Fans' Forum minutes: 07/05/05
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CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB SUPPORTERS CONSULTATIVE FORUM 2004/ 2005 SEASON
Meeting held at the Brunel Suite, Chelsea Village Hotel, at 9.30am on Saturday, 7th May 2005.
ATTENDEES/ group represented
- Bacchus, Gary (BlueandWhiteArmy.net)
- Bromfield, Gillian (season ticket holder)
- Coleman, John (family section)
- Goodliff, Ryan (16 - 21 age group)
- Hazard, Kevin (season ticket holder)
- Hine, Tom (member)
- Mann, Roger (branch)
- Michael, Richard (member)
- Michaelson, Bob (exec member/ box holder)
- Monasingh, Marc (member)
- O’Callaghan, Terry (branch)
- Paul, Dennis (over 60 age group)
- Walters, Jez (CFC.net)
- Weller, Jim (season ticket holder)
- Arthur, Simon (Chelsea F.C. Operations Director)
- 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)
- Thomason, David (The Leadership Factor, guest)
Apologies were received from:-
- Essex, Roger (branch)
- Polk, Jamie (disabled section)
(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.
Chair: Most of the items detailed as action points from the last meeting concern ticketing, so if the Forum approves, we will leave those until the relevant discussion later.
Club: One further action point from last time, we will include the statistics in next season’s programme as to how many away fans have come to Stamford Bridge per match.
FAN SATISFACTION SURVEY
(A presentation was made by David Thomason of The Leadership Factor about the fan satisfaction survey amongst Chelsea fans. The Leadership Factor were commissioned by the Club to run the survey, having experience of such work at other football clubs. The Club will announce full details of the findings of the survey in due course, and is happy to provide those details to the fan websites.)
Club: We have previously said we want to know what fans really think of the standards they get here, covering all aspects of the match day experience. We want an independent view of this to ensure we are transparent to our fans, and not selecting the survey issues that the Club might like. The Leadership Factor has an excellent track record in providing this service.
The intention is that we measure ourselves against this year’s survey with new feedback from fans annually. It gives us a clear plan of action for improving our service to fans.
Guest: We worked on the basis of carrying out corporate and non-corporate surveys, with items being measured by a satisfaction index score. We firstly held some initial meetings with focus groups of fans as to what issues we should be looking at. We then sent out 6,000 forms to non-corporate fans, and got a 40% response, which is the highest we have had from a football club. With the corporate fans, we mailed just under 1,000 forms and had a return of 32-33%. We asked fans to score issues out of ten as to how important each issue is, and then their satisfaction level with that issue. Scores above 7 out of 10 are very important issues, and those above 8 out of 10 even more so.
As well as satisfaction on individual issues, we can therefore come up with an overall satisfaction index, which provides a measurement for improvement over the years.
We also get feedback on additional issues that fans can write in on the forms, such as how much they spend on the Megastore in an average match, when fans arrive at the ground before kick-off, or how many away matches fans attend.
We then weight the issues that are considered the most important items.
Fans: Is there a weighted list of the corporate and the non-corporate lists combined, to get an overall sense of issue importance and satisfaction, given that different issues are highlighted in the two sets of responses? A list of action points would be useful for publicising to fans. Will the Club have a dialogue with fans in the corporate areas to check whether progress is being made on their issues? We would also suggest that the number of away games identified in the survey is partly dependent on how easy it is to get tickets, so corporate fans have a head-start with that.
Guest: We do come out with a suggested list of priorities from all this.
Club: We accept that there are different issues arising from the corporate and non-corporate lists. However, it is possible for us to improve issues from both lists. Some are easily improved for little cost and effort, and we would expect to see satisfaction index movement on those in a very short space of time. In fact, many of the issues are, not surprisingly, being dealt with as we speak, such as the location of away fans. Some issues are obviously far bigger for us to look at and won’t be resolved immediately. Having said that, whatever is said in the survey about safety, we will always put that top of the list, so there are other factors to consider.
There is a clear guide of whether we have made progress on any of these issues over a year, and we would like to see an increase of c.3% over a couple of years. We are also happy to look at the findings again in a year at the Forum.
We certainly welcome feedback on particular issues arising from the survey to see if progress is made in the short-term.
However easy or not it is to get tickets to away matches, the statistics do show that corporate fans go to away matches as well as non-corporate fans. There is a difference between having the opportunity to go as opposed to actually going to away matches.
Fans: Are responses also divided according to gender or age? How do other clubs compare with our figures? Those of us on the focus groups want to point out that all issues identified as important matter to fans, not just those that came out as the few most important factors.
Guest: We build gender in as a representative factor in deciding on the c.6,000 fans written to. In the more detailed analysis, those factors are reported back to the Club. We have no control over who actually completes the survey.
Some other clubs are a little higher overall in their satisfaction index, but it took five years to achieve that increase.
Club: The other problem is that some issues will get worse over the next few years, such as demand for tickets, but the aim for the survey firstly has to be in improving what fans identify now.
Fans: Some fans may feel that they will sacrifice spending money on peripheral aspects in order to pay for the match tickets. Therefore the Club may have to become a lot more competitive in enticing fans to spend their money in the ground e.g. for food and drink, where they are currently better value elsewhere.
Club: We agree with that.
(Details of next season’s ticket prices are detailed in today’s match programme, and a summary hand-out was provided to the Forum).
Club: We understand that this is the most sensitive of the fan/ Club interfacing issues. We have debated this in detail at Board level, and have taken into account the views of many, including those expressed at the last Fans Forum. We are reconfiguring the stadium, as is also stated in today’s programme. This is to reflect the widespread feeling about the positioning of away fans in the ground. We have also stuck to the approximate price rises of about 5% as promised.
To go through the reconfiguration plan in detail, we are now in the final stages of negotiation with the relevant authorities. The intention is:-
- where there are 1,500 away fans, they will go on what is “Dickie’s Deck” (the corner of the Shed End) and above in the Shed Upper;
- where the away team takes 3,000 tickets, the area will extend along to the current Centenary Hall seating;
- where there are 6,000 tickets taken, we decided on the entire Shed Upper and the entire Shed Lower, including the Centenary section, going to away fans. This only occurs in big cup games.
The central factor is that we are sacrificing the Centenary seats, but we feel it is worth it. Segregation will have to be stringent, but we think it is workable. Perhaps the biggest problem now is having up to 6,000 away fans entering the ground by the Bovril Gate next to the Club’s offices and Megastore etc. We are considering more turnstiles as a way of alleviating the problem there.
Fans: We welcome the fact that the Club has found a solution for this - it has long been identified as an annoyance amongst home fans.
Club: We also want families in the areas around the dugout, which are arguably the best seats in the ground. In statistical terms, there should be an extra 1,000 family seats. We are encouraging families with children to move there from the Shed Lower and elsewhere in the ground.
Fans: Are season ticket holders in the Shed Upper going to be displaced?
Club: There aren’t any season ticket holders there.
We also won’t be increasing the numbers of season tickets in the ground next year at all, in order for members to still be able to acquire tickets. The only new ones available will be those from fans not transferring from the Shed Lower family area.
The other idea that we want to follow up, is to improve facilities in a middle tier around the ground, and then spread that wider. Corporate fans in the North East presently have to go to Purples nightclub for their refreshments etc. We want to change that and improve catering for them instead in the East Stand, as well as the redesign there.
Also, in the West Stand Upper tier, we want to have a Club concourse up there. This way, we will have a middle standard of products, with the rest of the ground then improving as well as a consequence. The concourses will be better, the quality of food will be better as well.
The aim is twofold - that the areas are more appealing for fans, and those fans therefore want to spend more time there before matches.
Fans: If any season tickets do come onto the market this summer, please can the Club ensure that those are offered to fans moving from the existing family area as season ticket holders, or to current members.
Club: Although there will be no new season tickets created this year, we will certainly try and keep season ticket seats elsewhere for those coming out of the family area, and then members.
Fans: How will fans be able to register if they want a season ticket?
Club: There will be a chance to apply on the renewal forms which are sent out.
Fans: Are the Club going to have different prices for early renewals and later renewals?
Club: That won’t happen this year. We don’t have the same cash flow issues of previous years!
Fans: How did the Club decide on keeping the junior price at 16 years old? Many fans in their late teens and early 20’s are not earning.
Club: We did look at this issue and it’s always difficult. We decided to keep the simple ages of possible start of earning and end of earning - 16 and 65 - as the straightforward solutions.
Fans: Although we may disagree about your decision on this, at least it’s being discussed.
Club: We would also like to give you an update concerning the online website. When we went live, for the first two matches it seemed to go well in dealing with demand. For the Crystal Palace game, however, according to the providers 20,000 tried to hit the site in four minutes at 7.15 and the system crashed. We are looking at alternative suppliers as well as seeing whether our existing site operators can rectify the situation - we made our displeasure clear. We took the decision to suspend the system for the rest of the season at that point. We are committed to getting an efficient system in place for next season, which was always our goal.
Fans: There seems to be a dilemma as to whether tickets should be sold for individual matches or in batches - if tickets are sold in batches then you may get less people rushing at the same time.
Club: It is difficult to get the balance right, but we decided not to overly favour those who get through fast and can then buy batches of tickets. This is not fair on those who don’t get the first options - especially with increased demand - so we now sell individual matches instead. Therefore tickets will be available c. 6 weeks before for each match.
Fans: One season ticket holder didn’t have access to the internet, and applied in writing for the Liverpool semi-final at Stamford Bridge. Application closing was then brought forward, and so he missed out. There was also no match programme in-between which didn’t help with publicity, admittedly.
Club: The problem is that in the later stages of the Champions League, there is very little time to sell a huge number of tickets. We also didn’t have real time ticketing. We did what we could to help those caught out by the problem in timing due to being out of the country for instance, and we also don’t want to make people get to the stadium to collect a ticket. We are confident that the internet will deal with the vast majority of fans, making it easier to allocate resources for the rest. Hopefully we can state the policy prior to the knock-out rounds.
Fans: One of the fan websites has received a lot of complaints about the fact that match tickets for Manchester United away and Newcastle away are being sold only in a package with train tickets. Although such travel is useful for some, not all our fans live in London and want to travel by train. Therefore the sale of a package seems unfair to many.
Club: We can arrange travel by coaches but this is then done on an individual coach basis. We wanted to try committing on trains, but we have a £20,000 cost to fork out. We don’t have to make a profit on this, but we have to break even. The scale of the packages sold to fill the trains is only about 300 tickets, which have been returned near the matches.
If such issues get in the way of getting ticket prices, ticket availability and ticket sales methods improved, maybe we shouldn’t get diverted by trying to help fans with organising travel.
Fans: For the Arsenal home game, some fans found the loyalty system a very fair means of allocation. For next season, how will the loyalty system be used?
Club: We used it for Arsenal but not Charlton. There is unlikely to be an absolute decision made - we want it for some matches but not all. It is also very difficult to decide when it should be used - if we are in contention for the League next year towards the end of the season, then the last match of the season seems a logical one to pick, as well as a few others.
Fans: If you give credit card details to the Club, for instance for European ticket prices to be deducted, can the website have a page for replacement credit card details? Also, can we make it clear that where a European season ticket is applied for, that would cover all European games? Also, can members be included in applying for away season tickets?
Club: We can have the credit card reminder, but individuals have to take responsibility as well. We will certainly make the European season ticket rules very clear next season. We will certainly be extending away season tickets for supporter groups, though there is not much spare supply at present.
In terms of text alerts, which were suggested last time, the cost is excessive so we have decided against that for now. We are constructing our own in-house phone system so that is another medium for communication on top of what has been used in the past.
Fans: For one of the supporter groups, at the Liverpool European game we were given a number of tickets immediately, with the rest as available. We then needed to keep phoning up, and only got an extra five on the morning of the game, having to drive 200 miles. Can we try and make sure this doesn’t happen again?
Club: We can’t of course guarantee what each supporter group wants. Inevitably, some tickets come back on the market quite late in the day, so maybe we should just make it clear that the initial allocation is all you will get. We were trying to be helpful though.
Fans: What is the situation with the £1.50 credit card charge? Does it have to apply to each ticket separately when bought in a batch?
Club: This will continue next season, as it is what we are charged by the companies and accounts for costs. We are passing on the credit card charge, and will look into whether we can reduce that in the future to one transaction fee. We are not looking to make a profit from this aspect.
Fans: There is maybe an information gap about some of these issues. You have talked about transparency, so issues such as the multiple credit card charge, the train/ match ticket package etc should be explained on the website.
Club: We do try and explain our actions and will continue to do so.
Fans: When the internet ticket system doesn’t work, it would be useful to have a phone number you can get through to when difficulties arise.
Club: We will have that for next season with the dedicated phone lines.
Fans: With loyalty points, do we all start at zero again? It would be useful to reward loyalty from the past.
Club: Past loyalty would certainly count for an early match next season. However, we need to get a balance on this and we want to encourage new fans as well so it has to be a rolling system.
Chair: With time pressures for the lunch time kick-off, I propose that we hold over the supporter groups issue and the branding issue until the first agenda of next season.
Fans: It may be an idea for the supporter group representatives to speak to the Club independently of the Forum as well, as we have concerns that don’t really impact on the rest of the Forum. With the new configuration in the ground, we would be interested to know where we will be seated and how ticketing will be allocated for supporter groups.
Club: We are happy to speak to you about that separately. In short, there will be an affiliation fee for new supporter clubs, but not for existing ones, as an acknowledgement of all the work you have put in in the past.
Club: We are revamping the fairly limited options for membership in the past, and introducing “True Blue” instead - a far-improved package. The central feature is still access to priority tickets that non-members can’t get, but we see it as a far better deal for fans.
(A sample advert was shown to the Forum, as well as the presentation box design intended for use.)
We did a lot of research over the past twelve months, including focus groups and phone research, based on different UK and non-UK fan bases. With season tickets going up next year, we are trying to keep around 10,000 membership seats for sale per match.
The price has gone up from £38 to £42 for next season, but we see it as justified in terms of the quality. The junior price is still £15. The junior pack is far more modern as well, and will include benefits for older children, such as DVDs rather than cuddly toys.
Fans: The package looks far better value now. However, in the past, supporter groups have had a special rate - will it continue?
Club: We get the response from supporter groups that it isn’t generally wanted, as fans want the magazine and are prepared to pay the full price. Overseas, there is a choice of a package with the magazine, and one without the magazine.
Compared to the magazine from the past, there is a massive difference in quality, and the number of pages is likely to increase next year.
As we are limited for time, we would be happy to receive feedback outside the Forum meeting. We could also readdress the issue next year in the Forum.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Fans: As it’s the end of the season, we would like to congratulate the Club on establishing the Forum and listening to our views, on timing that with the Centenary celebrations, and to cap it all, the Premiership trophy at Stamford Bridge! Can we please make sure we don’t wait 50 years for a repeat of the League win!
Club: The Club would also like to thank the Forum for their contributions, and although we can’t agree on all issues, we clearly share many objectives.
We would also like to offer the fans on the Forum the opportunity to represent supporters at the three major events for the Centenary celebrations. The Chair is offering to coordinate that.
(The meeting finished at 11.05am.)
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