The notes from the latest SGF meeting on 21st August 2013
August 2013 MinutesstSGF Wednesday 21
STFC – Andrew Pugh, Martin James, Richard Hill, Alan Roberts, Ian Whitfield
OSC - Carl Jones, Brian Jones, Barry Davies
ShrewsTrust – Adie Plimmer, Mike Davis, Chris Wynne, Colin Storey
SuperBlues – Chris Smith, Steve Fletcher
B and A – Glyn Price
Martin James welcomed all and asked for consideration regarding the nature of the questions put forward. Supporter Groups were asked to support and promote the club’s Q and A system where questions could be put forward and answered quite quickly rather than wait for a Forum meeting. Also some questions were asked which had been answered in previous minutes. Try to keep the Forum for major issues where discussion, advice, clarification, consultation and support could be achieved.
Disabled Supporters Association – Martin James reported that he would be meeting the following week with a representative from the DSA with a view to setting up a Disabled Supporters Association at Shrewsbury Town.
Supporter Liaison Officer meeting – MJ also reported on a regional meeting he was about to attend as SLO for the club where he would meet with other SLO’s from other clubs.
He would report back on both meetings at the next Forum.
- Theticketing issue of the Capital One cup offer was revisited. The club were asked to explain the situation that led to some confusion within the fan base. Why did the club use the “hot seat” option? Was it originally 300 seats, then 350? Was there a financial reason for choosing to use the “hot seat” method? How were the seats allocated and how many?
Andrew Pugh went through the detail. He had early meetings with the Football League about the C1 proposal for 300 free places. This was supposed to increase crowd numbers for the C1 matches which tend to be poorly attended in the early rounds. Initially we were told the offer was for 300 places. AP had suggested this was the wrong way to go as the first 300 supporters to get to the ticket office would receive the benefit, those who lived closest or were quickest to react. The wider fan base would not be able to benefit. The point was encouraging those who would not normally go to a game to attend.
AP suggested the “hot seat” option where randomly selected seats held a free seat award when purchased. These would be around the ground in the popular areas and ensure a fairer spread of the free seats. The FL and C1 accepted this proposal and other clubs bought into the idea. We heard nothing back and were surprised to be told at the ticket office window that there was an advert in the Shropshire Star proclaiming the free seat offer. This had not been forwarded to us, we had not agreed to it so we continued with our “hot seat” offer. In hindsight we should have released a public statement refuting the Shropshire Star article. AP adamantly denied that the hot seat offer was to save the club money. He had met today (date of this meeting) with the FL representative. Only 23 clubs had joined the C1 initiative. In the second round only 4 are carrying on. C1 have admitted mistakes in their handling of the initiative. AP has now been asked to join a steering group for future planning of offers. C1 had caused big problems for clubs, STFC being just one with changes in numbers of tickets on offer being another factor.
Forum members said that communication of the facts from the club point of view early on would have dispelled some of the negativity. AP said many points had been raised by supporters on message boards which added to the confusion around season ticket holders for example. He said that the club have to hold back on making announcements until all the facts are known, this causes delays which naturally adds to fans frustrations. He doubted if the club would follow such an initiative again. It certainly did not benefit the club and probably not C1 either. We distributed the tickets through random selection of seats in the most popular areas and then as the final days to the match approached we saw a fair few were still available and randomly selected people at the ticket office window to release the last few tickets. Out of the 350 allocated 338 were released.
Wolves ticket sales – questions were raised about how the club was seeking to stop Wolves supporters gaining access to the home ends. Also about the 1 loyalty point requirement to purchase a ticket.
The club said every effort was being put into place to stop Wolves supporters gaining access to the home stands. Whilst it is accepted that not all will be stopped we have to be seen to take appropriate action. Any fans registered on our system can get a ticket as we are fairly confident they are true Town supporters. What they do with their ticket is another matter. The loyalty point means that new supporters will have registered on our system. We have had talks with Wolves ticket office also with the Police and strategies are in place to stop miss-selling. Details cannot be released about this. There will be no tickets sold on the day for walk ups. Police will be present and will be outside the stadium before the match and on the approaches to the stadium.
The club asked all Group reps to encourage members to register with the club as this is the only way of securing knowledge of being a supporter.
- Can the stadium and car park be used for concerts / car boot sales etc?
MJ said that the club had looked into the use of the car park but there were issues of planning permissions with regard to car boot sales/ markets which prevented our proceeding. A future concert was indeed a possibility and the club have been in discussions with several promoters but we do not wish to carry the responsibility and liability for running the concert which is what they have suggested. We cannot accept that financial risk. The Elton John promoters did everything from securing the acts, helping with planning consents and licences, selling the tickets etc. The club only made a small amount of money but the publicity was tremendous.
- Why could we not enter team again this year in Shropshire Senior Cup?
MJ and AP were in regular consultation with the Shropshire FA about this over the past few months. The timing of the final is the issue and pre-season is a difficult time to commit to the SSC when we have delicate and fluid negotiations with other clubs for the important pre-season programme for the first team. We had three European teams interested in coming to the GM. Obviously Galatasaray was one but French and German teams were also in the final stages of consultation. AP said that we had made agreement with the Shropshire FA for next year’s final to be in September or October when the league and reserve fixtures are known so that STFC can take part.
- Why was there such a long delay in receiving the shirts, how many home shirts will be here for Coventry game?
Richard Hill and Andrew Pugh re-visited the problems that Surridge had with the production and delivery of the shirts from their manufacturers in China. The first batch of shirts will be coming in for the Coventry City game – 1/3 of our annual shirt requirement, followed by another 1/3 the week after and the final 1/3 the week after that. This means our annual shirt requirement will all be in place for the Wolves game, any additional stock will be made in the UK so long delays will be avoided.
- Why no discount on home shirts without buying away shirt?
The club made a gesture towards the fans because of the delay in the delivery of the home shirts, it allowed for a discount on a home shirt when they arrived if an away shirt was bought. Once home shirts have arrived they will be sold at the full price as would be the normal case for a new release.
6. Charging a fee for visiting supporters coaches.
This question was raised as several league clubs charge our away coaches to park at their grounds whereas STFC never have. Chris Smith and Brian Jones informed the meeting that £25 was the maximum charge made. AP said this would be addressed as he would approach the FL and FA about charging for away coaches. Some grounds have car parks that are owned by councils and other companies and this might be a factor. Individual clubs have to ask the FL and FA if they wish to charge. He would do that on behalf of STFC and in future unless we have a reciprocal no pay agreement with a club we will charge, probably £25 per coach.
7. DIRECTORS - In most , non-family run , businesses it would be considered unhealthy / undesirable to have only two directors as alternative views / directions are unlikely to be allowed to surface. Are the current Board actively looking to add to the current board ? And if so , how ? This question arose because of such comments being made to the Trust Board by certain members.
AP made a statement that this question was a point of view and not based in fact. As an accountant he had over many years dealt with companies which had two or three directors and, in his experience, found that they are equally if not better run than companies with a larger number of directors. Most directors invest in a company and then are not part of the decision making processes of the business. This is not the case at STFC.
AP related that both the Chairman and director James Hughes are Shrewsbury born and life long supporters of the club. James is an active business man who works in markets across the world, yet he maintains an almost daily contact with the club and is fully part of the executive decision making of the club. He had invested £200k of his personal income, after tax, to support his club and become a director. He had been very upset to be referred to as a puppet and this is unacceptable and degrading to a professional person. This attitude cannot encourage investment from other local business people.
From the Chairman’s conference, which AP had attended, it was evident that directors in a club do not always have a direct input, many live abroad and invest in a club they support and delegate decision making to a chief executive.
The club has with shrewd management and investment overseen by its directors run a tight financial ship and this had been reflected in the success on the field particularly in recent years with play-off finals, just missing out on promotion by one point, eventual promotion to League One followed by the clubs highest league position, 16th in League One for around 30 years. Compare this with the demise of such clubs as Portsmouth, Wrexham, Hereford and Chester.
New investors at director level are welcome to approach the club. The present directors have had conversations with potential investors, however in these economic times people with the right amount of available income to invest are few and far between at our level.
AP also pointed out that the management of the club was a collective not just involving the two directors. In addition AP and Martin James are in charge of the non-football side of the business, Graham Turner and Jayne Bebb (Club Secretary) represent the football side and David Parry (Company Secretary) and Mal Starkey ( Club President) are all part of the executive decision making team. The club is also subject to review and regulation from the FA, Football League and other organisations which audit and monitor its governance.
The Trust view that the Board members (James in particular) could help themselves by allowing supporters to know a little more about themselves , their views on the direction of football in general & STFC in particular. This could be done by attending meetings SGF meeting(s) , regular programme pieces or via Shrewsweb ? We are, after all , trying to bring the supporters and the people who run our Club closer together.
8. SEASON TICKET SALES -It seems clear from the gaps that have appeared in the West Stand that a potentially significant number of fans have not renewed their Season Tickets . Have the club had any feedback from fans as to why not or , if not , do they intend to write to non renewals for such feedback ?
It should be realised that the early matches have been poorly attended and so apparent spaces may not be due to lack of sales of season tickets but to season ticket holders not attending e.g. through holidays, other commitments etc. MJ provided comparative figures for the last three seasons for season ticket sales
2011/12 (Post Wigglesworth!) 3049 including half season tickets
2012//13 (Post promotion) 3347 including half season tickets
2013/14 2963 Half season tickets sold averages around 100
B and A
9. Revisit of the clubs support for safe standing and the roadshow.
The situation remains the same. Having spoken to the organiser of the movement to get the safe standing issue raised with the FL , we signed up along with other FL clubs to the idea so that the initiative could be brought up with the FL. It needed 51% of the FL clubs to support the idea in principle for it to be put on the FL agenda. This was achieved. However, the Championship clubs apparently voted against as they would not be allowed to have safe standing anyway as legislation stands at present. The organiser is using the roadshow to encourage club support and as we were already positive about it. Alan Roberts has seen the safe standing roadshow demonstrated. There remain no plans to convert areas of the stands here to safe standing. Only new build would be seen as a possibility.
10. Concern about attendances and how we can help to publicise events together.
MJ dealt with this question and 13 together. He asked the supporter groups to get the message out to their members to come forward with ideas to help publicise events, come up with events to make the match experience more enjoyable. It needs positive input from a range of ideas to improve the current situation. Ideas raised in Q13 were a start. The Retro shirt day had been a success and other special days could be too. The suggestion of a calendar of events at selected games was put forward. This would make sense to ensure a spread of celebratory activities.
Another suggestion was a “get them in” initiative targeting mid week matches when lower attendances were likely.
11. Online Club Shop – poor range of merchandise on offer, really bad when it comes to an FAQ setting out postage costs, payment information, delivery times. What are the club proposing to do to improve it?
RH explained that the current on line shop was a massive improvement on its predecessor and on –line sales had increased dramatically last season. Photos of new stock have now been taken and we are waiting for the host to upload to the server. We cannot do this ourselves. There should be a FAQ which we are developing. The postage payment is fixed at £3 per sale, whatever the cost of the item. We are looking at an upgrade on December 1st at which point we can iron out issues.
The OSC asked if they could sell merchandise on their website but RH said they could have photos but would need to “link” to the club on-line sales.
12. Stewarding at the Galatasary game, and annoyance this caused for fans. Why was it allowed to go on so long, and more importantly, have matters been addressed ahead of the Wolves game where that sort of thing could be much more of a problem?
Alan Roberts addressed this question. He said lessons had been learnt from that day. The incident was addressed that week with all stand managers being brought in. All of the stewards were addressed before the next game regarding incursions onto the pitch and what they were trained to do. High standards were expected to be upheld. Stewards were expected to deter fans from getting on to the pitch through their training but if someone does go on the pitch they are not to engage in a chase but approach them and escort them off. They will only engage in using calculated force if the fan is looking to become aggressive towards a player or official.
AR reported several upset stewards who had read inflammatory and factually incorrect comments about the stewards on B and A. The Fanzine had also caused upset. AR said that all feedback he had received from the regulatory officers had been very positive about our stewarding operations at matches. Praise was given by the Safety Advisory Group after it had attended the Sheffield United match last season which was police free. Away fans are particularly positive in their feedback about our stewards with letters being received. Few had been received from the home supporters .
With the high profile matches coming up more controls had been put in place which AR was not in a position to reveal publicly.
13. Dedicated days - Start of the season - Retro Kit Day, end of season fancy dress. But can we not have a few more in the season. Flag Day? History Day (dedicated legends come back as part of Hall of Fame celebrations?), Kids Day (Kids for a quid, activities and on pitch things aimed at them)... four or five through the year. We will do another Blue and Amber Day this season after Christmas too, with the balloons and fanzine, and publicity if that’s ok.
Dealt with above in 10.
14. Access to the Oteley Road from Super Blues Way, are we still in a holding pattern over this, are the club still working with the council?
The situation remains the same. The Council will not construct a set of steps to climb the bank to act as an entry/ exit point to SuperBlues Way. They are concerned about large numbers of people leaving the ground up the steps and the close proximity of the top of the steps to the road. A high risk situation of pedestrians coming into contact with traffic.
15.LEGENDS CARD - all groups
Clarity needed on the offer.
a) What the funds would be used for?
b) How decisions would be made on how the money is spent?
c) What is the rationale to the 15 Loyalty Points which means that without attending a game and for only £20 you have more loyalty points than a regular away supporter buying tickets through the club and more than a Superblues member whose £52 a year finds it to the club in donations ?. Indeed combining a Legends Card & Superblues membership gives a higher Loyalty points total than a Season Ticket holder !!
d) How much is the club intending to add to this scheme ? £1 for £1 ?
e) Why has the "further funds for team building" been included in the purpose of this fund ? The fans idea was this was to be "ring fenced" for ground decoration specifically to recognise our history NOT current or future team costs.
f) Why was this announced before this planned meeting ?? Effectively becoming a "fait a compli" when we thought this matter was for discussion at a later date.
g) 1886 launch does this not duplicate super blues re bricks?
RH said that he had worked at several clubs who had introduced a membership card. He had spoken to supporters about what could work. It was an affinity card to benefit the membership with offers. The initial idea was just to have a membership card. After attending a Forum meeting where the subject of celebrating the club’s history was so passionately spoken about the thought was to marry together the affinity card with the idea of raising funds to celebrate the club history. To produce a vehicle to make this start to happen in the short term. Talk of busts and statues, banners etc were good ideas but would they be affordable? A meeting was held with supporter, Danny Davies who had come up with some innovative designs for external banners.
The membership card would not detract from the existing supporter group memberships. SuperBlues had approx. 450 members, OSC approx. 250 and ShrewsTrust approx. 100. The club had over 13,000 more supporters on their database to be contacted and encouraged to support the developments at the club.
AP said that talks had started with companies about a membership card and giving discounts for members as part of a commercial deal. This would bring funds into the club. This was separate from a Legends Card initially. The idea was to create an affinity card as other businesses have. The Legends Card came about as idea to support the raising of funds for the history project. It was not to hijack the idea of a history project.
There then ensued a heated debate. There was a wide gulf between the Club rep(s) and the Supporters Groups as to what proportion , if any , of the Legends Card proceeds should be used by the club for "other things" , the loyalty points and why this Legends Card had been started without consultation from the Supporter Groups which would have allowed discussion and asking of questions which were now being voiced after the event. The general feeling of the supporter group representatives was that communication could have been far better.
Other points included more loyalty points than super blues get. Discounts from local suppliers copies what super blues offer. Names on a wall is a competitor to present bricks scheme.
At this point MJ called an end to the debate and said that the club would review the comments made and look to get back to the reps with a statement clarifying the position on the Legends card and address the questions raised. They would be asked to help iron out the issues to ensure that the clarity is there for all to see.
16. Fans parliament primarily how the club see it working?
MJ said that the discussions and mis-understandings over the introduction of legends Card and the need for supporter involvement in match day experience etc as already raised in the meeting, were further evidence for the need to set up a “fans parliament” in the short to medium term. The fans parliament should be a democratically formed representation of the supporter base made up of members who were truly representative of the range of supporter interest groups. Candidates should apply for membership. They should bring some expertise, knowledge, skill set etc to benefit the consultation, support and development work of the fans parliament.
MJ said that the best way forward was to set up an “open forum” for supporters to attend or submit questions to. He would come up with some simple guidelines for the structure and remit of such a fans parliament for the next Forum meeting to discuss and distribute ideas to the supporter base through all avenues open to the supporters and club in advance of the open meeting.
ShrewsTrust said we needed to try to attract female representation to these meetings and would certainly like this to be pushed from the outset.