Arsenal Football Club Supporters Consultative Forum 2004/2005 Season
Meeting held at the Study Support Centre, at 1pm on Sunday 23rd January 2005

Attendees (in alphabetical order):
ARMITT, Lee - Season Ticket Holder
BOWLES Mick - Arsenal Supporters Club Branch,
BUDDLE, Rita - Over 60 year old Representative
CAMPBELL, Mika - Supporters Club Branch
COXHEAD, Stephen - Red Member
DALLENDER, Craig - 16-21 Yr Old Representative
DOCHERTY, Amanda - Arsenal F.C
FORD, Adrian - Arsenal F.C
HOLTER, Ole - Supporters Club Branch
MABERT, Allan - Disabled Supporter (Roger Salmon, Helper, was also in attendance)
MILES, David - Secretary, Arsenal F.C.
O'BRIEN, Michael - Administration, Arsenal F.C.
PYMAN, Steve - Family Enclosure
ROBERTS, Elliot - Electoral Reform Services (Independent Chair)
SMITH, Jill - Arsenal F.C
SEFTON, Alan - Community Dept - Arsenal F.C
STONE, Graham - Arsenal Independent Supporters Association
WILSON, Steve - Study Support Centre

Apologies:
Keith Edelman
Andrew Anastasiou
Stephen Mears
Neil O'Brien
Martin Patrick
Sophia Walker

Minutes of the Last Meeting 
Approved

Discussion on Study Support - Steve Wilson
The Arsenal Study Support Centre (SSC) is one of 101 Study Support Centres across the UK. The first Study Support Centres were set up at West Ham, Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle. The Arsenal SSC was set up in September 2000 and all 20 Premiership clubs now have an SSC. The SSC system was initially set up solely within football clubs but has now extended into other sports including Cricket, Rugby Union & League, Athletics and Gymnastics.

The Arsenal SSC originally shared a room with a local youth club, which wasn't ideal as the role of a youth club is different to that of a SSC. We were offered the space we are currently in by the school and started here in September 2002. David Blunkett, the then Education Secretary was here at the launch with Arsène Wenger. The Scheme deals with 25 schools across the London Boroughs of Islington & Camden and 3000 local children have so far taken part in the scheme.

We made a decision early on for our SSC to concentrate on ICT and we are able to provide 1 computer per pupil during our sessions. We do also cover literacy and numeracy, but felt that focusing on ICT would ensure a high level of attendance. Our curriculum is inspired by Arsenal Football Club, but we also engage students in whatever particular interests they might have. The main focus of our sessions is to teach pupils how to touch type and use packages such as Word, Excel & Powerpoint. We also have Web-Design classes, as well as digital video training for children aged 10-13. Apart from the skills we teach, the other very important aspect of our work we focus on is mentoring. Most of the mentors at the SSC come from London Metropolitan University and are paid £6 per hour. They build up good relationships with the pupils they work with (3/4 per mentor) over the 10 week course and build up the pupil's motivation for learning.

We have links with each school in the area and the scheme is aimed at underachieving or disappointed pupils. It provides a new avenue for children to learn. Attendance is very good, but is slightly lower for secondary school pupils as opposed to primary school pupils, as their sessions don't start until 5.30pm. Attendance of secondary school pupils is largely dependent on the level of after-school activities provided by the school, prior to pupils attending their classes at the SSC. We charter a minibus to pick up primary school pupils after school (3-3.30) and bring them straight to the SSC. These are then dropped off between 5-5.15 and the bus is again used to pick up the secondary school pupils, whose lessons finish at around 7pm.

The facility is also used during the daytime via a local EAZ (Education Action Zone) and they provide funding for ICT classes, with the curriculum drawn up in conjunction with the school. We also have what's known as the Red Stand at Highbury and this focuses on adults who want to get back into employment. We also run courses where there's an element of playing football and ICT courses. A full evaluation scheme is in place and pupils at SSC's perform better than the National average. It has been shown by studies that linking football with education provides strong motivation for some pupils. To keep interest in the scheme at a high level, we have stadium tours for the pupils and we also have an awards ceremony at the end of each term, recognising pupils who have done well - these ceremonies are sometimes attended by Arsenal first team players and match tickets are awarded to the best performing pupils. We also have space reserved at the new Emirates stadium.

How is the project funded?

75% of the funding comes from central government and 25% from the local authority. Arsenal F.C provides support in kind, including stadium tours, player support, match tickets etc.

How do you evaluate pupil performance?

We have a system called PASS and it measures attitude changes of the pupils over the term. There is a balancing act in terms of evaluation as we are already testing pupils on an on-going basis. We will be doing a full evaluation with a set of pupils to show that the scheme works.

[To finish the talk, a short Sky Sports News piece was shown of one of the awards ceremonies attended by Arsenal players]

Discussion on the Community Department - Alan Sefton
The Arsenal Community program has been running for nearly 20 years, with our anniversary coming up in February. We are one of the longest standing community programs in professional football and the SSC we've just heard about is a part of a wider project by Arsenal F.C to engage and motivate the local community. The element that started off our community program was the sports centre that Arsenal had at the time. There was a culture at the time to keep people away from the club but gradually this sports centre was used by external groups and the community activities started from there. When the South Stand was re-built, all the sports facilities there were also re-vamped and they are now used for about 12 hours every day. On match days, we have an allocation of tickets to give out to students who are part of our soccer schools and these also train on match days. The soccer schools are not just for younger players, we also have a veterans' league. One key element of our project is commitment and longevity to ensure that the different projects we have are successful. The Sports Centre is also used to run a seniors bowling club.

We also have a wide-ranging community outreach programme including the Soccer Schools referred to earlier, which as well as its outreach element, also had Ashley Cole pass through its ranks, although its role is not to produce players for the future. The Soccer School arranges trips and tours abroad and because these are connected with Arsenal, the teams are met with an enthusiastic response and this improves their experience. We also run outreach schemes overseas, including a town near Chernobyl which came about after an approach from an Arsenal fan who has arranged numerous trips to take food and medical supplies etc to the town in the past. When the team played Dynamo Kiev, David Dein and a delegation from the Board arranged a trip to the town. When we go, as well as coaching ourselves, we also train people in the area to carry on the coaching after we leave.

At the Sports Centre, we also have a large disability programme, including visually impaired people and people in wheelchairs - we have strong links with Mencap, as well as the local hard of hearing St.John's football club. We also work with 16-18 year olds as part of a work training programme. In the educational field, we also run Double Club, which is an after schools learning programme combining literacy, numeracy and football training. . After some successful lobbying, we now have eight full time Arsenal teachers in local schools, which has helped develop the Double Club concept. We also run a sport learning project for disaffected children, where they attend lessons a few times a week, which helps them get back into mainstream education.

We also work on social inclusion projects, running football programmes in difficult areas of Islington, as well coordinating football activities for homeless groups, through our link with Crisis. 20 years ago we also set up the Arsenal Charitable Trust and the money raised is distributed through avenues such as the Gunners Fund, which runs projects within 1000 metres radius of Highbury. Grants are distributed via this fund twice a year. In addition, there is a celebrity football team, which includes ex-pros and local celebrities which plays fundraising games about once a week. Furthermore, the Club operates a charity of the season scheme which is also a focus for the club's charitable efforts and we also have match day collections for institutions and charities such as the Whittington Hospital. Links with other sports have also been forged, for example there's now a hockey team called the Latonian Gunners. This has helped youngsters create new social networks. Also Arsenal Ladies started as a community development programme and they have become the most successful Ladies football team in the country.

Do you see the new Emirates stadium as an opportunity or a challenge and do you feel you are appreciated for what you do?

We're not sure how the schemes around the sports centre will fit into the new stadium and that's currently being worked on between the local council and the Club. Whatever the outcome, we will be expanding our community programme into satellite centres across the Borough. The programme may change in some ways but we also believe it will get bigger and stronger.

We don't look for publicity; we know that the people we work with and come into contact with appreciate our efforts greatly. Our aim is not publicity but ensuring that what we deliver to the people who utilise our services is top quality. In the current media environment, it's difficult to get publicity for project such as these as they don't have a sensational angle. We get feedback from teachers that these projects are very successful in ensuring pupils attend school lessons. The end results are what counts.

The Commemorative Strip for 2005/6 Season
The commemorative kit for the 2005/6 season has been inspired by the 1913 strip, the first one worn at Highbury. It has taken two years to develop and a teaser photo shoot of the new strip was released earlier this week. The full design of the kit hasn't been made public as yet, to avoid the potential problem of counterfeiting and to maximise its impact when it does go on general sale on the 22nd June. The players who've seen it and the manager think it's a great design and encapsulates over 90 years of Highbury history. For next season, there'll be a number of commemorative events taking place, with the new kit being a part of this. Arsenal has also devised a commemorative logo and strapline to supplement activities that take place during the final season.. The general response to the new kit was very positive and forum members will also be asked to give ideas for initiatives which take place next season.

Submitted Questions

What are Arsenal doing about the sale of tickets on E-Bay?

The stadium manager has looked into a number of ticket sales on E-Bay as it is illegal to sell tickets directly. It is sometimes difficult to track the offenders on E-Bay as specific ticket details are not advertised. However a new member of staff has been recruited to specifically work on this and will set up dummy e-mail accounts to elicit ticket details and therefore catch and punish the offenders. Sellers are coming up with ways to avoid the illegal aspect of this by selling other items which come with a free Arsenal ticket, but we can still enforce our own strict policy on people who try to sell Arsenal tickets.

Will the away season ticket format continue with the move to the new stadium?

We currently have about 1,000 supporters registered on the away match season ticket scheme which are included in the 3,000 fans going to away games on average and this isn't likely to increase substantially when we have the increased number of season ticket holders at the new stadium. So it will be business as usual for the away ticket scheme next year.

Are there any plans to have an Arsenal T.V channel?

There is an international Arsenal TV channel but it's not in the same format as the domestic channels of other clubs. It's very unlikely that we will have a domestic TV channel because there is already a lot of football on television and this channel won't add a great deal. Secondly, as only-hard core fans will watch it, it's unlikely to make any revenue as they are expensive things to run. We do have a lot of video and other content on our website already and this is the best platform to provide this. We may develop video on demand in the future.

How did Arsenal F.C appear in Oceans 12?

There was a tour to Amsterdam at the same time as they were filming Oceans 12 and they had some free kit from us which was worn in the film. This was a good way for us to get publicity.

How will the new Red/Silver Membership scheme work with the new stadium?

There is some churn in the silver member list so if you're at the top of the red member list, you move up to silver membership when it becomes available. The number of silver members will not increase dramatically at the new stadium as the increase in capacity will be taken up by season ticket holders and we want to keep the ratio of match by match tickets and silver members broadly the same. However a lot of these new season ticket holders will come from the silver membership, therefore this will mean that those on the top of the red member list will move up.

A.O.B.

A separate meeting of forum members has been arranged to discuss the activities to commemorate the last season at Highbury.

For the Carling Cup game against Manchester United we were charged the reduced price of £21 but Man. United fans were able to buy tickets for £16 and there have been other examples when we play away from home that we are charged more than fans of other teams. There is a working party set up by the Premier league to look at attendances in general and this point will also be raised at it. The first meeting takes place on January 31st.

There were also some templates shown for the members pack for next season, with the main focus being the last season at Highbury. There are a few ideas for the content of the DVD, as well as other ideas like a mouse mat, commemorative badge, as well as potentially a special edition of the book 'Fever Pitch' by Nick Hornby. The pack will come in a tin case. All of the ideas mentioned at the meeting got general approval and most people thought it shouldn't contain a medal next time around.

The meeting finished at 2.35pm.

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 24 Jul 2008