Fans' Forum minutes: 07/04/13
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CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB SUPPORTERS’ CONSULTATIVE FORUM, 2012-13 SEASON DRAFT MINUTES, 3rd MEETING
Meeting held at Under the Bridge, Chelsea FC at 10.30am on Sunday, 7th April 2013
Attendees Club title/ group represented
- Alexander, Chris Club Finance and Operations Director
- Alexander, Jenny away season ticket (“ST”) holder
- Atkins, Steve Club Head of Communications and Public Affairs
- Austin, Dave CFCUK
- Ball, Mike Leadership Factor
- Barfoot, Mark UK branch
- Chidgey, David Chelsea Football Fancast
- Greig, Lesley home ST holder
- Hounsome, William member
- Kay, Robert hospitality
- Kimberley, Steve UK branch
- Law, Matthew disabled
- Littlejohns, Tom over 65’s
- Micharikopoulos, Dimitris non-UK branch
- Newby, David Club Marketing Manager
- Nurse, Liz Chelsea Supporters Group
- Puttock, Mark Chelsea Supporters Club
- Regan, Andy Electoral Reform Services (Chair)
- Smith, Graham Club Head of Ticketing/ Head of Supporters’ Liaison
- Wilkinson, Emma Club Head of Communications and Community Affairs
- Winton, Natalie family
Apologies for absence
- Mills, Freddie 16-21’s
- Walters, Jez CFCnet
- van Watermeulen, Tom non-UK branch
(Action points are underlined.)
MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING/ MATTERS ARISING
Changes to the minutes
Under the heading “Steward Assistance” the minutes should state that the steward in question didn’t feel able to ask for a replacement drink for the supporter whose drink was spilled.
As regards action points from the last meeting:
UK-based supporter question and answer session
The Club is still considering this issue.
The Club confirmed that the policy is being published today and that:
The 60/40 away ticket split between ST holders and members will remain; There will be a price freeze; Super Cup ticket policy is included in case we play in that match again; Box office opening time is now 9.15am; Five loyalty points will be given for all away European matches excluding finals with home European knock-out stage matches still worth one point and group home European matches worth five points; There is an intention to publish friends and family loyalty points on the website though there is a concern that the purchaser will purchase for someone who has sufficient qualifying loyalty points without obtaining that individual’s permission.
Slow beer pouring at half time in the East Stand
One supporter noted that there has been an improvement but that service stops after half time. The Club confirmed that this is when service is intended to cease.
The Club apologised for the delay in announcing a date for this but the delay is due to fixture congestion and ensuring that the tour is on a day when the players are training. The Club hopes to confirm the date soon.
Screens showing players returning to the pitch after half time
The Club is considering solutions for seating fans by the start of each half including this option.
SUPPORTERS’ SURVEY RESULTS
Mike Ball presented the results for which the Executive Summary is available on the website.
This is the ninth survey that has taken place and the survey was conducted by website between 2nd February and 3rd March this year.
The top 20 key topics of importance were identified by fans for measurement. Just under 3,000 supporters responded to the survey of whom about 85% are male. The largest age profile responding was 45 to 54. In 2005 the satisfaction level was 64.7% and there has been an increase since then with a 68.8% satisfaction level now recorded. This represents a slight drop from last season.
It is noted which spread of fixtures takes place during the course of the survey as a particular result may influence how an individual responds in the survey and indeed whether they respond at all at that time.
The survey is further broken down into the stands in which ST holders sit who respond and variations in how they considered the issues of importance. For instance, ease of access is more of an identified problem in the Matthew Harding Stand, as well as toilet access being a problem in the East Stand.
This season’s results are compared with those of last season to see if issues have improved or worsened. Also, the issues are scored according to their level importance as ranked by the respondents.
Of the twenty important factors, areas of satisfaction include safety at the stadium, stewarding, ease of exiting the stadium and the match day programme. Cup ticket prices scored quite well.
Relative dissatisfaction includes price of tickets, price of food and drink and booking fees. Recommendations for improvement include price of tickets, atmosphere and the quality/price of food and drink.
75% of respondents have been to another football ground in the past twelve months. 43.1% considered the experience at Stamford Bridge to be better, 33.9% considered the experience to be the same as at the other grounds visited whilst the rest of respondents considered the experience to be worse or didn’t differentiate.
Some topics lend themselves to differentiation so supporters are comparing their experience at Chelsea with atmosphere, for instance, at other grounds. Price and quality of food and drink is also an area of differentiation.
The Club looks at the comments made by respondents closely and in particular for those topics that don’t score well (as determined to be those that score five out of ten or under) but in practice there are seldom obvious ideas put forward by fans that haven’t already been implemented. Comments in previous seasons about turnstile access were useful in changing practice as to how that process was configured.
The survey is emailed to all ST holders and members who have attended a match in the previous twelve months.
There were eighteen issues of importance identified with 201 supporters responding. The overall score is up from 76.5% to 79.0%.
Areas of satisfaction include safety, the match view and level of respect from match day staff. Dissatisfaction topics include value for money, seating fans by the start of each half and speed of service at half time. Recommended topics for improvement are speed of service at half time, quality of food, toilet facilities and trying to seat fans by the start of each half.
These results are broken down according to the hospitality areas. Toilet facilities in Canalettos are cited as a problem for instance. The representative for that area commented that the main problems in Canalettos have now been rectified.
One representative noted that hospitality package prices may have been responsible for reduced attendance in the East Middle for certain Europa League games.
The Club commented that a “mystery shopper” system is used to ensure that departments provide high standards of service. For instance the box office receives test phone calls and emails to see how staff respond.
The best survey results tend to be for those Premiership clubs that have a new stadium. Some supporters noted that Wigan is a particularly popular away match, not least as away fans are such an important revenue stream for that club.
Leading retailers such as John Lewis or Waitrose may achieve satisfaction scores around 90% but they can influence satisfaction more readily. For instance, match results, the weather or who a supporter is sat next to may influence how a supporter rates their experience. The Club is hampered by the size and configuration of the stadium regarding the siting of away fans for instance.
The Club is aware of the number of comments received on this issue in the survey but without obvious new factors being proposed. For instance the acoustics were mentioned but this was looked into a few years ago with a specialist engineer without major improvements resulting. There was an atmosphere sub-committee within the Forum a couple of years ago.
One supporter suggested distributing song sheets to fans. Another commented that newer supporters don’t know the lyrics to some songs. Another suggested that concerted sound in the stadium be amplified by microphones but the media and other fans would criticise the Club if this was introduced. It was noted that, on TV, away fans at the Bridge tend to sound relatively loud though this may be due to away fans singing more. The Club will speak to broadcasters about reviewing the positioning of microphones within the ground where possible.
A singing area was tried for the Carling Cup Final against Spurs but this didn’t work as those wanting others around them to start the singing all sat there!
The Club added that it assists ST holders if they want to move seats at the end of the season which can assist supporters who want to sing to sit together. The campaign in the Shed End has been quite successful but it is difficult to move many ST holders in to the Matthew Harding Stand as fans in that area generally don’t want to move.
Some supporters noted the demographic problem that exists with our ageing support. Standing used to be a big influence in encouraging fans to sing. The experience of going to matches doesn’t attract the same loyalty today, as teenagers necessarily can’t turn up to matches or sit with their friends without prior planning. It is acknowledged that having a full stadium most weeks allows less room for such spontaneity. The experience at Luton when they banned away fans in the 1980s showed how sterile matches could be. All stadia are having the same problems in lacking atmosphere.
Supporters noted that singing in cup matches at the Bridge is comparatively worse than for League matches as fans aren’t sitting with their usual friends for those matches. The Club noted that supporters’ clubs tickets are grouped together which could help with singing.
Fans groups will take the initiative with this and will report back to the Forum next season. The Club was asked to specify what is and is not allowed by supporters for instance regarding banner sizes. The Club stated that a clear position was set out on the website and in the programme regarding standing at matches recently. The Club is happy to clarify any specific rules that may be unclear.
The Club was asked if it would consider a visit from the Safe Standing campaign, a small scale trial and a survey of supporters on the issue. Some supporters noted there are many positives about safe standing and would welcome the Club taking the initiative on this. In the Shed Lower and Matthew Harding Lower recently supporters insisted on standing anyway. This could be a major contribution to improving the atmosphere.
The Club responded that it was aware that some clubs such as Aston Villa were looking at the issue closely but that it didn’t want to go down that route at present, not least as it was perceived that standing would not be reintroduced soon by the Premier League as there would have to be a consensus first and changes to the law. A trial at a match would not be allowed.
One supporter commented that Wembley states it doesn’t restrict supporters from standing in the lower tiers and also that it encourages supporters to sit together who want to sing. The Club replied that it is provided with a set selling order for tickets by Wembley with, for instance, the first £50 seat sales to be sold in the lower tier first. The Club knew there were enough tickets for ST holders to all receive a ticket. Therefore Wembley tickets for the away supporters scheme then ST holders according to their loyalty points etc are sold in order so specific groups sit together anyway. Many of those who can buy more expensive seats for Wembley choose to buy the lower price bands.
One supporter commented that a high price ticket for the Cup Final last year afforded a poor view; that supporter wrote to Wembley to complain.
Players acknowledging fans
Supporters stressed how important it is for our players to acknowledge our fans at the end of all matches and in particular away matches. It costs nothing, takes very little time and represents a massive gesture for away fans. The popularity of particular players goes up when that player acknowledges fans, as with Joey Jones in the 1980s. The Club responded that this is a problem at other clubs as well but has improved for us in the past year. Our first team staff remind players at the end of matches that they should do this. The Club will address this on an ongoing basis. One supporter considered that this aspect has deteriorated since the Mourinho era.
INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS AND THE FOUNDATION
Emma stated that she and Steve run the communications area together with Emma concentrating on internal media including Chelsea TV, programme, magazine, club social media and website. Emma is also responsible for the day to day running of the Foundation and serves as a trustee.
One supporter asked if the Club would be interested in introducing a 5 kilometre charity run supported by the Royal British Legion. Some other clubs participate in this. It was suggested that the Champions League victory parade route would be appropriate though it was acknowledged this could be difficult logistically. The Club commented that it supports the Poppy Appeal and was one of the first clubs to wear poppies on shirts. The run would have to be administered alongside the British Legion. Road closures in our area would be a major problem and there would be stadium issues to coordinate as well.
The Club is happy to explore this.
The Club said this has been running for nearly three years and is one of the largest sporting foundations in the world. There are global initiatives but most activities are nearer to home such as breakfast clubs and soccer schools. There is a relationship with Right to Play initiatives for those suffering from poverty and HIV in Africa for instance. The Foundation is run separately from the Club and is non-profit. There used to be Help a Capital Child and Right to Play as joint initiatives but the Club can offer assistance to more groups as the Foundation distributes funds directly now domestically. The Foundation also supports the women’s team which is growing in profile including recruitment of the former Arsenal women’s team coach. The Club is proud to be hosting the women’s Champions League final.
There is an annual Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) report which measures achievements and is available on the website. The Club can affect a huge number of people world-wide. When the first team visits countries we work with the communities by introducing blue pitch facilities and training coaches. Domestically we work on initiatives aimed to reduce youth offending and knife crime and have been told by the police that our involvement contributes to sizable reductions.
The Club was asked why this is not publicised better. The Club said the “Here to Play Here to Stay” initiative is supposed to emphasise long term involvement. We were the first Premier League club to wear a charity badge on club shirts when winning the Champions League. When players give interviews the Foundation is often mentioned including our charitable activities or adverts for soccer schools. The income from soccer schools is important to the Foundation and all Easter soccer schools were sold out. We don’t licence out the soccer schools and want the same quality to be provided domestically and in the Far East or elsewhere. Partners help to pay for our coaches and soccer schools around the world which is why we have a presence in Barbados for instance. The Foundation applies for grants to help our initiatives as well which is a complicated process.
Fans groups said they are happy to publicise these initiatives if provided with the stories.
Match day programme
One supporter commented that the programme is well-presented but times have changed regarding the information available publicly. There is little information that fans can glean from the programme that they don’t receive from websites etc. Feedback expressed was that the programme should be less of a brand advertisement and should contain more aspects that promote the Club’s history. For instance the honours board is no longer shown. Also close-up photos miss the context of the action.
The Club replied that the programme only displays house advertisements now so is not an advertisement package. Close-up photos intentionally focus on individual players. There is still unique content in the programme such as the Rafa Benitez column, John Terry’s column and interviews with players about specific matches. Readership is around 20,000. Some important stories such as the price freeze are run in more than one form of media as the announcement is important. The Club will consider reintroducing the honours board in the programme and will consider the photograph style in the programme.
Another supporter said that Aston Villa highlight key moments in their history at their matches. This helps create an affinity. Another commented that the Chelsea-related videos on the big screens are popular such as the “London Calling” film a couple of years ago. It was also raised that the Club can use the “1905” reference to good effect more often. The Club agreed that the big screens are an opportunity to attract fans into the stadium earlier. Manager interviews were trialled on those screens but the sound quality wasn’t good.
One supporter commented that there can be a perception of a lack of openness in communications. The comments made by Rafa Benitez after the Middlesbrough match did not appear to be commented on by the Club. Likewise Florent Malouda does not seem to be mentioned any more just as Alex and Nicholas Anelka were ignored once they were out of favour last season. The Club responded that no football club will comment on every aspect that’s happening internally. Also discussions with players regarding their contracts remain confidential. For the record, Florent Malouda is currently training with the under-21s and his contract ends at the end of the season.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Steaua Bucharest home match
The Club said, in response to a question about away fans in home areas, that the match didn’t go on general sale so tickets must have come from ST holders, members etc. A lot of the complaints have been followed up and warnings have been issued where appropriate. There were ejections on the night and some away fans were stopped from entering home areas. The stewards and security staff did an excellent job on the night and they had to take decisions regarding the likelihood of confrontation in each situation. The problems were exceptional that night. Those who were ejected were turned away from the box office so genuine fans collecting tickets received priority.
Smoking in toilets
One supporter said there is a problem in the Shed Upper and Lower and in the West Stand. The Club will look to resolve this issue.
One supporter commented that only O2 signals seem to be good in the stadium. The Club said that O2 made a major investment in the stadium which is why their signal is stronger. There is a reception for other mobile phone operators but O2 is likely to have the best signal for now.
One supporter said the Club seemed to be overly severe regarding the fan or fans who let off smoke bombs at Swansea. Fans seem to receive bans which are more severe than police prosecutions. The fan who ran on the pitch at the Manchester United match wasn’t caught. The Club responded that it takes action where it considers that ground rules are broken as it is entitled to do. It doesn’t have to rely on a police prosecution. Discriminatory/ offensive/ racist behaviour is not tolerated.
The Club added that announcements are made in advance where necessary such as before the Swansea match regarding smoke bombs as the Club was aware there would be a Wales police/ Swansea FC initiative on smoke bombs that night. There is an appeals process where the fan can come to the ground to discuss the matter and can be represented if they choose.
Confiscation of bottle tops
The Club confirmed these are officially deemed potential missiles. Flag poles are cleared by the Club first and it is unrealistic to confiscate coins from fans. One supporter added that children easily knock over drinks and then the parent has to buy a replacement. The Club is happy to review how this can be resolved.
Online booking of tickets
It was raised that it is difficult for fans who don’t have online access to purchase tickets for Wembley. The Club replied that it assists where possible and had staff in to deal with personal callers. Timescales for selling Wembley tickets were necessarily limited though. The box office was closed on Friday to prepare the tickets for dispatch and most are about to be sent out.
(The meeting ended at 12.55pm.)
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