Arsenal Football Club Supporters consultative Forum 2007/2008 Season
Meeting held at 11am - The Red Zone Saturday September 22nd 2007
Attendees (in alphabetical order)
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
Dadswell, Mathew — Electoral Reform Services (Chair)
Edelman, Keith - Arsenal F.C.
Ellis, Paul — Arsenal Supporters Club (Norfolk)
Fiszman, Danny — Arsenal F.C.
Frost, Ben — AISA Representative
Gosnell, Peter — Disabled Supporter
Grainger, Nicky — Silver Member
Hall, Richard — Arsenal F.C.
Irwin, John — Gold Member
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
Smith, Gill — Arsenal F.C.
Tango. Lee — Red Member
Thater, Rosie — 16 — 21 Year Old Representative
Worsell, Ivan - Arsenal F.C.
Agenda item: Ticketing / Membership
Some overseas Members (USA) have had difficulty obtaining membership packs from Arsenal, Is there a wider problem here? Overseas members have also had difficulty contacting the club, i.e. the website does not display a telephone number that overseas members can use.
The club recognizes that there is room for improvement when it comes to the level of customer service being offered to supporters. At present staff members performing other jobs are also handling customer/fan queries. There are plans to re organize this in the New Year with the creation of a dedicated customer service centre (based in the head office). It is intended that this customer service centre will have one main contact number and will be able to handle all types of queries. The customer service centre will handle both telephone and email queries, and there will be a system which will prioritize queries for response based on their urgency. I.e. a query on a game two days away will be responded to before a query on a game two weeks away. It is intended that this customer service centre will be open outside 9 to 5 hours, and staffed appropriately for anticipated periods of high activity, although exact details are yet to be finalized. This process will be complimented by the introduction of more ‘self help’ tools on the website which should help to reduce the overall numbers of queries.
In regard to the overseas fans who did not receive their membership packs, it was determined that there was a problem with the mailing system not inserting the country field onto addresses. This has been resolved. All members who did not receive a membership pack last year due to this reason will be sent one, as well as one for this year. An overseas contact telephone number is available, we will confirm whether or not this is currently on the website.
What is the status of the buy back scheme? Why does the seller pick up the 10% premium and not the buyer?
The club views Season Ticket holders as privileged fans and feels it is unfair to pass the charge onto Red Members who want a ticket. There is also the view that the buy back scheme is a service to Season Ticket holders. The club turned down an offer from a private firm to run the buy back scheme as it was felt it would have been too expensive for fans. The Club wishes to run this service in house and cover its costs.
The Ticket Exchange (Buy Back) scheme has been undergoing testing for several weeks, it is intended that it will launched on Thursday. It is also intended that this is a service which will be developed over time.
The supporters club on the corner of St Thomas’s road acts as an unofficial meeting place for fans who wish to sell on a ticket but do not wish to sell it to a tout. Could the Box Office inform members of the public of this if they ask for a ticket when the Box Office has sold out?
The club/box office cannot advocate any unofficial ticket selling source and wishes to promote the Ticket Exchange service. It is an objective of the club to eradicate the unofficial selling of tickets outside the ground.
Will there be an attempt to reclaim club level tickets which are likely to be empty, i.e. for the Carling Cup game.
Not at present, the corporate / season ticket split at Club Level is roughly 50:50 and it is anticipated that most season ticket holders will attend. It is hoped that in the longer term corporate members will make use of the ticket exchange, but the club may look at a system where club level tickets which are to be unused for a game could be offered to charity or Red members.
How will the roll out of the Ticket Exchange be communicated to members?
Via bulk email to members and on the website, however, it will not be in today’s match program.
In regard to the timing of ticket sales, can tickets for matches not be put on sale when it is known that a large number of members will be overseas, i.e. during International breaks or when there are overseas club fixtures?
Consideration is given to the timing of ticket sales. Throughout the year there are roughly 150 sales points (2 to 3 per home game) and 230 days in which to make them available. As such there will always be the risk of an overlap with an event.
Efforts are made to communicate ticket sales to specific membership groups via email broadcast. The online ticketing system is still being developed and improvements will be made over time.
Is the club committed to having 25% of tickets available for purchase on a match by match basis?
Yes, the number / ratio of season tickets in the ground isn’t being increased. There will be 16,000 match day tickets (including 3000 away supporter’s tickets) available for purchase each match.
There have been reports of a problem with the online ticket purchase. I.e. if a member is attempting to purchase 2 sets of two tickets (using two different membership numbers) online, they cannot use the same debit card for both transactions.
Not aware of a problem here, the system does have functionality to deter / detect ticket touts but there should not be a problem if there are valid membership numbers, this will be looked into.
Agenda item: The Clock End Clock
With the recent launch of the timing sponsorship, are we now seeing the real reason why the clock end clock was not positioned in its rightful place inside the stadium?
No. Different places to locate the clock inside the stadium were reviewed; however they did not seem to work with the new stadium design I.e. Small clock in large stadium. At present there is some damage to the clock but it should be refurbished soon.
It was felt the approach by ebel was a good addition to the clubs sponsorship as it allowed timing in the stadium which they paid for. The decision to take up ebel sponsorship was not linked to the decision to place the clock outside the stadium.
Do we have a date for when the clock will be up and working?
Hopefully in the next couple of weeks.
There are still parts of the stadium where the scoreboards cannot be seen. Has the idea of adding a third been shelved?
This idea is not being progressed at present. A survey of the stadium has shown that 93% of seats have a view of the scoreboard, which is higher than most stadiums. The club is reluctant to make major structural changes because the current design has allowed a high quality pitch to be grown within the stadium.
Agenda item: Club Ownership and Finances
There appears to be a lot of debt on the balance sheet. In the current financial climate do we have any renewals coming up that will need to be refinanced (at a punitive rate of interest)?
The club was refinanced at the end of last year to put it in a stable financial position. Previous ‘Project Finance Loans’ were expensive and due to be paid back over twelve and a half years. A time period felt to be too short an amount of time. The club has introduced ‘Credit Wrapped Bonds’ which have been sold to UK Institutions. These will be paid back over 25 years at a fixed rate of 5.3%.
The club is unable to provide exact figures re: the debt prior to the announcement of the financial results on Monday, however even after debts are taken into account, the Emirates Stadium is hugely profitable.
There are 3 other types of debt on the balance sheet (aside from the 260 million stadium debt).
- Debentures, however half of these are not due to be paid back for 150 years.
- A Ten million debt to be paid back in 15 years
- Highbury Square. This will incur more debt through development next year but will generate revenue in 2009. At this point the Directors will make a decision to either reduce the overall levels of club debt, or invest this money in squad development.
With Alisher Usmanov and Stan Kroenke buying up large numbers of shares, is it inevitable that at some point they will seek representation on the board? If relations are strained, are there any assurances which can be given re the running of the club at this level?
It is the Board who decides who gains representation, although it is possible for someone with a large enough shareholding to put a slate of candidates up for election where the shareholders will decide. At present the directors are in a position to decide who can join the Board and are open to appointing someone who they feel can take the club forward. The Board is not open to appointing someone who views it as a purely financial investment.
It is also not anticipated that there will be any Special Resolutions for the Board to consider in the next ten years.
Has the club had any meetings with Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov?
The club has met with Stan Kroenke and his Board. In regard to other shareholders, if a major shareholder requests a meeting of the Board then this will happen, and any good ideas taken forward.
(To Danny Fiszman) It has been indicated that the board have an agreement not to sell your shares before April 2008. Is there a timetable in place for a new agreement?
It is the intention to renew this agreement for a further twelve months in the near future. This agreement can be further renewed as and when it is necessary. The agreement was put in place to show unity on the Board.
It is the Board collectively which makes decisions, i.e. not any one dominant individual. The distinction between Shareholders and Board Members is also clear. Even if a shareholder had 50% of the shares it would still only be one vote on the Board. The Club is run properly and democratically. It is Arsène Wenger who decides which player is or isn’t signed, and the Board has funds available for him if necessary.
When Arsenal buys / sells a player, why is the fee not disclosed?
If the fee is disclosed when a player is sold it can impact on negotiation for the purchase of other players. I.e. other clubs would be aware of any funds the club may have recently raised. It is felt that in the future across all clubs there will be greater emphasis on clubs developing their own players and talent, and at present Arsenal has a very good young talent.
It was also noted that ticket prices have not been raised this year, although this will have to be looked at next season. There are plans to have the Arsenal TV station up and running before the New Year.
Any Other Business
Are there any plans to increase the numbers of seats outside the stadium?
Due to safety / emergency considerations the club is limited in any action it can take. There are no plans for any additional seating.
Are there any plans in the next few months to raise the profile of the ‘Arsenal for Everyone’ initiative / other such schemes?
There are pages on the website dedicated to this. Over time any such diversity initiatives will be added to this part of the website.
In previous years during Anti Racism Week, the club has taken part in an Anti Racism Forum. This was altered last year with the introduction of the ‘World on Our Doorstep’ project in twenty local schools. This will be run again this year.
Can the words to the ‘Wonder of You’ be displayed on the screens or put in the match program?
There has been a deliberate attempt to try and let support / participation of this grow from the fans and not be seen as a club lead activity. Red Action has been successful in promoting the increased presence of scarves at Champions League games.
Can the club take action to warn fans attending the Tottenham Hotpsur away fixture to conceal their Arsenal colours outside the stadium?
This has been raised before and it was felt that the press may pick up on the negative aspect of this situation. However the club will look at the possibility of placing some form of guidance to fans when they are sent their tickets.
The meeting finished at 1pm.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 23 Jul 2008