Notes from July meeting with FFC
On Thursday 13th July 2023 at 12:00, the Fulham Supporters’ Trust (FST) met with Fulham FC via video conference.
The Club was represented by:
- Alistair Mackintosh (Chief Executive Officer, AM)
- Carmelo Mifsud (Communications Director, CM)
- Glen Sutton (Chief Profit Officer, GS)
- Nicola Walworth (Supporter Liaison Manager & Disability Liaison Officer, NW)
- Sam Curteis (Supporter Relations & Communications Executive, SC)
- Aimee McKenzie (Assistant Director, Football Operations, AMK)
- Jimmy Ord (Head of Sales & Business Development, JO)
- Jack Burrows (Marketing Director, JB)
The FST was represented by:
- Simon Duke (Chair, SD)
- Ian Clarke (Vice-Chair, IC)
- Tamara Dragadze (Board Member, TD)
- Hayley Davinson (Board Member, HD)
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.
You can access notes of all previous meetings on our web site, including the most recent information on key topics not covered at this meeting.
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.
The following topics were discussed:
The Trust began the meeting by requesting an update on the capacity and ability to purchase tickets at Craven Cottage for the 23/24 season. (JO) explained that for the start of the season, the licensed capacity will be 24,917. From this number, just under 17,000 seats will be for season ticket holders, and around 2,700 will be given to away fans (10.8% of capacity). This will leave just under 3,000 tickets to be sold on a match-by-match basis, with the remaining balance available for corporate hospitality and the Club’s use.
It was confirmed that 10.8% is slightly higher than the required 10%. This is due to where segregation lines are required, which will continue to happen across seats, and some Putney End fans have been moved for this reason. The Trust asked if the stadium capacity would be set to increase throughout next season, and AM confirmed that no, this would be set to remain the figure for the full season.
Regarding season ticket sales, it was confirmed that the renewal rate was around 90%, with a ‘normal’ level of churn this season of around 10% – the Club were pleased with these numbers and the increased overall number of season ticket holders. There has also been a slight improvement in the gender balance of season ticket holders.
IC continued onto the latest news of the arrival of Membership package information delivered to supporters yesterday (Wednesday, July 12th), and asked if there were any noticeable changes for supporters for this season. Jack Burrows explained that new for 23/24 season is around the match ticket discount benefit: junior members will now receive a £5 discount on their match ticket in any location of the ground. Adult members will continue to receive a £5 discount on seats in the Johnny Haynes Stand, Hammersmith and Putney Ends, and a £10 discount on a Riverside Stand seat (all discounts are on a one-per-member, per-match, basis).
IC asked about the positioning of members in the order of priority for away tickets as this did not appear clear in the communications sent, for which the Club replied that they would confirm after the meeting, as the Head of Ticketing Katy Brecht was not in attendance.
Moving on to match day pricing and when it would become available, the Club confirmed this is close to being decided, ideally within the next week, and would continue to be announced to supporters on a match-by-match basis. The Trust highlighted this was an irregular structure of announcing pricing compared to other Premier League clubs who provide more detail on their pricing models. Still, it was confirmed that the Club would continue to announce prices closer to the calendar date of the match, and particularly of note only once the TV picks have been made, as this has a significant impact on the ability to price those games, with pricing not just based on the opposing team.
The final questions concerning the ticketing section of the meeting were about loyalty points and digital ticketing. For the former, the Club stated that they had not made any changes to the system for the start of the 23/24 season. Still, internal conversations have been happening about suggested alternatives, and a meeting about this issue would be beneficial between the Club and the Trust. The Trust agreed to share a link to a recent article published on this particular topic and agreed to work together to see if any constructive changes can be made. IC made the point that the current system is particularly unfair to younger fans who are keen to follow the team regularly away, but currently will never be able to catch those fans that have been collecting loyalty points for much longer periods. Regarding digital ticketing, a trial system is set to begin this season, with the Trust agreeing to help with partaking in any test operations and deliver feedback on these possible solutions.
With numerous works happening around the stadium throughout the close season, it was agreed easiest to run through these works on a stand-by-stand basis, with AMK leading the updates on behalf of the Club.
It was confirmed that works are currently in place for two new staircases to be installed between the upper and lower concourse of the area underneath the Hammersmith End, with works to be completed before the start of the new season. The Trust warmly welcomed this work, which we first suggested at the October 2019 meeting, and hope it will alleviate some of the Hammersmith End congestion which we have regularly highlighted.
It was also confirmed that the main kiosk area in the Hammersmith End is being renovated, which will see the area have a new offering of food, increased till points, and a change of beer system from kegs to a tank (which is quicker). New screens are also being installed on the steelwork at the sides of the toilets to ensure more people can easily watch half-time highlights and prevent people from bunching close to the stairwells.
All of these changes have been made to help with the speed of service on matchday and assist with the congestion that builds up quickly during half-time. The Trust welcomed this work and will provide the Club with any feedback from members after the initial home games this season.
Also confirmed for the start of the season in the Hammersmith End were new sound speakers; the Club are awaiting an install date but is confident it will be in advance of the game against Brentford. In response to a specific question from a member, the Club confirmed that the space underneath the old Riverside Stand which had previously contained a bar accessible to Hammersmith End supporters will not be available as ‘overflow’ space in the new configuration. And finally, there was no update this month on Safe Standing as the new Safety Officer, John D’arcy, is two weeks into the new role. It was confirmed that once settled, the Trust would seek a meeting with him to introduce our representatives for both the Metropolitan Police Independent Advisory Group (IAG – Sue Couch and Ian Clarke) and Hammersmith & Fulham Council Safety Advisory Group (SAG – Gavin Megaw).
The Bishops Bar situated by entrance P1 has been replaced by a new structure and will this season have more tills to increase the speed of service.
It was confirmed that facilities on level zero of the stand would be the same as last season, with the same number of bars and food outlets. With regards to non-matchday facilities, the Trust asked if we would be likely to see any of these options opening soon. However, it was explained that whilst still in the fit-out stage of the refurbishment, it would be impossible to give any fixed timelines. In parallel with the current fit-out work by main contractor Portview, work is proceeding on discharging [planning] procedures and licensing with the Council. It was also confirmed that the Bishop’s Park turnstiles would not be in operation, which was unlikely to change during the 23/24 season.
Johnny Haynes Stand
TV monitors for the stand will be in place for the start of the season and will mirror the big screens currently situated above the Putney and Hammersmith Ends. In particular, this will allow supporters in the stand to be notified of VAR decisions. Hawker servers will continue operating for the new season after being successfully trialed last season.
It was confirmed that there will be a new food offering for the 23/24 season across all stands, including a new vegan option. There is also a possible option for one-off offerings to be available in the Riverside Stand; this is still to be confirmed. It was also explained that the Club hopes to see a continued improvement this season in service due to a decrease in agency staff used by main catering contractor Sodexo for catering on matchday (it was 83% at the start of the 22/23 season and by the final game had dropped to 24%). To do this, the Club have introduced longevity bonuses to staff members who complete a certain number of fixtures this season.
Finally, concerning a member question about vaping in the stadium, it was confirmed by the Club pre-meeting that vaping is not allowed in any part of the stadium. It was suggested by the Trust to increase the visibility of the rules within the stadium, both with additional signage and amendment to the current “no smoking” audio message. reminding supporters of the problems caused for other supporters when vaping.
HD explained that after the announcement of the 23/24 front-of-shirt men’s team sponsor being a new betting partner, The Trust had received numerous negative feedback messages, with many questioning the choice of a gambling company with only three seasons remaining before a voluntary ban on front of shirt sponsorship comes in across the Premier League.
AM reiterated the previous message given by the Sponsorship team that they are consistently open to alternative sponsors. Still, in today’s market, it has been difficult for a club of Fulham’s stature to find an alternative and still generate the income required to remain competitive. AM explained that the so-called ‘bigger’ clubs could attract high-value sponsorship from non-gambling companies but that Fulham sat among a group of clubs for whom gambling sponsors offered deals double those available elsewhere. It was noted by the Trust that a family sponsor of Royal Caribbean Cruises, now sponsoring both children’s kits and FFC Women, had received positive feedback, and this was also to be passed on to the Sponsorship department.
TD began by explaining some recent research the Trust had undertaken across Premier League clubs into the cost of men’s, women’s and youth replica shirts for the new 23/24 season, for which all but three clubs had launched and announced pricing (see table below). From this, it was noted that the £80 price charged by Fulham was the highest price of any club, along with Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham. The Trust also highlighted that every other Premier League club had a women’s fit shirt for the new season and asked why Fulham didn’t, noting that the second and third kits are still to be launched.
The Club asked to defer detailed discussion in this area, including pricing models, to a subsequent meeting to allow David Daly, who was unavailable for this meeting, to take the lead. In the meantime, AM explained that there had been production issues concerning a women’s-fit home shirt for this season. The error was accepted, and this wouldn’t be an issue for future runs; the intention would be to have a women’s fit shirt. Women’s fit shirts will be available in the second and third kits. Finally, it was suggested by the Trust that a maternity range would be a new and innovative idea to add to the club’s range, which was noted and to be passed back to David Daly for future new additions.
CM explained that the Fan Advisory Board deadline for Premier League teams is officially the beginning of the season. Still, as Fulham already have a working relationship with their fans through the Trust and the DSA, they are not strictly held to this. They are still working through various structural ideas and will be presenting these to the Fulham management board in due course and updating both the Trust and other groups when available.
SD explained that after meeting with Huw Jennings and Steve Jaye, it has been agreed that the Trust will present a trophy to be awarded to the FFC Women Player of the Season. The first award for the trophy will be for the 23/24 season. The criteria will be similar to those for the Johnny Haynes Trophy presented to the Academy Player of the Season.
Finally, AM raised that the FST had referenced in their open letter that there could be a 25% increase on season tickets for next season. For clarity, information for next year hasn’t been discussed by the Club, and therefore, this suggestion is solely from the FST.
Meeting closed 12:58
Whilst our open letter to Shahid Khan did not explicitly reference a 25% increase for next season, we have subsequently commented on genuinely held supporter fears of an increase of this magnitude, based on precedent from previous seasons.
The “horseshoe” (Putney / Hammersmith / Johnny Haynes) renewal prices for the upcoming 23/24 season were all set within £20 of the new season ticket prices charged in 22/23, with the majority even closer. For example, an H3-H6 new season ticket price in 22/23 was £660, with the 23/24 renewal subsequently set at £650. All other blocks were similarly close. Were this model to be repeated for 24/25, an H3-H6 season ticket would increase close to the current new price of £850, an uplift of 25%.
We’re pleased to hear that this is not under discussion and encourage the Club to change the model next year by freezing prices.