Arsenal Football Club Supporters Consultative Forum 2007/2008 Season
Meeting held at 9.30 am - the Red Zone Saturday 19th April 2008

Attendees
Beattie, John - Arsenal F.C
Borthwick, Ian - Family Enclosure
Breese, Rick - Arsenal Supporters Club (Overseas)
Brindle, Mark - Arsenal Supporters Club Branch
Campbell, Sue - Arsenal F.C.
Clifford, David - Gold Member
Docherty, Amanda - Arsenal F.C
Downs, Penny - Arsenal F.C
Edelman, Keith - Arsenal F.C.
Ellis, Paul - Arsenal Supporters Club (Norfolk)
Ford, Adrian - Arsenal F.C
Frost, Ben - AISA Representative
Gosnell, Peter - Disabled Supporter
Kinnear, Angus - Arsenal F.C
Laser, Ronald - Club Level
Manek, Ameesh - Ethnic Minority Representative
Mears, Janet - Over 60 Year-Old
Miles, David - Arsenal F.C.
O’Brien, Michael - Arsenal F.C.
Osipiuk, Rob - Silver Member
Patterson, Dave - Red Member
Roberts, Elliot - Electoral Reform Services (Chair)
Smith, Jill - Arsenal F.C.
Tango. Lee - Red Member
Thater, Rosie - 16 - 21 Year Old Representative

Apologies
Grainger, Nicky - Silver Member
Hayward, Richard - Gay Supporters Representative
Irwin, John - Gold Member


Matters arising from the last meeting
Please see below for an update on our new customer services arrangements.

There was an article about the inappropriate use of language in the program for the Spurs game.

We weren’t able to arrange for an interview with Gael Clichy to go into the match-day program for the Chelsea game.

There was a recent trip to America where the club promoted themselves which has proved quite successful.

Stadium Issues

A fan was recently stopped from entering the stadium as they had a bottle of water and a bread roll - she was told that this policy applies to all stadiums in Europe.

We can confirm that there is no policy on the banning of water bottles from being taken into the stadium (some forum members confirmed this). When these situations arise, we ask that fans note the number of the steward so that we can ensure it doesn’t happen in future. We do have a policy of fans at club and box level not being allowed to bring in food.

Do the club think it may be wise to mark the passing of supporters in an appropriate and fitting way by having some form of memorial in or around the stadium?

During discussions around the design of the new stadium, this was a topic that was covered but wasn’t given a high enough priority to be one of the first things we would include in the new stadium. We are looking at bricks, whereby people can purchase them and they can maybe be placed near the Armoury store - we will be looking at this during the summer.

How are the club progressing with the branding of the lower concourses?

We’ve recently had meetings with the diamond club designers and we’re currently focusing on the cores of the stadium (it has 8) and making them more fresh, as well as the lower concourse areas - they are presenting their first set of ideas in a couple of weeks and our initial thoughts are to have a legends theme. We’re also looking at plaques for the bridges. The conference & banqueting area which is used for events will have less branding but we will be improving other areas of the stadium.


Customer Service update
Our timeline objective to set up a support team (covering Ticketing, Membership, Travel, Stadium Tours, Home Shopping, general enquires and complaints) in Highbury House by March 2008 has been largely achieved.  We are currently deep into the testing stage and are aiming for the big switch on in June 2008. We will continue with the complete outsourcing of peak level ticketing to Ticketmaster.

We’ve also completely renovated a large part of a floor in Highbury house and have purchased all the relevant furniture. We’ve bought state of the art telephony and email management system which has been installed and is currently going through a very rigorous regression testing process. As requested, fans can use a 0207 number for all customer contact, apart from peak volume ticketing and membership. For ticketing and membership enquiries, we’ve purchased a new local rate number, which is 0844 Arsenal - the volumes of calls we get for ticketing at particular points in time means that we need a number that sits above the network. We have reduced the tariffs on this number as much as possible.

The existing contact numbers for the relevant areas will still work for a while after the new system is fully operational; to give fans time to adjust to the new process. Phase 2, whereby all contact centre staff will be able to cover all types of customer enquiry, should begin in September and we will also be reviewing opening hours, based on the time, volume and type of enquiry to ensure that this process is run as cost-efficiently as possible. We’re increasing the numbers of staff who will work in the corporate team - covering events, diamond club and restaurant enquiries.

The internal focus within the club on our relationship with fans has led to improvements in the National Fan Survey 2007/8 results. The key parts of this survey that relate to fan engagement have shown a marked improvement in our ratings. In the Attitude of club staff to fans ratings, we’ve moved up from 10th to 4th. In the listening to supporters category, we’ve moved up from 10th to 5th, the ease of contact by telephone we’ve moved from 12th to 9th and in terms of the club website and text messaging we are now ranked 1st in this area - these rankings are extremely good, taking into account that we haven’t yet fully implemented our new strategy.

We have recently launched a frequently asked questions section as well as introducing web-forms for people to submit questions around issues such as stadium tours, membership enquiries etc and these have reduced in-bound contact in this area by 31%.

We’re also re-visiting the Club charter to see if it adequately covers supporter needs.

How will the training of staff that will need to be multi-skilled take place?

The volumes of all calls will dictate the amount of cross-level training that will be required - there are peak points that we’re aware of and we also have staff who are keen to learn the necessary skills to allow them to process and handle calls across the full range. To begin with, we’re going to have an IVR menu option process but the ultimate aim is to have all staff trained in all areas.

We will still keep the dedicated points of contact for supporters clubs and disabled fans.


Ticketing & Fixtures

Can the club explain the Rationale of Grade A games? - there was a recent Arsenal v Liverpool game where both teams fielded weakened sides.

The philosophy behind Grade A and B games is that having Grade A games allows us to keep prices down for Grade B games and therefore enables fans who may not be able to attend many games due to financial constraints to pay a lower price for a ticket for these Grade B games.  We try to keep the number of Grade A games constant - We aim to have 19 Grade B games and 7 Grade A games (assuming we’re in the Champions League) in a season. Carling Cup games are separate and we price very competitively for these - including the fixture against Spurs. For these games, we have to discuss prices with both the opposition and the Football League.

What is the club’s stance on the mooted 39th game?

We haven’t seen a final proposal as yet and as such there is nothing definitive to look at - all we voted on was that the Premier League should at least investigate the feasibility of it. We haven’t discussed it internally at Board Level as yet, but personally (Keith Edelman) it could be an exciting addition to the season. Ultimately, we have to be cognisant of our fans across the world and not just the fans we have in the UK. The mooted proposal is not to take something away from fans here but to give something extra to our fans around the world. The game is likely to be played in the middle of the season and there has been talk of having a seeding system.

Can we not expand our pre-season tours to visit our other global fan bases?

That is something that other clubs do but Arsène believes that these should be used to prepare the team properly for the regular season - long trips to the Far East are not conducive to this. Also friendly games are a different environment to a real match for both players and fans. They’re not competitive and fans may feel that they are short changed.

Will a game like Middlesbrough v Blackburn sell out overseas when it doesn’t always here?

The national leagues of the countries that have been talked about visiting in the discussions are not of a supremely high level and games such as these will display a level of skill not usually seen in these countries. The success will obviously depend on how it’s promoted but it is not envisaged that you will have 2 top clubs playing each other as part of this. It may be a way of keeping the Premier League together as a collective and stopping some clubs from going down their own route. We have to ultimately be aware that football is a global sport and we have one of the best leagues in the world - we need to keep finding new ways of promoting it and connecting to new sets of supporters. Other sports have already gone down this road. In China there is a huge level of interest in Basketball and the NBA is now playing games there.

If it is successful - how will it develop in the future and what impact could this potentially have on season ticket holders? Plus it is difficult to for a fan to go to every game.

The starting point of this proposal was not to take anything away from the UK fan base but to add something overseas. We have to be aware that this is at a very early stage - the Premier League called the top clubs the day before it got to the press and everyone said yes, let’s look at this further but it hasn’t been developed to any great extent. A lot of the press, who were very supportive of the NFL coming to London have rubbished this proposed idea thus far, even when in the NFL’s case it’s taking a game away from America. The idea of expanding the Premier League globally is one that will develop over time but how it develops in reality is still open to discussion. (A show of hands amongst forum members, of those who voted, 2 were for it and 7 were against it)

Club level prices are due to go up 4% next season, which is above inflation - will this happen to all season ticket prices?

The average increase for Club Level is about 3 not 4%. We feel that overall this is fair as a lot of ticket prices have now been frozen for 3 years and we feel it is much more preferable to do this than wait another 2 to 3 years and then increase prices by 10-12%.

What has been the renewal rate for Club Level tickets?

We’re currently up to about 92% renewal and we expect that to increase over the next few weeks. The market research we’ve done suggests that a lot of those who don’t renew are corporate ticket holders whose situation may have changed. People can pay £200 to get onto the waiting list for club level tickets, which is taken off the price of the ticket once you’ve accepted one - if you’re offered the £3,500 ticket and you don’t want that you don’t lose your place in the queue.

What’s the Season Ticket waiting list at the moment?

About 46,000 - at the end of last season we had about 1,100 season ticket returns and our estimate for this year is about 600-700.


Charity / Sponsorship

Has the club looked at the possibility of a trust for ex-players? - some other prominent clubs are already doing this and RedAction think this will get a lot of support from fans .


We don’t think that it would be something to be chosen as Charity of the Season - we did work with the David Rocastle Trust a few seasons ago and it ended up doing a lot of good work but we feel it would be better to improve the profile of a smaller charity. We have the Arsenal Charitable Trust, which does some work with former players - we can publicise this without it being our nominated charity of the season. We did look at creating a specific trust about 3 years ago and the legislation surrounding it is quite prescriptive - we feel we can achieve the same objectives by going down different routes. We do a lot of charitable work behind the scenes and we are always looking at ways to get fans more involved with this - we don’t just do work with our nominated charity - our communications team is involved in a lot of different activities.

The work on the charity of the season is about raising their profile by them being connected to us, as well as raising funds. They are then able to use that higher profile in future years to continue their work and the publicity gives them more clout in terms of lobbying government and other organisations to promote their objectives.  We expect to raise at least £250,000 for Treehouse this year and It’s a symbiotic relationship in that we’ve also learned from them about how we can improve our charitable work elsewhere.

Have Arsenal looked into getting a sponsor for the family enclosure and running more activities on match days?

We have looked into running activities inside the stadium and we have done some “extra time” activities - we don’t have a designated area in the concourse and it’s more difficult prior to the game as a lot of people don’t take their seats until just before a match starts. We do have special events, including a 5-a-side match on the pitch for Junior Gunners after the game against Everton coming up. In terms of sponsorship, we do have about 30,000 junior gunners but it’s hard to persuade large organisations to get involved with long-term sponsorship for this section of our supporters.


Other issues

A lot of Arsenal fans felt that the behaviour of the Stadium Announcer @ Chelsea (e.g. saying Gallas’ name 5/ 6 times to rile up the Chelsea fans) was inappropriate - we wanted to let the club know this.

The song “wonder of you” doesn’t seem to create an intimidating atmosphere prior to the game - can we at least have the words somewhere so that more fans sing it?

We have for some time been trying to come up with an anthem to be used and after some testing with some fans, this song was chosen as the anthem. We have tried to let it grow organically as we feel this is the best way for it to bed in - we did try to put a video montage on youtube, which had some footage and the words to the song on it, but this was quickly removed as the Premier League doesn’t allow any match footage to be used. Our technical team will synch up this video to the song and we will introduce it on the screens for the first game of next season. We are getting the sense that fans are warming to it and more people over time will get to know the words. We will also be using the Wonder of You as our hold music for our customer support centre.

Have there been any developments with a Director of Football?

No.

How is the Arsenal TV channel developing and are there any plans to have it on at weekends?

We’ve had very positive feedback on the research we’ve done around Arsenal TV and some fans have raised the issue about extending it from just Monday-Friday. We’re not currently looking to extend it to 7 days a week as we want to ensure the quality of the shows. Also, extending it into the weekend will dramatically increase costs as we would need 2 production crews. We are looking at ways to promote the timings and schedule of the programmes on the channel.

How will things develop with Mr Kroneke and Mr Usmanov over the summer?

We signed the deal with the Colorado Rapids and we meet regularly with representatives of Mr Usmanov, who’ve recently announced that they’re not going to make a bid for at least 6 months.

Is it true that someone was banned for the rest of the season for parking in a disabled car-parking space which wasn’t related to football?

We would not ban fans for something that they’ve done completely unrelated to Arsenal Football Club on a non matchday.

Some of the steps near Drayton Park have been badly lit

As far as we’re aware, the lighting is fine in all areas around the stadium but we can look into this issue if needs be.

Announcement
As it was the last forum of the season, the following members retired from the forum and we’re presented with a gift for the time they’ve gratefully given.

Paul Ellis
Peter Gosnell
Ronald Laser
Janet Mears
Lee Tango

The meeting finished at 11.25am

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 22 Jul 2008