Meeting Minutes - Arsenal Football Club Supporters’ Forum 11th May 2015
AISA Representative - Daniel McCloskey
Arsenal FC (Chair) - Mark Gonnella
Arsenal FC - Ivan Gazidis
Arsenal FC - Ivan Worsell
Arsenal FC - Charles Allen
Arsenal FC - Mark Brindle
Guests: - Fans for Diversity - Anwar Uddin, Hashim Piperdy
Arsenal Supporters Club – Overseas – Angel Georgiev
AST Member – Steve Cooper
Club Level Representative - Mick Coppock
Gay Supporters’ Representative – Stewart Selby/Dave Raval
Red Member Representative – Conor Kielty
REDaction Member – Tony Bernhard-Grout
Shareholder Representative – Lesley Williams
60 and Over Representative – John Christie
Disabled Supporters’ Representative – David Barnett
16-21 Year old Representative – Elliot Guthrie
Gold Member Representative – Peter Brown
UK Supporters’ Clubs Representative - Mick Padfield
UK Supporters’ Clubs Representative – Paul Ellis
Family enclosure Representative – Daren Nathan
1) Minutes of previous meeting were approved.
2) Fans for Diversity
Anwar Uddin (Football Supporters’ Federation) and Hashim Piperdy (Kick it Out) told the group about the aims and objectives of the Fans for Diversity campaign. It is designed to drive fan initiatives across the game to drive inclusion and diversity. They are looking for suggestions and ideas from fan groups to support the campaign and urged representatives to raise any incidents involving discrimination. Anwar paid tribute to the work Arsenal and its fans have done in this area including the formation of the Gay Gooners and the recent visit to Emirates Stadium by the Head Scarves to Football Scarves group which is campaigning to attract Moslem women to football. Stewart Selby made the point that there needs to be consolidation around how to report incidents at matches as the duplication of text messages and the Kick It Out app could lead to confusion. Lesley Williams also questioned the visibility of stewards at away games so things could be monitored more effectively. Dave Raval pointed out that proactive communications from the Club could also help to combat problems significantly, as per the activity before this season’s FA Cup game against Brighton.
3) Chief Executive Update
Ivan Gazidis (IG) said a lot of the work we have been doing over the past three years is beginning to come through. Work on our analytics, the way we acquire and retain players, improving our fitness regimes are all beginning to have an impact. The intensity and focus levels of the team remain high and he said the team is very tight knit and confident. We have a strong and deep squad which shows progress from three or four years ago. Many players are on long term contracts which provides stability and we are in a good financial position going into the summer which means we can strengthen in areas where the manager feels necessary. Before that the aim is to finish the season with another trophy in the cabinet and to build on the strong belief we can be title contenders next season.
4) AST/RedAction discussion paper on fan engagement and investment
“In the round we believe that Arsenal should dedicate 20% of the amount of increased broadcast revenues it will receive for each of the seasons 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19. This would equate to approximately £10m per season (£12m if the potential VAT saving is included) for initiatives.”
Ivan Gazidis opened the discussion by providing some context. He said the Premier League continues to grow around the world and the game is in a very different place from where it was 20 years ago in terms of quality of play, facilities, entertainment and the composition of the fan base. The final financial picture was still unclear as the Ofcom inquiry continues and the Premier League has yet to complete the international broadcast rights sales process. That said, the new domestic deal if implemented would bring in £5bn and the PL has agreed to put £1bn in to support grassroots, coaching, solidarity payments to lower leagues and ticketing and disability initiatives. Arsenal’s contribution, along with other clubs, is around £50m over the three years.
IG said the club had done a lot of productive work with fan groups on ticketing initiatives, including the re-categorisation of games which created 90,000 discounted tickets at £26 for many games. This was done with the intention of creating more affordable tickets while protecting our ability to compete financially. The Young Guns enclosure and the away fans’ initiatives are other examples of what has been achieved.
He reminded the group that Arsenal's ticket prices have fallen in real terms 19% below the rate of inflation since 2005/6, with six out of nine seasons seeing no increase at all. In the other three years, rises were linked to inflation only. Over the same nine season period, player costs have grown 86%. The Arsenal board had demonstrably taken a restrained and balanced approach to ticket prices, notwithstanding huge demand, and had driven the increased investments in players, not through ticket price increases but by developing broadcast and commercial revenues. He added that had Arsenal increased prices at only the rate of inflation over this time the club would be earning £20m a year more, which of course would have increased the funds available to the manager. The club always tries to strike a healthy balance between what we need to do to compete and the interests in particular of our local fans.
He reiterated that we are responsible about how we approach ticketing and will continue to invest in initiatives as we go forwards.
IG said these decisions are made year by year, looking at all the circumstances, and pointed to the club’s record in striking a reasonable balance on ticket prices over time as previously stated.
Steve Cooper (representing AST/RedAction) put the following specific initiatives for consideration:
At least freezing and in some cases reducing General Admission Ticket Prices for the period of the new contract
IG said he was not prepared to commit to this but pointed to the club’s record on ticket prices as previously stated. He said that the club would continue to strike the right balance and they would be reviewed year on year.
Extending the excellent Young Guns’ scheme to cover category A games and increasing marketing initiatives so more young fans are aware of it
Charles Allen (CA) urged everyone round the table to help promote the initiative. He pointed out that up-take was a bit disappointing, despite significant marketing efforts. He felt it was not right to consider extending to A games at this time but we would continue working hard to promote the scheme amongst local youngsters and schools. Lesley Williams (LW) questioned whether the scheme was not performing because younger children can’t come alone. CA said the majority of youngsters attending were aged 14-16.
Expanding the Young Guns’ scheme to provide specific seats and support to people in the age of 16 to 21 who are mainly in continuing education, apprenticeships or lower paid jobs
CA said this cannot be done due to safeguarding rules. He said Cannon Club is an extension of the concession ticket for fans aged 16 to 18 before they pay adult prices. IG stated there had also been some behavioural issues in the Young Guns area and as ever there was a balance to strike.
Specific investment into initiatives to improve the atmosphere at home games including more support for the excellent work of REDaction. A specific request is an enhanced singing section in the North Bank
Mark Brindle (MB) said we continue to work closely with RedAction. The Club paid £8,000 for the new giant flag at Wembley, we arranged the light show prior to Monaco and are working on another banner in yellow and blue for the Cup Final. He said we welcome further ideas.
IG said the club had looked at developing the singing section as everyone wants to help with the atmosphere. He said that people are able to apply to re-locate to the North Bank area but the primary issue was fans did not want to move out. He said he is not prepared to forcibly relocate loyal season ticket holders based on an arbitrary judgement that they don’t sing enough. He said we will continue to accommodate people to move to that area as other fans applied to move out.
Daniel McCloskey (DMc) asked whether we had explored adopting a Continental approach, using someone to lead the singing supported by a sound system. MB stated this had been explored but no-one was stepping forward to lead the singing in that way and Premier League rules do not allow the use of a sound system. IG said that it is ultimately very difficult to drive atmosphere artificially as it is inextricably linked to performances and rivalries on the pitch. He reinforced we will continue to work with RedAction.
A significant increase in the financial support given to Away Fans including covering travel costs when games are moved for TV coverage at short notice (such as the recent game at Hull City)
CA said we will look to provide more support to away fans. Part of the challenge is to provide support which is fair to all Arsenal away fans, He said the discounts this year had been well received but other initiatives have not had the up take we would want. We put on a train and coaches to Hull and the train ran half empty. Ultimately we are committed to supporting our away fans and will do more next season. IG stressed that we will be advocating doing more for away fans at the PL meetings in the summer.
Investment in an improved ticketing exchange (Including better technology that runs closer to kick off time and is smartphone compatible) that enables more fans to pass on their tickets. Alongside this the Club to run a ‘home credits’ scheme that will promote attendance and provide a fairer way to allocate tickets for Cup Finals which includes Junior Gunners and Young Guns.
Ivan Worsell (IW) said we continue to explore a home credits scheme. This is highly complex but work is on-going. Further investment has been made in ticket exchange and aAn estimated 57,000 tickets have been sold this year, a 25% increase on last year. In 2011/12 the figures were at about 15,000. He said the service is unique to Arsenal. Other clubs have sold their secondary market tickets to third party suppliers and the numbers of tickets sold are much lower. IG reinforced the point that the exchange is highly complex from a technology point of view and was proving to be a valuable way for season ticket holders to offset the cost of their tickets. SC asked whether the system could be developed to allow later posting of tickets closer to kick off. IW said the key learning from the last couple of seasons was that the earlier tickets could be put on sale, the greater chance there was of them being bought. This is key to maintaining people’s confidence in the system. He said later posting is something that will be developed in the long run as a service but it would not drive many sales which is the ultimate aim. Other developments in the pipeline are around the use of tablets and mobiles.
Daniel McCloskey (AISA)
Can we have an update on ticket touting please in and around the stadium? Do we have any statistics available for this season compared to last year and previously?
IW stated that we work very closely with the police on this and there are specific operations each season. There have been a number of arrests and progress is being made around the ground with action taken against approximately 100 people every game. However, he said the primary concern is around the online ticket providers who are operating illegally and duping supporters.
Mick Coppock – Club Level
FA Cup Final Ticket Allocation Booking Period 1 covers Away Scheme members and those Platinum/Gold Members who have attended 3 and above away games over a two year period.
Out of our Cup Final allocation of 25,000, how many tickets does this mentioned Booking Period utilise?
IW said he could not give specific figures but it is fair to say the vast majority of tickets go into the open ballot. As you can imagine the Cup Final ticket allocation is very difficult and the Club tries to be as fair as possible.
Daniel McCloskey (AISA)
What is the club doing with the FA in obtaining more tickets for the FA Cup Final this year and for the future as demand massively outstrips supply? Traditionally, a large proportion of FA Cup Final Tickets are distributed to the football family/community that has no connection with the competing clubs. Can Arsenal seek support from other clubs to seek a higher proportion of tickets are allocated to the finalists, and the FA use other matches, such as England internationals and the Community Shield, to reward volunteers?
IG said this is an on-going debate but there had to date been little appetite from the FA to change the system, despite his complaints and those from other leading clubs. We will continue to press on this matter as we strongly believe more tickets should go to competing clubs. He stressed that we have rigorously applied our criteria to the tickets process.
Where is the club in terms of implementing the London Living Wage to all contracted and non-contracted staff?
Mark Gonnella (MG) said the club’s employee remuneration packages exceed the requirements in the campaign. We work hard to ensure all our employees have a broad range of benefits as a result of their employment with us and they are amongst the most competitive in football. This will continue to be our approach.
Mick Coppock – Club Level
It was disturbing to hear at the last meeting that our Away Fans had not been on their best behaviour over recent months. Has that situation got any worse or has it improved over recent fixtures? Has the club got involved at all?
MB said things had improved. The club took action through stewards and some youngsters had received warnings. We were also concerned by homophobic songs before the FA Cup semi-final. These were reported to Kick it Out and resulted in the police issuing a caution.
Steve Cooper - AST
Does the Club have any other ideas for investment it would like supporters groups to run past their membership for feedback? The AST intends to test these ideas in its annual summer survey – are there any specific questions or ideas the Club would like us to explore?
CA said the club regularly conducts extensive research with fans and there was nothing specific that was required at the current time. He offered to help the AST develop their survey in future so it could provide actionable insights for future consideration.
MG said the first year of Puma sales had been the highest in the club’s history. The majority related to home kits but sales have also been strong on the away and cup kits. CA added that the support from PUMA has been extensive and they have more exciting launch plans in the summer for the new kits.
Connor Kielty- Red member Rep
A lot has been made in the media about Hector Bellerin and Theo Walcott and their times over 40m recently with Wenger himself stating he thought Theo was the fastest player. I know Mo Farah has previously trained with Arsenal but have any of the players officially raced him? And the challenge set out by sprinter Richard Kilty to race them is there any realistic chance of this race ever taking part? Even for charity reasons as I know the club are always heavily involved in charity work.
IG confirmed that Mo Farah has joined training and found it very tough but there have been no formal races. He said Hector and Theo are the fastest over the pre-season 40m bleep tests which are conducted but it is all very informal, not in race blocks or anything like that. He said it was fair to assume Richard Kilty would be quicker!
I know Thierry Henry has been coaching within the Arsenal Youth teams in order to get his coaching badges, is there a clear goal he or the club has spoken about potentially in the future; are any other ex-Arsenal players making similar steps or potential roles for them within the club?
IG confirmed Thierry is working through his coaching badges and is also building his media career. Nothing has been discussed about the long-term and it is too early to say what may happen in the future.
David Barnett – Disabled Supporters Representative
Why is it that The Emirates seems to be the only ground that does not announce the minimum additional time to be played at the end of each half over the PA system? As I am visually impaired I obviously cannot see the 4th official’s board and sometimes our commentator does not see it.
MG said this is at the request of the manager who does not want the players to know how long is left in a game, particularly when things are tight. They don’t tend to see the 4th official’s board or the screens during the game. We will talk to the commentator to ensure this is picked up and communicated more clearly.
John Christie (Over 60s rep) referred to the minutes of the previous meeting which stated that there would be an item and discussion at this meeting on the question of concession tickets for Over 65s. He asked that the item be discussed at the next meeting. He said he had raised this item in the past on behalf of a fan and the club had responded saying it would be reconsidered when commercial and TV revenues had increased.
MG thanked retiring members for their contribution to the forum debates.
MG said the next meeting would be held in September after the international break.
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