Minutes from the meeting with the Supporter Experience Working Group, which convened at Vitality Stadium on Monday 27th September.
The attendees, agenda and minutes from the meeting can be read below.
- Jo Hebditch
- Mathew Davies
- Jon Knight
- Richard Jackson
- Lesley Hathaway
- Stacey Finch
- Sarah McLaren
- Andrew Jennings
- Terry Dennis
- Mike Ponchaud
- Harrison Wingate
- Dawn Rothwell
- Alex Forbes
- Daniel Butler
- Neill Blake – chief executive
- Jeff Mostyn - chairman
- Elizabeth Finney – operations director
- Holly Roberts – PA to operations director
- Paul Fudge – head of catering operations
- Matt Joyce – digital content manager
- Richard Hughes – first-team technical director
- Chris Gerrish – head of team security
- Dan Wilson
- Robbie Sargent
- Simon Francis – assistant first-team technical director
- Maximum points holders
- Website issues
- Catering - particularly at half-time
- Social media
- Matchday atmosphere
- Communication of Group in between meetings
- Terms of reference & Communication Channels
- Elizabeth Finney (EF) acknowledged that there had been issues of late, mainly with away games but also other technical issues. EF explained there have been a number of staff who have left including a key person who had a lot of the technical system knowledge. As of the end of last week, the ticketing manager has also left the business due to resignation. Recruiting for the technical role has had challenges but the club are hoping to fill that role permanently soon.
- EF explained we have now recruited an extra permanent member of staff for the ticketing team, recruited casual ticketing assistants as well as in the process of recruiting for a new ticketing manager. As an interim to the technical gap, we have arranged an interim solution with a view to implementing a longer term effective technical support package from our system provider. As a result, the majority of the outstanding issues that were giving supporters difficulties in booking have now been resolved.
- EF told the group there were plans for restructuring the ticketing department in terms of allocating specific areas to different staff with associated system training. This will reduce the reliance on one person to hold all knowledge and incumbent issues. It's been an extremely tough time for the ticketing department and the club shares the frustration of things not working properly. However, we hope we are turning a corner.
- EF explained she was unsure why only 1,500 were requested for the Bristol City away game. EF has set up a system going forward where she, a senior ticketing staff member and our designated football officer (police) will review allocations for away games.
- EF updated that Bristol City have agreed to a further 800-900 tickets and the away club’s current position is that the usual maximum allocation is limited due to stewarding and policing reasons.
- Richard Jackson (RJ) asked who would make the decisions around away allocations.
- EF confirmed it would be the ticketing manager, in previous years our head of
ticketing covered this, and EF was less involved. However, going forward EF will be monitoring this more closely.
- JK asked if the on-sale dates for away dates could be released in one go/ sooner like they used to be?
- EF confirmed there seems to be a consensus that a large number of clubs across the leagues have had an extremely tough start to the season and it’s taken perhaps a bit more time to settle in but now we are progressing with the season, we hope that this will be easier to do, and we will give as much notice as possible. We do rely on the away clubs providing the pricing/seat maps in good time though.
- Jon Knight (JK) confirmed that he appreciated the issues and all businesses had been affected but noted the communication has been an issue and needed to be of a better standard.
- EF said that the ticketing team did have very high standards and a previous good reputation and we are confident it will return to this. EF reiterated that a new ticketing system had been introduced a year ago but due to the pandemic the system had only been used for games at the start of this season as the behind-closed-doors games operated on a ballot system which was a different process. EF confirmed she had already spoken to Matt Joyce (MJ) about improving communications as there was agreement that is has not been good enough of late.
- Sarah McLaren (SM) asked what lessons have been learned from this.
- EF confirmed that better communications is a priority as well as ensuring training and knowledge over the whole ticketing team while giving them the support they needed.
- Lesley Hathaway (LH) wanted to mention that the process of getting tickets from the Superstore has been really good and the customer service of these members of staff is really good.
- MJ confirmed that the social media team and ticketing team now have a slack
channel and WhatsApp group so communications to supporters will be quicker.
- EF asked the group if they thought it would be a good idea for the club to issue an update monthly around main touch points for a matchday i.e. ticketing, kit launches etc., but to expand across the whole club in terms of items covered.
- Group agreed this would be a good idea.
- RJ asked if it would be possible to do a daily points drop.
- EF said she would talk to the team. However, the concern would be if this would increase confusion due to the fixtures being so close together and the pressure this could potentially put the ticketing team under.
- EF confirmed she had that day checked the allocation for Reading away and confirmed it is currently 2,200 and correspondence says this is the full allocation. However, she will check this.
- Andrew Jennings (AJ) encouraged the club to reach out to the group for help going forward i.e. AJ works in software so could potentially help with common issues etc.
Communications of group in between meetings
- EF confirmed if anything comes up, please do get in contact, you can elect someone to come to us if you would prefer but don’t feel if there is something pressing you have to wait and can always call individually. EF aware group has own WhatsApp group but happy to be included in one to answer queries then and there.
- JK suggested a joined-up approach from the SEG would be best. Group agreed.
- JK explained he sits in the North Stand and issues with being very busy, suggested pre-poured beer on draft to make it quicker. Also, the SwipeStation queue just gets used by people not using it.
- Paul Fudge (PF) explained SwipeStation in the North Stand gets the most use.
- EF explained to the group that, whilst not confirmed and awaiting approval from governing bodies and a conversation with licensing, would like to open the back of the North Stand and barrier at half-time only, so accessing an extra serving station and allowing more space.
- PF confirmed he does appreciate suggestion of pre-pouring but has issues with the counter space this then takes up which causes problems to serve supporters.
- JK mentioned that there used to be events bars but these seems to have
- PF confirmed they didn’t take enough money to be viable and were getting in the way. However, in the East Stand, they work well.
- AJ said he sat in the Main Stand and the SwipeStation is quiet, scanners are
- PF confirmed the machines have been changed and should be working now so
please let him know if this is not the case.
- It was also raised that the Junior Cherries Meal Deal was not on the SwipeStation.
- PF confirmed this was because it wasn’t possible to ensure the meal deals were
being used by Junior Cherries through this way. Junior Cherries cards are now swiped for the Meal Deal and can only be done once per match. PF has looked into a way of being able to scan the card on the SwipeStation machine but issues with merging software.
- Mike Ponchaud (MP) suggested that after half-time during the second half or post-match it would be good if supporters could access to get a soft drink etc.
- PF agreed this is something we would trial. MJ will push out on social media if trial goes ahead.
- MP asked if possible, to get a plain burger option (sits in North Stand, Block 15).
- PF confirmed he would speak to concourses in this respect.
- Terry Dennis (TD) asked if taking orders on the platform would resume as at the moment hasn’t seen this happening this season.
- PF confirmed service to seat should be happening in the East Stand Block 16 platform as operating in the main so PF will look into this.
- Stacey Finch (SF) also seconded the plain burger option and also incorporating some GF options; she also suggested sausage roles.
- PF confirmed he has been looking into sausage rolls and will look into the GF options.
- Alex Forbes (AF) suggested that a feature or comms should come from the club around PF and process for how food options are decided etc. as believe supporters would like the insight and passion PF has is very clear.
- Jo Hebditch (JH) confirmed she had now noticed more supporters drowning out negative voices so for every one negative comment there were now ten or so saying positive things.
- Chris Gerrish (CG) confirmed there has been a social media policy introduced at the club which he oversees. CG monitors key words, this can range from 50-100 and it will be checked if these breach our policy but other days can be 2,000. At the moment, because we are playing well these numbers are low.
- CG explained nationally there is a lot of work going on around this and there may be new laws that change how this is managed. CG confirmed that if comments are directed towards staff, players or supporters and breach the policy then action will be taken.
- JH asked if players get any social media training.
- CG confirmed that he speaks to players regularly about their social media presence and annually there is collective training on what is suitable for players to post, protecting their personal information, keeping themselves safe etc. CG also told the group that the police are due to come in shortly to give further training around what to do if they are a victim of online abuse.
- Neill Blake (NB) asked if group knew whether there was an issue in the North Stand, as it seems Block 15 are noisier and others are quieter.
- MP asked if the sign had been taken down that said that block was more lively, as some supporters sitting there are not as vocal.
- Harrison Wingate (HW) suggested that it would help if there was more build up and Mike Botto (MB) resumed ‘Make some noise for the boys’ etc.
- EF explained whilst we have gone back to full capacity, still have red and purple zone so everything inside the hoardings was red zone which means players and team staff are the only ones that can occupy it. However, we recently applied to the EFL to reduce this just to the playing area so MB can now access pitch side at least.
- HW suggested that perhaps MB could be filmed on the big screens so more people can see. EF felt MB prefers to be on the pitch and we will review.
All agreed atmosphere was brilliant at QPR and games under the lights have a unique atmosphere. Jeff Mostyn (JM) thanked group as thinks atmosphere has been great this year.
- JK mentioned he noticed SP didn’t applaud fans after Hull City away. Also concerns around South Stand not getting as much recognition.
- NB confirmed he will speak to SP and players, definitely isn’t down to not appreciating just a case of re-educating after not having any supporters in the stand for a long time.
- Richard Hughes (RH) reiterated just a question of re-education and shouldn’t compare to the EH era as very uncommon in other clubs so just a case of that awareness.
- AJ confirmed evening under the lights is always special, it won’t be the same as the middle of the day on Saturdays i.e. Luton vs QPR, don’t think there is too much more to artificially push.
- Group have noticed Block 1 not always full. EF explained because it is the Family Stand. We went through an exercise to move Block 1 into Blocks 8 and 9 Family Stands but some remain and open to family groups only. The club promoted this for the Luton game and more seats were taken up.
- EF asked the group what their thoughts were on offering a season ticket to a Junior Cherries child of a STH who does not currently have one or may have an older child who does but not the younger. This would only be in Block 1 as it is a Family Stand and would promote our fans of the future.
- Group agreed this was a nice idea.
Terms of Reference
- RJ & SL confirmed they would like a clear terms of reference as a bit confused about the remit of this group as opposed to the Cherries Trust.
- NB confirmed this group was a way for the club and the hierarchy to engage with as many supporters as possible as unable to engage with everyone individually. The group has been formed to bring ideas on how to improve the matchday experience.
- NB explained we have other supporter groups and together they give the club exposure to understand experience and make sure our supporters are happy.
- NB asked the group if they wanted the club to produce the terms of reference for the SEG in which the group confirmed they would.
- RJ asked for further clarification on how the SEG differs from the Cherries Trust.
- NB confirmed that Cherries Trust are a self-appointed group who have elected members whilst the SEG is a club appointed group who we would like to get constructive feedback and ideas from.
- EF confirmed that whilst Cherries Trust are independent from the club, we do work collaboratively with them and have two board to boards a year as well as EF having regular communication with Mark Dean.
- Members of SEG weren’t aware Cherries Trust not set up by the club and weren’t aware of social media presence or AGM.
- AF confirmed he has seen their social media channels and attended one of their
AGMs and both are accessible to supporters.
Any other business
- LH mentioned a supporter had asked her if the 1910 Bar was accessible and she told them it was but just wanted to make sure she had got that correct.
- EF confirmed it was and they would use the lift in the main reception to the first floor to access.
- EF confirmed they are hoping to add an accessible toilet using part of the current female toilets for disabled users of the 1910 Bar.
- JM encouraged the group for future meetings to come to up with ideas that the club may not have considered and particularly in reference to matchday experience.
- JK mentioned that with a large number of key players retiring during the pandemic supporters have missed an opportunity to show their appreciation so for those that are still around i.e. Tommy Elphick and Simon Francis and connected with the club and could we do something.
- NB and RH agreed that they would look into something when restrictions allow.
- TD asked if the DC Lounge would be available again soon but EF confirmed that due to the medical centre being a red zone and the DC lounge being in the reception of this area it wouldn’t be possible to have this open yet. EF will have another think though and try and see if there is anything she can do.
- Group members commended the business done over the summer and have really enjoyed watching the level of football so wanted to thank RH, NB etc.
- EF asked if group had anything else they wanted to raise.
- SEG confirmed they did not.
- JM thanked everyone for support and positivity during the meeting and appreciated the time given to attend.
- EF confirmed the minutes will be circulated to the group for approval and then put online when everyone is agreed.