Fans' Forum minutes: 10/02/07
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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 10.30am on Saturday, 10th February 2007.
ATTENDEES/ group represented
- Alexander, James (season ticket holder)
- Bacchus, Gary (Blue and White Army)
- Brown, Toby (Cfcnet)
- Fiorellino, Trizia (Chelsea Supporters Group)
- Gourlay, Ron (Chelsea F.C. Commercial & Venue Director)
- Greenberg, Simon (Chelsea F.C. Communications Director)
- Greer, Gary (branch)
- Hine, Lenny (16 - 21 age group)
- Hine, Tom (member)
- Kenyon, Peter (Chelsea F.C. Chief Executive)
- Marriott, Bryan (family section)
- McReadie, Katrina Chelsea F.C. Brand Manager
- 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)
- Gibbins, Jason (member)
- Polk, Jamie (disabled section)
(Action points are in bold and underlined.)
Chair: Welcomes all. Welcome to Katrina who has joined the Club recently and is attending her first Forum.
CHANGES TO THE MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING/ MATTERS ARISING FROM PREVIOUS MINUTES
Club: We would like to clarify how many people would be in favour in theory of building a new stadium within 5 miles of Stamford Bridge and how many would be adamantly opposed.
(Vote taken: 5 in favour, 9 against).
Club: Action points from the last meeting. Publicise the forthcoming singing area in the Shed End for the Middlesbrough game. This is being done for Middlesbrough and for all games - a permanent note is being placed on the website for all games.
Forum meetings to last half an hour longer: This is happening.
Fans: A further action point was for Toby to receive and coordinate website feedback and send on to Simon. Also to provide details of translation problems on Chinese site. Still working on these. Will feedback next meeting.
Club: Club to look into location of pick-up points for away games, and whether fans travelling by coach to away games can park at Stamford Bridge. Kempton Park stop for Carling Cup Final has proved very popular and Club will be happy to offer this option subject to minimum numbers. The proposal for a Midlands pick up for northern games will be discussed later. Club looking into parking at Stamford Bridge for fans travelling by coach to away games.
Club to look at ways of ensuring juvenile members get seats near front at away games: We are trying to arrange this when allocating tickets.
Club to look into using additional gates for East Stand: We are looking at this, but it won’t be easy. Will feedback later.
Club to discuss with stewards orderly queuing in the East Stand: We have done so.
Club to review how to introduce the blue flag whilst complying with safety standards, and confirm where and when banners are permitted generally, with resulting policy publicised on the website and stewards instructed accordingly. We have publicised the policy on the website. There is no issue with flags.
Club to investigate East Stand missing TVs. They were taken away by the Club and the view is they should stay away because some of the complaints about congestion in the area centred around people gathering by the screens.
Fans: Would it help the Club’s aim of encouraging fans to be in their seats in the stadium early, if football were shown on the big screen before matches?
Club: There are issues with sponsors as regards use of the big screen, but we can look at this and the issue of TVs generally for next season.
Club to book and pay for flights for the Irish reps for next meeting. This has been done.
Fans: Thank you for help with the travel.
Club: To have some structure to these discussions, we suggest going through the ticketing policy as it is at present and inviting comment.
Home FAPL policy
The existing policy seems to work well. Re the percentage that goes through the internet, currently about 30 people turn up at the box office in the first two or three hours when tickets go on sale. Once the box office queue has been served the 25% of tickets reserved for box office sale can be sold over the internet and so 90-95% of ticket sales take place via the website. Season ticket holders tend to use the call centre for cup games.
Away FAPL policy
Fans: The away ticketing policy seems to work well when the away allocation is around 3,000. However, when there is a smaller allocation such as 2,100 for Portsmouth the setting aside of 500 tickets for members does not work as well. Would it be possible to use percentages rather than set figures?
Club: The figure of 500 was calculated as 17.5% of 3,000, so we could look into setting aside 17.5% of the tickets rather than a fixed number. The allocation can be advertised on the website. Currently there are around 800 away season-ticket holders.
Fans: Would it be possible for members to join the away season ticket scheme? Why not set a limit for away season ticket holders and open the scheme to members if this level is not reached by season ticket holders?
Club: We could look at setting the cap at the original 1,200 limit set for the scheme. We set aside 1,000 away season tickets for season-ticket holders and 200 for members.
Fans: There will probably be an increase in numbers from season ticket holders because some left/ were removed from the scheme because of problems which hopefully have been resolved via the direct debit scheme.
If the away allocation is just 1,500 then 1,200 will go to the scheme, 17.5% of the allocation (say 200) to members, that doesn’t leave many for season ticket holders who feel disadvantaged. Season ticket holders invest a lot in the Club by paying for their season ticket and so deserve a better chance of getting away tickets - especially for the big away fixtures - than members who have just paid for membership and may only go to one match a season. Why not split the allocation after taking away the away season ticket holders’ allocation?
Members have to compete for tickets against a higher number of potential purchasers than season ticket holders, so statistically season ticket holders have an increased chance of getting away tickets for big games.
Club: But for many games we don’t take the full allocation. There are not many of these very small allocations. 14 of our 20 away allocations have not sold out (including 3 European games).
To summarise our proposal therefore: The away season ticket scheme will be capped at 1,200. Where there is a 1,500 allocation the tickets remaining will be split 50-50 between members and season ticket holders. The take up of tickets and split between members and season ticket holders will be reviewed during the next season.
(Vote taken: All fans in favour apart from one against.)
Fans: What is happening with general sale of away tickets?
Club: There is the worry that other clubs’ fans could get into the Chelsea area and any resulting problems would reflect on Chelsea.
Fans: Supporters’ clubs only get 50 tickets to share between all clubs for away matches. Any chance of increasing this?
Club: The increase in tickets available to members should help this.
Fans: Are we going back to a direct debit system for the sale of away scheme tickets?
Club: Almost certainly. The Club is just deciding the best way of organising this. One option currently being considered is for members to pay for the total cost of the season’s away tickets in instalments and tickets would then be sent out automatically - with no need for members to be chased.
Fans: It could be by debiting the cost of each ticket as it is sent out.
Club: This will involve more admin. It would be easier to spread the total cost over the whole season and divide it evenly. The last instalment would be variable to reflect the actual cost of tickets over the season. We will look at giving people a choice of the number of instalments. The details will be announced in time for fans to ensure they have money in their accounts for the first payments.
Fans: Some disabled season ticket holders are unhappy with some aspects of away ticketing. Understandably priority goes to disabled away season ticket holders, but the procedure seems to be that there is a phone number and then you are told to write in with an SAE. Often that is the last you hear. It would be nice to receive an acknowledgement even to say that you had not been successful. There is also a problem, that disabled fans are sometimes only told a week before a game that they have a ticket.
Club: We will look into sending out acknowledgement slips when we consider other ticketing for next year. We are thinking about an advance application process for disabled tickets.
Ticketing for away domestic cup ties
Fans: Why is there a different policy for league as opposed to cup ties, if the system works for league games?
Club: We can have the same system.
European home fixtures
Fans: Regarding the family section - many Carling Cup (and Champions League) games are in the evening on school nights. Would it be possible on these occasions to upgrade the junior tickets to adult ones?
Club: We can’t upgrade them at all - the section is for families.
Fans: Would it be possible for family season ticket holders to buy a seat somewhere else in the ground during their priority period rather than waiting. This would free up tickets in the family section for members when they go on sale.
Club: We can look into this. It sounds possible.
Fans: This week there was some confusion over who has to move and who doesn’t - could a notice be put on the website? Why does the number being moved vary from game to game?
Club: This is down to the media numbers and the Club isn’t informed until close to the game. The Club therefore always tries to foresee the worst case scenario and moves the higher estimated number of season ticket holders. Sometimes less space is needed and so these tickets can then be sold.
Fans: Mini-season tickets were introduced for the Champions League group stages last season, but stadiums were still half empty towards the end. Could there be a more flexible pricing policy so that big matches like Barcelona would be full price because you know you can fill the stadium, but games towards the end of the group stages could have lower prices (e.g. domestic cup tie prices) if say, we have already qualified or the opposition was less prestigious. The Club could get some great publicity for reducing prices and benefit from a full stadium and better atmosphere.
Some fans like the season tickets because it meant they were guaranteed tickets for the big games and could make the necessary travel arrangements.
Club: We will look into this for next season for the group stages. We are not sure that the mini-season ticket worked in that format as well as we thought. However, some fans did like knowing in advance that they would have tickets for big games such as Barcelona and in some cases fans would buy a mini-season ticket and not use it for all games. Having a full stadium is a priority - however, cutting prices might not guarantee a full house as some cup games have only sold out the day before or on match day, so selling 33,000 tickets at full price might be preferable to selling 35,000 at half price. We will look into the points raised and try to come up with a viable solution.
Fans: Does the Club now accept the idea of differentiated pricing?
Club: We have sold out all but two of the home games and they were European fixtures.
European away fixtures
Fans: Will the away season ticket scheme for Champions League matches be closed to new entrants again this season?
Club: We will cap the numbers in the scheme, so once the renewal period has expired new people can join subject to there being spaces. There are currently 1,300-1,400 members. There has been 28 days notice given where possible again for the allocation.
We can look at having the same proportions for these away matches as we do for domestic away matches, where allocations are large enough.
16-21 year old concessions
Fans: At present a 16-year old who had a season ticket in the family area has to choose between buying an adult season ticket or giving up his season ticket to benefit from the juvenile concessions. Can we introduce a 16-21 season ticket?
Club: We could look into creating a youth season ticket for those moving up from the family section. We need to look into all the issues around this, such as the limits on season ticket numbers, but we just need to work out where.
Senior citizens, family section, loyalty scheme 2006-07
We will look into extending the loyalty scheme for home fixtures. Points could be used for tickets for domestic cup finals and semi finals, Champions League semi final and final. Points will not be awarded for these games though.
We may provide bonus points for members who renew their membership before a certain date.
Fans: What about using loyalty points when allocating tickets for big games such as Barcelona as well as the cup semi finals and finals? Early in the season you could use points from the previous season and then at some point (probably halfway) switch to using points from the current season.
Can we have loyalty points for away matches as well?
Club: We’ll look into using loyalty points further to apply for tickets. Maybe for matches from the start of the season until December we can use points totals from the previous season, and after that use current season points. Is there a need for an away ticket loyalty scheme?
Fans: Yes. Why not get points for going to Wigan away? The points could be used in the same way as home points. Some fans go to more away matches than home games because of geography. Also the Club should be encouraging fans to go to all games - home and away. Some fans go to the less prestigious away games and then miss out on tickets for big games such as Arsenal. Couldn’t we have a single scheme combining home and away points?
How are ticket sales for Cardiff selling?
Club: Cardiff is selling well.
It begins to become complicated if we move towards using points towards all big matches. It is possible to extend the scheme to away games to accumulate points though, points could also be taken into account should extra season tickets become available.
What about being able to give bonus points for games that are slow to sell?
Fans: Sounds fine as long as the people who have already bought tickets receive the bonus as well.
Club: Absolutely - and it could boost sales.
Ticket purchasing policy and box office opening hours
Fans: The suggestion at an earlier Forum was that the box office opens at 7am - it was the idea of being able to go to work on time afterwards. There are still queues - not surprisingly - for big games.
Club: We could open at 7am on days when tickets first go on sale.
Fans: Online opening times also need to be clearer.
Club: They are now.
Methods of payment and internet/ box office purchasing
Fans: Ticket admin fee is still £1.50 per ticket. It’s annoying when picking up say 13 tickets all paid for by debit card and you have to pay £1.50 per ticket. Supporters’ clubs also feel it is unfair to pay the £1.50 per ticket admin fee when buying in bulk as it is in effect one transaction.
Club: We have looked at that before and can do again.
A separate development is that we won’t be taking cash for tickets sold on general sale, as an anti-touting measure. We are still vigilant in chasing up touted tickets.
Fans: Why can’t tickets be transferable as long as adult tickets go to adults and child tickets to children etc?
Club: We are happy to look at that.
Ticket pricing for home matches
We thought some of the reporting last year was inaccurate - that we would increase prices.
In terms of the issue, we look at pricing holistically, including wanting to fill the ground, ensuring income etc. We will post a loss again this year, though not as large as last year. Some of the steps in recent years have worked to everyone’s benefit, such as reduced prices for domestic cup games. We want to be creative in attracting full houses.
A third of our revenue is still from ticketing so this has to be remembered. There has been major investment in the Club which we hope to reap the benefits of financially over future years.
We’ve been surprised how difficult it has been to fill the ground at times - there’s no point having a larger capacity if it isn’t full. The profile of our fans is very different to those at some other leading clubs though. We recognise the price sensitivities from fans - and the net effect of freezing prices last year is a 3-4% reduction when inflation is considered.
Re the additional revenue coming in from the new TV contract, already every interest group in the Club is starting to clamour for that money. We have to allocate it fairly.
Ultimately, we have to ensure that the Club can stand on its own feet financially, in order to safeguard the Club for the long term.
Fans: Lack of demand often comes down to pricing. We certainly want prizes frozen at best.
If players are being too greedy then the Club and fans have to come first. Any idea how much we will get as extra TV money - £48 million has been mentioned?
Club: Demand is sometimes about prices but not always. We were committed to price freezes last year, but also to a wider band of prices. It used to be quite narrow.
The TV money will be nearer £20 million we think.
Fans: What is the revenue proportion planned from ticketing? What are budget targets for the team? How much of the loss is on the sale of players?
Club: We plan to be less dependent on match revenue over time - we have already grown revenue substantially over time already. We have grown membership substantially as well, and are happy that non-members pay a bit more at present when general sales kick in. £5 per ticket extra seemed to work quite well. Our budget for next season isn’t signed off by the Board until April.
Our costs at present are about 74% - that is the proportion that goes out in salaries. We want to get to 55%. This is where the youth development system comes in. We budget for qualifying for the Champions League, getting to the first knock-out round of the Champions League, then the first round of the cups that we play. We assume about 20% less than the year before for live TV matches. We get good money for live matches.
Re player sales, if a player costs £20 million then £5 million in salary per year for a four year contract, if we don’t want them to stay and sell them half way through for £10 million, we have prevented a loss of another £10 million per year in effect, if he were to leave for nothing at the end. That’s a further £20 million loss saved. We can always be clever after the event about signings that work or don’t - it comes down to their book value.
Fans: So many fans have stopped coming though due to prices generally. There is such a strong feeling that prices have reached an absolute limit and many will not come in the future if there’s an increase. The pubs in the area are full of fans for big matches who will watch on TV but not pay the admission charges here.
Club: Top prices at Arsenal and Spurs are higher than ours but they have a bigger stretch of prices, admittedly.
We can sense that the atmosphere for ticket prices now is similar to last year though.
Fans: Average lowest prices for Chelsea are higher than at those two grounds over the season.
What about the issue of grading for matches? This seems a logical reintroduction from a few years ago.
When domestic cup games were taken away from season tickets, prices went up which seemed unfair.
The number of away fans visiting the Bridge says a lot. Even though we’re the Champions, some away fans, such as Middlesbrough, are boycotting due to our prices.
Club: We need to achieve a balance. We know people ideally want to pay less but we have to work out what they will pay - albeit pay grudgingly.
As per previous seasons, all Forum views will be considered when deciding on ticketing policy for next season. We will try and get back to the Forum first if time permits.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Fans: Have supporters’ player of the year presentations on the pitch all been cancelled? We were told that Jose doesn’t want them before matches.
Club: We can clarify that.
Fans: Why when Thomas Cook arrange away travel for Arsenal and Chelsea are the Arsenal coaches to the Carling Cup £5 cheaper when we are nearer to the M4 and especially when the Arsenal coaches have better facilities e.g. meals?
Club: It must be Arsenal subsidising them.
Fans: What about transferring season tickets to other parts of the stadium?
For disabled fans, is it right that tickets are sent out 28 days before?
Club: We are looking into season ticket movement, but it is complicated and could cause ill-feeling. Re disabled fan tickets, that’s correct.
Fans: What is the general view about swearing and foul language in the family section - often caused by the same people all the time?
Club: It should be reported. If we get complaints we would act. If it’s reported we keep an eye on people.
Chair: Thanks to all for attending.
(The meeting closed at 1.00pm.)
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