ARSENAL FOOTBALL CLUB SUPPORTERS' FORUM 2012/2013 SEASON

Meeting held on Saturday September 15, 2012 at Highbury House

Attendees

Supporters Forum Representatives
16 – 21 Year Old Representative
Arsenal Supporters Club – Domestic Representatives
Arsenal Supporters Clun – Overseas Representative
AISA Representative
AST Representative
Disabled Supporter Representative
Club Level Representative
Family Enclosure Representative
Gold Member Representative
Red Member Representative
Silver Member Representative
Gay Supporters Representative
RedAction Representative
Mr Mark Gonnella - Arsenal FC
Mr Ivan Gazidis - Arsenal FC           
Ms Sue Campbell - Arsenal FC        
Ms Jill Smith - Arsenal FC
Mr Ivan Worsell - Arsenal FC

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The meeting commenced with introductions and a special welcome for the members attending their first meeting.

Mark Gonnella (MG) explained that the purpose of the forum was to allow all supporters to put forward their ideas/concerns through the person who represented them on the forum.  To commence the meeting Ivan Gazidis (IG) would give an overview.

IG drew attention to newspaper interviews he had given earlier in the week, which had given a detailed update of where the Club found itself at the present time. 

He reiterated that although the summer had been challenging, there was considerable optimism for the future.  There were a number of key factors:

• The Club has an over-arching objective of becoming one of the top 5 clubs in the world for spending power. This will be driven by the growth in partnerships over the next two years which will potentially be as significant in income terms as the move from Highbury to Emirates Stadium

• The introduction of financial fair play.  The FA Premier League, as well as UEFA, felt that some type of plan for more sustainable spending must be introduced.

• The need to spend money efficiently in order for the Club to continue its self-sustaining model.   There was an acceptance that there were players that were beyond the reach of Arsenal, due to the huge sums of money put into clubs by wealthy beneficiaries. However, the manager was very happy with the players that had joined the Club during the summer.  Money was available for transfers, dividends were not paid and revenue raised was available to reinvest in football. The Club continued to outperform its spend as it had for the last 15 years.  There were a limited number of top class players available and the manager preferred to give a young player a chance rather than purchase a player that he did not feel was better than the players already at the Club.  The view was that the current squad was capable of competing at the highest level with an outstanding spirit.

Ticket Exchange:

Gold Member representative Peter Brown

Q. Why are the costs of using Ticket Exchange more than the 10% stated on the website? 

A. (Ivan Worsell):  The fee for a season ticket holder using the ticket exchange service is 10%. I believe the confusion comes down to the advertised ticket price on .com which refers to the price a Silver or Red level members pays for a ticket, so when deducting the 10% from this amount it would appear that the Club is withholding more than the stated percentage.  The 10% is deducted from the amount that a season ticket holder pays per ticket which is lower than the standard member price.

We have received positive feedback regarding the improvements to the service which has enabled both season ticket holders to sell and members to purchase many tickets so far this season.  Work is continuing on improving the Ticket Exchange system and members wishing to purchase tickets in this way are now able to view all the seats available in once place.  It was discussed that many season ticket holders use the service and see the benefit through a reduced cost of their renewal for the following season.  It was hoped that the improvements to the Exchange would encourage supporters to make their tickets available in this way to avoid the problem of empty seats in a Stadium that had sold out of match tickets.

Season tickets:

Shareholder representative (Lesley Williams)

Q. Are there any updates on letting family and friends use season tickets?

A. (IW) Ticket Transfer – The Club has been developing a new service which will enable you to transfer your ticket.  We are aware that supporters have put their seat up on ticket exchange then have been unable to sell. Yhis service will give you the ability to transfer your season ticket seat to a friend or a member of your family electronically. We are looking at this service to fall in line with Ticket Exchange timings, say 72 hrs before a match.

We have been developing this for the use for Box Holders / Club Level Members/ Gold Level Season Ticket holders.   At the tail end of last season, we ran a small pilot that was reasonably successful however this did identify other areas of development that would be required, which has been taking place during the summer.

We are due to have the new version of the software installed for live testing in the very near future.
If the pilot is successful we are looking to launch the service as soon as possible.

It was discussed that the Club should take other factors into consideration whilst developing the transfer policy which it agreed to do.

Concessions for Senior Citizens (Ivan Worsell)

Over 60s Representative (John Christie)

Q. Whilst the current concessions policy offered a generous discount for senior citizens (around 60%) this was restricted to the Family Enclosure and did not apply to anywhere else in the ground.  Many senior citizens wanted to sit with their family and friends in their favourite and traditional areas of the ground and they wanted to know if there was any scope for this to change?

A. IW explained that the demographics of senior citizens for the future meant that if such a policy was adopted it would cause a significant loss of revenue which would have to be compensated by increases to prices for other supporters, because it would have to be introduced for all concessions not just senior citizens.  We are aware that this is common practice throughout the Premier League and it is something that really needs to be evaluated extensively in our future thinking. However it is not something that we could change overnight.  The Club did state that this is something very much on their radar and were hopeful that a solution could be found when the Club had been able to develop its commercial revenues and was not so dependent on gate receipts.

Club Level

Club Level representative Mick Coppock

Q. Why were Club Level seats subject to a 2% price increase this season, whilst other areas of the grounds remained at the same cost?

A. (IW/IG) This increase was to contribute towards the costs expended on upgrading the facilities in this area, which no other fans had benefitted from.  The increase had been kept as low as possible and it had to be taken into account that prices had been held for 4/5 year and this was not sustainable.  The Club tried to be fair and balanced in any decisions it reached and those in Club Level had considerably improved facilities. 

Fan engagement:

Red Member representative Connor Kielty

Q. Are there any plans to increase fan / player and manager interaction and engagement?

A. (MG) Such interaction would be technology led.  There was a major re-build of Arsenal’s website and social media sites; Arsenal’s Facebook had 11m likes and is one of the most popular sporting sites.  Twitter has enabled players to answer questions direct.  The Club was proud of the work it did in social media and looked to reach its worldwide support base in this way.  The recently introduce Arsenal China website had 600,000 regular visitors.  Future tours would be based on Asia which was the focus of Arsenal’s commercial activities but this did not preclude the possibility of pre-season visits to other countries.  The last two seasons had seen matches played in Europe as well as Asia.


Stadium Facilities:

Shareholder representative Lesley Williams

Toilets

Q. There have been complaints about the cleanliness and hygiene in the public toilets within the Stadium on a matchday – often they are in a bad state by half time.  Could they be cleaned during the game?

A. (MG) Four cleaners are deployed on each level throughout a match whose job it was to ensure that the toilets are clean.  The toilets are cleaned during the first half and again during the second half  but it was not possible to clean them during half-time due to the high number of supporters using the facilities.  One identified problem was difficulty in flushing the toilets and it would be checked whether this was a system problem.

Food Prices:

Q. The amount of food wasted at the end of matches has come to light. Is there any scope to reduce the cost of food towards the end of the game to encourage people to buy it, rather than having to throw it away?

A. (IG) Arsenal would discuss with the caterers whether they could look at ways to prevent unsold food being thrown away.  They would also be asked to re-examine ways in which the length of the queues could be reduced.

Benefits for Supporters Clubs

Overseas Supporters Club Representative (Angel Georgiev, SC Bulgaria)

Q. Is there any update on the long-term benefits available for Supporters Clubs – e.g. the replacemement of the shopping discount?

A. (Jill Smith) Special events would be held for Supporters’ Clubs in the Club shops and during the periods when all supporters were able to obtain a discount, the Clubs would be given the opportunity to bulk buy through home shopping, which would help Clubs who could not get to the Stadium to attend the special events.  The benefits available to supporters’ clubs would continue to be reviewed.  Supporters’ clubs were urged to look at ways in which they could encourage their members to remain with the clubs, despite the loss of the discount, bearing in mind that the main purpose of the clubs had been to bring supporters together to watch televised matches, attend events, etc., in their own areas.

Tour update

The recent Asia Tour had again been a great success and a short film was shown that highlighted the number of activities that had taken place to engage with the very enthusiastic Arsenal supporters in the countries visited.

Foundation/Lotto

An Arsenal Lottery was to be launched with the proceeds going towards the recently established Arsenal Foundatio.  The Foundation would be making substantial contributions to its nominated Save the Children projects as well as to local community programmes.  Full details would be announced shortly.

[The Meeting closed at 12.30pm]

The next Meeting will be held on Saturday, December 1, 2012

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 Oct 2012