Fans' Forum minutes: 17/01/09
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CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB SUPPORTERS CONSULTATIVE FORUM 2008/09 SEASON
Meeting held at the Lord Attenborough Suite, Chelsea F.C. Hotel, at 10.30am on Saturday, 17th January 2009.
ATTENDEES/ group represented
- Anastasi, Joe (non-UK branch)
- Ashwell, Edward (Chelsea F.C. Head of Security)
- Auger, Cliff (Chelsea Supporters Group)
- Barnett, Neil (Chelsea F.C./ Chelsea TV host)
- Beard, Neil (CFCUK)
- Bowen-Jones, Will (member)
- Cook, Sophie (16 - 21 age group)
- Gerrard, Carol (home & away season ticket holder)
- Goldston, Geoff (over 60 age group)
- Greenberg, Simon (Chelsea F.C. Communications Director)
- Jacks, Amanda (Guest, Football Supporters Federation “FSF”)
- Jarvis, Kevin (family section)
- Kemp, Pete (Chelsea Supporters Club)
- Kenyon, Peter (Chelsea F.C. Chief Executive)
- Law, Matthew (disabled section)
- Lister, Simon (member)
- Mantle, Darren (CFCnet)
- Newby, David (Chelsea F.C. Marketing Manager)
- Parsons, Veronica (branch)
- Phelps, Mary (exec member/ box holder)
- Regan, Andy (Electoral Reform Services, independent chair)
- Shaw, Michelle (season ticket holder)
- Smith, Graham (Chelsea F.C. Head of Ticketing)
- Sporle, Lee (non-UK branch)
- Whalley, Elizabeth (season ticket holder)
Apologies for absence
- Gourlay, Ron (Chelsea F.C. Commercial & Venue Director)
- Smith, Ian (member)
- Walters, Jez (CFCnet)
(Action points are in bold and underlined.)
INTRODUCTION/ MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
Chair: We are being joined today by Amanda Jacks from the FSF who has asked to observe the meeting.
We may be joined by representatives of Chelsea TV during the meeting as well.
We will start the meeting with Ed Ashwell’s topic as he has pre-match duties to perform.
SECURITY AT DOMESTIC MATCHES
Fans: Why have warnings about standing at matches gone out now? What sort of sanctions could there be?
Club: It has always been an issue but there has been a rise in complaints from ST holders. The Football Licensing Authority (“FLA”) is not putting more pressure on us than usual. Warnings have gone out to the Shed End and Matthew Harding Stand (“MHS”). We want to place the emphasis on fans understanding that persistent standing hampers others from seeing clearly.
The FLA could reduce capacity for one or more matches and they have carried that out at other clubs. Each local council treats the issue differently and our local council are very cooperative. The FLA is responsible for ensuring consistent standards nationwide though.
Fans: Can the Club promote a review of the ban on standing at matches?
Club: There is no appetite to review the issue at governmental level so it won’t happen.
Fans: When fans come out of the East Stand after a match we have to cross over the away fans to go behind the Shed End. For the West Ham match the cordon for away fans extended almost to Fulham Road. It’s annoying.
Club: We have had problems with West Ham matches before and therefore the cordon was tight. Fans have to be let out together in this country as it could be classed as unlawful detention otherwise. There has to be evidence of a possible breach of the peace to keep them back.
Fans: Can the Club review having unreserved seat areas?
Club: We have found from free events that fans leave empty seats in such a scenario, such as with the open day. We reduce capacity by 10% on the lower tier to deal with this, and the council would probably expect this each time. Stewards would have a lot of work in ensuring fans move up to fill each row. We do want a better atmosphere but it would not make sense to reduce takings by having empty seats.
Fans: Could it be trialled at a match? It could improve the atmosphere though admittedly large groups could not arrive and all expect to sit together. Branches have found that their members have been seated together which works well as a template. At away matches in Europe we have unreserved seating.
Club: We find unreserved seating areas in Europe often don’t work well and can create overcrowding in some areas whilst others are not filled. There are much tighter regulations in this country.
Club to consider unreserved seating but not at a commercial cost re. lost seats.
Fans: In the MHS fans seem to be targeted by stewards sometimes and have their STs suspended. What are the penalties?
Club: For persistent standing their ST may be suspended for a game only. For serious violence the suspension may be a lot longer or permanent.
MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING/ MATTERS ARISING
Fans: There is one change to the last minutes. The point regarding upgrading junior ST seats for some matches e.g. evening matches, could apply in the ground except in the East Lower.
Chair: Action points from the last meeting were as follows: Club to check accuracy of phone number(s) on the website ticket page.
Club: This has been done.
Chair: Club to feed back whether individuals have been successful in their application for the European away scheme.
Club: This can be implemented next season.
A further action point was for proposals from Forum members, on ticket policy changes for next season, to be submitted by the time of this meeting and discussed at the third meeting. We propose bringing the third meeting forward, as the decisions for next season are likely to be made before the previously agreed third meeting date of 28th February. We should therefore meet on 7th February, with any further proposals emailed to the Forum by the end of January.
(Change of date accepted by the Forum.)
Chair: Club to consider whether to approach the Premier League (“FAPL”) about unfairness of Manchester United not being investigated for alleged poaching in the summer, whilst the Club was penalised for tapping up Ashley Cole.
Club: There is a process internally within the FAPL and such ethical issues are looked at. We are happy with that process.
Chair: Club to consider Chelsea Pensioners leading out the team.
Fans: This happened around Remembrance Day and is fine for special occasions only.
Chair: The Club would like to host Forum members for a tour of Cobham. Would term-time or holidays be better?
Fans: Term-time is fine.
Club: It may be possible for each member to bring a guest. If we invite extra fans from last season’s Forum the numbers may need splitting to two groups. We will look at possible dates and circulate them.
Club to circulate possible dates for a tour of Cobham.
Fans: Can this be arranged for overseas supporter clubs?
Club: We are considering branch issues later in the day and can discuss it then.
STADIUM AND ATMOSPHERE
Fans: There is a drab wall in the ground between the Shed End and the West Stand. Could this be improved?
Club to review improving the look of the area between the Shed End and the West Stand.
Fans: Could we consider giving the fans hooters to improve atmosphere as given out to home fans in Valencia?
(The Forum rejected the hooters.)
Fans: Please would the Club consider moving the away fans back to the East Stand? We think the view from that area is not good; the sun is on you constantly; the manager has complained about the view from there; you can see the action better all over the pitch from the Shed End; for cup matches the home fans usually in the Shed End are dispersed around the stadium.
Club: One of the main reasons the positioning was changed was that home fans wanted to sit behind the manager.
Chair: When the issue was discussed originally in the Forum a few years ago, fans cited the increased effect on the match that they could have from the East Stand as a reason for moving away fans.
Fans: Most clubs only bring half the allocation there anyway. The atmosphere sub-committee think the atmosphere for home support would improve with away fans being moved back to the East Stand, as the acoustics are better in the Shed End.
In the East Upper there are often different fans there each match that detracts from the atmosphere. The away atmosphere tends to be so much better.
If players encourage fan support during matches, as Drogba does, that’s no bad thing. For a recent match, our fans were calling to Ashley Cole to stand by the post for a corner and he signalled they should shut up. The fans were right!
Club: The area in the East Stand to which you refer is a members area so there would be different fans there for each match.
Atmosphere is either a huge positive or a negative - the players don’t remain indifferent to it. If we move away fans to the East Stand we would still need some extra space elsewhere in the ground for Carling Cup matches to accommodate them.
Club to consider positioning of away fans for next season.
Fans: Why are seats often empty at the start of games in the Shed Upper?
Club: It is a complimentary seats area but we have moved this so the area should not be empty in future.
Fans: There have been many complaints about the East Upper including: lifts being dirty due to rubbish moved in them; trolleys and rubbish blocking the top of the lift access area; bags of rubbish left by seats at entrances with someone falling over one recently - the bag came open and the rubbish looked like it was old; fire exit lights by the ladies toilets not working; mops and buckets left there. These are all health and safety issues.
Club to investigate immediately complaints about the East Stand as listed.
Fans: What is the situation regarding ground development or a possible move?
Club: We have not given up on this site. We also look at proposals for new sites as they are suggested to us, but this means we get linked with every proposal. We were approached about the Battersea proposal that gets publicised even though we don’t initiate drawing up plans. We are not close to a major announcement. We have to consider transport and access issues as well. We gave Richard King, Chairman of the CPO, a statement from the Club that we are happy to share with other fans.
Fans: Could the Club consider having a walkway to West Brompton station?
Club: We have looked into it as well as tunnels in different positions from the ground. We have constant dialogue about development. There are economic implications of developing the ground here as the cost of putting in 8,000 seats may be the same as a quarter of a brand new stadium. The absolute maximum development possible here we foresee is around 55,000. It’s not the case that we have to move to keep up with the income streams of other clubs.
To clarify the rumours that you may have read concerning ownership, the Club is not up for sale and is not in financial trouble, despite what you read in the press on a daily basis. We are delighted not to be the richest club anymore, and other clubs may spend more without having as much success on the pitch. This would dispel the idea that we have just bought our titles.
We have taken sound financial decisions recently regarding trimming costs. We are not generally in the market for players at present as the best players are not usually available mid-season and also it takes new players time to adapt.
We are in great shape, and the best thing we can do is win trophies and be self-sufficient. We have had investment of £600 million in the last five and a half years with excellent facilities and football during that time. Next year we expect our operating profit to break even. Our financial accounts for 2007-08 are published in February and any notions about the owner losing interest are dispelled in that. The owner does not have to sell Chelsea and he doesn’t want to. Sports journalists often don’t understand the full financial picture.
Fans: The manager did say he would like to buy at least one new player.
Club: This was taken out of context. He has usually given a full answer to state that he is happy with the squad as it is but on one occasion he gave a shortened answer and this ended up being publicised. We sat down with Scolari in the summer. He specified whom he wanted to sign and we tried to buy Robinho. We signed Deco. He has said consistently that he doesn’t want random replacements if we can't get the players he identified. We have a long-term plan with him and will build on what we have achieved so far.
We take a very dim view of anyone within the Club who does not fully support him. When we hear supporters singing songs criticising the manager we think this goes beyond a supporter’s role. Such songs are not a common occurrence though fortunately.
Fans: In the Shed Upper concourse catering is fast before and after the game but not at half time. There are fewer serving.
Club to look at half-time catering facilities in the Shed Upper.
Fans: The quality of the draught lager tastes poor.
Club to check on quality of draught lager.
Fans: How does the Club view the swipe card access system? An audio signal would help with access. Can there be more prominent colours to indicate proceeding through the turnstiles?
Club: There were problems initially as we expected and especially in the East Middle. They have been dealt with partly as fans are used to the system now. We are finding that entry with tickets is faster than with cards for cup games, which is strange.
We have 106 turnstiles which is a lot for our capacity. We have 33,000 fans arriving in the last 45 minutes before kick-off. We have addressed the complaint of a relative lack of turnstiles in the Shed End.
We tried the audio process for swipe cards which didn’t work as it sounded very noisy with all the turnstiles at once. We have also had a problem with fans swiping their cards then pushing the turnstile without being in it. We have a colour code as it is.
Fans: What is happening with the Peter Osgood statue?
Club: This is being progressed and we will make a full announcement when we’re ready to launch.
Fans: Will supporters be able to make presentations to players on the pitch again?
Club: This is happening already for gold clubs as a reward for having more members.
CHELSEA TV/ MEDIA
Fans: There have been complaints that Chelsea TV tries to cater for non-Chelsea fans excessively. It shouldn’t be a mainstream sports channel. Prior to the Chelsea v Liverpool game Kenny Dalglish was interviewed and asked about Liverpool which is of no interest to our fans. On the phone-ins, Scott Minto gives the impression of not having watched our games and having few opinions on them. Jason Cundy seems to be a genuine fan though.
We like to hear views of knowledgeable fans such as Rick Glanville and neither appear to have been on this season. The journalists don’t appear to add much to the programmes. Gigi questions the journalists well though.
Club: We want to have a variety of content. Gigi does interview journalists well and gets the balance right. We also encourage fans to appear on the phone-ins and don’t mind airing views that are critical of the Club. The guests are all likely to be Chelsea-related in that they are able to talk about the Club intelligently, whatever their background. We do want a broader appeal which may explain the Dalglish interview.
Having said that we appreciate your feedback and will take it on board. Please forward any complaints or comments received.
Regarding the issue of Forum members appearing on Chelsea TV, we want to include short interviews on Chelsea TV after this meeting rather than having a separate show with two Forum representatives.
Fans: Is Chelsea TV as popular this season? What packages are available in the UK and in the Middle East where Manchester United have their own channel?
Club: Take-up goes down during the course of every season as there are fewer live matches left with the package as the season goes on, so we expect that. The cost is still £6 per month.
You can get the package on Setanta and couldn’t buy it on Virgin Media due to their issues with Sky. We didn’t think the commercial terms from Virgin Media were suitable at the time and there was another issue with them regarding cable platform limitations. You can get Chelsea TV on cable platforms that Setanta offer such as Tiscoli.
In the Middle East there is a 3-hour international package offered. We have an agency that sells the packages.
Club to check the Middle East TV package on offer from other clubs in comparison to Chelsea TV.
Fans: Chelsea TV offered live domestic cup matches but that hasn’t happened.
Club: The rights holders were not committed to spending on an outside broadcast unit. For both the Southend and Burnley matches we found out at the last minute that the rights holders would not be doing it and we would have had to pay. We have changed our marketing as we can’t guarantee full match transmission. We don’t think they will make the same mistakes, as they missed out on full transmission on the Southend cup match.
Fans: What is the position with rights to old games?
Club: The FAPL games are in an archive and can be leased but we still therefore have to pay. For pre-FAPL games there are still rights issues as we don’t own the archive. We are trying to retain photography archives for the Club.
Fans: The Outlook calendar available on the website states it is up to date to October last year.
Club to ensure Outlook calendar on the website is up to date and states this.
Fans: With the new TV rights package being negotiated, would the Club support the view that there is a maximum distance of, say, 100 miles between teams playing on mid-week matches for TV?
Club: We are very aware of the problems for fans travelling long distances mid-week. Our opposition to the Everton away match timing this season and last season is well known. We managed to change Newcastle away to a 4pm Bank Holiday kick-off from an 8pm kick-off last season. The FAPL could have helped us out more for certain matches.
However broadcasters may suggest they are being left with matches they don’t want if they don’t show the big clubs occasionally, especially as the top clubs have European commitments that affect when they can play domestically.
Club: We are considering an e-magazine for ST holders as part of our environmental policy in place of the paper version, with the same content. We could give some of the savings to charity. What are the Forums view?
Fans: An e-magazine should be an option for fans. Please could the Club reduce the number of magazines sent to one household with multiple memberships or STs.
Members in supporter groups are happy with the option of not paying for the magazine.
Club to consider ways of reducing the number of magazines sent to multiple ST or member households.
Club: We emailed everyone about our announcement regarding involvement with the mayor’s action plan and have been on a panel with him. We were one of the first to sign up with the previous mayor’s initiative. We are part of the Green 500 and have an action plan for environmental measures. We want to engage fans with this programme, and want to reduce our own carbon emissions by 10% over the next two years. Fan engagement is such a major aspect of this due to the reach of the Club. Feedback on what we have done already was good but we want to progress this, though limited by the current stadium. We have only had an executive summary to date for our environmental report but would imagine that moving towards more timers on lights and similar ideas could be developed.
We will have a pledge page on the website, e.g. fans to pledge they won’t leave their TVs on standby when going to matches, or encouraging public transport use for matches.
Fans: Why are announcements made so often about tube problems during the games? Surely problems are known about before matches.
Club: These decisions about announcements are made during matches at the request of the police.
Fans: Could we have a paperless entry system for ST holders for additional matches purchased?
Club: We wanted to ensure the new system works first and are now looking at new developments including the one mentioned.
Fans: A sub-committee on the environment would be welcome. One fan works as an environmental consultant and other members of the Forum could contribute. Car-sharing schemes could be encouraged as is the case in Bristol. At Southend all lights went out in the stands during the two halves. Such an initiative can lead to cost savings.
Could we register European travel plans electronically?
Club: We are already looking at that for next season.
Club to set up an environmental policy sub-committee with Veronica, Neil, Simon and Carol volunteering to represent the Forum.
Chair: As with the atmosphere sub-committee, anyone else can join who shows an interest.
Fans: The Club should be applauded for arranging travel to matches, as well as the subsidised rates. This in itself is a positive environmental initiative.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Fans: Why are there different membership renewal forms?
Club: There is the form for existing members, previous members and a form for child members.
Fans: When the fans come out could we play “Blue is the Colour” rather than “Blue Day” as introduction of the latter was an attempt by Ken Bates to rewrite the history of the Club. “Chelsea Dagger” would also go down well.
Club: “Chelsea Dagger” is not an official Club song though.
(General consensus is to continue the current rotation of songs as the team comes out.)
Fans: Are there likely to be any player sales during the transfer window?
Club: If we do sell it wouldn’t weaken our squad. The deal for Wayne Bridge was very good for the Club as he wasn’t a first-choice left back. He did a great job for us but the deal hinged on the player wanting to move on for regular first-team football. We have cover for that position.
We are not in the market to try and sell anyone. Some are not going anywhere who have contributed a lot to our success. The objectives are to better last season’s finish and we are still in a position to do that.
Fans: For Southend away there was very little time for obtaining tickets. Why was this? Were there website problems for purchasing them?
Club: It was due to the tight timescale, and therefore we couldn’t reward loyalty for this match. We didn’t have time to reward loyalty as we would like to ideally. For Ipswich if we draw at home we would use loyalty for the away match if we have time. A lot of regulars went to the Southend match anyway. We did publicise the arrangements for a possible replay against Southend before the original match. Ipswich arrangements were in place before the Southend replay.
The website system didn’t crash for Southend and we are not aware of major difficulties.
Club to check the audit logs for evidence of website problems for sales of Southend away tickets.
Fans: If the proposal of automatic cup scheme tickets being sent out straight away is adopted we would not have to wait.
Why do away ST holders still not always get the best views at away matches?
Club: We are looking into a faster service for automatic cup scheme members.
As regards the view at away matches, we sometimes have to sell tickets in a strict order but are often advised where the best views will be and sell these seats to away ST holders accordingly.
Fans: Please can we have the go-ahead for another fans tournament at Cobham so we can begin arrangements.
Club: We are happy to approve another fans tournament there.
On the subject of the East Stand we have had confirmation that it is clean, tidy and free of rubbish today.
Guest: Thank you for inviting me. The Forum is a credit to the Club and the fans for working together on this model; it’s good to see such dialogue.
(The meeting finished at 12.55pm.)
|Fans' Forum minutes|