ARSENAL FOOTBALL CLUB SUPPORTERS CONSULTATIVE FORUM 2009/2010 SEASON

Meeting held at 11 am Saturday 9th January 2010,in the RedZone

Attendees
Barrett, John – Silver Member Representative
Beale, Richard – Arsenal Supporters Club Representative
Brent, Graham – Club Level
Docherty, Amanda – Arsenal F.C
Exler, Andy – Arsenal F.C
Fox, Tom – Arsenal F.C
Futerman, David – Shareholder Representative
Frost, Ben – AISA Representative
Gazidis, Ivan – Arsenal F.C
Goodwin, Steve – RedAction Representative
Hayes, Stephen – Family Enclosure Representative
Manek, Ameesh – Ethnic Minority Representative
O’Brien, Michael - Arsenal F.C
Roberts, Elliot – Electoral Reform Services (Chair)
Saving, Trevor – Arsenal F.C
Smith, Jill – Arsenal F.C.
Szabala, Jan – Arsenal Supporters Club Representative
Thater, John – Gold Member Representative

Apologies
Miller, Raymond – Red Member
Herlihy, Raymond – RedAction Representative
Hayward, Richard – Gay Supporters Representative
Case, Max – 16-21 yr Old Representative
Harrold, Ian – Arsenal Supporters Club Representative
Perry, Mike – Over 60 Year-Old Representative

Presentation from Andy Exley – Program Editor

We’re mid-way through the season now and I wanted to discuss the development and new layout we’ve applied to the program this year. At the end of last season we surveyed over 3,000 fans to get their views and opinions about the program and the key findings were that the vast majority of fans were happy with the program and that most of the fans who did buy it were aged late 30’s upwards. A few fans mentioned that they weren’t regularly buying it due to a lack of disposable income on match days, as well as stating (especially the younger fans) that they were using other media outlets as a source of information e.g. Arsenal.com, blog sites etc. This is a wider cultural phenomenon and other printed media organisations are encountering the same problems. We’re conscious that 10 years ago the match-day program was the most significant source of information for fans about Arsenal – this simply isn’t the case any more. Saying that, there is always original content in the program – sometimes the press pick up and run with stories contained within it.

A few questions and issues arose from this research and we decided that we would give the program a fresher feel – following on from the earlier discussion about how fans identify with Arsenal, we were aware that we weren’t going to fundamentally change it. We wanted to keep the core strengths of the program, e.g. the in-depth interviews, club information and so on, but we were conscious that we had to change the design to attract new fans to the program.

The content of the program is great and there’s a lot to read on the journey home. There’s also great use of photography to support the content. Compared to other programs you buy when we’re playing away from home, ours does stand head and shoulders above the rest.

We went to first principles and asked ourselves what is the purpose of the program? We’re aware that a proportion of fans buy the program mainly as a collectors’ item – our aim is to ensure that for those who read it in detail, there are good quality and well informed pieces and we’re fortunate for the amount of access that we have to the playing staff in relation to this. We’re looking at incorporating collectible items as part of the program, e.g. bigger and more glossy posters, stickers etc and the response to the poster of the historical line of players contained in the Spurs program was fantastic. We’re also looking at new distribution outlets (e.g. train stations) for fans to buy their program on the way into the game.

A lot of fans buy their program on the way home for something to read – but it is harder to find vendors after the game

We’ve spoken to the vendors and most of them say they don’t sell that many post match and it’s not really worth their while. On a normal match day, we sell about 20,000 – as a percentage of potential purchasers this is less than at highbury and our research told us that a lot of new fans that have season tickets for the Emirates have never previously bought a program – this is the on of the main audiences we’re trying to capture.

There is information and articles in the program that isn’t on the website and it does have added value – have you looked at potentially distributing the program in different ways e.g. free with a super-size meal at the kiosks or for one game giving it free to every fan and introducing it to 40,000 fans who wouldn’t normally buy it. Other ideas would be to put an edited highlights sample in the annual membership packs or having vouchers to be used at the ground?

These are definitely things we can look at, as well as selling the program in a plastic bag to make it easier to carry. On the vouchers side, we have found that those who purchase it prefer not to deface it. We look to get the program done “just in time” so that we can get player reactions to the Champions League draw, for example. There are other things we’re looking at and we’re liaising with the program sellers (who have been involved in this for a very long time) to see what can work best. Some clubs have offered the program content on-line or via pdf attachments to those who have subscribed (for a fee less than the cost of the physical program). We also have an Arsenal magazine and we ensure that there is co-ordination and exclusivity in terms of the content across all Arsenal Media outlets. E.g. there will be a 3,000 word piece on Andre Arshavin in the next magazine, content less applicable to the program and website.

What’s the story about the program of the cancelled game against Bolton on Wednesday 6th January?

The bulk of the program for today’s game against Everton is the same as what was used in the Bolton game – we will be offering fans the opportunity to buy the program for the game against Bolton.


Other Topics

Promotion of fan forum members contact details

Contact details for fans to contact forum members were included for the 2nd time in the program for the game against Aston Villa on 27th December. Unfortunately, due to IT security & phishing issues, we can’t publish email addresses on the Arsenal.com website. We will put the details in the program more regularly in the future.

There has been a slight increase in the amount of contact from members – there is a bit of confusion in that there are “fans forum” polls on the website and we’re referred to as the supporters forum – it will be better to refer to us as the fans’ forum.

We’ll look at that – more generally, this forum is not an alternative for fans to submit specific questions about ticketing or individual complaints – this is a discussion forum to discuss topics such as we’ve covered here today – it’s role is to talk about the club on a more general level. Forum members have a responsibility when they put themselves forward to liaise with fans on an informal level and bring wide-ranging topics to the meeting – Andy today has some great ideas to take away from the meeting in relation to promoting the program – that is where this forum excels. We have a call centre that can deal with specific enquiries or complaints. The forum is a way for fans to express opinions or comments about things that might affect the club in general e.g. the price of away tickets for the Spurs game last year – we can explain to the forum our decision making processes and also listen and absorb what the forum has to say on topics such as this.

The club need to be clearer to fans about the remit and role of the forum when they advertise it in the program.

We’ll ensure that there is a fuller description the next time it is included in the program.

Re-naming of the quadrants

This is progressing well – we’ve got Board approval to move this forward and we’re currently looking at different designs – we want to make it as elegant as possible, which does pose some challenges but we will get it done correctly.

Can the club explain why the ticket exchange scheme doesn’t work for Champion’s League

This is mainly down to UEFA leaving it quite late to inform us (usually the Thursday before a scheduled game) about their media and other ticketing requirements – we then have to get in touch with season ticket holders about seat re-allocation and after this we don’t have enough time for the ticket exchange scheme to work correctly.

What’s the latest on banners at games?

There has been a request for us to help in the production of banners for fans to bring to games and we will look to help with some potential designs as well as stating what the dimensions should be so that they don’t interfere with the views of other fans in the stadium. Ultimately, we would love fans to bring banners to the stadium and further improve the atmosphere at games

Is there a plan to resurrect Arsenal TV on-line?

There are no immediate plans to resurrect this right now, but we are having discussions with ESPN about then funnelling Arsenal TV programmes. We accept that maybe some of the content that has been on Arsenal TV on-line was probably not of the quality that our fans rightly expect and this is something that Michael Leavy will be looking at for the future. More broadly, we’re aware that a lot of focus over the last few years has been on delivering the success of the Emirates stadium – now our focus has changed onto delivering wider commercial success to the club going forward and the Board and staff members are doing a lot of work behind the scenes to bring this about.

Why was the game against Bolton cancelled so close to kick-off?

We were in constant contact with the Met office on the day before the scheduled game against Bolton, as well as the morning of the game – we were aware that there was a band of snow expected on the day of the game but that in all likelihood it would miss our area. Unfortunately, we did then have the snow coming the early afternoon before the game and we were left with no other option than to postpone the game– the issue with postponing any game is that we’re aware we’re inconveniencing many thousands of both home and away fans and it’s not something we would ever do lightly, but in this particular instance we felt it was the right thing to do. We offered Bolton some money to use as they saw fit for their fan groups as a way of an apology – ultimately, they’ve decided to cover the travel costs of their fans that were making their way via official channels to the stadium.

The meeting finished at 12.55pm.

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 10 Feb 2010