Joys & Sorrows – Birmingham City Football Club Supporters’ Forum: November 2017

Joys and Sorrows were proud to attend the most recent Supporters’ Forum on 27th November  2017.

Location: The Legends Lounge, St. Andrews.

Chair: Rachele Johnson, Supporters’ Liaison Officer.

BCFC Representatives: Roger Lloyd (Senior Finance Officer), David Hoult (Safety Officer), Colin Tattum (Head of Media and Communication), Wayne Cowan (Head of Ticketing and Retail), Ian Dutton (Head of Commercial), Sharon Byrne (Head of Retail/Catering). APOLOGIES: Dong Ren (CEO & Director).

Supporter Group Representatives: Lynda Courts (Redditch Blues), Dave Smith (BCFC Fan Forum), Chris Sinclair (Northside Blues), Bik Singh (Blues4All), Linda Goodman (Birmingham), Tony Routely (Central Blues Travel), Richard Stanley and Cliff Horrocks (Blues Trust), Nick Glynn (East Midlands), Russell Dempsey (Joys and Sorrows), Steve Portman (Accessiblues).  APOLOGIES: Micky Singh.

Unaffiliated Supporter Representatives (2017/18): Emma Willock, Richard Cox, Mark Smith, Clare Normanton, Stuart Brereton.  APOLOGIES: Jordan Rushton, Andrew Orgill.

Agenda: 

  1. Introductions
  2. Club
  3. Matchdays and Facilities
  4. Ticketing
  5. Commercial
  6. Retail
  7. Catering
  8. Marketing
  9. Media
  10. Safety
  11. AOB

Introductions – Rachele Johnson

Fans were welcomed to the club on a chilly Monday evening, and thanked for giving their time to the club on behalf of fans from a broad spectrum of areas, geographic and demographic.  It was good to see so many members of senior Blues staff in attendance.  Dong Ren’s apologies were passed on.  It is disappointing that he wasn’t present, but it is hoped he will attend a future forum.

Club

  • The recently released accounts for Birmingham Sports Holdings refer to a Share Option Scheme.  According to the accounts…”the purpose of the Share Option Scheme is to enable the company to provide participants with the opportunity to acquire proprietary interests in the company and encourage participants to work towards enhancing the value of the company, and its shares for the benefit of the company and shareholders…”  It also states, “participants of the SOS comprise of customers.” As customers of the BSH group, does this include Supporters’ Organisastions? (Blues Trust)

Roger Lloyd – It is unusual for customers to be involved in a Share Option Scheme…I have requested clarification on this from Hong Kong…

  • In light of the well-publicised issues surrounding (heavy handed) policing at our last 5:30pm kick-off match at Millwall, what assurances have the Club sought that there will be no repeat at Sheffield United and Fulham? (Blues Trust)

David Hoult – Police have to anticipate and plan in advance.  I was in attendance in Sheffield, and believe our fans were policed correctly and professionally.  It is police action and not club action, so fans should raise issues in the first instance with the relevant police authorities.

  • Emails were sent before the Villa game telling us to behave.  Whose decision was this, why was it done and can the Club reassure fans that this exercise will not be repeated? It is insulting to 99.9% of fans…(East Midlands)

Roger Lloyd & David Hoult – It had to be a blanket email to get the message to the ‘problem people’.  All present acknowledge that Blues – like all clubs – have ‘problem people’ “Who aren’t supporters anyway!”

Colin Tattum – We’re not tarring every Blues fan with the same brush, there was a disclaimer in the email, acknowledging that the majority of fans do not act in this way, so the email targeted the minority.

It was conceded, however, that the email could cause offence to some, and – while the email was sent with the best of intentions – future emails with similar intentions would be worded as carefully as possible to avoid insulting genuine supporters whilst doing the utmost to deter negative behaviour by the intended audience of the ‘warning’…

Matchdays and Facilities

  • When will we be modernising our floodlights so that the goal line technology works? (Russell Dempsey, Joys and Sorrows)

Hawkeye technology is up to Football League regulation, and the Luxe Level of the floodlights has been upgraded to the required standard since the Cardiff home match on 13th October 2017.

  • Can anything be done to protect the areas around the stadium?  A lot of cars are being broken into, particularly on the evening games which may deter fans from coming.  I understand it isn’t down to the Club but if something could be arranged with the Police to patrol the local area to put opportunist criminals off? (Jordan Rushton)

David Hoult – I’ll ask Special Constables – who have had their own share of cutbacks of late – if there’s anything they can do. I’d ask all fans to log all incidents with the police…whether acts of vandalism or theft, as this will help the police in dealing with such incidents, when they’re aware of the true scale of the problem.

The Club confirm that the previous partnership with ‘Wheels’ no longer exists – though parking is still available with them – it is no longer in affiliation with BCFC…

Ian Dutton – Bordesley Village School have offered us the use of their premises for parking, so that will alleviate matters a little…we are also in consultation with a private company, looking into a partnership whereby fans can book parking slots online, in secure parking areas in local schools, etc…this is in the very early stages.

Wayne Cowan – The Club is presently looking at a parking zone for home coaches.

  • Several of our away games have already been changed from a 3 p.m. kick off.  Whilst we appreciate the Club have little say if it’s for TV, why did the Club agree to Reading and Bolton requests to move their games from prime Bank Holiday dates to midweek evening fixtures?  What consideration ws given to the inconvenience and cost to the travelling supporters, many of whom may not now be able to attend or have the time off work? (Linda Goodman, Birmingham)

Colin Tattum – This was agreed, with regard to the turnaround of fixtures and to help with training and preparation of the team.  All three teams felt it was in their mutual interests.  It may well be of no consolation to the fans, but the management team at the time of the requests were in agreement so said yes.  They were under no obligation to do so, and would have said no, were it felt it would be detrimental to the team, which came first in this instance.

  • When is the PA system  going to be updated?  It is embarrassing frankly.  (Andrew Orgill)

David Hoult – This is probably largely due to the interference noise that has crept in recently.  It is being investigated by ‘ASL’ who did the PA system.

Rachele Johnson – The Operations Director is looking into it too, as are engineers.  It does indeed need sorting, so will be asap…

  • Quite a few years back, the stadium announcer had great timing in getting Mr Blues Sky playing until the end, we all started clapping and then straight into the Tamperer as the teams came out.  But now it gets played and abandoned before the end to show the video.  Maybe they could reverse that order, so Mr Blue Sky gets played to the end just before Tamperer.  It helps with the atmosphere I think. Maybe more fun songs to sing along to from 2.30 p.m. as well. (BCFC Fans Forum)

Rachele Johnson – This is being looked into.  Newer tracks have recently been included.  Fans are welcome to submit suggestions!  There are limits, however, due to the referee being in charge of timing slightly before or after 3 p.m. kick off, for example, or if the visiting team are slightly late exiting the dressing rooms.

Colin Tattum – The big screen has been utilised for playing goals, etc., which helps…

  • Clappers? (Russell Dempsey, Joys and Sorrows/Emma Willock)

David Hoult – I can’t disagree that it was a mistake.

Roger Lloyd – The Board requested that we attempt to heighten the atmosphere but we didn’t anticipate (due to previous,more successful) usage of the clappers in such volume as missiles.  We know it isn’t everyone’s method of supporting the team, and they won’t be used again.  The FA and police have made representations to the club about the clappers, but the police had been made fully aware from the moment the clappers were ‘thought up’ and knew what was happening with them.  The police agreed, with the ‘proviso’ that they wouldn’t be used in Blocks 39 and 40, so they weren’t.  West Midlands Police – via Aston’s Police Twitter feed – denied prior knowledge of their deployment, but the commander of the force on the matchday was made aware of this mistake, so as to avoid any repetition, as it was obviously untrue.

Ian Dutton – It was a Club decision, following a Board request.  It was made – along with pyrotechnics, flags, balloon, to heighten atmosphere, “with the club’s best interests at heart.”

  • When are we going to trial safe standing?  There is a desire from many fans for safe standing, the Club cannot simply say “no” – we ARE the Club and our views on this have to be considered. (East Midlands)

Roger Lloyd – I was at a Football League meeting today, and this was discussed.  Celtic are the only club that allow it at the minute, though Shrewsbury are in the process of looking at a trial, but the government refused the issue as recently as February 2017, “unconvinced by the case for safe standing…would monitor the situation at Celtic.”  The Football League are in consultation with the Minister for Sport.

  • Has the Club spoken to the Met Police about the insertion of police horses at Millwall?  Much of the Media was inflammatory and wrong.  Blues fans were however, put at serious risk by Police actions. (East Midlands)

Roger Lloyd – If you were there, please let the Birmingham Mail know what actually happened!

Ticketing

  • Why does the Club not move to e-tickets as an option to solve queuing?  (Russell Dempsey, Joys and Sorrows)

Wayne Cowan – This is being worked on.  Our app providers and Ticketmaster are in talks for a January trial run and a roll-out next season…

Commercial

  • Last season a substantial number of tickets for the game at Villa Park were made available to the Commercial Department for Executive Packages which resulted in people who rarely/never attend away games going to this match.  However, Travel Club members even some of those who had Silver status were unable to purchase due to lack of availability.   Can we please have confirmation that this season Travel Members will be given priority over Executive trips?  (Linda Goodman, Birmingham)

Ian Dutton – This is a fair point.  We have listened to feedback.  No executive coached will be going to Villa Park this season.

Retail

  • Is there any way of Season Ticket holders getting money off Adidas products?  I am happy with the voucher booklet this season but when it can’t be used on Adidas which is easily over 50% of the products sold by the Club it doesn’t seem like much of a reward. (Jordan Rushton)

Wayne Cowan – The margin on Adidas goods isn’t high enough for us to be able to offer a discount, unfortunately.

  • I went to the Club shop to buy the black goalkeeper’s jersey.  I was told this wouldn’t be available.  I then decided to go for the white away shirt only to be told they didn’t have it in Medium and it was likely it would take a few months before they came back into stock.  I’m astonished by this as it’s a common size and this was 1 week before the Villa game.  I may have been misinformed but no fan should have to wait that long for an in-season kit to be replenished. (Blues4All)

Wayne Cowan – The goalkeeper kit usually only sells about 40 adult shirts a season.  This season, we sold out of our 50/60 allocation really quickly.  Adidas couldn’t replenish it!  The away shirts did sell well, and we placed an additional order with Adidas.  We have been fully stocked, barring a 2/3 week period.  It is unclear where ‘a few months’ quote came from.  There is a new functionality on The Blues App where you can ask it to let you know when an item is back in stock…

Catering

  • The catering for the ground is quite good, especially the Cookhouse, but the areas where catering is available are drab and in winter very cold.  Can something be done in those areas to make it more appealing? We are stuck with the design of the ground, perhaps…(BCFC Fans Forum)

David Hoult – Fans can submit ideas if they have any practical ones.  The Chief Exec said, “The challenge is with the space available, like the example with the Fan Zone which is amazing during the warmer Summer months.”  Catering is continuously being looked at.

Marketing

  • Half-time presentations always seem to be done directly in front of the dugouts.  I sit in the Kop and it would be nice to be able to see the special guests.  Maybe they can be done more towards the centre circle? (BCFC Fans Forum)

Rachele Johnson – Taken on board…someone will also be going around the stadium, sharing the 888 competition around the stands…(following a suggestion from Nick) we could look into a transparent 888 banner so Tilton fans can see the ‘action’.

  • Can the BCFC announcer return to just normal, respectful announcements on opposition substitutions?   It was funny 10 years ago, not now.  (Richard Cox)

This was voted down by the Forum, as it was overwhelmingly felt the announcer did an excellent job, and was seen as uniquely Blues, and not at all disrespectful!

Media

  • We were told that Blues TV would be showing live Under 23s and Ladies on selected matches but there doesn’t seem to have been any of these matches.  Are there any plans to give subscribers the chance to see any more of these matches than has been the case so far? (BCFC Fans Forum)

Colin Tattum – Last Friday’s game was broadcast.  UK fans don’t get men’s games.  We have shown Millwall and Colchester games in August and September for example.  The women’s games are bound by a league deal with BT Sport.  We have shown approximately 65-70% of the U23 games, and even some U18 FA Youth Cup matches, plus some pre-season friendlies.

  • Half-hearted or non-existent security searches are an issue.  I’ve got through with a bag on my shoulder that wasn’t checked, fortunately it only had snacks and drinks for my two lads.  I’m all for getting in the ground quickly but in this day and age I would rather have the peace of mind that checks have been as thorough as they can be. (BCFC Fans Forum)

David Hoult – This is not in my briefing to security staff.   It will be reiterated.  Apologies to fans who have had this experience.

AOB

  • QPR usually provide 3 wheelchair spaces.  Will the Club seek more, with 10 regular users seeking places?  QPR’s SLO says they give other clubs more! (Steve Portman)

Rachele Johnson – We will speak to our counterparts at QPR…

  • How many tickets will Wolves fans have?  Why more than Villa had?(Chris Sinclair)

Roger Lloyd – Simply put, Wolves offer us 2,500 so we offer the same.  Villa will only offer us 2,100 so we can only offer them the same…

  • Is there a link between the training pitches at Wast Hills and our hamstring injury ‘crisis’? (Lynda Courts)

Roger Lloyd – A cleg hammer was used, which verified that Wast Hills’ surfaces match those at St. Andrews.

  • Re: Away stewarding, often nothing done about spitting, assaults and racist comments.  Told to tell the police by stewards, and the police do nothing.  (Tony Routely)

David Hoult – Always worth reporting this to the police after the event, or to the club concerned.  Forward to Rachele Johnson if no response is received.

  • Is the reciprocal stewarding scheme still in operation? (Russell Dempsey, Joys and Sorrows)

David Hoult – Yes, very good for meeting and greeting fans, and we have used them, and will use them at Villa, Wolves and Boro…

  • A final point of business was to ask the Blues panel why – given the positive ‘start’ the new Board had made in their public ‘backing’ of Steve Cotterill at his Press Conference – their visibility had lacked somewhat in consistency (THE FORUM)…

Roger Lloyd – It’s their decision ultimately, about being public facing, we can’t force them into making appearances.

Rachele Johnson – Dong and Edward are at matches all the time, and are both active on Twitter…

Colin Tattum – They’re damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.  He(Dong)’s not hiding away.  Do we really need him commenting after every match?

(Russell’s editorial – I think the balance that needs to be struck is midway between Yeung’s silent years and Tony Xia’s blabber mouth syndrome)

🙂

Thanks to Rachele Johnson, Roger Lloyd and colleagues for providing the venue and for being so open and friendly.

It was a pleasure representing this Forum and seeing for myself just how dedicated these people are to OUR club.  Many people knock the engagement the Club have with fans, but this Forum is a HUGE step in the right direction, engaging Supporters Clubs, online forums like this one, and fans with no affiliation beyond being Birmingham City Supporters.  They are up front about all issues put to them too, and the Heads of Department are always available to answer questions.  If you have any comments, please leave them below or post them in the Forum!

Keep Right On!

Russell Dempsey

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3 Comments on Joys & Sorrows – Birmingham City Football Club Supporters’ Forum: November 2017

  1. Why offer Wolves fans more tix than Villa fans….cuz Wolves fans are nicer =D I am biased though.
    Praise to the club for their diplomatic response 😉
    Great work luv!!

  2. From a Bluenose since 1955 now living in Canada thanks for this information. These sessions are important. On another note I return to see Blues almost every year, health permitting. Sadly I no longer go to away games because every fan stands up. I am 71 and want to sit to see the game (standing for great plays and goals of course). Away fans do not respect this and stadiums do not enforce it for away fans.

  3. Eric – you’re welcome. Thanks for the positive comment. Try front row seating!! 🙂

    Only 71? You’re still a spring chicken, and can remember all of Blues’ trophy wins 😉 Bet you can’t remember Villa’s last win though 😉

    Keep Right On, and long may you journey on!

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