ARSENAL FOOTBALL CLUB FANS’ FORUM 2011/2012 SEASON

Meeting held at 11am on Saturday December 10th 2011 at Highbury House

Attendees 

Allen, Charles – Arsenal F.C

Brown, Peter – Gold Member Representative

Christie, John – Over 60 Year Old Representative

Cooper, Steve – Arsenal Supporters Trust Representative

Ellis, Paul - Arsenal Supporters Club Representative (Domestic)

Evans, Richard – Club Level Representative

Fellows, James – Away Scheme Member Representative

Gazidis, Ivan – Arsenal F.C

Georgiev, Angel – Arsenal Supporters Club (Overseas)

Gonnella, Mark – Arsenal F.C

Guthrie, Elliot – 16-21 Year Old Representative

Lawrence, Paul – RedAction Representative

McCloskey, Daniel – AISA Representative

Padfield, Mick – Arsenal Supporters Club Representative (Domestic)

Roberts, Elliot – Electoral Reform Services (Chair)

Selby, Stewart – LGB Representative

Smith, Jill – Arsenal F.C

Tanfield, Hazel – Red Member Representative

Upson, Patsy – Disabled Supporter Representative

Williams, Lesley – Shareholder Representative

Presentation on the celebrations of the clubs 125th Anniversary – led by Charles Allen

Presentation on the celebrations of the clubs 125th Anniversary – led by Charles Allen

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Update from Ivan Gazidis:

Since I last spoke to you all, we’ve seen a great improvement in our fortunes. As we all know we had a very difficult start to the season, but we are now seeing the benefits of the more experienced players we brought into the squad and their know how and leadership are having a positive impact on the team. We’re not there yet, but those who know say the great team spirit is something they haven’t seen for a long time. Everyone can see the leadership Robin Van Persie brings to the team on the field, but he is also doing as much off the field and is taking the role of captaincy very seriously. We’re optimistic about the future performance of the team and we sense a stronger relationship between the fans and the players, as epitomised with the way in which the players applauded our fans at the recent Chelsea game.

As some of you may have seen, we are celebrating our 125th Anniversary at the game today and this is part of our continuing approach to make the stadium feel like our home. We unveiled 3 new statues yesterday – 2 former players in Tony Adams and Thierry Henry and 1 former manager, Herbert Chapman. Tony Adam represents our spirit, teamwork, dedication and attitude, Thierry Henry typifies our class in terms of the way he played the game and Herbert Chapman embodies our motto “forward” – he was always thinking ahead in terms of how the game was going to develop and always put the club at the forefront of these developments. 

In terms of our progression this season, we could see how passionate both Arsène and senior staff at the club are about the fortunes of the club during a recent home game in the Champions League.

Everyone who works at this Club is a fan of this club. We all have our areas of responsibility in terms of long-term strategic growth and success and whilst this can appear as a bit distant at times, we experience the ups and downs of games as much as all fans of this Club – our ultimate aim, which we passionately share with our fans is for the Club to be successful on the field.

As has already been mentioned, our 125th anniversary and the word forward, our first motto, are integral to this Club and how we operate. This is all part of our continuous development as a Club and the planning for the celebrations and how we are commemorating the Club and its history today started 18 months ago. It all started with the design of the crest that we are using for the whole of this season. The oak leaves represent the Royal Oaks where a meeting took place to establish the Club and the laurel leaves represent the people who were there at the meeting and who all chipped in with a six-pence to buy  a football that led to our Club’s formation.  

We spent a great deal of time thinking about how we drive our 125th anniversary into our membership campaign and we wanted to link the spirit of innovation that this Club has with the desire of fans to be at the heart of the Club. We came up with the campaign theme of “always ahead of the game”, linking back to our past in the way Herbert Chapman and more recently Arsène Wenger have developed the thinking at our Club. As part of this we have linked the membership theme for both our Junior Gunners and adult members, taking account of the high levels of knowledge our younger fans have of both our recent and past history.

We’ve rolled out the cladding around the lower cores and we wanted our fans to be an integral part of the fabric of our stadium.  The warmth and positive effect of this is the stories of the fans and their memories of our previous players – emotional, funny and beautiful stories. We have fan banners around the stadium and these have been refreshed today for our anniversary. We reached out to fans and asked for their stories and we have a wide variation of our fan base, as well as employees, represented in these.We will be refreshing these again in the future. 

We are also aware that a large percentage of our fans are spread globally and a large part of our celebrations have been integrated into social media so that as many of our fans as possible feel a part of the process. We asked fans, in association with our partners Nike, to submit their experiences of Arsenal whether it was the first time they saw them on TV, or their first visit to the stadium or when they first met a player. Some of these stories and quotes submitted are on display on our benches around the stadium. To also give fans a stronger sense of allegiance to the stadium and where we play, we gave an opportunity to our followers on Facebook to submit banner designs to be displayed at the ground via an interactive app. We had nearly 3,500 submissions in the first 24 hours and over 9,000 submissions in total thus far.We’ve already produced around 20 of the best ones and displayed them around the stadium.

Over the last 125 days on Arsenal.com, we’ve had a photo a day, honouring our legends and footballing history with great photos from our archives. These will remain on the site for people to look at. This has not been a large part of our celebration, but it is the little details like this that add to the overall sense of ceremony. The space in the Armoury Square where fans were able to buy stones to celebrate their support of the Club has now all gone, so we’ve expanded this opportunity to the steps of the North Bridge, close to where the Tony Adams statue is. 

We also took another look at our stadium tours and wanted to expand this out to as many fans as possible. In their previous incarnation, we were running at full capacity, with just under 100,000 people a year having a guided tour. We looked at shortening the tour, changing the route but we didn’t want to compromise on quality and we therefore decided to launch a self-guided audio/visual tour, incorporating footage of our most recent game and pre and post-match interviews. We also have incorporated audio from some of our leading players, including Robin Van Persie, Jack Wiltshire, Bacary Sagna and Wojciech Szczesny, talking about what it’s like for them on match-days and what they feel in the changing rooms, walking down the tunnel and out onto the pitch. The previous tour set up was primarily targeted at Arsenal fans based in the UK but this new tour will also be attractive to other groups of people, e.g. families visiting London, including non-football fans.The tour is available in 8 languages and we have chosen people who speak these languages who are passionate about Arsenal e.g a Spanish Journalist based in London. 

What is your daily capacity now and can you still book in advance?

We can comfortably manage about 350 visitors an hour so at a conservative estimate we can cater for over 2,000 visitors a day. People can still book in advance and we will still have our guided legends tours available. We’ve branched out in terms of who we are marketing this at and giving it a new and fresh feel.

How were the fan pictures around the stadium selected?

We asked fans via Arsenal.com to submit their stories as fans of our club and we selected from these, as well as long-standing staff members and other fans that have had a long-standing close relationship with the Club. We will be refreshing them over time and will be going out to fans through Arsenal.com again in the future. 

In terms of today, the Royal Artillery Band will be at the ground and we will be introducing 15 legends before the game and they, along with some of the selected banner designers and junior gunners, will form a guard of honour as the players come onto the pitch. The coin used to determine ends before kick-off will be a six-pence, a reference to how we started in 1886. There will also be a presentation to Nottingham Forest at half-time, to recognise the influence they had in our humble beginnings. 

Web-Form process for forum members – Mark Gonnella

This process has now been set up for forum members and no doubt you’ve all received some emails from fans already. Inside the fan-zone on the club website, in the supporters’ forum section there is a link for fans to click through to send their requests/comments to forum members. Fans are asked for their name, their email address and which forum representative the enquiry is for. This comes via Arsenal and then directly onto the relevant representative(s)

We are getting the messages, although it’s not always clear what the message is about and who specifically it is for. One topic that has come up is that some overseas credit cards can’t be used when signing up to schemes like Red Membership.

There are a few teething problems with this which we’ll get fixed but it is a great tool for you as a representative to get a sense of what the wider fan base is raising as topics for discussion and you will be able to group them, either individually or with other forum members. You will also get requests for tickets/pennants/charitable donations etc and these you should send directly to the Club. We’ll fine tune the page in terms of stating what the general and specific role of the forum reps are. It will also be a useful tool for forum members to keep in touch with each other outside the forum and as already stated, develop themes that can be discussed at future meetings. Please get in touch with us outside the meeting if you think there are other ways that this system could be further improved. In terms of the credit card query, we will be looking at a solution for that. 

Ticketing – Ivan Gazidis

Has the club considered a home-credit scheme for season ticket holders, similar to the benefits connected to the away game credit system?

This topic is part of a broader review we are currently undertaking in terms of ticket entitlement (e.g. cup final tickets) for different categories of attending fans and this will be incorporated into the re-vamp of the ticket exchange scheme that we’ll be introducing. There will be infrastructure requirements to implement this type of process but we’re hopeful of having a new system in place for next season. These systems will ensure that we can be fair to our entire fan base and we are now in position to implement these kind of strategies fully. 

We’re aware that some of our systems are not necessarily set-up to log the number of disabled fans we have at the ground and we will have new systems in place to ensure this is not the case in the future. 

In terms of future ticketing prices, we haven’t come to a decision on that as yet. In terms of our medium-term objectives, we are looking to increase our commercial revenue so that we are less reliant on ticketing as our main source of revenue. Currently, ticket revenue as a percentage of overall revenue is higher here than at any other premier league club. We are looking at technologies which will enable us to more effectively calibrate our ticketing strategy in the future. Our ultimate aim is to stay at a level where we can continue to compete with the likes of Barcelona, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Manchester City and we have to take account of the economic set-up of these clubs, as well as the general economic climate that affects our fans. We understand that our performance towards the end of last season affected how are fans reacted to our ticket price increase this year and we’re more than aware that we want a team that can exceed our fans’ expectations. There is a new raft of high profile salary increases for players in the premier league and we have to balance all these competing demands together and ensure that the relationship with our fans continues to be on solid foundations.

As discussed before, it is hoped that UEFA’s financial fair play policy will have an impact in terms of the economic environment that clubs will work within in the future and we are playing an active role in the promotion of that, not just for the good of Arsenal but for the game as a whole. The current scenario is inherently unstable and may not be in the long-term interests for football generally, the context that the financial fair play scheme is looking to create is in our view better for football’s long-term interests. 

AOB

We can see with players like Sami Nasri who’s joined a club with unlimited resources but is now only a bit part player for the club, so some footballers, including ours may look again at whether they would want to move to clubs structured in that way.

Here, we try to develop players who deeply care about and play an integral role within the Club over the long-term and looking forward we want to continue our policy of developing our own young players who will become the fabric of the team in the future. The types of players that are successful in the Premiership has changed over time and we need to ensure that we are ahead of the curve in terms of the players we develop for the future. We are investing heavily in youth development and we hope to reap the rewards. In terms of our current standing, we all know we had a bad start to the season but I think we can all see the team spirit that has developed over the last couple of months. In a strange way, our start has galvanised the team and brought them closer together and our fans appreciate that. There has been an attitude change with both the players and fans.  On a more general point, we realise the emotional attachment that fans have with the Club and this is heightened by the perpetual media coverage that football now has. It has in the past sometimes been hard to communicate directly with fans about what this Club stands for and it can be clouded by the coverage that we sometimes get. We feel overall that fans have a good understanding about who we are and how we operate and have a strong affiliation with the ethos of the Club.

Has the club thought about introducing WiFi at the stadium?

We have looked at that: there is a high level of capital expenditure involved – we haven’t ruled it out completely but it’s not on the agenda at the moment. 

[Meeting concluded at 12.40pm.]

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 25 Jan 2012