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Supporter Groups Forum Meeting

27 June 2013

Notes from the last supporters groups meeting on Tuesday 18th June 2013

Supporter Groups Forum minutes Tuesday 18th June 2013

1. Open Day  - 

Martin asked all of the reps present if they could give some thought and ask for help with ideas for and voluntary support for the Open Day.  The objective is to have a larger, more inclusive programme of activities staged outside of the stadium for the most part.  The Power Leagues will be involved too and we have the community coaches lined up to do some sports games with youngsters.  We are looking for information on activity providers e.g. inflatables, clowns, jugglers, climbing walls, giant games for adults and kids, music groups like  a steel band etc.  We want to make the activities free so we are asking contributors with activities to offer their services for free with the knowledge that they can advertise their services to large numbers of people for future bookings. All groups have asked about helping out.   Ideas please and support for the day, please to Martin at the club.  The potential date is Sunday 28th July. 

2. Kit update – 

All groups have asked about an update on the new kit.    Richard Hill reported back. 

Large suppliers such as Adidas often want to take over club shops completely and only stock their own merchandise.  We wish to have independence to provide a range of products and price ranges.  The contract for the new supplier was a 9 month process in which we engaged with 7 suppliers initially.  These were reduced to the best three.  We discussed what they would do for the club, for example gift of kit.

Joma were one of the three.  We had a three year deal which was ending.  Joma had benefitted by getting their brand out there in the league structure with us.  Our deal meant that we had a minimum order of 3000 shirts and this meant we were left with unsold stock at the end of a season.  Despite communication and stock control we also had issues with the quality of the products with many complaints especially about the stitching.

A higher quality of kit was needed for the players and fans alike.  The contract with Surridge allows us to order in batches of 500.  We will have a bespoke kit designed to the specifications given to them, again something larger companies only provide to clubs who will sell tens of thousands of shirts.  The home shirt will reflect the winning design sent in and voted on by the fans.  The contract also includes the bonus of the sponsorship of the West Stand which means more investment in the club
Surridge can be flexible in the production of bespoke products for us, allowing greater flexibility to satisfy demand..  Some examples of football shirts, polo shirts and a track suit were handed round to the members to inspect with pleasing responses.

3. Pre-season fixtures? Details?  Pricing structure?  

Andrew Pugh, General Manager, reported that at the time of the meeting fixtures against Bolton and Birmingham City had been confirmed and they would be sold at £10 per adult and £5 for concessions.  Other potential fixtures were likely to be higher than this due to the level of the opposition and associated costs that had to be paid to them but he hoped they would not be full prices.

4. Electronic cigarettes/ smoking at half time outside stadium  

Alan Roberts , Safety Officer, stated that electronic cigarettes had been banned from the stadium during last season and that this ban would remain in force .He had attended West Midlands and National Conferences on safety at stadia and the general consensus was for banning the electronic cigarettes.  The common reasons found around the country are that there is a perception by supporters who see someone smoking an e-cigarette from a distance that they are smoking a real cigarette and so they will light up.  This then causes problems in their area of the stadium and stewards have to intervene. 

In addition Alan said that he was prepared to look at opening up certain gates at the stadium to allow smokers to go out at half time for a cigarette break.  He would take advice from the Safety Advisory Group who advise on stadium issues.  Restricted points would need be used to reduce the removal of too many stewards from their posts.  The success of the trials would lay firmly in the court of the supporters as their behaviour and understanding of simple rules applied would be necessary.  After seeking advice Alan will identify those simple rules in advance of the games through the club media channels.

5. Unreserved seating for pre-season matches? 

Andrew Pugh answered a question about whether there could be un-reserved seating around the ground.  In his reply he said there was as much support for un-reserved as reserved seating.  There needed to be designated seating for families and groups of supporters.  Occasionally individuals ask stewards if they can move within a stand to be with friends or even move from the West to South Stand for example.  The club use a common sense approach to this allowing individuals but certainly not a mass movement between stands.  It also depends upon the popularity of the match and space available.  The simple answer is for fans to ask if they can move seats either at the time of purchasing e.g. if they have season ticket for a particular seat and want to move for a match or once inside the stadium.

Blue and Amber  Glyn Price

6. Goal Music – We did a snap poll – Yes or no and out of 82 fans 61 (72%) stated that they would rather not have it (13 for) . If this is reflective of the fan base can we just go back to the sound of fans cheering?   

The club are in favour of dropping the goal celebration music too so it will stop.

7. Statue at the stadium – not something we have discussed before, but what are the clubs official thoughts on this? If Fans fundraised would club contribute, where would be the best locations, and are the fans right in assuming that Rowley’s family would not want a statue?

The proposal for a full sized statue of a legend (Arthur Rowley?) was raised. It may cost many tens of thousands of pounds for bronze sculpture and fans could be asked if they would contribute to fund raising.  The club were asked if they would contribute?
Discussion was had around a greater spread of supporters being able to be involved rather than just through the traditional supporter groups. Such a proposal would need careful thought, consultation and planning to enable a structured fund-raising programme to be devised.  Costings are vital.

It was suggested that perhaps busts of the legends might work out as a cheaper alternative and be more attractive to supporters rather than all monies raised going into one project.  Raising enough money for a bust would take less time.

This topic was one to take forward to a club/supporter consultation.

8. Update on the Badge issues – 

Geoff Anslow was welcomed to the meeting as representative of the group who are campaigning for a return to the loggerheads style of badge for the club.  He said that the issue of the badge would not go away and that there was a lot of support for change.  He put forward the example of Everton changing their badge to a more modern style and then fans complaining and after consultation it was decided that they will return to the original badge at the end of the season. He raised the concern that disaffected supporters were planning to produce a badged shirt of their own and this would take sales away from the club.  He hoped there was a way forward through discussion with the club and asked if there was a time frame for change.

It was asked whether the club would like the supporters to carry out a survey?  Martin James said this was something that should not be done on an isolated issue, but as part of a wider consultation about the supporter’s impressions of the club.  He would refer to this later.

Some of the representatives present expressed support for the idea of a return to a loggerheads design others preferred the existing badge or held no preference and this was perceived to be the crux of the matter that there was not a consensus of opinion though some evidence had been gathered as Geoff put forward.

Andrew Pugh said that no time scale for change could be promised at present. The issue here was that we should be talking about a “future re-branding” rather than a “return to the loggerheads”.  Consultation needed to be had between the club with as many supporters as possible going forward.  This would lead to a popular decision when any new brand was decided upon. That may be a loggerheads design or incorporated in a new more complex design or whatever the supporters and club decided through consultation and design.

A collective discussion led to several interesting ideas and comments being made which help to identify ways forward.  

A question was raised whether Surridge could produce bespoke retro-polo shirts with any of the 10 badges that Shrewsbury had played under in its history.  It would make commercial sense for fans to be able to buy retro produce from the club shop

Richard Hill said that they would look into this and other possible ways of introducing “retro-style” merchandise.

Finding out which past badges broke copyright rules could be researched as there have been issues between the Shrewsbury Council and users of their loggerheads logo in the past. It was suggested that the loggerheads with “Floreat Salopia” was not copyrighted?

One member of the group said it was time to sit down in a professional, constructive manner to stop bickering and mud-slinging engage with the club in a consultative way.  Martin James said that this was a positive way forward as confrontation leads to entrenched positions and would not lead to progress.  It leads to frustrations.

He said there needed to be a review of how the club and the supporters should work together on a far-reaching consultation process covering a wide range of issues, of which the badge is one, which he would return to later in the meeting.

9. Decoration on the outside of the ground. Could be large flags/pendants hanging down representing the legends? Does not have to be all done at once, get them over the years. Like what Arsenal had outside the ground. Would smarten the look of the stadium up and give it a talking point of interest? 

This was certainly a very effective way of showing off the history of a club, legends, favourite occasions etc.  The idea fits in well with a view to decorating the concourse walls, hanging banners etc which could form part of a long term strategy to represent the history of the club.  Martin James said this was an excellent idea which could get a lot of supporters involved as other clubs had success in these ventures and the result was a much more welcoming stadium.

Shrewstrust and OSC had raised support for the Open Day and the kit update as questions for the agenda.

Super Blues  

The representative asked for clarification on several points

10. Age limit for concessions should be 60 not 65  (11 clubs in league 1 last season were 60).  

Andrew Pugh said we had covered this issue at a previous meeting.  The club had decided to support a move to reducing prices for young adults at this stage as they were felt to be in most need in this economic climate where many are students or without work.  Clubs in the league are still re-assessing the qualification age for older concessions so the figures were not as clear as stated.  The club has no plans to change the age limit for next season. The super blues member knew this had been raised before and wasn't expecting any change this season he wanted to demonstrate the results of his research on the subject so the matter wouldn't be forgotten for next season.

11. Car parking at Sutton Grange and Greenhous Meadow update.

There is a waiting list for places at the Greenhous Meadow, though on one occasion due to the snow all the people who parked at Sutton Grange were accommodated at Greenhous Meadow. This was because there were few sponsors and a reserved area was able to be freed up. We have found out after the meeting that Sutton Farm car park will be available for the whole of the 2013/14 season.  So business as usual.

12. Improvements are needed for club shop?

The representative questioned the size of the shop and the range of  products available.  Richard Hill said the shop was the size we had to work with it would not be extended in the near future.  He said that the regularity of change of stock would be more frequent next season and the range of products was being reviewed, including smaller items.  The on-line shop had seen sales increase to a position where it represents 20% of total sales (increasing from 10% the year before).
He said he was using sports shops in town to sell some products as we could not contemplate our own outlet as the costs would be prohibitive.  He was also looking at enquiring whether other shops would sell our products with little overheads for the club.

13. Why is there no availability of tickets for away games after 2-00pm?

The club said that it was policy to stop selling future match tickets on match day at 2pm to ensure that the operatives were concentrating on quickly dealing with those who were wishing to purchase for that days match so they could get in before the kick off.  The ticket office is open up to 2pm and then after the match for future match sales.  Pre-booked tickets could be collected from the collection point up to kick off time.

14. Loyalty Points, starting season with clean sheets?

Yes. Loyalty points have already been reset to zero. The only ones who will have points are season ticket and sovereign holders who will have 23 points to their account (works out at 1 point per game) and also Super Blues members who have 12 points.

15. Match day experience – working with supporters.

Martin James raised this as a topic for conversation.  After the discussions earlier had incidentally highlighted where club/supporter discussions could lead to positive actions being taken to benefit both parties.

Martin said that he had been working on a plan to move supporter/club engagement to a new level and had received the Board’s support to move this forward.  He had visited other clubs and been to meetings where ideas and best practice had been discussed on how to grow the relationship between a club and its fan base.  Together so many of the issues that are raised by supporters could be sorted and the club would benefit from greater and wider support in promoting the club matches and off field activities. He indicated a desire to set up a Supporter/club communication group similar to that of the fan parliament at Wolvers where supporters representing all sections of the fan base e.g. disabled, family, young adult, senior citizens etc. could be present.

To take a place in such a group supporters would have to apply and be seen not to represent a particular agenda, but to have a more holistic approach to the whole supporter/club relationship.  We need supporters who are prepared to take part in discussions, support initiatives that come from those discussions and galvanise supporters into actively helping the club move forward.

The club would benefit from a survey of supporters to look at what the club does well, not so well, what the club means to them, views on the match day experience, issues such as support for re-branding of the club  etc.  The results of which would help the supporter/club group to discuss positive ways forward to improve various aspects and to introduce new initiatives that may arise from supporter/club suggestions.

A structured and directed line of questions would need to be planned out in order to get the best possible feedback. Supporters could help to manage this survey.
Martin mentioned a few of the ways that a supporter/club discussion group could aid the match day experience. These included ideas on developing the decoration of the concourses and outside walls of the stadium to reflect the club history.  “Meeters and Greeters” – supporters who help on match day to welcome new fans and guide them around.  Pre-match activities to get supporters to the ground earlier including fun activities for adults and children – staffed by supporters.  Half time activities.  Competitions to raise awareness of STFC.  Signage at the stadium.  Stories including real fans views.
The club are wishing to develop the discussions with supporters building on the success of the Supporter Groups Forum. This will now be a focus for the near future.

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