Fans' Forum minutes: 13/01/07
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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 11.00am on Saturday, 13th January 2007.
ATTENDEES/ group represented
- Alexander, James (season ticket holder)
- Bacchus, Gary (Blueandwhitearmy.net)
- Brown, Toby (Cfc.net)
- 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)
- Kenyon, Peter (Chelsea F.C. Chief Executive)
- Marriott, Bryan (family section)
- Michaelson, Bob (exec member/ box holder)
- Monasingh, Marc (member)
- Newby, David (Chelsea F.C. Marketing Manager)
- O’Callaghan, Terry (branch)
- Pickering, Trevor (Chelsea Supporters Club)
- Polk, Jamie (disabled section)
- 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)
- O’Brien, John (branch)
- Paul, Dennis (over 60 age group)
(Action points are in bold and underlined.)
Chair: Welcomes all.
CHANGES TO THE MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING/ MATTERS ARISING FROM PREVIOUS MINUTES
Fans: There was some confusion at the last meeting as to when Man United put tickets for sale on Viagogo, but to clarify, the tickets only go on Viagogo once a game is sold out.
Club: The system is a service for our season ticket holders and is working well.
ACTION POINTS/ MATTERS ARISING FROM LAST MEETING
Club: Unreserved seating in the Shed: The Club raised the matter with the local safety licensing authority and there is real concern about public order and segregation issues. There is also a potential problem when a stand is used for away fans. We can look at using another area of the ground, but that would mean moving season ticket holders.
Fans: Did the police say why they were particularly concerned by unreserved seating in the Shed as opposed to elsewhere in the ground?
Club: Due to away fans being there, they are worried that early arrivals would go right up to the segregation line and taunt away fans. The police would therefore want to move the line and the Club would lose 200-300 seats.
Fans: What about the West Stand?
Club: Although the West Stand might appear preferable, it would mean moving a considerable number of season ticket holders. Also when you have an unreserved area you cannot sell the full capacity as there would be groups sitting together to leave pockets of seats empty. If there is a big game that is sold out and people see empty seats in the unreserved area, the Club would face criticism. There would also be a worry about issuing duplicate tickets. We understand this whole issue is part of the bigger question of atmosphere and how big groups can improve it. Instead, we are looking at a system that would allow season ticket holders to move at the end of the season, so they can sit near friends etc.
Fans: What about the first 10-15 rows of West Lower? The season ticket holders there could still have a seat as part of the unreserved seating and might enjoy the chance of choosing their seat each match day.
Club: 90% of those in West Lower are season ticket holders and have been so for a while. They would all have to be consulted. Also quite a number of these season ticket holders have already been moved from the East Stand and would be unhappy to be moved again. That apart the only possibility is the East Upper and the police are unlikely to agree to this for safety issues.
It is always difficult for clubs to have plans for unreserved seating approved by licensing authorities and the police. We need other innovative ideas.
Fans: What about holding back some seats for sale to members in the Shed Lower for those members who want to sing, so the fans who want to sing know where they will find likeminded people. Fan groups currently have a campaign from the forthcoming Middlesbrough game for those who want to sing at forthcoming matches to buy tickets in the Shed End - we are getting a good response. We would welcome backing from the Club. From talking to some Wycombe fans at a recent fixture it appears they can specify “singing” or “non-singing” when they apply for tickets!
Club: For the last three games the only tickets left - apart from restricted views - have been in the Shed Lower. This has been a change this season. The cheap ones have been the last to sell. The Upper tier always goes before the Lower. Over Christmas they all went for the Reading and Fulham games, but this week again there are tickets for the Shed Lower.
Club to publicise the forthcoming singing area in the Shed End for the Middlesbrough game.
Club: Away season tickets: We are currently sending e-mails to provide a last warning to away scheme members.
Fans: It’s very hit and miss.
Club: Fewer fans are missing out. At present the Club only sends reminders to fans who haven’t purchased a ticket. Because of a delay in setting up the email and despatching sometimes fans will receive it even though they have bought a ticket. It sounds like fans would prefer a blanket reminder to the whole scheme. Is the timing of the email in the middle of the week, OK?
Fans: Early in the week is ideal. What about fans without email? Shouldn’t reminders go out on Chelsea TV as well?
Club: There are reminders in the match day programme. Chelsea TV is being done on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. It’s included in the news programme at 7pm and Neil Barnett gives an update every Friday night.
As far as ensuring that tickets don’t go on sale when we have fans out of the country, we are doing this.
Supporter clubs review: We are beginning a review of supporters’ clubs ahead of next season - we will then ask for feedback .
Fans: Can supporters’ clubs - or at least the Forum reps from them - be involved early on instead?
Club: We will try to accommodate that.
Box office 9am sale start: When we start putting next year’s policy in place, we will look at the timing.
Publication of away match allocations: This is being done. Every match is on the internet. However, for many matches the ticket allocation is very small and sells out quickly. Away tickets have also been publicised on the big screen during matches since the Arsenal game.
Number of Forum meetings: We have discussed this, but feel that four meetings plus an additional meeting for ticketing is ample.
Fans: We don’t have time to discuss everything fully in the meetings and last meeting we didn’t cover all the agenda.
Meetings to last half an hour longer.
Club: Cessation of half pint sales: We sell half pints in the corporate areas. We don’t sell them in the stadium because there is not the demand and the new Heineken MDU units only dispense full pints.
Junior tickets on Viagogo: We are currently testing it and hope to have it up and running within the next 4 weeks. We need to ensure that juniors are matched with junior seats.
Fans: Blocks of seats for non-Chelsea fans at Stamford Bridge - what about the group of Japanese fans at a match recently?
Club: Their tickets were not bought officially.
Fans: At the Arsenal game there were a large number of Arsenal fans sitting in small groups in the West Upper. The Arsenal game sold out very quickly, so how was this done? Some looked elderly and well dressed - unlikely to be buying tout tickets.
Club: They must be getting them from members or season ticket holders. Agencies often prefer to buy tickets in blocks rather than singles. We had one case recently where we traced a group of four tickets bought via an agency back to a family of members. The Club does not sell to outside agencies. When we trace tickets back to members we cancel their membership, but often they will just buy another one instead. The new ticketing system will hopefully prevent this, but even with photos on the cards, we would need all cards to be checked to ensure it’s failsafe. And then while we allow members to buy four tickets, there will be a problem.
We do searches on anyone who has bought a large number of tickets and will even ask people at a match where they bought their ticket as part of this process. We suspended nearly 4,000 members last season. The Club suspends more than any other club in the FAPL. We are also dependent on fans reporting suspicious seating arrangements.
Fans: The Club is doing well in this area, but many Chelsea supporters feel frustrated when they see away fans sitting in Chelsea areas, especially for big games. Are the police happy for away fans to remain in the wrong area in these situations?
Club: They act when they think there could be a problem, but try to avoid creating volatile situations.
Fans: Surely there would be less of a market for these tickets if the police removed fans seated in the wrong area. If an away fan buys a ticket from a tout and stands up when the away team scores they should be ejected and hopefully this should discourage them.
Club: There were no public order problems at the Arsenal game. However, we are going to examine CCTV footage from the game to investigate the matter further. Ejecting people can also cause public order problems. We will continue tackling this issue.
Fans: New website - approx 76% of CFCNet respondents think it’s awful. Only 6% think it’s an improvement. Criticisms include: difficult to navigate, slow, cumbersome, layout, can’t resize, slow to update. However, the content is good.
Toby to receive and coordinate feedback and send on to Simon.
Fans: Could the Club introduce loyalty points for away matches for members, as at present members only receive points for home games. Also, we should be more proactive with our marketing of away games to members.
Club: We can look at the points issue for next season. We do market away games aggressively, but we only sell tickets to members, whereas if a home game does not sell out we can sell to the general public.
Fans: When there are tickets available for away games, why not let the fan sites know and they can publicise - many people have stopped going to away games as they still don’t believe you can get tickets and so don’t try. You also have to search out information about away games on the CFC website - it should be easier to find. Also when buying tickets it is not clear that extra coaches can be organised if there is sufficient demand. How many fans have been thrown off the away scheme?
Club: Not sure about exact numbers but approx 100. They know the scheme and should comply with the terms. We created this scheme to solve the problem last season where games were selling out.
However, the stats suggest there is still a problem with sales. At Bolton we sold 1,500 out of an allocation of 2,843; at Blackburn Rovers there were 1,000 left unsold; at Middlesbrough there were 685; for Sheffield United the 11 that went back were for disabled places; at Everton 69 were unsold; at Wigan 268 were unsold; and at Villa there were 1,130 unsold by us though we know some fans bought on the night.
Fans: Marketing needs to be targeted at the relevant regional supporters’ groups. Can we send out reminders in the same way that we do with home games between now and the end of the season and see what effect it has? Timing and whether it’s a TV match seem more important than location for away sales. Do we sell away tickets here on the day?
There is a rumour that the away season ticket holder scheme will be dropped or changed so that it will be more difficult to get tickets next year. And is the payment system for the away scheme being reviewed?
Club: We will continue to publicise away ticket sales. There is no truth in the rumour that we are dropping the scheme, but there will be a review of the scheme in Feb/March as part of the general policy reviews. If it has worked it will continue, if it hasn’t it will be scrapped and if it needs changing it will be changed. We will speak to fans.
The payment system is being looked at. There are several options under consideration including direct debit. The Club is no longer allowed to hold security details for credit or debit cards for legal reasons.
Fans: Many fans don’t use the coaches for away games because of problems (and cost of) parking in the Stamford Bridge area. Could Graham talk to the travel company and request that the Kempton Park stop is reinstated as it is easier to park there? Could the travel company also consider having an additional pick-up point possibly at a service station for North and North-East games to allow Midlands fans to join the coaches? Also, could the Club allow fans travelling on an away coach to park at Stamford Bridge?
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.
Fans: Could we look at the positioning of juvenile away tickets, so that they can sit nearer the front of the stand and be able to see.
Club to look at ways of ensuring juvenile members get seats near front at away games.
Fans: Away tickets seem to be arriving together now. The last match with tickets apart was Wycombe.
Club: Wycombe was different because 60% of away season ticket holders chose not to go and we issued tickets as they were ordered, to avoid too many gaps, rather than using the spreadsheet to allocate tickets. Generally, we haven’t had feedback that people are not being seated together when requested.
Fans: Any way we can complete the declaration without it being signed so tickets can be posted? Would you accept declarations by email if they have been scanned and signed?
Club: We are currently talking to other clubs in Europe such as Celtic and Rangers to see what they are doing and are reviewing our procedures as part of the general review process ahead of next season.
Fans: Any way the away ticket scheme can be extended to Europe?
Club: All European away games so far have gone on sale to members. Some members bought tickets and did not go, notably to Sofia. However, this may have been because tickets for that game only cost £3. (Incidentally, we also charged their fans the same amount here to ensure their section was full. This was a one-off because there was such a big discrepancy.)
The problem is sending out the tickets because there are no duplicates for away fixtures and even registered post can go astray. There will be the same problem with Cardiff in the Carling Cup Final assuming we get there.
Fans: What if fans agree to accept the risk of the ticket going missing in the post if it is sent via registered post?
Club: When tickets went on sale on the web for the Community Shield it was made clear to fans that no duplicates could be issued. However, there were still complaints and requests for duplicates when tickets did not arrive. All clubs still in the competition have agreed that should they reach the Final in Cardiff they will keep a block of tickets back to replace tickets that go astray to cover the problem of duplicates. Provisionally Chelsea’s allocation is approx 30,000.
Fans: The Barcelona away experience was much better this season after problems the previous year, with stewards rather than police inside the stadium.
Club: The Club secretary had spoken to Barcelona and so was able to influence events inside the stadium. However, the Club could not influence police tactics outside.
Fans: There are still major problems getting into the East Upper. Would it be possible to take some pressure off this entrance by allowing some ticket holders for East Upper to use Gate 17 (the Matthew Harding entrance), which is usually quiet? This would take the pressure off the East Stand.
Club to look into using additional gates for East Stand.
Fans: The barriers have helped ease congestion in East Lower, but at the end of the barriers people keep pushing in and are abusive. The stewards are not intervening.
Club to discuss with stewards orderly queuing in the East Stand.
Fans: Are there different policies for stewarding home and away fans because away fans, especially for European games, seem to be allowed more leeway for flag waving, standing up etc?
Club: The policy is the same for both sets of supporters. However, it can be difficult to force a whole stand of away supporters to sit down. The Club has a range of sanctions it can use on its own fans and needs to be seen to be taking action or the ground’s capacity is cut. Stewards take some banners down, but again, sometimes it causes more trouble to do this.
Fans: Why can’t the blue flag bought by Roman not be brought into the stadium?
Club: We are not aware that it couldn’t, but it can’t be moved between stands for safety reasons. There was never a decision that it couldn’t go into Matthew Harding Lower, there was a decision that it couldn’t be passed down the side of the East or West.
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.
Fans: There seems to be a potential problem with the volumes of people walking past the Megastore (with its long queue) towards the West Stand. At the Macclesfield game a woman and two children were knocked over by people pushing into queues.
Club: Macclesfield was unusual because there were so many away fans. We decided to move the main entrance and exit points for the Megastore because of the large number of away fans in the area. However, we were aware of the problems, dealt with them swiftly and decided not to move the entrance and exit points for the Wycombe and Forest games.
Fans: Last season the point was raised that the TVs in the East Stand concourse didn’t work. Now they have been taken away.
Club to investigate East Stand missing TVs.
Fans: When the Matthew Harding stand was opened the policy was to encourage fans to stay behind for a drink to ease congestion leaving the stadium. Now the policy seems to be to get everyone out asap.
Club: The policy now is to empty the stadium as quickly and as safely as possible.
Fans: Are there any plans to move location or increase capacity?
Club: We are continuing to look at the options, but are limited on all fronts. There are major issues regarding the first choice of increasing capacity at Stamford Bridge because the ground is hemmed in on all sides. A 60,000 seater stadium takes 20 acres and Stamford Bridge has a maximum of 13. The Club is currently at the maximum capacity for a site of this size. However, finding a 20 acre site nearby is extremely difficult. Negotiations would have to be conducted with the CPO as well.
There is still a lot of work to be done on whether a 60,000 stadium would be suitable for Chelsea, and the Club has not exhausted the possibilities of Stamford Bridge. Also Arsenal, Liverpool and Barcelona are the only games not to have gone on general sale this season. Moving to a new stadium from start to finish takes a minimum of 5 years anyway.
(In a straw poll of the Forum, fans were overwhelmingly against the idea of moving location, even within an - arbitrary - 5 mile radius).
Fans: The area and the ground are a vital part of the match day experience. However, we also recognise that a move may be necessary for a bigger, better stadium. Also we should ask what would happen to crowds if the Club’s success does not continue. Would they go back to an average of 20,000?
Is there still a problem with the proposal to create an exit from the North Stand over the railway?
Club: Yes. Local residents’ groups are very active and vocal and oppose most proposals. In theory you could extend the stadium, but you could not get fans in or out.
Any views on the new PA system?
Fans: It’s very loud, but clear.
CLUB SOCIAL FUNCTIONS
Fans: There has been a sharp increase in the price of Club functions e.g. You used to be able to get a ticket for a Ken Bates supper club for £40 including a 3-course dinner and speaker, whereas now they are £100 to £120 minimum and the food is no better. Also, previously fans were able to meet players at functions whereas this is now difficult with bouncers and so on around.
Club: We don’t make money on them. We are not going to reintroduce the supper club, and the only thing planned at present is another Player of the Year event. The standard of production put into these functions is far higher than previously. The aim now is to stage grand events that look good. There were issues regarding supporters accessing the players for the Player of the Year dinner and this is being looked at - one option would be to select 200 of the 1,200 present at a function to meet the players.
Fans: The centenary events brought this issue to a head, because most events were very expensive and beyond the reach of most fans. The supper clubs were good because there was one player on a table you could talk to. There should be a range of events with different price tags.
There is a feeling the personal touch has gone, and children can’t meet players and get autographs at family events. The Bridge Kids Christmas party was a great success.
Club: Some of the smaller centenary events were more successful, partly because they featured older players who enjoyed the chance to reminisce with fans.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Fans: Some Asian fans have highlighted that translations on the Chinese website are poor.
Club to receive feedback on translation problems.
Fans: A supporter has been having problems with the online Megastore. Whom should he contact?
Club: There is a link on the Megastore website. There doesn’t seem to be a general problem, but they can be sent to Ron Gourlay.
Fans: The Customer Charter on the website still says it is under review.
Club: It is the final version and should be described as such.
Fans: Why was the last Forum meeting cancelled? The Forum reps from Eire and Northern Ireland had already booked flights.
Club: Because Ron Gourlay and Peter Kenyon couldn’t make it. We had said that Peter would be at the meeting and felt that it shouldn’t go ahead without sufficient senior figures - there would only have been one director there.
Club to book and pay for flights for the Irish reps for next meeting.
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (CSR)
(The following was embargoed until after the event discussed, at the request of the Club.)
Club: There will be a reception on the terrace of the House of Commons between 2pm and 3pm on Thursday 18th Jan for the presentation of Chelsea’s first ever CSR. This will comprise a detailed summary of the Club’s work in the 2005/6 season regarding its social, charitable, community, economicl and environmental responsibilities as a business. We will also announce that we are going to work with a global charity partner in addition to our work with CLIC Sergeant. The global partner will be Right to Play who are the only international humanitarian organisation to deliver all their messages about HIV, Aids awareness, conflict prevention and poverty prevention, through sports programmes. They work with Unicef, UNHCR, WHO and the International Red Cross delivering sports programmes.
The event should be attended by hopefully 4-5 cabinet ministers and is being sponsored by the all-party football group of 140 MPs that has cross-party support. Most of the first team will attend, plus Peter, Jose, Bruce, possibly Roman and we expect it to be a large event with lots of publicity. The main aspect of the report will be that last year with the help of the fans, players and staff, the Club raised over £1.5m for charity. Over £500,000 went to CLIC Sergeant and that money directly helped 765 families with children suffering from leukaemia/cancer. The Club also helped over 100 other charities last season and in total we invested £4.34mn in charitable/community initiatives such as breakfast clubs and football in the community schemes.
This is the first time any football club has done this kind of thing and we would be surprised if any other club could match this. We plan to produce a similar report every year as we have responsibilities as a business. There will be a pdf file of the report on the website. Right to Play will not link with another UK football team. Barcelona FC has set the benchmark in this field. As well as having Unicef on their shirts, Barcelona also donates €1.5m a year to Unicef, but CFC has decided that they will concentrate on fundraising rather than donations apart from small amounts. However, the link with Chelsea helps charities raise funds.
Fans: This is certainly an initiative that the Club should be congratulated on.
Club: We would also be pleased if two Forum representatives could attend to represent the fans.
(A draw was made after the meeting to select two from those interested.)
Club: The next Forum meeting will be on ticketing. Please send any comments/points to consider to Ron Gourlay.
Some additional information - some season ticket holders in the Matthew Harding stand will have to be moved for the Porto match on the 6th March because of requirements for TV. The Club won’t know final details until 2nd March, however, we will contact the ticket holders affected and have set up a system on the website/ call line so they will be able to select a seat elsewhere in the stadium at the same price. This will be publicised in the programme, on the screen and the website. It is possible that not all the space set aside will be used.
Chair: Closes meeting and thanks members for attending.
(The meeting finished at 1pm.)
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