Joys and Sorrows were proud to attend the Supporters’ Forum on 22nd November 2016. Chaired by David Boston, Customer Services Manager and Supporter Liaison Officer.
Location: Legends Lounge, St Andrews.
Chair: David Boston (SLO) – BCFC
BCFC Representatives: Panos Pavlakis (Director), Roger Lloyd (Senior Finance Officer), Joanne Allsopp (Chief Coordinating Officer), Julia Shelton (Club Secretary), Ian Dutton (Head of Commercial), Colin Tattum (Head of Media & Communication), Jess Taylor (Marketing Manager), Dave Hoult (Safety Officer), Michelle Daly (Head of HR), Wayne Cowen (Head of Ticketing & Retail), Sharon Byrne (Catering Manager).
Supporter Group Representatives: Richard Stanley (Blues Trust), Lynda Courts (Redditch Blues), Russell Dempsey (Joys and Sorrows), Linda Goodman (Birmingham), Chris Sinclair (Northside Blues), Tony Routely (Central Blues Travel), John Griffin (North West Blues), Dave Smith (Official BCFC Forum).
Unaffiliated Supporter Representatives (2016/17): Sam Court, Paul Barber, Adam Pownall, Emma Wilcock, Clare Normanton, Brian Chapman, Andrew Orgill, Susan Smith.
- Parking Update
- Media and Communication
- Match Days & Facilities
Introductions – Dave Boston
Dave Boston introduced all members of the ‘audience’ to the representatives of BCFC, who – as you can see above – were very well represented at administrative management level. The club are to be congratulated for their efforts in ensuring the engagement of fans in accordance with ‘Regulation 111’ of the EFL.
Parking Update – Dave Boston
As has recently been reported in the Birmingham Mail, 2850 residents local to St Andrews were asked whether or not they were in favour of a residents’ parking scheme, by Birmingham City Council. Only 435 (15%) residents responded, but 81% of those were AGAINST a residents’ parking scheme, so parking on match days should be no more problematic than normal.
- Like most Blues fans Blues Trust would like an indication of how things might change for the better under the new regime. ( John Griffin)
PP: “Whilst the takeover by TTA took place formally on 17th October, TTA have been here for some time…money has been committed including such projects as the Dome at the training ground, to attract kids to our academy, improvements to the big screen, the managers’ dugouts, players’ tunnel updated for the first time since 2002 and for the first time in 3 years, cash was spent on fees for players coming into the club…Lafferty, Buckley, Fabbrini, Adams.”
- Is it true, as some reports have suggested that TTA’s overall objective is to sell BIHL after putting it on a sound financial footing? How does TTA intend to do this, over what timescale, and how will this affect the football club? (Richard Stanley)
Richard added: “Five years of uncertainty have now been followed by a little stability. Fans acknowledge the reality but ask if there is any promise of future stability?” PP: “Our new owner has committed to two years with no change. It would previously have been unheard of, in recent times, for the likes of Adidas, 888 Sport and No 5 Chambers to be willing to associate with our club…”
CT: “The Board have asked Gary Rowett what he needs at the training ground…that is an indication that the new regime are in it for the long haul, not simply looking to make a ‘sharp exit’.”
- Are the new owners/management open to fan representation at Board level through a constitutionally structured fans representative body. (Richard Stanley)
RL: “TTA didn’t compulsorily buy minority shares, so fans do still own part of the club but in the short term, there are no plans for fans to sit on the board.”
- Limited choice of ladies wear in the shop and no ladies fit replica shirts! There is no visible ladies’ section recently (Lynda Courts)
WC: “The more stock we have that appeals, the more sells, we would welcome further input on it from fans.”
- Lots of new designs for men/ladies/kids just have the small sewn on rectangular badge not the proper ball & globe. Hats just have a metal badge attached!! Are fans ever consulted on what ranges are introduced?? (Lynda Courts)
JT: “We were trying to please all fans. Our half season survey will be run to help achieve that aim.” WC: “Adidas Global make Chelsea and Manchester United’s kits, and Adidas UK make every other football club’s kit, including BCFC’s. The decision to embroider and/or iron on badges lies with them.” There was also discussion around the size of the badge, that basically confirmed that some fans prefer larger, and some prefer smaller…you can’t please everybody all of the time!!
- What plans does the club have to increase attendances at matches? Does the club recognize that Supporters groups can help do this by strengthening the bond between supporters and club? If so, are the club willing to help Supporters groups by publicising their activities on its website, in matchday programmes, by adverts on the big screen and half time features (Richard Stanley)
Dave Boston said supporters groups could approach him with suitable ideas for appropriate advertising for their initiatives, particularly if they supported charitable organisations or would benefit the club and group’s profile mutually.
WC: “We led a complete review of our pricing, three seasons ago, the BBC price of football confirms Birmingham City offer the cheapest single adult ticket in the division at £15 and the third cheapest season ticket in the division, behind only Wigan and Huddersfield. Blues have been praised for the cheapest match day experience with offers such as £15 anywhere in the stadium against Rotherham and 2-4-1 offers in forthcoming matches against Brighton and Ipswich…Blues have also offered free tickets to targeted groups such as troops, but the fact remains that 7,000 more fans came to the Aston Villa game than came to the Bristol City game.
- Season ticket holders including myself have never received notification this season of their Away Priority as in previous seasons. A small point but supporters would like to know their status. (John Griffin)
WC: “Any supporter who didn’t receive notification should contact the ticket office immediately, to ensure their correct email address is stored as every supporter should have been sent an email…
- Attempted to book x4 tickets for Saturday but for 2 days now (Saturday/ Monday) nobody is answering the phones, the type of tickets we require can only be booked by phone. (Dave Smith – all his points are on behalf of members of the official BCFC forum)
WC: “Opening hours are 9-5, Monday to Friday. Outside those hours, Ticketmaster should take the call…this issue will be looked into, though it is hoped it is a ‘one-off'”
- Suggestions of links with smaller local clubs like Redditch United and Solihull Moors – the friendly with Solihull was really well attended and so should have more like this, should be discounts for BCFC season ticket holders to attend their games when Blues are not playing or are playing away. (Lynda Courts)
Solihull Moors already run a £4 off for Blues season ticket holders on Blues away days. BCFC will look into the potential of reciprocal offers with other clubs, though pointed out how the friendly has always been utilised in pre-seasons of recent years for this specific reason.
- Mobile tickets, surely in this day and age the club should be able to accept a copy of the ticket on a phone rather than it having to be physically printed? (Russell Dempsey, Joys and Sorrows)
WC: “Indoors (like in the cinema) it is easier, but outdoors, they have been assured, it is not so straight-forward due to screen glare. The risk of fans being turned away without ‘a valid ticket’ meant this was a non-starter for some years, though it was agreed this could be looked into again, as technology has moved on and the glare may not be such an issue…
- Why have the club removed the opportunity to earn Loyalty Points through the ‘code’ on the screen at the match? (Russell Dempsey, Joys and Sorrows)
JT: “Loyalty Portal Redemptions were looked at as an alternative and different social media competitions were trialled. The half season survey will gauge fans’ opinion on this issue so the club look forward to feedback…” The forum pointed out how the onscreen code rewarded fans who were at the match, rather than the ‘armchair fan’…
- Loyalty Points – I don’t like Loyalty Friday as not as easy to get points, limited ways to earn points now which is not as favourable, want points redeemable online ( Lynda Courts)
This point was dealt with as previously, and will be looked at, in the half season survey..
- In the Wiseman lounge at half time, one TV has repeats of TV programmes on it but with no sound what is that all about? (Dave Smith)
ID: “It won’t be repeated.” The humour and irony wasn’t lost on the forum.
Media and Communication
- We are still only getting the time and the score on the big screen. Is it too much to ask for the team line ups to be shown during the match as it used to along with any yellow or red cards issued. We know the score but don’t always know the other information. It is just a glorified score board at the moment. (Dave Smith)
CT: “We will look at its potential in the near future.” The whole panel acknowledged the potential for the new screen, and the amazing technology that underpinned it, so the possibilities are very positive.
- Some of the adverts shown on the big screen are too glaring at night matches when they have a white background. They are hard to look towards. Have any players complained about this because it must be off putting to them. It’s not like floodlights that are on all the time as the adverts flash on without warning. A darker background to the adverts is needed at night. (Dave Smith)
PP: “The big screen was an issue during the Preston game, so has been tweaked since then.” LC: “The Clarity advert is still very bright.” CT: We’d need to make sure this wasn’t an issue for the players, whilst understanding that certain advertisers use certain backgrounds, etc…”
- Do Blues pay the Living Wage to all employees? (Russell Dempsey, Joys and Sorrows)
MD: “We comply with all statutory guidance on the minimum and living wage so all our employees are on at least the living wage, yes”
- Half time catering – despite assurances at recent meetings, certain items are still running out (we were told that overstocks would be preferable to running out!) (Russell Dempsey, Joys and Sorrows)
SB: “We have a new system, which will help us to keep more stocks of most popular items and less of the least-selling items…” It was conceded by all that items selling it IS inevitable from time to time, but the club accepted that it was in its interests to minimise how often this happens….
- Contactless payment/ card payment in general – could this be implemented in the bars at all? In Belgium they have a system that is simple but very effective – they don’t take cash or cards or anything else at the point of sale. Instead they have kiosks around the ground where you pay for what you want and you are given a ticket (or multiple tickets) which you simply hand over in exchange for your drink or burger or whatever – no change to sort out, no card machines and no queues. (Russell Dempsey, Joys and Sorrows)
RL: “In the short term, there is no scope for contactless payment due to the prohibitive equipment setup charge.” Regarding tickets it was felt there would be a problem with offering change, or – more to the point – not offering change as food items cost differing amounts, and tickets would be for a fixed amount. There was also a potential implication that BCFC would have to pay costs on ticket sales for food items as a type of taxation…
- Real ale – serve straight from the keg beer festival style and as done at Fulham and Wembley (Dave Smith)
ID: “We would love to serve more of this…bottled real ale already implemented, which has a greater shelf life. Our new ‘The Happy Abode’ bar will have a new cooling system as a trial for real ale. Feedback would be welcomed and obviously if it sells, it will be retained!”
- Mobile vendors need to walk up the aisles more to cater for more customers (Dave Smith)
SB/DB: “Health and Safety issues are not good, with the stairs and the boxes, but the vendors DO go all around the stadium.”
Match Day and Facilities
- More hand driers required, particularly in ladies toilets by entrance 5 – there is 1 hand-drier (and no paper towels)- but 4 sinks and 9 toilet cubicles!! (Lynda Courts)
TTA are supportive of the need for upgrading utilities and the stadium infrastructure…
- Are there any plans to supply hot water, to the sinks in the toilets?” …..It is 2016 after all. (Dave Smith)
…It will cost an estimated £250,000 to bring the stadium up to 2016…
- You still need more shelves for drinks round circular pillars and along walls in concourse areas (Lynda Courts/Dave Smith)
DB: “There is a capital investment issue.” TTA are looking to upgrade facilities in general. DH: “I’m aware of head height for children and the need for walk space/clearance in concourse areas…this needs to be borne in mind when thinking about new shelving, etc. Dave Hoult has offered to walk around these areas with interested parties to collect suitable suggestions…
- Is there any talk of the Main Stand being re-developed or is this some way off? (Dave Smith)
JS: “In the short term, no. Investment will (in the main) go into the team. We need to fill our current ground and try to attain Premier League status first…”
- Is there any chance of some small ground improvements? Such as floodlighting (always seems sub-standard) or some new goal nets? The place seems tired and run-down and a bit of a spruce up is required. (Dave Smith)
The floodlights – we were assured – DO meet football league standards. The nets are on order for the season end.
- We have never had any sound on the old and single TV in the Kop bar and when they moved its position before this season they didn’t bother turning it on until one home game last month. They have then turned it off and its not been on since so since the season started its been on once. Big Screens with SOUND and TURN THEM ON and then play lots of the best moments of our glorious club. You may actually start to create a nice atmosphere before games and at HT or is this too much to ask? (Dave Smith)
DB: “We will ensure TV’s are working.” ID: Relevant footage and adverts will be played on them.” DH: “Health and Safety issue means that highlights can’t be shown in areas and times when people are likely to hang around, watching, and cause an obstruction…
The Tamperer was again raised. It had returned for the Aston Villa game, but ‘I’m So Sorry’ by Imagine Dragons remains the team’s first choice. This is still being looked into. RD pitched the Joys and Sorrows suggestion of a players’ shortlist the fans could vote on…
DS asked if e-cigarettes were indeed banned. They are, in all areas of the ground. Signage needs to be made more clear and DH said extra steward awareness and control room training can help this situation…
Thanks to Dave Boston and all the Blues management team 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.
Keep Right On!