ARSENAL FOOTBALL CLUB FANS' FORUM 2010/2011 SEASON

Meeting held at 11am on Saturday January 22nd at Highbury House

Attendees

Allen, Charles - Arsenal F.C
Barrett, John - Silver Member Representative
Campbell, Sue - Arsenal F.C
Case, Max - 16-21 yr Old Representative
Ellis, Paul - Arsenal Supporters' Club Representative (Domestic)
Evans, Richard - Club Level Representative
Fellows, James - Away Scheme Member Representative
Fox, Tom - Arsenal F.C
Futerman, David - Shareholder Representative
Gazidis, Ivan - Arsenal F.C
Gonnella, Mark - Arsenal FC
Herlihy, Raymond - RedAction Representative
McCloskey, Daniel - AISA Representative
O'Brien, Michael - Arsenal F.C
Perry, Mike - Over 60 Year-Old Representative
Roberts, Elliot - Electoral Reform Services (Chair)
Saving, Trevor - Arsenal F.C
Selby, Stewart - LGBT Representative
Smith, Jill - Arsenal F.C.
Szabala, Jan - Arsenal Supporters Club Representative (Overseas)
Tanfield, Hazel - Red Member Representative
Thater, John - Gold Member Representative
Tozer, James - Substitute for Beale, Richard - Arsenal Supporters' Club Representative (Domestic)
Upson, Patsy - Disabled Supporters' Representative
Worsell, Ivan - Arsenal F.C

Apologies

Ahmad, Zaheer - Ethic Minority Representative
Hayes, Stephen - Family Enclosure Representative

Ticketing
The ticket exchange scheme process for disabled fans which was discussed at the last forum is still being explored.

Why were there no tickets for the Barcelona game for Red Level members?

We guarantee a minimum of 1,500 tickets available to Red level members for every Premier League game and for some matches a lot more than this are sold to Red Members. It is more difficult to give this guarantee for tournaments such as the FA Cup or Champions League. For the FA Cup, 9,000 tickets need to be available for the away team and there are similar demands for Champions league games.

There are instances of Silver members not going to many games but going to the big matches -can you have a credit points based system for Silver Members.

We are looking at all categories of membership. We need to ensure that each category is appropriately differentiated. We don't think it's a good idea to go down the points based route for all categories of membership as this blurs the distinction between them. Where we see examples of inappropriate membership use, we'll change how each membership scheme works accordingly.

If you relinquish your season ticket as a Gold Member, why can't you move down to Silver Member?

We have 90,000 Red level members, a large majority of which are queuing to be upgraded to Silver Membership. We don't think it's fair on these members that Gold members are able to downgrade to Silver Membership, if this were allowed there would just be movement between Gold and Silver, with very few new spaces for Red Members who are on the queue to upgrade. The number of Red members moving to Silver Membership is entirely dependent on how many Silver members relinquish their membership - up to 2,000 Silver members do this year on year. We are looking at ways to let Red Members know where they are in the queue in terms of upgrading their membership.

Has the club looked at concessions for students?

All our current concessions are located in the family enclosure and this covers Junior Gunners, Cannon club and Senior Citizens. There isn't a specific Student category. We are very competitive in our pricing for Carling Cup games e.g. for the Semi-final against Ipswich, we've got a price point of £10.

Why do the club charge booking fees for season ticket holders buying Cup tickets?

Carling Cup games are not included in the season ticket, so season ticket holders buy these tickets on-line. We understand that people don't like paying booking fees. Ultimately, every ticket sold on-line or via our customer support centre incurs a transaction / credit card fee as we use 3rd party suppliers.

In terms of ticket prices for away trips in the Champions League, we set an exchange rate which is comparable to commercial rates at that point in time. It also factors in how the rate might change prior to the game itself. Sometimes this positively affects the fans if the exchange rate goes down (i.e. less Euros to the pound) effectively you will be getting the ticket below cost price and vice versa if the rate goes up - over time this balances itself out.

Arsenalisation update
[A number of forum members went on a tour of the lower tier prior to the forum, to look at what's already in place and also discussed ideas that could be developed in the future]

We have had really positive feedback on the Arsenalisation thus far but we know that there's still a way to go. Generally speaking, the lower tier represents our footballing history and whilst the upper tier also has this, it also includes representations of our work in the community, and our ladies and youth teams, amongst other things. Some of the most impactful elements already in place include the cannon mosaic, the programme mural, the player quotes and the club crests through the years.

The one area that has had very little work done is the away end and we want to ensure that we have something sustainable and memorable here. Some really good ideas raised include:

  • London theme - iconic monuments of London (works well for European Games as well)
  • World football
  • History of football
  • Personalised welcome - e.g Arsenal welcomes - including info on previous fixtures
  • Latin mottos
  • Painting the walls Red.
  • Club Crests (UK based, European or Global), either everyone who has played at the Emirates or top clubs of the world.

We will take these ideas away and speak with the designers, internal staff members and other fan groups and bring something back to a future forum.

Some areas in the lower tier that remain relatively undeveloped include:

  • The food stall areas
  • A number of grey pillars 
  • Some grey in the podium areas.

All aspects need to be kept up to date and this will be done shortly. This is an on-going process. We are always looking at new ideas and we ensure we get consistent feedback to see what does and does not work.

For instance, we have recently invested in lighting to highlight the murals around the stadium. This all helps in creating a sense of occasion.

Our 125 year anniversary is coming up shortly and we would like to do something a little different in relation to this. We have reflected our history very well in making this stadium our home and now we have a great opportunity to define ourselves and what we represent as we move forward.

Why don't we show game on big screen?

We are one of a few clubs who don't show the game on the big-screen whilst it's being played. We are conscious that fans experience the game in their own way and do not want to detract from this. We can look at the idea of having radio commentary for the game within the stadium - however the more real-time multi-media options there are available, the more fractured and less cohesive the fans experience might be.

In relation to atmosphere, can we change the song "Wonder of You"? A lot of fans do not understand the connection between the club and the song. We also need to review what happens before the game generally in terms of atmosphere generation.

We accept that the choice of music to play before kick-off is a difficult one, as there are numerous different opinions amongst our fans. The current song was chosen after a long period of consultation with fan groups. We are trying different things, including video footage just before the game. We have a very wide spectrum of fans in terms of age and it's our challenge to find ways to engage and connect with all of them.

Marketing Presentation: The Philosophy of Arsenal

We undertook the broadest piece of research in the history of our club to identify and understand how fans connect with the club. This has provided valuable insight into the needs and hopes of fans of many descriptions and will inform future thinking.

We used different methodologies to gather our information. We had group discussions but we also visited people in their homes to see how people bring Arsenal home as well as to see what happens on the day of a match. We used social networking sites and had a number of fans keeping a blog, as well as going to matches with fans. We spoke with fans of other clubs and interviewed journalists, opinion-formers and Arsenal staff.

[To start, the forum was shown a vox pop video of quotes from fans interviewed in and around the stadium]

There were three main areas that we wanted to explore:

1) What does Arsenal mean? We all know about the "Arsenal Way" but what does this mean in practice and how do we bring this to life?

  • We identified why fans associate themselves so strongly with the club and why non fans also see the club in a positive light. This includes the way Arsène Wenger has driven the club forward, the style of football we play, a growing attachment and identification with the Emirates stadium (with fans still having strong memories of Highbury) and everything that our traditions mean. The way in which the club is run was also highlighted by fans. They are proud of our youth scheme and how we bring players through the ranks and there is an understanding that the club is a business which is self-financing.

2) Who are our fans? The common bond is the club and what it stands for. Our role is to make sure we understand the complexity and diversity of fan expectations and interactions and make sure that we meet these in multiple ways.

  • The research showed there are geographical variations in the way fans identify with the club. In the UK we have a very strong supporter base, along with neutrals who may watch a game on TV just because Arsenal is playing. In Asia, fans tend to associate themselves with individual players. 
  • An equally important element of how fans view Arsenal is their particular stage of life. We want life-long fans and we are aware that people experience Arsenal differently at different stages of their life. This is an insight we will use to inform our approach as we move forwards.

3) The Match-day experience. We looked at all aspects.

  • The main themes coming out of the research were about understanding, engaging and rewarding our fans. This whole piece of research was about truly understanding our fans and we want fans to feel that they are understood. The engaging side is already underway and gives us a path to the future. The rewarding aspect is identifying the different needs and expectations of our fan base, factoring in how long people have been a fan of the club and working out ways to recognise that support.

The research has been invaluable and will be used as an input to our future decisions.

Aren't we creating problems by growing our fan base - won't this mean less of our fans being able to get to watch a game

We need to understand that our fan base is global and there are potential fans all over the world. Currently, stadium income is half of our yearly revenue. By growing our global fan base over the long-term, it will allow us to offer more concessions at our stadium as we will be less reliant on the revenue generated via the actual games. This means we can get a new generation of fans in our stadium - along with all our work with Soccer Schools and treating younger age groups in more targeted ways, we can build our fan base for the future. However, international growth is crucial to this.

Other Business

Why is that we as a club seem to have more serially injured players than other teams?

We constantly monitor this and there are a lot of analytics and data that we use to ensure that there isn't anything systematically wrong with our approach. For the last 2 seasons before this season there is some truth in that we have had more injuries than some other clubs. It's hard to identify cause and effect in this - for example, if a club has a few early season injuries, this issues quickly compound themselves later on in the season, as remaining players have less time to rest. Our style of play also has an impact on physical demands on our players. In addition, a large proportion of our players also play international football which adds to the burden. Our ambition is to minimise the number of injuries we get. We have top class personnel, who regularly attend (and even host) international conferences. We have also invested in a new medical centre at Colney which is currently under construction. We are also able to analyse sophisticated data that we receive on our players in terms of their fatigue levels and their susceptibility to injury at various times. We are still only half way through this season, and there is not enough statistical data to say with any certainty that we have permanently improved our injury record or that our investments are having a measurable effect. However, the number and severity of injuries is significantly down on last year.

Can the club let us know how they are going to contribute to the celebration of Gay history in February - a recent survey stated that 80% of fans believe that there are gay players, but only 10% of them believe there are gay players in the team they support - this is something we as a club can take a lead on.

We will definitely work with our fans in finding a way to best support this celebration and to ensure that this topic is given a higher profile over time. We are an inclusive club and believe that it is right that we play a role in providing a welcoming environment for football fans, players and staff regardless of sexual orientation.

Stewards are very vociferous in forcing fans to sit down, but seem much more relaxed about away fans standing. At the recent Man City game, 3 Arsenal fans were ejected for persistent standing, which seems unfair and was unpopular with fans.

Our stewards do a very good job but we are always looking for ways to improve. We have been working to evolve our training programmes to improve the service we provide. On the subject of standing, there are health and safety issues and we are monitored as part of our compliance obligations. All our stewards are professionally trained and the emphasis is on security and safety. Apart from safety issues, our fans experience the game in different ways and whilst some like standing, others don't and it is difficult to reconcile these strong viewpoints to everyone's satisfaction. The largest number of complaints we get from our own fans is the issue of people standing. In many cases our stewards have to use their judgement in how to deal with these complaints in any particular case. We have to be realistic and pragmatic in the way we deal with away fans, having regard to the kind of safety issues that can be created by too hard and fast a stance. Stewards have to deal with away fans amongst our supporters. We understand that this can sometimes upset our own fans and we ask ticket holders who invite away fans please help us to ensure that they behave in a responsible manner.

Most other teams have 11 mascots, why do we only have one - we have a large number of junior gunners - is this not a great way to bond with our younger fans?

We run our mascot process very differently to other clubs. The focus has been on the quality of the experience of the chosen mascot for the whole match day, which is extraordinary, but we acknowledge that we could incorporate more children at the expense of diluting the experience. We will continue to review our approach.

Can we have some seating in the upper tier concourses?

There are limited opportunities to place seating in the upper tier, due to the large number of people there - we will investigate whether it is feasible to incorporate some seating options.

Why were arsenal fans treated badly at Partizan Belgrade?

For all European matches we liaise with other clubs and local police, stewards etc - we met them before and after the game. All incidents are picked up by UEFA and discussed with the home team.

Can the club do something with the roads from Arsenal station to the ground?

We would like to deal with this effectively, but unfortunately it's out of our hands - it's a local council issue and we've had numerous meetings with them to talk about it. They have informed us that there are budgetary issues in undertaking the work but we will continue to press.

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 11 Feb 2011