Answers to a number of questions that have come through the Supporter's ParliamentThe club have received a number of questions from the Supporters Parliament and have decided to respond as follows:-
1) Has the Club analysed the decline in home fan attendances since it was last in League One?
In particular has it examined the fall in the 'exiles' component?
Does it understand its relationship to an increase from £16 to £22.60 in match ticket price (Adult Cat B) combined with an inferior outsourced Ticketmaster system which makes individual seat selection impossible from an iPad?
When will we see a ticket initiative aimed at individual adults rather than families, given the very modest impact of the Flexi-ticket offer?
A - The club are constantly looking at attendances particularly the levels of home attendances and whilst the dynamic ticketing plan which was in place prior to my arrival looked great in principle the earlier price brackets were seldom used and we made the decision for the benefit of the business to scrap such a plan. In addition, we scrapped the increase on a match day as we felt this put the “floating supporter” off attending. Ticket revenue is one of the highest income streams at the club and to reduce such income reduces the available funds to the manager.
It is also worthy of note, the season ticket early bird prices once again saw no increase with the cheapest Adult Season Ticket being £12.39, the cheapest Senior, Disabled and Student Season Ticket being £8.26 per game, Junior 16-18 Season Ticket £5 per game, Juniors 12-15 less than £3 per game, Juniors 8-11 £1.30 per game and this season saw us introduce Under 8s for free, which surprisingly hasn’t had a massive take up.
The Ticketmaster system is actually one of the market leaders and allows STFC to gain a lot more information than its previous arrangement. We feel the system is more user friendly, gives us additional exposure on a national level which has already allowed us to target potential audiences for a number of non-football events staged at the GM. I have picked up the comment regarding the selection of seat from an IPad via senior people at Ticketmaster and their response was - Your supporters comments are unfortunately correct whereas at the moment the interactive seat map facility only works via the 'Flash' operating system which restricts its use via Apple devices etc. Supporters with such devices can of course still purchase tickets on line by nominating their preferred blocks where the system allocates seats via a best available algorithm. The 'non flash' interactive seat map facility is on our technical road map with an estimated delivery time of Q3 2016.
To say the Ticketmaster system is an inferior product is incorrect, it is far superior and more beneficial to the business than the previous system which incidentally would have cost the club significant sums to upgrade in addition to the costs for the barcode entry system.
There are currently a number of incentives running for games in addition to the flexi ticket system and there are a number planned in the second half of the season. We have experienced some staffing issues recently, with Greg the ticket office manager being off sick long term, as a result we have now trained several other senior members of staff to be able to access the managerial aspect of the system and as supporters should be aware, we are currently recruiting for additional staff.
2) Has any hope of a concert at GM in the summer, has now been shelved
A - I wouldn’t say it has been shelved, contact remains ongoing with various promoters and artists management, we were in contention for Lionel Richie, however, with the support of the Welsh Assembly the promoter opted for Swansea and Colwyn Bay. The club could at their own risk stage a concert, but I would be reluctant to recommend such a guaranteed financial outlay on the off chance that we sold the event out, the way in which the Elton John concert had been operated and our pitches for Rod Stewart and Lionel Richie were such that we provided the facilities free of charge, the promoter incurred all the costs and retained all the ticket monies.
3) Do the club feel it’s healthy that we only have a board of 2 people? The club seemed a much happier place when there was a consensus of opinions being discussed. What is the chairman doing to encourage outside investment? We are constantly told this is happening but it seems to be lip service at times.
A - The Board are always actively looking for news investment in the club, the Chairman, James Hughes and I along with the manager meet regularly to discuss all aspects of the business. I cannot comment on whether the club was happier in the past as I was not present at the club. The Chairman and I have had a number of meetings with people who specialize in football club investment, however, given that there are many clubs readily available at a higher level achieving such investment is not easy. We continue to look for investment locally, nationally and internationally and have gone on record many times saying we would welcome investment, our position remains the same, why wouldn’t it. The Board remain fully committed to delivering a debt free sustainable business with football at the highest level and such a stance should be commended and encouraged. People can suggest others may be interested in purchasing the club, but at no stage has anyone during my time approached the Chairman or I with a serious interest to purchase the club.
4) Why aren’t the club advertising and actively selling match day parking spaces at the ground - many go unused and this could generate some more cash.
A - This is another question that has been answered many, many times, the vast majority of car park spaces are allocated at the start of the season to sponsors, sovereign club members, box holders, staff, visiting directors, officials etc, any unsold spaces are available via the ticket office on a match by match basis, but unless we are told people aren’t using them on a certain match day we have to assume those people will use their space.
5) Can we have some transparency on where the money on Goldson/Woods is going please? I'd like to see the plans for the new training facilities
A - Over the last five seasons the club has sustained substantial losses and had the players referred to not have been sold coupled with our current projections the club would have been in the red for the first time in a number of years.
The Club are currently obtaining quotes from a number of contractors for work on the land owned by the Chairman at Sundorne, we are also in talks with Lilleshall and looking at a number of local areas that could provide the club with a suitable fixed training base away from the GM. On receipt of all the information the club will make a decision and announce their plans.
6) Why has the club once again gone for broke getting promotion from league one only to seemingly rein in funds once this is achieved. I’m guessing our wage bill is higher than ever but I’m also guessing it’s not much more than last season….. do we not have any long term strategy??
A - Firstly, when Micky Mellon was appointed he had seven players under contract, Mkandiwire and Winfield had their contracts terminated which came at a cost and Jon Taylor was sold. Micky’s brief was to assemble a squad capable of promotion, but also to be better equipped in League One, two year contracts were offered to many players to get them to drop to League Two and or to move to the area. All of the players wanted a 20% increase on their salaries on promotion with some having larger increases. Unfortunately, we cannot recruit players with the benefit of hindsight, every time a player is signed we believe he will make a positive difference and they are the best available for the money available at the current time.
The Club are currently spending more on the football side of the business than ever before, later in the month, we will receive the benchmarking of players salary costs in comparison to those of other League One clubs and I know from speaking to many clubs, we will not be in the bottom six of money paid. That said, those with smaller budgets have been in the League considerably longer than we have and have a squad of players suited to the League.
7) Walking toward the ground from the Meole Estate direction , over the railway bridge and you come to a wooden fence on your right obviously.
Rather than walk around to get to the ground fans climb over the fence and walk around the perimeter fence where the two paths meet , i.e. you meet the path from Sainsbury's.
After the match obviously you reverse the route and climb back over the wooden fence onto Oteley Road .
The fence is not particularly strong and, with the number of fans clambering over , it will one of these days collapse , break or whatever with fans falling back down the slope .
I would suggest that either the fence is reinforced or a style is provided with a section of the fence lowered .
I know some will say ,well, people shouldn't be clambering over the fence in the first place but they do , and will continue to do so .
A - This is another aspect that has been covered off several times before. This is not an access point to the stadium grounds and in my opinion supporters who look to use it as such do so at their own risk. It is worthy of note that the plans for Lidl have a pedestrian access off Oteley Road, which if it gets the go ahead will resolve such an issue.
8) Just feel unless you are a regular, more publicity is needed to cut down the barriers of going to a game.
Big example, will be Walsall and Boxing day - and for non -regular supporters - better communication about how to attend and enjoy the matchday experience can only help?
Idea: Create a short film to share on social media of how fans get to games, buying tickets, following on social media, pubs or places they go for pre-match food and drink.
Share your way of 'doing it' and so new fans can a get a taste of the pre-match hours enjoyment fans have ahead of a game / or see how simple it can be to get down the Meadow to follow the 'Town'.
A - Positive publicity is make biggest frustration at the current time, the Shropshire Star and BBC Radio Shropshire seem extremely reluctant to carry the hundreds of positive stories our Community department give them each week and as such I see little value in taking an advertising campaign out with them. We are considering a door to door campaign highlighting all the work we do, how to get tickets etc, again this comes at a significant cost, but we are working with our partners to try and produce something.
I like the idea of the short film and will speak to the media department for their thoughts, we have done many, many proactive things on YouTube and social media over my time at the club, but we still have less than 400 views on average which is disappointing.
9) I have been made aware by many about concerns with the revised buffet offering, particularly awful drinks, lack of variety compared to under jennys and a few other things, but interested in anything else.
A - The decision to bring the buffets in house was made from a purely business decision, we felt that we could offer a better service at better prices and benefit as a business by making that change.
The question suggests, awful drinks, other than the Hot Chocolate, which we are currently looking at changing to Cadbury’s the suppliers are leading brands in stadium catering, having had hot drinks at Vale Park, Bramall Lane, Fleetwood Town, Bloomfield Road and Turf Moor in recent months, ours are some of the better ones. In terms of choice, our pie supplier trailed their cottage pie and it wasn’t a success, they have let us down with Pie of the Day point of sale advertising material, however, Wrights have made a staffing change and as a result we have a new rep we are discussing such with. Pricing is cheaper than Jennys and the availability of hand pulled real ale in two stands has been well received.
10) Another issues that’s been raised was the loggerheads failing off the new badge on kits, why this was happening, the implications to the club/manufacturer, and how this will be stopped in future
A - This has been taken up with Errea, the badge in its current guise was approved at a number of SP meetings is made by a company in Ireland who produce the Premier League sleeve badges as well as a number of detailed badges across Europe, they have changed their process on the production of the Town badge and whilst it has reduced the number of issues, we will look for a traditional embroidered badge on next seasons red and black away kit. The Club have exchanged all the items where the problem has occurred free of charge and have been re-credited by Errea. The home and Argentina shirt next season will be the same but moving forward beyond the end of 2016/17 the badges will be embroidered.
11) Why does the club seem to be unable to keep senior members of staff in position for longer than a year or 2? is this to do with the pressures of football life or unique pressures attributed to Shrewsbury Town?
A - From my point of view, I haven’t lost any senior members of staff during my time with the club and had my wife not have been expecting then I wouldn’t be leaving. Whilst I am excited about the new role at Burnley, my decision to leave is purely down to a location point of view, both our families are based in the North West. Someone remarked recently that I have never been fully committed to the club owing to my reluctance to move my wife to Shrewsbury, this is extremely difficult to do when she earns considerably more than I do and is based in the North West. I regularly leave Blackpool at 0530 on a Monday morning and don’t return back until after a game on a Saturday and there have been many weeks where I haven’t seen my wife during that period.
12) Firstly I’d like to thank the chairman for everything he has done for the club, his legacy of the new ground will live with us for life, however does he feel that he has taken the club as far as he can? We seem to do everything we can going up while then faltering when this occurs. We are told in the press that the club is on a sound financial footing but with falling gates and waning interest in an inconsistent team we could easily find ourselves back to Gay Meadow attendances which in my view and the view of many would destroy the great legacy he has built for us.
A - From my own personal experience the Chairman remains fully committed to ensuring the Club moves forward, we have already outlined how the board are actively seeking investment from outside to assist in the goals in becoming an established League One club with aspirations of trying to gain promotion to the Championship.
The Chairman is currently assembling an advisory board involving several supporters with significant business experience such as Sir David Lees.
In respect of the comment relating to throwing everything to get promoted and then faltering – we were promoted last season with the fourth highest budget in League Two, the manager completely rebuilt the squad and assembled a group of players we all thought would be able to compete as well in League One. On promotion the playing squad all received a 20% increase on their salary, which is common practice across football (as is the 20% decrease on relegation). It is worthy of note that our current wage budget is the 9th highest in the division which illustrates the boards commitment to supporting the manager. We all acknowledge that Southend and Burton particularly have adapted to life in League One better than we have, but we would point out that both those clubs have assembled their squad over a period of time whilst adding two or three players to make it better every season, whereas in Micky’s first summer, he had to recruit 17 new players.
Whilst losing Ryan Woods and Connor Goldson was a blow on the field, the monies generated from those sales enabled the club to remain debt free and in a position to support the manager in the quest to retain League One status and the obvious long terms sustainability. The injury to James Wesolowski was also another huge loss and I guarantee if you take 3 key players out of any team in any league, form and performances will suffer.
In respect of the gates, we are doing more than ever before in the Community, the Community department has grown from 6 full time staff to 16 in the last 18 months and we are engaging with more people across the county than ever before which assists in securing the supporters of tomorrow, however, we are all aware, that supporters want to see winning football at the highest level possible which is exactly what we all want to achieve, we knew this season would be a challenge and if we can retain our League One status then we can build for next season.
12) When the time comes to sell the football club would the chairman encourage those who have financially backed the club in the past to take over? Is there a plan in place for when this happens or will the club be sold to the highest bidder??
Q - We have already addressed the issue of seeking outside investment, if there are any parties interested in the club whether they are supporters or not, I am sure they will make contact with the club in a professional, private and confidential manner and the Board will address the issue at the appropriate time.
The club recognises the importance of the Supporter’s Parliament and all other supporters and would ask that during this busy transfer window and change of Chief Executive Officer that the next meeting should be scheduled for the near future.