Notes from August meeting with FFC
On Wednesday 10 August at 13.30, the Fulham Supporters’ Trust (FST) met with Fulham FC via video conference.
The Club was represented by:
- David Daly (Non-Executive Director, DD)
- Carmelo Mifsud (Communications Director, CM)
- Katy Brecht (Head of Ticketing, KB)
- Nicola Walworth (Supporter Relations Manager, NW)
- Eleanor Rowland, (Head of Safeguarding, ER)
- Chris Baker (Head of Safety, CB)
- Matt Lowery (Marketing Director, ML)
- Samuel Curteis (Supporter Relations Executive, SCu)
The FST was represented by:
- Jerry Cope (Treasurer & Membership Secretary, JC)
- Sue Couch (Board Member, SC)
- Hayley Davinson (Board Member, HD)
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.
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. The agenda was particularly heavy this month, so apologies if your question was not covered.
On behalf of the Trust and the wider Fulham fanbase, JC offered delight at the wonderful atmosphere at our first home game of the season, notwithstanding the number of Liverpool supporters with tickets in home areas of the ground. The Trust also expressed its good wishes for a quick recovery to Harry Wilson and Manor Soloman, two key first team squad members, with reported long-term injuries.
The Trust presented highlights from our recent survey, results of which were also sent to members. JC stressed the following points:
- The survey had attracted over 2,200 responses despite only being open for a week, with a representative sample across different groups of supporters;
- An enormous 82% were dissatisfied with prices for the Liverpool game, disappointingly repeated for Chelsea – Fulham supporters could not understand why the seats behind the goal for such so-called big team matches were higher than other comparable London Clubs;
- This, at a time of huge cost-of-living pressures, meant supporters would attend fewer matches this season, endangering their medium-term commitment to the Club, a point reinforced by the very many hostile written comments that accompanied responses to the survey;
- There was an acceptance that prices in the Riverside stand, with its better facilities, might be higher than in the Hammersmith and Putney ends, but affordable tickets for all matches somewhere in the ground were critical to maintaining the supporter base;
- Nearly all survey respondents wanted/demanded that the Trust keep up their campaigning on this issue, which would not go away;
In a full discussion, DD stressed that Fulham needed to become sustainable. It could not rely on the Khan family’s generosity forever and needed to comply with FFP rules. Every opportunity had to be taken, whether that was through sponsorship, merchandising, hospitality; to increase revenue and ticketing was part of that mix. SC pointed out that high prices should be matched by high quality facilities, and the experience in the Hammersmith and Putney ends was very different to the Riverside. JC added that the cost of a (say) £20 reduction for 2000 or so seats in the Hammersmith end for 4 high profile matches was only £160k and dwarfed by media receipts yet was giving genuine supporters a very bad feeling about their Club.
The Club agreed to look further at the points made by the Trust but asked in turn that the Trust Board also bore in mind the need for the Club to become sustainable.
The Liverpool game
Discussion on ticketing then moved on to the specifics of the Liverpool game. KB pointed out that the family section, where cheaper tickets were available, had been the last to sell out for the game. There was also disappointment that a number of Fulham supporters had bought and then passed on tickets to overt Liverpool fans. Some of these Fulham supporters had been traced and banning order letters were being issued to those Fulham fans. More investigations were still being progressed.
The Trust agreed to stress that outside the away end, tickets were for Fulham supporters and Fulham supporting friends only and would ask members to respect this, so as many tickets as possible are available to our own supporters.
CB reported that the fixture presented some challenges for stewards and there were some ejections of Liverpool supporters. The remainder of the match had passed relatively peacefully, albeit this had stretched Fulham’s resources. The Trust recognises that the efforts of stewards at the match were appreciated by both home and away supporters. Liverpool’s own liaison team and indeed many away fans had congratulated Fulham for their fair but firm handling of the game. Encouragingly no flares had been let off.
FEMALE SUPPORTERS / #HERGAMETOO
ER responded that the Club were pleased with progress on four main fronts with
- female staff, where focus groups had increased the voice of female staff within the Club;
- the Foundation, where every opportunity was being taken to engage with young girls to build on the success of the Lionesses;
- the female teams where an U-18 section was being established; and
- female supporters.
Notwithstanding Fulham having a higher proportion of female supporters than many clubs, more was being looked at including special season tickets, more female stewards, particularly those employed by the Club, and safer travel. HD will follow up with ER the specifics outlined.
A draft Fulham Female Strategy was nearing completion and would be shared with the Trust in September with a view to a public-facing version being published later in the autumn.
On the specific issue of female friendly clubwear, including the main football shirt, this was now under active consideration. Trust members are invited to send in links to female orientated clubwear from other sports, not only football, so that these could also be considered.
The Club and the Trust congratulated the Fulham Lillies on their highly successful launch and looked forward to more collaboration and ideas amongst us all.
Owing to time constraints some of the issues arising from the Cottage walk-around in July would be further pursued outside the meeting, but SC, on behalf of the Trust, raised the following:
- The need for a definitive statement on safe standing options for the ground – CB responded that the introduction of safe standing at Fulham was very unlikely in the foreseeable future; both the Hammersmith and Putney ends stands were ‘demountable structures’ with very steep rakes completely unsuited for safe standing; it was also pointed out similar provision had to be made under the regulations for home and away supporters; in summary it was very unlikely that safe standing could be introduced at the Cottage in advance of new stands being built at either or both ends, which was not in current plans with many competing operational pressures;
- It was however confirmed that removing the FX branding from the roofs of the Hammersmith and Putney stands was being looked at – the current structures were however not capable of taking the weight of solar panels, which the Trust was very pleased to learn had been included in the new Riverside stand design;
- At both the Villarreal and Liverpool games, bottled water had run out at the concessions – CB was aware of this and had raised with Sodexo; in response to a Trust question, he would also ask if any water fountains could be made available;
- CM confirmed there were no references to VAR, causing a significant delay to the match, for the Club to broadcast or communicate on screens at Saturday’s game, and the links with the two large screen were in operation; there was no further news on providing VAR screens at the back of the listed Johnny Haynes stand, but this was still being considered;
- The free sanitary towels were now at the exit rather than, as was needed, at the entrance of some female loos following welcome changes to the exits – this would be looked at;
- It was confirmed that entry to the Riverside bar after the game for those in the Hammersmith end would for safety reasons – flow of spectators – not be allowed until at least 20 minutes after the end of the game; access to the Riverside bar from other parts of the ground will also depend on available capacity. In other words, if not enough people leave the Riverside post-match, others will not be allowed in. Stewards would be reminded to let supporters know this rather than simply saying they could not enter.
SC, on behalf of the Trust, whilst understanding the economics, expressed disappointment at the re-introduction of a main betting sponsor of club shirts, which was not only contrary to emerging Premier League and Government policy but would also mean that young supporters would be unable to wear an authentic 1st team replica shirt. This contrasted with the good feeling experienced when the World Mobile sponsorship had been introduced last year.
DD responded that whilst he understood the feelings around this, the decision was one of economics and the need to increase Club revenues. The sponsorship offer received had been significantly higher – indeed a record amount for Fulham in a tough economic climate – than any other proposals. The Club is delighted that it also continues its partnership with World Mobile which has presence on the sleeves of the playing shirts as well as appearing on the training wear.
The meeting closed at 14.50.