The minutes from the Supporters' Consultative Group meeting on February 20th, 2014
Supporters’ Consultative Group Meeting
Thursday 20th February 2014, 6.30pm
The Squirrel Pub, Coventry
Pat Abel (Tickets for Schools)
Sandra Garlick (New Stadium Advisory Group)
Moz Baker (Sky Blue Trust)
Mark Labovitch (CCFC)
Kevin Monks (CovSupportNews)
Jim Brown (CCFC Historian)
Pat Raybould (Junior Sky Blues)
Steve Brown (Sky Blue Trust)
Tynan Scope (CCFC)
Nick Connoll (CCFC)
Jonathan Strange - Chairman
Ian Davidson (CCFC London Supporters’ Club/SBI)
Peter Ward – Vice Chairman
Adam Dent (Advent Communications)
Elaine Ward (Minutes Secretary)
Apologies were received from: Darren Davies, Ray Stephens (Diamond Club), Mark Sorbie (Disabled Supporters)
2. Matters Arising from Last Minutes
• JS asked ML if he had raised the subject of filing Accounts at the Board Meeting. ML advised that the accounts were almost finalised and the expectation is that the accounts will be filed on time and directors suffer personally if they are not. He also pointed out that Weber Shandwick had blown up the story last year that accounts were filed late and that it is quite commonplace for companies to file late.
• JS also raised the subject of an independent valuation of the Ricoh. ML said his personal opinion was that a reputable firm of chartered surveyors – or preferably two – should be appointed to perform an independent valuation of the Ricoh, with full access to any ACL records they required, and their findings should be made public. This would kill myths about the value of the Ricoh.
• JS would like to present ideas of how to improve the SCG section of the CCFC web-site and feels that this demands further discussion in terms of presentation, identity and status of the SCG.
• ID pointed out that the Minutes of the January meeting were not on the website, despite being circulated generally. NC to add January Minutes to website.
3. CCFC Update (Mark Labovitch)
As discussed at the last meeting, Higgs Charity is suing SISU and the press has reported disclosure provided for the defence, running to thousands of pages.
ML pointed out that PW had raised the subject of Weber Shandwick being retained by ACL with tax payers’ money. ML reiterated his concerns expressed at the last meeting that other parties might have been working with CCC in a campaign to discredit the Club and its owner and wanted to know if any parties other than ACL had ever been in contact with Weber Shandwick: CCC, Joe Elliott and the Sky Blue Trust.
ML asked if Steve Brown or Jan Mokrzycki had had any communications with Weber Shandwick. Steve Brown stated categorically several times during the meeting that he had not knowingly had any communications with them and Jan would need to be asked if he had. SBR subsequently phoned Jan and asked this of him. Jan’s answer was that he received a phone call from a Weber Shandwick representative the day before the charity match being held at the Ricoh at the beginning of the season regarding the wearing of ‘Save our City’ wristbands, but had no other contact, either as an individual or on behalf of the SBT. SBR reiterated that the SBT have had no dealings with Weber Shandwick.
PW asked SBR how he and JM differentiated when they are speaking as individuals or on behalf of SBT. ML was sceptical of individuals claiming to wear multiple hats, recalling Peter Knatchbull Hugesen voting for the CVA on behalf of the Alan Edward Higgs Centre Trust but against it as a shareholder of ACL.
TS asked for clarification of how the SBT communicate with the press – as individuals or as the SBT?
ML recognises that some people would prefer a different owner of the Club, and does not have a problem with them campaigning for such; but he does have a problem with a concerted effort by two or more parties to attempt to conspire and damage the business, which is unlawful. ML just wants everyone to be up front, honest and truthful. ML pointed out that when the case is heard, all relevant evidence is likely to be provided and the truth will be known.
PW advised that when he was Chairman of SCG, Tim Fisher had requested him several times to ask SBT members to stand down from the SCG, believing that their position is conflicted. However, PW stood against this and supported the SBT being a part of the SCG. However, he would now be annoyed if it transpires that the SBT has conspired with other parties against the current owners.
PW feels that the most disappointing thing is that there is no football being played in Coventry and the second most disappointing thing is the division of the fans. He feels that the SBT should help to unite the fans and can’t ‘wear two hats’. SBR advised that they are happy to talk to everyone, hold open meetings and encourage all fans to attend and hear both sides. PW pointed out that the SBT Minutes indicated continual re-writing of the SBT vision, and asked for clarification of what the SBT stands for. SBR stated that he is not bothered who owns the Club, but would like it in Coventry.
ML had been interviewed on CWR regarding him and Tim Fisher signing the Enquiry petition and spoke positively on air about why they had both felt happy to sign the petition in anticipation that the truth would come out.
ML put forward the idea of him holding a Fans’ Forum, along with Martin Reeves and Ann Lucas with Shane O’Connor to chair. ML had met with at least 60 fans in the past ten days who would be keen for this to happen. He would like to do this before Council Elections in May. The pros and cons of this was discussed at length. It was felt that Ann Lucas would not accept this invitation, possibly for the reason of prejudicing any JR court case. ML says that their legal advice has always been that telling the truth cannot prejudice any legal proceedings, so wonders why the council leadership feels there is a problem. JS was concerned for reputation, any slip of the tongue comments etc. After much discussion, however, JS agreed on behalf of the SCG to endorse this format of a Fans’ Forum, but pointed out that the audience would most likely be fired up by Weber Shandwick. KM believes that it could attract ‘Rent a Mob’. ML will write to Shane O’Connor to ask if he would Chair the Forum and if so, go ahead and book a venue and date.
JB asked if everyone felt that the whole idea should be checked over by a PR company. ML explained that London based PR companies don’t understand football in Coventry or the fanbase. JB pointed out that there are PR industry people amongst the CCFC fanbase. ML assured everyone that the Forum would be planned properly, along with Adam Dent.
SBA asked what would happen if SISU won the JR. ML said that he felt the Club had a very strong case but pointed out that one can never predict the outcome of any litigation with 100% certainty. The consequences for CCC and key individuals there of an adverse outcome in the JR are likely to be very serious; ML continues to be baffled by CCC's refusal to have a sensible discussion about the sale of the Ricoh to the Club it was built for, on the basis of an independent valuation.
SBA also asked when fans would get to know information exposed by the JR. ML advised that during the JR the Judge can ask both sides for full disclosure and everything will be known. Once the hearing has taken place then the information will be in the public domain.
PA advised that elected Councillors have expressed their interest to SCG members for an independent valuation, but have been forbidden to speak on this issue by Ann Lucas and Martin Reeves. ML has had constructive conversations with councillors on the phone who had been urged to speak with him by fans who are their constituents; however, they told him that Ann Lucas and Martin Reeves have since forbidden them to meet with him.
PA asked if SCG knows of anyone who would stand against Ann Lucas in the Holbrooks Ward in the forthcoming elections.
ID asked what SISU are doing with money such as the ‘windfall’ Arsenal match revenue and the proceeds from the Leon Clarke sale. ML assured everyone that all money stays in the Club. Leon Clarke was sold and loan players have come in, as Steve Waggott is not prepared to buy until the price and time is right. ML trusts Steve Waggott implicitly in his decision-making.
ML assured everyone that the Club is now being run properly as a business for the first time in many years.
ML advised that CCC is finally refunding the business rates for which the Club has been over-charged since it started playing at the Ricoh, after a reassessment by the central valuation office: some £400k for the last few years.
IB raised concern that if we stay in Northampton for five years that the fan base would not return. ML advised that the damage to revenue, by playing at Sixfields, will only be corrected when CCFC has its own stadium.
The discussion of the area of a new stadium was discussed briefly at this point. IB asked if they should be playing in Coventry itself and not just in the ‘Coventry area’. ML pointed out that realistically with the required parking at the modern day game, then a site on the outskirts of the city is the only feasible solution and for obvious reasons, the Club cannot build within the jurisdiction of CCC.
4. Stadium Consultation Group (Sandra Garlick)
JS welcomed and thanked Sandra Garlick for joining tonight’s meeting. Sandra, a lawyer, who has been a City fan for over 40 years, has been tasked with Chairing the Stadium Consultation Group.
Sandra explained that her remit is to consult with the fan base about what they want to see and experience in the new stadium. She is aware of Tim Fisher’s and Joy Seppala’s views, having met with them, and they feel it is important to have input from the fans as well. Currently the owners have identified two potential sites and matters are progressing with both.
Sandra would like to know from fans what they would like to experience on match days and non-match days from the stadium. In terms of the technical spec, there are many aspects being looked at – health and safety issues etc, but there are aspects which the fans can influence at an early stage whereas the cosmetic side can be dealt with much later. Fans are welcome to give their ideas and views. Sandra has been receiving many emails from fans.
The first forum meeting took place in January, where Season Ticket holders only were invited. This was well attended with around 80 fans. Views were given and lots of positive input received. The second meeting, where non-season ticket holders were invited (and some season ticket holders turned up who couldn’t make the first meeting), unfortunately was hijacked by those wishing to “have their say”. This was an opportunity for fans to have their say, and the next day Sandra received over thirty e-mails from fans who sadly had not felt comfortable airing their views on the night for fear of intimidation. All the feedback is being given to the Board.
Current land purchase information and dealings with architects has to remain confidential at this stage.
In order to establish a balanced fan base on the Committee, the demographics over the past few years have been looked at such as JSBs, Teens, Disabled, ethnic minorities, different age groups to 70+.
Sandra would like to offer a rolling seat to the SCG and one to stakeholders (SB in the Community/FPA, Stephen Pressley, players) as well, on a rolling basis. It is also important that the players have their input about what they feel is important on match day from their point of view.
The feel of the stadium is also being considered at this stage – issues such as food and beverage. Some fans have expressed a wish to have f & b available outside the ground as well as inside, seating on the concourses etc. Sandra is also looking at rail seating system.
Sandra is collating this information over the next few weeks and will be consulting with the owners. It has been felt that the suggested capacity of 12K is not enough as a starting point. She stressed that the owners are committed to investment in the Club.
JS sees the Committee as an opportunity for fans to put their views on our new home in a positive way. He pointed out that whilst the original functions of the SCG had been ‘put on ice’, that the SCG members would give their support and input into ideas for the new stadium and thanked Sandra for the opportunity of a seat on the newly formed Committee. It was agreed that JS would attend the first meeting on behalf of the SCG.
ID asked if the views collated would be transferrable if the Club were to go back to the Ricoh and Sandra confirmed that this was not a futile exercise. The information would be used by the Club, whatever the outcome of its permanent new home.
TS advised that it had become clear at both of Sandra’s initial new stadium meetings that no Coventry City season ticket holders, fans, fans’ groups etc had ever been consulted on what they would like in the Ricoh Arena – it was simply a case of ‘here is your stadium’. It was a common theme from those fans that attended both meetings. PW said that Paul Fletcher was conscious at the time that fans had not been consulted, one reason for the formation of the SCG
PW advised that the SCG had spent much of its influence in the early years at the Ricoh to improve the match day experience for fans, one example was the eventual abolition of the cashless system.
PW applauded what is being done with new stadium plans, but stated that his personal opinion was that he personally would only support the idea of a new stadium when every effort had been exhausted to get back to the Ricoh – a stadium which is already in place and totally fit for purpose. He welcomed the SCG seat on the Committee but would not himself get involved at this stage.
AD mentioned that the match day attendance figures initially increased from an average 14,000 at Highfield Road to 22,000 at the Ricoh but this soon tailed off as three dreadful seasons pursued. Fans are very fickle and when the team are doing well, the fans stay.
SBR asked if the new stadium would be managed by AEG to stimulate non-matchday revenues. ML replied that it was too early to say. He pointed out that AEG was the largest global player and preferred by stars as its ownership of venues all over the world allowed them to run world tours. The typical UK tour schedule to give access to most of the population involves the O2 (owned by AEG), the Midlands and Glasgow Arena (managed by them). The original deal which SISU agreed with CCC appealed to AEG because a Midlands venue is essential and the Ricoh could have been an alternative to NEC.
Other new stadium ideas were discussed such as local procurement of f & b, programme sellers being raised and covered to improve programme sales – lots of suggestions made at this point, but Sandra says that these will be second stage of consideration after technical issues.
KM proposed that the need to prevent City supporters from having to wade through visiting supporters before and after the game needs serious attention, as events at the Ricoh Arena have made this hugely unpopular with women and families.
First meeting of the new Committee is Wednesday 26th February and it was confirmed that JS will attend on behalf of the SCG. JS suggested that the SCG members bring ideas to SCG meetings which can then be passed on by the representative attending the Stadium Committee Meetings.
Any Other Business
• JB would like the Club to consider taking match day team photos for posterity and feels that the annual beginning of season squad photo is too big and more frequent smaller team photos would be beneficial. NC could see no reason why this could not be done and would take appropriate action.
• TS advised that he is taking part in a charity bike ride in aid of prostate cancer, along with 4 or 5 others. Sponsorship would be appreciated. TS to email sponsorship details to the group.
• ID feels that the SCG needs to consult with overseas supporters and for this reason a venue with stronger Wi-Fi would be beneficial to link up on FaceTime to fans etc. Also ID would like to be able to dial-in from Kent if he can’t always make the meeting from such a distance. TS subsequently, after the meeting, spoke to staff at the Squirrel, who gave him access to the private Wi-Fi which is apparently stronger and more reliable. TS will endeavour to test this in the next week or two head of confirming a venue for the next meeting.
• TS gave some Football League stats which are very commendable for the Club. For example, second best Club for social media clicks, strong for news stories and first for wall posts. Also second in League One or 13/90 for unique visitors. KM congratulated Nick and Kieran for achieving such great stats. The Club have been awarded ‘Best Designed Programme in League One’ by Programme Monthly (an industry recognised organisation) and have been nominated for an award at the FL Awards for ‘Contents and Audience Growth’.
• SBA asked if the Club would consider any ticket subsidy for away fans, but it is building on the FSF Twenty's Plenty Campaign that is calling for away ticket prices to be capped at £20. IB pointed out that away fans transport used to be subsidised. SBR advised that the SBT currently organise coaches at cost price.
• ID asked if a SBI section could be added to web-site. They currently have fans in 59 countries and ID sends them newsletters etc. NC agreed to add ID’s details to web-site.
5. Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting is to be held on Thursday 20th March 2014, 6.30pm, at a venue to be confirmed by TS.
The meeting closed at 8.40pm