Notes from November meeting with FFC
On Wednesday 9 November at 13.30, the Fulham Supporters’ Trust met with Fulham FC via video conference.
The Club was represented by:
- Alistair Mackintosh (Chief Executive Officer, AM)
- Darren Preston (Chief Operating Officer, DP)
- David Daly (Non-Executive Director, DD)
- Carmelo Mifsud (Communications Director, CM)
- Nicola Walworth (Supporter Relations Manager, NW)
- Glen Sutton (Chief Profit Officer, GS)
- Aimee McKenzie (Operations & Venue Director, AMK)
- Katy Brecht (Head of Ticketing, KB)
- Samuel Curteis (Supporter Relations Executive, SCu)
- Jon Don Carolis (Commercial Director, JDC)
The FST was represented by:
- Tom Greatrex (Chair, TG)
- Owen Smith (Board Member, OS)
- Tamara Dragadze (Board Member, TD)
- Sarah Keig (Board Member, SK)
HOW IT WORKS
At our regular monthly meetings, Trust board members ask questions relating to as many topics as possible in the time available, based on responses from members to the advance notification of the meeting and our own observations from interacting with the wider supporter base.
Often members ask similar questions and in these cases, we use our judgement to summarise, provide the Club with feedback and gain as much useful information as possible in the time available. We also prioritise new and time-critical topics, whilst also seeking updates on longer running issues.
If any member has raised a new 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.
- Hammersmith End concourse
- Riverside turnstile congestion
- Catering and facilities
- World Cup plans / Women’s game at Craven Cottage
- Fixture changes
- Commercial partnerships
HAMMERSMITH END CONCOURSE
OS began by referencing that congestion on the Hammersmith End concourse has been discussed a number of times recently, and that despite this and some measures being trialled, it is still an issue the Trust is receiving more comments/complaints about, including that people don’t feel safe using the toilets or bars, are worried about bringing their children and afraid of falling over, particularly at half time.
OS informed the Club that the current Fan Survey includes questions on congestion and facilities, and that will be shared with the Club. The Trust asked for the Club’s views and feedback they have received.
DP responded by saying that the Club wants to ensure everybody feels safe and has a good experience. The Hammersmith End is the second least populated stand and has the second best provided space at the ground. It is no different in its density or use (now that we’ve reversed the trialled one way system) as it was 4 years ago, prior to the demolition of the previous Riverside Stand.
DP asked what we think has changed in terms of infrastructure or constraint. As the numbers are the same as they were back in the day.
OS suggested that 3 things have changed: –
- The Riverside access has replaced some Gents Toilets, which causes congestion as people are having to walk further down the concourse to access them. For men, there are 4 cubicles behind H6-H7, with the nearest urinals being behind H4 and H5, which adds to the traffic as people have to find a route through either the stair at the Riverside, or the middle stairs.
- There used to be portacabin bars on the side of the river, which helped pull people away from the concourse area, compared to now where the majority of the bars are directly behind access to the stand.
- It does feel like a new world after Covid and people’s expectations towards safety in crowds have changed. People are more nervous and there is certainly a trend of more people contacting us.
DP replied that the changes made around the new turnstile area are minimal as they took out a groundsman’s store, and while the configuration of toilets has changed, the same facilities are there as previously. OS countered that there is definitely less toilet access from the reconfiguration and spectators can’t access the part of the stand (covered) under the Riverside stand that existed previously.
DP informed the Trust that a Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) inspector, local authority inspector, and an independent auditor were present in the Hammersmith End at the Everton game, and had assessed the concourse area as compliant with Green Guide regulations.
OS commented that whilst the Trust did not doubt the Club were in compliance with all codes and regulations, the fact that people are feeling unsafe still remains and that user experience is being adversely impacted.
The Club commented further that they have changed signage, trailled a one-way system, which has now been removed as it caused more issues than it solved, and were considering other ways to resolve the concerns, which were taken seriously.
The Trust hoped to be able to look at the situation in real time at half time, which is when most complaints refer to, with the Club Safety Officer/deputy at a forthcoming fixture.
RIVERSIDE TURNSTILE CONGESTION
OS asked about the new Riverside stand and issues with congestion pre- and post-game.
DP advised that he stood at the ticket check for the past few games, and he felt it worked well along the Riverside walk but these things can always be improved. There currently has to be a double check, at the turnstile and then at the stand entrance, to ensure people don’t wander in and sit anywhere. Not doing so would cause additional disruption, with stewards having to remove people from seats. He added this should be less of an issue when the Bishop’s Park entrance opens, as that will be specifically for the Riverside. They will be utilising the exit into Bishops Park from the Manchester United game on Sunday, which should ease post-match congestion leaving the ground.
TG asked if it would be used as an entrance point any time soon, DP said it was unlikely due to the continued need for the builders compound, until the stand fit out is complete.
TG asked about access to the Riverside terrace after matches for those from other parts of the ground, DP responded that this was being considered – there are issues relating to numbers of people leaving and arriving in that area at the same time – but for now spectators from other parts of the ground should not expect to be able to use the Riverside terrace and outside bar facilities after matches.
CATERING AND FACILITIES
TD explained that catering services within the ground remain very slow,with cashiers appearing to be trained on matchdays, lengthening delays further. GS said service speed is a constant challenge as they are unable to retain the same repeat team members, due to a very competitive market for casual hospitality staff. There are specific KPI’s that the catering companies are asked to achieve and one of those is that the maximum queue times should be between 6-8 minutes.
TD also asked about the beer machines, how effective are they and how are they monitored to make sure under 18’s can’t purchase alcohol from them.
GS explained that the machines are not owned by the Club, but leased from the supplier and there is a limited supply available. Feedback from users has been good, they are very effective in that there is zero waste and they offer the perfect pour every time. Challenge 25 [ID checks for anyone who looks under 25] is done at every machine, by the staff member giving out the plastic cups to purchase the beer.
AMK said there isn’t currently a soft drink version of the beer machine available, but the Club have introduced additional soft drinks to the grab and go areas.
Supporters will also see the re-introduction of hawking back into the stands so people can purchase directly in their seats, although card payment technology can be an issue.
TD asked about water fountains, now becoming available again at other stadiums, so spectators can refill water bottles etc. GS said this has been raised recently and is under consideration, although there are factors including use of space, how well they are used and health issues which arose during Covid to be assessed.
TD brought up the subject of half-time interviews and how we are still receiving complaints from members who cannot hear. An example was given of the recent interview with David Hamilton, who is an experienced broadcaster and would know how to use the microphone properly.
DD asked when Ivan talks can we hear him. TD advised that we could hear Ivan clearly whatever part of the ground he speaks from, but we cannot hear the interviewees. AMK advised that they carried out some testing in the Johnny Haynes stand, they have upgraded the microphone, spoken to Ivan about asking the interviewee to be clear when they speak. Various consultants have looked into this, and it isn’t the sound system. DP asked that we provide seat numbers where we have received complaints and they will continue to look into it.
WORLD CUP PLANS / WOMEN’S GAME AT CRAVEN COTTAGE
SK acknowledged the announcement made that the men’s team would be playing a friendly against West Ham on the 17th December at Craven Cottage. She asked if there would be any other matches played during the World Cup. AM responded that in terms of friendlies open to the fans at the moment the West Ham game will be the only one. There will be a mini pre-season so there will be other matches, but these are likely to all be behind closed doors.
SK expressed how excited both the Trust and the Fulham Lillies are about the upcoming Women’s game being played at the Cottage on the 20th November. Whilst the Lillies are happy to support and promote the women’s game and this special match at the Cottage she asked what is being done to advertise and encourage people to attend the Women’s games in general.
CM responded that the comms and marketing teams are working hard to promote the women’s game, especially the showcase match at the Cottage. They are going to up the social media coverage and they are using the showcase match to generate external media. Yesterday Sky Sports attended the training session with the reporter Jess Creighton and they are going to do a piece on that, using the opportunity of the showcase game to promote the women’s game a lot more than they would normally due to the increased capacity.
They will be using their website channels and recently Tim Ream did a piece for the website with Annie Thomas, showing her around the facilities at the Cottage; this will be released next week. Looking to engage with the wider community, a flyer is going out next week, it is on the council website, a local historian Morgan Phillips has advertised it and they will be promoting it at the Manchester United game.
TG asked about the capacity for the womens game on the 20th November and AMK replied that currently only the Johnny Haynes Stand is open but if there was the demand they would look at opening other stands.
SK asked about if we had a possible date for the rearranged Chelsea game. As well as the possibility of the Leicester game being rearranged due to the King’s Coronation.
DP advised that there was no news on when we will be playing Chelsea as there is difficulty finding a window when Chelsea can play us due to Champions League and possible FA Cup runs.
With regards the match against Leicester, the Premier League have not made a decision on whether games will be played on the 6th May. SK also asked about the January fixtures and when they would be confirmed. CM advised that we should know within the next 7-10 days, the delays resulting from the process the Premier League, police and broadcasters have to go through to confirm fixture changes.
TG asked about the Riverside upper and the additional 700 tickets being released for the Manchester United game. KB confirmed that this means the total capacity being used for the upper tier will be 2116 for this fixture, with 2500 in the lower tier. Asked if this will continue to increase in future fixtures, DP advised that the maximum use of the stand whilst fit out is continuing will be 4900. This is due to space requirements for builders facilities on site.
TG mentioned the ongoing FST survey (now closed) and the intention to feed back detailed data on views on ticketing and ticket pricing at the next meeting, ahead of decisions being made for next season.
KB confirmed that Ian Clarke and Simon Duke from the FST board will also hold a more in-depth meeting both on arrangements for migration of previous Riverside season ticket holders to the new stand next season, and other ticketing issues, later in the month.
TG asked for confirmation that Fulham’s partnership with Titan Capital Markets has been terminated. JDC confirmed that was the case, and the Club is disappointed in how the partnership transpired. Titan passed the Club’s external processes in terms of due diligence and then information was brought to the Club’s attention which they investigated. They asked the brand to supply information, which they were unable to do, resulting in the relationship being terminated.
TG asked a follow up question around the due diligence process that Fulham currently uses and whether that will now be reviewed in light of the Titan experience. JDC stated Fulham are intent on making sure something like this doesn’t happen again.
- TG referred to complaints that FST had received around FulhamTV and not getting a response from the provider when problems arose. CM said he would be keen to receive any complaints, as the Club will shortly be discussing the service with the provider.
- TG noted that there had been a noticeable improvement in stewarding, and asked about the Club’s direct recruitment of stewards. DP confirmed that at supervisory levels, an increasing number of stewards were recruited to the Club, meaning more continuity and familiarity with roles at the ground and for supporters. There had been changes to some of the stewarding companies used which had contributed to improvements, but there was still more to do in this regard.
- TG queried the process of direct recruitment and training of stewards. DP explained that stewards in the supervisory and other roles that the Club recruit directly must have an NVQ qualification – and this is not something which the Club is able to fund directly. This impacts on the numbers of people who can undertake these roles.
- SK mentioned she had verbally been advised by FST members on Saturday at Manchester City that the away coach travel stewards did not arrive at Motspur Park until 7am, which is when the coach was due to depart. Most supporters had arrived before 7am and so were on the coach already, meaning no bag checks were undertaken. KB advised she will feed that back to the coach steward, as they are expected to arrive prior to supporters boarding coaches.
Meeting closed at 14.40