Please read the meeting minutes and the CCFC board meeting notes which clarifies several key issues...
Supporters’ Consultative Group
Wednesday 27 April 2016, 6.30 p.m.
Butts Park Arena
M I N U T E S
Pat Abel (PA), Steve Brown (SBR), David Busst (DB), Declan Connolly (DC), Kieran Crowley (KC), Darren Davies (DD), Michael Garlick (MG), Kevin Heffernan (KH), Colin Henderson (CH), Mark Hornby (MH), CJ Joiner (CJ), Dave Morris (DM), Chris O’Neill (CO), Nikki Pollard (NP), Pat Raybould (PR), Tynan Scope (TS), Frank Smith (FS), Ray Stephens (RS), Jonathan Strange (JS), Robert Tidmarsh (RT), Jodie Turner (JT), Bruce Walker, Peter Ward (PW)
JS gave a warm welcome to Chris O’Neill, Safety Officer, Nikki Pollard, Deputy Safety Officer, and Dave Morris, Chief Steward. It is hoped that one of them will attend SCG meetings regularly from now on.
JS also welcomed Bruce Walker and Frank Smith, who were attending the meeting to give an update around the SBT transport initiative.
Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Chris Anderson, Steve Barnett, Jim Brown, Sandra Garlick, Chris McGrath and Jan Mokrzycki.
Circulated previously via email, the meeting accepted the minutes of the last meeting as a true and fair record.
JS thanked everyone for their updated pen pictures – KC has updated these on the website today.
Chris Anderson was to liaise with Karen Bennett and RT around tickets for Coventry University. Due to the three week Easter break and two week exam period, nothing was put in place. It has been suggested to revisit this at the start of next season. PA added that Ken Sloane at the University of Warwick expressed a keen interest in getting involved in this kind of scheme, but he is leaving at the end of June and it is too late to do anything now for this season.
With regards to the car parking item and the issue around pantechnicons blocking exits on match days, CO confirmed that they should not be unloading before or after a match. He will look into any further issues around this.
Chris Anderson was to meet PA around improving the Tickets for Schools process, this has yet to happen.
Items were proposed to take to the next board meeting – this has yet to take place, JS says it will happen early next month.
SG raised the point that the perception from some outside the SCG is that is a secret club and proposed holding an open meeting. There will be further discussion about this.
Last month, the Coventry Telegraph published a 341-word letter devoted to an attack on the SCG, its status and the reported line of its questioning of Joy Seppala at the February meeting.
On 25 March, JS e-mailed a short response to email@example.com, the advertised e-mail address adjoining the column, identifying himself by name and position. Amongst other things, the author of the letter - a Mr Bimbi, asserted that the group does not represent the majority of Coventry City supporters.
‘If Mr Bimbi is dissatisfied with the questions and answers at a Supporters’ Consultative Group meeting or about the group itself,’ JS wrote, ‘he is welcome to discuss his concerns directly. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.’ JS concluded by observing that, ‘We help consult on behalf of any Coventry City supporter, Mr Bimbi included.’
Whatever the reasons for not publishing a letter, it is customary for a newspaper to at least issue an acknowledgement, especially when the correspondent has supplied his name, relevant description, postal address and telephone number. No such acknowledgement has been received from the Coventry Telegraph.
JS read out the below email from Chris Anderson (CA) regarding season tickets:
“As you know, I regret not being able to attend tonight's meeting due to a long-standing obligation. However, thankfully Mark Hornby and Kieran Crowley are attending and will provide additional information about season ticket sales and ticketing generally.
You will know that I have been extremely frustrated with the club's ticketing operations since I took on my current role. After much research, lots of negotiations, and a lot of planning and logistics work, we are now in a position to announce that Ticketmaster will be our partner to provide our supporters with the very best ticketing services the industry can offer.
This is a major investment by the football club - but one we have felt compelled to make in light of the ongoing and unacceptable difficulties for our supporters to support their club. Because it is an investment, it doesn't come free, and we are asking supporters to share in some of the additional costs via booking fees.
All of you will be aware that the club decided to significantly lower ticket prices prior to this season from what they had been in 2012/13 and 2014/15. Confidentially, it is important to know that our decision to drop general admission ticket prices for this season and make them largely uniform across the board has hurt the business's bottom line. In other words, the increase in attendance (volume) - while great for filling the stands and creating a wonderful atmosphere - has not completely made up for the drop in price, as had been hoped for, and we have missed important financial targets. This has made it more difficult to compete financially in the league than anticipated. While the drop in prices was popular - maybe too popular - we simply can't sustain it in light of the fact that 45% of our revenues come from ticket sales and if we wish to field a competitive team.
We are not Bradford City or any other club. There is no one size fits all model as far as football club finances are concerned, and our inability to generate revenues from our own stadium on match days and non-match days significantly hampers our ability to give money back to our supporters.
We are, however, committed to keeping football affordable for all, and especially families and the next generation of Sky Blues fans. That's why we are looking to keep prices below the league average. For the first time, we are also making football for supporters under 13 free.
Kieran and Mark can provide additional information and answer questions. Please rest assured that we have spent a lot of time sorting through various options and feel strongly that this is an important and necessary step so that the club can continue to thrive.”
SG, SBR, PW and JS have been in talks with CA around season tickets and JS expressed his alarm with the lack of communication from the club around this. Even with the recent Ticketmaster announcement, there was no mention of season ticket prices or release dates, nor any apology for the delay with this. KC explained that with the legalities and logistical issues surrounding the move to Ticketmaster, the club were not able to release any details. KC has spoken to CWR and delivered a short statement about the fact the club are working towards a season ticket sale date around early May but unfortunately this message wasn’t relayed to the ticket office, hence the lack of communication around this.
They couldn’t announce season ticket prices as yet but they are being finalised. It was been confirmed though that under 13s will be free anywhere in the stadium and that prices will still be below the league average. There will be an early bird period of four weeks from when they go on sale.
MH and KC were asked about the instalment plan – there will be ten instalments if purchased before the season starts; if after, there will be a shorter direct debit period.
There was a short Q&A session directed at KC and MH with regards to Ticketmaster:
PW: How is it going to work moving forward? The club had Ticketmaster as their ticket provider in the past and it was a bit of a disaster.
This was a very long time ago. Ticketmaster are now world leaders in what they do. CA surveyed all the providers. Other clubs, including Manchester United, Arsenal, Fulham and Peterborough, and also Wasps, use them. Fans will be able to purchase tickets on their smartphones, print tickets at home, which will eradicate a lot of issues from this season, and get through to someone on the phone with a maximum wait time of two minutes.
SBR: Will we be subject to booking fees using Ticketmaster?
Yes. The Ticketmaster booking fee on season tickets will be £6 per season ticket; there will be a £1 fee on each individual match ticket purchased.
DD: Will we be able to purchase away travel on Ticketmaster when buying away tickets?
The club need to look into this.
MG: If a new supporter who doesn’t necessarily know the layout of the stadium wants to purchase a season ticket, will the Ticketmaster call centre staff know how to assist them?
They will have the stadium plan and be fully briefed prior to tickets going on sale with them.
JS: If someone doesn’t have a computer or doesn’t want to buy their tickets online or via the phone, will they be able to pay by cash or by cheque?
The club need to look into this. However, there will be a match day ticket office at the Ricoh where people can purchase tickets for that game. The club will release a step-by-step guide on how to use Ticketmaster over the phone and online. We are moving away from fans purchasing tickets from the ticket office.
PR: How will we buy away tickets?
Away tickets will be sold by the club, although we are looking more into the exact logistics of this and also coach travel – season tickets are the current priority.
RS: Will the early bird period be extended for the people who brought true sky blue seats?
CH: Will any of the booking fee come back into the club?
No, the total booking fee goes to Ticketmaster.
KH: If the future plans do not include having a ticket office, how will this effect merchandising?
This is separate anyway – our merchandise is sold at the shop at Tesco; selling tickets from there was not a successful venture.
DC: If there is not a ticket office, can you still pay on the gate?
No, but you will be able to buy tickets at the fully staffed match day ticket office.
CH: Will match packages still be available?
Yes, and there may be even better options.
PW: Will we be able to use Ticketmaster gift cards to purchase tickets?
Would have thought so but will need to clarify.
Coventry City Event Safety Manager
CO, DM and NP attended the meeting to provide information around safety and event management on match days. CO thanked the SCG for the invite and welcomed the opportunity to interact with fans and inform them about the current situation with stewarding and also to go through the issues log.
DM’s role is chief steward and NP is deputy safety officer. NP is on the floor with DM on a match day, starting at 10.00am, CO is the eyes and ears around the stadium to ensure everything runs as it should.
When the club moved to Northampton, we lost a lot of good stewards. Since we have returned to the Ricoh we haven’t built up the numbers of quality stewards but we are building up the infrastructure and have a good customer care programme.
We have received compliments this season with how the operation is run. For instance, when we had the atrocities in Paris and had to up the security measures for the game the following day, we did our best to ensure staff and supporters felt safe and at ease. West Midlands Police commended us for the way we conducted ourselves.
Of course we have got things wrong, i.e. the handling of a balloon being confiscated. The club would have been fined if it touched the playing surface but it was conceded the stewards could have gone about confiscating the balloon in a different way, but it is always in the best interests of the club and ensuring no fines are incurred.
Stewards are there to keep fans safe. Their main areas are the doors, gates, turnstiles – all areas where fans go in and out. The team are there to ensure someone is there to help.
The area behind blocks 14 and 15 has been cleared, it was a real mess.
We have to have a safety certificate from the Council – to satisfy that, we need to have a minimum of 175 stewards. We often have to use agency staff to fulfil this requirement, so are advertising all the time. Let CO know if you know anyone who would be interested in becoming a steward. There will be an advert in Saturday’s programme.
CO, NP and DM are all part-time, and avid CCFC fans. They meet with representatives from the club regularly to discuss matters. They, and the stewards, are employed directly by CCFC.
FS asked if there was a designated disabled team, particularly in the away end as in the football fans guide there were some issues included around people with mobility issues experiencing problems accessing their seats in our away end. CO to look into this so FS can ensure this is updated, as it was printed some time ago. CO added that in terms of our home disabled supporters, a section in the north stand has been opened, with a lot of stewards manning this, when it has been busy.
PA asked what the minimum age of a child to be in the stadium unaccompanied is. It is 14.
CH highlighted an issue with fans who leave their seats 5/10 minutes before the end of the match, but congregate on the stairs blocking the exits. The stewards don’t always move them on. CO is fully aware of this and will be working on resolving this issue. He added that stewards need to concentrate on the crowd, not the game.
PW asked if the away fans could be moved over a bit to close the gap between home fans and away fans, therefore creating a better atmosphere. CO responded that the Safety Advisory Group advise against having away fans directly behind the goal, and also the club do not want them there. However, block 14 will be open next season which will move the home fans a little closer. They cannot go any further as concourse segregation would be an issue.
JS thanked CO, NP and DM for attending the meeting and looks forward to forging the further relationship.
Update on Sky Blue Trust Transport Initiative – Bruce Walker and Frank Smith
Aim: to bring the SCG up to speed with some of the problems concerning transport to the Ricoh as fans perceive them and what we at the Trust believe can be done, or can start to be done, to mitigate these problems. Concern is primarily with public, or at least ‘non-private car’, forms of transport. Frank and Bruce were asked to look at these issues by the Trust Board in response to the concerns that have been expressed by fans, often informally and often on match days.
The below was presented:
1. The Problem
• No recognition/coherent response by public transport providers on match days to the fact that CCFC playing at home. Lack of response more noticeable since return from Sixfields.
• Assumption is that fans will drive and pay to park. The stadium is designed for drivers, though there do seem to be some issues in practice around information concerning parking arrangements and extensive congestion even after games attracting moderate sized crowds. This car orientation is despite the fact that there was a Green Plan for Ricoh which recognised that, first, the Arena was not well situated for home fans who did not live in North Coventry and that, second, many fans, for a variety of reasons, do not wish to, or cannot, drive to a game.
• The lack of an effective train service and the absence of a dedicated bus service leads to significant congestion/waiting times for all fans travelling by bus, particularly after a game and specifically after night games. This and the ‘work round’ arrangements that fans who are not driving to home games have to make are disruptive and costly for those fans in terms of time, effort and money. Despite being apparently encouraged by CCFC to do so, those home fans organising their own work round in the form of private bus/minibus transport are faced with unclear/inconsistent arrangements for dropping off/picking up in the Ricoh area.
• There is also anecdotal evidence that the lack of appropriate transport arrangements outlined above directly affects attendances at night games and in poor weather.
2. Possible Responses: Train Services
• Situation with the Arena Station is well known. It results from the budget timetables for the different parties involved, the re-prioritisation and re-timing of track improvement works, and the lack of capacity of LM. ACL-Wasps/CCFC/CCC are not responsible for this (though some CCFC fans do not appear to agree).
• Note: It is possible to get a double carriage train to the Arena on CCFC match days but not back from there immediately after the match (no 17.28). Contrast this with Wasps, who, it has been alleged, have bigger attendances than CCFC. On 7th May 2016 for the Wasps’ home match (KO: 15.30) the 17.28 is advertised as running.
Might someone wish to enquire why that is the case for Wasps and not for CCFC?
• Commend the Wasps’ experiment with the special train. Loss making – but we think there has to be a question about the price charged = the ordinary return fare (under £3). Low compared to buses and parking.
Have CCFC had any input into the discussions/negotiations/future plans re: this initiative?
3. Possible Responses: Public Bus Services
• The direct bus service on match days to and from the Arena from Coventry Station via Pool Meadow was not reinstated on the return from Sixfields. Such services are apparently run by Wasps for their home games and are certainly run in connection with major events (e.g., £5 return shuttle bus for the up-coming Bruce Springsteen concert). On being contacted by the SBT, National Express Coventry responded that they ‘…have no plans to reinstate the service’ and indicated that it would be ‘up to someone at the Ricoh’ to instigate any negotiations re: such a reinstatement.
• As it is, home and visiting fans travelling from the city are left to use ordinary service buses running to normal timetables to access the Arena on CCFC match days. The buses recommended are the 8/8a from the Station and the number 4 or 5 from Pool Meadow, the last of these taking 40 minutes to get to the Ricoh. This means that those travelling from the Station via Pool Meadow to the Arena using the numbers 8/8a and 5 buses would take at least an hour to travel the 4.5 miles. Note: None of these services actually go to the Arena itself.
• On returning by bus, fans find that there are no extra services and no substitution of, say, double decker buses for single decker buses. This is unacceptable particularly at night matches – e.g., Southend and Walsall – when buses are running to a late evening, infrequent schedule, or, more generally, when there are a large number of visiting fans who have arrived by train and need to return to Coventry station (e.g. Millwall).
4. What Can Be Done?
• In our experience, the above problems mean that the CCFC’s home ground is one of the least accessible by public transport in the Football League. Contrast with Colchester Utd match day bus provision, who run a shuttle bus to and from the station every 15 minutes until all the fans have gone.
• These accessibility problems are often acute for visiting fans who choose to travel to Coventry by train and is compounded for those fans by the lack of information at the station as to how to get to the ground. Questions to Virgin, the managers of Coventry Station, from SBT about the lack of visible information at the station have received no response.
• SBT also plan to help to update the national fans guide to grounds.
We as a Trust ask the questions:
What should be the role of (the owners of) CCFC in ameliorating these problems of information and service provision? Or is it ACL’s role?
What are the possibilities of Wasps/ACL working together and/or jointly with the SCG and SBT to address them? In respect of the train service, the renewal of the franchise covering services to the Arena Station (currently LM’s) gives Wasps and CCFC the opportunity to jointly ask questions of the three companies, via Dept for Transport, as to their short and long term plans for services to the Arena.
Specifically, while the train service issues may be beyond immediate solution, what are CCFC prepared to do about exploring the feasibility of reintroducing the direct bus service? As a minimum, can they ask Wasps’ advice and experience of this?
• Note: There is no expectation that CCFC will (necessarily) subsidise the service. SBT could also assist by surveying fans (i.e. Trust members) about the likely level of demand for the bus service (or CCFC could do it through their membership/ticketing db).
KC confirmed that the club have already started the process of looking into the local bus services and exploring the best options to get fans from the train station and city centre to the ground.
JS proposed that SBR liaise with BW and FS regarding this matter and feedback any updates to the SCG. SBR added that it would be good for all bodies to put pressure on the relevant transport companies to resolve this issue.
JS thanks BW and FS for their presentation and the research that had gone into it.
Sky Blues in the Community – a presentation by David Busst
Sky Blues in the Community is formerly a department of Coventry City Football Club formed in 1993 to deliver football in the community initiatives on behalf of the club. The organisation became a registered charity in December 2008, financially independent from the football club and governed by an independent Board of Trustees. We are supported by the Football League Trust, which oversees the work of community schemes at the 72 Football League clubs. Over the last five years, the role of Sky Blues in the Community has changed dramatically, from offering traditional football development activities to playing a greater role in driving personal and community development in Coventry and Warwickshire. More information can be found at http://www.sbitc.org/
We receive funding from many organisations, including Sport England, National Lottery, Comic Relief and Children in Need.
There are four key areas – sport, health, inclusion and education.
We have been successfully providing football coaching for tens of thousands of children across Coventry and Warwickshire since 1993. There are currently 17 projects, 10,880 participants over 118,070 hours. The projects include training nights, holiday camps, Saturday clubs and lunch time clubs at primary schools (we work with over 40 primary schools and a number of secondary schools to provide curricular or extra-curricular sports activity).
The objective is to increase opportunities to participate in sport and physical activity for people of all ages and abilities across our community.
We have a number of projects that promote health and wellbeing, that are designed to target and appeal to specific groups, including primary school pupils, adult men, and men with mental illness. We run 20 projects, 2983 participants over 39,949 hours. Projects include, under men’s fitness, Inform (for U18+ men and provides free football and fitness sessions) and walking football for the over 50s, for women’s fitness, In It Together (for 13-19 and 18+) which supports women to get active and lead healthier lifestyles. There are also mother and toddler groups and holiday camps.
The term ‘Inclusion’ covers a wide spectrum, but for Sky Blues in the Community it is about providing opportunities for members of our community to take part in sport or personal development opportunities who may not normally get the chance. Our inclusion objective is ‘Deliver innovative programmes to promote inclusion amongst disadvantaged and excluded communities’. To date we have worked with a number of groups under our inclusion banner including (but not exclusive to):
• Children and adults with physical or learning disabilities
• Children and adults with Down’s syndrome
• Looked-after children
• Young offenders
• Refugees and asylum seekers
• Young people involved in anti-social behaviour
• Adults aged 55+
Currently we run 13 projects, 3161 participants over 61,426 hours. Projects include powerchair football and a disability schools league. The Premier League Kicks Scheme is a flagship community initiative under their Creating Chances programme; the overriding aim of which is to use the strength and profile of professional football clubs to create opportunities at the heart of their communities. We are in the top 3 of 47 clubs involved.
We have a range of programmes and schemes of work that promote educational attainment in primary, secondary and further education establishments – but we also look to promote attainment amongst those who access our community-based activities. Currently our education offer consists of:
• PPA (planning, preparation and assessment) curriculum cover
• PE lessons
• Lunchtime clubs
• After school clubs
• Numeracy and literacy skills
• Schools respect workshop
• Fit 4 Life healthy schools project
• Secondary schools ‘Leadership Academy’
• Alternative education mentoring scheme
• Sports coaching and leadership qualifications (including FA level 1 and level 2 certificates)
• Employability skills (for young people and adults)
• BTEC Sports Academy (in partnership with Henley College)
We currently run 8 projects, 312 participants over 3365 hours.
Overall, we work on 58 projects with 17,336 participants all under the brand of CCFC and ensure the club is seen in a good light.
SBR asked how much it all costs – they run a volunteer programme and are a not for profit organisation. The player development centre costs £26 a month but the majority of activities are free.
It is a very rewarding position and DS wanted to bring more awareness of the work they do.
Any Other Business
DD: There was a story in the Coventry Telegraph last week regarding a fan who was beaten up by a policeman at a City match. The officer received a final written warning but is back on duty – DD asked that it be looked into that he doesn’t return to the Ricoh - CO agreed to do this.
KC announced that this would be his last SCG meeting as he is leaving the club in the summer. He thanked the group for their support and the group, in turn, thanked Kieran and wished him well.
Date of next meeting
Thursday 26 May at 6.30pm (provisional)
Outline notes from CCFC board meeting 02.05.2016
Chris Anderson (CA)
Laura Deering (LD)
Tim Fisher (TF)
Sandra Garlick [SCG] (SG)
Jonathan Strange [SCG] (JS)
1) To update JS and SG on earlier agenda items at the meeting
Tim Fisher welcomed JS and SG. He enthusiastically commended the value of the SCG’s contribution to the Board and the football club and its supporters.
Mark Venus had spoken earlier at the meeting about the football side of the business. He and Chris Anderson will be running a post mortem about the season with all football staff and football management covering all aspects from injury rehabilitation to strength and conditioning to match tactics through the season. Tony Mowbray is highly motivated to get the team promoted next season. Next season there will be a group comprising a core of experienced professionals, supplemented by a smaller number of U21 players. Today, there are 9 players on first-team contracts. Football management report that the club will look to have a first team squad of about 25. Loan players will be part of the team, but the loan rules are changing next year. FIFA have banned emergency loans (short term loans), and loan players will therefore only be available on long-term loans (season-long or half-season loans). The club is keen to negotiate with John Fleck over a new contract. The highlight of the season has been the progress of the Under 18’s and the quality of the young talent that is emerging. There was much enthusiasm about the development of Reice Charles-Cook. There is currently a pool of good young footballers at the club but they also need to add experienced footballers to the squad.
2) The Playing Budget
The playing budget, which includes player salaries, appearances and bonuses, loan players where applicable, hotel expenses etc, but which excludes management and coaching staff wages and expenses, will remain at roughly the same levels for 2016/17. The playing budget is less than, for instance, Sheffield United, Millwall and Wigan – around or in excess of £4Mio but more than, for instance, Burton, Walsall and Gillingham – all around £1.5Mio.
3) Season Tickets and Commercial
TF and CA agreed on the need to communicate clearly over ticketing. Ticketing details will be announced by the end of next week, hopefully by the end of this week. CA confirmed that following feedback from the recent SCG meeting, the club have decided to pay the £6 surcharge on season tickets for Early Bird customers. Away tickets will still be sold by the club next year.
Aside from ticketing, CA has been focussing on other wider commercial issues and challenges, on attracting broader involvement from local businesses, on advertising, sponsorship etc. Other than ticketing, the club has very limited match-day revenue and no non match-day revenue.
4) To clarify the situation around a new stadium following apparently contradictory comments by Joy Seppala and Chris Anderson
Despite apparently contrasting positions, the ambitions of Joy Seppala and Chris Anderson are the same. Both are irreconcilable with the current arrangement, which frustrates the club’s ability to reap an adequate income from the football ground itself and on non-match days.
5) Discuss minimising disruption for supporters at the Ricoh with regards to car parking, bars etc Although the club gets priority over Wasps on when we play, what else do we get priority on? If ACL/Wasps can put events on during the same day as football matches, what is the notice period to the club? What implications will the Rugby League World Cup weekend and other events have on fixture planning? Can supporters be informed asap?
Conflicts of interest over use of corporate areas and other rooms have only affected 3 out of 23 games this season. Per the contract with the stadium operator required by Football League rules, CCFC will always receive priority over actual scheduling of games. There is a 28 day notice period over fixture changes. It was acknowledged that this might not be adequate for those travelling long distances.
6) David Busst’s outreach programme for disadvantaged children
CA will discuss this with David. A Jimmy Hill legacy fund has been launched for charitable purposes including children
7) Re-introducing half-time draws
The main problem is the adequate availability of staff at one of the busiest times on match-day. Maybe Richard Stevens could get the Academy families to assist, CA suggested.
8) The Alan Higgs swimming-pool development. How would this affect the Academy?
CA looking to extend the lease at the Alan Higgs Centre beyond June 2017, but is also looking elsewhere. The club is very concerned about this. Coventry Sports Foundation will likely favour Wasps over the club’s academy. It is vital to protect Category 2 status. CA referred to his notes in the programme. JS said that not enough people read the programme, that coverage in the CT was unreliable and that the necessary turn-over of information on the website made news and PR difficult.
9) New Kit
This issue had already been covered.
10) Family Zone
The Family Zone is included in sponsorship package proposals. There is talk of a fan zone in the Jaguar Hall.