FST meeting with FFC at Motspur Park on 8th. November 2016
On 8th November 2016 two of the Trust Board (Dan Crawford, Michael
Gregg) met Alistair Mackintosh (AM, Chief executive officer) and Sarah
Brookes (SB, Communications and Marketing Director) Casper Stylsvig (CS,
Chief Revenue Officer) and Mike Rigg (MR, Chief Football Officer) from
Fulham FC at the Club’s Headquarters, Motspur Park.
1) First team, U23 team, loan window and Manager’s contract
MR was present for this part of the discussion and the ST asked him to explain how he felt the playing side of the club was progressing. He explained that confidence was high in the first team and a number of the players had expressed their view that they had never played in a team that consistently creates the number of chances its currently doing.
Those players not in the team are working hard to try and prove they should be playing and while they are disappointed they are also professionals. Decisions will be made in January on what’s best for some of those players who are not involved, both for the Club and the players.
MR was asked whether the first team players that have been appearing in the U23 games recently feel that these games are below them. He responded that, having watched all the games, he did not think they were taking these games lightly at all and it’s about giving players game time and keeping them match fit.
MR was asked about his feeling on the new U23 league and whether it had made much difference to the games. He explained that, while you could never replicate the intensity of 1st team football, the games are competitive, as the 4-3 loss to Wolves last week showed.
The removal of the emergency loan window was touched on and MR felt it was actually a good thing and removed the constant speculation of players moving in between the mai n windows.
On the subject of the Manager’s contract, AM would neither confirm or deny that they were talking about this and said this would not be the forum to announce it either way. However, the Club is happy with how things are going and, while home form needs to improve, the feeling was we should have more points than we currently have.
2) Redevelopment of Riverside Stand and Motspur Park
The Trust asked AM for an update on the Riverside Stand and the Heatherwick Studios review.
AM reminded the trust that the council had signed off the continuation of the planning consent after the club fulfilled stipulated requirements in the summer. This meant that the Club could go ahead with the Riverside Stand based on the KAS design at any time.
The Club has received the review from Heatherwick and is looking at the options it offers. The review covered not only the Riverside Stand but also the entire ground. AM mentioned that the costs for maintaining the Hammersmith and Putney stands was a costly matter and, since as this is possibly the one chance in the near future that the Club could rebuild much of the ground, the Club is going to take its time looking at all the options they have on the table. AM and CS had a meeting recently looking at the financial side of a number of designs its has. There are no plans to release a version of the report for public consumption.
Of course, any major redesign will have to include planning permission but, at this moment, there are no timescales on when the club will announce plans going forward. However, AM reiterated that the KAS design could still be the one with which the Club proceeded.
There was no pressure on them to rush ahead with any build and was not dependent on promotion either. However, promotion would make it an easier decision to make.
Work at Motspur Park was now completed and the club will be announcing more news on the work that has been done in the near future.
3) Away Tickets and website
Casper Stylsvig explained his role at the club and in charge of all revenue apart from player sales.
The subject of away ticketing was discussed. This followed a 45-minute telephone conference call that Michael Gregg had with CS and Katy Phillips (KP, Head of Ticketing) the previous week, where some of the issues were raised and these minutes reflect mainly that discussion and then follow-up at this meeting.
The issue of being able to pick your own seat at away games was the main reason for the call. Since Ticketmaster (TM) had become our online provider since the start of the 2015/16 season, the ability to choose seats had been lost. The reason for TM being taken on was due to the previous provider being unable to support heavy online traffic, which saw the website crash. Since TM supply a number of the clubs (such as Arsenal), the decision to go with them was taken and the website, when buying tickets, is far more stable.
MG Asked why TM could not upload seating plans on a game by game basis as they do in the USA, for example for NFL games. CS has had discussions with TM on this subject and it was explained that TM in Europe works on an older software platform than that in the USA, hence they cannot do plans game by game. However, pressure has been coming from a number of clubs that now use TM to provide the option for fans to purchase seats of their choosing. TM is 25% of the way toward building the required system that the football club will be able to use. Unfortunately, it cannot give a date as to when they will be able to roll it out to clubs.
MG raised the following questions:
How does the ‘Best Available’ option work? Why are those fans who book early (in particular those when a game uses loyalty points to stagger the sales) sometimes given seats that do not reflect either best available or at times in a worse position than someone who books two weeks later?
The way a home team distributes or offers away tickets varies from team to team. All allocations in the Championship are offered on a sale or return option, However, if tickets are not sold in the order that the home club specifies, the away club could be liable for the cost of the whole allocation of tickets, even if they are not sold.
Thus, taking the example of the away match versus Aston Villa, the Club needed to sell block P11 (the ‘end’ block) first and then move onto P10, P9, etc.
For Brighton & Hove Albion, we have an allocation of 1800 (which could increase) and blocks are required to be sold from S1A (from the far left looking at the stand and then block by block going to the right).
KP explained that the Ticket Office create a plan for each away game and sell tickets from blocks in the order of ‘Middle to back’ and then Middle to front’ and then move onto the next block. Tickets are issued in the order the bookings are made online and not in any kind of random order.
MG commented that this had happened at Villa Park, when, having booked on the first day of sale, he had ended up two seats from the end of the stand basically looking at the side of the home stand. A number of other fans with high loyalty points having booked early, also found themselves with what is described as ‘best Available’ on the website being perhaps the worst available.
The trust commented Is this the right way to treat fans with high loyalty points for a start? Also, that particular block at AV should never be considered best available or be the first one sold.
The Club accepted that this situation was not ideal and has been talking to other clubs to see if any has come up with other options or routes to get around some of these issues and are open to any ideas on this subject.
Why show lists of blocks but then not allow a fan to actually pick one of them and show an error message? Also, when booking online, you do not see your seat until you get the email confirmation.
The Club has agreed that this can be frustrating for fans and are going to change the way tickets for the match away to Wolverhampton Wanderers will be sold. It will be ‘Best Available’ but also the seats you are given will be shown prior to payment. This will give fans the option to accept or decline those that have been selected for you.
MG also asked if it would be possible to change the options to book to something like ‘Front’, ‘Middle’ and ‘Back’. This might assist with the issue of those fans who want to stand or sit not being as mixed as has happened in previous away matches. The club said they would look at this option.
On this subject, the FST would say that the club are aware of the issues and are looking at changing the bookin g for away games and any feedback on this subject is very welcome.
4) Match-day Mascots
The Trust raised the issue of recent changes to the arrangements for match day mascots and disclosed the fact that many supporters had written in, concerned about the new arrangements.
CS confirmed that the new system had been in operation since the start of the season, but that the Club had honoured any previous packages purchased. SB clarified that it wasn’t strictly accurate to suggest that mascot packages were now only av ailable to corporate sponsors; mascot opportunities have been made available to the Club’s charitable partners, children linked to the Fulham Foundation’s projects and ongoing work.
The Club will also keep under review how to make the mascot experience accessible to as many supporters as possible; previously it was felt that some supporters had become priced out. The Trust asked that the current policy and any future changes should be clearly detailed on the Club’s website and reiterated that we would be happy to be involved in any future discussions.
SB was asked how FulhamTV was doing and plans ahead for further content.
The take up has been good and, while no numbers were forthcoming, she said that the club had reluctantly gone down this route after being fined by the Football League for showing the highlights and 90 minute games on the website. More content is planned and, while the club would have liked to have kept the match-day commentary free, it was felt that, in order to enhance the package offered, the inclusion of the match-day commentary would give those paying the fee more value for money.
While still in the early stages, SB acknowledged that lessons have been learnt from the live press conference and also the U23 game shown live and that a lot more content will be com ing over the next few months.
MG raised the view that the U23 game coverage would be better if the camera was not so far back and the zoom was used more. It was explained that the footage is used for analyses as well and that requires a wider shot of the pitch than you would see in a normal live TV game and the use of another camera has been ruled out at this time. AM commented that he was surprised by the large number who watched the U23 game.
6) Tannoy system prior to game
The subject of Craven Cottages sound system was raised and especially how loud it was when the stadium was fairly empty between an hour and 30 minutes prior to kick-off. AM explained that he received questions on both ends of the argument, one that it’s too loud and the other that it’s too quiet.
The Manager had asked for it to be cranked up to a high volume during the pre-match warm up and that this might be why some have heard a change to it this season.
The FST asked if the club could monitor from where in the ground the complaints had been received and whether it could be re-examined in those specific areas.
7) George Cohen Statue
The FST asked the club to keep the fans informed on how the charity raising with those groups associated with the statue. They confirmed this would be done.
Meeting closed at 11:30