CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB: SUPPORTERS’ CONSULTATIVE FORUM, 2010/11 SEASON

By Peter Sampson
Sep 29th, 2010

Meeting held at the Lord Attenborough Suite, Chelsea FC Hotel, 11.30am, Sunday 19th September 2010. (Action points are underlined.)

INTRODUCTION
The Chairman welcomed members to the first Forum of the season and in particular new members.  Members introduced themselves.

The Chairman said that, further to the discussion in the Forum last season, the Club photographer will attend at the end of the meeting to take photos of Forum members for the website. 

MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
There were no changes to the minutes. Replies to previous action points were as follows:

Minutes of the last atmosphere and environment sub-committees:  As regards the latter, this is being renamed the “Corporate Social Responsibility Committee”.  The aim is to reduce the impact of the Club and its supporters on the environment.  The Club has publicised the lift share scheme so hopefully that will prove more popular.  Charity work by supporters clubs will be better publicised.  Also, Forum members toured the Club’s recycling plant last season.

Bag of buns left open in the East Stand:  The buns are stored in the concourse and the Club is not sure how the mistake happened.  As regards other catering issues, the Club has changed supplier and they are trying to vary products in different places.  Burgers are still available outside the ground.

Welcome banner outside the ground:  The Club is looking at different options for the entrance although a banner is unlikely to be hung there.

Anti-racism banners:  They are a Premier League (“FAPL”) initiative and will be repositioned but not changed.

The Chairman announced that other action points from the last meeting will be dealt with under the appropriate heading later in the meeting.

CHELSEA DIGITAL MEDIA (“CDM”)
The Chairman welcomed Cas and Richard to the Forum.

Overview:  The Club said that CDM is a joint venture (“JV”) between Sky and the Club, with the Club being the majority shareholder.  The JV was formed in the Bates era.  Chris, Ron and Emma Wilkinson are the Club representatives on the CDM Board.  It produces Chelsea TV, the website, the Club’s presence on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.  CDM’s work closely connects to the marketing side of the Club.  CDM is also going to implement further mobile phone services. While staff levels vary, generally 20 to 30 people work at CDM.

As CDM uses the Sky platform for Chelsea TV, the customer relationship is with Sky so CDM does not have access to the data of those who subscribe or might subscribe. CDM is considering a more consistent format to hear the views of fans on this subject and would welcome working with the Fans’ Forum to create a Chelsea TV subscribers group.  For instance it would be useful to know what the most popular matches are for fans so that CDM can concentrate on acquiring rights for those games.  CDM wants to gauge whether fans want longer or shorter interviews, match footage, discussions etc.  This will be invaluable in helping to grow the product.  CDM would like to encourage those who have access to Chelsea online to use the product in order to provide more feedback.

There are about 31,000 subscribers. The usual peak is around May to July as fans want the live pre-season games.  The base is stable this year, and CDM is on target for its budget.  CDM doesn’t want to offer the products for free as that is not commercially viable.  There is a tight budget for Chelsea TV.

If there is confusion about the range of products on offer, Cas and Jerry Newman can show the Forum where the various products are available online.

Consumer viewing is moving towards the internet, which will be shown in a high quality format.  If you are a Sky subscriber to Chelsea TV you can now get Chelsea online.

Outside broadcasts:  The Club has increased the budget from 15 to 25 outside broadcasts.  Chelsea TV has decided to be more flexible regarding which matches to cover.  For instance, if the Club gets to the latter stages of the Football Association (“FA”) Youth Cup, Chelsea TV can focus on that instead of a reserve match.

The major channels cover most games but if there is no other broadcaster here, for instance for a Carling Cup early round, Chelsea TV has the flexibility to cover it (as it did for the Newcastle game).  A lot of fans seem happy to watch a full rerun on Chelsea TV at 10pm after an evening game.

Old matches on Chelsea TV:  The Club has the rights of FAPL matches and Champions League (“UCL”) matches since 1992 and has a good relationship with the Football League (“FL”) for the Carling Cup and with the FA for the FA Cup.  The rights of pre-1992 matches are hard to establish.  The Club made a deal with ITV for a package of pre-1992 matches last year, based on what was available and what the Club wanted.  

The Club will consider discussions with broadcasters for packages of Chelsea matches to be sold directly to the public.

There are usually tight rules about not selling on footage.  For instance, an I-Tunes-style download already exists via the FAPL and CDM cannot offer this service.  The Club is aware that footage of, for instance, Ossie or the 1980’s team is a major part of its history.  The 1980’s was a period of great confusion as to the ownership of broadcasting rights, which doesn’t help when CDM tries to acquire footage.

Supporters’ clubs:  The Club is aware of the need to provide a better service for supporters’ clubs.  CDM is considering this and Chelsea TV features supporters’ clubs increasingly.  Fans would like charity work and the social side publicised further.  The Club is limited by its budget in covering supporter clubs in-depth.  If fans are gathered locally to contribute to a debate on Chelsea TV, it may be possible to have a camera there.

Fan volume on match broadcasts:  The Club uses the microphone set-up for Sky/ BBC but there may be a different mix by Chelsea TV.  Chelsea TV is on the biggest bandwidth it can get.  Sky/ BBC are inevitably going to position microphones by away fans as well as home fans at the Bridge.

Cable TV:  The Club will look to whether Chelsea TV can be shown on cable.  Chelsea TV is only on Sky at present and deals have to be in the Club’s best commercial interest.  The station is planning talks with Virgin.  The second largest expansion opportunity is with BT Vision and Chelsea TV has a meeting planned with them.  The third is Talktalk, with 50,000 UK subscribers.  The Club is aware that fans are using a range of platforms and many use Virgin.

The other option is Chelsea TV Online (“CTVO”), who switched provider on 1st July.  The Club wants to introduce a simulcast of Chelsea TV on CTVO, and it will monitor the response carefully.  Supporters’ clubs and the Forum will be advised when the simulcast is in operation.

Overseas broadcasting:  Overseas fans would like to remedy the fact that there is nothing after 7pm overseas when the programme finishes.  The Club can look into the timing for Maltese programmes and will circulate a list of overseas broadcasters.

Chelsea TV programme content:  Forum members would like a greater range of callers getting through.  Also it appears that only non-controversial callers are allowed on.  Constructive feedback about the Club would probably help the station.  The Sky system of showing brief emails at the bottom of the picture would look good.  Craig Burley appears particularly critical of the Club unnecessarily.  Paperview can be the most entertaining programme, and increasingly our interviewers do not allow overly critical journalists to go unchallenged.  Further debates about the merits of different players may also attract viewers.

The Club replied that the station is not set up particularly well to deal with emails during broadcasts.  The Club would like to receive far more emails generally.  The Club could ask various fans to appear on programmes.  Paperview goes out as recorded, for instance when Tony Banks was on the programme last season.  The Forum discussed at the last meeting of last season in some detail how the Club responds to criticism.

AWAY TRAVEL
Prioritising away matches for Club travel:  The Club has decided, after consultation with the atmosphere group, that Newcastle, Wolves, Sunderland, Liverpool and Everton should be prioritised.  The Club also targeted Wigan but there was a lack of demand even though the price was less than the national rail fare.  If the price is less than the national coach fare then the Club would be subsidising all travel in effect.  The Club was not sure about prioritising Wigan but it was worth a try.  As regards allocations, if the Club accepts 3,000 tickets but they don’t sell, the Club has to pay for those unsold.

Fans asked the basis for these decisions.  For the Sunderland match for instance, even subsidised travel for an evening match may not attract a huge number of fans due to the inevitable arrival time back to London.  The Club notes that Blackburn was one such problem match last season.  Overall the Club is more satisfied with the service provided by Virgin now.  The Club also see this list as flexible so that one of the intended subsidised trips may be replaced by a cup match.  The Club is often in the position that it receives travel details late and therefore can only publicise them late.

Away ST seat positioning:  Some fans are still unhappy with their positioning even though they are part of the away scheme.  The issue is not so much which block fans are in but rather whether they are at the top, middle or bottom.  If you are on the scheme, you don’t want to end up on the back row for every game, for instance.  It is complained about a lot by scheme members.  Fan groups would be happy to help compile a list of the best areas within particular blocks at away grounds.

The Club replied that it has to sell one block at a time.  There is an excel list of away scheme members, so the first name on the list will always get the front seat in a block.  Some fans have said they want to be nearer the front or back and the Club has tried to recognise that.  However it is an imperfect system.  Every fan has a different opinion as to where the best seats are.  Where there is a choice of block the Club tries to sell the more central blocks first.  The Club certainly tries to sell upper tiers before lower tiers where possible.

Fans asked if unreserved seating could be used for away games, as seems to happen in Europe.  The Club replied that we it would have to reduce the number of tickets by an estimated 25% for safety reasons if this were implemented.

The Club will review away ST scheme seat positioning.

Zilina away match:  Fans said that Thomas Cook don’t appear to guarantee away match tickets for the UCL.  The Club replied that Thomas Cook does guarantee tickets and the Club wants to discourage fans who have the Thomas Cook package then buying a ticket through the Club.  The Club gives priority to UCL away scheme members.  The Club also has to allow Thomas Cook an allocation.

Russia visas:  The Club confirmed that anyone going to Moscow can get a confirmation email from the Club in order to obtain a visa.  They are not just available to those travelling by Thomas Cook.  There is no chance of the visa requirement being waived, as happened for the 2008 UCL final.

UCL away scheme:  Fans would like to know why proof of travel is required on application forms.  The Club replied that some fans did not collect tickets previously and appeared to use the scheme only to gain points for later rounds.  The Club had the fewest number of uncollected tickets for a match when we played Zilina recently, about 22 tickets.   For Cluj last season about 500 were uncollected as they only cost a few euros each.  The Club is less concerned about Moscow as far more tickets are available so hopefully all fans who want a ticket will get one. 

Fans would like the Club to review whether the UCL away scheme can be adjusted for a member to miss one match.  Moscow is very expensive for instance and a trip there may cost  £500 – £1,000 per individual.  Fans who can’t travel to one match could inform the Club to release their match ticket for that one match.  The Club will review the UCL away scheme to consider whether fans can miss one match whilst remaining in the scheme.  The Club notes that the number of UCL away scheme members has reduced perhaps because of the expense of committing to every match, although the scheme was put in place after consultation with the Forum previously.

Fans asked what the process is for buying tickets and providing the Club with their travel plans.  Fans often want the best flight deals but then can’t be sure they will get a match ticket.   The Club replied that fans should book a ticket, make their travel plans and then collect the ticket.  The Club is also reviewing the fact that the form is a PDF and therefore can’t be completed purely electronically.

Fans asked why an away scheme member can’t transfer their right to a ticket to another individual whilst retaining responsibility for that other individual, a system that Arsenal implements.  The Club would do well to sell the full allocation of 3,000 for Moscow.  The Club will consider transfer of rights for a UCL away scheme member for a specific match.  However the Club would highlight that the away scheme member will face sanctions if those rights are abused in any way.

UCL away travel for the disabled:  The Club confirmed that there is no concession for travel for the disabled and their helpers.

ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Topics for the season:  The Chairman said that the second meeting of the season will be for ticketing only.  The Club survey will be discussed at the fourth meeting.

Fans requested that the stadium, the match day operation and stewarding be discussed.

TV screens:  Fans have received a complaint that there are not enough in the Shed End.  Also there are problems with the TVs in the East Upper at the Shed End.  The Club will check these.

Reserve games:  Fans said that they are not able to go to Cobham to watch these.  The Club replied that where dates clash with the UCL, matches will be played at Cobham.   That apart, the strategy announced last season was that matches would be played before January at the Bridge when possible.  From January the Club has to look after the pitch here.  Fans also noted that there is now a charge for ST holders to attend reserve matches.

Fans asked why there is a lack of written information or announcements as to who is playing.  The Club replied that team sheets would be downloadable on the website after a game.  Teams will still be announced and the screens will be used.

Turnstiles:  Fans noted that the problems with turnstile access at the Shed End were rectified soon thereafter and that the Club had been helpful in resolving this quickly.

Captain’s armband in UCL:  The Club said, in response to the question of why Barcelona and Porto have their own armbands, that it uses the ones supplied by UEFA.  With the FAPL the captain has the choice of using the anti-racism armband.  The Club will check on rules regarding the captain’s armband in the UCL.

West Stand lower wall:  The Club said that hooks can’t be used for banners there. 

Away match support recognition:  Fans asked for our players to applaud our travelling fans more consistently at the end of matches.  The Club will address this.

Mascots:  The Club will provide more information on the website, including the length of the waiting list.  The maximum age is 12 and there is no charge to be a mascot.  Enquiries should still go to web sales.

Peter Osgood statue:  The Club said that there are controlled numbers for the unveiling and we are already at the maximum number of invites.  In effect Forum members are invited to represent the wider body of fans.  Uninvited fans wouldn’t see anything so there is no benefit in them attending.  The statue will be available for all to see the next day anyway.

Carling Cup allocation:   The Club confirmed that Newcastle has opted for the smaller allocation so our own ST holders in the Shed End should not have to move.

Marseille away match:  Fans asked if the Club was aware of problems the last time we played there, including lengthy holding times, abuse by fans, baton charges and tear gas by the riot police, and asked whether our embassy can help ensure this is not repeated.  The Club replied that they are aware of the problems from last time, that there is a pre-match trip by the Club to agree all arrangements, and that the consulate or embassy would oversee arrangements as it is in their interests to ensure all goes smoothly too.

Early stadium access:  Fans suggested that more bar areas be open earlier to encourage fans to arrive early in order to change the culture of match attendance.  The Club replied that the standard opening time for the stadium is two hours before kick-off.  Numbers for Dixon’s and Jimmy’s are limited to 1,500.  The Club will review facilities that can be offered earlier than the present arrangements.  Staff and stewarding would need to be in place.

Jimmy’s:  The Club asked what Forum members think about changing the name to the Singha Bar in order to maximise sponsorship.  There was a mixed view within the Club and it was decided that fans would be consulted.  Such changes help the Club to break even though.  The Club repeated that they would not do a deal for stadium rights without protecting our brand.  The Club reminded the Forum that it agreed some time ago to be more open about possible sponsorship considerations. 

In response, one fan said they opposed the move; another said that more revenue from the name change would be welcome; others suggested that the name “Jimmy’s” should be retained elsewhere in the ground.  One asked why we are keeping Nigel Spackman’s name in the ground whilst getting rid of Jimmy’s?  The name of the bar could be “Jimmy’s sponsored by Singha”.

The Club will further consider the issue.

Children’s fans’ forum:  Fans said that part of the reason for setting this up at the time was to encourage a new generation of fans, particularly those we lose as teenagers.  The Club responded that they acknowledge that encouraging future generations is a major issue.  However the Club has grown this area enormously and marketing has been successful for that, especially in the past twelve months.  The Club is happy to discuss this issue in more detail later in the season, not just in the discussion about ticketing.

West Ham away game:  Fans noted that there was incorrect travel information provided at Upton Park. 

Cobham:  The Chairman said that the Club would arrange a tour of the training ground.  The Club added that this was likely to be in March or April.

The meeting finished at 1.40pm.

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