Arsenal Football Club Supporters Consultative Forum 2007/2008 Season
Meeting held at 11 am - the Red Zone Saturday 18th October 2008
Borthwick, Ian - Family Enclosure
Brindle, Mark - Arsenal Supporters Club Branch
Clifford, David - Gold Member
Docherty, Amanda - Arsenal Brent, Graham - Club Level F.C
Friar, Ken - Arsenal F.C
Frost, Ben - AISA Representative
Grainger, Nicola - Silver Member
Harrold, Ian - Arsenal Supporters Club Branch
Hayward, Richard - Gay Supporters Representative
Irwin, John - Gold Member
Manek, Ameesh - Ethnic Minority Representative
Miles, David - Arsenal F.C.
Miller, Raymond - Red Member
O'Brien, Michael - Arsenal F.C.
Osipiuk, Rob - Silver Member
Pattinson, Dave - Red Member
Roberts, Elliot - Electoral Reform Services (Chair)
Smith, Jill - Arsenal F.C.
Swed, Meredith - Arsenal Supporters Club, Overseas
Thater, Rosie - 16 - 21 Year Old Representative
Worsell, Ivan - Arsenal F.C.
Ford, Adrian - Arsenal F.C
Williamson, Edward - Disabled Supporters Representative
Matters arising from the last meeting
Please see below for an update on plans to commemorate supporters.
Please see below for an update on the Arsenalisation of the stadium.
Club Membership / Ticketing
How many fans didn't re-new their season tickets for this season?
Approximately 500 fans relinquished their season tickets this season, which is slightly down on the figure last year. There are various reasons as to why this happens, fans moving away etc - we're not overly concerned by this as we have a season ticket waiting list of about 47,500. We also have a substantial waiting list for club level tickets. The club originally offered a number of different offers ranging from a one season to a four Club Level Season ticket deal, therefore they are not all up for renewal at the same time. We have over 70,000 Red Level Members.
There are fans that go to lots of away games but have difficulty getting tickets for home games - is there a possibility of reviewing the membership status of these fans?
Travel club membership is purely aimed at people who want to go to away games. There are people who are Red Members who've have been on the list for a long time (previously as members of the Ticket Registration Scheme) and upgrading Red Members on the Travel Club Membership scheme maybe be perceived as being unfair.
How accurate are the published attendance figures? Sometimes figures announced are close to capacity, but sometime there are lots of visible empty seats.
The figures announced are the number of tickets sold for a particular game. i.e. tickets we've received the money for. There are obviously occasions when people who have a ticket are not able to attend a game, which is why we set up the ticket exchange scheme so that opportunities are available for these tickets to be used. We are actively promoting this scheme. Last year, we averaged about 300 tickets being sold via this route and we've nearly doubled that this year to just under 600. We've cut the deadline for this scheme from 1 week to 72 hours before the game for this process - this ensures that we have enough time for all the relevant data and access points to be updated. As it works via electronic access cards, it can't be expanded to away tickets.
We are able to gather information on those who have purchased a ticket and haven't ultimately attended and have specifically marketed them in the promotion of the ticket exchange scheme. We're continually aiming to improve the usage of the scheme. We're aware that some people think it's a complicated process but in reality it is pretty straightforward. Currently, people who use the scheme don't see an instantaneous benefit, in that discounts are applied when fans want to renew their season tickets - we're looking at other, more immediate ways in which fans could benefit. We want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to come and watch a game and this scheme is a good way of achieving that. We're have been offering the opportunity for fans to use the telephone whereby they will be guided through the process of how to use this scheme - more and more of our customer support staff are now able to deal with ticketing queries.
We're also aware that season ticket holders sometimes want to but tickets for friends and family and we're looking at ways to incorporate this into the membership scheme, so where tickets may go on general sale, at least some of these could initially be offered to season ticket holders.
Why are the club stopping the Cannon Club Membership scheme?
In reality, the Cannon Club scheme hasn't been used in the way it was initially designed for - the vast majority of holders have only been buying tickets outside the enclosure. Therefore we were receiving many complaints from members as they had to wait until the family enclosure had sold out before they could buy elsewhere.
There have been occasions where ticket touts have got junior gunner membership, sold the tickets on and over time have been upgraded to silver members. We've been focusing in on this and from now on, anybody who is an existing junior gunner, to upgrade to Silver membership, they need to have been a member for at least 2 years.
For tickets that go on general sale, can the club not offer these at discounted rates to younger supporters?
There has been a slight increase in the number of tickets that go on general sale and the Board will look at the pricing of these. Part of the reason that more have gone on general sale is that we haven't gone back to Red members as frequently in making sure people are aware these are available. We have to bear in mind that there are numerous groups who we could offer discounted tickets to e.g. those that are unemployed or Senior Citizen Supporters.
Current Board Structure & Shareholder Representation
Can the club give an overview of its current financial position?
We announced our annual results in late-September. We've increased both our turnover and our profit situation. Match day revenue has increased and we've also substantially increased our revenue via TV rights and these will be at the same level for the next few seasons. Our salaries account for just over £100 million of our expenses, but as a proportion of overall turnover, it is comparatively low and lower than the figure we had last year. Everyone is aware about the looming recession and Arsenal will obviously not be immune to that, but we have built good foundations. We are careful about how we manage the organisation.
Will the slide in property prices have an adverse effect on Highbury Square?
The Highbury development is totally ring-fenced from the rest of the Company - it has a separate loan attached to it. We have currently sold 92% of the apartments in the development and 100 apartments have been fully completed and paid for. There are no signs yet of any major problem and the project is due for completion by June of 2009. The prices of these houses may not be what they where expected to be previously, but accounts don't as such include expected future values of assets and therefore have not had a negative effect on them. We hope to sell them all and with the profit we can either reduce the bank loan or re-invest within the club on aspects such as buying new playing staff. The vast majority of the money for the development has been paid to Macalpine and we are now starting to see large flows of revenue from the final sales of the properties. The major construction costs have already paid for and the monthly payments we make to Macalpine, which are due to finish shortly, are getting smaller There have been some stories about people pulling out - we've only had 2 thus far and these occurred over 6 months ago. Everyone who has signed a contract must fulfil their obligation - if we have to sell a property that an individual has reneged on purchasing, they have a legal obligation to make good on any shortfall, as well as losing their initial deposit.
Is it true that the rates that you've negotiated on your loans with creditors are comparatively good?
Yes, we negotiated very good rates last year on our loans which obviously mean that our interest payments on them are less than they would have been had we re-negotiated them more recently.
Can the club comment on the delay in appointing a new Managing Director - Are the club looking for someone with business or football experience?
The current situation is that we are hopeful to have someone to take the position by the end of the year. We can't guarantee that they will be in place by the end of the year, as some candidates have a long notice period in their current employment. We believe there needs to be a link between the manager and the Board but I (Ken Friar) personally don't believe that a Director of Football, who may also get involved in the buying and selling of players, is the best way to take on this role. Whoever gets this role has to develop a good working relationship with the manager and indirectly the players - if this relationship doesn't work well then the whole future of the club suffers. The position has to be taken by someone who has good experience of both business and football. We've employed a recruitment agency called Spencer Stewart and they've been working on a list of potential candidates and Arsène will have input into who is ultimately chosen.
What is Stan Kroenke's role as a non-executive Director on the board?
He hasn't been given a specific role as non-executive directors usually perform a wide range of functions e.g. sitting on the nominations and remuneration committees - what he will bring is a wide range of experience in business and sport more generally. His family is the Walmart (who own ASDA in the UK) family in America and we feel he can contribute greatly to the development of Arsenal F.C. (He was formally appointed to the Board on Thursday 23rd October)
Has Mr Dein's exit from Red and White holdings softened the relationship with them?
The reason for why Mr Dein has left them is purely a matter for them - we have a relationship with them but don't need to know the specifics about their internal decisions. Our Chairman has stated more generally that he wants Arsenal to be self-sustaining. We all want to be successful and win championships but we don't want to do at the cost of potentially bankrupting the club.
The Arsenalisation of the stadium is taking longer that expected - can the club please update us on this.
We had a follow-up meeting last Thursday with 20/20 and they've come back to us with further designs and costings. We've given them a brief to combine historical and modern elements of the club. In terms of the designs they have come up with - some of them are pretty good and have taken on board what we think will work with fans. The next step is to get the costings related to these designs and then make a decision based on those. We have heard of the suggestion of re-naming the quadrants and this is something that we will look into, maybe as part of the 125th anniversary in the 2011/12 season. (see below)
Have there been any developments about the Memorial?
It was something that was thought about in the initial design of the stadium - people have talked about using bricks but as you know, the Emirates stadium is not brick based. We are looking at potential locations and have had discussions with an organisation called Brickonomics. We are aware that a lot of fans have enquired about it; however, people must be aware that if it is to develop, there has to be an understanding that there will be physical limit as to how many we can have. We'll hopefully have some more information for the next forum.
The Mike Ashley incident had a lot of coverage and for some fans highlighted the differing treatment of home and away fans, especially around the issue of standing at games.
We took it up with the Police and their response was that none of them saw the incident, other than what was shown on the screen. Once they were aware of it, the Police and our staff got Mr Ashley out onto the concourse and gave him a verbal warning for his actions. We spoke to the Police after the game and their view was that in law, if they had tried to prosecute, they would have failed as no officers saw him with his drink in his hand - we wrote to Newcastle F.C to make a complaint. He was treated in exactly the same way as any other fan would have been.
In terms of fans standing, we have our policy on this and all our fans should be aware as to what it is. It's more difficult to enforce this policy on away fans as they are obviously only here once or maybe twice a season and it is more difficult to identify who the culprits are. There is a decision to be made on whether it may create more public disorder to try and aggressively enforce this policy on a group of 5,000+ fans. If they all act in unison, in reality, it would be very hard to enforce it - some of you may go to away games and probably encounter similar situations.
Have there been any developments in moving towards a cashless stadium?
It is something that we will be looking at in the next year to 18 months. When moving to the new stadium we didn't want to introduce too much new technology simultaneously, but it is something that may develop.
A lot of fans are upset at the lack of white sleeves for the home kit for this season - what was the thinking behind this?
What us and Nike tried to do is incorporate the history of Arsenal but introduce a contemporary twist to the design of the shirt. We advise fans that are unhappy about it to let us know and we'll obviously factor this in when coming up with future designs. We got feedback from the forum in the past for the last kit at Highbury and if feasible, we'll ask for your input next time around. We do have to bear in mind however that there are stipulations from the Premier League about what is and isn't acceptable re: design.
What are the plans to celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the club during the 2011/12 season in terms of the shirt?
We will start to look at the anniversary shirt towards the end of next season. This will be part of a wider process of celebrating the anniversary. Obviously it is in its early stages but we hope to come back to the forum with developments and potential ideas. We feel that the shirt for the last season at Highbury was commercially successful, but more importantly, accurately captured the sentiment that surrounded the history of the club and Highbury. In terms of the game around the anniversary, we hope to have some influence on what fixture takes place. There are lots of different options that need to be discussed and developed and we'll revisit this at the forum in due course.
Are there any other musical concerts/international football games planned for Highbury?
There's nothing coming up immediately but we have had great success with international fixtures and pop concerts in the past (e.g. Bruce Springsteen) For concerts especially there are limited time-windows available due to the technical requirements of these, but they do put our stadium and club in a good light and we will always look for opportunities. The promoters of these events state they are very happy with the facilities we can offer.
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The meeting finished at 12.35pm