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MINUTES: Coventry City FC Supporters’ Consultative Group - Wednesday 22nd June 2016

8 July 2016

Please read the latest meeting minutes from the most recent Supporters Consultative Group meeting...

Wednesday 22 June 2016, 6.30pm
Butts Park Arena

Pat Abel (PA), Chris Anderson (CA), Steve Barnett (SBA), Amrik Bhabra (AB), Steve Brown (SBR), David Busst (DB), Darren Davies (DD), Michael Garlick (MG), Sandra Garlick (SG), Mark Hornby (MH), CJ Joiner (CJ), Chris McGrath (CM), Jan Mokrzycki (JM), Dave Morris (DM), Nicki Pollard (NP), Pat Raybould (PR), Tynan Scope (TS), Ray Stephens (RS), Jonathan Strange, chairman (JS), Robert Tidmarsh (RT), Jodie Turner (JT) 
Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Jim Brown, Declan Connolly, Dale Hayward, Kevin Heffernan, Colin Henderson, Chris O’Neill and Peter Ward.

Matters Arising

With regards to Chris O’Neill investigating whether the police officer back on duty after the incident at a City match would be returning to the Ricoh, he is still waiting to hear.

In terms of the private seat licence members receiving no information regarding where they fit in with season tickets and early bird deadline, MH confirmed that information has been drafted and is ready to go on the website.

There is still no update with regards to shareholders’ certificates/share registers.
CJ had asked if we could invite a rep from the Alzheimer’s Society to the Northampton home game and present the cheque for £500 (which was raised when we played Northampton in the Cup last year) on the pitch. As we are playing them early on in the season, MH confirmed that this could go ahead.

Chairman’s Report

JS warmly welcomed SBA and his return to the group. SBA had felt it appropriate to resign after a document he shared in good faith with someone outside the SCG was published without permission and before being finalised. JS commended to everyone SBA’s undertaking that he will not be sharing any SCG details without first checking with the SCG chair.  

Last Friday, JS had a meeting with Keith Perry, editor of the Coventry Telegraph. JS felt it was important to continue to pursue a rapport with the Telegraph for the sake of the SCG, the Telegraph and the Telegraph’s readers so as to stimulate an awareness of the group and its public function.  Various ideas were discussed about giving exposure to the SCG. It was agreed that every month the SCG should provide a 200-250 word piece inviting questions to Questions and answers would be detailed in the minutes which would be published on the Telegraph’s website. It was agreed that this will start in July.

Coventry City Academy

CA provided an update around Coventry City Academy.

The club have been served notice of their lease at Alan Higgs which expires in June 2017.  CA has been trying for a number of months to get an extension but Coventry Sports Foundation (CSF) have decided to invite Wasps to build a training centre; from what he understands from press reports, there also are plans to build a swimming pool on the site of the current indoor pitch.  The current indoor pitch is used by the club’s academy players; among a number of other requirements, an indoor pitch is essential in retaining its status as a Category Two Academy.

Currently, the club doesn’t have anywhere for our academy to train after June 2017. CA stressed that this is neither our choice nor our decision.  This is happening against a backdrop of several other developments: the shift in focus in the city from football to rugby, including a drive from the City Council and associated local sporting bodies and charities around this; and the uncertainty about our future at the Ricoh Arena beyond 2018.  CA stressed that we haven’t walked away from the Higgs Centre – Coventry Sports Foundation decided not to continue our tenancy there; we also haven’t walked away from negotiations over an extended lease agreement at the Ricoh – Wasps have publicly confirmed that they did.

CCFC have shared their requirements for having a Category 2 Academy with Coventry Sports Foundation in order to determine if it is feasible to have a Cat 2 academy at the Higgs Centre beyond 2017. So far, Coventry Sports Foundation have been unable to confirm whether those requirements can be met with Wasps moving in. We continue in our attempts to understand the potential of sharing the site. Further detailed exploration is needed and has been proposed to CSF.

CA stressed that none of the current decisions regarding the Ricoh and the Academy were made by the football club.  The football club has consistently made clear that we belong in Coventry and we want our youth team to train here and to play our senior football here. But we need to be afforded the opportunity to do so.

CA reminded the group that he said early on in his tenure that we need everyone to get behind the club for it to thrive – this still stands. We need people to realise the difficult situation the club is in and that we need help from everyone who has a stake in its future in Coventry – fans, the Council, local businesses, Wasps, CSF etc.

JS added that those with overall responsibility for all of this are the Council and CSF - Wasps are not the legal owners of the site and CCFC are tenants - so therefore it is the Council and CSF as freeholder and leaseholder respectively who should be taking the lead on behalf of the academy.

A Q&A session ensued:

SBA: Are we stuck on one path to potential oblivion in 2018 or is there a plan B? 

Our Plan A is to play in Coventry and for our Academy to train in Coventry. We want to ensure Plan A is completely exhausted and deemed totally not feasible before publicly speaking about any alternatives. The Council have the ultimate power in terms of their ability to influence various parties, so have the most influence on the club training and playing in Coventry.  Any plan that is to occur in Coventry will stand a greater chance of success if supported by them. We need for the Council to make it easier, not harder, for the football club to operate in Coventry.

RS: You seem to be between a rock and a hard place and are trying to sort the mess your predecessors made. They said they wanted to leave Alan Higgs and move to their own academy – Higgs were concerned about their future so invited Wasps to come in instead. In addition, the football club had the option to buy half the Ricoh a year after we moved in but we didn’t.  The position we are in is absolutely disgusting and the judicial review is definitely having a big impact on the club and what is going on with the council.  

SBR: We cannot change the past, there is nothing good to be done by rehashing it. We need to look at the future, what we can do now and how we can put things right. The deal with the Wasps is on the table for when the court case is over. In terms of the academy, there is a petition to save it. When will you (CA) sit down with the relevant parties to discuss a way forward in order to save the academy? CSF have agreed to sit down with you, as have Wasps.

There is a strict set of technical requirements we have to fulfil to retain our Category 2 status, which are non-negotiable – not from our end, but as far as the Premier League are concerned in order to fulfil the upcoming audit by the football authorities. It’s not simply a matter of finding some pitches to play on and negotiating the use of pitches. TS added there is the restrictive legal clause on top of all that. There is no negotiation to be had with other parties around a table because the football club doesn’t have a choice to either comply or not comply with those technical requirements, which have been communicated to Coventry Sports Foundation.

We can’t very easily spread the academy over multiple sites and there has to be a certain number of pitches, amongst many other specifications.  The first step has to be to establish if they can offer what we need; they have yet to confirm if they can if the Wasps move in.

In terms of other sites, Ryton or the Sports Connexion are not options for us. They are simply too small to accommodate the number of pitches and facilities needed to run an Academy training ground. We also can’t use other football clubs’ facilities. The rules given to us by the football authorities would not permit it. Building an Academy training ground somewhere else in Coventry seems unlikely as there are no obvious sites. 

DB added that CSF is a charity and it is worth looking into where their original funding came from and what the conditions of this were in regards to football.

PA: Do people in the city really know what is going on and the implications? Alan Higgs was built for us and we need to look into who funded it, as DB stated above.

SBR pointed out that only 31 people have objected to these plans – the deadline for objecting is 26th June – he said we can’t sit back and do nothing.  JM added that people in the city feel battle weary about it – they don’t understand or have become apathetic towards the situation.  PR said that we have got to make the council understand that people do care.

CA said it is basically a done deal. The most powerful thing a football club has is its supporters – they can tell their elected representatives that they are not happy with how things are going in the city with the club, but SBR pointed out there isn’t enough time for this. But CA insisted we need to raise awareness of a city without a football club. We all agree we need and want an academy.

JS summed up by saying that the outlook is currently very gloomy. CA had asserted that there is little the club can do until it receives replies from the CSF in relation to the technical issues that have been raised as prerequisites for the academy’s survival.  In terms of our function as a group, we have commended the SBT’s campaign and would encourage an agreed petition. Beyond that, it is down to individual members to promote this.

Other Current Issues etc

English Football League meeting – Portugal (CA)

CA attended this meeting where the Football League has been rebranded as the English Football League (EFL). Discussions included the restructure of the Football League Trophy, facilities fees (mainly TV) which is still under consideration, the restructuring of the entire League and Ian Lenagan replacing Greg Clarke as Chairman of the EFL.

Football League Trophy

In the view of League One and Two clubs, the competition was dying – low crowds, little interest from sponsors or TV – some clubs said they were not sure they wanted to continue with it at all in its current format. To make it more interesting, a Champions League style format will be implemented this year with four teams from the same region playing in a group and then moving into a knockout phase. With regards to the introduction of Premier League B teams, the FA are wanting to produce better young English players that can come through the system and it is felt that if they are playing at a competitive level this will help their development. It is felt that young players who play twenty games in League One or Two are more likely to make it through ahead of players who play for their U21 PL team. The loan system works well but there are still a lot of players at these clubs who only play for the U21s. It is only for this year in the first instance and will be revisited next year.  

The Premier League clubs offered a sweetener of £1million for the prize fund, plenty of clubs couldn’t afford to turn this down. For us as a club, every little helps. 

DD asked if this would affect loan players – CA responded that the fine details are yet to be worked out but Premier League clubs are keen to loan out players to League One clubs in particular so he can’t see this affecting it too much.

SBA presented the possibly of an all Premier League B team final – CA accepts that this is possible but remote as the best players would more than likely be loaned out.

Season tickets (CA/MH/TS)

We have sold just under 5,000 regular season tickets and around 400 corporate season tickets.  We have more than doubled the number of child season tickets sold from this time last year.  This is extremely positive news. It shows the level of support for the club and the team under Tony Mowbray.  There have been hiccups but we have tried to respond to everyone with a difficulty. CA commended MH for his excellent communication with the fans. It would be fantastic to get to the 7,000 mark. Also, CA is pleased that people have continued to purchase in Blocks 19, 20 and 21 despite the zonal pricing.  

SG: What is the impact of the payment scheme?

CA: 10% have taken this up

PR: In response to a question from someone else about car parking, PR said that she had had an e-mail from Ricoh Parking to say that information would be out soon and every season ticket holder from last season would receive an e-mail giving details. 

TS: The prices have been agreed with the stadium now – they have a tender out for booking companies to process this so we cannot sell until this is finalised.  

JS: Is there any update on the Butts Park Arena ground share?

CA: No

Any Other Business

CA: It is another summer of transition for the club. We are in a good place with Tony Mowbray and Mark Venus, Ticketmaster is fully installed, and we have reorganised our commercial staff and have new people on board, which will be announced in time. We need to ensure the infrastructure is in place in a football and commercial sense.  Despite the lack of official announcements, we are positive about how things are going on the football side of things.  In terms of players, Tony and Mark are talking to agents and players daily – they are looking to learn from the lessons of last year.  We need to be shrewd in the transfer/loan market.  We have bought Jodi Jones from Dag & Red and currently have an offer in on another player currently. JS had invited Mark Venus to attend a meeting and Mark was reportedly keen to attend. JS asked CA to prompt him about this – with a view to possibly attending the next meeting in July.

JS introduced Amrik Bhabra. He has been invited in order to help extend the SCG’s representativeness. He is also a member of the Coventry Chamber of Commerce.

JS will forward the Football Supporters Federation document ‘Engaging with Supporters’ which is supported by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority to MH and Chris O’Neill. SBA had forwarded this to JS.

JS asked MH whether questions raised through by John Leekey had been addressed. Unfortunately CA, whose answer was required over one of the questions, had just left the meeting. JS and MH will resolve

MH: Really pleased with season ticket/JSB sales – season tickets will be delivered in July, date to be confirmed. Kit sales have been positive, the away kit will be released in July and training wear is ongoing.  

DD: Reminder re sheet distributed last meeting regarding issues raised on a Facebook Coventry City fans forum.

SBA: When is the next board meeting that SCG will be represented on? JS responded that the agreement was once a quarter; it’s been about 6 weeks so will be coming up in the next couple of months.

SBA: Is there a link of the website that will put all the fixtures in your calendar on your iPhone/iPad? MH says there was and he would re-tweet this – it is also on the website.

RT: When are match ticket pricing and match package pricing being released? MH said pricing would be this week and they are still looking at match packages.  

PR: Will there be away season tickets? MH is looking into this now.

Date of next meeting
Wednesday 27 July at 6.30pm – to be confirmed

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