Trust February meeting with Fulham Football Club
Tom Greatrex and Dan Crawford of the Fulham Supporters’ Trust met with Alistair Mackintosh (AM, chief executive officer), Casper Sylsvig (CS, chief revenue officer), Carmelo Mifsud (CM, communications media relations manager), Sean O’Loughlin (SOL, finance director), Tony Khan (TK, vice-chairman and director of football operations), Huw Jennings (HJ, academy director), Mike McKinsey (MM, Fulham Foundation chief executive), Katy Brecht (KB, head of ticketing) and David Daly (DD, non-executive director) of Fulham Football Club at Motspur Park on Thursday 15 February
AM welcomed everybody to the meeting and explained that several Club representatives were in attendance at this meeting as they wanted to receive feedback and answer questions from the Trust and the Fulham fanbase around a number of issues.
CRAVEN COTTAGE REDEVELOPMENT PLANS
SOL confirmed that the extension to the public consultation period for Fulham Football Club’s planning application to redevelop the Riverside Stand had come about following a request for further information to be provided by the Port of London Authority. He confirmed that the extension in the public consultation would not materially affect the determination date scheduled for the planning application with Hammersmith and Fulham Council, and the Club was still confident that the application would be heard in March, prior to the purdah period ahead of the 2018 local council elections.
In response to questions from the Trust, SOL confirmed that, in the event of the planning application being successful, the Club would like to begin work on redeveloping the Riverside Stand at the end of season 2018/19. The precise timetable for the works would be dependent on the detailed preparatory work carried out by a contractor and SOL said that there had been a number of expressions of interests from particular contractors to earn the tender. He hoped that the Club would be in a position to formally appoint a preferred contractor by July 2018.
Both SOL and AM reaffirmed, in response to questioning from the Trust, that the plans were intended to proceed regardless of which division Fulham would be playing in next season. SOL reiterated that there was no intention to leave Craven Cottage whilst this work was being carried out and initial indications were that the capacity of the ground would be around 17,000 seats whilst the work was undertaken. Both SOL and AM confirmed that the Club were looking at what improvements could be made to the Hammersmith and Putney Ends of the ground, although the extent of what work would be possible would become clearer when the Club’s preferred contractor had specified their building plans for the Riverside Stand in event that the planning application was successful.
CM thanked the Trust for their help in putting together the Riverside Stand frequently asked questions that are now available on the Club’s website. Both SOL and AM confirmed that the Club were still in discussions with local residents as well as the various residents’ groups and associations and Trust representatives repeated the Trust’s commitment to try and secure support for the proposals from Fulham supporters, especially those fans who lived in the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. AM, SOL and CS said that the Club were keen to discuss the precise plans for those supporters who currently hold season tickets in the Riverside Stand as soon as possible and the Trust agreed to help facilitate that engagement
KB confirmed that the Club were still discussing Ticketmaster’s scheduled improvements to the official website’s ticketing platform. In response to several queries from Trust members regarding the continued presence of a booking fee for coach tickets booked through the Club website, she confirmed that the Club had asked Ticketmaster to remove this and that she would ensure there was done as swiftly as possible. KB further commented that the Club were continually working to improve the coach service to away fixtures for Fulham fans. AM also invited the Trust’s comments about season ticket pricing for the 2018/2019 as had been provided in previous seasons and the Trust representatives would offer their feedback following consultation with Trust members and supporters.
KB and AM were pleased with the strong ticket sales for recent home matches, especially the Aston Villa fixture. In response to a question from the Trust surrounding the number of away tickets provided for fixtures towards the end of the season – especially the local derby against Brentford – AM confirmed that it remained his desire to sell as many tickets as possible to home supporters and that additional away tickets would be offered in the Putney End only if they remained available closer to the game.
On the broader question of the continued adoption of the neutral section within the Putney End, AM felt that the neutral end had worked work as an opportunity to introduce football fans to Fulham and Craven Cottage, with many supporters who had attended games there going on to come to further fixtures and even purchase memberships and season tickets. AM and KB said that the neutral end is reviewed as a matter of course every season and AM recognised that there could be a higher demand for tickets should the club win promotion.
MM said he had wanted to attend this meeting to personally thank the Trust for their support of the Fulham Foundation’s activities and explore ways that the Trust and the Foundation could work together. He thanked Trust members for their generous donations to the Foundation’s charity matchday last November and reported that the Foundation had experienced a significant rise in donations from supporters when purchasing tickets online as well as merchandise at the stadium store in Stevenage Road.
The Trust representatives commented that the Foundation’s work was exceptionally well received by Fulham fans and that Trust members would like to see the Foundation’s visibility increased so that the good work undertaken by the Foundation in the local community was more widely acknowledged by the supporters. MM, AM and CM replied that the Foundation and the Club were currently discussing how more information about the Foundation’s activities could be shared across the Club’s media platforms.
TK thanked the Trust representatives for the opportunity to talk about the transfer window, which he felt had served to strengthen Slavisa Jokanovic’s squad. He insisted that the Club had never entertained selling any of their key players and that Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon remained pivotal to Club’s future prospects.
TK recognised that it would have been more ideal to be able to integrate January signings into the first-team squad from earlier in the month, but that often in this window, the successful completion of deals was often dependent on the selling club signing a replacement. He said that Matt Targett had been on the club’s radar for some time as a young, talented English player who was not getting regular games at Southampton. Targett’s arrival had strengthened the squad at left back and his successful introduction into the first team had allowed Ryan Sessegnon to operate as a left winger as well.
TK commented that the deadline day signing of Aleksandar Mitrovic on loan was a huge boost to the club. The player had a strong relationship with Slavisa Jokanovic and Fulham moved quickly bring him in from Newcastle once he proposed move to Anderlecht had fallen through. He offered a different option to the strikers already in the first team squad and has an excellent goalscoring record in domestic, European and international football as well as experience of the Championship. TK also commented that Aboubakar Kamara and Rui Fonte have improved as they have adapted to the Championship and gained more first team experience.
TK also said that Fulham were very pleased to have signed Cyrus Christie as he was a strong player with a good Championship pedigree who had only moved clubs relatively recently. He said that AM had secured a very good financial deal for Christie and that the player provided additional depth at right back as well as real competition for Ryan Fredericks.
TK felt the transfer window had helped to provide much-needed strength in depth in three crucial positions and believed that the club now had a genuine chance of promotion. Both TK and AM confirmed that two plans were in place for the summer already depending on which division Fulham would be competing in and they had hoped for a strong end to the season.
The Trust representatives raised feedback from supporters about the difficulty of gaining refreshments and poor levels of service on matchdays in the Johnny Haynes Stand and the Hammersmith End. CS asked for details of this and assured the Trust that all reports of poor service are investigated. CM confirmed that, following correspondence between the Trust and the Club, that extensive testing of the public-address system was underway at Craven Cottage after complaints that supporters could not hear a number of the announcements and the recent half time interview with Brede Hangeland. The Trust and the Club are keen to work together to improve the matchday experience at Craven Cottage and will be planning to hold further meetings to facilitate this.
DD confirmed that there were a number of planned appearances of former Fulham players at the remaining home fixtures this season, and that the Club was keen to have former players return to the Club and make on pitch appearances. He explained that some players prefer not to be interviewed on the pitch.
MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS
The Trust representatives congratulated the Club on winning the Programme Monthly’s Championship programme of the year award for the second time in the last three seasons. CM thanked the Trust on behalf of the Club’s media for their kind words as well as the positive feedback from the Fulham fans.
In response to questions from the Trust about Fulham FC TV, CM said that the Club were pleased with the product to date, although they were always seeking ways to improve their output. The Trust put forward a number of suggestions gleaned from our members about potential future content. CM, SOL and AM said that the Club were very pleased with the success of the match pass and season pass options for overseas fans, revealing that the Club’s sales levels were the second highest in the Championship, after Nottingham Forest. CM felt it had been right decision to decide to implement the Club’s own subscription service instead of adopting the EFL’s IFollow System and confirmed that there would be a full review at the end of the season. He also confirmed that if Fulham were to be promoted, then the overseas and other rights situation was different and would impact upon what can be broadcast through the Club’s platform.
HJ thanked the Trust and the Fulham fans for their continued support of the Club’s academy programme and the interest in the progress of the age group sides. He was delighted by the Under 18s FA Youth Cup quarter final victory at Plymouth, highlighting the contributions of Steven Sessegnon, who played at centre back, Nicolas Santos-Clase and Fabio Carvahlo. The Under 18s will now face Chelsea in the quarter final, which will be played at Craven Cottage on Tuesday 27 February, kicking off at 7.05pm. HJ stressed that whilst the Club were delighted with the achievements of the Under 18 side in the FA Youth Cup this year, he still saw the Club’s key role as helping to develop players – and was very pleased with the progress of so many young players along the pathway to Slavisa Jokanovic’s first team this season.
HJ commended the achievements of several Fulham young players currently out on loan, in particular the progression of Marek Rodak at Rotherham, which has been reflected by his recent signing of a contract extension, Elijah Adebayo with Cheltenham Town and Mattias Kait’s impressive start at Ross County. HJ admitted it was sometimes difficult to judge exactly when to loan out a player but said that the Club work extremely hard to source the right development opportunities for their players.
HJ said he was indebted to the work of the Club’s staff right across the academy and their commitment to excellence as well as the generous support of the chairman and AM. He was encouraged by a number of promising players coming through the younger age group ranks as well as Fulham’s successful retention of their most talented players.
The meeting finished at 11.58am