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Supporters Parliament Meeting Minutes

7 April 2014

The notes from the latest meeting of the Supporters Parliament

Shrewsbury Town Supporters Parliament Meeting Minutes 
Wednesday 2nd April 2014

Held at Greenhous Meadow, Arthur Rowley Suite

Attended by: Mike Davis, Roger Groves (joint chairs), Adrian Plimmer, Colin Storey, Ian Jones, Chris Smith, Chris Winter, Ollie Warner, Glynn Price, Gareth Hopkins, Barry Davies, Rachael Dilloway, Rob Lewis, Chris Chambers, Kie Seabourne, Sarah Cadman, Ian Payne

Martin James, Club Supporter Liaison, Richard Hill, Club commercial officer, Roland Wycherley, Club Chairman, James Hughes, club director.

Meeting opened at 7.30

Meeting agenda was altered slightly to accommodate a request by club chairman Roland Wycherley for fans to ask questions.  The Chairman felt it important to attend, with James Hughes, fellow director, the first Supporter’s Parliament in a quiet way to show support for the work that has been done in developing a forum for all supporters to be able to engage with the club.  He did not want to hijack the forum but wanted to offer an opportunity to the representatives there to ask him any questions in person that concerned them.  He hopes they agree that he answered those honestly and he was given the opportunity to express his desire that should supporters wish to ask him questions he would appreciate it if they write to him or arrange to come and speak to him in person.  He is not one for sitting in front of large audiences, preferring to speak face to face with people where possible.  He reflected that people want to speak to him when the team are not doing well but no-one came to see him after we gained promotion!
 
He expressed his disappointment and upset with the level of some of the criticism levelled at himself personally and that it hurt.  There had been unfounded rumours about his health being in question – which were untrue.  The members present wanted to assure him that criticism was not always levelled at him it was through frustration and lack of communication from the club that comments are produced.  They appreciated he was a massive supporter of the club like them and appreciated what he had done and continued to do for the club.  He appeared to be very sensitive to general criticism.  The Chairman said he had been connected with the club at Board level for over 20 years, 18 as chairman.  His time would inevitably come to an end at some time in the future but that he had always given everything for the benefit of the club and would make sure that when he left it was in a secure financial position.
 
The discussion with the Chairman reflected some of the most asked questions of recent times.  He was quizzed about the latest accounts which he explained in some detail and this was expanded to talking about budgets for the past seasons and the next dependent upon which league we are in.  The losses were a reflection of the lack of cup progress, lack of sales of players and the increasing costs of player’s salaries, particularly from the extensive loan signings.  He agreed that losses would be unsustainable at their present level and that measures would be put in place to stem this, but the working budget would not be massively cut, excessive spending would.
 
He regretted the reliance on loan signings of the past two seasons in particular, but he had backed the manager in his plans for taking the club forward.  After the highest position achieved for many years last season, following on from promotion, the budget had been put in place for a play-off push.  Sadly this has not materialised and we are left in a difficult position.
 
On Mike Jackson’s appointment the Chairman explained his faith in him stemmed from 6 years ago when he decided that he should be given a coaches job rather than Graham Coughlan.  The Chairman believed Mike had the aptitude and determination to become a good coach.  With Graham Turner’s sudden departure, which left him surprised and disappointed, he looked hard at the applicants but felt Mike knows the players and the club and should be given the opportunity to work through to the end of the season.  He feels Mike has acquitted himself well so far and was worthy of praise for the manner in which he handled a hostile Q and A the night before.
 
The Chairman expressed his hope that the SP could help in developing better communications between the club and the supporters.  He left after answering all the questions raised, detail of some of the answers cannot be reported as some information was sensitive and confidential and not for public exposure.  The meeting expressed thanks for his coming along and for his honesty and openness in answering their questions.

The chairman stated his door is always open for supporters and that he welcomed any correspondence from the supporter base should they have questions or concerns.

At this point chairman and James Hughes left the meeting and agenda was resumed.

Question 1: As a fan I'd like to request a detailed update / progress report in respect of the Legends Card.

With only one direct communication since inception and only ONE banner to date I would ask that the report contain , at the very least, the following:

1. How many members @ £20 to date ?
2. How many members @ £50 to date ?
3. When can we expect the next banner ?
4. When can we expect the first Income & Expenditure statement to this ring-fenced fund ?

What are the next steps?     Richard – The Legends Card was introduced to bring fan’s benefits they would not normally get e.g 10% off in club shop, 10% off fee’s at Belvoir and 50p off a programme to mention but a few. Money raised from this would help fund banners around the stadium and a wall of honour for the founding members. It was never outlined at the start that an income and expenditure statement would be produced, this is not for scrutiny by certain individuals, but is available as part of the broader accounts and can be viewed by all shareholders. A second correspondence is to be prepared along with the announcement as to why there has been no second banner as yet. The second correspondence would have mentioned that the next banner was to be Graham Turner and we felt it was best with sensitivities as they are to install this in the summer.

In addition to stadium decoration, at one of the last fans reps meetings a hand out was issued regards portrait statues, like the ones in the town centre. Have the club been able to review this and consider putting stadium decoration money towards this. Would the club be willing to let the Supporter’s Parliament have more of a lead on the provision of a statue somewhere around the ground?  
Martin – the idea of some form of statue has been raised on more than one occasion.  The latest being the perforated steel designs to be found along the Smithfield Road.   The club are happy for the Supporters Parliament to engage with supporters on ideas for statues, who they would be of, where situated and how they could be funded.  The large banners are being produced to represent the legends and this will be an on going process from the Legends Card membership.  That does not preclude other forms of representation of past players etc.

Glyn Price stated he would look into this further and bring info back to the SP how we could take this forward

Question 2: Great Escape. Will the club be looking at some ticket initiatives in the run in of the season? We want the ground packed and full of support. An example of this is Wolves who are currently in their own key run in and want to get the ground full so are offering tickets for the last 5 games for £50. Other smaller clubs at our level are also doing deals. As our crowds drop off a little an inventive incentive like this could help bring fans back and keep them. 

Richard – Great Escape for Stevenage match.  Buy a ticket or present your season ticket and purchase a ticket for a friend for £5 or a child for £1.  Richard explained how some clubs had offered reduced tickets across the board and had lost money on their usual gates receipts.  Given our variable ticketing system it makes ticket initiatives difficult to implements as we don’t want to impact on season ticket holders.  Whilst he is all in favour of ticket initiatives it has to be managed properly to maximise the clubs takings especially in the light of losses the club has made.

It was agreed that the SP will continue to liaise with Richard on ideas the supporter base may have on ticketing initiatives.

Question 3: Lots of fans asked again about a supporters bar, would the club look at making the Rowley bar available and open to fans on a match day?  
 Richard – no.  It is of far more benefit to the club as a sponsor’s area and brings in an estimated 60% more income than bar sales would do on a match day.  We still have the same intrinsic costs whether a supporters bar or sponsors area and so could only make a profit on drinks sales.  The sponsors buy a package including meals, which add to the revenue over the bar from their presence. A supporter’s bar would need to be able to hold at least 250 – 300 people to make it viable and the Rowley could not support these numbers.

It was agreed the SP would work with the club on other ideas such as the possibility of an outside bar under a marque.  

Question 4: Can the scoreboard be better used in the pre match period so we have more regular team line ups, match information. A better balance between adverts and information for the fans?   
Richard – its use is still in its infancy.  We are discovering how much we can do with it.  The main purpose of the scoreboard is to raise revenue for the club.  If we reduce advertising for the sake of longer information slots we lose money.  However, we are looking into how to manage the scoreboard to increase opportunities for all types of information display.

Question 5:  Ticket sales policy-  why does the ticket office sell away tickets and season tickets before games resulting in people who turn up late missing the start of games as they are then in a queue for ages?
Richard – the simple answer is to get there earlier to collect your ticket.  On line sales are available.  However, on a match day, all non-match day sales cease at 2 pm and only sales for that day take place after that time. 

It was stated that the problem then is people who may not come to Shrewsbury other than for games find it difficult to collect tickets and it has been known for us to turn customers away before games who may want to buy season or away tickets

It was emphasised that customer relations and between the club and supporters must get better, 

The club agreed and were dismayed to learn supporters had been turned away.  It was agreed the club would look into how they can improve their ticketing setup so that supporters could buy and collect tickets of all kinds.  This will be discussed by the club and an update given in due course.

Question 6. The question of club branding has been one on the lips of many people since moving grounds.  The work the Chairman and others at the club have put in has saved this club from bankruptcy. It’s now felt that the time is right for fans of Shrewsbury Town football club through the Parliament to ask the club to open consultations on designing, approving and putting in place a badge that we can all be proud to wear.  We ask the club to actively approve this and start consultations straight away regarding making this a reality and putting a roadmap in place for this to be achieved.    

Martin- A great deal has been made, particularly on message boards as to whether the existing badge is a popular logo for the club.   There are opposing views on whether it should or should not be the badge of our club.  However, there has not been any definitive survey of the actual supporter base about whether the badge should be kept or not.  The club would like to invite the SP to engage with the supporter population to carry out a democratic, open and transparent survey of opinion of as many supporters who actually support the club as they can.  A clear picture can then be ascertained as to whether there is a majority in favour of a change or not across the whole of the supporter base.  If a majority choose to stay with the existing badge so be it.  If the majority choose change the club would again engage with the SP on an agreed strategy to produce designs of badge that would be open to the supporters to vote upon so that we have a democratic decision on a badge.

If agreed by the SP the club will work with them on a structure for a survey that could be carried out at the early league matches of next season.  There must be a way of ensuring that the vote is open to all supporters but without the ability to tamper with the system.  It is vital to be fair as the SP will be held responsible to the supporter base.

It was agreed that the SP would take this up and a meeting will be called in the very near future for all areas of the fan base to come together to put in place a proposal for such as survey and a outline plan for how we take this forward.  It was agreed this will have to be done with help of the clubs data base but the SP will complete and present results to the club so that completely independent. 

CHAIRS NOTE:  It’s taken a lot of discussion behind the scenes to get us to a position where we have a SP the club feel they can trust with this issue.  This is a massive step forward in what we the SP believe is the fans wish to change our badge for something that represents our history.  This isn’t going to be a quick fix, the club has merchandise agreements in place which means this process must be managed in a way that will not jeopardise the clubs financial position.  The natural time for a badge change in our opinion is the next time a new home kit is launched but this must be right for all parties.  However we feel a change will only benefit the clubs merchandise sales and we are committed to working with the fans and club to get this right, so please support us and have your say.

Question 7. Would the club encourage the Supporter’s Parliament and represented groups involved to take on projects such as the open day and thus encouraging fans and groups to work together to benefit STFC?  
Martin – yes this is very important to the re-engagement of supporters with the club.  There are many possibilities for supporter involvement.  These include:

- Support and ideas for match day activities around the ground, inside and out.
- Ideas for concourse decoration – celebrating the club history etc.
- Ideas for marketing and promoting the club in the town and county at events e.g Carnival, Flower Show, events in the Quarry and Square in Shrewsbury.  Similar in county towns around the county.
- Volunteers for match day and leading up to match day to help with ticket office, “meeters and greeters”, information point staff.
- Locate a knowledgeable and enthusiastic person to manage match day music.

Question 8: I currently have a parking permit for Sutton Grange which is very convenient but of course the land is to be developed in the near term. I understand that the club have asked Shropshire Council for permission to extend the Meadow car park (Martin James spoke about it on Radio Shropshire recently). Can the club tell us what plans they have (subject to the Council application) to help those who park at Sutton Grange with an alternative option when Sutton Grange is no longer available? 
Martin explained the reasons for the amendments to the 106 agreement.  Plans to increase the number of car park places at the ground to 1000 to accommodate loss of parking off site.  No set time lines to the plans at present. However, following on from a meeting with developers, Taylor Wimpey, we now know that the Sutton Grange car park will be available for a minimum of three more years.

Question 9  PA system. People are still having issues with the PA system. Would the club be happy for The Supporter’s Parliament to undertake some match day interview and test, supplemented with comments from fans to identify the issue locations, so a solution may finally be found?   
Martin – we had it tested during a game at the end of last year and identified some issues which we hoped had been resolved. If not we need to know whereabouts the issues are.  Any feedback from a structured approach that will identify and isolate the issues will be of help.  We have the system tested regularly but the issues seem to be when the crowd is in place on match days.  Other stands do not report the same problems.

The SP would encourage fans to let us know in which blocks/rows/seats you have issues.  Please email one of the SP reps with these details and we will work with the club to try and resolve.

Question 10 This week Luton put it in the club’s constitution that any future change to the club badge, primary club colours or name must be consulted with the fans and they have the right of veto. Is this something STFC would be willing to progress with the Supporters Parliament?   
Martin – we are not looking for supporters to have any form of veto over anything the club’s management are deemed to decide.  The club has in the past consulted with supporters on such things as design of home shirts and this is where the Supporters Parliament can be of great importance as a vehicle for consultation between the club and the supporters.  We need to build a culture of trust between the two parties that nothing is deliberately done to the detriment of the club going forward.  The club is a business and makes economic and strategic decisions on a whole host of matters in the interests of the football club.  The Supporters Parliament allows for discussion and consultation about policy decisions and accountability of who makes those decisions.

Thanks was given to Martin James and Richard Hill for attendance, also for the SP reps for taking the time to support the process, the hope is the SP will grow as supporters see it is going to make a difference.

Meeting closed 9.45

Minutes and chairs note reported by Mike Davis, Joint Chair 


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