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Supporter Groups Forum Meeting

4 April 2013

Notes from the last supporters groups meeting on Tuesday 19th March 2013

Supporter Groups Forum Meeting - Tues 19th March 2013

AP is Andrew Pugh, General Manager of STFC
MJ is Martin James, Head of Community Development at STFC

Club responses in italics

MJ - In future meetings will be organised on a bi-monthly first Tuesday in the month setting.  Bearing in mind Tuesday night matches may result in movement to another day.

1. Another travel group are running cheap travel to Carlisle and Yeovil; they were planning on picking up at the football ground.  Club views please?
MJ -The club have not been approached about this. We do not support picking up from the ground by any travel group.  Only where travel is arranged through the club would be this allowed.

2. Season tickets have increased in price will match day prices for 2013/14 increase?
AP - Last year’s ST prices were frozen.  The previous year rose by 2% in consideration of the Vat change from 17.5% to 20% which had not previously been recognised.  For next year they will rise by a maximum of 5%, where have been conscious that the increasing costs experienced by STFC are also experienced by the supporters so we have kept any increase to a minimum.  We have the retained the early bird season ticket (up to 8 matches free) and the Zebra finance offer to spread payments over 10 months with a very low interest rate (approx. £30 on the highest season ticket price).  Match day pricing for next season has yet to be decided upon and will be part of the season’s end review.

3. Concession discounts – Age 60 not 65
AP - There are variances between the offers from clubs in League One and Two.  We have spoken to clubs and some are looking at increasing the age due to official retirement ages increasing.  We have no plans to change at present.  This will be part of our end of season review of ticket pricing. We have recognised requests from previous forums and as a result extended the Student rate to all 16-18 year olds for the early bird season ticket pricing, we have also changed the match day pricing to enable more fans to decide on the day whether to attend at the pre match price (this can also be utilised online)
Away match ticket allocations seem to vary for Season ticket holders.  Some clarification please?  Also multiple away tickets purchased at the same time have sometimes been for different areas of the away stands at some matches.  Stewards can insist that fans sit in designated seats which means apart from other members of the group

AP- The allocation for the Season Ticket holders can vary depending on the total allocation for the match and the importance of the match e.g. if we have an allocation of 1800 tickets there is likely to be enough for all season ticket holders (who attend the away matches) to buy up to 5 and for there to still be enough for the remaining fans, however if there is only an allocation of 500 then the number may be reduced. If the supporters prefer we can restrict it for all matches so the Season Ticket holders have clarity.
Season ticket holders (as with all fans) who are registered online, have the availability to allocate “friends and family” to their account enabling them to buy for the others allocated next to their name, this can sometimes give the impression they can buy more than their general allocation.
With regards the distribution of seats, not all clubs have the same technology as us and the way they are received by STFC can vary. Apart from going through all tickets received and sorting them in to the relevant rows and finding where isles are unfortunately we have very little option when it comes to allocation, we make our best efforts but some may be missed.

B and A
4. Season Tickets 
a) What’s the Reason for such an early cut off on Earl Bird Prices?  (There are a lot of fans who would like the season to finish and save for a season ticket.) 
AP -The cut-off date is actually the same as last year.  People’s perception may be it gets earlier.  Last year the date was extended a little to take into consideration Easter and paydays.  Sales reflect the success of the team on the field.  Last year there was a heavy uptake of the early bird offer as promotion was on the horizon.  This year the uptake so far is comparable to the 2010/11 season.

b) Direct Debit – Other clubs allow fans to pay for the ST by direct Debit (Doncaster for example) and as such avoid the need for credit checks. Direct debits are much more customer friendly so why can’t STFC offer this? 
AP- The club use the Zebra finance package for several reasons.  It was sourced to be an economically viable offer for supporters and to be a low risk option for the club.  The club receive the money for the season at the time of taking out the finance package.  It protects the club from supporters cancelling direct debits.  Club administration of a direct debit system would be financially prohibitive. 

5. Finances – A little more on the reasons for such a loss. Is this something the club can sustain or are worried about?  
AP- The loss is an accounting loss not a cash loss, without wanting to bore everyone on accounting policies, depreciation and amortisation accounted for £241,679 in the period, with the cash situation actually showing an increase of £67,855. I would encourage anyone looking at the accounts to review the cashflow statement rather than just the overall profit/ loss in isolation

6. Other than that updates on the usual things, only if there is progress  - Access, SB Way, Ticket Review, Half time entertainment 
MJ - The only thing to report here is the changes to half time entertainment.  At the Oldham and Bournemouth matches the community coaches will have kids on the pitch at half time playing 5 a side football.  These children are from Community courses and schools engaging the community coaches.  Secondly the Cheer leader group is under formation.  Auditions have taken place and nearly 70 youngsters are now signed up for the development squad through the community and Topaz Dance School.  They will perform pre-match and half time from next season as well as representing the club at events around the county.

7. Recent change in structure of the Football Club.
Is this the first step into separating ownership of the Ground and the Football Club?
AP- The simple answer is no! 

8. Fans choice for a new home strip competition

a) Was there a poor handling of choices?
MJ -This was supporter led initiative.  Over 100 designs were submitted.  These were sorted into similar design effects e.g. stripes, hoops, diagonals etc.  Some had to be discounted as they were too elaborate to be able to manufacture without excessive costs.  Five were short listed for public vote as most popular design styles.
The club took account of the early voting and comments made directly to the club and indirectly through contacts about the range of designs on offer many of which were negative.  The two least popular designs were then replaced with two others from the original submission.  The club received more favourable responses on the new five designs and the vote was completed.
The winning design will be announced in due course, as we are in discussions with the kit suppliers about final design specifications and manufacture, but a date has yet to be decided upon, but is unlikely to be before the end of the season.

b) Is this and opportunity to ‘re-brand’, change the badge?
MJ - Discussion again was held in the meeting and a reminder was given that the club have come out and officially said that a re-branding of the club will take place in the future and that supporters would be involved in badge design.  This is not the time for that re-branding to take place.

9. Use of facilities at the Greenhous Meadow.  Clarification of the review of hospitality venue use and potential impact on community exposure after Slimming World ?
AP/MJ - The club reviewed the use of its hospitality facilities and decided that it could not warrant the long term block booking of any part of the facilities for the future.  We need to be flexible in our response to the very varied customer base we serve and their needs.  We have some clients who book every box, room and suite for a day.  We also need to maximise the revenue from our whole hospitality facility and long term booking of a suite at a very low price (which we lose money on servicing) is restrictive on our booking practice.
Despite the initial poor publicity caused by the Slimming World story we have had good bookings from other community based organisations.  The club will keep its own counsel on the SW events and the way it has been reported.

10. Supporters Liaison Officer.   How the role is carried out at Shrewsbury Town?
MJ - The SLO for the club is Martin James.  Supporter liaison officers (SLOs) are a bridge between the fans and the club and help to improve the dialogue between the two sides. Their work is dependent on the information they receive from both sides and the credibility they enjoy with both parties. The SLO informs fans about relevant decisions made by the club management and, in the other direction, communicates the points of view of fans to the club management. The SLO builds relationships not just with various fan groups and initiatives but also with the police and security officers. At the club Alan Roberts, Safety Officer works with Martin to engage with SLOs of other clubs before matches to contribute to supporters behaving in accordance with security guidelines.

The Q and A to the club, direct emailing and letters, and the Supporter Groups Forum are ways in which dialogue with the fans can be supported.  This is supplemented by personal contact through telephone or in the car park or in the concourse chats about concerns of supporters.

11. Community Sports Trust/ shrewsTRUST and the potential to work together?
MJ welcomed this and advised contact to be made with Lee Pugh the Community Development Manager

12. Fans representation/ club relationship in general
a) Chairman has commented that club would rather talk to one body. Would the club support that body being a constituted body such as a Supporters Trust?
MJ said that it was his own view that the supporters may be better served by an umbrella “Supporters Association” which encompassed all of the existing groups.  Fans may be unsure at present which group to join, what they stood for, what the differences were between them?  His view was that there would be the potential for increased membership, attracting new volunteers with skills to bring to the organisation.  Each individual group has its strengths in fund-raising, away travel, supporter events etc. and these could be brought under one roof so to speak.  Clear accounting of finances and the constitution of the group could be easily available to supporters.  The club respects the efforts of the existing groups and the benefits they have brought to the supporters and the club.  The club encouraged the individual groups to meet and open dialogue about potential partnerships going forward.

The supporter groups spoke of a need to get together to discuss a possible way forward towards some form of “association”

b) Investing in the football club? 

• Does the club welcome investment from individuals and interested fans groups such as the Trust?

AP- The football club welcomes investment of many different forms, and there are many ways that both individuals and organisations can contribute other than through shares.
AP talked through the process of the change in the company from PLC to Limited Company and explained the reasons behind it and emphasised that shareholders would not be disadvantaged. PLC is confusing to many people we are Shrewsbury Town FC we are not BP, Marks and Spencer’s or Tesco with shares traded on the stock exchange where investors buy these shares looking for capital growth or dividends rather we are a football club and supporters buy our shares to support their local football club not as an investment. In fact STFC were the only PLC in Leagues 1 & 2 Three others are all Ex-top flight current Championship clubs of the 72 Football League clubs.

Share issue – expensive, not needed at present. On order to perform a share issue STFC would need to be looking at raising ‘000’s of thousands for it to be viable, this is not currently within our plans.

What happens to relinquished shares? 
AP- There are actually very few relinquished shares, many are passed from generation to generation as many shareholders hold very few shares (sub 200). Where shares are relinquished they are offered to existing shareholders first before being open to the wider base. 

c) What thoughts do the club they have on other income streams they would consider the trust supporting?
AP asked what the Trust is able to support.  He would be willing to explore avenues that the Trust came up with.  The Trust representatives said they would come back to him after consultation.

It was agreed that the individual groups should bring to the Forum information about what they were doing in the near future so that more exposure could be given to events etc, possible help from other groups.
Comments were made about some supporters occupying the West Stand toilets for illicit smoking, the stewards would be told to be more vigilant in future.
Also that many fans were entering the toilets via the exit doors.  It was requested that stewards could stand by the exit doors at half time to deter this practice.

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