The minutes from the Supporters' Consultative Group Meeting are now available...
Coventry City Football Club
Supporters’ Consultative Group Meeting
Thursday 24 April 2014, 6.30 p.m.
The Squirrel Pub, Coventry
Pat Abel - PA
Steve Barnett - SBA
Jim Brown - JB
Steve Brown - SBR
Nick Connoll (CCFC) - NC
Ian Davidson - via conference call - ID
Darren Davies - DD
Adam Dent (Advent Communications) - AD
Tim Fisher (CCFC) - TF
Kevin Heffernan - KH
Chris McGrath - CM
Jan Mokrzycki - JM
Kev Monks - KM
Pat Raybould - PR
Tynan Scope (CCFC) - TS
Ray Stephens - RS
Jonathan Strange - Chairman - JS
Apologies: Mark Sorbie
The meeting opened with a welcome from the chairman. He pointed out that Tynan had arranged with The Squirrel to use its Wi-Fi to enable Ian Davidson to participate from Kent. Peter Ward was planning, if possible, to arrive a little later. Chris McGrath agreed to take the minutes for this meeting as Elaine Ward was not available.
Matters Arising from the last meeting:
• Away Match ticket subsidy:
TS advised the meeting that the club planned to speak with other clubs during the close season to see if clubs could get an alignment of ticket prices for next season. He was hopeful that a lot of clubs would work together in this with an average of £20 per game.
• Match Commentary at the University Hospital, Walsgrave:
NC told the meeting that Sky Blue Player for the hospital is up and running. The hospital now need to contact the Club.
KH said there had been some changes at the hospital and there is a third tier to deal with. He is going to speak with the people who are responsible for the bed-head units to get things moving.
• MOTM Presentation:
NC will investigate the logistics of providing this on the club site/You Tube channel along with all other post-match content as of next season as he believes if it happens it must happen for every game.
• Diamond Club Coaches
TS confirmed that the club are committed to free and/or discounted coaches for Diamond Club members at selected matches during the 2014/15 season beginning with free travel at Wolves match in the 2013/14 season and the opening home match of the 2014/15 season. The club have provided free coach travel for all fans at the Oldham game, along with 'kids for a quid' for the coach travel to the Swindon match. PA asked what the uptake was for K.F.A.Q. Unfortunately there were no figures to hand. TS committed to providing this information once he had obtained it from Ticketing Manager Karen Bennett.
• SCG voluntary contributions for raffle prizes to raise funds for the continued running of JSB pre match arts and crafts, agreed at last meeting
Each member donated £5 which was given to PR to purchase items for this purpose
• There had been discontent at the publication on the Sky Blue Trust's website of an e-mail to Sandra Garlick and the nature of the views expressed about the SCG. This led to three unanimously adopted motions.
JS said: '...I suspect there are some who may be eagerly awaiting a very public spat between the SCG and the Trust. I do not believe that it would serve anyone's interests for this to happen. Those who sought to air such views in public without any reference to colleagues in the SCG who have championed and protected the Trust's involvement in the group have caused considerable offence. I trust that the time will come when the apologies and the public expression of commitment which we have requested will be forthcoming. I will of course be guided by the wishes of the group but I suggest that now is not the time to be pursuing resentments. The real issue, the one that should be uniting all fans is to see our football club return close to the heart of the city to which it belongs.'
Ian Barnes and Andy Powell have resigned from the group. We would like to put on record our thanks to both.
The timescale for releasing the minutes would be as follows: 72 hours to the chairman, a further 24 hours for the chairman’s attention and a further 24 hours for the attention of everyone else present. The minutes would then be available for release at 10.00 a.m. on Wednesday 30 April.
Information on Website:
JS circulated a draft copy of the biographies of each member to be included on the new SCG page. Additionally, JS asked for comments and amendments to a brief draft description of the SCG’s purpose. JS would discuss further suggestions with TS. JS agreed to KM’s suggestion that fans should be referred to as supporters and to two other amendments.
NC said that the three-line length of the biographies was appropriate in order to avoid scrolling down. JS apologised to those whose contributions he had needed to edit for reasons of length.
It was agreed that all amendments should be submitted in time for the final drafts of the biographies and the description of the SCG to be confirmed at the next meeting so that NC could adopt them on the website page soon afterwards.
It has been agreed that the contact email address for the SCG would be firstname.lastname@example.org. It is worth noting that this email address is not yet live but the group would be informed when it was and it would be communicated. TS asked if emails sent to the new SCG email address should go to JS first to be passed over to the group. JS said that he would discuss the responsibility for this with KH who had previously been responsible. It was felt there would be too many for one person to handle. Once we have set-up the initial email address we would have the opportunity to set-up more email addresses under @scg.co.uk, so that individual and/or specific members can receive relevant emails.
NC said that it was important that all aspects of the SCG page were made ready together.
TS felt there were not enough younger fans involved. The SCG needs to engage with them. TS, by way of example, said that the younger generation tend not to use emails but are more inclined to use different platforms, e.g. SnapChat, Twitter, Facebook etc and if for example the club wanted to communicate with younger fans via SnapChat the current demographic of the SCG wouldn’t be the right age demographic to consult with on such a matter. There are no younger members, we could do with more in the 18-20 and 30-40 group.
SBR felt that teenagers might be too young to join the group and attend the meetings on a regular basis, which can go on for a long time. Also it would mean them being out late at night, which might displease parents. They also may get bored pretty quickly. He suggested that we invite a younger fan as a guest to attend a meeting. SBR also suggested that Pat Raybould would be a useful member to connect with the younger fans via the JSBs. PR said she would speak to some of the younger ones and get ideas and suggestions from them.
It was suggested that maximum of 3 people be invited and SCG members were asked to forward suggestions to JS with any ideas of people who they thought might like to attend a meeting as a guest. Age groups early 20s, 30s and 40s.
JS asked TS for what he felt the club needed from the SCG.
TS’s vision highlighted:
• Consultation between the club and fans.
• Betterment of experience of supporters on match-days and non match-days.
• The need to address and follow up issues between meetings rather than leave everything until the monthly meeting. JS said we need to convey more positive achievements so that the public can recognise the potential of the group.
TF confirmed that Mark Labovitch had met with the Sky Blue Trust before the SCG meeting.
TF felt, after all that has passed this season, the club staying up will have been an immense achievement. The football model will continue to be the growth and foresting of local players. Some players may leave, coming to end of their contracts. TF has spoken at length with Steven Pressley who is extremely excited for next season - starting like their competitors on nil points. He hopes to get new players in for next season and as soon as possible - not wanting to wait too long so that he can get them into his way of working.
TF was asked if Callum Wilson was for sale. He categorically said “NO!” The club had received no offers at all from anyone and, besides, they would not be welcome. TF thought the Coventry Telegraph was being very mischievous in reporting that a deal had been done with Wolves.
TF reported that Mark Labovitch has been meeting various fans groups over the past weeks: the Trust today, the London Supporters, a further group of young fans also today.
TF talked about the Judicial Review. TF believed that whatever the outcome it would not provide a solution for the Ricoh Arena and hence why he had started along the Plan A pathway of building a new stadium, one of the principal problems being that ACL locked itself into long dated contracts with key counterparties, taking the cash up front to support ACL’s cash flow. The JR would not unlock the ACL situation. TF recalled that he had said that he thought ACL was likely ‘bust’ back in December 2012 and the council leaders had gone on the record saying that this was rubbish and that they had a ‘strong business’. If it transpires that ACL was in fact balance sheet and cash flow insolvent as TF had said then the council and councillors were in serious legal trouble supporting a loan for £14 million.
TF reported that Steven Pressley has learned a lot this season. SP has assessed the Academy, and there are some great players coming through but there are gaps at certain positions in certain age groups. These need to be filled – and there is a new recruitment policy and process. Steven is particularly animated by a couple of the age groups – where there is a rich vein of talent. Some of the loans have been very disappointing and haven't had the impact he expected from them. We have learned from that.
Ray Stephens said that Steven Pressley has stated he finds it difficult to get good loan players whilst there is a cloud over the club.
TF said it is a point well made but not completely true. The loans market depends on many factors including how the lending clubs think their player will benefit from a loan to another specific club considering both playing style and potential time for the loannee. It has less of a consideration on loans than permanent signings.
RS asked whether buying the Ricoh would be better financially despite the existing contracts with Compass etc.
TF - In theory, yes, but the real value is not just in the stadium but land enablement and what is around it. We would have to pick up big liabilities. The contracts with certain counterparties are a huge problem. It is not easy to unlock the Ricoh problem.
KH - If it were possible to agree access for low rent and get say, 50% of the revenue, would the Board consider a return to the Ricoh?
TF - A landlord who tries to kill the club off makes that decision very difficult. We can't trust the landlord.
ID - Asked TF what the latest was with the Football League.
TF - Two weeks ago there was an end of season report. The FL are supportive and appreciated the progress report and update on the new stadium. We have fulfilled our fixtures which was objective #1. We are talking constantly to the FL. Next season is about the football progression on the pitch and Steven Pressley.
TS added that if the FL had any concerns they would say so.
TF reminded everyone how close the end of the club had been on Aug 2nd 2013 and they had to take the action they did before it was too late. The FL had been very clear that they would potentially have 71 clubs for one season and then promote an extra club. That would have been the end of CCFC. TF stated that he thought the strategy from the council was the issue and that, in fact, the council had no idea what they were doing. The council had used advisors – the lawyers Walker-Morris and they had been very poor in their advice. TF said that this had been the second time that he had sat opposite Walker-Morris in football situations and now both times the lawyers had proved inadequate to their task. Why had the council used them?
ID asked about the Private Seat Licences, the bricks in the walls and the Memorial Garden
TF replied that they would come up with proposals for the Memorial Garden. The bricks also, when they have secured the land. They can't make any announcements until things are certain. TS stated that PSL holders still get the discounts on season tickets they were promised in the letter from the club at the beginning of this season. SBA asked whether this would work when renewing season tickets online. TS will check this.
ID asked why the North Stand at Sixfields wasn't going to be open next season. DD confirmed also he had received many messages and calls asking the same. There was a feeling that the club was shooting itself in the foot. We are trying to get fans to attend the matches and not antagonise them.
TS said that before any announcement was made not to open the North Stand the club attempted to contact all the season ticket holders in the stand. Those that were not spoken to were called several times. All but two of the season ticket holders spoken to were understanding of the reasons given.
It was confirmed that the East stand would be used by both corporate season ticket holders and season ticket holders and the South and West Stands would remain open.
TF suggested that this subject would become a separate discussion away from the meeting. All views would be respected. ID said he was happy with TF's suggestion, it was a point to come back to. The rest of the group agreed. SBA said that in previous years the club would have brought this up with the SCG before a decision was taken, to avoid this type of situation - but not this time. This should be a lesson learned. TF offered an unreserved apology - they were moving through untested waters.
TS added that in a normal situation the club would have consulted with the SCG on such a matter but due to the unique situation at Sixfields and with less than 60 season ticket holders in the North stand the club was in the position to be able to speak with these season ticket holders individually. If the situation was that the club needed to close a stand with several thousand fans in it then the SCG would be an ideal forum to discuss such a matter. However the club felt it more appropriate to speak directly with the season ticket holders as they would be the people directly affected.
JB asked if there was likely to be a fixture clash with Northampton next season. TF confirmed that the FL was aware of this. There should be no problems, he is confident there will be no clashes.
Stadium Forum Report:
SBA attended the last Stadium Forum as the SCG representative. To date no planning applications have been submitted. There are two sites being looked at but there isn't much difference between either. There is much pre-planning work to be done. It could take anything between 1 to 2 years once the ball gets rolling.
The next meeting will take place on Wednesday 7 May and Jan Mokrzycki will represent the SCG.
Any Other Business:
JS - When phoning the club, the voicemail announcement is from a woman with an American accent. He felt it was very alienating and didn't convey a connection to the club or to Coventry. References were made to Michelle Ridley and, before her, Rose McNulty.
TS said the recording was done by a local businesswoman and they certainly weren’t American but he would investigate further. He added that the club are looking at doing something different that would have a connection to the club.
SBR said that whenever he had visited the club shop the service was poor. ID added that when the London Supporters Club had purchased tickets, even 50-70 of them, the service was always first class. TS said he would feedback this information to the shop manager.
JS asked TS if he would contact MS to discuss the needs of the disabled supporters.
JB thought the club were very slow in getting the Moussa ‘goal that wasn’t’ at Rotherham resolved. After a lot of chasing of the FL the goal was finally given to Cyrus Christie. TS said that Pam Hindson had also contacted the FL although they weren't very forthcoming. NC said that pressure from the fans and the club help get this sorted out. The problem is the FL are very reticent to change match day decisions. KM said that Kieran Crowley, NC and Pam Hindson did a sterling job.
JB - The 50th Anniversary of the 3rd division Champions was being covered in the Coventry Telegraph and the programme for Saturday.
TS - The Agenda. He felt that any ideas/suggestions/queries/concerns that members of the SCG wanted to raise with the club should be given a specific slot on the agenda and not left to AOB when people were more focussed on the meeting finishing. JS agreed that a place would be designated in the centre of future agendas.
NC pointed out that the clock/scoreboard at Sixfields wasn't working for the last game and, despite the efforts of Northampton Town FC, it would not be working for the game against Wolves. He also pointed out that some of the links on the club website had briefly been unavailable due to development work carried out on all websites hosted by the Football League. This had soon been rectified and was a problem at the Football League’s end affecting all clubs.
KM thanked TS for putting together a specific menu for him for his dietary requirements for the end of season dinner.
SBA asked that the club needs to communicate to supporters that the PSL discounts still stand. TS will clarify this. SBA also asked whether a return to the Ricoh would be considered under a tight contract. TS said that this had been covered in the reply to an earlier question.
SBR said he appreciated the comments from JS re the relationship between the SCG and the Trust. The Trust are fully committed to the SCG which he suggested was clear from the SCG section on the Trust’s website.
SBR spoke about an idea for a united supporters march. This would be to persuade SISU, ACL and CCC to resolve their problems. If anyone has any ideas please pass them on to him. TS asked if there would be any speeches or politicians attending. SBR said no, there would not be.
JM- Some Coventry City fans were injured at Hillsborough at the FA Cup quarter final, two years before the Liverpool tragedy. The committee who are looking at the cause of the tragedy would like to talk to any fans who were injured. JM has the contact details of the police who are working on this enquiry. Please contact him if you know anyone. NC has offered any help by the club.
JM – asked whether we would have new away kit next season and whether fans could have a vote on the designs or input on the designs.
TS - the new away kit has been decided on. TF spoke very enthusiastically of the new kit. The group asked why the fans hadn't been included in the choice as has happened in the past. The problem now is that kit manufacturers present clubs with set templates. They have templates of designs which takes away choices. The final choices are put to the manager who has an input on his preferences.
TF said if anyone had any questions after the meeting to contact him by email, he would be more than happy to answer them. He wanted to put on record how he appreciated the mature stance taken by the chairman of the SCG and the chairman of the SBT.
KH asked if when the Irish branch of supporters wanted to buy tickets for away games they would still get priority as they have in the past. TS said he would confirm this with Karen, the ticket office manager.
KH wanted to commend the team and management for the excellent season, despite the 10 point deduction. And we hope that the team and club can go forward.
PA announced that Maureen O'Neill had passed away. Maureen had worked for the club for more than 30 years.
TS asked PA to tell the group how she had become involved with the club. It was through netball. She organised a pre-match netball match at Highfield Road in front of 36,000 fans. It was the largest attendance in the world for a netball match.
TS thanked CM for standing in for this meeting and taking the minutes.
Date of Next Meeting:
Thursday 22 May at 6:30 at The Squirrel Pub.