Fans' Forum minutes: 25/08/07
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CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB SUPPORTERS CONSULTATIVE FORUM 2007/ 2008 SEASON
Meeting held at the Lord Attenborough Suite, Chelsea F.C. Hotel, at 10.30 am on Saturday, 25th August 2007.
ATTENDEES/ group represented
- Alexander, James (season ticket holder)
- Beard, Neil (CFCUK)
- Brown, Toby (CFCnet)
- Fiorellino, Trizia (Chelsea Supporters Group)
- Gibbins, Jason (member)
- Goldston, Geoff (over 60)
- Gourlay, Ron (Chelsea F.C. Commercial & Venue Director)
- Greenberg, Simon (Chelsea F.C. Communications Director)
- Kemp, Pete (Chelsea Supporters Club)
- Law, Matthew (disabled section)
- Lister, Simon (member)
- Newby, David (Chelsea F.C. Marketing Manager)
- Phelps, Mary (exec member/ box holder)
- Regan, Andy (Electoral Reform Services, Chair)
- Smith, Graham (Chelsea F.C. Head of Ticketing)
- Sporle, Lee (branch)
- Trenter, Peter (home & away season ticket holder)
- Whalley, Elizabeth (season ticket holder)
- Greer, Gary (branch)
- Hine, Lenny (16 - 21 age group)
- Kenyon, Peter (Chelsea F.C. Chief Executive)
- Marriott, Bryan (family section)
- O’Brien, John (non-UK branch)
- Pickering, Trevor (Chelsea Supporters Club)
- Smith, Ian (member)
(Action points are in bold and underlined.)
Chair: Welcome to the first Forum of the season and in particular the new joiners for the season.
(Forum members introduced themselves.)
Chair: The third meeting will revolve around ticketing policy for next season as that fits in with the timing of the Club considering that issue at board level. The club survey will probably be covered as part of the final meeting of the season.
Fans: In addition, suggested topics are: media; away matches and travel; the Club in the community.
CHANGES TO THE MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING/ MATTERS ARISING FROM PREVIOUS MINUTES
(There are no changes to the minutes.)
Chair: Going through the action points from the last meeting:
“At least one of the three branch reps must represent a non-UK branch.” That has been actioned.
“Club to detail in general terms how Cup Final tickets are allocated e.g. how many tickets are actually going to corporate fans, non-corporate fans, Club obligations in total.”
Fans: Can more details be provided on this?
Action point: Club to provide allocation proportions as percentages from the Cup Final.
Chair: “Club to consider loyalty points to be used for Cup Finals and semi-finals next season.”
Club: That is now in place.
Fans: It’s strange that there are no loyalty points given for the Desailly match and the Community Shield. Also, why can’t loyalty points be gained with Viagogo?
Club: We note the first point. As regards Viagogo, loyalty points will have been awarded from the point of sale. We’re only talking about 200 tickets per match, compared to 3-4,000 per week at Manchester United. It’s as if the same people are using it for every match to get tickets here.
Fans: Why are loyalty points not given for corporate seats?
Club: The reason is that many corporate tickets are not used by the named individual but by a company.
Action point: Club to consider providing loyalty points for corporate seats.
Chair: “Club to consider changing season ticket payment time in the event of Cup Final/ CL Final.”
This wasn’t an issue in the end.
“Club to consider installing a big screen at the Bridge for the Cup Final.”
Club: this was really successful but we couldn’t have gone up to, say, 10,000.
Fans: We thought it went really well.
Chair: “Toby to send around website improvement suggestions.”
We can look at that later.
“Club to consider a supporters tournament at Cobham for this summer.”
Club: There wasn’t time to arrange this due to the launch at Cobham but we can look into this.
Club to discuss with Toby regarding possible supporters tournament.
Chair: “Club to ensure away season ticket holders get the best views available.”
Fans: Maybe fans should judge what the best seats are in an away ground so that those in the away season ticket scheme get priority for those views.
Club: There is a meeting between the box office managers in each season and it’s up to the clubs to say what the best views are to each other.
Fans: We could have our own details of what we consider the best seats. Away season ticket holders still seem to be at the front or back of each section.
Club: We have to be realistic about the time this would take for the box office staff. We get told what the best seats are by other clubs and need to accept this. We will try the suggestion though.
Club to discuss with Peter Trenter/ Trizia the best views at away grounds.
Fans: Can the “friends and family” online purchase limits be extended to away games?
Club to consider extending “friends and family” purchase limits for away games.
Chair: “Club to consider official sanctioning of banners, banner positions and storage of banners at the ground.”
”Club to consider restarting the atmosphere sub-committee.”
We can leave those for the atmosphere discussion.
“Club to consider publicising an address for Forum queries to arrive at the Club.”
Fans: We could have emails coming through to the Forum directly with an automated message to say something like: “thank you for your email - it will be brought to the attention of the fans forum if suitable”.
Club: That sounds fine but we don’t want it run through the Club server.
Fans: We could then respond directly to emails only if we want to but in the vast majority of cases that won’t happen - there shouldn’t generally be a need for it. We can divide the Forum into groupings in effect, so that someone can write to the three season-ticket holders, or the three members etc by clicking a box. It will then be up to us how often we check these.
We could send a summary of issues to each other before meetings, but the main form of communication would be bringing issues of relevance to the next meeting.
Club to discuss with Toby the set-up of email addresses in groupings for fans e.g. season ticket holders, fanzine representatives.
Fans: Didn’t we agree to take full allocations for away games?
Club: We said we would consider the views of the Forum on this and we’re glad we didn’t take full allocations to some matches. They would not have all sold out.
Fans: A major complaint is that the Club still doesn’t publicise the number of away tickets satisfactorily.
Club: We have a box office, a telesales team that has gone from 8 to 16 staff, we have an online service. The average phone waiting time is 30 seconds. That information is therefore very prominent. We also now publicise the dates on which each grouping can buy tickets in great detail.
Fans: Didn’t the website go down for Cup Final sales?
Club: The website didn’t go down - it was just very busy, not surprisingly.
Fans: Some fans found you could proceed with a lot of the online purchase but were then thrown out of the purchase at a late stage.
Generally, the information levels for tickets could be more prominent.
Club: The home page regularly displays information of how many tickets are left for a match - there is always ticket news displayed.
Chelsea TV has also been asked to provide ticket news on a daily basis.
Fans: What has been annoying recently is that batches for the Aston Villa match have been released in sections. Therefore on one day you can’t buy three tickets together but on the next day you can again.
Club: We took 1,500 initially for that match and were then told we would not get any more on a sale or return basis. They then changed their minds about this, so we could take more. We know this is frustrating for fans. But there was no point in taking all of them initially as it’s an evening match on TV so we wouldn’t sell them all. There can be a lot of negotiation with other clubs on such ticketing issues.
We had 318 tickets left over for Liverpool, which again was a TV match. We have to take the right business decisions for the Club if not provided with tickets on a sale or return basis. We start with the minimum for most matches unless we know they will all definitely sell. But if we have to pay for a block of tickets beyond the minimum, we do ask the home club to sell them last if possible so we have the option to take them up later instead.
Fans: It’s also really difficult to get back from Liverpool on a Sunday evening.
Club: Whatever the reasons, we have to plan accordingly. Maybe we have to help the fans out with this.
Fans: Our coaches to Villa are £25, whereas they were £12 for Birmingham fans coming to the Bridge recently.
Another issue is that we are now category A at every ground we visit so our fans pay more.
Club: Thomas Cook should give us the best prices. It may be that the coaches are cheaper to hire in Birmingham. We can’t subsidise everything.
On the subject of categorisation, the Club is now a prize draw at away grounds. We are aware that the costs are high for our fans regularly at away grounds. Also, there may be a standard price of £40 for a ticket at those grounds providing the equivalent view to the home fans, but they may be available at £35 for home fans if bought earlier in the season. Hence there are ways for home clubs to lower the prices for their fans. But we do check that equivalent home tickets are nominally the same price as those sold to our fans.
Fans: Can text messages be used for communication?
Club: We are looking at introducing such a system, which would involve the fans paying for texts received, and other possibilities. We need a consistent policy.
We have a problem here in the configuration of the away section at the Bridge. Charlton had over 700 they couldn’t sell last season which we couldn’t then sell to our fans.
Fans: For background to new Forum members, after away season ticket holders are allocated, the rest of the away tickets are split between home season ticket holders and members. The atmosphere has been noticeably very good at recent away matches. Members seem to be making the most of not going to so many away matches.
Club: The atmosphere has also been really good in the Shed end for the first home game.
Fans: Will any away matches be sold on loyalty? Have sales for each of the two groups been consistent?
Club: We will consider it for Arsenal.
As regards the sale of the two groups of tickets, they have been even in most cases. We will stipulate timing for member tickets though, so if they don’t sell we will switch what are left to home season ticket holders to buy.
Fans: As regards away matches, supporter groups have been told they don’t get tickets specially.
Club: As members have a better opportunity anyway, we are only giving priority to members in the local supporters club for each match.
Fans: Supporters groups have also been displaced for home matches in the Shed.
Club: This comes from displacement due to away fan allocations and the new season ticket holders there. After those groupings they are provided to supporter groups first. We are looking at the supporter group package again and hope to announce plans this season.
Fans: Loyalty points don’t help fans from overseas who can only go to a few matches a season and can’t pick those matches with more points on offer. The affiliation procedure for overseas groups is unclear as well.
For Champions League matches where someone has a parent season ticket and a child season ticket, can the child one be upgraded to an adult one before general sale?
Club: There is no way to do this.
Fans: There were meetings with the Club over the summer. The improvement with banners provided and atmosphere in the Shed has been noticeable. We want to keep the momentum growing - we have now grown to a Shed 100 (singing fans) campaign. The Club has backed the banners in terms of paying and facilities, and we are really grateful for their assistance. Fanzines have also assisted in publicising the messages about atmosphere.
We would appreciate another meeting with the Club.
Club/ fans to have a further meeting about atmosphere before the Blackburn match.
Fans: What are the rules about banners? There seem to still be inconsistencies, in particular in the Matthew Harding Stand where stewards sometimes don’t allow them.
Club: There shouldn’t be a problem in that area, although we had a problem with someone asking for no banners in one particular spot. But generally there is no problem.
Club to remind the stewards about flag policy.
Fans: Part of the West Stand has been unreserved in the past. Is it possible to reintroduce this?
Club: The capacity would come down as the police feel: it is harder for them to control fans, fans would form less manageable groups, and it would encourage standing. So it is possible but the capacity would be reduced. In addition, we would have to displace c.5,500 season ticket holders, and we wouldn’t be able to issue duplicates.
For information, due to new legislation for media requirements, we have lost some seats so the overall capacity has dropped to 41,761. The number of season tickets overall has increased to 25,000, largely replacing those who dropped off the list. The numbers had reduced from 23,500 to 22,500. We have now offered season tickets to those with the most loyalty points. There are no plans to increase the number. With corporate seats the total is c.30,000, so with up to 3,000 going to away fans, this leaves around 7-8,000 for members.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Fans: Is it possible for the Club or the police to deal with the touts who can be seen every match day on Fulham Road, especially around the station. This would also provide good publicity for the Club.
Club: We are mostly after the suppliers rather than the individual touts. We would have to pay for any additional police resources to deal with it. Having said that, we catch a vast number of those who do sell tickets for a profit. The main problem comes from season ticket holders who sell on additional tickets, and members.
We do trace tickets back as well but don’t want to reveal all the measures we take on this. We have someone full time working on this. The problem comes from selling multiple tickets - if all sales are one ticket per member or season ticket holder then touting is harder.
Fans: At the Cup Final there were two individuals amongst the away season ticket holders with a Liverpool scarf and an Arsenal scarf.
Club: We have traced those back. Generally, tickets are traceable, but we want to concentrate on cutting off the supply of these tickets. Amazingly, 5,500 members were caught selling on tickets during 2005-06 out of 35,000! They were all suspended. Last year it was about 2,500. The big hotels in London will all advertise that they can tickets for any match. Some are advertising easy access to tickets for any club.
Chair: The issue of touting came up at the forum of another London club a few years ago when a police representative told their forum that they could target touts, but an arrest meant at least one officer having to leave the stadium area and fill out arrest forms, with the tout consequently receiving a small fine and being back the next week. So in short it wasn’t worth it for the police.
Club: Two quite well-known supporters were singing anti-semitic and offensive fans on a bus in Reading last week. Those two individuals will be monitored inside the stadium. When we receive reports of such incidents that occur either inside or outside the ground, we follow these up and if we get evidence, they are banned for life. We are quite happy for that message to spread amongst fans. We are thinking of how to publicise this without looking as if we have a “big brother” attitude.
There is a lot of plain clothes work in the ground and some of the bars. We eject 20-25 per game, and depending on the seriousness, may take away membership or season tickets. We have a call number for fans to report offensive behaviour as well.
Fans: The Club has made some changes to the website in response to the Forum and others providing feedback. In short, the look of the site has been altered, in particular the html version. So thanks to the Club. Though the overall look is not particularly popular.
Club: The major issue seemed to be the html aspect. The issue of the content of the site seemed quite positive which we were pleased to see. We know there are aspects to improve though. The size of the font was confirmed as a problem and we think that has been improved since. We want to work in particular on providing better picture quality, and have a better service for the archives. The former is important as we have an excellent Club photographer. The design and navigation will always be a contentious issue with any site.
Fans: There were nasty incidents in Liverpool at the final whistle last week. One concerned a cup of urine being thrown from the Liverpool area over Chelsea fans. The second involved a seven year old child being spat at in the face by a Liverpool fan. His father spoke to the stewards who were not interested, and he then spoke to the police.
Club: Please provide any details to the Club.
The Club to follow up details of incidents from the Liverpool match where possible.
We get annoyed if our fans don’t get the respect from other clubs and their officials that we afford to them at our ground. For some away grounds we can ask for extra netting space between supporters though. We don’t like the idea of fans of one club being in a tier above those of another club so it doesn’t happen here.
On a different subject, during the summer we had a major refurbishment costing millions. Signage has been changed, the hotels have been relaunched with new restaurants. The Shed Bar is now the Blues Bar. The Marco Pierre White restaurant is near completion. The Matthew Harding Stand, West Stand tier 5 and South Stand have been improved. We now want to work on getting our IT processes revamped, on access for the stadium, and on access in the Shed End. We have had some very good feedback.
Fans: Apparently some bars were running out of beer and food ran out in the Matthew Harding Upper. This was a disappointment after the refurbishment.
Club: We are disappointed to hear that.
Club to check and ensure sufficient quantities of food and drink in the Matthew Harding Upper.
Fans: There are still major problems with catering in the East Stand. In the East Stand we also have to hand our tickets in at Gate 2 in order to get into the ground. The scanners do not work automatically or the staff don’t have the confidence in the machines to use them.
Club: We know the East Stand has particular spacing problems, particularly in a 15 minute period.
We didn’t have time to work on that access over the summer.
Club to check that automatic ticket readers are working well and being operated correctly.
Fans: How many Forum applications were there this year?
Club: There were a couple of hundred approximately.
On the subject of loyalty points, we think it will be difficult to sell out the Blackburn match as it is at 5.15. We would like to increase the number of points for that match. What does the Forum think?
Fans: That sounds fine (general agreement). The only criticism could be that a fan who can’t make that match will lose out. Alternatively you could give tickets to local schools, or adjust the cost. Also, what is happening with the friendly planned at the Bridge?
Club: Adjusting loyalty points would fit in with our ticketing policy. We would like to do the same with away match tickets that aren’t selling fast.
As far as the Marcel Desailly game is concerned, these will be on general sale. We are really only providing the stadium and facilities.
(The meeting closed at 12.30pm.)
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