Fans' Forum minutes: 05/10/08
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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 Sunday, 5th October 2008.
ATTENDEES/ group represented
- Ashwell, Edward (Chelsea F.C. Head of Security)
- Anastasi, Joe (non-UK branch)
- Auger, Cliff (Chelsea Supporters Group)
- Bowen-Jones, Will (member)
- Cook, Sophie (16 - 21 age group)
- Gerrard, Carol (home & away season ticket holder)
- Goldston, Geoff (over 60 age group)
- Gourlay, Ron (Chelsea F.C. Commercial & Venue Director)
- Johnstone, Dave (CFCUK)
- Kemp, Pete (Chelsea Supporters Club)
- Law, Matthew (disabled section)
- Lister, Simon (member)
- 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)
- Walters, Jez (CFCnet)
- Whalley, Elizabeth (season ticket holder)
Apologies for absence
- Beard, Neil (CFCUK)
- Greenberg, Simon (Chelsea F.C. Communications Director)
- Jarvis, Kevin (family section)
- Kenyon, Peter (Chelsea F.C. Chief Executive)
- Newby, David (Chelsea F.C. Marketing Manager)
- Smith, Ian (member)
- Sporle, Lee (non-UK branch)
(Action points are in bold and underlined.)
INTRODUCTION/ MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
Chair: Welcome to the first meeting of the season.
(All attendees introduced themselves. There were no changes to the minutes.)
Chair: As regards action points from the last meeting, the Club was going to investigate whether free match commentary on the radio is possible through Chelsea TV.
Club: It looks like we are not able to do it but will keep looking at it.
Chair: The Club was going to consider leaving a gap between the final whistle and the start of music.
Club: This followed feedback after the Liverpool CL match. For most games fans just leave so music is not a problem.
Chair: The Club was going to consider renaming the Spackman Bar after expressing his support for Liverpool so strongly. Also, it was going to consider having a Forum discussion on “match 39”.
Club: We are still looking at the first issue. Peter Kenyon can discuss “match 39” at some point.
Chair: The Club was going to consider travel for fans from the Middle East/ Far East to matches using Etihad.
Club: Thomas Cook want to increase demand for their own services. There are also rights issues for dealing directly with Etihad. We will look at it again and would have to assess demand.
FEEDBACK ON MEETING WITH THOMAS COOK (“TC”) FROM THE SUMMER
Chair: I will read out the main issues that arose from the meeting, although they are being dealt with anyway by the Club.
There was a request for specific coach contact phone numbers at away matches rather than one generic number.
Fans: They agreed to look into this. Moscow may have been a one-off in terms of numbers travelling last season, but it was felt that direct contact with the correct coach would help with travel arrangements after a match, for instance if the coach has had to be moved.
Club: We are putting that in place.
Chair: There were outstanding complaints concerning Moscow.
Club: There is only one left to deal with but let us know if there are more. Generally we think travel went well for Moscow but many of the problems that arose were out of the control of TC. Problems were often to do with the Russian authorities. 25,000 travelling from the north of England as well didn’t help. No one was left out there who travelled with the Club!
Fans: The Football Supporters Federation stall out there helped a lot as well.
Chair: TC was asked to highlight that the 2.5% credit card booking fee is just passing over the charge that they have to pay. TC was also asked to highlight that not drinking on transport is due to the law rather than company rules.
TC was asked to consider coach and train stops at more places on the way to home and away matches.
Fans: A train going up the west coast for Chelsea South West and stopping at various points would be ideal for home matches, for instance.
Club: This is on-going and if the demand is there we can do this. But the cost would go up dramatically with more stops and any longer route we build in.
Chair: TC staff and stewards were asked to wear more visible jackets. Travel information should be provided earlier as well to fans.
Club: The request for more visible jackets is noted. We pass on travel information as soon as we get it. We have games at unfair times sometimes so travel can be hard to arrange. Everton away this season is a Monday night at 8pm, 22nd December.
Fans: To what extent does the Club challenge inconvenient kick-off times? Can’t the FAPL ensure that only local matches are played on a midweek night?
Club: The FAPL release the fixtures then Sky and Setanta pick their games. Monday night games are never popular and we made representation against it. As there are so many European games for FAPL teams this affects who can play on a Monday night anyway.
The problem with only having local matches midweek is that there could be accusations of fixing the order of matches (E.g. spacing out your long distance games).
As regards subsidised travel, Hull is free; Stoke and Middlesbrough are £10.
Fans: Thanks for that. We didn’t ask for free or subsidised travel at the meeting specifically but it’s a welcome gesture. It’s worth the Club publicising how much you lose financially by such gestures.
Club: It could be £100,000. We will have to look at arrangements for Everton as well due to the timing.
Chair: Another issue from the meeting was looking at pricing concessions for children.
Club: We can look at that as well. Maybe they could pay half price.
Chair: The quality of coaches was raised.
Fans: They were better quality for Stoke recently.
Club: We are looking at the quality and expect it to be consistent. The problems were identified for Redwing coaches.
Fans: The police insisted that fans arriving by train at Stoke go straight to the ground which was unfair, whereas some known trouble makers were allowed to roam around.
Club: This was due to the distance between the station and the ground. We had to ensure that fans got there in time; the police may have insisted no one leave the ground. Some fans who hadn’t paid tried to get on to our coaches going back to the station.
Chair: Can carers for disabled fans have subsidised travel with TC?
Club: We do this at home. Free travel is unlikely but we can look at this again.
FEEDBACK ON ATMOSPHERE SUB-COMMITTEE MEETING FROM THE SUMMER
Fans: We presented a ten point plan to improve the atmosphere. Some aspects have been taken on board but we would like to see other developments. Thanks to the Club for their work on this so far.
Club: Any outstanding points can be addressed at the sub-committee. We have the right people involved now. For instance we have replaced free distribution of flags with scarves instead for big matches this season.
Fans: One suggestion was to move the WAGS from the Shed if want more singing at that end.
Club: We also know some WAGS arrive a bit late for games which annoys some fans and we are addressing that.
Fans: Supporter clubs seem to be amongst the first to be moved and split up when away teams take their full allocations. Diane and Vanessa have been really helpful this season though.
Club: That is the case for anyone in the Shed Upper if we need the full away allocation. We try and keep supporter clubs in a single group but that is not always possible. We now have a supporter club policy and can address more issues over time.
Fans: Could we have a five piece band to improve the atmosphere?
Club: We don’t think this would go down well!
Chair: What does “negating the effect of away fans” in the sub-committee plans refer to?
Fans: This refers to the possibility of moving them again in order to fully reclaim the Shed and make that end louder.
Club: We only moved them a couple of years ago and would be reluctant to do so again. Due to health and safety they are best placed near access in and out of the stadium. We don’t want them in the East or West Upper above our fans, therefore we are left with few options. You’d lose corporate seats there as well.
We are also looking at the positioning of the dug-outs as the manager has highlighted how bad the view is from there. We can look at the away fan issue again for next season though.
Club to reconsider positioning of away fans.
Fans: We would want (as fanzines) to consult widely about this. We did so a few years ago and received more complaints about the previous positioning of away fans than their current positioning.
Home fans seem to have access to far fewer turnstiles in the Shed End when the away team takes their full allocation; the away fans have far more.
Signage containing instructions on how to use the new season ticket is printed in very small lettering as you arrive at the turnstiles. Also, supporter clubs can help to publicise how the new system works.
Club: We have changed the images on the signage recently and feel the new system is working very well now. Season ticket holders seem to be largely used to it. The walk up time to the turnstiles is getting later which may be a sign that the system is generally helping fans to enter the ground fast.
SECURITY ISSUES IN VALENCIA
Chair: This arose when some Chelsea fans complained of being hit by Spanish police with Chelsea stewards not intervening.
(Ed Ashwell read the Club review into the incident which will/ be publicised on the website. Ed also provided a written briefing paper on European away travel security.)
Fans: One of the main problems is that fans are kept behind for a long time after some matches, after which there is no transport back to the town/ city centre or airports/ stations. After half an hour or so of fans being kept in, the risk of angering fans increases and is more likely to result in the problems that we don’t want. After one match we had the lights turned out in the stadium where we were being kept!
Club: This is down to the inflexibility of some police forces abroad. We see no reason for fans to be kept behind as a matter of course, such as after the Cluj away match the other day, where there seemed no threat of trouble. We are also aware that transport can be a problem and we ask the local authorities to ensure that our fans can travel. We can add post-match travel arrangements on to the information sheet we give out, but the local police can still alter arrangements if they choose.
Fans: One of the problems at European away grounds is that fans are pushed in to any available seats by police and stewards when they arrive, so groups of friends can be split up.
There is a high likelihood of trouble at the Roma away match. Will you be stressing that fans should not make their own way from the city centre to the ground and back?
Club: We would be concerned that some fans view it as a challenge if we are too heavy with our message. Ideally we want everyone to travel with the Club anyway but being realistic they don’t, and we will try to achieve the right balance in our information to fans.
Fans: Why does one forthcoming trip not have a flight included, but only match and hotel?
Club: This is an issue for TC but presumably flight details are not out yet.
Fans: Why do we have to present passports for a European game?
Club: The issue of passports is a requirement by the police.
CURRENT TICKETING ISSUES
Fans: Why can’t tickets be sent by special delivery?
Club: We send 6 or more tickets out by special delivery but a week before the Cup Final we were still getting queries about tickets not arriving. There is not a huge number of problems but there is no provision for duplicates for some matches. We didn’t want to take chances with Cluj, as Spurs found out with their tickets for the Carling Cup Final.
Fans: How is the campaign against ticket touts going?
Club: The new style season ticket has helped reduce the numbers we think are using them for touting. We still suspend a large number of members for it. We keep an eye on websites and other sources that are offering tickets. We had an order with a particular credit card that was being used to try and buy 176 tickets recently. We can stop an individual postcode and check it if we want, through a system coming online soon.
Fans: Can the London clubs cross-reference their information?
Club: There may be issues with this due to the databases, but we have suspended a season ticket holder who had c. 80 season tickets around London grounds.
Fans: The flip side is that someone who honestly can’t get to a match and wants a friend to recoup the money may get arrested.
Club: We would hope that Viagogo has largely alleviated this. There has to be a rule about this because of the problem of ticket touting although some genuine fans are affected. A fan can return a ticket 48 hours before a match and we issue a refund. On general sales we insist on a credit card and take proof of id but contact details may be fake. We had one group operating from a PO Box number and got lots of applications from it.
We hope with lower prices for CL group matches we don’t need to use general sale much this season. We had a sell out for Bordeaux. We now use our marketing database and had 4,000 tickets left for Bordeaux with a week to go. We targeted members who live nearby and the tickets sold out really quickly after that. Sometimes it’s a matter of getting the message out that tickets are available for a match, as there is an assumption that no one can get tickets if not an ST holder or regular attendee. We had 14,000 attend the family day so the local demand must be there; Manchester United got 6,000. We pinpointed the right families.
The law has not changed on touting though a select committee reviewed it. Unfortunately there are still fake agencies that make huge money then close their operations and run off with the money without delivering tickets. They are a major problem.
Fans: The phone number on the website ticket page is incorrect.
Club to check accuracy of phone number(s) on the website ticket page.
Fans: The new sliding scale for membership is very popular. That sense of belonging is very important for fans overseas as well.
Club: We are also developing more facilities online and for international supporter clubs. We have very loyal fans abroad that we want to better cater for.
Fans: As regards international supporter clubs, why can’t one individual act as the contact point for the memberships? Many have not received membership cards some time later. Also the magazines often don’t arrive.
Club: All magazines are sent out at the same time, and we have a database we can check to ensure someone is on the list. As regards membership, we can’t send them to one person in case that person is keeping them for himself, as happened once. If a membership card does not arrive we will send a replacement after 28 days. You can query any that haven’t arrived with us directly.
Fans: As regards international supporter clubs, there should be more discrepancy for fans travelling a big distance not to require the same level of loyalty points. Maybe supporter clubs should have 5% kept for them. (Other fans voiced their disagreement that these should be kept aside for supporter clubs.) Also, if tickets have to be collected in person for cup finals or any other specific match, this costs a lot if travelling from abroad.
Club: Last year there were 26 home matches in which you could build up priority points. There was a policy prepared for the supporter clubs alongside the clubs themselves so this can be reviewed at the right time.
We understand the problems you have travelling to collect tickets from abroad. We would consider sending tickets out by post if you want but take no responsibility for them as we don’t give duplicates. We have had to suspend 5 supporter clubs for touting in recent years. It would be cheaper and safer if you have a lot of fans buying tickets from one international club for one individual to fly over and buy them.
Fans: Please could those applying for the European away scheme be told whether they have been successful or not.
Club to feedback whether individuals have been successful in their application for the European away scheme.
Fans: Can family stand child tickets be upgraded to an adult ticket by the parent/ carer for ECL and Carling Cup games? Why can’t the parent/ carer take who they want to that match as long as they pay full price?
Club: The problem initially is that we have to relocate a lot of fans from the Shed End who are ST holders when it is given to away fans. Also, the proposed attendee would be getting priority over members and may not be one him/ herself. This can be reviewed for next season though with the other issues at the third meeting.
Fans: Why do fans who reach 16 have to move straight to paying full price tickets?
Club: Our tickets are reasonably priced now. Again, we can review this but we don’t have unlimited money and may have to adjust. So if we give a reduction with this then we may have to cut out free scarves or subsidised travel. Fans need to decide what their priorities are.
Fans: Please keep in mind that tickets for important home games should not go on sale when fans are travelling to/ from matches.
Proposals from fans on ticket policy changes for next season to be submitted at the time of the next meeting (and discussed at the third meeting).
TOPICS FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON
Chair: The third meeting will be ticketing, and we will have the Leadership Factor feedback in the fourth meeting. What other topics would the Forum like to discuss this season?
Fans: We could discuss online merchandising and their pricing.
Club: We cannot discuss retail prices as that’s illegal.
(Fans requested the following topics: Chelsea TV/ media; security at domestic matches; stadium).
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Fans: Are there any plans being considered to move stadium or increase capacity?
Club: Not at present.
Fans: Please could you ensure that fixture details are up to date on the website as they seem to be a few days behind with information.
An unofficial website has been closed down for using official logos etc, which seems unfair.
Club: Fans have to be careful not to break copyright requirements. If you provide us with details we can get in contact with them.
Fans: CFCNet have approached the FAPL about the fact that Spurs withdrew allegations of poaching (of Berbatov) by Manchester United whereas we were fined supposedly on principle for a similar offence over Ashley Cole.
Club to consider whether to approach FAPL about unfairness of Manchester United not being investigated for alleged poaching whilst CFC were penalised for Ashley Cole.
Fans: Why do ST holders not receive the packs that members can get?
Club: We reviewed this and decided the two are separate, but that membership options needed a shake up. We decided that the priority bonus for ST holders is the magazine. We can review this, and consider whether ST holders could buy the pack next season.
Fans: A family with more than one ST holder may not want more than one magazine delivered.
Club: We can review this next season.
Fans: Could we consider Chelsea Pensioners leading out the team?
Also, can the Club arrange a trip to Cobham for the Forum as this was postponed last season?
Club to consider Chelsea Pensioners leading out the team.
Club to arrange visit to Cobham.
Fans: One fan has complained that his ST seat in the East Stand is obstructed by a TV camera this season.
Club: If you forward details we can offer a different seat.
Chair: Is email communication to Forum members via the website coming through?
Fans: Yes but a lot of the emails are not relevant!
Chair: We are looking for two volunteers to go on Chelsea TV to be recorded on Wednesday afternoon. It would be ideal to have non-fanzine or website representatives for this meeting to allow new fans to go on.
(There were no non-fanzine/ website volunteers. Dave Johnstone and Pete Kemp volunteered).
Chair to forward names of volunteers for this week’s Chelsea TV recording and to check future recording dates for advance notification to the Forum.
Fans: One ST holder needed the lift in the stadium as he is on crutches but apparently had to receive permission before the match?
Another fan has sent an email to complain about being told off by stewards for having a long lens camera whilst fans around in the family area were not told off for swearing.
Club: On the former issue it may be that capacity was full but we advise pre-booking.
Fans: Thanks to the Club and Toby Brown for arranging the supporter competition in the summer. It was really successful and Cliff is happy to take that on for next year.
Please could the Club organise a supporters club evening towards the end of the season with a chance to present player of the year trophies.
Club: Hopefully we can repeat the supporter tournament next season.
We are committed to three supporter club meetings per season as included in the supporter club policy.
(The meeting finished at 1.00pm.)
|Fans' Forum minutes|