Notes from August meeting with FFC
On Monday 10th August at 13:00, the Fulham Supporters’ Trust met with Fulham FC via video conference.
The Club was represented by:
- Alistair Mackintosh (CEO)
- Carmelo Mifsud (Communications Director)
- Darren Preston (Chief Operating Officer)
- 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)
- Jerry Cope (Membership Secretary)
- Derek Brewer (Board Member)
HOW IT WORKS
The meeting focused largely on the many issues relating to any readmission of spectators to home matches for the 2020-21 season, drawing on feedback from FST Members and informal polling carried out on social media. A few other topics were discussed towards the end of the meeting.
If any member has raised a question that it was not possible to discuss in the time available, then please do contact us again in good time before the next meeting.
Before moving onto the heart of the meeting the Trust congratulated the Club, its players and staff, on the tremendous achievement of securing promotion to the Premier League under the difficult circumstances of behind closed doors football.
The following topics were raised and discussed:
- Readmission of spectators for the new season
- New kit and main sponsor
- Retained players
- Riverside stand
- FSA ‘Sustain the Game’ initiative
READMISSION OF SPECTATORS FOR THE NEW SEASON
The Trust asked the Club for an update on planning to allow fans back into Craven Cottage, given the indication from the Premier League (PL) and Government that some spectators could, if all went well, be admitted to grounds from mid-October, with test events between the start of the new season on 12 September and October. The Club explained that there is no firm news about a return and that October could well be very optimistic in terms of timescale.
The Club said they are therefore still in the midst of considering options and the only certainty is that everything remains uncertain. Early conclusions and observations include:
- Ground capacity could be very small, because of the unique nature of Craven Cottage, and possibly smaller than most if not all other PL grounds in percentage terms. The Johnny Haynes stand is particularly problematic in terms of queuing, concourses, and toilets.
For comparison, the Trust understands from the Millwall Supporters’ Club that Millwall, with a newer 20,000 seat stadium, much better 360 degree access and more concourse space are still able to only accommodate under 6,000 fans.
The Trust recommends that interested supporters may wish to look at the Sports Grounds Safety Authority document ‘Planning for social distancing at sports grounds’ which breaks down the assessment of socially distanced capacities into the component parts of seating, concourses, entry, exit and external factors.
- The Club is also still waiting for PL minimum requirements for stadiums, including the so-called sterile ‘red zone’; again Fulham is disadvantaged because of the lack of space, including parking, to build away team dressing rooms and allow safe access for the away team and indeed our own players.
- The key will be to come to a sensible management plan and then talk this through with the local authority Safety Advisory Group (SAG), with whom the Club has a strong, pragmatic relationship.
- The Club is currently putting together a few potential operational models within the obvious constraints.
- Because of the uncertainty, it is highly unlikely that the Club will sell season tickets in advance, unlike some other clubs, and is considering other ticketing options (see below).
The Trust was able to give the Club feedback from its recent initial consultations with supporters that:
- A significant majority would like to see as many matches as possible.
- Although a number of different options were supported, the majority favoured balloting of all current season ticket holders on a match by match basis.
- There was a strong wish to be able to sit with friends.
- Pricing should be more related to average season ticket prices than one-off matches.
The Trust, through Derek Brewer, were also able to cross reference some of the issues arising in cricket, where further pilots have been postponed at the request of Government. Demand from the early pilots had been very strong.
Note that since the meeting, the Government has announced that the piloting of a small number of sporting events to test the safe return of spectators will resume, starting with the final of the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield this weekend.
Asked about possible models for allocating tickets when fans are allowed back into a limited capacity ground, the Club explained that although nothing was yet decided, they were moving towards the following, with the general principal of looking after 2019-20 season ticket holders to the greatest extent possible:
- Ballots, largely just amongst 2019-20 Season Ticket Holders, on an individual match basis in a way that by the end of the season everyone would have had an equal opportunity to attend the same limited number of matches.
- Applications would be allowed in social bubbles, but only based on government criteria, namely a maximum of two households containing up to six people in a bubble.
- There would be consideration for spectators with accessibility needs.
- There might be a few tickets available for a ballot amongst committed supporters who for genuine reasons were unable to buy a Season Ticket last year; there could also be a one-off membership scheme for this season although with limited benefits.
- Tickets would be largely electronic, issued on a one per person basis to help maintain track-and-trace lists if needed; options for how these might work are still however being discussed with suppliers.
- Season ticket holders who did not participate in ballots would be in no worse a position in terms of their priority to return to their seats when things returned to normal, say for the 2021-22 season. The overall approach was to safeguard existing season ticket holders’ rights as much as practical.
- Loyalty points would probably not be accumulated during the season so that supporters unable to attend would not be disadvantaged in future seasons.
The Club noted that other allocation methods, such as via loyalty points, were also being looked at, but the above is considered to be the fairest in a difficult overall situation. The Trust broadly welcomed this approach and stressed the importance particularly of the penultimate point, namely continuation of season ticket holders’ priority in future seasons regardless of decisions made in 2020-21.
The Trust offered to help further with input as the huge amount of necessary detail was worked up. We acknowledged the large amount of work that had been done to complete last season and the significant challenges ahead in the preparation for this season.
The Club stressed the significant hit on revenue being experienced by the lack of spectators, which would put inevitable pressure on pricing. Options that were being explored included differential pricing by match and by area of ground, with ballot applicants being allowed a likely choice of two price brackets in entering a ballot.
The Trust said that it understood the pressure on revenues but hoped that a sensible balance could be struck, particularly given the Club will, in all likelihood, soon have 29,000 seats to sell and also the impact of the current economic situation on a number of supporters and what they will be able to afford even for limited opportunities to attend.
NEW KIT AND MAIN SPONSOR
Responding to a question from the Trust the Club said they had not yet agreed a shirt sponsor for next season but were hoping to launch a home shirt on 11 September with the away shirt following. The existing away shirt will become the third choice kit, and the new away kit cannot therefore be red. In response to a question from the Trust, the Club also said the new away kit was unlikely to be blue.
Lists of retained players have been complicated by the extension of contracts to cover the prolonged season, but it is hoped to publish something soon, with more information on the website and through social media on both incoming and outgoing transfers and loans in due course.
This remains on track, albeit there has been some resequencing of activity such that, for example, the main steel structure will now be erected in the autumn. The priority in terms of sequencing remains the facilities for fans. The Covid situation may have more of an impact when it comes to the fit-out stage of the project because this requires closer working indoors.
FSA ‘SUSTAIN THE GAME’ INITIATIVE
The Trust informed the Club that the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) would be writing soon with details of a set of principles that has been under discussion with football authorities, supporters groups and others, including financial sustainability and protection of the English football pyramid, which Clubs would be asked to sign up to ahead of the government’s promised review of football governance; many of these echoed elements of the Chairman’s well-received recent statement to Fulham supporters.
FFCtv and match streaming
The Trust asked on behalf of many members whether a domestic streaming service covering all games would be available on FFCtv in the PL in 2020-21 along the lines of that offered at the end of last season for behind closed doors games. The Club said that this would not be available in 2020-21, because of the PL’s contractual relationship with media organisations.
Single Sign On
The Club explained that it will shortly be undertaking an exercise to unify all logins to Club services into a ‘One Fulham’ Single Sign On (SSO). This will give a single point of access to ticketing, merchandising and FFCtv. Further details will be made available shortly to all supporters.
The meeting closed at 14:15.