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Notes from October meeting with FFC

1st November 2020

Notes from October meeting with FFC

On Monday 26 October 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)
  • Ally Spicer (Head of Ticketing Operations – maternity cover)
  • Eleanor Rowland (Head of Safeguarding and Equality)
  • Nicola Walworth (Supporter Relations Manager)
  • Charlie Harris (Communications Assistant)

The FST was represented by Board Members:

HOW IT WORKS

The Trust asks any questions that it judges are of interest to supporters, as evidenced by responses from Trust Members to the advance notification of the meeting, and by generally interacting with the wider supporter base. There is no restriction placed on which questions the Trust choose to ask or points raised with the Club. These notes are then sent to Members only in advance of being posted on our website at a later date.

This meeting focused on the Pay Per View (PPV) arrangements, the transfer window, and on other matters sent to us by Trust members, including the Project Big Picture proposals, refunds against season ticket credits, Black History Month and the new Riverside Stand.

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 or alternatively we can seek to raise it between meetings if that is more appropriate.

TOPICS DISCUSSED

The following topics were raised and discussed:

RIVERSIDE STAND

The Trust welcomed the recent video update posted on the Club website, and the interview with the contractor explaining recent and forthcoming activity on the construction of the new stand. Feedback from Trust members had been positive, and the Trust asked that as this was the first update for a couple of months, and that with very visible progress on site, for more similar updates in the period ahead.

With that in mind, the Trust asked what had happened with the webcam to provide real time progress that had previously been discussed. The Club explained that there is not a webcam as the Trust had previously understood, but rather provision for time lapse video (from a camera set up by the contractor) on completion of the project, but the intention was to cover ongoing updates on the website / social media as soon as they occur and milestones have been reached. The Trust encouraged the Club to provide updates as regularly as possible given the interest from supporters who are not able to see progress while attending matches.

The Trust then asked whether the whole stand was now being called the Fulham Pier, and whether in due course naming rights would be sold. We were told that Fulham Pier is the name for the whole destination, and the possibility of naming rights being sold would be considered in the future. The Trust asked that supporters be involved in any final decisions on naming the stand.

In response to questions in relation to the non-matchday uses of the stand and any update on tenants for hospitality and other units, the Club said there was no new information to share.

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PAY PER VIEW (PPV)

The Trust pressed the Club on whether it had supported the £14.95 charge for recent non-televised matches. The Club was clear that its primary concern was that there should be some way of supporters viewing all the matches – the £14.95 charge was not set by the Premier League, but proposed by the broadcasters, who hold the rights to show games. Indeed because of competition law the price could not be decided by the Premier League clubs acting together.

Pressed further on the Club’s stance, it was stated that Fulham had favoured showing matches on its own platform at a lower price. However, clubs were left with the choice of allowing the broadcasters to set a price or not have the games shown at all.

The Trust reiterated the level of opposition to the £14.95 charge for PPV amongst supporters of all clubs, and cited survey data from Fulham fans and donations to local charities demonstrating that it had become a point of principle for many, who were either accessing alternative streams or actively choosing not to watch their clubs’ matches.

The Trust asked whether Fulham were aware of the viewing figures for our games shown on PPV to date, and the Club responded that this information had not been provided to clubs. The Trust asked whether Fulham had asked for that information, and they confirmed they had not done so. The Club also confirmed that there had been no decision made by the Premier League as to how revenue raised from PPV would be distributed.

Asked to explain the stance Fulham would take in Premier League meetings to review the PPV experience, the Club confirmed their view was that games should be made available for supporters to watch while there cannot be attendance at grounds, but it should be at a lower price.

The Trust reiterated that had the Premier League and broadcasters consulted with supporters then this episode could have been avoided, and hoped that was something that would be reflected on for future decisions impacting fans.

Note: At the Premier League meeting on 27 October, clubs agreed to continue PPV arrangements for the first weekend of November, until the international break, pending a further meeting to decide on the approach beyond then.

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TRANSFER WINDOW

The Trust asked a number of questions in relation to the most recent transfer window, and the approach to player recruitment taken by the Club. Specifically, the Trust asked:

  • Are there plans for the Club to have a full time Director of Football, or Assistant Director of Football, to support the Head Coach?
  • Is the Club satisfied with business undertaken in the transfer window?
  • How far were Financial Fair Play regulations and recruitment of summer 2018 a limiting factor on activity in this window?
  • While previously stating a desire to be less reliant on loans, we have more loan players than other Premier League clubs – why is that?
  • Were options to sign on-loan players more obligation than option – and what is the reason for purchasing players on long term deals and then loaning them out?
  • Why did it take until the end of the window to sign defensive players?
  • Do the Club consider that we have enough cover in forward positions to cover potential injuries, suspensions, or poor form?

In discussion, the Club answered that:

  • The whole team, of which the Head Coach was an integral part, were pleased, with both the quality and balance of the players acquired during the window; including that the Head Coach was satisfied with his attacking options.
  • There were two reasons why some players came in close to the end of the window; firstly and very noticeably prices had dropped as the deadline approached so the Club got much better value for money; secondly the Head Coach had wanted to give those who had secured promotion an opportunity to show whether they could step up to the Premier League – this was important in keeping the squad united.
  • They had however tried to secure at least one defender earlier in the window but prices were far too high in terms of value; a number of players had failed medicals and subsequent negotiations with the selling club had not resulted in agreement; and one player who said he was going to sign changed his mind at the last moment; but they had secured defenders who were either not available earlier in the window or who were unreasonably expensive for earlier deals.
  • The 25 finally in the squad were chosen by the Head Coach who felt he had sufficient cover in all positions and sufficient quality to avoid relegation.
  • They had tried to move on some of the players not in the 25, but perhaps because of Covid, players and their families were unwilling to move to new countries, even though deals had been agreed; the only exceptions to this were players for whom the Club had managed to secure loan moves within the Championship, so they could play some football, given they might well not make the 25 player squad.
  • The overall approach had been a mixture of buying players at good prices that could serve Fulham well for many years, some loan players where the cost of straight purchase was too high or the losing Club just would not sell (eg Lookman), and a few players who were loaned with an option to buy, hence spreading the cost for Financial Fair Play purposes.
  • The Club had been constrained, in terms of Financial Fair Play, by purchases made to secure promotion, but this was not an unduly limiting consideration.

The Trust asked whether there would be a reconsideration on the need for a full-time UK based Director of Football, and whether it was intended to replace Javier Periera. The Club said that Fulham had a full-time UK based Head of Recruitment and that Javier, with his experience, had been brought in to help particularly with the push for promotion. When he understandably left to fulfil his ambition to be a Head Coach, the decision had been made to invest the saved salary in a new additional first team coach (Nathan Gardiner from Tottenham) and in some more sports science support, as requested by the Head Coach.

The Club reiterated that whilst the approach to transfers is evolving, both as a result of experience and the changing dynamics of the market, the overall “four boxes ticked” approach remains in place, with analytics, the recruitment team and the financial oversight, working closely together to meet the requirements of the Head Coach.

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PROJECT BIG PICTURE

The Trust made clear its opposition to the Big Picture concept and asked for the Club view. The Club responded that they were appalled at nearly all aspects of the proposals and had voiced their concerns forcibly. Fulham did feel the Premier League needed to look at itself, and supported the inquiry being led by its Chair, albeit they had not yet seen terms of reference. A red line for the Club was the principle of one club, one vote,

Asked whether supporters should be consulted in this inquiry, or in the government inquiry that had also been promised, the Club agreed that all stakeholders should be involved.

The Club also wanted to support League 1 and League 2 clubs more, but were less sure about the level of support needed for the Championship where, on a par with the Premier League, there were a number of wealthy owners who were supporting their clubs eg in the transfer market. The Club confirmed that the year two parachute payment that was no longer due to Fulham because of promotion could usefully be added to any pot for League 1 and League 2 Clubs, but that was a matter for the Premier League collectively rather than Fulham specifically.

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CREDIT FOR 19/20 SEASON TICKETS

The Trust and the Club raised the prospect of attendances being allowed before the end of the season. While the Club shared the wider disappointment that despite social distancing arrangements being prepared, supporters would not be able to attend games in the near future, they remained hopeful that this might be possible in the spring and would continue to lobby via the Premier League and football authorities for this to be permitted, subject to public health advice.

The Trust explained that some 19/20 Season Ticket holders who had opted for credit in lieu of refund when it was anticipated that season tickets would be sold had asked that refunds be offered now it seemed less likely that they could purchase tickets this season. Some had also indicated their personal situation had changed as a result of the wider economic impact of the pandemic.

The Trust had asked both its members who had opted for a credit, and the wider fanbase through a Twitter poll, and both showed that the majority were content for the credit to remain with the Club (64% of season ticket holders); 5% now wanted to donate their credit to the Fulham Foundation; but nearly a third would like to be refunded.

The Trust requested that anyone wanting a refund should now be able to have one or donate to the Foundation if they wished. The Club said that where supporters had asked for a refund, that had been provided, but agreed that given the changing situation, this was something that could be communicated to those who had previously opted for a credit.

Any season ticket holder wanting a refund, or preferring to donate to the Foundation, an option which the Club would very much welcome, should email [email protected]

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BLACK HISTORY MONTH

Eleanor Rowland joined the meeting, as requested by the Trust, to set out the programme of activity to mark Black History Month. It was explained, which the Trust supported, that the activity was an important element of what was a longer term and agreed wide-ranging diversity and equality strategy, aimed at improving participation across a range of characteristics, amongst staff, supporters, and participants.

A range of activities internally and externally had been organised, including webinars, articles on the web site, discussion groups and external speakers, including Leroy Rosenior and Luis Boa Morte. These had been very well attended and received – but the key was to progress longer term change in many aspects of participation. The Club was pleased now to be working as well with Anwar Uddin from the Fans for Diversity campaign.

The Trust welcomed and fully supported the Club’s approach, which complemented the Trust’s own activity which was also gathering pace. Both the Club and the Trust agreed to keep in touch as ideas developed.

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OTHER BUSINESS

Harvey Elliott

The Trust asked whether there was any news on the incredibly long drawn out process to secure a fee for Harvey Elliott. The Club responded that unfortunately there was no set timescale for resolution, and they too were frustrated, although it might help Fulham’s case to see Harvey doing well at Blackburn Rovers, so delay was not all bad. Asked if a settlement could not be secured outside of a Tribunal the Club responded that the current offer on the table from Liverpool was a long way short of Fulham’s valuation.

Club app

The Trust asked about progress with the new app. The Club responded that they anticipated a release in November, but as with all developments of this nature, this was subject to change.

Technical support

The Trust reported occasional technical problems for members eg with Fulham TV, and the Club agreed to investigate specific complaints, which were passed on by the Trust. Supporters should however address issues going forward directly with [email protected].

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The meeting closed at 1435.

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