CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB
SUPPORTERS’ CONSULTATIVE FORUM, 2012-13 SEASON
DRAFT MINUTES, 1st MEETING

Meeting held at Under the Bridge, Chelsea FC at 10.30am on Saturday, 6th October 2012

Attendees Club title/ group represented
Alexander, Chris Club Finance and Operations Director
Alexander, Jenny away season ticket (“ST”) holder
Atkins, Steve Club Head of Communications and Public Affairs
Austin, Dave CFCUK
Barfoot, Mark UK branch
Chidgey, David Chelsea Football Fancast
Kay, Robert hospitality
Kimberley, Steve UK branch
Law, Matthew disabled
Littlejohns, Tom over 65’s
Micharikopoulos, Dimitris non-UK branch
Mills, Freddie 16-2’s
Newby, David Club Marketing Manager
Newman, Jerry Club Head of Digital Marketing and CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
Nurse, Liz Chelsea Supporters Group
Puttock, Mark Chelsea Supporters Club
Regan, Andy Electoral Reform Services (Chair)
Smith, Graham Club Head of Ticketing/ Head of Supporters’ Liaison
Walters, Jez CFCnet
Winton, Natalie family

Apologies for absence
Byrne, Pat non-UK branch
Greig, Lesley home ST holder
Hounsome, William member

(Action points are underlined.)

INTRODUCTIONS
The Chair welcomed members to the first Forum of the season. Forum members introduced themselves.

DIGITAL PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
The Forum agreed to discuss these issues first.

Jerry Newman stated that his role is to develop websites, mobile assets, social media and other emerging forms of media for the Club. Jerry’s other role involves customer relations to ensure there is a high level of engagement with supporters.

The Club has already responded to feedback submitted pre-meeting by Forum members regarding digital services. Previously there was a “web advisory group” run on a quarterly basis by invitation in order for the Club to receive feedback and discuss new ideas. Going forward, the Club would like to ensure there is a good quality of dialogue with supporters.

In response to the questions received pre-meeting:

  • The Android Samsung app requiring a second Chelsea TV subscription: IOS was the first application and the Club has also developed an app for Samsung smart phones. The Club’s approach is not to put an initial charge on purchasing the apps but to supply them as a free service that gives fans a rich experience and an extension to their Chelsea TV subscription, as with SkyGo. In addition content can be purchased on an ad hoc basis for those not wanting to commit to the full Chelsea TV subscription. Anyone with a Chelsea TV subscription would have encountered a purchase point initially, which prompts an ad hoc purchase and not the Chelsea TV sign in. This issue has now been addressed and the Club’s development team are working to improve the customer journey to make it easier to log in with your Chelsea TV subscription.
  • Barcelona away highlights didn’t load at first but this was rectified quickly.
  • As regards the schedule, it is acknowledged that a full explanation of forthcoming programmes wasn’t provided in sufficient detail previously but this has now improved.
  • Accessing certain sections on the website previously led to being thrown out of the main site but this is now being resolved and the Club is working to improve customer journey issues.

About a third of Forum members stated they were Chelsea TV subscribers. One supporter commented that the Chelsea TV app works well. Another supporter commented that Chelsea TV may be more popular if it was available on Virgin too.

The Club responded that the aim was to provide the best coverage and programming, so if that entails using different providers at a future date, the Club would consider it. A lot of research is undertaken and the Club knows that 75% like watching services through TVs. In the future that may change. Chelsea TV can be accessed anywhere and there has been a campaign to stress that. The Club will continue to publicise this aspect. One supporter commented that the Club should strongly promote the fact that the mobile app is free. For instance the Club could advertise the free service on fans’ group websites to bring about greater awareness.

One supporter asked how overseas fans can access Chelsea TV. The Club responded that Chelsea TV is sold to broadcasters internationally. The best means of access is to become an international member in which case it can be bought directly from the Club. It can therefore be cheaper to access as an international member. The Club is also considering providing the service to supporters’ group secretaries next year.

One supporter asked if Chelsea TV is available on CatchUp. The Club responded that it had received a lot of feedback about this and there is such a service on the website. This applies mainly to the Friday and Monday night shows as well as matches. Smaller content can be accessed in return for providing the Club with personal details.

One supporter asked why there appears to be little atmosphere at matches shown on the channel. Fans would like to hear more of the match atmosphere and more microphones recording home support would be welcomed. The Club said that the sound tends to be commentary-dominated at present. There are separate commentaries for TV replays and for live radio transmissions. The Club will look at this issue. The Club uses its own footage, producers and commentary.

One supporter noted that footage of Chelsea fans celebrating at the end of the Barcelona away match wasn’t shown on the Club package.

In response to a question about HD, the Club said it was working on this technology but it isn’t ready to roll it out yet. As regards Smart TV, the Club commented that it is once again monitoring this closely but is not ready to launch this service.

One supporter asked about the possibility of introducing more instant phone communications with supporters as they enter the stadium. The Club responded that it is assessing automatic and instant messaging and is aware this is popular in sports in America. However this may not be something that UK supporters would appreciate.

The Club commented that O2 is making a £1,000,000 investment to improve the 3G signal. This should be in place by the end of October but the Club wants to make sure it is all working properly before formally announcing the development.

The “Champions of Europe” publication was trialled electronically but again the Club wants to make sure there is the demand and that the quality is very high before rolling this out with other publications. The Club is considering publishing the magazine electronically. QR codes have been used at times but not regularly. The Club notes that supporters may be interested in that for the future.

One supporter asked about the introduction of barcode entry to matches from mobile phones. The Club commented that with group bookings all members of that group would have to enter the stadium together which isn’t always possible.

With all of these aspects the Club stated that its strategy is to be forward thinking whilst ensuring that services are of a high standard.

The Club will consider the best method of supporter engagement and feedback for its digital services.

MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING/ MATTERS ARISING
There were no changes to the minutes. As regards action points from the last meeting:

Analysis of match-going fan base
The Club commented that the main statistic available is that 20% of Chelsea supporters live within ten miles of the stadium. That apart, analysis of statistics could mean anything – by gender, age, for instance. One supporter said that information on ticket sales analysis was available on Liverpool’s website which is where the request came from. Such information may be useful if the Club intends to move.

The Club added it is aware that a younger fan base attends cup matches and the West Upper tends to sell first for cup matches.

Betting partner
The Club did not renew its contract with 188Bet and for now the partner is BD Sport. The Club suggests that fans see how the new products settle in and BD Sport could provide a representative for a future meeting if requested by members.

Internal Club media discussion
Steve Atkins is responsible for external media and Emma Wilkinson is responsible for the Foundation and internal Club media. Emma is happy to attend a Forum meeting.

Forum communications
The Club commented that this was reviewed in the summer and the Club wants to continue with the Forum. Ron Gourlay will now have more flexibility as to whether he attends Forum meetings but will not be considered a permanent member. Ron will want to increase communications with supporter groups directly. In response to a question the Club commented that Ron could consider attending a supporter question and answer session. The Chair added that chief executives have often not attended our meetings in the past so this isn’t a completely new development.

Supporters said that there appeared to be Club criticism of the role of the Forum last season yet there have only been minor changes, apart from Ron not attending as much. Forum members expressed that they are happy to help in whatever way assists the Club.

The Club responded that it didn’t consider that Ron was being critical but he had stressed that the role of the Forum needed to be reviewed. In effect the Club carried out that review in the summer and concluded that the Forum had an important role in reviewing largely domestic/ stadium-based issues. Directors and senior officials will continue to feedback issues from the Forum to their colleagues and will be as transparent as possible regarding the reasons for decisions.

ANY OTHER BUSINESS

Possible stadium move
In response to a question, the Club said it had been unsuccessful in its bid regarding Battersea and it continues to monitor possibilities in the area, of which there are few. No decision has been made to leave Stamford Bridge and there is no intention of moving outside the area. The Club has taken on board comments from fans from last year and has been as open as possible regarding intentions. For instance the Club didn’t have to announce its bid for the Battersea site but wanted to be open about it.

Disabled viewpoints
One supporter commented that the majority of disabled viewpoints are at pitch level and many disabled fans want to be higher up.

The Club responded that legislation was followed when the stands at Stamford Bridge were built. There are problems admittedly at present though there are platforms in the away end and in the Matthew Harding Upper. Without major changes at present, the positions can’t be altered. If we move to a new stadium then full legislation will be followed and the disabled seating will be considered carefully.

One supporter asked about the Council’s attitude to redeveloping the stadium. The Club responded that it would be happy to discuss with the Council economically viable plans to expand stadium capacity. There would probably be strong opinions expressed by local residents about proposals to increase capacity. Also, possible expansion does not appear to be economically viable at the moment. The Earl’s Court site doesn’t appear to be available at present.

Hillsborough chants/ policing away fans
In response to a question, the Club commented that the ground is relatively easier to police for bigger matches as the home areas are sold out to ST holders and members only. Some members were suspended after the FA Cup semi-final for their behaviour during the minute silence for Hillsborough. The Club makes specific announcements for particular matches for different reasons, including the QPR matches recently and Spurs matches. The Club is planning to publicise the request not to make derogatory chants about Hillsborough, which dishonours the memory of anyone involved in the tragedy. Robbie will probably mention this message as well.

One supporter commented that the Club request for good behaviour at the QPR match appeared to be taken on board by supporters. The Club added that our fans generally policed themselves at the semi-final when a small number of supporters abused the minute’s silence.

Supporters asked if the Club was going to publish the comments requested from the Forum about Hillsborough. The Club will check the outcome of the request for fans’ comments on the subject.

Other supporters commented that the behaviour of Liverpool fans here has been particularly bad including abuse aimed at disabled supporters and the family stand. The Club commented that Liverpool’s allocation was cut slightly last season and it is aware of the volatile atmosphere at that match. Security is increased for matches such as that. Security was also increased for the Juventus home match.

One supporter asked if the Club would consider a mention on the PA particularly for Champions League (“UCL”) matches telling away fans that they are next to the family stand. This may deter chanting targeted by away fans towards that area. The Club responded that the family stand can be one of the last areas to sell out for big matches as many families move for domestic or UCL cup matches. The Club rejected the option of having away fans in upper tiers above home fans, for the reasons discussed at the Forum in previous seasons. There are seldom problems around the away area on the way into Stamford Bridge.

One supporter commented that our fans’ behaviour in Barcelona was poor.

Water fountains in the stadium
One supporter suggested that the Club could replicate the Olympics initiative of having free water fountains inside the stadium. The Club responded that at present empty bottles without lids can be brought in so this suggestion probably wouldn’t work. Also, the Olympics took place in the summer when it was hotter.

End of half-time announcement
One supporter asked if some kind of warning could be given that the second half is about to begin either with a bell or announcement.

The Club will consider this.

West Lower turnstiles
One supporter noted that there is a gap between the swipe card reader and the turnstiles when entering the West Lower. This stops the system working smoothly. The Club responded that in the summer two new banks of turnstiles were installed which are much nearer the swipe points. Other turnstiles will be replaced when they break down. There has been an investment in turnstiles in the West Stand and in the away end. The situation seems to have improved in the last few seasons generally regarding access issues in the stadium.

Away ST scheme
One supporter asked if scheme members, who can’t go to a few matches, can remain in the scheme. The Club responded that the scheme is there for those who generally go to all away matches. Some on the scheme allow friends to use their tickets although the scheme member is still responsible for that friend’s behaviour when using the ticket.

UCL DVD
It was asked why HMV were selling the DVD for around £4-5 less than through the Club. The Club responded that retailers can sell at whatever price they want including reducing the price straightaway. The Club only provides a recommended retail price.

Twitter
One supporter asked if there was a Club code of conduct for this, in the light of Ashley Cole’s tweet yesterday. The Club responded that it has a robust social media policy and this incident would be dealt with in line with the policy. The Club encourages whatever platforms the players wish to use for communication but they are warned as to its use and are given a list of topics on which they mustn’t comment.

One supporter asked what happened with the abuse aimed at Mikel on Twitter. The Club responded that Mikel tried Twitter but didn’t take to it and decided to come off. By chance Mikel deleted his account on the morning on which he received abuse, after the Juventus game, but he hadn’t looked at his account since before that match. The Club became aware of two racist tweets from Chelsea fans which were reported to the police and there is consequently a police investigation in operation. The Club informed the player so he could give a statement to the police.

Forum members asked the Club to pass on their full support to Mikel in the light of unwarranted abuse, whether racist or not.

Supporters said they were pleased to hear that social media was encouraged for the players to utilise. The Club said it recognised that fans want to hear directly from players and that it considered that the policy was sufficient. This area of communication will keep developing at a rapid pace.

Supporters commented that, up to yesterday, Ashley had shown remarkable restraint and humour given the publicity he’s received.

TV pilot programme
Supporters noted they had received an invitation to a new football discussion show. Some were considering attending.

Email links
The chair reiterated that Forum members who receive emails via the Club link are encouraged to bring relevant comments and questions to the meeting.

Safe standing campaign
One supporter asked about the Club’s stance, in the light of the campaign run by the Football Supporters’ Federation to increase awareness, and given that other Premier League (“FAPL”) clubs were considering the initiative. The proposal is for the system used in Germany with flip-up seats that could be pushed back. The Club responded that it had not considered the campaign and it was not on the agenda at the last FAPL shareholders meeting.

Supporters acknowledged that there was a difficult political perception to overcome in bringing back standing. However in the light of the Hillsborough findings this may be a more opportune time to reconsider the proposals. The Club said it did not see particular support growing for this amongst the authorities and there would need to be a legislative change first.

Stewarding in the MH Lower
One supporter commented that there were problems around Gate 12 for the Stoke match, at which stewarding was unnecessarily aggressive. Long-standing fans were annoyed with it. The Club said it had a feedback system in place and is aware of some incidents that are now being investigated.

Headline in the Independent
One supporter asked how the Club was responding to the “Captain Leader Legend Racist” newspaper headline about John Terry. This goes far beyond responsible journalism and the Chelsea Supporters Group sent a strong letter to the paper complaining. The Club commented that it was aware of the article but can’t say much as John’s case is an on-going process. John has until 18 October to decide whether to appeal the FA decision.

Facebook supporter clubs
It was commented that there is now a Facebook supporter group. In light of that, would the Facebook group receive tickets? The Club confirmed that Facebook groups do not receive tickets and it monitors Facebook use to ensure that tickets are not advertised via that medium. Facebook is an entry level tier of membership which does not entitle our Facebook followers to receive tickets.

Thomas Cook travel to UCL matches
It was expressed by one supporter that Thomas Cook has lost the trust of fans as some had to go via Frankfurt and other destinations for what should be a straightforward journey to Copenhagen. Also Thomas Cook prices for that trip appeared to be in excess of what the journeys should have cost. In addition the Shakhtar Donetsk travel plans have changed. The Club responded that it was in no one’s interest to cancel trips but there have to be minimum numbers travelling.

A Thomas Cook representative will be invited to a Forum meeting to address these issues.

Stadium opening time
One supporter commented that last season the Forum suggested opening gates and facilities much earlier, to help fans and to assist the Club increase revenue as well. However recently staff in the stadium were not aware of the opening times as advertised, for instance for the Juventus, Reading and Newcastle matches. This was a particular problem with vouchers to be used before certain matches. In addition the pumps were almost empty when one of the bars opened for an afternoon match recently.

The Club responded that the standard timing is an hour and a half before kick-off for evening matches. The Club will review internal communication for opening times and will inform the staff of the problems with beer availability.

Viagogo
The Club stated that Viagogo sales seemed to be up slightly for the first games of this season.

Subsidy for away travel
The Club commented that it was open to proposals for subsidised away travel. This took place occasionally in the past, particularly for match times that entail difficult journeys for fans either there or back. Everton away could be a problem at New Year.

The Club would review this option.

Napoli away
In the light of transport and safety problems last season, the Club commented that it took up these issues with the UEFA security delegate and the Club raised it again in a security conference in Vienna in September. The Club has also written to authorities. The matter has been delegated to a security official to respond to us. It may prove to be a police matter. For the Juventus match, the Club has emphasised the problems we encountered previously and that our fans must be treated with respect. We have been told that there will be a similar system for transport to the stadium, but that it will operate efficiently this time. We have sent a team to undertake reconnaissance there, as we always do before UCL matches.

Topics for the rest of the season
It was agreed that ticketing and Thomas Cook would most likely be the main topics at the second meeting, with Emma Wilkinson and the survey results as the topics for the third meeting.

One supporter asked if communication with overseas supporters could be a topic. The Club responded that there is already a supporter club forum to discuss that issue. Forum members indicated that they considered domestic issues to be more relevant for this Forum but they are keen to play a role in helping to promote the Club worldwide. Many fans groups commented that they already play a large role in promoting the Club to newcomers domestically and overseas.

Next meetings
The chairman commented that we couldn’t be sure yet of the next meeting date but it is likely to be in January. It was requested that AOB items are submitted in advance so the Club has a chance to prepare its responses. Club officials have requested that they are not copied in to general Forum emails given the volume of emails they receive anyway. Fans’ groups were requested not to publish their own accounts of the meeting prior to minutes being published.

(The meeting ended at 12.40pm.)