Trust March meeting with Fulham Football Club
On Tuesday 21st March 2017, representatives of the Trust Board (Dan Crawford and Mike Gregg) met with Alistair Mackintosh (AM, Chief executive officer), Sarah Brookes (SB, Communications and Marketing Director), Huw Jennings (Academy Director) and Casper Stylsvig (CS, Chief Revenue Officer) from Fulham Football Club at the Club’s Motspur Park training ground.
TONY KHAN AND SLAVISA JOKANOVIC
The Trust representatives opened the meeting by thanking the Club and Tony Khan for making himself available to attend the March meeting. TK had indicated his willingness to engage further with the fans and, following his appointment to the Club’s board, the Trust hoped that we could continue to hear from him regularly. Following the March meeting, the news that Slavisa Jokanovic had signed a two-year contract extension was confirmed. AM stated the Club were delighted to secure the head coach’s services on a long-term contract and looked forward to further progression on the field.
2017/2018 SEASON TICKET PRICES
The Trust thanked the Club on behalf of all supporters for their decision to retain the freeze on season ticket prices for next season. AM said that the Chairman and the Club felt that this decision was the right one to recognise the loyalty and unstinting support of the Fulham fan base and represented good value for money when compared to some of the Club’s Championship rivals. AM also added that the Club were encouraged by the initial numbers of ‘early bird’ renewals as well as recent home attendances.
AM admitted that the first team’s two most recent results against Blackburn Rovers and Wolverhampton Wanderers were disappointing, but the management and the playing staff remained confident of making the Championship play-offs, largely on the back of the side’s excellent form since the turn of the year.
Both AM and HJ were encouraged by the integration of a number of the younger players into the first team squad, mostly notably the impressively mature performances of Ryan Sessegnon. SB confirmed that his first extended interview would shortly be available to FulhamFC TV subscribers via the club’s official website. HJ also mentioned the championship-winning performances of Marlon Fossey and Luca De La Torre with the USA Under 20 squad at the recent Gold Cup tournament – and De La Torre’s displays had been recognised with a place on the bench against Wolves.
HJ spoke about how the Chairman, the Club’s Board and management team had given even greater prominence to the Academy and the development of young players. Slavisa Jokanovic had watched most of the home fixtures of the Under 23 and Under 18 sides this season and has given all of the Academy coaches desk space in his own office to ensure a closer working relationship. The Club has tried to embed the same footballing philosophy across all the age groups, to facilitate an easy progression from these sides to the senior team, which HJ believes has helped the large number of younger players making the step up. Jokanovic had also stressed the importance of having younger players training regularly with the first-team squad, which five Academy players now do a daily basis.
HJ said he was encouraged by the impressive performances of the Under 23 side, which has involved a large group of players, during the season. Stevie Humphries made an initial impression on the management staff during the club’s pre-season tour and has continued his impressive development whilst on loan at Shrewsbury Town, whilst Steven Sessegnon has recently returned from a serious injury and stepped up to U23 level. HJ also felt that the displays of a number of players who have been promoted to this side ahead of their age, including Moritz Jens, deserved particular commendation.
HJ conceded that it had been a more difficult campaign for the Under 18 team, particularly as a number of eligible players had been promoted to the Under 23 side or the first team squad. He believed that several youngsters had matured impressively and adapted well to a couple of changes in formation during the season. HJ noted that Mattias Kait’s excellent form has seen him become a regular senior Estonia international at the age of 18, which was a terrific achievement. The Club have moved quickly to extend both Kait’s contract and deal of Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson after strong seasons in Fulham’s youth ranks.
In addition, HJ reported that he was pleased with the progression of the club’s age groups beneath the two competitive national league levels. He reported that six Academy players had been called up to England’s under 16 squad for the impending international fixtures and that Slavisa Jokanovic was taking a keen interest in their development.
Plans for a summer assessment of the Club’s season were well in train and recruitment at all levels was already been actively considered.
HJ also revealed that Slavisa Jokanovic had been instrumental in driving a number of the recent changes at Motspur Park. Jokanovic had insisted that the playing service needed to be upgraded to provide the best possible training environment, which now also included the dome that is used by the senior squad and other age agroups.
CS spoke about the number of commercial partnerships that the Club had confirmed since he was brought in over the summer. Both he and AM were pleased with the progress, which was something identified by the Chairman and thee Board that the Club could improve upon, and the fact that many interested parties had told the Club that Fulham remained an attractive proposition for many leading national international brands.
CS felt that Fulham’s prominence was down to a number of factors. The Club’s long spell in the Premier League had increased their international appeal and reach and being based in London made them a great fit for multinational companies seeking a sporting base in the capital. Many firms representatives had reported that the Club’s history – and their position as ‘London’s original’ football club – and the charm of Craven Cottage gave them a unique feel as opposed to other options and the familial relationship between the Club and the fans was another distinct plus point. CS also believed that a number of previous partners had established successful relationships with the Club that were mutually beneficial, which helped in securing future partners.
CS, AM and SB all felt that the limitations on the amount of matchday revenue that can currently be generated at Craven Cottage placed particular importance on commercial partnerships. CS confirmed that Coral and the recently signed Sportito had already offered definitive benefits to Fulham supporters and season ticket holders and that he hoped to develop this further in the months ahead. Negotiations with new potential partners were ongoing but CS made clear that any future partner would have to fit with Fulham’s ethos and it was not his intention to build a wide array of official partners, but opt to associate the Club with a collection that offered the best possible benefits.
The Trust felt it was interesting that so many interested parties had focused on Fulham’s history, location and Craven Cottage. We raised the recent successful exhibition hosted in the Johnny Haynes suite and ongoing work to celebrate the Club’s history in conjunction with the Foundation. Both AM and SB confirmed that the Club were looking at ways to promote both the Club’s rich heritage and the achievements of past players. The latter element was part of a Board project being led by non-executive director David Daly and both the Club and the Trust will publicise this further in due course.
NEW KITS FOR 2017/2018
CS and AM confirmed that the Club will be unveiling a new home strip for 2017/2018 in the summer. The Club are in advanced discussions with Adidas about the kit. CS confirmed that Visit Florida’s sponsorship runs out at the end of this season and that the club were talking to them as well as a number of other potential sponsors about a new deal.
In response to a question from the Trust about the general trend for additional sponsorship on kits in the Championship, CS and AM said that the club had resisted proposals to sponsor other parts of the kit to date, preferring to have one prominent official club sponsor on the front of the shirt.
AWAY TRAVEL AND TICKET PRICING
The Trust thanked the Club for swiftly arranging cheap travel options for the April midweek trip to Derby County that had been very well received. Both SB and AM confirmed that the Club were looking at ways of supporting large away followings at Fulham’s remaining away fixtures as part of the fans’ popular ‘Follow Fulham Away’ campaign, although final arrangements are dependent on when the home clubs release ticket allocations and pricing. A number of options are currently being investigated with regard to the final day fixture at Sheffield Wednesday.
The Trust also raised the issue of vast differences in ticket pricing at various Championship grounds over the past few seasons. The EFL have been reluctant to arrange discussions between Championship clubs on reciprocal pricing arrangements or a price cap in the manner that the Premier League have and the Trust informed the Club that they intend to raise this issue directly with the EFL and our fellow Trusts on behalf of matchgoing supporters. Both SB and AM shared the views of Slavisa Jokanovic and the players that Fulham’s away following has made a real difference and wished the Trust well in this regard.
RIVERSIDE STAND DEVELOPMENT
AM reiterated that the Club were considering the proposals delivered by Thomas Heatherwick as part of the Chairman’s options appraisal. AM confirmed that the Club are also talking to a number of other companies to ensure that the final plans are based on the widest possible selection of information. He also stressed that the Chairman, the Board and the Club recognise how important Craven Cottage and a renovated Riverside Stand are to the Fulham fans.
The meeting closed at 11.34am.