Notes of Meeting Of Arsenal Football Club Supporters’ Forum, Held on October 19, 2013
Supporters’ Forum Representatives
16 – 21 Year Old Representative – Elliot Guthrie
Arsenal Supporters Club – Domestic – Mick Padfield
Arsenal Supporters Club – Overseas – Angel Georgiev
Arsenal Supporters Club – Domestic – Paul Ellis
Family Enclosure Representative – Daren Nathan
Red Member Representative – Connor Kielty
AISA Representative – Daniel McCloskey
Disabled Supporter Representative – David Barnett
Club Level Representative - Mick Coppock
LGBT Supporters Representative – Stewart Selby
RedAction Member – Tony Bernhard-Grout
Shareholder – Lesley Williams
Away Scheme Member – James Ashton
AST Member – Stephen Cooper
Gold Member Representative – Peter Brown
60 and Over Representative – John Christie
Arsenal FC Representatives
Arsenal FC (Chair) Mark Gonnella
Arsenal FC Ivan Gazidis
Arsenal FC Sue Campbell
Arsenal FC Jill Smith
Arsenal FC Charles Allen
Arsenal FC Alun Francis
Mark Gonnella (MG) welcomed members to the meeting
Lesley Williams: Minutes didn’t seem to reflect what was said and what wasn’t said, maybe in future to send minutes out to the panel to approve before they are sent out.
MG - Minutes due to be sent out at the end of next week, with feedback welcomed. Minutes will then be published two weeks after the meeting.
MG invited Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis to give an overview of the Club's position.
Ivan explained that we continue to operate the model of self-sustainability with a virtuous circle designed to ensure revenue is invested back into the team and the Club.
Ivan reiterated that Arsène Wenger makes the final call on all player decisions. The signing of Mesut Özil demonstrates that we want to progress and shows that we are not afraid to spend money.
Relationship with supporters
Supporters are really coming together and showing unity and this is demonstrated in the recent chants from the stands. The relationship between the fans and the players is good and improving, which is fantastic.
There is a nice balance in the squad at present with youth and experience. There are no big egos or hidden agendas and all the players are pulling together. Özil has slipped seamlessly into the team and contributes towards the great team dynamic at the moment. It is, however, still early days in the season and we should take each game by game.
Ivan explained that the Club will be run responsibly and reinvestment will be made not only on players but in other areas designed to take the Club forward. This would include support structures around the football side including personnel, facilities, youth development, athletic performance and analytics.
Ivan stressed that it would be a futile strategy to attempt to outspend all competitors and therefore Arsenal must be efficient with the money it generates.
Further questions were raised about the purchasing power and if Arsenal is adhering to Financial Fair Play.
Ivan explained that he has been a supporter of FFP throughout. There is a real understanding in the game that the level of spending on players and wages is an issue. At this point this needs to be handed over to the authorities. UEFA will be responsible for enforcing it. They are saying that when it comes to financial fair play this summer they will be strong.
Why were there insufficient Ozil shirts to match demand after his signing?
Ivan assured the forum that we did everything possible to get as many Ozil shirts out in the amount of time available.
A question was also raised regarding cheaper kits for children
Ivan explained that prices for kits are not in our hands as we have a commercial deal with our partner.
Further Areas of Discussion
Charles Allen was present at the forum to discuss ticketing, where we are going and what we are trying to do.
Charles explained that we are moving forward on several fronts with regards to ticketing. Changes have been made to the grading system with matches and this was the start of an initiative to drive affordability and accessibility. We are very conscious that our ticket prices are at the upper end and we are also aware that we need to attract younger fans to the games. Prices for Capital One Cup games have been held low to try and attract new and different fans. Another step that has been taken is the launch of the Junior Gunners’ Enclosure. This is to encourage young people aged between 12-16 to come to games with tickets priced at £10.
He said we are also working on the away fan initiative. All our thinking is based on being fair and equitable to as many people as possible. We have looked at discounting travel, but thought it would marginalise fans, so now have a flat rate discount on all away tickets. Every ticket an away fan buys has a £2.50 discount. More is also being done to look after away fans at the stadium. This includes refurbishments in the away end and a banner to welcome visiting fans.
Enhancements have been made to ticket exchange [insert link] following research with supporter groups. There are three areas of focus:
Looking at the inconvenience surrounding fans wanting to lend their ticket to a friend and the hassle of trying to get the ticket back in time for the next match.The problem with tickets being exchanged with strangers and giving fans greater control of who sits in their seat when they can’t attend.When using the ticket exchange system ticket holders would rather have cash back in their accounts immediately rather than wait until the following season.
When looking at these points we have managed to implement the following:
Ticket transfer – this is being made electronic so you can transfer to friends, colleagues or other Arsenal fans. It will also allow you to utilise your ticket outside the member network. You will be able to go to the membership area on the website, list 10 friends you regularly lend your ticket to and you will be able to elect them online and they will receive an e-ticket.Fan to fan sales – this will be launching soon and it will allow you to sell to a person of your choice.There will be an option shortly to allow you to have the choice to have cash back after a few days of the ticket being sold.
Question: Would you be able to have your ticket transferred to someone for a period of time?
This is not something we can do as it is not possible to set up multiple game transfers.
Question: Can we only use ticket exchange once the game is sold out?
Ticket exchange only comes into play when the game is sold out.
Question: Is the Young Gun Enclosure selling out?
Ticket sales are rising for each game. There are marketing initiatives to local schools and the community to encourage kids to attend games.
Question: Is there an option to sell the tickets on if plans change and they can’t go?
We are looking at being able to make multi-transfers in the future. This will allow you to sell your ticket once and if that person can’t make the match for any reason they would then be able to sell it on again.
Question: On the website it mentions that charges are applied, what is the charge?
The charges per transaction are £1. Some clubs include charges in their ticket prices. Admin charges are commonplace.
Question: Is there any chance of fans being alerted when away games are on sale? And is there a way to make it easier to get away tickets?
This is being developed. There are plans to set up a reminder to fans when away tickets are on sale. We are constantly working towards making away tickets more available. This is still a work in progress.
Question on Secondary Sales and senior citizen discounts
When it comes to secondary tickets we weren’t interested in using an external company as we wanted complete control over all secondary sales. Other clubs have had criticism by using third parties in this area. Senior citizen discounting in still on the agenda and is being looked into.
Question: Is there any possibility for a home credit?
Charles assured the group that season ticket holders are not bottom of the list and they are valued by the club.
Elliot Guthrie (16-21 year olds rep)
Arsenal foreign travel plans – Why hasn’t Arsenal signed up with travel providers for Champions League games?
Sue Campbell : The contract with Thomas Cook Sport ended at the end of last season. Team travel has been brought in-house and we employed a travel manager, with vast travel experience. Unfortunately, this now means we are unable to take fans with us on team charters due to not having an ATOL licence. We are working on new packages for fans with our new business travel provider. With regards to Fenerbahce there was not a high demand for Club travel from our fans to go to this match and for those that travelled independently the Club organised coaches from the town to the stadium and back to the town. We are always looking into how we can improve our travel arrangements for our fans and that our fans are kept safe. With our new business travel provider we have set up a concierge service so that our fans experience an individual service for the away European matches. We are aware that there are still improvements to be made to away fan travel, but this is being worked on.
Programmes – There are fewer programmes sold at the Emirates than at Highbury, why is that? Why is there a price increase? Is the quality suffering?
Mark Gonnella: The costs have been going up every year and there has been no price increase in the last seven years despite rising costs. The programme is also available on ipad where there is added content and there are constant improvements being made. The programme editor will come to the next meeting to get ideas ahead of next season’s programme. Ivan mentioned that our programme is better quality than other clubs.
Steve Cooper (AST rep)
Concerts application - why are you appealing to hold more concerts even though the residents are against this?
Ivan Gazidis: In the close season the ground is unused and we have permission to have 3 concerts a year. The problem with having only three dates is that if an act is selling well they will request an additional date. We want to offer this if we can and be ahead of our competitors. It is inaccurate that all residents are against it. There is some opposition but if it can be managed well then the impact to the residents can be reduced. We are in discussion with Islington Council to address their concerns and we are going through an appeals process.
London Living Wage
Ivan Gazidis: Most of this issue is around our sub-contractors at the stadium. This was answered at the AGM. It is an ongoing political debate and Arsenal won’t take sides in political debates.
Stewart Selby (LGBT Rep)
Stadium TV screens and lifts – It is difficult to see the screens, would the club consider putting two additional screens up? Whenever you are doing your interviews please can you turn the volume up as we can’t hear it?
Mark Gonnella: Installing additional screens has been raised before and explored. If we were to put another screen in it would have a direct impact on the pitch as it would obstruct light onto the pitch. I’m afraid we can’t do it as the pitch takes precedent.
Ivan Gazidis: Solution in the future would be everyone would have a personal device to see the screens.
Lifts – Can we have better lift access?
Alun Francis: The lifts we have shouldn’t be used by matchday staff and are available and prioritised for wheelchair users.
Connor Kielty (Red Member rep)
Expansion of Emirates – Are there any plans to expand the Emirates?
Ivan Gazidis: The short answer is no. We do have good demand and sell out all our games. If we re-visited the decision today without any cost issue etc. the ideal size would be about 60,000.
Youth team appointment – Any news on who will replace Liam Brady?
Ivan Gazidis: Nothing I can say publicly. It is an appointment we have spent a lot of time on. Decision is close to being made and we will let you know once it has been confirmed. It will be a top quality candidate.
Dennis Bergkamp statue timing – is there any planned date for the unveiling of the statue?
Mark Gonnella: We are speaking with Dennis and his family to try and get a convenient date in the diary
Forum email issue - Not receiving Fan emails. Can it be made more visible on how to contact your representative?
Mark Gonnella: I want to make sure this is working; it seems to be working for the majority. We can publish the minutes and with that we can say here are the members and this is how you can get in contact with them. Please send through to Jill Smith if you are having problems and this can be raised with IT.
We will look into making it more visible to fans on whom they should contact.
Lesley Williams (Shareholders rep)
Summer supporters’ forum – This was cancelled, why were we not informed?
Mark Gonnella: I thought everyone had been informed. The reason that it was cancelled was because there weren’t any pressing agenda items.
Ticket touts – Can something be done about stopping ticket touts?
Mark Gonnella: We have no jurisdiction at the tube station or areas around the stadium. The police need to make priority calls on where they are going to focus their resources on match days.
Armoury stones – Are the stones going to be updated?
Charles Allen: We are aware there is a problem, we are currently doing tests on the stones to see how we can treat them, and there is a small area that has already being treated. They will look far smarter and easier to read. We are committed to updating all stones.
Peter Brown (Gold Member rep)
Offensive language/behaviour at Emirates at Villa match
Mark Gonnella: The use of foul language by supporters is something we continually work to address. In this particular situation the stewards have been trained and coached into how to handle a fan that is using abusive offensive language for any future incidents. If this happens in the future please do use the text service as and when it happens.
Mick Coppock (Club Level rep)
Napoli fans in Club Level - Why do they get tickets? Why are they wearing their colours?
Mark Gonnella: If they are spotted at the turnstiles wearing their colours stewards are under instruction to ask them to remove or cover them up. Looking ahead this will be re-enforced and see what other steps can be taken to prevent it.
The meeting closed at 12.30pm
The next meeting date is tbcCopyright 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 30 Oct 2013