This coming weekend sees the third Fans Forum held at Chelsea Football Club. Apart from the various Chelsea fans representing different interest groups (disabled, young people, corporate etc), Chelsea Football Club will have in attendance Peter Kenyon, Simon Arthur (Group Operations Director), Simon Greenberg (Group Communications), Paul Smith (Commercial Director) and David Newby (Marketing Manager). CFCnet has been invited once again to represent the 100,000 visitors or so we get each month to our website. If past Forums are anything to go by, this will be another excellent interaction between the Club and the fans – CFC is very serious about taking supporters’ views on board as they have already demonstrated with the Club badge, pre-match DJ etc.

There are only two items on the agenda for this weekend’s Forum: disabled policy and ticketing (both home & away). CFCnet is not going to comment or get involved with disabled policy as a disabled fan, Jamie Polker (who writes for the Independent), represents this segment of our support and we’ll leave this issue with him.

As far as ticketing goes, CFCnet has already written a report on the away match ticketing situation and submitted it to the relevant people at the Club. Read the report in PDF format [119 kb] or RTF format [27 kb]. We will once again reiterate our stance on the various away match ticketing issues that we submitted to the Club – we’ll let you know what transpires and any resulting decisions that are made.

As a point of reference, the Club are already busy reviewing all aspects of its ticketing processing procedures. In fact, the Club invited CFCnet and 500 other fans to participate in a ‘live’ test of a new ticketing system at 9.30 a.m. on 15th December. The purpose was to test the handling capacity of a new ‘real time’ ticketing system with 500 fans going online and booking at the same time. ‘Real time’ will allow fans to know, there and then, how many tickets are still available for a given game and if their application was/is successful. At the Fans Forum, Simon Arthur will notify us as to the success (or not) of the new system.

Regarding existing ticketing procedures, many fans have contacted us with gripes, problems and opinions. We’re going to take these to the Fans Forum and see what results from the discussions. I’ll outline a few of the major issues below:

Not knowing whether an Internet purchase is successful. Paul Tosey tells us that he ordered a Barca ticket, was given a reference number, but couldn’t ascertain whether he bought it before sales to members were stopped. There’s no way for him to check it out. This happens to other fans for other games. The big question is does a reference order number guarantee a ticket? If not, how can fans check an application?

The call centre seems to be working OK for many fans (if they can get through), whereas Internet sales seem to be often incorrect (wrong area, wrong price etc). How can the Club improve reliability of the Internet service?

Why are there more ticket choices for juveniles at the call centre than on the Internet? (Steve Nicholls)

If CFC introduce juvenile season tickets in more parts of the ground next season, will there be a way of upgrading the ticket to an adult ticket for individual games? Kids can’t always make evening games which means the seat is left empty if there is no way to pass it on to an adult or older brother/sister. (Steve Nicholls). (Editors note: can’t see any solution to this as some fans will exploit this and watch games on a juvenile ticket)

Away Match tickets. Michelle Shaw tells us that Away Season Ticket Holders get the same diabolical seats game after game. This has happened to us at CFCnet. Basically, the problem is that if you are number 1 on the Away Season Ticket List, you’ll always be directly infront of the goal and if you are number 900 you’ll always be at the back, often behind a pillar. The Club needs to offer variety to Away Match Season Ticket Holders and ‘mix it up’ somewhat.

Unreserved seating to encourage vocal support. Reading FC have a successful unreserved seating section (www.royals.org/awayfans.html). Man Utd Supporter’s Vocal Fans Campaign is also having success developing singing areas (unitedvfc.co.uk). We urgently need something similar at Chelsea, thereby allowing fans to sit where they want in a given section and encouraging vocal support.

Away Fans taking over the MHL. This chestnut isn’t going to go away. Can’t they be put somewhere else?

Did the Club take the whole Bolton allocation? The website says ‘sold out’ but does that include the second tranche of tickets? If not, and the game is already sold out, why aren’t the Club putting the remainder up for sale or at the very least asking fans to register their interest in case they decide to put the remaining tickets up for sale? After all, we could win the league at that game (or as near as dammit).

Ticket Exchange. A website for fans who need or want to sell a ticket. The Club want to legitimise this free-to-use service and may offer fans a rebate service for next season (for fans who can’t make a game for whatever reason). CFCnet is happy to cooperate but we want to know what plans the Club has and what changes it proposes. This is particularly important for Away Season Ticket Holders as none of them can get to every match therefore leaving expensive seats empty. It’s happened to us at CFCnet.

CFC Website ticket updates. These are simply too slow. Ian Reay points out when planning FA Cup games/tickets, he always has to go to the Away Club’s websites to get the information first. Poor website updating needs to be addressed.

Shed Upper season tickets. Can these be made available as the East Upper is like a morgue? (Paul Jaworski)
As an aside, the Club is interested in forging a closer bond between itself and CFCnet regarding both home and away match ticket notification. We are hoping that when tickets become available in future, the Club will alert us as soon as the news is posted on its website, so we can also post it on CFCnet (in real time). This will provide a real service to our readers as well as allowing the Club to sell more tickets. It’s a win-win. How we will do this is not clear – it will probably mean having more than one discussion. We’ve had a few dummy trial runs, the FA Cup game against B’ham being a case in point (where we advertised ticket availability as a result of Chelsea contacting us), but a more structured and organised method needs to be planned for it to work in a coordinated, ongoing fashion.

That’s it for now. We’ve a few other miscellaneous items like the (too) expensive official coach trips but, essentially, this forthcoming Forum will be concentrating on getting all the ticketing issues sorted. A report of the Fans Forum will be posted in the early part of next week.