Fans' Forum minutes: 26/11/11
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CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB SUPPORTERS’ CONSULTATIVE FORUM, 2011/12 SEASON DRAFT MINUTES, 3rd MEETING
Meeting held in the Centenary Hall, Chelsea FC at 9.30am on Saturday 26th November 2011
Attendees Club title/ group represented
- Acott, Graham: season ticket (“ST”) holder
- Alexander, Chris: Club Finance and Operations Director
- Atkins, Steve: Club Head of Communications and Public Affairs
- Austin, Dave: CFCUK
- Barfoot, Mark: UK branch
- Brown, Francis: 16-21 age group
- Chidgey, David: Chelsea Football Fancast
- Fiorellino, Trizia: Chelsea Supporters Group
- Gordon-Brown, Patrick: Chelsea Supporters Club
- Gourlay, Ron: Club Chief Executive
- Hounsome, William: member
- Jenkins, Simon: home/ away ST holder
- Littlejohns, Tom: over 65’s
- Marriott, Bryan: family section
- Micharikopoulos, Dimitris: non-UK branch
- Newby, David: Club Marketing Manager
- Regan, Andy: Electoral Reform Services (Chair)
- Sampson, Peter: CFCnet
- Shaw, Martin: member
- Smith, Graham: Club Head of Ticketing/ Head of Supporters’ Liaison
- Wright, Frank: ST holder
Apologies for absence Coffey, Patrick member Krendel, Paul exec members/ box holders
(Action points are underlined.)
MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING/ MATTERS ARISING
There were no changes to the minutes for the first meeting or for the conference call (second meeting).
Players requesting fans to sing: The Club said that the manager and John Terry have made requests. The manager mentioned this after the Leverkusen game.
Publicising Forum agenda items and advertising website links to Forum members: The Club said that agenda items were not finalised in time but it intends to publicise these in the future.
Role of the Forum and how to best incorporate the worldwide fan base: The Club wants to review this and will return to this topic.
Fans’ embassy/ information point: The Club has looked at this and can’t find a practical way for this to be implemented. There are concerns as to who would man this and whether personnel on a stall could answer the questions asked by fans on a match day.
Lack of steward availability to help operate East Stand lifts: The relevant steward is in place again on match days to assist.
Financial Fairplay rules: The Club has publicised these.
Pricing: Fans would like cheaper tickets but understand the Club has to balance its finances. Last season the Forum discussed the cost of STs but it was disappointing that the Club’s announcement of prices for this season stated that they were “in consultation with the Forum”. This was misinterpreted by some to suggest that Forum members agreed with the new prices. Many fans are already being squeezed by the prices which should be kept in mind for next season.
The Club stated that these issues will be considered but maintaining match day revenue is an essential source of income for the Club.
16-18 ST prices: The Club stated that it intends to extend reduced prices from 17 year olds to 18 year olds next season. The intention is for the Club to extend reduced prices from 17 year olds to 21 year olds over the next four years.
This measure is to help existing fans but doesn’t assist new younger fans. The Club is very aware of that.
ST numbers/ encouragement of younger fans: Fans said that it is vital to encourage loyalty amongst younger fans. This must be good policy for the Club.
The Club said there is an intention to reduce the number of ST holders next season. There may be a decision made not to replace the ST holders who don’t renew. It is well documented that there is a fall off of c.1,000 to 1,500 so one possibility is not to replace them and to create more seats for younger fans. The exact mechanism hasn’t been decided upon yet. The opportunity for more young fans to attend matches has been requested a lot in recent years at the Forum and the Club is taking this on board. This has to be started now.
One fan suggested lower prices for groups of children attending together. The Club responded that this would require additional supervision by the Club which isn’t necessarily possible. Match day revenue must be protected as well.
Champions’ League (“UCL”) seat prices: The Club is aware that this needs to be reassessed for next season.
Booking fees: One fan asked if there could be a group rate for multiple purchases. The Club responded that this topic comes up a lot. The Club compares very favourably to booking fees at other clubs and events. There has been no rise for many years.
Prices for over 65s: One fan stated that someone aged 64 at the start of the season who turns 65 soon after is paying the full rate for their ST regardless. This seems unfair in comparison to a non-ST holder of the same age who can buy an over-65s match ticket during the season.
The Club responded that child ST holders who reach the ceiling for their age group during the season still benefit from the lower rates for the whole of that season. Administratively it would be difficult to look at individual birth dates for those in the 64/65 age bracket during the season and adjust each person’s prices accordingly. The Club will consider this however.
All inclusive STs: One fan stated that some clubs such as Arsenal include a certain number of cup games in their STs. This would assist fans and the Club administratively. The Club responded that it is not allowed to hold credit card data. It is possible to take the funds at the start of the season and give refunds as Arsenal do if there are less than seven home cup matches. One potential problem is that some fans don’t attend even though they’ve paid for the extra matches at Arsenal, which doesn’t look impressive. We wouldn’t want the same problem at Stamford Bridge. A discount for those who pay for the extra matches in their ST is difficult to implement as some ST holders have to move for certain matches due to the stadium configuration.
The Club confirmed that one advantage of having non-ST holders acquiring cheaper tickets for many cup matches is to encourage a new and younger fan base to attend.
Ticket sales to members: One fan asked how well the policy to encourage members to buy tickets is working. The Club said that there are about 70,000 members. Further to research about 60-70% of members buy tickets and others presumably just want the association with the Club. Tiers of membership including non-ticket purchasing options were introduced about three years ago.
Europa League pricing: One fan asked what the pricing policy would be if we don’t qualify for the UCL knock-out stages and go into the Europa League. The Club said there have been no such discussions to date. The relative status of the competition would be taken into account in setting pricing if needed. The issue would not just be financial in terms of loss.
Financial expectations: The Club confirmed that budgeting is based on the team reaching the later stages of the UCL and for one home match in each of the domestic cups. As the Club has stated previously, the Carling Cup does not earn money over all.
Loyalty points: One fan asked if this could be reassessed for next season especially as a result of the QPR away match not being sold through loyalty points. The Club responded that it could categorise QPR as a AA game next season which solves the problem.
Thomas Cook tickets: Some fans were annoyed that home tickets in the Shed End for the Liverpool game went to Thomas Cook. The Club responded that according to the agreement with Thomas Cook, 75% of their tickets are in the West Upper and 25% are in the corner of the Shed End Lower so none of those tickets are in the centre of the Shed End. As a matter of interest, the East Upper is the third last to sell out usually followed by the Shed End Lower and lastly the West Upper. The Club can review the arrangement with Thomas Cook so their tickets are in the West Upper if possible. There may be a contractual problem though.
Ticket demand and sales: The Club said this is the best sell-out of the stadium in the modern era. It may take time to sell tickets for smaller matches but the number of tickets sold has been excellent, inclusive of all competitions. Around 90% of corporate hospitality is sold, all boxes in the East and West stands have sold for the first time. The Club speculated that this might be due to the growth of the Club. The only tickets that may have been harder to sell are for the UCL group games.
One fan stated that Forum members want to help the Club in its aims. The Club responded that it appreciates this and tries to be as open as possible with information. The balance of match day, broadcasting and commercial sales is the key. It is very important to develop the commercial side. As soon as the team stops winning regularly, the Club is encouraged to buy players by fans and purchases have to be financed. The Club welcomes commercial suggestions from the Forum. Capacity is being reduced in the stadium every season due in large part to broadcasting requirements. There is an increase in foreign rights holders each season for domestic matches who require more cabling, so not only UCL match capacity is affected.
One fan said that an option to help sell tickets is to try to encourage the c.20,000 non-ticket purchasing members to start coming to matches. The Club responded that there are limited tickets for members anyway so that isn’t a problem particularly.
Corporate/ sponsor tickets sold to away fans: One fan said that four or five years ago there were some Spurs fans in the East Upper through Nike tickets. The Club responded that these were sold through the Premier League (“FAPL”). The Club throws out fans from sponsor areas if those fans are supporting the away team. The new CCTV system greatly assists with internal security.
Other fans said there appeared to be many Arsenal fans in the East Upper recently. The Club commented that generally the problem is policing tickets which go on general sale.
One fan asked if box holders are told not to bring away fans. The Club said it tells box holders and their guests not to wear colours and for guests in those areas to behave. There is no point in asking for an outright ban of away fans. Our fans are often guests in boxes at away grounds.
Overseas supporter club tickets: The Club was asked to ensure that overseas supporters have an opportunity to purchase tickets, as visits to Stamford Bridge are very special and difficult to arrange.
The Club was also asked to ensure that supporter clubs in countries hosting the team in the UCL are given an allocation of tickets. The Club replied that the policy has been changed and the Club tries to provide tickets. However if there is a small number of tickets the UCL ST holders are given priority. Tickets were provided to German supporter clubs as the away area in the Leverkusen match didn’t sell out. There is now a Facebook tier as well to involve Facebook fans in the Club but ultimately away tickets can’t go to all those who require them every time. There are so many supporter club members now – the number has doubled in the past two years. The Club is aware there are huge numbers in the unofficial supporter clubs – perhaps less than a hundred in some European countries but in the hundreds and thousands for instance in Asia. We have targeted them to become members. We have reviewed membership enticements for them and how we engage with them as fans can’t generally come to matches. We also have to police this area to avoid counterfeiting.
One fan asked whether the Club is developing a supporter base in African countries. The Club responded that it encourages fans from overseas to come to matches at the Bridge apart from AA matches which are in greater demand in the UK. Africa is a growing market and much of the work there is in the community such as Right to Play. The market is not established enough to take the team there yet. Potential sponsors are interested by our sizable fan base in many places.
There are a couple of supporter clubs in India as well. Our Blue Pitch schemes work well there and in Asia. There are Blue Pitches in Malaysia and Hong Kong. One was planned for November in Bangkok but due to the floods we are working in Phuket. We are operating in Korea and Indonesia from January. The approach is to work in the community first, followed by the team playing on the Blue Pitch. Thereafter the pitch is left for the community. The first team travelled to three countries last summer and the youth team will play in three countries next summer when the first team is in the USA. In India the structure should be in place for next summer but we are mainly looking at an academy there. The other club with significant penetration there is Bayern Munich who were there two years ago and are there again this summer. There is no investment return at present; it is a long term strategy.
Publicity of home match ticket allocation: One fan said that Liverpool publicise this and maybe the Club can as well. The Club replied that our figures are approximately those on the website: 25,000 ST holders, just under 5,000 hospitality of which 250 are held back on a match by match basis to entice new attendees. Our family area is one of the smallest in the FAPL. The Club is happy to publicise these figures if they are of interest.
ST moves: The Club allows fans to move every five years at present and the next move opportunity is next summer. Some fans asked if such moves can be annual as some other clubs allow. The Club responded that it is only when fans don’t renew that others can move but that could change if ST holders giving up their tickets are not replaced next summer, which will free up more seats.
The Club said it has no problem with ST name changes unlike some other clubs.
Member ticket positioning: The Club was asked if members could choose a specific gate when purchasing their seat. The Club said that the Fulham website system is very slow due to fans being able to pick their seats. The Club wants to get the balance between choice and speed and has to sell far more tickets than at Fulham, for instance.
Turnstile entry: The Club responded to a query regarding slow access to the stadium that there is less frustration this season as the Matthew Harding access problems from last season are resolved. There is no easy way to get tens of thousands into the stadium five minutes before kick-off. Fans having paper tickets rather than ST cards doesn’t slow access into the stadium. The Club is considering ticket purchase machines as in cinemas.
Away ST scheme: One fan asked for the Club to provide transaction statements to those in the scheme. Another club provides this. The Club said it would look into this option with Premier Credit.
Delivery address for tickets: One fan asked if ticket purchasers could provide a different delivery address than the billing address they provide. The Club replied that this option is not offered due to the risk of touting.
Additional games added to ST cards: One fan asked if it’s possible to add additional match entry to the ST card. The Club replied that this would be a problem as the usual seat location is printed on each card yet some fans have to move for various matches so stewards and fans may get confused. Paperless tickets are a more likely option for the Club in the future.
Loyalty points for members: The Club was asked why ST holders get priority over members for additional tickets. The Club responded that this is in the policy and that most members will be disadvantaged due to the number of loyalty points that ST holders receive automatically if loyalty points are the only factor in selling tickets.
60/40 away ticket split: One fan said there was a game in which members didn’t take their allocation and it dropped to zero, whilst ST tickets are generally sold quickly. The Club stated that again it follows the policy carefully and is open to proposals to alter the split balance. Fans agreed that the 60/40 current split shouldn’t be altered.
Fans added that generally the feedback amongst fellow fans is that Graham and the box office team now provide the best service fans have received.
UCL away tickets: One fan asked why there is only one and a half weeks for fans to order and receive away UCL tickets. The Club responded that fans should send requests by email instead which should save time.
The Club added that it tries to accommodate sales of UCL away tickets within two hours of kick off at other home matches. If the box office is bombarded with fans needing tickets or having issues regarding that day’s match, however, it may not be possible to deal with such requests but staff try and help where possible.
The Club will review all of the ticketing comments and proposals in consideration of next season’s policy.
TOPICS FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON
Fans said they welcomed the opportunity to find out more about the overseas fan base.
The Club stated that the Fans’ Forum will need to incorporate more than match day issues in future. The Forum needs more engagement on an international basis and wider understanding of marketing aspects of the Club. Sponsors play a major role internationally as well. This is the feedback the Club is receiving.
The Club is also concerned that some Forum members don’t speak for fans and that individual views are being offered instead. This is a worry for the board.
Revenue streams and the international fan base haven’t been on the agenda in the past year. The Forum has achieved a lot since its inception but there is little more the Club can do substantively regarding match day issues. The Club will come back with proposals to remedy this for next season. It may be that supporter groups from overseas must be better represented on the Forum.
Fans responded that they are happy to help with such communications. The Chelsea Football Fancast said it has c25,000 listeners including overseas supporter contacts who are happy to attend the Forum. Beth Wild from the US supporters group could have attended today. Another fan said our UK supporters can act as ambassadors for the Club during overseas tours.
The Club responded that it must consider the methods of engagement as well. We need to engage with international fans more. There are international websites for the Club in place and the team travels overseas in the summer. The Club is aware of the efforts of fan groups with overseas fans though.
One fan highlighted his group’s involvement in the Make a Wish Foundation for those whose wish is to visit the Bridge. The Club has been excellent in response but originally this issue came to light from a post on a fan site from Arizona.
The Club’s international dimension, review of the Forum and Club media were requested as topics. The annual survey results will be presented at the fourth meeting.
The Chair said he was awaiting more specific details from the Forum member who earlier requested a discussion on the Academy.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Away fans positioning: The Club commented that away fans can seem noisier at the Bridge than our fans at times but added that our fans are loud at away matches too.
One fan said that East Lower seats are some of the worst in the ground and the Club could look at moving away fans back to that area. It may help our fans to sing more if away fans are nearer the Matthew Harding Stand. It is a problem for away fans being in the East Stand with home fans though.
The Club said there may be more unsold seats if the numbers of away fans in the East Lower need to be limited or the tickets don’t sell. In the Carling Cup the away team receives 15% of tickets so away fans may have to return to the Shed End. The Club has to charge away fans the same prices as home fans are charged for an equivalent seat. There would be additional problems with concourse segregation, providing disability places, reconfiguring food outlets, ensuring segregated toilet areas, avoiding home fans being above away fans and vice versa, ensuring that fans can be evacuated in the required time in an emergency which affects whether we get our ground certificate. The Club isn’t happy with the current positioning of away fans but there is no obvious solution at present.
Ground entry time/ pre-match bar sales: The Club tried extending stadium opening times to 2½ hours before kick-off in some areas including Jimmys previously, but fans didn’t arrive earlier. Fans commented that increased revenue could come from better advertising of Club facilities/ bars being available before a match. This is especially true as there are fewer pubs in the area now with those remaining being very crowded and their prices having increased in recent years. Therefore the Club may find fertile ground for increasing pre-match revenue. The American market may provide a useful template for pre-match catering.
The Club responded that it welcomes fans arriving earlier at the stadium before a match. Catering staff and outlets would need to be coordinated. The American experience of pre-match catering is different though.
The Club will review stadium entry times and pre-match bar options.
Large screen: The Club confirmed that the new screen will be in place in December.
Media coverage of John Terry: The Club was asked how it responds to arguably libellous articles in the media. The Club stated that such stories can affect its relationship with a particular newspaper and that complaints are made where relevant. In the case of the Brian Reade piece complaints were made.
Pre-season tour: The Club said the tour will be announced in mid-January. Timing will be tight this year due to the European Championships and the Olympics. The Club is supportive of players who want to play in the Olympics although it must take into consideration the number of matches a player will be involved in during the season and also consider insurance issues. The Club will work around this just as it does for the African Nations Cup. One problem is that the Olympics squad doesn’t need to be named until quite late.
Some of the Olympic squads may use the Club’s facilities and the stadium may potentially be used for international friendlies.
The meeting ended at 11.35am.
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