The minutes from the Supporter Experience Working Group meeting which took place on Thursday 26th May 2022 are now available.
Neill Blake – Chief Executive
Jeff Mostyn – Chairman
Elizabeth Finney – Operations Director
Paul Fudge – Head of Catering Operations
Olivia Hammond – PA to Chief Executive
Jazmine Spurling – Ticketing Manager
Matt Joyce – Communications & Content Manager
Ian Reed – Safety Officer
Liz welcomed back the group for the last meeting of the season and introduced a couple of new representatives from AFCB: Jazmine Spurling our Ticketing Manager, Ian Read our Safety Officer and Matt Joyce, our Communications & Content Manager, stepping in for Chris Smith in his absence.
e-tickets: Jazmine was pleased to confirm we can potentially look to introduce e-tickets for home games and continue to issue printed tickets. She will follow up on this with the ticketing supplier.
Initially the e-tickets will be issued for home games only. However, Liz advised that there were moves to getting a working group together with a view to looking at setting this up for away games, following feedback to clubs from their supporters.
Neill commented it would only be e-tickets and printed tickets for now; there would not be the option of print at home tickets as we believe this could cause too many problems.
Jazmine confirmed that if buying multiple tickets for a family, there would be a separate barcode for each individual which would be sent to each supporter’s account.
It was advised that when we do introduce the new ticketing method at the club, we will do a full step-by-step guide for all supporters.
The group advised they would be supportive of the introduction of e-tickets available on their phones, and it was noted this will also have an impact on matchday collections from the ticket office.
Online fees: with the current purchasing of tickets, there is a perception that the fee is all postage, however there are also bank card charges incurred by the club for each transaction.
The finance team are looking at alternative suppliers and this may reduce those charges at which point the club can hold a review of the cost of each transaction. As it stands, any e-tickets would currently incur a transaction fee of £2.
The question was asked to Liz ‘how do you feel about the ticketing team/new system?’
Liz commented she was very pleased and proud of the team; with the new restructure they work really well together and they support each other; we have worked on getting the team right and improving technical knowledge and its application within the ticketing system and this has gone well i.e. a very successful season ticket sales launch. We now want to focus a little more on supporters’ ticketing needs and where we can improve fans’ ticketing experience further. We are excited for the new season and while there will be some different challenges in the Premier League, she was confident in the team’s ability to manage these.
Flares in the stadium
Liz agreed that fan behaviour in general across all of football has degenerated post-Covid.
She advised that two supporters who were involved with flares and other issues from the Bristol City game have both received a three-year Football Banning Order.
Neill commented, next season the leagues will put pressure on clubs to step up security and the safety of fans. This will not just be related to flares as, with what has happened in recent pitch invasions, there is also a big emphasis on this at the moment. We can’t control what other clubs do with regards to searching people when they enter the stadium, but you like to think, with what we have heard and seen this season, clubs will step it up.
In the previous meeting to this, we were told as a club we search too much when entering the stadium, this justifies why we do it.
Ian advised he was at the SGSA Conference in Manchester on Tuesday and there was an entire hour’s section dedicated to this issue and supporter behaviour.
Neill confirmed that next season we will be upgrading our CCTV system within key areas in the stands, so we can better deal with such incidents.
Liz advised these issues will be discussed at the Police Debrief and subsequent Safety Advisory Group Meeting at the end of June so will see what comes from those meetings.
From the supporter group, what can we do to help you: spreading the word in encouraging other supporters to report any incidents on a matchday, rather than email in on a Sunday or Monday. It genuinely helps us as we can get CCTV footage or get stewards on site to assist. The incident report number can be found on the big screen, back of your tickets, in the programme and around the stadium, i.e. toilets.
Club social media
The group felt the club social media came to life towards the end of the season and wanted to congratulate the media team.
Matt commented that timing is key and over the season we have developed a good rapport with Scott and the team which makes a massive difference to our content.
Our content strategy is very sensitive, as we don’t want to reveal certain elements of the first-team tactics, and we want to continue to protect the sporting integrity of Scott and his staff.
Neill commented that next season in the Premier League, there will be a lot more first-team content due to PL broadcast requirements. Matt added that there will also be podcasts with ex- and current players coming in the new season, so please listen out.
Liz mentioned, this season we had a lot of Covid protocols still in place around players/team staff, i.e. Red Zones, so we were not able to have the usual interaction we wanted between fans, players and first-team staff but that this is now changing for the new season.
How do we get ex-players more involved at the club?
Neill highlighted that as a club we employ a lot of ex-players, especially within our academy and coaching staff. We make a specific point to bring on as many ex-players and
putting them through their coaching badges if they haven’t already got them already.
The U23 current coaches are Shaun Cooper and Tommy Elphick; it is important to us to try to get as many previous involved as we can as they will understand the playing philosophy of the club. In terms of having ex-players around on matchdays, this can be difficult especially for those within the Academy on a Saturday.
We also currently have Marc Pugh working with us as a nutrition consultant specialising in athletic performance. Marc is working with the Academy and U23s on their nutrition and dietary habits and we feel it important for them to be able to relate to someone who has played for AFCB. It’s great to have Marc around the club and he has also given a diet/cooking class with the staff which they have found very beneficial.
Liz commented that pre-Covid on a matchday, two of our hospitality suites were visited by current players and we would also present the ‘player of the match’ award after the game. We are looking to bring this back next season.
Neill mentioned he would also like the women’s team to be more visible around the stadium next season on matchdays. He feels it is very important for supporters to see them involved, as well as good for the team members themselves, and feels that is crucial for the team’s development.
Plans for training ground and/or stadium?
Neill advised that, while we as a club we have been out of Premier League for two years, things have evolved over that time and for next season we haven’t got to do as much around the ground as we did the majority of work at the last promotion. We are therefore looking to upgrade some of our current facilities, to strengthen and improve what we have and enhance the supporter experience. The group was very supportive and excited to hear this as they felt it is major step forward for the club.
As of today, we have been given the go ahead for a contractor to start building the artificial pitch at Canford Arena for our Academy and they will be starting to use facilities up there soon. Firstly, we are building a full outdoor pitch and setting up some temporary offices, and will then focus on building the indoor dome and offices to improve our category status.
The timescale the contractors are working towards for the outdoor 3G pitch is end of September.
There are further changes within the Academy as Joe Roach has stepped aside from being Academy Manager and has taken on a new role which we highlighted was needed and we have brought through Sam Gisborne as our Academy Manager. as he has developed very well over his time with the club.
The club will make an announcement over the summer regarding the development at Canford Arena and in the meantime we are working with the contractors to finalise details before we do this.
Wi-Fi issues around the stadium on matchdays was raised by one of the group. Neill commented this is a common problem at grounds and we are working with our IT Manager to see if we could get an isolated Wi-Fi line to the stadium that supporters can use.
We are continuing to work on this and see what we can do to improve this issue.
Half-time food in the Family Stand
It was noted that there were no burgers or pies at half time for the last three games in this area. Paul commented it is a very fine line as we monitor the numbers in detail and the objective is to not run out of food but not have wastage at the end of the game.
The issue with the last three games of the season might have been affected by the different kick-off times; people were eating before arriving at the stadium or, with the 7pm kick-off, were coming straight from work so wanting to eat.
He asked If that happens in future and your area has food items no longer available, please contact him as soon as possible as he would rather know the day after the game so he can make any adjustment for the next fixture.
Liz commented the ticketing team have come up with some potential additional seating that can be allocated as more accessible, as we have received more requests to move seats due to reduced mobility. We are looking at potentially allocating a small section of seats in block 28 and then can release any not taken in the pre-matchday on-sale. While there are steps involved, there is a handrail to assist and then level access. We will update on this over the summer.
After consulting with supporters, we are looking at trialling sensory seating. While we have limited space that precludes a matchday sensory room, we do have two accessible platforms which we could potentially utilise. If possible, these would be at the back on the central East Stand platform and the Main Stand. This would enable us to offer seating with easy access to a safe, quieter space should it be required by supporters who might require it.
Also, we are in the process of installing an accessible toilet in the 1910 Bar. This will be ready for the new season.
Hatching on the front walkways: we have received feedback on this from fans who have their view regularly blocked pre-match or at half-time or feel crowded by supporters standing by the barriers during these periods. The police have also raised this as a discussion point. This will be raised at our Safety Advisory Group meeting at the end of June, and if agreed, will be implemented.
The group commented on away fans standing up in visiting area and blocking the walkways. Liz advised this is a common problem and stewards do try to deal with it. During this season a system has evolved where instead of stewards standing pitchside, they stand on the seating side of the ad barriers and when visiting supporters enter the stadium, stewards encourage away fans to go to their seats and not stand in the walkways. There are also some other measures that are being considered for next season that should assist with this.
Outside area at the North Stand
This matter was raised and Liz confirmed that we have been operating under a temporary law around licencing where we can serve alcohol in the outside area that was introduced during Covid and lasts until September.
While the club sees the benefit, and the group supported this, and would ideally like to apply for a licence to operate for next season, as mentioned in the previous meeting we have faced issues for stewards with supporters not adhering to the no smoking/vaping requirement. As discussed before, there has been an unacceptable level of aggression towards stewards and while we felt supporters got on board with this after we emailed ticket holders in the North Stand, unfortunately towards end of the season we have experienced more confrontation towards the stewards.
We are moving from one to two Deputy Safety Officers for the coming season, both very experienced, and one will have responsibility for this area if we do keep it.
Again, this is something that will be raised at the Safety Advisory Group meeting and we can update supporters before the new season starts.
The club representatives thanked the group for their contribution over the past season. Everyone agreed the meetings were very useful and interesting and certainly both club staff and supporters felt it had been a positive experience.
Thank you everyone and have a good summer.