Fans' Forum minutes: 09/02/13
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CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB SUPPORTERS’ CONSULTATIVE FORUM, 2012-13 SEASON DRAFT MINUTES, 2nd MEETING
Meeting held at Under the Bridge, Chelsea FC at 10.30am on Saturday, 9th February 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
- 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
- Micharikopoulos, Dimitris non-UK branch
- Nurse, Liz Chelsea Supporters Group
- Overstall, Keith Club Head of Security
- Puttock, Mark Chelsea Supporters Club
- Regan, Andy Electoral Reform Services (Chair)
- Smith, Graham Club Head of Ticketing/ Head of Supporters’ Liaison
- van Watermeulen, Tom non-UK branch
- Walters, Jez CFCnet
- Winton, Natalie family
Apologies for absence
- Littlejohns, Tom over 65’s
- Mills, Freddie 16-21’s
- Newby, David Club Marketing Manager
(Action points are underlined.)
The Chair welcomed first time attendees to the Forum.
MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING/ MATTERS ARISING
There were no changes to the minutes. As regards action points from the last meeting:
Fan input into Club digital services planning
The Club is setting up a web advisory group.
Volume level of our fans in Chelsea TV commentaries
The Club commented that there may be some compression of the sound although sound is taken from the same feed as Sky/ TV broadcasters. Discussions with Sky are taking place. The Club is also discussing the issue with radio broadcasters. Forum members hadn’t noticed whether there had been an improvement.
Emma Wilkinson and a Thomas Cook representative would be invited to the next meeting.
Forum members’ comments further to the Hillsborough Report
The Club had not required any further statements for broadcast by Forum members.
Pre-second half announcement
The Club commented that it couldn’t have a bell but the TVs in the concourse now showed the teams coming out.
Internal communication to staff of stadium opening times and problems with beer availability
Supporters said there had been an improvement in this further to a meeting with Navjeet Daine, the Club’s Head of Concessions.
Subsidised travel to away matches
The Club commented that it had provided this for Leeds and subsidised travel would be considered for other matches including a possible FA Cup tie with Middlesbrough, although a train couldn’t be provided for that match.
UK-based supporter question and answer session
The Club said it is still considering this.
The Club stated that, whatever the personal preferences of fans, persistent standing breaches legislation and local authority rules. The Club receives complaints from fans who can’t see the match due to those around them standing. 39 complaints were received last season in particular specifying the Shed Lower and Matthew Harding Lower. There have already been 29 complaints this season. The local authority wants to know how the Club is dealing with the matter.
The Club added that some fans can’t stand for the 90 minutes of a match and others don’t want to. The Club has sent an email to those who regularly sit in the front rows of the problem areas to ask them to stay seated for the usual course of a match.
Supporters commented that in the Shed End the problem is in the middle sections behind the goal. It’s too daunting for other fans to ask persistent standers to sit down there and the stewards don’t have the clout to deal with the matter. The Club would have to take drastic measures. Another commented there is a natural reaction to stand up when there are dramatic moments. The Club admitted that wouldn’t stop and it is persistent standing that is the problem.
Another commented that the problem is led by away fans and home fans then consider they have to stand in response. Supporters commented that until action is taken against away fans then the Club would be seen as having dual standards.
The Club responded that this is not a realistic reply and, for instance, it is well-known that our fans stand at away matches but this does not allow our fans the right to stand at home matches. The Club added that efforts are undertaken to ask away fans at Stamford Bridge to stay seated.
Supporters suggested that better liaison with other clubs may help to produce a solution. One fan commented that the problem seems worse for cup matches as there may be fewer regulars attending. Standing is associated with giving the team good support. Messages on the scoreboards may assist though and the issue can only improve if it is expressed that standing is socially unacceptable. It was suggested that fans may accept a change in standing habits if it is stressed that the local authority are threatening match capacity due to this. Better stewarding may assist. Persistent offenders could be targeted by the Club and threats to evict would have to be carried out.
The Club appreciated the Forum’s input on this.
TICKETING POLICY FOR 2013-14
European away matches
In response to a proposal to allow ST holders to let non-ST holders use their ticket at European away matches, the Club does not want to adopt this as there would be a concern as to who the end user of the ticket would be.
Further to requests from fans to maintain or reduce prices, the Club commented that it is aware of the economic problems at large and that there is more TV money coming into the game but that no decision has been made yet on prices. There has been a price freeze for a number of recent seasons. Supporters recognised this but added that the additional TV money should mitigate against rises at present.
The Club was asked if the ST renewal date could be extended and commented that the date is only extended if we get to a European final. There were various credit schemes on offer to assist fans.
Juvenile ticket pricing
The Club said there had been an increase in the juvenile ticket age from 16 to 18 in recent seasons. Requests had been made to the Forum to increase the reduced prices to 21 year olds. The Club continues to review the matter. Supporters commented that it was very important to encourage future fans of the Club who have now reached the ceiling of reduced prices at 18.
The Club commented that reductions were available in the East Upper as well as the East Lower though the East Upper doesn’t usually sell out quickly. For domestic and European cup matches reductions apply throughout the stadium.
ST holder categories
The Club said that everyone is offered the magazine as a matter of course and any other benefit is bought separately (such as away match tickets0 so there are no plans to alter the ST categories.
The Club clarified that loyalty points start from zero each season and the previous season is only taken into account if there is a big match early in the season. The Club had considered whether previous seasons’ loyalty points should be taken into consideration on an on-going basis but there were no complaints received directly about starting from zero each season. It was considered that the present system is fair in that respect.
As regards the loyalty points allocated per match, the Club commented that fans only get one point if a “closed group” receive the tickets e.g. ST holders. However the Club acknowledges that the points given for away European matches could be revisited. Domestic cup games are five points each. The website shows the loyalty points allocated per match.
Fans from overseas
One supporter had written in to comment that if they are travelling from overseas for a rare visit to the UK then they should have a chance to buy a ticket even if they are not a member of their local supporters club. The Club commented that only big games sell out to members first time round on a loyalty points basis and for any smaller matches there is a chance for all members/ international members to buy a ticket.
European home matches
Some fans proposed that they move to the same seats each time they are forced to move for a European home match. The Club responded that the current system is that such ST holders have first option as to where they move to in a “movers day”. The reservation is then taken off for those who don’t have to move but may want to move and for those who didn’t purchase originally. In short this gives the best opportunity for those who want to purchase but have to move.
Postal delivery of tickets
The Club commented that, for ST holders who bulk purchase, a ticket is sent to each individual ST holder with a different address so there is no dispute as to who the ticket has been sent to. We have no complaints now. Previously it was possible for someone to abuse the system by purchasing for another ST holder who may not have been aware of that purchase. It is possible for each ST holder within a multiple booking to change their postal address to the same as the principal booker in which case they can be sent in bulk to that one address. The ST holders must then remember to change their postal address back again afterwards.
The Club said that for European away games tickets are still sent by post or courier overseas if the declaration form is completed and sent electronically. Collections clearly don’t work for those living overseas.
When there are tickets bulk ordered for the same address Club staff try and place them in one envelope if this is noticed when the tickets are printed.
One supporter commented that they sit amongst a number of ST holders in the family stand who are about to reach the child age limit. They would like to move to another part of the ground together. The Club commented that any ST renewal could move anywhere available in the stadium. As long as all the forms are sent in together then the Club can consider a move as a group request. Each fan wanting to move can request three areas of the ground in preference order on the renewals form.
The Club doesn’t offer the possibility of purchasing specific seats as, although the technology exists, the purchasing time would be much longer and the Club has concluded that fans would rather have a fast system with, in effect, slightly less choice. Within each block we sell the centre tickets first.
One supporter suggested it would be useful to see the loyalty points level of all an individual’s friends and family list.
At present a member receives points when booking for others through friends and family and the Club is currently resolving this anomaly.
The Club confirmed there is no advantage in logging on before 7am as the holding area queuing system doesn’t prioritise those who do so early.
One supporter asked if paper tickets will be phased out. The Club responded that if an ST holder turns up having moved for a particular match, the card won’t assist the fan or the steward to know where that person is sitting for that match and there will be widespread confusion. There would be a big cost for handheld scanners for stewards. A “print at home” option for tickets is being considered by the Club but potential problems with touting is a concern for such a system.
The Club said that the system exists as a service and it is right that ST holders don’t lose their points if they sell a ticket. No ST holder sells a large proportion of their tickets on Viagogo.
The contract with Viagogo is in place beyond this season. Other companies offer a similar service and the Club can consider running an in-house service in due course. One supporter commented that the service is excellent; others commented that the handling fees are high.
The Club commented that the system at present is that if we sell e.g. ST holders’ tickets to 1,000, once 1,000 are also sold to members then ST holders are given the chance to buy again.
Supporters clubs commented that not all of the clubs have the chance to buy away tickets. The Club said that the gold and platinum clubs get the tickets to avoid huge numbers of tickets going only to supporters clubs.
One supporter commented that any member who goes to all rounds of a cup competition should have a final ticket guaranteed. That would mean separate points’ totals per competition.
The Club commented that, at present, Premier League (“FAPL”) rules state that we receive 3,000 tickets or 10% of the stadium capacity if it equates to less than 3,000. 10% go to hospitality then there is a 60/40 split of the rest between ST holders and members respectively. A few seasons ago all went to ST holders, then this was changed to 500 sold to members. This was changed to a 50/50 split and now we have the 60/40 split. Virtually every other club appears to sell all away match tickets to ST holders only. The Club did not receive large numbers of complaints by ST holders when the split was changed to 50/50 though. For Munich both ST holders who couldn’t get tickets and members expressed disappointment they couldn’t get tickets, not surprisingly.
One supporter commented that having members at away matches improves the atmosphere. Another commented that it seems unfair for ST holders to miss out when members don’t appear to take their allocation on the same loyalty points as ST holders. The bar seems to be set higher for ST holders.
The Club said it calculates how many will be sold at most for each loyalty point level set. The Club is very cautious on the first day of sales not to sell out within that day. The Club is aware this is a very difficult issue as ST holders and some members will feel they should be given priority. One member from an overseas group said he goes to every home and away match but doesn’t want to become an ST holder as he wouldn’t be able to sit with friends. The Club added that some members who live in the north for instance may only want to go to matches played in their area.
One supporter proposed that loyalty points could be allocated after each match afresh which would give the most loyal members the chance to accumulate the same points as ST holders. Big match tickets could then be sold to those with the most loyalty points regardless of whether they are an ST holder or member. The Forum expressed some support for this. In practice only a relatively small number of members are likely to benefit but at least it would give those members who attend the most matches a good chance for tickets. The Club said that the only problem may be that the database could not be updated in time on a match day for the sale of tickets at 7am the next morning so there may be a slight time lag. The system could apply to all big matches.
The Club stated it will consider the benefits of a loyalty only system as opposed to the existing 60/40 split.
For home matches about 8-10,000 members get tickets out of some 81,000 members. In answer to a question submitted, if a split system for selling is maintained it would not be possible to sell the two allocations at the same time to enable ST holders to buy tickets to sit with friends who are members.
The Community Shield is not a problem as we don’t tend to sell out. We get c.31,000 tickets for a Capital One/ League Cup final so the most loyal members get tickets anyway. There are c.25,000 tickets for an FA Cup Final and some ST holders miss out after sponsors/ hospitality tickets are taken into account. In reality we tend to get an extra 1-2,000 late in the day for an FA Cup Final as well.
One fan asked if the Club ensures that fans are always given the correct discount for an away match ticket. The Club said it always arranges for discounts to be passed on and will look into a situation where a fan considers they are not receiving the correct discount.
Away ticket scheme
The Club commented that a European away ticket scheme member can miss one match but a UK away ticket scheme member can’t miss any matches. The Club is aware that some scheme members transfer their ticket to a friend for the UK matches. For some low allocation European matches the Club doesn’t insist that all scheme members attend of course. The Club monitors membership of the European scheme according to who collects their ticket from the ticket office. The away schemes for both domestic and European competitions are capped at 800 ST holders and 200 members and there has never been a full take up for either allocation.
The Club is not allowed to keep card details for an individual and wouldn’t want to chase someone whose details the Club holds but whose card expires anyway.
Fans commented that despite the comments and complaints about ticketing raised in the meeting, the consensus was that the ticket staff are very helpful and the ticketing operation tends to work very well. The Chair thanked fans and in particular fans’ group representatives for their work in collecting and forwarding issues.
The Club will consider all of the above issues in its ticketing policy review.
LOCATION OF AWAY FANS
The Club was asked if away fans could be moved to another part of the ground. One fan noted that Jose Mourinho had asked for the away fans to be moved from near the dugouts so there are only Chelsea fans along the sides of the pitch. It had also been made clear by safety officers previously that the Club does not – with a few rare exceptions - want away fans above home fans and vice versa. The Club stated that it considers the present positioning to be the best solution, not least as access and egress is best controlled where they are now.
Fans agreed that, given the lack of alternatives, the present positioning of away fans was the best compromise.
It was commented that queues of away fans for the Arsenal and QPR matches outside the Shed End were large. The Club said it monitors this and is aware there were long queues. Queues were carefully marshalled though. There are fewer police and more stewards splitting the fans as they leave the ground now.
One supporter asked why we have to give 1,500 tickets to away fans. The Club said that for European matches there are 5%, 1,500 or 3,000 tickets provided to the away club. For the FAPL matches the options are 1,500 or 3,000 for the visiting club. We ask clubs with smaller numbers of away fans to sell the lower tier first and consider returning upper tier tickets if unsold but clubs don’t have to assist us. Wigan have returned their upper tier tickets and we therefore have an extra 947 to sell to our fans.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Late changes to match dates
The Club publicised the change for the Reading away match date as soon as possible. Such late changes don’t happen for FAPL matches unless cup games alter the schedule, as happened with the Reading game when the Brentford FA Cup tie was moved to the Sunday for TV.
One fan commented that in one part of the East Stand beer was served slowly at half time which didn’t allow fans time to consume their drinks before the match restarted. The Club will obtain further details and check where this occurred. The Club added that service areas in the East Stand are not ideal due to the original design of the stand.
One fan said that, during a pre-match warm up, a football was kicked by a player into the crowd inadvertently which resulted in a spilt cup of coffee, but a helpful steward was prevented from replacing the drink by his boss. The Club said it would check with the head steward in the area to ensure flexibility in such situations as the drink should have been replaced free of charge.
One fan asked why the owner gathered fans to ask their views about the Club whilst circumventing the Forum. The Club said this meeting was not arranged through Club officials. When the owner is travelling he speaks to fans a lot unofficially. Fans said that posting about the meeting without giving details of what was said by both parties did not particularly help. One fan commented that it would be helpful if fans heard directly from the owner. The Club responded that it takes the point but he chooses not to make public statements and that is his right.
One fan commented that some ST holders were considering not renewing given the dissatisfaction with the manager. The Club said it was aware of fans’ views on this. Another fan commented that it had been made clear by fans at a previous Forum that this manager was not wanted. The Club was asked if the timing of the managerial change was intended for when many fans were travelling back from Turin. The Club assured the Forum that this was not the case.
The Club will publicise a date as soon as it is confirmed.
Frank Lampard/ media
The Forum expressed its desire for Frank to get a new contract, stating that the commercial reasons alone should be enough to offer him a new deal. The Club said the issue had been discussed with Frank but as with many organisations, such conversations are private and confidential and no more can be said at the present time. The Club added that stories in the media this week were not based on any comments from the Club.
As regards Eden Hazard’s actions at the Swansea match, the Club said it dealt with the issue quickly and had to comment on the available evidence at the time. The Club wanted to make its position clear and try and move on as fast as possible. We got credit as a Club for dealing with it quickly and apologising to the ball boy which helped mitigate any additional punishment. We represented the player at the independent commission but don’t make those full comments public. One fan commented that the same ball boy had refused to give Juan Mata the ball on several occasions, which is why Eden got involved.
(The meeting ended at 12.45pm.)
|Fans' Forum minutes|