with 12-18 fans last year and we are happy to help on an individual basis.
Fans: European away ticket details. Why did it take so long to release tickets for the Juventus match?
Club: We had to write the name of the ticket holder and their date of birth on each ticket to comply with Italian law. It is in our interests to get them out as soon as possible. We have to get the process right, and with sales for the UCL Final for instance, we waited and ensured the best service for fans due to resolving the visa issue.
There are only 5% of tickets allocated for UCL away fans and Juventus are playing in a smaller stadium temporarily.
Fans: One Italian-based journalist was accredited by the Club for the Olympiakos match last season at the Bridge. He has been told to apply to Juventus for the forthcoming home match though. Why is this?
Club: We provide accreditation if possible to overseas journalists but in this case, Italian-based journalists would have to all apply through Juventus. We arrange accreditation for journalists who travel from our country for an away match in Europe.
Fans: Period for ticket sales. Can the Club consider extending the pre-match ticket sale period to 35 days from 28 days?
Club: We are happy with 28 or 35 days but the only danger is that ticket sales for more matches will cross over.
(General consensus amongst the Forum to continue with 28-day sale period.)
Club: Online declarations for UCL matches. We would need to tie this in with ticket collection. There is no point in submitting declarations electronically for the ticket to be collected by hand. We have the collection system for tickets in place as no duplicates are provided.
Fans: We would be happy to have the choice to take responsibility to pay extra and have the ticket sent by special delivery. The risk would then rest with the individual if the ticket doesn’t arrive.
Club: We can look into introducing that. We will speak to our systems providers.
Fans: Upgrading tickets. It used to be possible to pay for an upgrade from a junior ST to an adult ticket for matches. Why is this not possible now? The Club could make money from the upgrades.
Club: We stopped this four years ago as fans were buying the cheaper ST at a junior rate and were only upgrading when they were attending games. It was easier for them to purchase an ST in this way, so they were cheating the Club.
Fans: Could upgrades be considered for night games only? In the past you could go to the ticket office and ask for the upgrade and pay the difference.
Club: We wouldn’t want to do it for UCL matches. We are only having one night match at home in the FAPL this season so don’t think it’s a major issue. At least if an adult tries to enter on a junior ST they run the risk of losing that ST for the rest of the season and being banned in the future.
Fans: Ticket prices for 16-21 year olds/ Positioning of away fans. The price increase from a child ST in the family area to an aduIt ticket elsewhere in the ground is excessive. The next cheapest place is the Shed Lower or MH Lower which entails a 64% increase for one adult and one 16 year old, though those areas are seldom available. Elsewhere there is a 99% increase. Fans moving last year were told to provide their credit card details and not guaranteed where they would sit and therefore what they would be charged. The sudden increase is massive for parents.
Club: There are STs available in the Shed Lower for those moving.
Fans: When a 16-21 year old ST was discussed last year we were told that it was rejected as the Club would lose £4.5 million over five years. Chelsea Supporters Group (“CSG”) are proposing that if the family stand is moved to the Shed End, and if tickets in the East Stand Lower are increased from £35 to £45, the introduction of the 16-21 ST could be justified financially.
Club: That particular financial proposal only works with the move of the away fans. We have a lot of key points regarding the positioning of away fans to report to the Forum, in no particular order:
- There are no bar facilities in the East Lower so we would need to reconfigure catering and bars; - There were complaints when away fans were in the East Lower that they were standing up and blocking the views of home fans in the Shed Lower; - Successive managers have not liked being surrounded by away fans on our own ground; - The police would have major objections as fans are unsegregated in the concourse in the East Stand - this would be a key problem for us and the police would not like it; - Home fans used to complain that away fans were in a prime location when in the East Stand and could influence the match and the atmosphere to a greater extent; - Home fans occasionally threw objects onto the away fans from above when all were in the East Stand; - Due to the 15% allocation rule, we would still need to move the away fans for some cup games; - The Shed Lower is smaller in configuration than the East Lower so fewer could be in the family area; - The cost of all these moves at the moment may not be appropriate given the potential spend involved.
In addition, we only moved the away fans a few years ago and there was big support amongst our fans for that; generally there seems to be little support for moving them again. Atmosphere in the stadium has improved over that time amongst home fans, albeit for several reasons. No other major club would give the away fans the whole of one side of the ground by the pitch.
Fans: However, the views in some parts of the East Lower under the middle tier are really poor. There have been more problems between rival fans in the Shed End this season than for many years in the ground. You would not have segregation problems once fans are seated in the East Stand during a match. Without segregation provisions in the Shed End, more seats would be available.
If the manager has complained about the dugouts, could they be moved to the West Stand?
Club: If we move the dugouts to the other side, we would lose c. 150 seats due to the height issue, which we don’t want to do at present.
We could still look at the 16-21 ST issue separately. This is a simpler issue in a way and we either go for it or not. There are more straightforward costs involved.
Fans: On the issue of the 16-21 ST, if this proves too expensive, how about 16-18 year old concessions instead? Alternatively you could have gradual increases between 16 and 21.
Members should not be penalised by any new ST category reducing tickets for members, if a change is introduced.
Club: A 16-18 ST may be a more realistic solution. We will look at all these options.
If we do introduce a new band, we would still need to offer this to members with enough points, even if they move straight into that price range, e.g. if aged 17 they automatically get the 16-18 or 16-21 ST. Overall we don’t want the number of STs in the stadium to increase, but as 1,500 leave each season, we can control the total number in the scheme. Therefore member opportunities to get tickets for matches will continue as previously.
Fans: ST issues. If you have an ST for one child, once they reach 16 could it be possible to get a new ST for a younger child in their place? Also, will it be possible to upgrade photos on cards at some point?
Is it possible for ST holders to opt in at the start of the season to purchasing all home match tickets including all cup games, and have such access to the ground obtainable with their card?
Can fans become new ST holders in the family stand or is it a “closed shop”?
Club: The “child replacement option” is not possible at present online. We contact those who are too old for the family section anyway so it could be possible to arrange.
We will look into the possibility of upgrading photos.
We will look into the possibility of an all-match ST option. The card will probably not be used for additional ticket purchases next season regardless, as we are still getting used to the system.
There are new ST holders in the family stand each season, as ST holders drop out there and move round the stadium.
Fans: Prices for next season. We would strongly advise against an increase given the current economic climate, and as you seem to have the demand/supply balance right at present for tickets. Are you expecting fewer ST holders to renew next season?
Club: We will try and ensure that doesn’t happen. To date there has been no sign of that. Renewals in the corporate section and elsewhere will be noted carefully. The restaurants are doing well; our games are selling out.
Fans: Away match ticket sales. The number of loyalty points for the Watford cup match is significantly lower now for members than ST holders; there seems to be much more demand from ST holders and therefore they should receive a higher proportion.
Club: We only tend to get complaints for the big matches and at grounds with small capacities. We have used loyalty point systems for both ST and member allocations where we think it’s required for particular matches. The system seems to work well but we are happy to listen to recommendations.
(Fans voted to recommend the following ratios for away ticket sales between ST holders and members respectively:
50/50 split: 2 in favour 60/40 split: 9 in favour 70/30 split: 5 in favour.)
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Fans: Is there any possibility of leaving the banners in the ground between matches?
Club to look into keeping banners in the ground between matches.
Club: The only proviso is that we may not be allowed to unfurl them for UCL matches.
Fans: Has the Club considered the proposal for carers with the disabled to be subsidised for their travel? This is particularly the case with UCL away matches.
Club: The ticket is provided free but we feel there is a choice as to whether the fan goes and therefore the carer won’t have travel compensated.
Fans: Some fans are still complaining about their positioning in a ground with an away ST.
Club: We have tried to order our away ticket sales to ensure away ST holders get the best views. If individual fans want to be nearer the top or the bottom of an away stand, they should contact Graham individually and we can move their position on the list to try and achieve this.
Fans: Could the Pensioners lead out the team for UCL matches?
Club: We like the idea of them leading the team out for the match nearest Remembrance Sunday and perhaps very big matches. We may face opposition from UEFA on doing that for UCL matches.
Fans: Can we have pre-season friendlies for the first team in England?
Club: We will have a tour overseas then there will be the chance to see the first team in England (including, hopefully, the Community Shield!).
Fans: There has been a complaint about the cost of hot dogs and the quantity of good pies available in catering outlets.
Can we have the Star on a Stool events back in Frankies?
Club: The demand was just too high to have the event there.
We can look at catering in detail on another occasion.
(The meeting finished at 1.15pm.)
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