Notes from September meeting with Fulham FC
On Monday 10 September 2018, Alistair Mackintosh (AM, chief executive officer), Darren Preston (DP, chief operating officer) and David Daly (DD, non-executive director) of Fulham Football Club met with Ian Clarke, Dan Crawford, Les O’Gorman and Owen Smith of the Fulham Supporters’ Trust at Motspur Park as part of the ongoing structured dialogue between both parties. The Club and the Trust were joined by PC Tony Delamo to discuss policing issues for part of the meeting.
AM welcomed the Trust representatives, especially the newly-elected members, to the meeting and reiterated his commitment to be as transparent and receive as much feedback from the supporters as possible. He also passed on the apologies of Carmelo Mifsud and Casper Sylsvig, who were unable to attend due to other diary commitments.
MATCHDAY EXPERIENCE AND GROUND ISSUES
The Trust highlighted multiple issues arising from the recent League Cup tie against Exeter City following significant delays and queuing outside the ground prior to kick off as well as an apparent lack of staff, poor organisation, and inadequate stewarding.
AM acknowledged that they were “internally very aware” of the problems and that the Exeter game was “not our finest hour”. DP had written up a report on matchday failings and AM had collected feedback from several other senior Club staff. The expectation of service increases with a lower crowd and there would be “learnings” and that they were “caught by surprise”. The club were trialling not raising matchday prices for the Exeter City game and found that there were on the day an unexpectedly large number of walk-ups and late arrivals.
The reduced number of staff appears not to be due to cost cutting, but rather the short time with which to get enough people to work the match. AM clarified that for all midweek cup games, against teams where there are reduced ticket prices, the Club makes a loss, but this presents an opportunity to attend for people who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to. AM promised to learn from this experience and the club will improve in future.
The Trust also raised the Club’s decision this season to pay the London Living Wage and suggested that this should help to recruit and retain regular stewards rather than relying on agencies to continually provide staff. AM and DP replied that they felt strongly that it was the right decision, but it does have some knock-on effects. AM revealed that it can be a challenge to retain matchday staff, against a number of competitors in London, and he asked the Trust to help the Club recruit any supporters who might be interested in working on matchdays. DP also said that the introduction of the London Living Wage has meant that some regular stewards have had to reduce their hours because they would otherwise be affected by the benefit cap.
The Trust highlighted the common-sense stewarding by Brighton and Hove Albion’s stewards at the away game earlier this month, especially in terms of entry and exit from the stadium and how Fulham fans were encouraged to remain in the ground following the final whistle. PC Delamo was less impressed with the stewarding both on the concourse prior to the kick off and with a slowness to police who were standing in seating areas. AM advised that the Club and Brighton were trialling a seated section in the away end for this game. However, ticket sales in this block were very low and eventually the club had to take the decision to open it up to general sale.
The Trust raised the news of a new planning application concerning the Hammersmith End. DP confirmed that this was the installation of a new commentary box to be located between the Hammersmith End and the Riverside Stand so that the Club could comply with the Premier League broadcast regulations. DP said that the box should be in place for the home game against Watford. It remains to be seen how this will impact upon movement of supporters in this area, although no viewing of the match will be affected. Both the Trust and the Club will monitor developments.
The Trust raised the fact that, at the start of both home league matches so far, the blind commentary service had not been working and supporters were actually listening to commentary from an alternative game. AM and DP were concerned to hear this feedback and said they would ensure that this was sorted for the next fixture.
All parties agreed that the Craven Cottage PA system remains very poor. DP agreed that it is very hard to hear at the back of the Riverside, and the Trust representatives also relayed that the same problems remain in the Johnny Haynes stand. The general consensus was that the investment in new equipment has not been successful and the Club will be looking at other ways to improve the situation.
The Trust also brought the nationwide On the Ball campaign, designed to encourage clubs to provide free female sanitary products at football matches, to the attention of the Club and suggested that Fulham should sign up. Following a discussion at the meeting, the Club announced on Thursday that they would be immediately joining the On the Ball campaign. You can read the Club’s official statement, with comment from the Fulham Supporters’ Trust here
The Trust raised the status of the members’ discount on home match tickets, as some members had written in after not being offered a discount for the forthcoming Arsenal game. AM replied that the membership discount is not intended for top-tier games such as Arsenal, but only applies to certain other games. However, the club would rather not issue a list of the games it does apply to as they are exploring the idea of offering discounts to some games which they currently wouldn’t, if there are any movements due to scheduling clashes.
The Trust raised a number of issues and suggestions around away ticketing, including:
- the inability to choose a particular seat for away matches, which provokes problems around standing and sitting in the Fulham section (which were particularly problematic at Brighton and Hove Albion),
- reintroducing the previously provided information on the Club website regarding blocks that were available and the order that they would be sold in,
- splitting blocks into front and rear if individual seat choice was not available
- and the possibility of simplifying the loyalty point tiers.
The Trust also asked if the Club could provide more information on how tickets remained on sale for away games to assist supporters. AM and DP said that the Club would take these suggestions under consideration, consult with their ticket office colleagues, and report back.
The Trust also highlighted IT issues around access to Arsenal tickets, with season ticket holders unable to purchase tickets on the advertised date. This issue was eventually resolved with the assistance of Katy Brecht, the Club’s head of ticketing, but caused significant problems. DP confirmed that the option to print tickets at home, whilst being useful in previous seasons was now being abused by touts and had been withdrawn. AM and DP confirmed that the Club will be attending a Premier League meeting on combating touting to discuss issues faced this season.
AM confirmed that the Club are still looking to set up a ticketing exchange system for season ticket holders who are unable to attend particular fixtures, but it remains ‘a work in progress’. Casper Sylsvig is leading on this work, in conjunction with his ticket office colleagues, and the Club hope to be in a position to announce a development as soon as possible.
The Trust representatives also reiterated our concerns around this season’s ticketing pricing, especially for the forthcoming Bournemouth home game, and the potential for pricing out previously loyal supporters. DP agreed to take the Trust’s feedback on board, discuss internally to identify what would be possible and then organise a ticketing workshop with the Trust.
RIVERSIDE STAND UPDATE
AM provided an update on the Riverside Stand, having missed the previous meeting. He confirmed that the Club remained out to tender to potential sub-contractors and reiterated that no contract will be signed until the Club are totally satisfied with the offer on the table. The Club are not totally satisfied with the current responses received but are looking to move on with the project as soon as possible. AM revealed that chairman Shahid Khan is very focussed on the detail of the scheme and, in response to follow up questions from the Trust, wanted to assure supporters that the plan is not in danger of slipping a year.
The Trust raised comments from supporters about a significant lack of information on the Club’s website. Several members had raised the lack of information about Scott Parker on the coaching section of the website and the continued listing of Jose Sambede Carreira as the Club’s goalkeeping coach despite press reports on his departure last month. AM said that these updates were a combination of slowness and ensuring the Club abides by employment law, but promised that these instances would be rectified as soon as possible.
Some Trust members had been in touch about inaccuracies in the Academy reports on the Club’s website. AM replied that the Club had recently recruited a new member of staff to assist with the coverage of the Club’s Academy and that he would pass on the comments internally.
In response to a question about Tim Ream’s fitness, AM said that the Club generally try not to reveal too much about injuries, although Slavisa Jokanovic is sometimes more forthcoming during his press conferences. AM said that Ream’s injury was not ‘extremely serious’ but had taken him some time to recover from and the Club hoped to have him available for first team selection again shortly.
AM confirmed that the Club’s finance director Sean O’Loughlin had joined Crystal Palace and his role was currently being covered by his deputy Andy Tye. Whilst the Club had advertised for a replacement, AM revealed that the permanent replacement could be an internal appointment.
In response to various internet rumours of an ownership change, AM confirmed that the ownership of the Club remained with the Khan family and that no changes were either made or planned.
AM provided a brief overview of the August transfer window, having missed the last meeting. He felt the window went very well and fitted with the Club’s desire to try and establish themselves as a Premier League club. Slavisa Jokanovic had specified a number of areas where the promoted squad needed improving and the Club worked to bring in high-quality additions. AM said that the Khan family had provided financial backing for the Club to strengthen the squad and that they exceeded the amount they had planned to spend by bringing in a number of players towards the end of the transfer window. He also reiterated the importance of retaining the Club’s key players and confirmed that there were no issues with Financial Fair Play, with the Club now operating under the Premier League’s version of the rules.
The Trust representatives relayed the feedback of a number of supporters about the lack of stock on some popular lines, including children’s replica shirts. The Club recognise that this is an issue, due to long lead-in terms and delays from Adidas meaning that not all stock was received. DD confirmed that CS was due to meet with Adidas in the coming days to resolve these problems. The Club also acknowledged the Trust’s comments on the lack of options for female supporters – and AM and DP said that new lines and items were planned.
The red and black shirts, worn during the away games against Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton and Hove Albion, will not be available in the Club shop. The intention was for them only to be used against Newcastle United until the Premier League changed their mind on the Tottenham kit clash. The Premier League have subsequently run the Club’s change kit through their colour clash simulator.
Tony Delamo introduced himself and said that he wanted to come to one of the structured dialogue meetings having been in place for more than a year. PC Delamo was pleased with most matters at Fulham, but detailed that most arrests have been for drug-related offences. He disclosed that this season’s drug policy is “nightclub style” i.e. confiscate and eject.
He confirmed that the thrower of the flare at the Exeter City game had been identified and action was currently being taken. He also added that six people involved in trouble at the Rotherham game had now been issued with three-year football banning orders.
PC Delamo wants to be approachable and will continue to liaise with the Club and the Trust as appropriate.
The meeting finished at 1.13pm.