Fans' Forum minutes: 28/04/07
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CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB SUPPORTERS CONSULTATIVE FORUM 2006/ 2007 SEASON
Meeting held at the Lord Attenborough Suite, Chelsea F.C. Hotel, at 9.00am on Saturday, 28th April 2007.
ATTENDEES/ group represented
- Alexander, James (season ticket holder)
- Beard, Neil (Blue and White Army)
- Brown, Toby (Cfcnet)
- Fiorellino, Trizia (Chelsea Supporters Group)
- Gibbins, Jason (member)
- Gourlay, Ron (Chelsea F.C. Commercial & Venue Director)
- Greenberg, Simon (Chelsea F.C. Communications Director)
- Hine, Lenny (16 – 21 age group)
- Hine, Tom (member)
- Marriott, Bryan (family section)
- Michaelson, Bob (exec member/ box holder)
- Monasingh, Marc (member)
- Newby, David (Chelsea F.C. Marketing Manager)
- O’Brien, John (branch)
- O’Callaghan, Terry (branch)
- Paul, Dennis (over 60 age group)
- Pickering, Trevor (Chelsea Supporters Club)
- Regan, Andy (Electoral Reform Services, Chair)
- Smith, Graham (Chelsea F.C. Head of Ticketing)
- Trenter, Peter (home & away season ticket holder)
- Weller, Jim (season ticket holder)
- Greer, Gary (branch)
- Kenyon, Peter (Chelsea F.C. Chief Executive)
- Polk, Jamie (disabled section)
- David Thomason (The Leadership Factor)
(Action points are in bold and underlined.)
Chair: Welcome to our guest David Thomason. In addition, Neil Beard is now replacing Gary as the Blue and White Army representative, so welcome to him.
There have been many requests for the Cup Final to be included in our discussions so we will have that as a discreet topic, with the agreement of the Forum. (Agreed.)
CHANGES TO THE MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING/ MATTERS ARISING FROM PREVIOUS MINUTES
(No changes to the minutes.)
Chair: All ticketing views were considered by the Club in their decisions for ticketing for next season. The other issue from the last meeting is whether supporter clubs can make presentations to players on the pitch.
Club: We are looking to manage them again next season, though not every game.
Fans: We also asked for the Club to look at the prospect of introducing student season tickets.
Club: It was discussed with the Board but the feeling was that the demand won’t be there.
Fans: That is probably because anyone leaving the family area would need to pay upto £600 as an adult. It’s asking a lot for fans to have that leap in prices suddenly.
Club: This was discussed with other ticketing issues. We’re only talking about a very small number of people.
Fans: There has been a lot of disquiet from season ticket holders over the new away ticket allocation with half of those tickets left over now going to members. Some of us didn’t know this was actually making a decision for implementation. The problem is in particular for the more popular away games where demand is very high, so a member can randomly pick a match and get a ticket despite a season ticket holder having been to all home matches and most of the aways, so this seems unfair.
(Other fans): This was a firm recommendation so we can’t change it so soon. It’s fair to members.
We hear there will be season tickets available in the Shed next season – how will that change the balance of season ticket holders and members?
Club: We still want a large number of tickets available for members. We said we’d cap it at 25,000. There will be 2,500 to 3,000 new season tickets around the stadium in total, issued on a loyalty basis, though this will be set off against some who give up their season tickets.
Guest: We carry out a postal survey every January, with 2007 being our third year of the process.
Corporate and non-corporate fans have separate surveys. For both there have been increases, so both groups are more satisfied about their match day experience this year. We also put together a list of priorities for improvement to help the Club further increase satisfaction levels.
Two years ago the corporate fans identified issues that were important to them such as prices, bar service, the issue of smoking in the stadium etc, the type of topics you would associate with the corporate fans. Satisfaction is high with the match programme, the match view, lack of smoking for instance. Value for money is not rated highly, or half-time bar service, or fans not sitting by the start of the second half. Scores of less than 6 out of 10 show dissatisfaction, including lack of atmosphere in their areas. With some of these there is less dissatisfaction than last year though. Some have complained about not being able to buy additional tickets, even though they can at times, just as others can around the ground. We also measure which items are most important so we can compare satisfaction and then the Club can focus on what can most improve satisfaction for important issues.
Value for money and half-time service in the bars come out top for improvements by this measure. There is also a request for a buzzer or announcement just before the second half starts. Quality of food is also important for them.
Women are more satisfied than men in the corporate areas. Older people are more satisfied in these areas are well. There are only certain bars that bring the average down greatly, in particular the Captain’s Bar and the Manager’s Bar.
For non-corporate fans the satisfaction level is lower, which is what we might expect. The process is the same for this group, with the issues identified two years ago. Value for money, atmosphere, quality of catering etc are considered. Stewarding comes out well amongst other things. Prices of tickets and catering are highlighted as unsatisfactory, and Club’s approach to booking fees, though cup prices appear to be welcome.
In 2005 the position of the away fans was a major issue of dissatisfaction though that has improved now. Women are more satisfied than men for this group as well, though for this grouping, younger fans tend to be more satisfied. Members are more satisfied than season ticket holders.
Price of tickets and of food and drink, quality of food and drink, booking fees and atmosphere are the priorities we’ve identified. If the Club can target everything then well and good, but satisfaction can most be affected by tackling these issues.
The number surveyed was 1,500 corporates and 6,000 non-corporates. In the original process we spoke to two disabled fans as well, so their specific issues would not necessarily get on the list – there were two of them out of a total of twelve.
We also carry this out for Manchester United who are five years further in to the process so their satisfaction index is higher. They don’t carry this out for corporates separately.
Fans: My 12 year old received one.
Guest: We should have written to you as well asking your permission. Apologies for that.
Fans: There may be a link between satisfaction and the success of the Club so comparison with other Clubs would be interesting. It may not intentionally be about what is on the pitch but it can be hard to differentiate the two.
Club: An executive summary is available.
Fans: In the corporate areas, the price can be over £5,000, which works out a huge amount per match. As was said about non-corporate areas at the last meeting, we are arguably near to pricing these season ticket holders out. A lot of corporate attendees may be long-term fans but others may just move on if they are priced out.
Are there stats of how many non-corporate fans become season ticket holders in corporate areas? That is one assessment of their loyalty.
Club: There was 93% corporate take-up last year so it was still popular. We don’t have stats on the transfer to corporate tickets. We know that prices have gone up there for three years, but we did feel that these areas were too cheap for the product on offer.
Guest: The timing is important so if the survey is preceded by a letter saying that prices are not going up, we know that could be an influence. Publicising improvements is a factor.
COMPOSITION OF THE FORUM
Chair: Due to the two-year cycle that we are continuing, we will be saying goodbye to Jim, Tom, Marc, Jamie, Bob, Dennis and Terry. All have made major contributions to the Forum since starting, as has Gary. I’m sure the Club would also like to thank them for their involvement.
Does the Forum want to change the seats available on the Forum? At present there are:
- 3 season ticket holders, at least one of whom must be an away one; - 3 members; - 1 of each of the following: disabled; family; corporate; over 60; under 21; - 3 branch; - 4 independent groups.
Fans: One fan has written in to say there should be an overseas branch rep officially – even though one is non-UK at the moment. Also, we could have a UEFA CL away season ticket holder. Should we have a female representative place as well?
At least one of the three branch reps must represent a non-UK branch.
(Other two options rejected.)
Chair: Positions available for this selection draw will therefore be: one home season ticket holder; two members; one disabled representative; one executive member; one over-60 representative; one branch representative.
We also request that those stepping down this year don’t reapply straight away, in order to ensure there are changes to the composition of the Forum.
FA CUP FINAL
Club: We hope everyone appreciates that the allocation total is out of our hands. We went to a meeting with the FA believing there would be an element of debate, but we were presented with a fait accompli. We were told what our allocation would be, in what positions, and at what prices.
Fans: How many junior tickets are there? Also, can the Club please break down how many go to the Club, how many go to corporates etc? This makes the process transparent as most fans will think many tickets go to sponsors and the Club etc. There have been a lot of complaints from fans about this.
We recognise that the use of loyalty points for matches has only become widespread at the end of the season but advocate its use for Cup Finals as well as other big matches. It will also help sell tickets for smaller matches in the future by having such a policy.
(Other fans) However by going to cup games at home you can amass more points that going to many away games. That seems unfair.
Club: We’ve tried to communicate fully by saying that we think 85-90% of non-corporate season ticket holders will get tickets. We think we will only get criticism for breaking this figure down further. There is a rule that no individual gets more than 24 tickets, and all names/ addresses of purchasers are recorded.
The use of loyalty points for the Cup Final was not raised by fans before we made our decisions. We are happy to add to the ticketing policy for next season though won’t change what has been announced. Use of loyalty points have worked well for the potentially big home matches at the end of the season.
Club in general terms to detail how Cup Final tickets are allocated e.g. how many tickets are actually going to corporate fans, non-corporate fans, Club obligations in total.
Club to consider that loyalty points are used for Cup Finals and semi-finals next season.
There may be complaints from some fans that members can accrue more points than season ticket holders by going to away games, but we’ll have to face that.
Fans: For junior tickets, shouldn’t they just be sold to children in the family stand? They should not be available for everyone.
Club: They are available to everyone. To put this in context, when we had our meeting with the FA, we were given a tour and were told originally that the child concession prices were only at the top of the stadium. We complained straight away and at least were given lower areas. As these were £60 tickets we at least get £30 concessions.
Fans: You could have massive queues at the ground when sales start and the website could crash. A loyalty-based points system would have solved this.
How many tickets can one person buy? It’s been ten in the past.
Is the fee per ticket or per transaction?
Club: We won’t have unmanageable queues as we will check how many tickets will be bought by those in the queue and stop those who won’t get a ticket from staying. We will keep them informed of where in the queue the 25% will sell out. We used this system for the Arsenal game, mainly to prevent fans from wasting their time in a queue.
We are confident that the website won’t crash – it’s been tested thoroughly.
You can buy ten at the box office and nine online. The fee is per transaction.
We changed the date for sales as some fans will be coming back from the Liverpool match.
Fans: How many tickets will supporters clubs get? The Club had said earlier to one supporter club that no tickets were put aside for them.
Club: There will be 50 tickets for that grouping - there were crossed-wires about this. We are looking at distribution of these.
Fans: If we get to Athens, with the cost of that and the Cup Final, fans would be hit with a huge season ticket bill on top soon after. Can the timing for payment of the season ticket be changed?
Club to consider changing season ticket payment time in the event of Cup Final/ CL Final.
Club: If we get to Athens there would be 16,300 tickets. We would advise Club-organised trips only for fans. European away season ticket holders would be guaranteed a ticket. Planning has to be advanced even if we don’t ultimately get there.
Fans: We recommend loyalty for allocating tickets for Athens (though some stated it is too late to introduce it for this season). There could be a sliding scale according to the number of European away matches attended this season.
Re the Cup Final, would the Club consider installing a big screen for fans here?
Club: A sliding scale would be too drastic a move away from what fans would expect – we would have to have announced it at the start of the season. It will be European away season ticket holders, home season ticket holders then members.
Club to consider installing a big screen at the Bridge for the Cup Final.
Fans: Why do corporate fans only have a 54% success rate for Cup Final tickets?
Club: It’s 2,500 tickets. It fits in with the percentage that they get for away tickets generally. Many of the corporate season tickets are multiple so in effect those who own them have a higher opportunity than that.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Fans: We were going to provide feedback on the website.
Toby to send around website improvement suggestions.
Club: We have looked at the problems on the Asian site but would still like feedback on the English version.
Fans: Are points added through Viagogo for tickets?
Club: Points are not added through Viagogo purchases.
Fans: The details Blackburn fans got for the Cup semi-final were far superior on their website. On our website the information often isn’t detailed enough and can be hard to find. Ticketing details such as changes to games or to sales are so important and are what most fans want to know as a priority. Some fans say they won’t use it anymore. Navigation is so poor on it – the main text box is small for no reason – it looks poor. Cup Final tickets should have been on the front page consistently – including changes to sales arrangements.
It looks similar to the Adidas site.
Club: It wasn’t copied from Adidas but may well have been influenced by it.
Fans: There can’t be an assumption that everyone is on the internet though. Also, the newsletter is not of high enough quality.
When matches are sold out can’t that be publicised on the front page of the website?
Club: We therefore still use the programme for information as well as the website. We want to bring the newsletter in-house to improve it.
We do have a ticket news bar that’s permanently on the front page of the site for fans to look at. We don’t want a Buy Tickets button on the front as fans may go straight there when a match isn’t on sale at that point. Fans need to read ticket news first rather than clog up the online system unnecessarily.
Fans: Have the Club made a decision on UEFA CL group match prices for next season. Will it be possible to select blocks or gates for home matches next season? Are Community Shield prices likely to be similar to Cup Final prices?
Club: No decision has been made on the CL match prices. It won’t be possible to select blocks or gates. Prices for the Community Shield have not been set yet.
Fans: Why is our allocation for the Liverpool away CL match less than the number of tickets we have given them for the match here? Likewise, why did Spurs get more tickets here for the Cup match than we got there for the replay.
Club: For Liverpool, the allocation is 5% but we have set increases due to segregation arrangements. It made sense to go above the minimum to avoid having empty seats.
For Spurs, the police wanted fewer away tickets for the replay. It is unlikely they would get 6,000 tickets at the Bridge if we played them next season in the Cup.
Fans: Why are away season ticket holders still getting the worst view tickets?
How come certain groups get to tour Cobham when regular fans groups can’t? Can the Club have a supporters tournament at Cobham again this year?
Club: Certain groups may have been allowed in to Cobham in connection with the film that’s being made. Cobham will be opening officially on 5th July (provisionally) – we would like to invite the Fans Forum to attend the opening – we would hope to be able to accommodate both the fans leaving the Forum this summer and the new joiners.
Club to consider a supporters tournament at Cobham for this summer.
Club to ensure away season ticket holders get good views available.
Fans: The situation is unfair as regards banners, in that away fans seem to bring what they want but we can’t provide the colour in the ground that we’d like to. Stewards are so inconsistent about this. We suggest that the banners are approved by the Club and in positions during matches that are acceptable. They could also be kept at the ground between matches. Volunteer fans could then put them out before matches.
We would also like to continue the atmosphere sub-committee, as schedules allow but roughly every month or two. It was started with Simon Arthur but has fallen away. We’ve all started to have an effect on improving the atmosphere and would like to take that further.
Club to consider official sanctioning of banners, banner positions and storage of banners at the ground.
Club to consider restarting the atmosphere sub-committee.
Fans: We only had one Forum meeting in the first half of the season, and that was in October.
Chair: We will ensure the first meeting is in September if possible. There would ideally be two in each half of the season.
Fans: Have the flags that have been distributed by the Club been approved to take to Wembley?
In future please can we have the Player of the Year voting form in the programme backing on to an advert?
Club: Yes the flags have been approved.
We will try and have the form backing on to an advert.
Fans: Why will domestic away season tickets be on a six month rather than on a nine month payable basis? Can they be paid for up front if a fan wants?
Club: Six months was what was agreed with Premium Credit. The debit system allows slight juggling of amounts as we go. The system is easiest if it is spread out for everyone to know what is coming out for each payment period. This season we knew all League away prices by December – in theory we should know them all at the start of the season. We want them out of the way before season ticket renewals are sent out for the next season.
Fans: Because of the photos on cards, are family stand season tickets transferable?
Club: Only on Viagogo, due to the security measures in the family area. We don’t want to encourage transfers amongst fans in these areas.
Fans: Due to the lack of a season ticket for home UEFA CL matches, there will be an increase of 14.9%, which is disappointing.
On the subject of the away matches in Europe, there has obviously been trouble abroad when Spurs and Man United have played. The Club should promote itself more as there hasn’t been trouble at our matches.
Club: All European matches are assessed by UEFA according to how well the event has gone. There is a UEFA official monitoring every match, though not from the away section. We know European teams abroad often don’t have control of their stadia which causes problems. We meet with the home club abroad, as well as the local police, so a lot of work goes into ensuring our trips go well. This is not to denigrate the efforts of other English teams though. We’ve also been lucky in that segregation has been very good at our away games, which wasn’t the case in matches where English fans were involved in trouble.
A delegation came over from Italy to see how we deal with match day crowd control and we feel that the standards we have in this country are very high now.
However, we don’t feel it’s up to us to pat ourselves on the back in public. If the media want to, that would be welcomed, but “Chelsea fans have peaceful trip” doesn’t make headlines.
Fans: It is understandable that we are kept behind after the end of matches sometimes in Europe, but when this happens to the extent that public transport has finished, this makes no sense. We may not be able to speak the language and that can cause problems if we are left stranded.
Club: UEFA would say the solution is to only take Chelsea official transport. We are going to provide more information next season to our away fans in Europe, including local transport details.
Fans: It can be the case that we’re treated like children when we travel with the Club. However, cost is often the main reason, though this has improved in recent years.
On a different subject, there were comments attributed to the Forum in The Sun on the subject of ticketing from the last meeting. Gary Bacchus had thought it was taken from his website and then dramatically embellished. In particular it related to the fact that Peter had said that a lot of people were after the Club’s extra TV revenue.
Club: Official minutes hadn’t been released at that point. We would appreciate everyone working together.
Fans: Can we have a method by which other fans can contact the Forum?
Chair: We tried this by email to Electoral Reform and were inundated with irrelevant correspondence (for this purpose) requesting autographs and commenting on the team.
Club to consider publicising an address for Forum queries to arrive at the Club.
Fans: Will season ticket holders still receive additional tickets e.g. for the Cup, on paper next season?
Club: We will gradually move towards a paper-less system over a couple of years. We’re already spending £1.8 million on turnstiles and stadium admission improvements, largely on the West Stand as that hasn’t been touched since it was built.
Chair: Thanks to all for attending.
(The meeting closed at 11.20am.)
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