I write these notes as a FST Board Director but should point out that these views are my own and not necessarily those of the Board.
The Trust was of course delighted with the promotion and congratulates all at the Club on an excellent achievement and season.
The now famous ‘white wall’ at Wembley was an initiative started by the Trust which was brilliantly adopted by the majority of the fans. And credit to the Club who endorsed the message and encouraged the fans to make it happen. Certainly the group I attend with are not normally ‘colour wearers’ but everyone joined in and the display was magnificent – I can’t help but think that helped the team. Slav is a big fan of increasing the atmosphere whatever it takes so with the white wall and the club ensuring flags and clappers (arrrrgh) were on seats made it a fantastic experience.
The Club was initially heavily criticised for the ticket allocation decision. Five per season ticket holder was deemed high by many and in truth the Trust had recommended lower. However, to give credit where it is due the Club felt that we (initially season tickets holders) were best placed to create a secondary market. And this seemed to work – there certainly wasn’t the thousands of Villa fans in our end that they were claiming they would have.
It allowed fans to bring their friends and family who are not necessarily regulars anymore. This can be because of distance or age or indeed other examples. As a live example, I have friends who are massive Fulham supporters but now based in the likes of Poland (yes really!) and Manchester. For a group of friends / family who have shared the lows of Fulham, to be able to sit together for possibly the biggest high we will witness for years was incredibly great. In that respect I think the Club got things right.
But it was not by any means a totally smooth experience. Many had huge issues with Ticketmaster and the way the lines were blocked for hours and so forth.
We have continually questioned the club on Ticketmaster practices (including high phone charges) and they are sympathetic but tied into contracts.
We also want to see the return of supporters being able to select seating for away games. Ticketmaster say an upgrade is needed but this really shouldn’t be too difficult given we were able to do it at Wembley and they tend to be able to do it for other evnts. The re-introduction of this I am sure would at least dilute the tedious stand up / sit down arguments. Talks continue.
On that subject FST are supporters of ‘safe standing’ and this seems to be gathering steam with MPs softening their stance and real life examples now happening (see Shrewsbury). The authorities are likely to devolve the decision to clubs and local safety advisory groups. The Hammersmith and Fulham safety advisory group has indicated that they would be in favour of the introduction of safe standing and the Trust has asked the Club whether they would be willing to look at proposals to incorporate safe standing areas in the old ‘Enclosure’ or the Riverside Stand. The Club has confirmed that they would be open to discussions on this, subject to the football authorities granting approval.
One area we know there are more than raised eyebrows are the heavy rises in season ticket / matchday prices after the cut off for the early bird season ticket holders. It is worth noting these are probably the prices we’d be paying if we’d remained in the Premier league four years ago but it is quite a shock to see such a rise. The Club feel justified given they had 8000 expressions of interest for season tickets following promotion and the number needs to be capped following Premier league rules and the reduction in riverside seats the following season.
What disturbs many is the fact that the new prices often set the baseline for the starting prices the following season. Paying an extra £200 will be hard to swallow. The Club insists no decisions have been made as yet but we will ensure we have continued dialogue in this area. We have already signposted Watford as an example of how they structure prices in a more ‘stepping stone’ way, rewarding loyalty.
As for match tickets, the Club clearly feels they will be bought so market forces dictate. Premier league football means ruthless pricing strategies can be introduced. We will continue to keep an eye and discuss the ramifications.
Of course, in theory, this is the last season of the Riverside stand in its current guise. That means displacing a number of fans and the Club will be working hard with the Trust (and Riverside representatives) to ensure the move is done as sensitively and sensibly as possible. The Club has also asked for volunteers to consider how to represent the Club’s history and heritage in the new stand. David Daly and Alex White will lead this Working Group on the Club side with Trust members also on board.
When success happens, many might consider the role of a Trust as not so relevant. However it is always essential to keep your eye on the ball and be prepared to mobilise if things take a turn for the worse. Of course promotion gels the club together but there are ongoing issues as there always will be and the Trust is able to take these to the Club on a monthly basis as well as being given access to speak to officials ‘off-line’ too. We have unique access to the Club that other supporters would give their right hand for so we must take full advantage and represent as many of the fans as we can. This means we must evolve and consider new methods of reaching out and engaging with as many supporters as possible. In that spirit we have met with Sammy James and Jack Collins of the excellent ‘Fulhamish’ podcast to share ideas on furthering the reach and becoming more accessible and relevant to ALL our fanbase. As a starter we will be revamping our website to a fully integrated and modern model. We are always looking for members to help out so if you feel you can add value (or just want to join the Trust), please don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected].
Our voice reaches many places. Our Chair, Tom Greatrex, is the current Supporters Direct (SD) Chair and was appointed as the new SD FA Council Representative in July. Tom will represent SD for a 3-year term and will work along Football Supporters Federation representative Malcolm Clarke. Again it is a coup to have a Fulham voice representing supporters at the top of the game.
Finally, you would have read elsewhere in the mag that the editor is publishing a ‘30th anniversary of TOOFIF’ book. The Trust are delighted to be hosting the book launch and have a Q&A with David and other notable names lined up. It is bound to be a blast and with a few beers an event not to miss. Please contact [email protected] for further details and keep an eye out for announcements on the social media platforms