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

By Peter Sampson
Jan 16th, 2011

Meeting held at the Lord Attenborough Suite, Chelsea FC Hotel, 10.30am, Saturday 15th January 2011

Attendees
Acott, Graham – season ticket (“ST”) holder
Alexander, Chris – Club Finance and Operations Director
Atkins, Steve – Club Head of Communications and Public Affairs
Austin, Dave – CFCUK
Brown, Francis – 16–21 age group
Bussey, Liz – over 60 age group
Fiorellino, Trizia – Chelsea Supporters Group
Gordon-Brown, Patrick – Chelsea Supporters Club
Jenkins, Simon – home/ away ST holder
Marriott, Bryan – family section
Newby, David – Club Marketing Manager
Overstall, Keith – Club Head of Security
Parsons, Veronica – branch
Regan, Andy – Electoral Reform Services (Chair)
Sampson, Peter – CFCnet
Shaw, Martin – member
Smith, Graham – Club Head of Ticketing/ Head of Supporters’ Liaison
Talbot, Robert – member
Wright, Frank – ST holder

Apologies for absence
Coffey, Patrick – member
Gourlay, Ron – Club Chief Executive
Krendel, Paul – exec members/ box holders
McGeever, Timothy James – disabled section
Micallef, Chris – non-UK branch
Neat, Mike – non-UK branch

(Action points are underlined.)

The Chair welcomed Keith Overstall to the meeting.

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

Chelsea Digital Media (“CDM”): Nominations were received from Forum members wishing to be on the sub-committee and the Club intends to hold the first meeting soon.

List of overseas broadcasters for Chelsea TV: This was circulated by the Club in November.

Lighting for Peter Osgood statue: The Club is working on this although it is subject to planning permission.

Ticketing policy for next season: The Club is considering issues raised and will announce the policy for next season around March/ April.

Theft of Peter Trenter’s flag: The Club know that the flag was stolen during a tour of the stadium and not during a match.

Marseilles away match: Security information was published by the Club.  The match was largely peaceful except for minor instances in the stadium and on the Metro.

Supporters’ matches prior to Champions League (“UCL”) matches: The Club will consider assisting and publicising further supporter matches.

UCL ticket prices: Chelsea Supporters’ Group conducted a survey.  Of 226 respondents, 69.4% are not going to the Copenhagen home game.  Of those, 96% are not attending due to the price.  87% of those would attend if last year’s prices for this round still applied.  In the comments section many fans had not realised that prices had increased so much from last season.

STADIUM, MATCH DAY OPERATION AND STEWARDING
Keith Overstall provided an overview of his responsibilities, having been in the role since July.  The overriding aim is to ensure crowd safety on a match day.  The operation involves over 1,000 stewards and match day staff.  Keith heads up the match day operation with Jill Dawson, the Safety Officer.  Keith is also involved in fan security as regards UCL away matches.  There is constant review to ensure the Club stays up to date with their operations.

Smoking in the stadium: One fan raised the issue of smoking in the Shed End and asked how this is dealt with.  Keith said that stewards are sent in to monitor this.  Stewards can be challenged by fans and do have the right to eject fans for smoking.  CCTV helps monitor this.  The Club was also asked why some gents toilets in the Shed Upper appear unavailable throughout half time.  Keith said that the Club are often reliant on fans telling stewards at the time that a problem exists.

Stewarding: The Club recruits its own stewards who undergo training to NVQ2 level.  This course runs at weekends between Christmas and spring.  The Club has 400 of its own stewards and outsources the rest.  In comparison, Wembley relies on 20 sources for stewards.  A lot of the stewards are young but hopefully are encouraged to stay due to the qualification.  They are encouraged to work in the same parts of the ground each match to ensure continuity.

One fan said that problems tend to be with non-Club trained stewards.  On at least three occasions stewards have cheered opposition goals; one has worn a Manchester United hat.

Searches: The Club said that these are undertaken for alcohol or flares.  The only incident of a flare being lit was last season’s Arsenal match.  Searches provide a deterrent.  The Club uses dogs and CCTV as well.  The national security level is severe so the Club has to remain vigilant.  Some fans from overseas may not know that flares are banned in this country.

One fan said that bag checks don’t appear as thorough as at Wembley, where bags can be emptied on to tables.  The Club replied that it has to be realistic with searches, given the limited space in which to undertake them.

One fan asked why police sniffer dogs were checking fans for drugs by the Matthew Harding Lower.  This should not happen on the Club’s premises.  The Club replied that it cannot condone drug use in the grounds and such searches don’t occur often.  The Club sometimes acts on information and complaints received.

Some fans said they don’t mind what searches the Club undertakes as long as they remain safe.

Bottle tops: The Club were asked why these are removed when there are far heavier objects taken into grounds that could be thrown.  The result of bottle top confiscation is that drinks get knocked over and spilt a lot in the ground.  Such confiscation does not occur at every ground.   There are more arrests at rugby than at football matches yet rugby fans don’t have bottle tops confiscated.  The Club responded that it appreciates that this action is an inconvenience.  The objective is to stop bottles being used as missiles, although coins being thrown is the greater danger.  At Marseilles bottles are banned from being brought in to the stadium at all.  One fan suggested that the options should therefore be to allow bottles in with tops or to ban bottles.

The Club will review the confiscation of bottle tops.

Lift passes: One fan asked about use of the lifts in the stands for those who clearly need assistance, such as those in plaster.  Fans in the Matthew Harding and in the East Lower have been refused access on a match day.  The Club replied that there is a lot of demand for lifts and usually passes should be applied for.  This is in case the Club has to evacuate the stadium in an emergency.  Common sense should prevail on this however, regarding fans that clearly need assistance on a match day and don’t have a pass.

The Club will review access to the lifts on a match day.

Club stewards at Spurs away match: The Club said that its stewards have helped steward our fans at White Hart Lane in recent seasons, which has worked well.  This is a reciprocal arrangement with Spurs only.  The Club isn’t looking to introduce such arrangements with other clubs.

Bans as a result of overseas matches: The Club was asked if fans can always be notified if they are to be banned.  Some fans in Juventus were attacked, fought back and were banned, albeit some time ago.  They were not notified.  The Club replied that no fans were banned as a result of overseas matches before Marseilles this season, although two fans were arrested in Marseilles.  One was sentenced to two months in prison and they will be banned.  The Club investigates any incident that may result in a ban and Club policy is to tell the fan if a ban is imposed.

Travel information provided by fans for UCL matches: The Club said that this is its own requirement rather than a UCL requirement.  The Club is responsible for its fans and wants to be confident that tickets are going to the right people.  Corporate fans have to provide the same information as well to the Club now.

One fan said that the system is incredibly slow to process at the box office and ticket collection was further hampered by travel delays getting to the ground.  One fan was told by a box office staff member that they hadn’t got time to check paperwork submitted at the window and it should be emailed instead.  Other clubs don’t have this system and Arsenal allow their fans to provide tickets to fellow fans as long as the purchaser remains responsible for that person.  The majority at Chelsea are being penalised in effect.

The Club said that with hindsight it should not have stopped distributing tickets for Marseilles away two hours before kick-off recently.  Incorrect information was given out for this.  The main issue with ticket collection is usually that fans forget to bring their confirmation.  If there is a problem at a UCL away match the Club may be required to show that they distributed tickets responsibly.  The Club is very careful about maintaining the good reputation of the Club.  Manchester United distribute tickets in the city in which they are playing, which is another option.

One fan asked why the process can’t be undertaken online and information submitted prior to collection.

The Club will review the requirement for, and processing of, information forms.

Away fans at Stamford Bridge: One fan said that, in the West Stand Lower, hospitality boxes sometimes include noisy away fans.  This antagonises our fans who are then reprimanded by stewards.  There were Liverpool fans in that area for a Champions League match, and Stan Collymore also loudly supported the away team in the press box during one match.  There is a perception that away fans are not stewarded as strictly as home fans, such as for persistent standing.  This particularly annoys home fans in the Shed End Lower.

The Club responded that the ground regulations apply to everyone equally and 43% of evictions from the ground this season are away fans.  As regards UCL matches the Club is aware that fans of the other team sometime sit amongst our fans.  This partly arises from overseas supporter clubs who may obtain tickets which are then used by the away team’s fans from the same country.  Again, CCTV is useful if there is a problem, and the Club has a hotline that fans can call.  Each incident is handled on its merits and the Club is careful not to exacerbate an incident.

The Club will provide a breakdown of ejected fans between UCL matches and domestic matches.

When match tickets go on general sale, the Club can block sales to the area where the away team is based, as happened with Ipswich.  Away fans are not allowed in home sections.

One fan said that some East Upper tickets are used by away fans sometimes.  The Club requested further details in the event of any misuse.  If those seats are not for hospitality, they must be for ST holders, members or general.

Shed Upper catering: One fan asked why catering outlets close during the match.

The Club will ensure that catering is available during matches, although in accordance with alcohol sale rules.

Touts: One fan asked why the police appear reluctant to enforce the law regarding touts.  There is also a connection between hard drug use and touts.  Touts will ensure they are not caught with tickets on them.  It is frustrating for supporter clubs when they can’t get hold of the number of tickets they want yet touts seem to have tickets to sell.

The Club replied that it can only act against people in Stamford Bridge, whilst the wider area is the responsibility of the police.  There is a wider restriction in SW19 during the Wimbledon tennis tournament so area bans are possible.  The Club is fully in favour of more action taken against touts.  Some arrests took place recently which may have an effect.  The Met are taking more of an interest in this due to next year’s Olympics.  The Club does a huge amount in combating the online market for these tickets.

Shed End walkway: One fan asked whether the one way system imposed an hour before matches could also be imposed at the end of a game.

The Club will consider a one way exit system at the Shed End.

ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Manchester United postponement: Fans had different views as to whether the decision was made too early.  The FA may take such decisions away from clubs in future if there are nationwide weather problems.

The Club explained that a committee made that decision, comprising the Club, the police and the local authority.  It was the right decision and made in the light of conditions on the Saturday and the forecast for the Sunday.  Safety and security of fans was paramount and the advice was for only essential journeys to be made. There were also concerns regarding staff being able to travel to the event.

Manchester United programmes: One fan said they were on sale in the Megastore for a short time and then withdrawn.  Consequently some were on sale on Ebay for up to £126 so fans were ripped off in effect.

The Club responded that it decided to withdraw the programmes from sale so that the programme run numbers applied only to matches which were played.  The content has been spread to subsequent programmes.  It was considered that the Club would be criticised for continuing to sell them once the match was postponed.  The programme went to print on the Friday and they were delivered early on the Saturday, before a decision was made to withdraw them from sale.  Up to that point Club officials were unaware that they were on sale for a short time.

The Club will consider a future policy for programme sales in the event of a rearranged match.

Away fan allocation: One fan asked why away fans are split between two tiers when there are sometimes so few at the ground.  The Club replied that away fans can’t go in the tier above home fans.  Also the lower tier is sold first to cater for any disabled away fans.  There is a minimum of 1,500 for the two tiers combined.  However the Club will ask Wigan if they only want the lower tier this season, although it only holds 500.  Every match in recent seasons has entailed away fans in both tiers, with the exception of an evening match against Wigan.

Supporters’ tournament: The Club confirmed that this will be held at Cobham again.

The Club will confirm the date for the tournament.

Everton FA Cup match: The Club confirmed that the discount is for season ticket holders, not for booking early.  The Club has not received the tickets yet so can’t confirm if discounts apply to the lower or upper tier.  The discount will be given to all away scheme members.  Season ticket holders pay more from Wednesday as well.  3,000 tickets have been taken, with the option of an additional 1,800.

Pitch side autographs: The Club confirmed that children in the East Lower can still ask substitutes for autographs, despite suggestions otherwise.

Merchandising: The Club confirmed that the issue would be discussed, hopefully at the next meeting.

Stars on a Stool:  One fan asked why the cost has increased substantially.  Events were originally £15 but were priced at £50 this Christmas.  It appears to be just another commercial event and makes the fans resentful.  Most fans are priced out, as they were for centenary events.

The Club will review the cost of Stars on a Stool events.

Large screens: One fan said that a large screen was broken for the Arsenal match. This does not look good for Samsung.

The Club will check the operation of the large screens.

Wall between West Stand and Shed End: One fan asked for a mural, perhaps of players, to be painted there.

The Club responded that this was raised previously and a flag was placed there.

The Club will revisit this issue.

The meeting finished at 12.10pm.

Contact
Shed End fans