Notes from November meeting with Fulham Football Club
On Tuesday 14 November 2017, Dan Crawford, Mike Gregg and Gerry Pimm of the Fulham Supporters’ Trust met with Alistair Mackintosh (AM, Chief Executive Officer), Casper Stylsvig (CS, Chief Revenue Officer), Carmelo Mifsud (CM, Media Relations Officer) and David Daly (DD, Non-Executive Director) of Fulham Football Club at Motspur Park as part of the Trust’s ongoing structured dialogue with the Club.
CRAIG KLINE, RECRUITMENT AND TRANSFERS
The Trust representatives opened the meeting by asking about the recent departure of Fulham Football Club’s former assistant director of football operations and head of statistical research and the reports that followed in the national press. AM replied that the details of Mr. Kline’s departure would need to remain confidential, although he would try to answer as many of the questions as the Trust and supporters had put to the Club in as much detail as possible.
AM confirmed that, since Tony Khan had been appointed as the Club’s director of football operations last spring, Fulham’s recruitment and transfer policy had been closely aligned to analytics following the ‘two boxes ticked’ approach that has been discussed at these meetings previously. AM reiterated that both conventional scouting and data analysis play a part in drawing up a list of around 20 plus players per position that form the initial basis of the Club’s recruitment strategy. AM commented that, given that there are financial inputs as well as the opinion of the head coach Slavisa Jokanovic to be considered prior to the signing of a player, he prefers describing this as a ‘four boxes ticked system’.
In response to questions from the Trust, AM confirmed that both data and scouting approval of a target would be required into order to commence recruitment. In the event that a potential signing did not feature on the Club’s statistical database, the system was flexible enough to allow for the Club to request scouting reports and further analysis on a player. AM offered the example of the signing of Stefan Johansen, for whom comprehensive SPL analytical data was not available last summer, to illustrate how the process worked in practice.
AM confirmed that, following Mr. Kline’s departure, James Lovell, who has fulfilled the first team analyst role at the Club since 2011 following his recruitment from Wolverhampton Wanderers, had been appointed as an interim assistant director of football operations and head of statistical analysis. Mr. Lovell is a popular member of the Club’s staff who works with the first-team coaching staff on a daily basis and will continue in this role for the foreseeable future. In response to questions from the Trust, AM said that the Club regularly reviews its transfer and recruitment policy and confirmed that Tony Khan would continue in his current role working alongside Mr. Lovell, Brian Talbot and Slavisa Jokanovic as the Club prepared for the January transfer window.
AM also confirmed that the Club has introduced a recommendation that they should not sign outfield players over the age of 28 except at Tony Khan’s discretion, where it was felt that they would add immediate value to the first-team squad. He also confirmed that, since the summer transfer window, Danny Talbot had joined the Club as one of several senior Club scouts reporting to Brian Talbot, although it was inaccurate to describe him as the Club’s new head of European Scouting as some press reporting had done.
The Trust representatives commented that the Fulham fans had been greatly concerned by the reports of disharmony that followed Mr. Kline’s departure and that some of the reporting raised concerns about governance. AM acknowledged that this had been a difficult period for the Club, but that period is now over and he hoped Fulham and the first-team could move forward without any further distractions.
SUPPORTERS DIRECT ENGAGE DOCUMENT
Following previous discussions between the Trust, the Club and the football authorities around structured dialogue, the Trust representatives presented Supporters Direct’s recently published ‘Engage’ document on best practice between Clubs and their supporters. The document featured Fulham Football Club’s current dialogue with the Fulham Supporters’ Trust in a case study as one of the most successful in British football. AM, DD and CS all spoke about the benefits that the current structured dialogue had delivered for the Club and the Trust representatives expressed their view that these meetings had become a useful forum for the fans to table issues of concern and request further information. It was noted that the regularity of these meetings, the attendance of senior Club officials and the items discussed within them went well beyond the minimum requirements specified by the EFL regulations and both parties agreed to discuss formalising this dialogue at their earliest possible convenience.
RIVERSIDE STAND REDEVELOPMENT
The Trust representatives offered feedback from our members and the Fulham fans following the two consultation events held at Craven Cottage about the Club’s plans to redevelop the Riverside Stand. In the Trust’s view, the fans welcomed the opportunity to be given further insight into the Club’s proposals and supporters were in favour of the new plans put together by local architects Populous.
The Trust raised concerns expressed by supporters about the tightness of the proposed schedule of works should the plans be approved by Hammersmith and Fulham Council as well as the impact on existing Riverside Stand season ticket holders, who would need to be relocated whilst the new stand was constructed. Many Trust members and Fulham supporters had also offered comments on the type of facilities that should located within the new Stand and it was agreed that the Trust would summarise these suggestions in a briefing document.
AM confirmed that the Club were planning to formally submit their application to Hammersmith and Fulham Council next week and remained confident that a decision would be reached by the local authority prior to the purdah period before the 2018 local elections. The Club felt that the consultation was very well-attended, and that preliminary analysis of the feedback submitted both in person and online suggested that the vast majority of Fulham fans and local residents supported the proposals.
MICKY ADAMS EVENT
The Trust thanked the Club for their assistance in facilitating the supporters’ evening with former Fulham player and manager Micky Adams to be hosted in McBride’s at Craven Cottage on Thursday 30 November.CM and DD confirmed that Micky Adams and several members of the 1996/97 Division Three promotion winning side would be guests of the Club at the forthcoming home fixture with Derby County on Saturday 18 November. CM further revealed that Adams would be signing copies of his recently released autobiography in the Stadium Store on Stevenage Road prior to kick off and that Adams and the players would be presented to supporters on the pitch at half-time.
DD revealed that the Club planned to invite a number of former Fulham players to forthcoming home fixtures and that details would be announced shortly.
JOHNNY HAYNES SHIRT
The Trust raised the relocation of Johnny Haynes’ England shirt from the Johnny Haynes longue, where it had been temporarily placed towards the end of last season, to a place where Fulham fans could more easily view it on a regular basis. It was agreed that the most appropriate location would be in the ticket office on Stevenage Road and the Club undertook to begin the feasibility and moving process as soon as possible.
The Trust representatives shared some feedback from fans on the recently refurbished Stadium Store in Stevenage Road. Both AM and CS stated that the Club had been pleased by the reaction of supporters to the reopening of the store and reported that there had been significantly higher sales receipts when compared with last October. CS also drew supporters’ attention to a number of new lines in the shop and confirmed that a set of new ranges were due to be unveiled before Christmas. CS also commented that the retail section on the Club’s website had been redesigned to provide an easier viewing and purchasing experience – and that the Club would welcome feedback on these changes.
The Trust representatives raised the continuing popularity of the Club’s heritage, retro kit ranges and historical items amongst the Fulham fans. The Trust also passed on suggestions from our members about potential additions to these lines as well as further merchandise that could be considered and it was agreed that these would be discussed at a special meeting to be convened between Club officials and Trust board representatives.
The Trust thanked the Club for arranging free coach travel to forthcoming fixtures, but commented that the coaches laid on for this month’s away match at Sheffield United had been announced after many supporters had already purchased train tickets. CS, CM and AM noted these concerns and confirmed that the Club were in talks with their main sponsor about further free coach travel options.
The Trust also raised the difficulties experienced by a number of supporters both before, during and after the recent away fixture at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Many Fulham fans were left with unrefundable travel tickets following the moving of this fixture to a Friday night by Sky Sports, whilst disabled and mobility-impaired supporters were greatly inconvenienced by the failure of Wolves’ stewards to direct them to a lift instead of the stairs up to the Stan Cullis stand at Molineux. This issue was raised with the Wolves disabled supporter liaison officer immediately by the Trust representatives in attendance – and was rectified closer to kick off.
Following the final whistle, Fulham fans emerging from Molineux to board the away coaches back to London found that they had been moved away from the established drop-off and pick-up point to the other side of the ring road. Wolves subsequently suggested that an announcement had been made over the public address system during the game, but neither the Wolves stewards nor the local or Metropolitan Police appeared aware of the change.
The Trust had subsequently made Wolves, the EFL and the police aware of the impact this lack of communication had on Fulham supporters and the Club communicated its disappointment. The Trust representatives also pointed out the supporter liaison officer case studies included in the afore mentioned Supporters Direct Engage documentation and it was agreed that the Trust should meet with members of Fulham’s supporter relations team to discuss how best practice can be best implemented.
CS confirmed that the Club were still undertaking a scheme work designed to improve the matchday experience for home fans at Craven Cottage. Following on from previous discussions on this topic, he revealed that the Club had been in discussions with Carlsberg about providing more promotions ahead of kick off and had ensured that the main Riverside bar now remained open for longer following the final whistle.
The Club also shared with the Trust representatives a recently commissioned report on the matchday atmosphere and acoustics at Craven Cottage, which the Trust undertook to share with our members and Fulham fans as soon as possible. The Trust shared a number of suggestions from supporters designed to improve the matchday atmosphere and experience and both parties agreed to further this discussion through separate meetings to be arranged as soon as possible.
The meeting closed at 12.36pm