Meeting held at 11 am - the Red Zone Saturday 6th December 2008

Attendees 
Beattie, John – Arsenal F.C
Borthwick, Ian – Family Enclosure
Brent, Graham – Club Level
Brindle, Mark – Arsenal Supporters Club Branch
Clifford, David – Gold Member
Dearden, Peter – Metropolitan Police
Docherty, Amanda – Arsenal F.C
Ford, Adrian – Arsenal F.C
Friar, Ken – Arsenal F.C
Frost, Ben – AISA Representative
Grainger, Nicola – Silver Member
Hayward, Richard – Gay Supporters Representative
Hill-Wood, Peter – Arsenal F.C
Manek, Ameesh – Ethnic Minority Representative
Miles, David – Arsenal F.C.
Miller, Raymond – Red Member
Osipiuk, Rob – Silver Member
Roberts, Elliot – Electoral Reform Services (Chair)
Smith, Jill – Arsenal F.C.
Swed, Meredith – Arsenal Supporters Club, Overseas
Thater, Rosie – 16 – 21 Year Old Representative
Worsell, Ivan - Arsenal F.C. 

Apologies
Campbell, Sue – Arsenal F.C
Harrold, Ian – Arsenal Supporters Club Branch
Irwin, John – Gold Member
O’Brien, Michael - Arsenal F.C
Pattinson, Dave – Red Member

Matters arising from the last meeting
Please see below for an update on plans to commemorate supporters.
Please see below for an update on the Arsenalisation of the stadium.
Please see below for an update on Kit Design.

Match Day Policing (with Peter Dearden of the the Metropolitan Police)
[Peter Dearden’s principal role whilst working with Arsenal F.C is ensuring that the vast majority of fans who behave are treated well by the Police both here and at away games.]

There is still the on-going issue of Ticket Touting – what is the Police’s approach to this?

There have been 15 home games so far this season and there have been 93 arrests in and around the ground. Of those 8 were arrested for Ticket Touting and 7 of those have been given court banning orders. In the near future we are hoping to establish an exclusion zone around the Stadium and if these people are found within it then they will be arrested. On a match day, ticket touting is not our greatest priority but saying that, we do have 2 plain clothes officers on duty today specifically looking for ticket touts. There are other issues surrounding ticket touting, including the carrying of knives, for example, so we and Arsenal do put resources into tackling it. Ultimately, no-one is allowed to sell an Arsenal ticket other than Ticketmaster or Arsenal. In terms of tactically tackling this, we want to focus on the professional touts, not so much the people selling 1 or 2 tickets on a match-day. These are people who are involved in ticket touting and who have no way of displaying their means of income. - We have the power to seize the assets of those we can identify. We’re also setting up a Police forum with Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool F.C, as this is a national issue. Arsenal have done well (see below) in limiting the ways in which touts can get tickets and we focus on the systematic approach taken by the touts and tackling them at a high level.

We (Arsenal F.C) will ban any fan where a membership has been sold on the black market and we have banned over 400 memberships so far this year. Where we are able to prove it (and we have) we will ban all memberships registered at an address. We can check membership history from the purchase off a credit card and see if other membership numbers are attached to that credit card or the address where it is registered. A lot of these tickets are sold in hotel lobbies etc, where the fan purchasing the ticket has to leave their passport or a credit card deposit to ensure they return the membership card to the tout after the game. We’re employing a lot of new technology on this problem and the card system in place at the Emirates has helped us to tackle this issue more effectively. We also have been able to mask domain names of ticket tout websites and anyone who visits their sites are re-directed to Arsenal.com.

Another way to tackle this issue is to increase publicity surrounding the Ticket Exchange Scheme, which enable fans to buy legitimate tickets, helping the club, themselves and the season ticket holders who cannot attend that particular game. We’re aware of some of the concerns that people have about this (e.g. in terms of credits) and we’ve recently been actively promoting this system on the website, membership magazine etc. We’re aware of the system they employ at Wembley and are sure there are aspects of their system that we can incorporate into ours.

There was some trouble at the recent Everton game – can you let us know what happened?

We’ve analysed the CCTV footage from the day and there were instances of some of our fans throwing objects (including one of our burgers) and spitting at the Everton fans. There were also examples of Everton fans throwing things up and then landing back on Everton fans. The trouble at the segregation lines between the 2 sets of fans was based on verbal exchanges. We spoke with our counterparts at Liverpool and they stated that they’ve had similar experiences. Some of our fans didn’t behave very well after the game in terms of chanting at the Everton fans as they were leaving.

For the Police perspective, it highlights how what is categorized as a low risk game can quickly become a game that requires extra police vigilance. We did support the stewards at the segregation line for a spell. The dynamics of the game didn’t help in creating the atmosphere (as well as the behaviour on the pitch by some players). We feel our approach was broadly correct, including the decision to remove Police from certain areas to not antagonize the situation. Ultimately, we made 6 arrests, all of which are going to court to be prosecuted for public order offences and CCTV will be used as evidence. It wasn’t a pleasant experience from our perspective but thankfully it does happen very rarely. We’re working with Merseyside Police and they will see if they can identify any further people from the CCTV footage.

There are many factors that determine how we categorize a game as low or high risk, including the history between the clubs playing, the number of expected away fans, information we get from the relevant police force etc. For example, Wigan will be bringing about 750 fans so this is categorized as a low risk. Saying that, we review games constantly and can change the categories we use. Ultimately we are there to support the stewards and we work very well with them. We will in all probability classify the Plymouth F.A Cup game as a medium risk, based on the seating arrangements in place for F.A Cup games – Plymouth are taking their full available allocation of 9,000 seats.

The Stadium

Where have the Armoury letterings above the store gone?

The simple reason they are not there is that the fixings broke. Macalpine’s took them away to repair the fixings but unfortunately when they were stored some of the letters broke. They’ve promised to fix them imminently but as yet they haven’t been replaced – we’ll chase it again next week.

The club announced that the extra-time facilities in Block 31 have been suspended due to licensing regulations – can the club arrange activities there before the game?

The licence fee required to play live music there is exorbitant – it has gone up by more than 9 times what it was previously which is obviously unsustainable. It’s a non-starter to use the facility before the game as it will block the flow of fans entering the stadium and getting to their seats. We will re-visit this and try to negotiate better terms for the licence fee and look at other options we can provide after the game. There is a wider issue that the Premier League are working on in that the costs relating to playing music as teams come out are increasing and it may get to a stage where no music is played at football stadiums on matchdays.

During the 2nd half of the Villa game there was a Block at Club Level that was empty for 10-15 minutes.

We were dealing with a suspect package. We were fairly confident that it was just a case of someone leaving a suitcase but we obviously had to be vigilant. There were no problems from the fans in that block and they understood what was going on.

Can turnstiles be open earlier before week-night games?

We need a certain number of staff in place before we are allowed to open the stadium and a lot of stewards are coming from their day-time occupations. We have tried different options over the last few occasions, including opening the stadium stages at a time. Club and box levels are relatively easy in that there are only 4 entry points so therefore don’t need a huge number of staff to facilitate this. There is the option of having later kick-off times but this will cause much greater problems in fans getting home after the game, especially if it’s a cup game that goes into extra time. A lot of fans turn up very close to kick-off, especially those who come to Carling Cup games and may not have been many times previously. We wouldn’t delay the kick-off if it was just a case of large numbers of fans arriving just before the start of the game – this would send out the wrong message.

We’ve had a lot of feedback about the quadrants – the general feeling is that something can and should still be in done in naming the quadrants to increase their connection with the stadium.

They have been given their names for internal maintenance references. In terms of the 125th Anniversary celebrations and the connection to this topic we are looking at having a Hall of Fame – the impact of which may be diminished if we name the quadrants now and subsequently have to re-name them. We are also at least thinking about doing something around turnstiles. So in terms of branding the stadium we are looking at several options and we are wary of doing something with the quadrants now if that has an effect on what we intend to do in the future. We are looking at a longer-term plan in involving fans in deciding the best ever Arsenal players and using this information as part of the 125th Anniversary celebrations.

Our plan in moving to the new stadium was to make sure that it was operationally and functionally working. Everything in terms of systems has now bedded in and we agree that the Arsenalisation of the stadium should now be given a higher priority. We don’t want to rush this process and also want to ensure that all approaches are integrated and work well together and not lead to confusion amongst fans and we also want to have something in place that will last for many years into the future.

There is one point on the use of players names is that it is fraught with difficulty – somebody maybe a legend now but in the future they may manage another team or a family member may score against us.

Playing Strip

Why doesn’t the new home playing kit have completely white sleeves?

In terms of kit design, there is a long process of discussion, both internally and with the Kit producers Nike and it went through 3/4 iterations before the final design was decided upon by the board. The 2 main considerations when coming up with a new design are that it has to be both commercially viable and reflect Arsenal and its values. They are interlinked, in that if we ignore the club’s history, no-one will by the kit. The new shirt does have some white on the sleeves and it has sold very well – as a matter of interest, the new away shirt has not sold as well as we would have liked. We had quite a lot of negative feedback on the white away shirt last year but that sold very well. It really is a case of not being able to please everybody. We appreciate that it slightly more radical than ones in the past, but large elements of this seasons’ shirt have incorporated designs that have been used previously.

When we did focus groups for the Redcurrant shirt for the last season at Highbury, a lot of fans were not pleased with the design – once it bedded in, a lot of fans thought it was one of the best shirts we’ve had.

Why has there been a new away strip every year for the last few seasons?

In the current economic climate we will look at this. On a wider point we have a wide range of clothes and replica kits available to fans and we feel that the quality is good and the products are fashionable. People buy replica shirts to identify themselves with the club but we also think people consider fashions when they’re making their purchases. As part of that process we have recently introduced female versions of the kit and other clothing items. We want to offer these fans a choice as well. In terms of the 125th anniversary, we will incorporate the themes developed for that with the shirt for that season and we will come back to the forum in due course about what those plans are.

We have a huge number of Arsenal Fans and we obviously can’t consult with or please them all – we feel that the research techniques we use are tried and tested but we always listen and react to feedback from fans.

Fans Support

Have there been any developments with the commemorative area?

We recently had a meeting with Brickonomics, who specialise in this area. We have looked at an area around the Armoury where we would be able to have about 10,000 bricks, so technically its feasible and we are actively looking at doing it. We feel that Brickanomics are a little expensive. We are looking at the option of doing it ourselves and therefore keeping the costs down for fans and we hope to be in a position to launch something in the first quarter of next year.

Does the club feel that a good way of generating additional support is to tap into younger fans by resurrecting the Cannon Club scheme?

We had an internal membership meeting recently about this 2 year gap between Junior Gunners and 18 year olds and we’re aware that this gap needs to be tackled.

Board Structure/Finance

As Mr Usmanov now has a 25 percent shareholding, what other credentials does he need to get a seat on the Board?

The important aspect of any prospective board member is judging whether or not they can make a valuable and positive contribution to it and we’re not currently looking to increase the size of the Board. You don’t automatically get a Board position unless you own 51% of the Shares available. We have a new Chief Executive starting in the New Year. (see below) Mr Kroenke, our non-executive Director, has given us positive input via his experience of developing the Colarado Rapids Football Team and he is very keen in developing the Youth players out there.

Ivan Gazidis, our new Chief Executive, was brought up in England and played for the Oxford University Football team. He worked in England as a Lawyer for a few years. Whilst on placement in America, he was headhunted by Major League Soccer and was there from its’ inception. He was the Deputy Commissioner before he left to join us and we feel he has a wealth of experience to bring to the table and we are very lucky to have him. He may not be an Arsenal Fan (yet) but he is an ardent football fan. We felt when we were looking for a new Chief Executive, we wanted someone who was Sports & specifically football orientated and he has had experience of running 15 stadia in the US. He also set up the Marketing arm of MLS and was involved in getting England to play on Tour there. So, he is a person who ticked all the boxes and is also well connected in the world of Sport. We made the decision a while ago but didn’t make it public due to on-going commitments that Ivan had with the MLS.

How does the club think that the current economic climate will affect revenue streams?

We have passed the V.A.T reduction on. In terms of the economic situation, it is inevitably going to affect us. Fuel prices, council taxes etc are still going up so people have less disposable income. It is hard to predict exactly where it’s going to affect us and we know we’re not immune from its effects. We have long-term contracts in place for sponsorship and TV revenues but we may see a drop at the margins on ticket sales and match-day purchases.

Have club level and other ticket prices been set for next season?

There is a board meeting next Thursday to discuss this issue and it is planned to roll out the announcements in the same way as previous years. We’re aiming to minimize the churn in terms of renewals. We are much better placed than other clubs because of the large number of registered members we have who can take up the available season tickets. We have been able to offer more red members the opportunity to buy match tickets this season and that’s good for everyone as it allows them to build a strong affiliation to the club.

A.O.B

The cost of official away travel seems to be more than other clubs charge – why is this?

We offer more than just travel to the game, so you’re not really comparing like with like – we offer drinks to fans on the journeys, special parking arrangements. Escorts etc – we feel we offer a quality service. We also provide great services for families and Junior Gunners as opposed to just offering a means from A to B.

Can a RedAction member be on the forum?

We look at the composition and frequency of meeting for the forum at the end of the season and there maybe scope to include a Redaction member in future years. The club sees them as an independent friend and have worked with them in terms of generating atmosphere and promoting charitable work. There have been RedAction members on the forum in the past.

Perry Groves hasn’t been on Arsenal TV for a while – is this due to some comments he recently made on Radio 5?

There are guidelines for all our media outlets in terms of the boundaries of debate and commentary and his commentary of the Stoke game is generally accepted as not being appropriate. He hasn’t been struck off and he is lined up to do some more work soon – he’s had a period where he’s been working on external projects and most of the people who work on these media platforms do so on a rotational basis. We have to be wary on this official media that comments from pundits etc are not perceived as being the official line of the club.

How does Accountability work for Arsène Wenger?

Arsène is obviously accountable to the Board for his decisions and actions and the vast majority of the time he makes the right choices. He’s occasionally made the wrong call and he is the first person to admit them – we don’t chase him on individual mistakes and we both benefit from this relationship which has worked very well over the last 12 years.

 

The forthcoming Match between Arsenal & Liverpool is the dedicated match day for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Publicity around it will be released on 15th December and all players and Directors will donate their salary for the day. Players have also been giving something back to teenagers with cancer e.g. chauffeuring fans, painting fingernails etc – we also got free support form an advertising agency.

 

The meeting finished at 12.50pm

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 Mar 2009