Fans' Forum minutes: 17/04/06

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Meeting held at the Lord Attenborough Suite, Chelsea F.C. Hotel, at 11.00am on Monday, 17th April 2006.

ATTENDEES/ group represented


(Action points are in bold and underlined.)


Chair: Welcome to our guests: David Thomason, Frank McCartney, Kirsty Hurst-Wurth and her team.

With the approval of the Forum, we will change the order of the agenda so that “Catering” is the last item. This will provide the opportunity for the Club to include a food-tasting session for possible products next season.


Chair: The last minutes had the wrong date on - now amended.

Club: It is worth noting that there was a feedback session for the Forum on ticketing. The policy will go on the website next Friday, with renewal forms despatched after that.

On the action points from the last meeting:

- East Stand review: Simon Arthur proposes to distribute this to the Forum; - The Club was going to write to season ticket holders in a possible area (maybe West Lower) identified for unreserved seating - we don’t plan to at present; - Club was going to report back on ticket sales for the Aston Villa away match - this was covered in the ticketing feedback meeting.

Fans: We are unsure why the Club won’t be writing to fans in a possible unreserved area? This needs following up as it was an action point previously.

Club: Firstly we need to decide on our view on whether unreserved seating is even a possibility. Then we can consider writing to fans in the relevant area. We are fairly certain that season-ticket holders in any area will adamantly not want to move.

Action point: Club to review its position on unreserved seating.

Fans: Maybe the Club could consider the Shed Upper as there are no season tickets there.

The decisions on pricing generally for next season were very welcome though.


David Thomason:

(Powerpoint presentation made, summary of which will be available to fans.)

Overall We send surveys around Christmas to regular fans and to corporate fans. This is the second year we have sent them out. We then compile the results and also advise on the priorities that follow on from them. The intention is to improve satisfaction of the match day experience.

The survey comprised 55% season ticket holders and 45% members.

Corporate fans For the corporate fans, the main aims identified from last year, were:

- cleanliness of bar and dining areas; - speed of bar service at half time; - quality of food - value for money in season ticket price.

Satisfaction on the first three went up since last year, the last one went down. The index for corporate fans overall has gone up from 71.2 to 72.6. This is the highest score we have for any sports or membership club with high affinity, including Manchester United.

At the outset over a year ago, we put together focus groups to decide on the most important issues for corporate fans. This year we sent out 901 forms, and got 252 back - a good response of 28%. This is fine to minimise sampling errors.

This year, they also identified which are their most important aspects, which included: quality of food, bar staff service. All measurements are on a scale of one to ten.

There was little difference in what was of importance a year ago in comparison with this year. When we measure satisfaction, we weight according to what is more important.

If an item scored less than 6 out of 10, we ask why the item was scored in that way. Dissatisfaction in value for money of season tickets came out worst, followed by access to non-corporate match tickets, and fans not taking their seats by the start of the half.

In deciding on issues to focus on for next year, we look at the gap between importance and dissatisfaction. The size of the gap tends to suggest a priority issue.

For this year we have identified:

- cleanliness of dining and bar areas - speed of half time service - value for money in season ticket price - fans taking seats at start of a half.

We can then further break results down by each corporate area, in case there are different priorities in different areas.

Regular Fans

As a recap from last year, the main aspects we advised the Club to concentrate on, as identified by regular fans, were: - approach to booking fees - price and quality of food and drink - positioning of away fans - pricing of tickets.

On the first three of those four, there has been quite an improvement in fan satisfaction. Remember that the survey was sent out prior to the announcement of the ticket price freeze.

Certain items have gone up and one in particular has gone down. The figures therefore balance out approximately.

The overall satisfaction index for regular fans has gone down very slightly from 64.7 to 64.5.

The questions were also devised in focus groups before last season’s mailing. Nearly 6,000 forms were sent out this year, with 2,000 back, giving 34%. This was down a bit from last year, but again is fine as a sample.

Important issues included, amongst other things: travel, language, atmosphere, safety. Again, aspects that were important last year are again important this year. These are just the top 21 items from the list of 60-70 from the original focus groups.

Fan satisfaction from last year that has improved includes:

- positioning of away fans - approach to booking fees - price of food and drink - quality of food and drink.

A decrease in satisfaction is shown from ticket ordering, exiting the stadium, for instance. Again, where scores are less than 6, we ask why standards aren’t good.

There is still a gap between higher importance and lower satisfaction in booking fees, price of food and drink, and quality of food and drink.

Overall, the regular fans target for satisfaction levels has not been achieved.

We know that price of tickets will always be an issue due to the high demand of tickets. Therefore we see that as a separate issue and it isn’t included in our recommendations. However, linked to this, we suggest the Club concentrates on ticket ordering on the internet, amongst other areas.

Overall we are confident that the survey gives an accurate picture of fans’ concerns and satisfaction.

Fans: Are the same fans written to each year?

David Thomason: No, we think this won’t help, as fans are more likely to be cynical if asked the same things each year. However, we ask similar numbers in each part of the ground, and demographically similar groups.

The numbers are so high that we feel it gives a good cross-section.

Fans: Surely you should concentrate on the issues that are of most importance, rather than on where the gap is greatest between satisfaction and importance.

David Thomason: As all these issues are within the top 21 requirements, they are all important to fans. We agree they may not be the single most important items, but the biggest effect on the satisfaction gap will be targeting these issues.

We do also include a business impact matrix and satisfaction index, which I would be happy to go through with you in more detail separately.

Club: A summary will be provided to fans for the website. If fan groups want more information they are welcome to it.

As regards some of the other priorities, such as ticket prices, we hope that our recent announcement will play a major part in affecting the satisfaction index.

We are aware that lots of the issues are important and not just those that we will highlight as targets. We too are looking at further analysis of what to concentrate on.

Fans: Why is the survey not on-line as well as postal? Surely there would be a higher response if there was more choice.

David Thomason: On-line may present a bias towards younger respondents.

Club: As we are moving in that direction with ticket sales, this could be a possibility for future years.

Fans: How come booking fee satisfaction has increased without the amount changing?

Club: The fee hasn’t changed, but we have communicated our position much better. This has probably made the difference.

David Thomason: We would agree with that. Fans want to know their concerns are being addressed so the perception of a concern is important.

Fans: How often will the issues of importance be reassessed? Also, will the timing of the survey be reassessed next year?

David Thomason: The hierarchy of issues of importance has been similar for the last couple of years. We suggest it is reviewed every three years.

Re the time of year of despatch, we suggest this stays consistent. It is up to the Club when they make their announcements which might influence satisfaction levels.

Club: It is also half way through the season so is probably useful for fans to assess the season then, and for us to plan for the following season.


(A draw was made amongst the 14 unreserved places to decide on the 7 who would continue for one further year. John Coleman and Ryan Goodliff indicated they would not be remaining on the Forum.

The seven who will be leaving are as follows:

Bromfield, Gillian (season ticket holder) Coleman, John (family section) Essex, Roger (branch) Goodliff, Ryan (16 - 21 age group) Hazard, Kevin (season ticket holder) Mann, Roger (branch) Michael, Richard (member)

An application form will be publicised to fill those positions. The Forum also agreed that at least one of the two replacement season ticket- holders must also be an away season ticket-holder.

In addition, Jez Walters announced there will be a change in representation next season for cfcnet.)

Chair: We request that those fans leaving the Forum don’t stand again for a year, as that helps ensure some new faces on the Forum. You are thereafter welcome to reapply. Thank you for your input, for those not on the Forum next season.

Club: We would like to offer our warmest thanks for those who are leaving the Forum at the end of this season. You have made a valuable contribution, for which we’re grateful.

Fans: Amongst similar bodies I have been on, I would like to say this has been the best of its kind so thank you for all to date. There is clearly a joint objective of moving the Club forward.


Fans: We would like the Club to stand up for fans mistreated at the Barcelona away match. Problems included:

- keeping fans waiting unnecessarily - there were no turnstiles in some areas - policing was generally very heavy-handed - fans were spat at by security when complaints were made - at half time, some fans were not allowed back to their seats without an unnecessary detour when returning to their seats.

It also seems unfair that we have such bad seats in the ground, but it’s unlikely anything can happen about this aspect.

There seems to be no come back on Barcelona.

Club: We find Barcelona difficult to deal with and we know our fans are treated badly there. David Barnard has written to UEFA on this issue. We are happy to include further complaints, but are not hopeful of a helpful response.

UEFA representatives are present at matches though.

We won’t have any impact on policing out there. We do have our own police who travel with fans, but they can’t have any jurisdiction in Spain. Our police liaison officer can certainly complain on our behalf after the match.

Fans: Can the Club issue a statement about the treatment of our fans in Barcelona? Any publicity should at least help the issue.

Club: We could do, but wouldn’t recommend it. There are too many other issues that have surrounded our matches against Barcelona and the message would probably get lost.

The team was also half an hour late going to the ground as the police took us the wrong way directly into traffic. We were consequently fined for handing in our team sheet late.

Fans: The Club should certainly publicise in some way what action it will be taking.

Club: We are happy to publicise what action we are taking on the problems in Barcelona.

Hopefully the World Cup will be trouble-free as problems by England fans would have ramifications for the way our fans are treated next season.

Fans: How many tickets are left for the Liverpool Cup semi-final? Also, thanks for the subsidised travel.

Club: We have virtually sold out for the semi-final - there are just a few hundred left.

Fans: Has the renewal form design been finalised?

Club: Yes it has. These will all be posted on 24th April, you can renew from 9th May including an online renewal system. There will be no need for any paper involvement if the fan wants. The deadline will be 31st May for season tickets.

Members can renew from 23rd May, having been posted on 16th May.

We have also reviewed online terms and conditions. The policy will include a lot of detail about the away schemes etc. We are just waiting for the response from the lawyers.

There will be no new season tickets issued this year. If the Club decides to allocate more season tickets after next season, we can use the loyalty scheme to help decide who gets them. We could then ballot those with the most points if we need to.

There were up to 1,300 non-renewals in previous years, but less last year.

The same applies with no new season tickets being available in the family section. Those coming out of the family area as season ticket holders will be offered season tickets elsewhere in the ground though.

Fans: Has the facilities email been set up yet?

Club: Yes, it’s: That has been live for some time.

Fans: What happened with the email correspondence system for the Forum?

Chair: We were happy to try and implement this, but found that the emails received were overwhelmingly irrelevant to the subjects we are here to discuss. At present we have a system by which the Forum is composed of a mixture of fans who only have their own views to consider, which is fine, and representatives from fanzines and groups who are more aware of wider views. That balance seems to work well.

On a different subject, a few of the Forum have repeated their request to have a trip to Cobham. We can approach the Club about that again.


Club: We are going through a process of improvement. We reduced the cost of burgers last year for instance. We now want to address this in greater detail.

The family area and Matthew Harding Stand need a lot of work in respect to catering. We do need to work to a careful business plan, but want to roll out an overhaul of outlets in the East Stand, for instance. This will fit in with other changes to the East Stand, including improved turnstiles. The aesthetics generally need to improve there.

The catering outlets look poor in the East Stand. We looked at speed of service to improve that, such as bottles of Budweiser - we are aware service was slow. Unfortunately fans took bottles back to their seats, with some fans having to be ejected, so we had to stop that.

Kirsty and Frank have been looking at new products that they want to introduce. The burger vans externally are a concession and this works quite well for us. The extraction problems in the ground contribute to our limits as to what we can cook in the ground.

We are also considering extracting the back two rows of the East Stand lower to improve catering there. Catering service areas would be inverted so children could watch pizzas being made, for instance.

Frank started FMC and is responsible for the catering at Wimbledon. Frank also works with Swansea, Gillingham, Southampton. Compass do Twickenham, the Millennium Stadium, numerous racecourses. He is now Chairman of Compass Leisure and is therefore our contact. Kirsty is responsible for the match day catering here.

We have a number of suppliers who will be providing samples today, and also have Chris Hunter with us.

We see the main areas to concentrate on as being the following:

- The look of the kiosks (Possible new designs for kiosks are passed round.) - Improve products on offer - Quality of staffing

Quality of products seems important from the satisfaction survey. We have the hot dogs at present, but can then improve the product e.g. with baguettes instead of cheaper bread.

At the Manchester City match, we tried out the Naan Balti Wrap in the West Upper. The feedback was that the bread was too dry, so we have tried tortillas instead.

We know beer needs to taste fresh as well.

As regards our staff, we don’t use an agency but employ directly, and want our good staff returning in the new season. Good staff can then train others, having chosen to come back to us.

Fans: It’s good to see that the Club are trying to improve this issue.

What happens to staff in the close season?

Club: They work on other projects such as Wimbledon in the summer. So you can then get a good core of staff.

As regards the new kiosks, they cost £45,000 to £75,000 each, so we won’t be introducing them all at once.

Frank McCartney: Certainly the supervisors should be retained, which is worth investing in.

Fans: Will you be catering for fans in wheelchairs better than before?

Club: We will be hawking goods around to fans directly, and looking at lowering counters as a possibility.

(Adjournment for food tasting.)

Fans: Feedback on the tasting:

- Pasties are too big; - Flavour of the wraps is excellent; - Both pizzas (pepperoni and vegetarian) are very good; - Baguettes may be a good size for adults but would be too big for children.

Club: We have a vegetable curry wrap, and a breakfast one. This is the Cajun one.

As regards the baguettes, we want to concentrate on one generic size. If we manipulate products, it slows the queue down, and there are also hygiene issues. This way they just need preparing by the chefs, then heating.

We haven’t introduced time studies for serving yet, but want to get the products right first.

At the Tottenham match, Chicken Balti pies sold 311, Steak & kidney pies sold almost 1,000.

Fans: This is good food, but quite heavy. What about offering sandwiches to fans? Lots of fans buy them outside the ground instead.

Club: We tried them in the family area providing about 100 of them, and were left with c.90 unsold.

Fans: Sales of sandwiches to children are likely to be low though.

You could consider different food on a cold winter evening for instance, than on a summer’s afternoon.

On a different subject, there was a lot of annoyance amongst fans that alcohol was unavailable before the West Ham home match. It would help greatly if the Club communicated when this is going to happen. Fans may not assume that the Club will be selling alcohol next time and go elsewhere for a pint before the match. Pubs in the area were open anyway.

Club: We understand that such decisions could be communicated better. We all want fans to come to the ground earlier, and understand fans’ frustration. We have to work with the authorities when they don’t want us to serve alcohol though.

Fans: Manchester City has a very high standard of catering, and is worth seeing.

The main complaints we hear are that the beer is so poor, and tastes flat. Lager tastes watered down.

Beer is not likely to last well beyond four or five days, so if the barrels aren’t changed between matches, the product is likely to go off.

Club: We obviously have our deal with Budweiser. We don’t think there’s a problem with the branding, just the timing of how we serve it. If we end up not renewing with Budweiser we would need to change all our equipment.

Fans: What will the new food products cost?

Club: We want to decide on the quality first, and then we can go back to our suppliers and negotiate on the price according to what we can charge.

Fans: Some food, such as the chicken burgers, are very well presented, but couldn’t look as good when mass produced.

The chicken burgers are a quality product, and healthier than standard burgers. We need to fit catering of new products into the existing 48 kiosks as well as the new designs.

However, we are aware of potential problems, so we’ve asked our suppliers to try cooking and serving them in our current facilities. As mentioned before, queuing and delivery have to be right as well.

Fans: What are the main sales at half time? Dedicated non-alcohol sales areas may be worthwhile. Also, different parts of the ground may have different needs.

Club: 60% of all our food sales are at half time.

(The meeting ended at 1.25pm.)

Fans' Forum minutes


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