Fans' Forum minutes: 13/03/10
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CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB: SUPPORTERS CONSULTATIVE FORUM, 2009/10 SEASON
Meeting held at the Lord Attenborough Suite, Chelsea F.C. Hotel, at 10.30am on Saturday 13th March 2010.
- Alexander, Chris - Club Finance and Operations Director
- Anastasi, Joe - non-UK branch
- Ashwell, Ed - Club Head of Security
- Atkins, Steve - Club Head of Communications and Public Affairs
- Auger, Cliff - Chelsea Supporters Group
- Bell, Marc - member
- Boorer, Carl - exec members/ box holders
- Bowen-Jones, Will - member
- Cook, Sophie - 16–21 age group
- Gerrard, Carol - home/ away season ticket (“ST”) holder
- Gourlay, Ron - Club Chief Executive
- Johnstone, Dave - CFCUK
- Kemp, Pete - Chelsea Supporters Club
- Mantle, Darren - CFCnet
- McGeever, Timothy James - disabled section
- Neat, Mike - non-UK branch
- Newby, David - Club Marketing Manager
- Parsons, Veronica - branch
- Regan, Andy - Electoral Reform Services (Chair)
- Shaw, Michelle - ST holder
- Smith, Graham - Club Head of Ticketing/ Head of Supporters’ Liaison (“HSL”)
- Talbot, Robert - member
- Taylor, Simon - Club Head of Corporate Social Responsibility
Apologies for absence
Bussey, Liz - over 60 age group Cohen, Michael - ST holder Jarvis, Kevin - family section
(Action points are underlined.)
MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
There are no changes to the minutes. Action points are as follows:
End of season parade: We are considering 16th May or 23rd May. This has to fit in with Club matches and players leaving for World Cup duty.
Suspended memberships: There is an appeal process in place and we will circulate details to the Forum. We do not email members to inform them they have been suspended as those are usually fake identities. We have 2,000 so far and genuine members tend to query their suspension. We tell ST holders. If the membership or ST is genuine, there is no set time for a suspension we impose and we look at each case separately.
Transport for London (“TFL”): The Club receives communications in advance and publicises travel affected. We are at the mercy of events on a match day, such as the fatality at Fulham Broadway after a recent match. With such a scenario the station could be closed or reopened at a moment’s notice and that takes time to announce. The Premier League (“FAPL”) speaks to TFL when fixture dates are decided and TFL take into account major sporting events in planning closures. However there are disruptions of some type by TFL on most weekends.
Banners in the stadium: One fan had flags removed unnecessarily from the West Stand by stewards recently. However the Club is confident that stewards don’t generally remove banners unless they cause obstruction or are offensive.
Mosaic display: The Club has decided, in accordance with the atmosphere sub-committee, not to pursue this for now. Fans tend to turn up at the last minute so we possibly can’t match the visual displays in countries such as Italy
Catering: A Club representative will attend the next meeting so we can discuss the subject in detail. One fan would like to introduce “pie and pint” offers on a more regular basis.
Speakers in the Shed End: The volume level has been checked and is fine.
Captain’s Bar: There is no air conditioning facility and the heater is only used in winter.
Next season’s ticketing policy: This will be announced in due course.
STADIUM REQUIREMENTS, LOCAL AUTHORITY LICENSING AND STEWARDING
Some fans view the stewarding in the Matthew Harding (“MH”) Lower as being less heavy-handed than stewarding in the Shed Lower. Why are we one of few clubs to have stewards surround the pitch before the final whistle?
The Club has to take care of 41,000 fans. We have a duty of care to our stewards as well so there need to be sufficient numbers. Usually we have teams of six stewards with four standing back for any incident. The Club investigates specific claims of heavy-handedness.
We probably have more of our own stewards than Arsenal and train them internally. Our training regime is acknowledged as the best in the country by football authorities. About 600 of 800 stewards on a match-day are our own.
It’s inaccurate to assume that only away fans may run onto the pitch. The Club gets fined if fans run on and our track record is good. We want to ensure there is a visible deterrent.
Why is the front of the MH Lower not sold for Champions League (“UCL”) matches?
This is due to the lower capacity in that stand because of the outside broadcast requirements.
What impact has the appointment of Paul Darling as head of the Football Licensing Authority had?
We haven’t seen any changes.
What damage was caused by Cardiff fans? Could they have been sold fewer tickets?
Toilets were not damaged but the ceiling in the Shed End was. About 70 seats were broken. We add up the damage and deduct it from the reconciliation figure that we pay Cardiff (as it was a Cup match). We are obliged to give them 6,000 tickets. Only the Safety Advisory Group of the local authority could make a decision to provide fewer tickets, otherwise we have to abide by competition rules.
In this country it is considered unlawful detention to keep fans in a stadium without good reason. The Club and the police could be sued. It’s available as a tactic and depends to some extent on what has happened during a game. In the ground there weren’t many problems with the Cardiff fans. With hindsight we may have kept them in given what happened outside.
Stoke didn’t want their full allocation. For FAPL matches we do 1,500 on sale or return or 3,000 pay for all. With the FA Cup we add the option of 6,000 tickets on a pay for all basis.
How does the Club assess it handled the flare incident in the Arsenal end?
The flare was extinguished after one minute and one second to be precise! The incident was dealt with excellently by the police officer and this was the first such incident at the ground in 11 years. It is difficult to deal with flares as they are such dangerous objects. Stewards are now looking at how to deal with these.
The individual in question received a three year ban. If the CPS had not prosecuted we don’t know how Arsenal would have punished the individual. A Chelsea fan with a flare at a match would receive a five year ban.
Will the large screen be replaced? Can Samsung provide them?
The MH/ West Stand screen will be out for the rest of the season and might not be replaced. The Shed End screen may be replaced before the end of the season. Samsung don’t provide screens of that size.
Are there any police or stewarding concerns in respect to a possible move for away fans back to the East Stand?
We don’t want any set of fans above those of another club in the stadium. If away fans are in the East Stand we have a longer stretch of concourse to police between two sets of fans. At present we have a natural cordon due to separate exit points.
As regards the lift share issue, we have about sixty signed up so the number has doubled. We are talking about writing to supporter clubs to build up the numbers.
Supporter clubs should still have all the options of car, train or coach where possible so there is flexibility in travelling to matches. Full details of the lift scheme for away matches will be announced soon.
We have around 1,000 pledges and are planning the next presentation.
All waste is 100% recyclable and taken to White City. The Forum is invited to visit the plant which creates electricity onsite.
The Club is introducing a printer rationalisation programme which should reduce paper use by 10 tonnes over three years. This involves more scanning and double-sided copying as well as fewer printers. Paper is recyclable and from sustainable sources.
Our electricity consumption remains steady despite a 15% increase in events at the stadium.
We source food locally where possible and that can be addressed at the next meeting.
Can we introduce solar power? It would be a strong statement about our environmental intentions.
We consume about 8,000 megawatts per year so we are limited in introducing solar energy. We are introducing LED lighting into the hotels which should save about 90% of power.
The adverts were still on at the ground at 8pm on Monday 8th March.
Club to check why adverts were running at 8pm on Monday 8th March.
Has the Club considered the Carbon Trust options for environmental technology that allow enhanced capital allowance applications to HMRC? For instance if compliant air conditioning is introduced, a faster tax rebate is provided.
The Club doesn’t pay corporation tax so that would not benefit us at present.
We will look at general Corporate Social Responsibility issues including charities at the next meeting.
Did the Club subsidise tickets for the Preston cup match? Can the Club consider a comparison with fans travelling by themselves when pricing a journey? More help could be provided for midweek matches.
At the last Forum the view was expressed that fans may be prepared to pay more. We did subsidise the Preston match, though not to the tune of £170 per person as suggested. The take up wasn’t great. Stoke was popular last year so we repeated it for this season; Everton is a midweek match. In short there are various reasons as to why we provide transport or subsidise particular journeys.
Can there be more consultation with fans in preparing travel plans? What happened with the Burnley trains?
We know which trains are more likely to be needed and assess demand in advance. For Manchester United away for instance, there are regular trains back so the Club will not lay on trains.
There were logistical problems with the Burnley trains due to the length of the platform. We are at the mercy of what Virgin provides generally.
Can the Club announce travel intentions earlier? What arrangements are in place for the Blackburn match?
We try and receive information then publicise it as soon as possible.
For Blackburn, coaches are laid on but tickets have not sold that well. There are trains running from Blackburn anyway. We won’t be taking additional tickets for that match.
Club to announce as early as possible whether there will be transport to a match even if details are not available.
If fans want a train to every game we can do that but if fans want every train subsidised that needs to be looked at from a financial point of view. Alternatively the Club provides subsidised travel for a number of pre-announced matches instead, which leaves last minute matches unsubsidised e.g. in the Carling Cup.
Travel to be discussed at the next meeting with a decision made for next season.
The Club has looked at the issue of whether to have a minutes secretary and has decided to continue with the present system.
The minutes that Electoral Reform produce for the Arsenal Forum are in a shorter and more accessible format that encourages more fans to read them. Fans often want to know what the main points are without the full minutes, possibly in executive summary format. We can try a less formal format for the minutes.
Do new Forum members receive notice of previous minutes?
New members are referred to the location of the minutes on the Club website.
The Manchester United Forum includes mug shots on their club website. Does the Forum want to introduce such a system here? Photos on the website would be useful but an individual Forum member should have the right not to have their picture on there. Club to consider Forum representative photos on the Club website.
Can the Club consider other ways of publicising the Forum? Many fans don’t realise what the Forum discusses and the decisions made.
The Club is happy to consider ways of publicising the Forum including write-ups in the programme. We wouldn’t want features on the stadium screens on match days as fans want to concentrate on the match build-up. The TV debates have not been a challenge as we know what topics are coming up.
There is a concern from the Club that the Forum has individual views aired too often, especially recently, and that members are not representing the wider fan base. A spate of emails amongst the Forum recently was not helpful. We don’t want to debate issues by email. We are considering visits away from the Forum to supporter clubs to engage with fans. There is a concern that issues are being rediscussed for little benefit.
Supporter clubs and fan groups would appreciate discussing issues with the Club directly and possibly for the HSL to write directly for one or more fanzines. Also, it would help fans if notice boards in the stands publicise the Fans Forum. This Forum is held up as an example by other clubs as to how club/ fan discussions should be run and some clubs don’t have forums at all. One approach may be to have separate meetings for members, ST holders etc but we would lose the homogeneity of the Forum meetings.
Club to consider announcing on the website what will be discussed at the next Forum, possibly with links to Forum member email addresses for feedback.
Forum members should help publicise what the Forum discusses and achieves. Carl can contact Simon Hunter, head of venue, in the corporate area to help publicise Forum issues there.
Club to consider supporter communication options including road shows.
Many of the Forum receive irrelevant emails from the public.
That is something representatives have to put up with and don’t have to reply.
Is the HSL appointment truly independent? Can the Club answer emails from us sooner than the next meeting?
The Club answers emails about specific issues that need to be dealt with quickly all the time. There is a limit to how many emails each Club official can deal with however. We understand you want to know an issue is being dealt with at least, and that your concerns are being registered.
The HSL role is intended to gauge supporter views and not to negotiate. It is helpful to have someone from within the Club as they can action decisions if possible. We are looking at how communication will be carried out by Graham.
Liz (in her absence) has suggested an additional Forum meeting per season. This may be superseded by the Club’s thoughts today regarding supporter road shows.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Will the Club’s financial model alter due to new UEFA finance rules?
The Club has a huge number of stakeholders including fans, players, Club staff, sponsors etc. At the moment you could argue that the owner has an unfair burden. UEFA intends to introduce “Financial Fair Play” so that revenue matches expenditure for clubs. This will come in for 2012. Clubs won’t be able to enter their competitions unless they are self-sustainable. It will come down to a choice of cutting expenditure or raising income.
What are the consequences for non-English clubs? For instance Real Madrid had their training ground bought by the council for over £100 million to bail them out.
The rules must be applied consistently. We don’t know the details of the expectations that must be met. We will find out over the next six months. The Club is moving in the direction of being self-financing generally anyway. There is a licensing system at present to play in UEFA competition including the stadium, facilities, financial requirements. The financial requirements is the section that is being revamped.
Would the Club consider renaming individual stands instead of the stadium as a whole?
We have been transparent in considering the naming rights of the stadium. We have no further announcement to make but no deal has been done. We wanted to forewarn fans. Any sponsorship must be worthwhile. We have reduced a lot of branding in the stadium so don’t want to go back to branding all over. The incoming sponsor will want clarity in the stadium. Smaller clubs will not have the options that we do so perhaps have to take up all sponsorship options.
The Club could consider sponsorship of the training ground.
Can East Stand access be extended to the cemetery?
We have no plans for that.
There are still empty spaces on walls and boards around the stadium. Can the Club consider lists of honours won?
We have supporter club banners taking up spaces now. The West Stand middle tier is full so we will do the East Stand middle tier. Then we can consider other spaces such as the West Upper.
How does Club income break down e.g. prize money/ ticketing?
Club to circulate relevant financial information including comparisons with other clubs and comparisons with previous years. This information is available to the public anyway. We don’t want to spend Forum time discussing it.
Cliff to circulate minutes of the atmosphere sub-committee held on 8th March.
We will need to draw eight teams from the eleven entries; most are UK-based teams. The Club would like an international representative guaranteed from those entries, although they must commit to appearing. If the number of entries increases next year, we can consider more teams in the competition. Cliff will discuss this separately with David Newby.
What progress has been made on the Peter Osgood statue? It is four years since he died.
Planning is at an advanced stage and an unveiling may well happen this summer. There will be a ceremony and we would like fan involvement of some kind.
Will the Spackman Entrance be renamed?
The general view amongst the Forum is to rename the entrance. The Club will consider this.
What are the arrangements for the Youth Cup semi-final?
We are only looking to sell 3,000 tickets and open the East Stand lower tier. This will keep stewarding costs down. Entry will be by ticket only so we know how many to expect, and there is a nominal charge. This number will not be increased. We can revisit the crowd size if we get to the final. We had about 3,000 for the semi-final two years ago so base demand on that. We also need a license if the numbers increase and may have to close Fulham Road.
What plans are in place for reserve games and will the pitch suffer if matches are played at the Bridge?
The Club is considering more reserve games at the Bridge so more fans can watch them and the players get used to playing in the stadium.
We get the scoring on our pitch from the FAPL. We had the highest across the league until December and the weather caused havoc thereafter. Frost and snow was so severe at Cobham that we had to train at the Bridge so the pitch suffered for match days. We reseed every summer. We then use pitch lighting during the season. We have changed the pitch twice since season 2006-07 which caused problems. Returfing does not always provide an easy option as injuries can be caused if the new surface is not smooth.
We can therefore play reserve games at the Bridge perhaps until December, as we have a lot of leeway on scheduling fixtures for reserve games.
Has a date been scheduled for a Cobham visit?
This has not yet been scheduled.
Why did FA Cup tickets go on sale when fans were in Milan?
We hoped to go on sale the previous Friday but only had full confirmation for arrangements on the next Tuesday. We knew we would have timing difficulties so had to start sales then. Fans would appreciate the reasons being publicised as those in Milan were not happy.
The meeting finished at 12.50pm.
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