Notes from May meeting with FFC
On Monday 11th May at 13:00, the Fulham Supporters’ Trust met with Fulham FC via video conference.
The Club was represented by:
- Alistair Mackintosh (CEO)
- David Daly (Non-Executive Director)
- Carmelo Mifsud (Communications Director)
- Rob Paddon (Venue Sales Director)
- Aimee McKenzie (Operations and Venue Director)
- Katy Brecht (Head of Ticketing)
- Ally Spicer (Head of Ticketing Operations – maternity cover)
- Nicola Walworth (Supporter Relations Manager)
- Charlie Harris (Communications Assistant)
The FST was represented by board members:
- Tom Greatrex (Chair)
- Ian Clarke (Vice Chair)
- Gerry Pimm (Secretary)
- Owen Smith (Treasurer)
HOW IT WORKS
The meeting focused almost entirely on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on football in general and Fulham in particular and largely followed up on the topics discussed at the April meeting to find out if there were any updates. If any member has raised an issue that it was not possible to discuss in the time available then please do contact us again in good time before the next meeting.
The Club introduced Ally Spicer to the meeting. Ally will provide maternity cover for Katy Brecht in the Head of Ticketing role.
The following topics were raised and discussed:
It should be noted that for the large part, there are no substantive updates in these areas since the April meeting. Members are referred to the April meeting notes for further details.
RESUMING THE SEASON
Process for deciding on resumption
The Trust asked for any updates the Club may have from the EFL or other regulatory bodies regarding a possible resumption of the Championship season or a plan to get to a resumption. The Trust asked questions on various aspects of a resumption (or cancellation) of the season, including
- cut-off dates for decisions
- neutral venues
- training schedules
- medical protocols
- weighted points per game league tables
- promotion and relegation decisions in the event of no football
- play-offs in the event of no further league football (two legged or one)
The Club said that it could only confirm its own position which is a desire to resume the season and win promotion playing football on a home and away basis, but that no further tangible information or instructions were currently available from the EFL on any of the topics raised.
The Club and Trust are aware that there are ongoing meetings involving the Premier League, EFL, PFA, FA and Government scheduled in the next few days, but the situation remains that while different options have been raised and speculated upon, there is yet to be a proposal put to clubs to decide.
At the time of these notes (Monday 11th) a Premier League meeting was taking place regarding “Project Restart” with a further session scheduled for later in the week, and EFL divisional meetings taking place on Friday. It is public knowledge that key discussion topics include the use of neutral venues and also a medical protocol agreed upon by Club doctors. The Club explained that it expected decisions and protocols in the Championship to largely flow from and mirror those made by the Premier League.
The Club is waiting to hear the outcome of these discussions but expects that minimum requirements for progress will be Government clarity, agreed testing and medical protocols and player (PFA) support before leagues can move on to the other issues.
Any substantive competition changes, such as neutral venues or alternate promotion methods, would need to be agreed by the EFL board before being discussed with EFL member clubs.
It was noted that UEFA has publicly stated a deadline of 25th May for European leagues to notify them of restart plans.
The Trust asked whether Safety Advisory Groups (SAGs) would be expected to have input into the suitability of grounds to safely resume with behind closed doors football. The Club confirmed that it would expect to talk to the local council safety team before any behind closed doors matches were approved, but that this is normal process, especially due to the current building works at Craven Cottage.
The Trust asked whether consideration was being given to mental health awareness for Club staff during the pandemic. The Club confirmed that mental health support, including mindfulness, was part of wider support being provided for both playing and non-playing staff.
Goal line technology
In response to a member’s question, the Club explained that goal line technology is non-trivial to set up should it be required at a neutral venue not currently hosting Premier League or Championship football.
Asked about progress on player salary deferrals, the Club explained that at present it preferred to focus on a resumption of playing. The Club also explained that it had participated in a Deloitte study of EFL finances which would be likely to feed into further discussions with the PFA representing players.
TV BROADCAST PLANS
Broadcast of behind closed doors fixtures
The Trust asked whether the Club has been given any indication as to how future behind closed doors games will be broadcast and, in particular, whether they would be all made available to supporters via the FFCtv platform.
The Club said that there has been no direct contact up until now from the TV broadcasters but that the current assumption is that they may wish to broadcast more fixtures.
The Trust noted that before the season suspension, weekend matches could only be made available on clubs’ own TV platforms if they were not selected for domestic or international broadcast. Although the restriction on broadcast or streaming of games played on Saturday afternoons has been temporarily lifted, the Club said that it anticipated that the limitation on streaming fixtures selected for domestic broadcast may remain in place should the season resume behind closed doors, and that this would therefore limit the number of games available through FFCtv.
The Club and the Trust await further guidance from the EFL and broadcasters on behind closed doors games.
Assuming some matches are made available to FFCtv, the Trust asked for any updates regarding the capacity both to stream to a much bigger audience of Fulham supporters and also to provide real-time technical support to a large number of first time FFCtv users. The Club confirmed that it is still in close contact with the outsourced streaming partner for FFCtv and was confident that it could meet the challenges of significantly higher usage.
Single match tickets
The Trust asked for an update on the refund process for single match tickets for postponed games. Four matches fall into this category
- Brentford and Birmingham at home
- QPR and Leeds away.
No other matches were on sale. The Club explained that refunds are still available for these matches as per the announcement on the official web site. Supporters requesting a refund for the home matches do not need to return the tickets but those requiring a refund for the away fixtures do need to provide the tickets. This is because, technically, the matches are still currently only postponed and the host clubs may wish to use the tickets in the future. It was noted that Fulham are not making similar requests of Brentford and Birmingham.
As ticket office staff are working from home there will be a short delay in receiving any returned tickets as post is being collected weekly. Refunds can be made direct to the credit card used for purchase in the case of online or telephone transactions but tickets bought in the ticket office, either by cash or credit card, will need to be refunded via bank transfer.
2019-20 season tickets
The Trust asked if the Club has made any further decisions regarding refunds for the remaining four games of the current season, given that they are highly likely to either not be played or be played behind closed doors. The Club confirmed that the options discussed at the April meeting were still being considered but that no final decision would be made until the shape of the remainder of the season is confirmed.
The Trust reiterated that due to the impact on the wider economy of the coronavirus there will be some season ticket holders with an unexpected and quite significant reduction in disposable income, and credits towards future season tickets may not be usable.
2020-21 season tickets
The Club re-iterated its position that without any idea of the shape, timing or attendance possibilities of the 2020-21 season, there are no plans to make any season ticket announcements, although the waiting list for season tickets has been opened for those who are not currently season ticket holders to express their interest.
NEW RIVERSIDE STAND
The Trust asked for a brief update on progress, especially as one or two rumours had circulated on social media regarding changes to the construction of the basement. The Club clarified that these rumours were untrue and that there are no substantive changes to the plans. Most of the marine work has now finished which is why the barges have been removed and work continues on site within social distancing guidelines. The first visible signs of a new stand emerging will be over the summer when the steelwork is moved into place.
Commercial and naming
The Trust asked if any consideration had yet been given to the naming of the new Riverside Stand, particularly as the recent sad passing of Bill Muddyman had led to social media discussion of the naming of stands. The Club said that it had a clear policy to be as commercial as possible given the investment made to build the stand, but that it was too early to hold naming discussions either for parts or the whole of the stand, particularly as very few businesses are able to make big commitments in the current pandemic.
The Trust explained that it has been in touch with the Muddyman family with a view to organising and leading a memorial for Bill Muddyman when the restrictions on public gatherings are relaxed. The Club said it would be happy to provide support as required at the appropriate time.
Club shop discounts
The Trust raised members’ questions on whether the Club Shop discount available to season ticket holders could be extended to online purchases. The Club explained, as it has done in previous meetings, that the IT systems are not integrated and so season ticket discounts can not be offered for online purchases. However, the Club said that substantial discounts were being offered for online purchases and were proving popular.
Contacting vulnerable supporters
The Trust asked for an update on the Club’s initiative to make contact with potentially vulnerable supporters. The Club explained that they had now completed the exercise to talk to all those they considered may be in the category and were now focusing on those supporters who had requested continuing contact. In the last month various members of Club staff from all departments have spent over 170 hours making 1,038 calls.
The meeting closed at 14:10.