Notes from May meeting with FFC
On Monday 24 May at 13:30, the Fulham Supporters’ Trust met with Fulham FC via video conference.
The Club was represented by:
- Alistair Mackintosh (CEO)
- Darren Preston (Chief Operating Officer)
- David Daly (Non-Executive Director)
- Carmelo Mifsud (Communications Director)
- Ally Spicer (Head of Ticketing Operations)
- 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 (Treasurer, Membership Secretary)
- Sue Couch (Board Member)
- Owen Smith (Board Member)
HOW IT WORKS
The Trust asks any questions that it judges are of interest to supporters, based on 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.
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.
- General Points
- Ground related issues
- 2021/22 ticketing
- Feedback from Newcastle game
- Assessment of 2020/21 season and approach to 2021/22
(The topics were covered in this order to ensure that a wide range of Trust Members’ questions were covered.)
The Trust started by sending the good wishes of all members to Kevin McDonald for his operation which was scheduled for May 28th. The Trust also thanked Mark Maunders for passing on the messages from Trust members, through the electronic greetings card. We heard that Kevin was in positive spirits and appreciated all the messages from supporters ahead of his transplant.
The Trust asked whether the Club had considered bringing back the old badge which was used from 1995-2001. We were told that whilst the Club understood the fondness for previous Fulham crests and their historical significance, the current badge had very good recognition, particularly internationally and among younger supporters. Rebranding exercises were time-consuming and potentially costly, so although the issue would be looked at from time to time, a change was unlikely for the foreseeable future. The Club makes an effort to ensure that history and heritage are reflected in kit and merchandise from time to time, including the display of the old badge.
The Trust asked whether there were opportunities for greater fan involvement in the design of new kits. The club responded by stressing that
- kit designs were made two years in advance (the 2021/22 and 2022/23 kits had already been decided)
- the designs needed to be kept confidential to protect current kit sales and mitigate the risk of counterfeiting
- David Daly had specific responsibility on the Fulham Board to try to ensure fan preferences, including heritage and avoiding certain colours, were taken fully into account by the designers, and this would continue.
It was confirmed that the current yellow kit would be the third-choice kit next season, in the usual way of the away kit moving on to be the third kit. Subject to the sponsors, it was expected that the new home kit would be launched around the start of July.
Riverside Stand Video
The next edition of this series would be out shortly, and the regular updates would continue.
Use of VAR
The Trust asked what input Fulham had provided into the reported review of VAR and were told that the Club were generally disappointed with the consistency and accuracy of the system’s application this season; the awarding of the recent Manchester United goal was a good example. VAR will not be used in next year’s Championship.
Use of London School of Economics (LSE) Ground
This would continue for U23 and U18 fixtures only whilst Covid restrictions were in force.
The Trust asked that more information on our women’s teams be provided, for instance within the Fulham App. The Club responded that generally they intended to increase visibility of women’s football, including within the App; they were also pleased to announce that women’s football would be part of the Academy next season, and generally they would be increasing support and visibility for the women’s game. This was very much welcomed by the Trust.
GROUND RELATED ISSUES
The Trust asked how the Riverside Stand might be used next season and were told there was still a lot of uncertainty from builders, safety, Covid etc, so no season tickets would be sold for 2021/22 in the new stand (just the other three stands) but it still might be used for matchday sales during the season.
Putney, Johnny Haynes and Hammersmith Stands
The Trust pressed again on looking at the toilets in the Putney stand, following feedback from supporters, and generally keeping on top of minor works needed for all three stands. The Club understood this, but said there was a financial and resource ceiling and so there needed to be some prioritisation; the Club would only approach financial sustainability when the new Riverside stand was fully operational.
In response to a particular query, the Club said there were no plans for major works on the Johnny Haynes Stand, which would, if ever considered, be expensive because of the nature of the building including its Grade II listed status.
The Club confirmed that written press facilities would stay in the Johnny Haynes Stand with TV media and international commentary facilities being in the new Riverside Stand.
The Trust had sent the Club the results of its special recent survey into 2021/22 ticketing with the following conclusions:
- season Tickets should be sold in the expectation that the ground would not be restricted by Covid
- prices should be as for our last season in the Championship
- there should be an ability to defer season ticket purchase for one year, with no loss of privilege and priority
- if subsequently Covid-related restrictions had to be introduced, matches should be allocated on a rotation basis, with partial pro-rata refunds, and with groups of friends allowed to attend together
- some tickets should continue to be made available to non-season ticket holders.
The Club said they were grateful for the survey input, and, in broad terms hoped to be able to satisfy many of these points.
The Club said that the target was for a season ticket announcement in early June, subject to successful testing of the new ticketing system with the new supplier Secutix (replacing Ticketmaster), an operator with several other Premier League and Championship clubs as clients. There should be automatic transfer of One Fulham accounts to the new system, including loyalty points.
The Trust asked a number of questions in relation to the features available on the new ticketing software including the perennial issue of fans being able to select seats when purchasing away tickets. It was agreed that the Trust and the Club’s Ticketing Team would follow up separately with more detailed discussions, including the observation from a Trust member that the age at which senior tickets were available at Fulham (65) differs from that at other clubs (60).
The Club, in response to a question from the Trust, confirmed that payment by instalments for season tickets would again be offered as an option.
The Club confirmed that they were currently working on the basis of there not being any restrictions due to Covid by the time of the start of the new season but noted that they would need to react as necessary to changing Government requirements (eg if health declarations were still necessary). The Club advised that they were confident of being able to scale up back to maximum capacity.
FEEDBACK FROM NEWCASTLE GAME
The Trust said that the arrangements for the Newcastle game, like Liverpool, seemed to have worked generally well, except that some families had been told by stewards that they could not sit next to each other and had to maintain social distance, which seemed disproportionate for people living in the same household. The Club responded that it had used the ‘diamond’ layout for seating to maximise capacity, given social distancing regulations. The Club promised to look at any individual complaints which should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Club would always review for any future such games, based on feedback, the latest guidance and operational plans.
The Trust also questioned pricing for the game particularly given prices charged by other clubs (or in the case of Burnley, no charge at all), that sales seemed slow and that there had not been full take-up from those successful in the earlier Brighton ballot. However the Club felt that pricing had been appropriate, in line with the Liverpool and Brighton games, and they had sold out the publicly available tickets to a range of supporters including members, notwithstanding the potential attractiveness of the fixture.
ASSESSMENT OF 2020/21 SEASON AND APPROACH TO 2021/22
The most part of this meeting was taken up by discussion on the conclusion to the season, and what the Club’s approach would be for the following season, particularly given there was a greater lead-in time to adjusting to relegation than there was following promotion last August.
The Trust made clear the widespread dissatisfaction amongst many fans who had been in touch over the past few weeks and a tangible feeling of a disconnect between Club and the wider supporter base. The Trust also made clear its concern that failing to address these issues would be damaging to the reputation and effectiveness of the Club and the engagement and unity of the supporter base which has underpinned previous periods of success.
The Trust specifically asked about
- contact between the ownership and the manager following relegation
- the scope and status of reviewing the season that Scott Parker had referred to in recent media appearances
- the impact of both departing and returning loan players
- the motivation and mobilisation of the squad in needing extensively to rebuild the playing staff for the fourth season in succession and how that fits with the Club’s previously stated aim of long-term sustainability
- the need to find a way of breaking the promotion/relegation cycle.
The Trust also again asked about the approach to recruitment, the appointment of a Director of Scouting and that person’s interaction with a Director of Football who has significant other interests alongside Fulham Football Club which self-evidently take up some of his time, and whether there would be a change of approach given the outcome of this season.
The Club responded with a number of points.
- It was the role of the Head Coach to review what had gone wrong last season and make proposals for shaping the playing squad, style and approach for next season. This process was continuous and had already started, including a meeting over a week ago between Scott Parker and the owners.
- Up until the last 10 or so games, the Club and Head Coach had been confident of climbing out of the relegation zone, so a key question to understand was what had gone wrong in that last part of the season which had reversed the improvement which everyone had seen.
- Scott Parker was as disappointed as anyone in the last few results, and he would be looking hard as to the reasons and setting out how they should be addressed ahead of next season.
Asked by the Trust, the Club confirmed that the Head Coach and players would return to training at the end of June. The intention of everyone was to aim for a return to the Premier League as soon as possible.
The Club confirmed that a new position of Director of Scouting was currently being recruited, and the hope was that they would be in place in time to be involved in recruitment and scouting activity ahead of next season. Asked about the relationship between this role and the current Chief Scout, the Club confirmed that this is an additional role that would give greater capacity to recruitment activity, would be responsible for overseeing the current scouting and related activity and would report to the Director of Football.
The Club continued that for a club of Fulham’s size, with FFP constraints, the use of loan players in and out was an important flexible part of the mix, but players had also been successfully purchased and each season, including next, much would depend on the players the Head Coach preferred, and their availability and affordability for loan or transfer. It was important to emphasise that team spirit and effort had been good across both permanent and loan players, notwithstanding some disappointing match results. Next season it was likely there would be less fluidity in the transfer market, and players themselves were reluctant to move permanently at least until Covid restrictions had very much eased.
The Trust re-iterated there were signals of a growing disconnect between the Club and its fans, especially on player recruitment, and urged the Club to communicate clearly, without of course revealing personally or commercially confidential details, its strategic approach to meeting its stated ambition to return to the Premier League as soon as possible.
The Trust noted that the Club providing a clear statement of its future approach and wider strategy would be welcomed by supporters who were both ambitious for the Club and understanding of the constraints under which a club of Fulham’s size must operate. The concern, articulated by the Trust, is without greater engagement with the supporter base, there will continue to be negative speculation that is dispiriting to everybody.
The Club took on board the points made by the Trust, and both resolved to continue to engage and discuss ways to rebuild a positive agenda both in light of the anticipated return of fans to grounds and the likely changes arising from the review into football governance, reporting to the government over the next few months.
The meeting closed at 14:45. The next meeting was fixed for 12 July.