Arsenal Football Club Supporters consultative Forum 2006/2007 Season
Meeting held at 11am, The Red Zone Saturday 3rd March 2007

Attendees (in alphabetical order):
BEATTIE, John - Arsenal F.C
BOWLES, Mick - Arsenal Supporters Club
COXHEAD, Stephen - Red Member
DEIN, David - Arsenal F.C
ELLIS, Paul - Arsenal Supporters Club - Norfolk
FORD, Adrian - Arsenal F.C
GOODWIN, Steve - AISA Representative
GOSNELL, Peter - Disabled Supporter Representative
GOULDING, Peggy - Arsenal Supporters Club - St Thomas’s Road
HALFPENNY, Mark - Silver Member
LASER, Ronald - Club Level Representative
MEARS, Janet - Over 60 year old Representative
MILES, David - Arsenal F.C.
MIRZOIAN, Olga - 16-21 yr Old Representative
NOORGAARD, Henrik - Overseas Supporter Representative
QUY, Daniel - Arsenal F.C
RANDS, Neil - Gold Member
RANDS, Neil - Gold Member
ROBERTS, Elliot - Electoral Reform Services (Independent Chair)
SENIOR, Philippa — Family Enclosure Representative
SMITH, Jill - Arsenal F.C
TANGO, Lee - Red Member
TOLHURST, Dan - Arsenal F.C
WORSELL, Ivan - Arsenal F.C

Apologies:
EDELMAN, Keith - Arsenal F.C
DOCHERTY, Amanda - Arsenal F.C
DOWD, Chris - Silver Member
O'BRIEN, Michael - Arsenal F.C
STANZER, Philip - Gold Member

Minutes of the last meeting:
No matters arising.

Stadium Issues

Are there any plans to improve the stations in the local area? It is noticeable how many people are leaving prior to the end of the match and in a recent BBC programme people were stating they were leaving early to beat the rush.

To a large extent, local transport facilities are beyond our control. We, the Police and Islington council have been working closely with TfL (Transport for London) to try to make travel to Emirates Stadium as efficient as possible and lobby for improvements, but there currently haven't been any major developments in this area. The changes currently taking place at Arsenal tube stadium are largely cosmetic and will not have a great impact on the flow of people there before and after games. Around the podiums, we've gradually been removing police cordons to improve the movement of fans after the game. People's expectations are much higher these days in terms of time taken to travel home after a game, but we feel we're one of the best clubs in the country in this regard.

In terms of managing flow after games, we are encouraging fans to stay behind and have a drink after the game - we did have problems with the way this was stewarded at the early part of the season, but again we now feel this has bedded in. We now have stewards on 7 hour shifts, so the issue of fans being stewarded out early should no longer happen.

At the Blackburn game, the Stewards made it quite clear that they wanted people to finish their post-match drink and leave as soon as possible.

Stewards working for 6 hours finished their work one hour after matches finished. That's why we now have stewards employed for 7 hours. The 6 hour stewards get frustrated as they can't leave until all 7 hour stewards are in the right place - which is why you may have saw encountered this attitude - this is being streamlined and hopefully won't happen in the future.

How successful was the opening of the bars for the PSV away game?

It was a good turnout - about 400-500 fans turned up. It was dealt with as a normal function.

Some sections of the stadium are still having problems hearing the announcements clearly - what are the developments on this?

We're fine tuning this - there are limits to the level of volume we can use as part of the planning conditions and there are occasionally complaints from local residents. The residents who have complained tend to be people who live further away from the stadium, which illustrates the acoustics we have here. We're also still working on the sound from the television systems around the stadium. We may have gone too low on the pitch level interviews - we had issues at the Dennis Bergkamp Testimonial on volume.

We were given a lot of warnings prior to the Chelsea away game about chanting, other clubs don't take these too seriously - as witnessed by some of the ugly chants aimed at Arsène Wenger. It does feel that we try and implement rules that other clubs aren't as forceful about.

Warnings are given to fans of all clubs - e.g. Tottenham fans were warned about chants aimed at Sol Campbell when he played at White Hart Lane for Arsenal soon after his transfer. In general, we don't feel racist or homophobic chanting has increased over time, the problem is that at all seater stadia it is harder to move away from it, hence it's being reported more. Unfortunately, very occasionally we have had incidences of inappropriate chanting from individuals at Emirates Stadium. It tends to be isolated and not heard at pitch level or even by Stewards - which is why we ask fans to assist in identifying those who are chanting inappropriately. To take action, we've got to be precise with the information we gather. All clubs state that they follow the same rules. For example, there is a rule that all babies/young children have to have their own ticket, due to rules about physical space, but not all clubs enforce it fully. We feel it's not a safe environment in the stadium unless they children can sit unaided in their own seat.

What is the current position on flags?

We don't allow giant flags in the stadium. They're unsafe as they can cause safety issues in gangways and bulk-heads. As we all know, there have been issues with the flying of the Northern Cyprus flag. It is not illegal to fly, but some of our Greek Cypriot supporters took exception to it. Initially, we got upwards of a dozen complaint letters and our response, after checking with the Home Office and other avenues was that it wasn't illegal. We were then presented with a petition of 9,000 signatories and it got to a stage where we got into an impasse. If we banned the flag then we could be accused of discriminating against our Northern Cypriot supporters and if we allowed it to stay we would have two groups of our own supporters fans conflicting with each other, so we decided it would be safest to ban the flying of any national flag. We're in the middle a political debate that has been going on for many years and has nothing to do with Arsenal Football Club.

Unfortunately, it has had an impact on our plans to fly the flags of the players' countries and has also had an impact on supporters clubs flying flags. However, we do allow the flying of the flags of nations who play international friendlies at Emirates.

There are some supporters who shout abuse at the opposing team for the full 90 minutes.

There is a need for passion to create an atmosphere, but certain types of chanting should not be allowed and we as a club we make a strong effort to try to stamp down on inappropriate chanting when we can. It's hard to please everyone in relation to creating an atmosphere - look at the drum experience as an example.

What is your view on the Red Section?

The biggest issue we have at the moment is fans standing during the game, which has an impact on people around the Red Section - it doesn't just happen in the Red Section, but if it's allowed there it will start spreading. We are monitored by the Local Authority and the FLA (Football Licensing Authority) and we must ensure that we abide by the regulations - we accept that you can't have people sitting for 90 minutes but we also understand that it's not good for fans to be on their feet for 90 minutes as well. On the West Side of the Stadium, fans occasionally stand and then block the view of those sitting in the family enclosure. Stewards are still learning on how to monitor this issue and we hope the interactions between Stewards and Fans will continually improve. On rare occasions we have evicted fans from the stadium when, for example, somebody has been persistently leaning on the fan in front of them. Also some people have complained about the drum, which is located on the edge of the Red Section - which has now been resolved.

For away fans, there are certain games where it is not in the best interests of Arsenal to emphatically enforce the no standing rule for away fans. We will always at least make sure that gangways are kept clear. The track line stewards and segregation stewards will try to get them to sit. As away fans are only here once a season, you don't have much hold on them.

What is Arsenal's view of the motion supported by 133 MP's about the introduction of standing areas at Stadiums?

We feel it would be a retrograde step. After the tragedies of Hillsborough and Heysel, we felt that football should concentrate on creating a safe and comfortable environment for fans watching football, including women and children. We've been through the standing process in the past and we know what problems it can cause. We are the leaders in the next generation of stadia, where everyone has a comfortable seat and good view-lines and we feel this is the way forward.

Ticketing Issues

Can the club publicise the Carling Cup Final ticket allocation?

We will publish it fully shortly - to give the forum an overview, Arsenal Season Ticket holders who fulfilled certain criteria were able to book straight away. Thereafter, season ticket holders and platinum members with a lower number of credits and zero credits were able to register on-line. About 75% of our allocation [29,256] went to our season ticket and platinum members. This means that only half of our season ticket holders applied for a Carling Cup final ticket. We would expect this to increase when finals are being held at Wembley or being held on a Saturday. Box holders and Diamond Club members took up less than 5% of our overall allocation. We were then able to offer tickets to our silver and travel club members who had been to the highest number of matches - from this group about 3,500 took up the offer which then meant we able to offer about 1,500 tickets to some selected red members who had been to the most games. It's hard in advance to know how many qualified people would take up the opportunity, which is why the email invite to red members went out relatively late. We ultimately sold all our allocation.

Will there be an away credit awarded to those who went to the final?

I don't think we will. It was held at a neutral venue and you are accruing credits to qualify for this event - it would then be unfair to include it as a credit for future events.

Generally, we have approximately 14,000 tickets that go on sale match by match and on average silver members take up 7-8,000 thousand of these. We are hopeful that for most games some tickets will be available for Red members.

Why did we only have 5,500 tickets for the away match at Fulham, when most other clubs have had 7,500?

The usual allocation for away fans is 3,000 or 10%, whichever is the smaller figure. We try to take as many tickets as we can for each game and took up the offer of 5,500 for this one. We try and apply the credit solution for every game we can and for the PSV game, we may have, in retrospect, done the ticket allocation differently. For this game, the away scheme take up was only about 20%.

There has been a decline in players acknowledging the fans - most prominently following the PSV defeat.

Our back room staff always encourage the players to applaud the fans at the end of matches and we'll keep pressing them on this. However, we would like to state that occasionally some players' emotions will be running high after a match, and sometimes a few will head straight for the tunnel and not purposely ignore our fans. However, as stated, our backroom staff will continue to remind players of their responsibilities to applaud the supporters at the end of all matches.

For some away games we're getting child and adult tickets in different rows.

The best thing to do with that is on the application form state which children need to sit next to which adult, so that these tickets are processed in the appropriate order.

What is Arsenal's view on the issue of ticket prices - some managers have publicly commented on it and does Arsenal think that ultimately fans will be driven away from the game?

The Board are very aware about the costs of fans coming to watch Arsenal. We're aware that it's not cheap and that prices have increased over time but so have operating costs - players salaries etc. Having said that ticket prices will be considered very carefully at our next board meeting in March.

To maintain our position as one of the pre-eminent clubs in world football is not an easy task, but we don't have a policy of getting as much as we can out of the fan. We've tried to maintain Arsenal's presence in European and World Football, as well as come up with the magnificent stadium we now have.

The thing that upsets the fans the most is the salaries of some of the players; we understand the salaries for top players, but some mediocre players are getting £30-£40 thousand per week, does the board at Arsenal feel it has gone too far?

There is something out now called the Arnaut report, which is being looked at by European Sports Ministers and proposes, amongst other things, different ways of applying salary caps. We feel this will restrict our ability to attract the best talent in world football to Arsenal. We also feel there shouldn't be barriers to how many non-domestic players are allowed per side. As Arsène Wenger has said, when he looks at players, he looks at their skills and not their passports. We are active in picking out players at a young age and developing them within the club, reducing our need to enter the top end of the transfer market. A few years ago, not many people would have heard of Emmanuel Eboue or Philippe Senderos. We're in strong competition with European clubs in attracting top players.

The entrance fees at the majority of the top European clubs are significantly lower that at Arsenal.

In Spain for example, the top clubs have control of the television money - in the Premiership it is dished out collectively, as agreed at its inception. Essentially different countries operate under different market conditions. Our aim is to maintain our presence at the elite end of European Football.

Can Arsenal do something about the tickets for away matches?

There have been discussions on reciprocal prices although current evidence suggests it can be open to abuse. In relation to the ticket prices for the recent Spurs Carling Cup matches, Spurs wanted us to charge at Category A levels, but it was our wish to charge less than the prices that eventually materialised.

General Issues

Can you give us more information on the link up with Colorado Rapids?

We have relationships all over the world, including in Vietnam and Thailand. This is all part of our plan to tap into and develop talent and minimise our need to pay large sums of money to buy fully developed players. We have a strategy to try and develop players at any early stage and there are parts of the world where football is growing rapidly, including the USA. It also helps build our name in these areas and we are now seeing supporters clubs popping up all over the world.

What is Arsenal's view on adopting new technology in the game?

There are different options being looked at, some more feasible than others. It now looks extremely likely that goal-line technology will be introduced in the next 12 months or so.

There will inevitably be occasions when decisions go against us, but we feel over the course of a season they tend to balance themselves out.

Fans are sometimes upset by the increasing variation of kick-off times, obviously dictated by television:

That is the effect of the FA Premier League selling games to Sky Sports. This money ultimately benefits the game. If you want the money, you have to have a degree of flexibility in kick-off times.

The quality of some of the replica merchandise (including logos on shirts which come off pretty quickly) is poor.

We're actively encouraging people to return their shirts and they will be exchanged. We are in on-going discussions with Nike to improve the quality in the future.


The meeting finished at 1.05pm.

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