Notes from February Meeting with FFC
- Zara Harrison book of condolence available to sign
- Riverside Stand plans on track and unaffected by possible relegation
- Detailed planning for Riverside season ticket holder relocation underway
- Ticket sales policy for ‘Final Six’ home games questioned
- Season ticket exchange scheme not introduced this season
- Modifications to non-standing away seats proposed
- Club vote for £30 away ticket cap in response to Trust request
- Transfer window reviewed
- Context requested for diversity survey
On Monday 11 February 2019, Alistair Mackintosh (AM, Chief Executive), David Daly (DD, Non Executive Director), Huw Jennings (HJ, Academy Director), Carmelo Mifsud (CM, Media Relations Manager), Peter Spartin (PS, Head of Commercial Development) and Nicola Walworth (NW, Supporter Relations Manager) of Fulham Football Club met with Ian Clarke, Sue Couch and Tom Greatrex of the Fulham Supporters’ Trust at Motspur Park as part of the structured dialogue between both parties.
The Trust offered condolences on behalf of our members and Fulham fans to the family, friends and colleagues of Zara Harrison at the Club after the sad news of her passing. The Trust plan to send a wreath on behalf of supporters, and encourages supporters who wish to extend their thoughts to Zara’s family to sign the book of condolence.
JOHNNY HAYNES TROPHY
The Trust thanked HJ and the Club for the handover ceremony for the Johnny Haynes Trophy for the FST Academy Player of the Year. Home-grown players are very much appreciated by fans, and the Trust has had a lot of positive feedback on the decision to sponsor the award and to recognise progress made by the future playing talent at Fulham. AM and HJ thanked the Trust for this initiative, and sponsoring the Trophy. CM confirmed there would be content on the Club website and other channels about the Trophy as its first winner is announced.
RIVERSIDE STAND – PROJECT UPDATE
The Trust asked for an update on development of the Riverside Stand, and progress towards the stated start date for demolition shortly after the end of the current season. AM responded that this is taking up most of his time, and the Club is in the tender phase for sub-contracts having previously appointed a lead contractor. The Club is aiming to place all of the main tendered packages by the end of April through the main contractor.
The Trust asked whether a delay in the award of any of these packages would impact upon starting demolition work of the Riverside Stand. AM responded that all tenders have been invited on the basis of a start of work by the end of May. It was clarified that the pitch is used for some events for the period immediately after the end of the season, which is why work is scheduled to begin at the end of May.
The Trust also pressed on whether possible relegation would impact on commencing work on the stand. AM replied that the division the Club is in is irrelevant to the timescales for work starting on the Riverside Stand.
The Trust then asked for further details on other developments on the stand build plan since the last meeting. AM and PS explained that detailed planning work is being undertaken by the lead contractor which will establish the extent of any other work required; asked for an example, AM mentioned access behind the Hammersmith End may need to be widened by taking out the ‘mound’ at the back of the stand.
RIVERSIDE STAND – RELOCATION OF SEASON TICKET HOLDERS
In response to a series of questions in relation to the relocation of supporters from the Riverside Stand, PS reiterated that the Club valued the engagement of the Trust and working group on this, and acknowledged the desire of many season ticket holders to continue to be seated with the groups they have been part of for some time. The Trust also set out the importance of relocated Riverside season ticket holders having the opportunity to return to the new stand when it is completed. PS indicated this is being taken on board, and appreciates the move will cause disruption.
The Trust also underlined the importance of direct communications with those who will need to be relocated, and PS and CM agreed, also highlighting they have taken note of how Bristol City managed a similar exercise during the construction of the new main stand at Ashton Gate.
Asked about timescales for beginning this process and renewal of season tickets in the affected areas, PS explained that it is dependent on finalising detailed information about available capacity next season. The Trust requested the opportunity to sense check the forthcoming survey on the Riverside Stand, which PS agreed to do, to help ensure the responses were of as much assistance as possible.
The Trust reiterated that, appreciating there are limited options available to the Club for relocation of Riverside season ticket holders, many understood there would be disruption but wanted to be able to sit close to their current groups, and to be able to have first refusal on similar seats in the new stand. PS welcomed this feedback, and confirmed that Riverside season ticket holders who renew and are relocated will have first priority on seats in the new stand as had been requested by the Trust on their behalf. However, seasonal hospitality may precede depending on the type of seat/product.
TICKETING – FINAL SIX AND LIVERPOOL FIXTURE
The Trust highlighted the significant concerns over the way in which the final six home fixtures’ ticketing arrangements have been handled, underlining that it is the largest volume of emails ahead of meetings we have ever had on a single subject.
The Trust explained that advertising the on-sale dates with the final cut-off and “last chance” for new membership sales gave an impression of encouraging touts and away fans to purchase with a higher priority than existing season ticket holders. AM responded that the Club had announced priority for members at the start of the season, had to set a cut-off date for memberships, and were keen to encourage Fulham supporters who had not done so to purchase a membership – not encouraging away fans to become members.
The Trust responded that it understood the argument for members being able to purchase a home seat ahead of season ticket holders purchasing additional tickets, but that if this was about enabling that then the Club could and should have set the cut off for the Liverpool fixture at an earlier point, knowing it was most likely to sell out fastest. The Trust also pointed out that if the Club wanted to target Fulham fans who have not bought a membership, they know who those fans are, in the same way that individuals were previously targeted to be offered a half season ticket through their purchase history.
AM agreed that the Club had taken an aggressive stance on membership sales to maximise an opportunity to increase memberships. The Trust reminded the Club that season ticket holders were their most valuable supporter base, and this approach created a perception of the Club putting revenue ahead of loyal and long-standing supporters.
The Trust asked how many members the Club currently has, and how many had taken out memberships between announcing ticketing arrangements for the last six home games and the cut off deadline. PS responded that the Club did not have those figures to hand.
The Trust further explained that the Club’s positions on season ticket upgrades and the Liverpool ticket sales could be viewed as contradictory, with the former said to be in place to minimise touting but the latter likely to increase the chance of memberships and tickets falling into the hands of touts.
AM stated that he would like to see the ground as full as possible of Fulham fans – the more Fulham fans the better.
TICKETING – SEASON TICKET EXCHANGE
Having raised this a number of times in previous meetings, the Trust had been disappointed to be informed that the promised season ticket exchange scheme was not going to be introduced. PS explained that it was due to start with the Spurs game, but that match had not sold quickly enough for it to be implemented, and only the Manchester United and Liverpool fixtures had sold out early enough. The Club felt it was too much resource to dedicate for two fixtures alone.
The Trust expressed its disappointment again, and pointed out that similar schemes are commonplace at many clubs. This decision, allied with the final six ticketing policy, left many season ticket holders feeling let down. The Trust asked that with the prospect of a reduced capacity, and a greater proportion of season tickets to general sale tickets next season, such a scheme is introduced for next season as part of a package to maximise the number of Fulham fans in the ground. The Club is looking at this again, along with other suggestions from the Trust on ticketing for next season.
TICKETING – AWAY TICKETS
The Trust reported back on some issues encountered at Crystal Palace with the hitherto largely successful trial of non-standing seats for away fixtures. Fulham fans purchasing non-standing seats have shown consideration and understanding since they were introduced, however at Selhurst Park while the front rows of two blocks had non-standing seats, the third block (T) did not. This meant that those in the non-standing seats had their view disrupted. This impacted more at Palace because away fans are alongside the pitch rather than behind a goal or in a corner. The Trust suggested that in future all blocks are used for non-standing seats but with fewer rows if necessary.
The Trust asked why some away fixtures are sold at 4, some at 2 and some at 1 ticket per supporter with the requisite number of loyalty points. AM responded that it was based on anticipated sales, considering distance, day of fixture, number of proximate away fixtures and previous sales patterns. The Club don’t want to have empty seats in away allocations which have to be paid for in full.
The Trust asked that for the Bournemouth and Watford fixtures, both currently scheduled to be played on Saturday at 3pm, given smaller allocations and relative closeness of grounds, that early information is made available. NW explained that often the delay in beginning sales for away fixtures is due to late information received from the host clubs.
TICKETING – AWAY TICKET PRICE CAP
AM reported that at the previous week’s Premier League meeting, Fulham had voted in favour of continuing the £30 cap for away tickets for the next three year period. This had been in response to representations made by the Trust in previous meetings. The Trust thanked AM and the Club for taking these views on board, and voting accordingly.
The Trust asked AM to set out the approach to the recent transfer window, how successful the Club had felt recruitment had been, and what lessons there are for future transfer windows.
AM explained that many potential and prospective transfers are discussed from the start of the window, but often are not concluded until the deadline due to availability of players to replace them. AM would prefer to do business as early as possible, but it’s not always possible to control that. It was a quieter market than in previous windows, with a lower number of moves than usual – no Premier League club brought in more than three players, as Fulham did. AM explained that the priority was to seek to strengthen the defence, and guidelines were relaxed to seek to recruit defensive reinforcement. AM also said that Ryan Babel had improved attacking options available to the Manager since he had joined part way through the window.
The Trust pointed out that during the last January window all the players coming in were uninjured and playing in the English league, so needed less time to adjust and were able to make an immediate contribution; this wasn’t the case this time. AM responded that the incoming players had English league experience, and the availability of players was limited in this window. There were deals agreed with clubs where players decided against the move, and with a player where the owning club were not prepared to sell because a replacement had not been signed. This means deals can fall through late in the window and on deadline day, despite the best of intentions and serious effort being put in weeks in advance.
The Trust asked about signings only on short term contracts. AM responded that other potential transfers were for longer periods, but were not able to be completed for various reasons. AM also explained that season long loan deals can vary, but are usually able to be terminated only with agreement from both clubs and the player involved, which can work for or against a club with a loan player, depending on performances.
The Trust asked whether the Director of Football would have additional support on his football responsibilities given the range of other sporting activity he is involved in. AM reiterated that Tony Khan is very committed to Fulham, and that he is very knowledgeable about football in great detail. It is also the case that he has a team supporting him, on scouting, on analysis of players and performance data.
The Trust requested that given the level of interest in the way in which transfers are undertaken, some content should be produced for Fulham TV and/or the website explaining the process in more detail – as other clubs have recently done, for example Wolves where John Marshall is Head of Recruitment.
The Trust asked about use of specific agents, given some of the media coverage from the sad death of Emiliano Sala. AM explained that the Club’s players have a wide spread of agents and agencies, and the Club does not have a policy of using specific agents. There is a range in the services agencies offer to players; some provide assistance with practical issues – accommodation, cars etc – others only negotiate transfers on behalf of players or clubs.
HJ explained that agents were banned for players until they reach their 16thbirthday. Asked whether most academy players were represented by agents, HJ confirmed that was the case for most players once they reach 16 and agencies will contact players’ families to seek to represent them.
The Trust reported that members had been in contact about the recent diversity survey, with concerns about the reasons for the survey, how the information would be used and about the way in which the questions were constructed. The Trust had benefited from the discussion at the January meeting, and reflected it in the notes of that meeting, but if some context had been provided with the survey it might have helped elicit more responses.
PS explained that the questionnaire was produced by a third party, designed specifically to provoke consideration of issues, and the Club had little input on the questions. AM noted that there had been a high return rate, and that this was part of an exercise associated with research across the Premier League.
The Trust suggested that contextual information should be provided in all future surveys to help maximise responses, and should be provided with any reminders for this survey.
KICK IT OUT REPORTING NUMBER AND ANNIVERSARY
Trust members had requested that the facility provided by Kick It Out to report racial abuse on matchday be publicised more frequently. CM agreed to look into announcing it more frequently, and the possibility of displaying it on the electronic scoreboard.
The Trust noted that it was Kick It Out’s 25th anniversary, and that the Premier League wanted to highlight work done by clubs to coincide with the Kick It Out weekends in March. The Trust offered to support and amplify what the Club was planning for the relevant home fixture (Manchester City)
MEDICAL TEAM UPDATES
The Trust requested that updates on players recovering from injuries be reinstated on the website and/or Fulham TV – they were popular in the past, and would be a welcome feature. CM agreed to do so.
Since the meeting the first such update has been produced by the Club.
PLANNING FOR NEXT SEASON
In addition to the points raised earlier in the meeting and at previous meetings on ticketing, the Trust asked about planning for next season given the possibility of playing in the Championship. AM responded that all at the Club were working hard to seek to stay in the Premier League and was confident that was achievable. However, a number of players were on short or loan contracts, or their contracts were due to expire. Others have relegation wage clauses. He also confirmed that clubs relegated the season after promotion receive parachute payments for two years.
The meeting, which started at 12.30pm, concluded at 3.15pm