Fans' Forum minutes: 20/11/04
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CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB SUPPORTERS CONSULTATIVE FORUM 2004/ 2005 SEASON
Meeting held at Chelsea F.C. at 10.45am on Saturday, 20th November 2004.
- Bacchus, Gary (BlueandWhiteArmy.net)
- Bromfield, Gillian (season ticket holder)
- Coleman, John (family section)
- Essex, Roger (branch)
- Goodliff, Ryan (16 - 21 age group)
- Hazard, Kevin (season ticket holder)
- Hine, Tom (member)
- Mann, Roger (branch)
- Michael, Richard (member)
- Michaelson, Bob (exec member/ box holder)
- Monasingh, Marc (member)
- Paul, Denis (over 60 age group)
- Walters, Jez (CFC.net)
- Weller, Jim (season ticket holder)
- Arthur, Simon (Chelsea F.C. Operations Director)
- Greenberg, Simon (Chelsea F.C. Communications Director)
- Kenyon, Peter (Chelsea F.C. Chief Executive)
- Newby, David (Chelsea F.C. Marketing Manager)
- Smith, Paul (Chelsea F.C. Business Affairs Director)
- Regan, Andy (Electoral Reform Services, Forum services)
Apologies were received from:-
- O’Callaghan, Terry (branch)
- Polk, Jamie (disabled section)
(Action points are in bold and underlined.)
Chair: Best wishes to Terry and Jamie for quick recoveries.
CHANGES TO THE MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING/ MATTERS ARISING FROM PREVIOUS MINUTES
Club: There were some action points to come back on from last time.
Firstly, the away allocation issue: we are happy to publicise the allocations that we are taking for fans. We want to ensure that fans are able to travel and support the team wherever possible, so our interests are the same in this. There are four matches where we haven’t taken the full allocation. In the first five matches, we took our full allocation but didn’t fully sell these out. These were:-
Birmingham - 137 Crystal Palace - 398 Aston Villa - 296 Middlesbrough - 396 West Brom - 28.
The matches for which we are not at present planning to take a full allocation, as things stand, are Liverpool, Blackburn, Everton and Bolton. Liverpool is a lunch-time kick-off on New Years Day so we are unlikely to sell a full allocation. We can review the other matches though, especially as they are getting towards the end of the season and hopefully the run-in will be significant for us!
Fans: We are sure the Club website said we were sold out for some of the five matches mentioned above though.
Club: We will ensure that communication is clear in the future.
We also only give the second section of the East Stand Lower on a non-sale or return basis. The precise arrangements are as agreed between each Club but that is the principle.
The second issue concerned the “Pride of London” flag. The Health & Safety Committee definitely want it fireproofed. We will be happy to pay for this. We want to help out the fans but there are certain issues to resolve first, in particular the logistics considerations. The police and others may still reject the prospect, but we will try.
Thirdly, the issue of pre-match atmosphere. This was tried immediately on the day of the last Forum. We are happy to publicise the fact that there is a period of non-PA sound pre-kick-off for fans to fill the space, in effect. There are some interruptions to that, such as the Champions League anthem, but we will try and stick to it where possible.
We are going to introduce a producer for match days as well, which should help the process. We will also be showing the video released for the new badge launch before kick-off.
Please can the Forum also help us to spread the message of anti-racism and anti-bigotry in any songs though.
Fourthly, the issue of whether the team can alternate the end at which they warm up pre-match. The manager was asked about this, but due to the good run, he would rather not change any routines at present. He may reconsider this in the future.
Fans: Jose complained about the fans on “Match of the Day” after the last home match. This is not an appropriate forum for this.
Club: He made the same comments on Chelsea TV, and was not telling off the fans, however that seemed! He is very much a perfectionist and just wanted to encourage the crowd. Certainly, having noisy away fans around his dug-out would not have helped his perception. The real positive is perhaps that he does appreciate how much the fans can help the team.
The media are likely to pick up on anything that can seem controversial when out of context.
As regards the positioning of the away fans, we have commissioned an independent study to see if they can be seated anywhere else in the ground.
Chair: As our disabled fan representative cannot be here today, is the Forum happy to defer that discussion until next time?
Club: We have recently received our report further to the Disability Discrimination Act. It is quite substantial and we are addressing it already, but will report back to the Forum on progress next time. Our progress will include further consultation with our disabled fans and the NDA on this. Disabled fans were spoken to by those doing the DDA report as well.
It is an area we would address anyway, but will certainly give the Forum the chance to comment as well. The Premier League also take an interest in this of course, and do set general policy.
Fans: Would you publicise the DDA feedback?
Club: We don’t generally publicise all confidential reports we commission. We need to have an honest independent assessment, not one that has one eye on appealing to fans, despite the realities of any particular situation.
Fans: One query that did come up concerned a fan who has a standard season ticket, but is now blind. Is there a possible concession on her season ticket, if still sitting in her regular seat?
Club: Please pass over the details and we will look into it.
Club: We want to achieve various things with the centenary celebrations. It is important of course to celebrate the century achieved, but also to look forward to what we intend to achieve in the future. We want to reinforce the momentum of recent years, and also to publicise that we are not just a West London institution, but also a force in national and European football.
The first decision concerns when to celebrate the centenary. The Club was constituted in March 1905, it was elected to the Football League in May of that year, and the first match was played in September. We have chosen the latter as the most important for fans, and therefore the 2005-2006 season will contain our celebrations.
We have looked at what other clubs have done, and we want to stand out of course. We also want to demonstrate the wider lifestyle aspects of the Club and its image. We are therefore suggesting activities which include exhibition matches, fashion events, music events, social and arts events. We therefore want to appeal to our regular fans and also their families. The programme will run for the entire season, but we will hopefully preview it by the end of this season. Fans will be involved from thereon, including in competitions.
The structure comprises a centenary task force comprising key staff who are involved, and a centenary committee which is the public face of the activities and includes well-known personalities.
We have very good relations with the local Council now, and will need their support for these. We are in contact with the various committees there, such as on traffic and noise issues. We will also need the assistance of the local police.
We know how important this issue is to the fans. There is a lot that we would like to do, but will of course have to compromise on some of those ideas with various authorities. There are external factors to consider as well, for instance local politicians may not want to approve something without full local support with an impending general election.
Fans: Can charity donations be included?
Club: There will be a charitable aspect to all the activities. It will be a not-for-profit series of events, and we will not be looking to make money on them. We agree that a charitable and community angle may well help gain local support and appeal to big names to take part. Any profits will be reinvested in those areas. If we are doing a concert with the help of the Prince’s Trust, then that charity will obviously benefit in addition to the other charity policy (see below). There may be competitions for fans to play at Stamford Bridge with Football Aid benefiting as well.
As an example of community joint events, we are discussing with the Council, and will discuss with the Local Education Authority, an education project about the history of the Club for schoolchildren. This is one example of the local community being included.
Fans: It would be good to include the supporters clubs around the country as well - and around the world.
Club: Diane Broom now has an assistant to help with the supporters clubs. We want to enhance that anyway, and will consider how we can involve supporters clubs in the centenary.
On the subject of the supporters clubs generally, we are very appreciative of the work done by organisers locally. We want to address the issue of supporters clubs anyway and have started that process. The final Forum of the season will probably be used to bring the subject back for the Forum to contribute on top of that consultation process.
Fans: One of the fanzine websites has had feedback from contributors stating that long-term fans must be kept in mind. For instance, a “Shed evening” would mean a lot for fans.
Club: The intention is to include everyone. Please do let the Club know about specific suggestions. For instance, we want to collect more memorabilia about the history of the Club - there is very little memorabilia here. We have appointed Ron Hockings to look into this and have already appealed to fans to contact him about items. We now collect memorabilia from away European matches for instance, which wasn’t necessarily done in the past. The appeal for items will regularly appear in Club media, and we also have an e-mail address for centenary ideas. We are working on a centenary section of the website as well. For any items used, there would be an acknowledgement of that individual in any exhibition. The Galleria is now renamed the Centenary Hall.
Some clubs seem to have a head-start in logging their history. For those who have been to the Barcelona FC museum for instance, that is a staggering display.
The new badge (on view in the room) will be signed by the squad and the manager, and will be on view in the display.
Fans: Is there a wider media appeal in the local media for instance? In a Club event for Roy Bentley, many in the room had memorabilia. Unfortunately some of them don’t come to matches any more and wouldn’t know about this appeal.
Club: We will consider having a wider media appeal.
We are even having problems contacting old players - which doesn’t seem to have been coordinated much before.
The Council has been approached about their archive, which we will hopefully have access to. The mayor is on our centenary committee and is being very helpful.
Fans: Has there been any progress on the suggestion of having a Club timeline?
Club: It will happen in the Centenary Hall, but we are undecided as to whether to have it externally on the wall behind the East Stand as well.
We have started by painting out the Chelsea Village sign at the front! We are talking with the Council as to what exactly will replace it.
Fans: How will Chelsea TV be used for the events?
Club: The details haven’t been decided on, but all Club media will be utilised for it. The new badge is being used already in places.
Generally, it seems that the work we are putting in behind the scenes for this is not particularly recognised by fans. We really don’t want it to look as if there is no activity behind the scenes, as that is not the case. So please spread the message that it will be a great celebration!
CHARITIES AND COMMUNITY ISSUES
Club: We are currently putting together a strategy that has not been there in the past. There have of course been donations in the past, but it was very unstructured and wasn’t well publicised.
We will have four charity partners. These will be one national charity, two in Fulham & Hammersmith, and one in a nearby borough. The three local initiatives will broadly be based on health, education and crime. A minimum sum of money has been pledged - a substantial amount.
Arsenal for instance, seem to be involved with one local charity only.
Underneath that tier, Premier League projects such as the Prince’s Trust and the NSPCC, will continue to be funded. We will also continue with other collections at the ground, and also contributions to special events. In addition, we receive c.400 letters a week for gifts such as autographed shirts etc. The Club and the players will continue to try and satisfy at least 25% of the demand for those. Anyone who receives signed merchandise must tell us how much has been raised by sales - we want to ensure the items go to good causes, and also we want to know how much is raised to see how effective we are being.
Club: The FA Premier League introduced this idea a few years ago, with the intention that every club become more transparent. Each club has to publish a charter based on a standard format, which is both provided to the FAPL and publicised to fans. The document is there to state the standards that the Club intends to adhere to in its treatment of customers, mostly on matchdays. This would include details of how to communicate with the Club, and how to make a complaint about any aspect if needs be.
We wanted this issue on the agenda, not least because the Chelsea Charter has not had much publicity before. It needs to be more presentable and better known to Fans: at present it is quite poor in this regard. For instance, the aspects we have discussed in respect to our charity and community work will be included in the Charter. We want to completely redesign and expand the Charter for next season.
(Only one of the Forum members had heard of the Charter before it was mentioned at the last meeting.)
Fans: How would the Club know if it is achieving those standards?
Club: There are two principal means of measuring our objectives. Firstly of course, we can note the number of complaints about any issue, and deal with them. Secondly, we have just commissioned an independent fans satisfaction survey. A cross-section of fans, including focus groups, will be asked about what is important to you on matchdays. Every aspect will be covered that fans want on there, including catering, facilities, pre-match entertainment. We want to know what we do well and what we need to do better. In a year we repeat the process, and can therefore measure our progress according to fans.
There is no point only hearing from fans if something has gone wrong.
We will try and have those conducting the fans satisfaction survey attend when this comes up for discussion.
Fans: The standard of food certainly needs addressing!
The Charter mentions child-concession tickets being available for Forums. Supporter clubs don’t get these though.
Club: Please do mention this at the next Forum about ticketing.
As far as food is concerned, we know there is a difficulty in providing fast but good quality food to tens of thousands in a short period of time. However, we are committed to looking at whatever is being done in the entertainment world - within football or without - and using the best ideas for our fans here. We are not precious as to where the best ideas come from.
Fans: Are the wider media customers of Chelsea?
Club: The media are not usually included in charters. They are a stakeholder, and we will consider including them in there - we can certainly state our policy towards the media, including mention of the main Club contact. Broadly, our position is that we are as open as we can be without compromising the Club - it is in our interests to be helpful to the media.
Fans: Amongst home fans, should season ticket holders be treated equally to occasional visitors? Do away fans count as being customers?
Club: We want our standards to be there for all attendees. As regards away fans, they are certainly using our facilities, so from that point of view they are our guests. They fall under our responsibility for health & safety for instance.
Fans: Do our stewards get trained here? They were excellent at the Fulham away match last week.
Club: A few years ago the majority of stewards were agency staff. We need long-term staff, and we have about 500 of 650 stewards who are regular. In order to help their professionalism, we share them with Fulham! They are trained to a high standard and are rewarded much better Unfortunately, one steward was assaulted at the West Ham match recently.
We are acknowledged as having the best stewards by the Premier League.
Fans: Presumably the smoking ban will need to go in the Charter as well. Yet for some reason, there is a smoking problem in the ground for Champions League matches. This doesn’t seem to happen for League matches.
Could there be a smoking area to make the jobs of the stewards easier?
Club: We thought about having a small smoking area but decided it would be really unpleasant with possibly thousands of fans trying to get to it.
We will ensure the anti-smoking ban throughout the ground for all matches.
For the Charter, we will take on board the suggestions made today, and will incorporate those we think appropriate.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
(The Forum was shown the promotional video for the launch of the new Club badge.)
Club: We are really pleased with the video, which was prepared by Chelsea TV. We would be interested to know why fans don’t all have Chelsea TV?
Fans: Some partners don’t want us to have it! Some have NTL. Could a free weekend be aired? Will Chelsea TV be shown abroad?
Club: Such specialist channels tend not to be greatly profitable, so we would probably be charged a huge amount for a free period.
Re showing Chelsea TV abroad, CDN, a venture with Sky, a division of IMG, are distributing it world-wide on our behalf. Coverage includes about 50 countries including Asia and America.
Chair: What is the response here to the new badge?
(Those in the room expressed their approval.)
Fans: The general response from those outside the Forum has also been really positive.
In regard to recent events of racist abuse in Madrid (at the Spain v England match) these could be used as an opportunity for pursuing the Club’s anti-racist message. Unfortunately there have been mentions in the press about how bad Chelsea used to be. We shouldn’t ignore this from our history.
Club: We can also state how good Chelsea’s record is on this in recent years though, perhaps compared to problems in the past. We have recently run a focus on black players at the Club in the magazine - hopefully this has helped highlight how far the Club has come. Fans: Can the Chelsea magazine distribution be spread around the country?
Club: The first aspect was to get the content right. We wanted fans to contribute to it increasingly, which seems to be the case. After appealing to core fans - season ticket holders and members - the issues become commercial. We have the magazine on trial in WH Smith. If that is successful, it will be extended, but it is bound to be a gradual process.
The current run is c.52-53,000 and goes to season ticket holders and members only, automatically. It is a reduced fee to affiliate members.
Fans: Will there be a Christmas carol concert?
Club: There will certainly be an event for Christmas - to be confirmed.
Fans: Thanks to the Club for helping out one of the branches with tickets for the Middlesbrough match. A problem had occurred due to the change in match date.
Is there any recognition today of Keith Weller’s death?
Club: We talked about this substantially. We have decided to have a memorial wall for our former players, who have passed away. The Shed wall may be an appropriate place for this. There are potentially a huge number of former players we would want to honour and we feel this is a better way to manage it. Former massive legends would still be honoured with a minute’s silence as well.
Fans: Is the Club still pursuing a 50,000 capacity?
Club: Yes - we are still looking at the options.
Fans: Has the relationship with Chelsea Pitch Owners changed?
Club: We have a very good relationship with CPO, though the arrangement is complicated. We have new auditors looking at the situation, and we hope to have more social events at which CPO can try and sell more shares. CPO still fits exactly with what we want to do.
Fans: Will there still be a TV show on the Forum?
Club: The plan is to have a one-hour debate on the issues discussed at the Forum. We need two fans from the Forum each time, along with a Club official.
Chair: Thanks to all for your participation today.
(Rob Michaelson and Gary Bacchus volunteered for the TV debate. The meeting finished at 12.45pm.)
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