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Supporter liaison updates

Minutes from Supporter Experience Working Group

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

The minutes from the Supporter Experience Working Group meeting which took place on Wednesday 30th June 2021 are now available.

Attendees

• Jo Hebditch
• Robbie Sargent (remote)
• Mathew Davies (remote)
• Jon Knight 
• Richard Jackson
• Daniel Butler
• Lesley Hathaway
• Stacey Finch
• Sarah McLaren
• Andrew Jennings
• Terry Dennis
• Mike Ponchaud
• Harrison Wingate
• Dawn Rothwell
• Neill Blake – chief executive
• Jeff Mostyn - chairman
• Elizabeth Finney – operations director
• Angela Burgess – ticketing manager
• Rob Mitchell – commercial director
• Holly Roberts – PA to operations director
• Paul Fudge – head of catering operations
• Anthony Marshall – head of media and communications
• Richard Hughes – first-team technical director
• Simon Francis – assistant first-team technical director

Apologies

• Dan Wilson
• Alex Forbes

Agenda

• Introductions
• Minute Taking
• Group scope

Minutes

Elizabeth Finney (EF) welcomed the Supporter Experience Working Group (SEG) to the meeting and thanked them for coming and explained that we had a large contingent of club staff in the room and, in future meetings, the agenda items would dictate who would attend from AFC Bournemouth.

EF confirmed this is an introductory meeting and there would follow a further three full meetings.

Introductions of club staff to SEG and vice-versa followed.

EF explained the group was formed and applicants picked to give as diverse a cross section as possible in terms of stand they normally sit at to age and gender.

EF explained that the club see the SEG as a way for the representatives of the group to share discussions with their fellow supporters and enable the group to be a channel where we can share feedback and ideas from both sides.

EF explained that we have a few other groups with supporters such as the Equality Focus Group (EFG) and Ticketing Working Group (TWG) and one of the housekeeping items at these meetings is that all discussions that take place in the group are kept confidential until we circulate, and all members of the group approve the minutes of the meeting.

EF would suggest the SEG follows the same process as it is important we have a coordinated voice and the group agreed.

SEG Remit – EF explained we have a club idea of what this would be but would be really interested to know how members of the group think.

Sarah McLaren (SM) suggested that the SEG as members would not just represent themselves but all supporters.

Andrew Jennings (AJ) asked if club could define what supporter experience meant?

Neill Blake (NB) confirmed this means the whole supporter experience from what is consumed online, to attending matches, pre-match etc. It has to mean the whole product and generally what it means to be an AFCB supporter. The club are keen to get ideas of how they can improve that product offering to supporters.

Richard Jackson (RJ) asked how would this differ from the relationship to the Cherries Trust and would the SEG be seen as delegates that bring ideas from the wider supporter base to the club?

NB confirmed the relationship with the Cherries Trust is still important and will still continue to meet with them but the club felt there was an opportunity to get opinions and ideas from another group.

NB confirmed the club does see them as delegates and should definitely go
to fellow supporters for ideas and feedback. 

Jeff Mostyn (JM) said he would like to see this group develop with an honesty, integrity and bond between the group and the club.

NB confirmed JM, EF and NB will always be present at SEG meetings

NB asked the group if they had any questions at this time.

Mike Ponchaud (MP) asked what is the legacy going to be, how do we build on the last five years of success?

NB said he often gets asked why we didn’t buy back the stadium but we have to have a willing seller which we don’t have at this time. The club looked at options to develop however this just did not make viable financial or business sense as it would actually cost the same to build a new stadium.

NB explained in terms of the work on the training ground this has been put
on hold because the owner felt the investment needed to be in the team and what was happening on the pitch and make sure that there were no shortfalls due to being relegated and the challenges that come with Covid-19.

He suggested that sometimes the media can make it seem like there is a huge amount of money that comes with being in the Premier League and there is, but this is also balanced with a huge increase in outgoings i.e. paying PL wages etc.

The owner of the club does not want to be in the position where he is borrowing from lenders and the focus is now on having the right management and team to return to the Premier League.

The main focus is to not put the club at risk. The club is debt-free and the owner is very passionate about the club and wants to protect it. There may be an opportunity to review these new facilities in the future.

JM highlighted that legacy is not always something tangible and shouldn’t underestimate the five years we spent in the Premier League and the legacy that the club already had now.

RJ asked was it true that without new training facilities the academy can still achieve category two status.

NB explained the only reason we don’t hold category two status is because we don’t have an indoor 3G pitch. Staffing wise and facilities wise we are a category two club. The income category two brings doesn’t touch the surface of the investment that would be required to build this indoor pitch.

NB acknowledges the games programme may be more attractive, but we are producing really good players and developing them.

Richard Hughes (RH) confirmed category status doesn’t mean we can’t get better coaches etc and that we are focussing on bridging the gap between the first team and younger players currently.

RH explained that with Brexit the bigger clubs will be looking at our academy more and there is very little we can do to stop that happening.

JM confirmed just because the club is not category two doesn’t mean there isn’t good work and investment going on at the academy. Quality of the coaching is very good.

NB confirmed he wants to develop the training ground.

JB and AJ suggested perhaps this could be communicated in the way it has been this evening to the wider supporter base because as a narrative as this completely makes sense.

Robbie Sargent (RS) asked if the new head coach’s remit is going to be slightly different to our previous first-team managers/coaches and whether it will be a new direction for the first team?

NB confirmed it is a very different dynamic now. Eddie Howe had been with the club the whole journey and NB and RH worked closely with him across a wider area of the club. Scott Parker has been brought in as a head coach and reports to NB and RH which is different to how it has previously worked. The first team is Parker’s remit and he has the reins to try and get back to where we feel we should be.

NB confirmed we are taking a different direction and the owner feels we
need some new voices.

RS asked whether this was the intention during the summer last year but then we couldn’t get the manager we wanted.

NB said this was not the case but rather the owner felt it was the right thing to give Jason Tindall the manager's position but then ultimately had to make a decision based on results during the season.

RH added we were a club that had to grow and reflect the success that was happening on the pitch. Howe spent a lot of time on this, now it has grown and departments are self-sufficient so there is no longer a necessity for a first-team manager to oversee multiple areas. That role can just focus on the first team.

Dawn Rothwell (DR) said she is really excited for the future, that sometimes things do go stale and now was a good time to rebuild even though it is a shame to see such long-standing staff members leave the club. However, listening to what has been said tonight she was really excited.

NB said he wanted to record that those staff members are top people and can’t
thank them enough for what they have contributed to the club.

DR asked how the first-team technical director and first-team head coach
relationship works?

RH confirmed we have recruitment department of 12 who cover as much as country and abroad as possible. When there is a need, he will work with the head coach to look at options. It is a perfect fit because there is an understanding and communication between both.

NB would also be involved when a potential target is identified and the process has already started for this coming season.

DR asked whether photos of training where certain players are missing meant
anything?

NB and Anthony Marshall (AM) confirmed that no assumptions should be made from that, our photographer was absent for some sessions and some players couldn’t make training for various reasons.

MP asked if we could financially survive without selling players this year?

NB said as much as he would love that to be the case it is just not possible and you wouldn’t be able to hold back players from progressing their careers as unhappy players can be detrimental to performance.

AJ suggested it would be nice to have more visibility of staff in keys roles such as RH to know a little more about what they do at the club day to day.

NB confirmed we have set up a podcast series and one of these was with RH
which detailed his role.

AJ said that not everyone listens to podcasts so maybe this could be done in another way such as mail shots. And it would be interesting to know what other roles do such as analysts etc.

AM and the media team will look to create more content around this, AM confirmed there are more staff members taking part in the podcast soon i.e. Matt Wells, Simon Francis (SF).

SF suggested Reels on Instagram would be a good way to do this.

NB asked what the group’s thoughts were when EH was in La Manga and had a microphone etc?

SEG confirmed they thought that was a really good idea.

Lesley Hathaway (LH) suggested this feature could go in the programme.

The group discussed the importance of the younger generation especially the 9-15s as they will be the future of the club.

EF confirmed we engage and are continuing to improve engagement with our young supporters through Junior Cherries and the wide breadth of work the AFC Bournemouth Community Sports Trust does.

The club already run sessions where club staff such as analysts, coaches and physiotherapists have spoken to young supporters in our ‘Junior Cherries Masterclasses’ which have been a great success and well attended.

RS asked why NB had resigned as a director?

NB confirmed it was for personal and family reasons and that nothing has changed in that he is still running the club and reporting to the owner. There was a clerical error for the delay in why this took so long to be released.

The group discussed ticketing and season ticket renewals and EF confirmed that for the 21/22 season, ticket renewals were at 5,850 but still some partner tickets to add which is higher than our 20/21 season which was 5,706 and a little under 19/20 season which was 6,312.

EF confirmed that there wouldn’t be any additional season tickets available as we want to make sure as many supporters can get to a game as possible.

She continued that the club has various initiatives such as our Junior Cherries ticketing ballot in which zero points holders can apply to attend a game, gain a point and rise up the points ladder.

They have previously been accommodated in seats not used by those with accessible requirements in the front row but that we are planning to use spare seats in block 1 family area to give them access to a family-focused matchday experience.

TD suggested perhaps spaces not used on accessible platform etc could also be
used for Junior Cherries to come to a game.

EF confirmed that there would be a re-communication to ticket holders around giving up their seats if they know they cannot make a game.

EF confirmed that several thousand young fans and their parent/guardian had benefited from the Junior Cherries initiative and would confirm the number to the group.

EF told the group that our equality partnerships executive Ben Abberstein is now disability liaison officer and disability accessibility officer so she would work with him to communicate information around this to disabled supporters.

The group discussed that there would be further work around how those aging out of the Family Stand.

The group discussed online season ticket renewals and how the club would make sure those who may not have access to a smart phone or computer would be communicated with and have an opportunity to renew their season ticket.

Angela Burgess (AB) confirmed that those who were known not to have access were contacted so hopes to capture everyone but anyone who has had an issue or hasn’t received their renewal information should contact her. EF confirmed that those who did not renew this season will be contacted and asked why so the club can understand/identify any barriers.

AB also confirmed that there were a few supporters who had not yet renewed and that as a gesture of goodwill we would honour any outstanding renewals in light of the ongoing pandemic.

It was also confirmed that all 19/20 points have been frozen and have been carried over to 21/22 season.

It was suggested that an agenda item for a future SEG meeting should be dedicated to ticketing. 

Harrison Wingate (HW) suggested that the club model their social media pre-match build up around what the England squad have done for the Euros in terms of fans asking live questions and following pre-match prep, i.e. putting on boots etc. as he feels we don’t know much about our team as people and this kind of access would bring us closer.

AM confirmed now we have the head coach appointed we can do more of this pre-season.

RJ asked if any of the panel wanted to ask the SEG some questions.

EF said she would like thoughts on young fan engagement, how we could help families sitting together who may be past season ticket holder and part points holders.

Paul Fudge (PF) said he was looking into making concourses cashless, so thoughts on that would be good.

SM said wouldn’t there be an issue with older supporters?

PF confirmed that he would look at pre-paid cards which would assist the potential use for younger supporters too.

MP suggested about season ticket cards having this capability.

PF advised that our current systems grew quickly in different areas but there is an opportunity to look at these things under one umbrella for improved use.

MP said it would be nice not have multiple sign-on.

Club confirmed it is something that is being looked at.

AB asked the group if they would use an app to buy tickets, food etc?

Group said yes would be interested in one app fits all etc. Club confirmed this would be a long-term strategy but something they would like to do.
EF and AG will look at how best to get feedback on catering/retail etc. from a wide range of supporters.

Rob Mitchell (RM) said he would really value any feedback from this group on merchandise/products bought from the superstore.

DR said next time we have a kit feedback session it would be better to have a wider variety as all shirts seemed similar.

NB said he would like supporters to be more involved. However, a lot of the time, the club is under huge time constraints but will try and involve supporters at an earlier stage.

DR suggested look at kits for home maybe modern and then away is retro etc.

NB said he understood but the club would have to be careful about clashing and what kits we can actually use against the opposition.

Jo Hebditch (JH) suggested a future agenda item should be around social media.

Having checked there were no further items, NB said he very much appreciated everyone attending and is committed to working with the group to ensure effective feedback and then working together to implement progressive ideas.

NB and EF reiterated the group should not wait for the next meeting to get in contact and if they want to discuss anything should email or call EF.

JM thanked group for contribution before the next meeting and minutes were discussed.

Meeting ended.

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