Arsenal Football Club Supporters’ Forum
11am – 1pm April 17th 2016
16-21 Year Old Representative – Conor Runswick
Arsenal Supporters Club – Domestic – Martin O’Donnell
Arsenal Supporters Club – Overseas – Lars Lundstedt
AISA Representative – Daniel McCloskey
Disabled Supporter Representative – David Barnett
Club Level Representative – Mick Coppock
Gold Member Representative – Mike Maloney
Red Member Representative – Connor Kielty
Over 60 Year-Old Representative – David Sharp
LGBT Supporter Representative – Dave Raval
RedAction Representative – Sam Blackman
Shareholder Representative – Michael Francis
Away Scheme Representative – Soran Hourami
AST Representative – Lesley Williams
Women's Representative – Robyn Boparai
Arsenal FC (Chair) – Mark Gonnella
Arsenal FC – Ivan Gazidis
Arsenal FC – Mark Brindle
Arsenal FC – Sue Campbell
Arsenal FC – Charles Allen
Arsenal FC – Alun Francis
Arsenal FC – Ivan Worsell
1. Minutes of the last meeting were read and agreed.
David Sharp (Over 60s representative) pointed out that he had asked for a discussion around numbers of fans who are over 60. Mark Gonnella (MG) said someone from the box office would make contact.
2. Update from Ivan Gazidis
Ivan said it had been a disappointing couple of months on the pitch. He recognised and personally shared the frustration felt by supporters. He said we have been working towards competing to win the Premier League and other major titles and we will take a step back at the end of the season and review where we have fallen short. This will involve looking at a wide range of our activities.
He said he believes the squad is stronger than it was three or four years ago and this adds to the sense of frustration. We have spent more than £250 million in transfer fees in the past five seasons, with fewer important outbound transfers than in the past, as well as funding a significantly increased wage bill, and we still have some way to go before we are at the level we want to be.
More broadly, he reviewed the major investments we are making at Colney and our academy at Hale End which are designed to keep us at the forefront of the game. In addition, we have made significant investments in signing promising young talent for the future.
There has also been increased investment in our women’s squad to make them even more competitive this season. They also have new facilities as part of the Colney redevelopment. This is all part of our aim to be at the forefront of developing the women’s game.
IG reminded members that we have announced there will be no increases on General Admissions prices for the next two seasons. This means that, despite extremely strong demand and waiting lists, we will have held general admission prices flat for 9 of the 12 years since our move to Emirates Stadium, with three inflation only increases in the period. This represents a 20% decrease in ticket prices against inflation since the stadium move. At the same time, player salaries and transfer fees are increasing at a dramatic rate, far above inflation. Arsenal has not funded its dramatically increased spending from our matchday fans but from the club’s growing commercial and broadcast revenues. The club has focused instead on growing its commercial revenue streams and commercial revenues have more than doubled in the past three years.
With regard to the £30 cap on the price of away tickets, he said the Premier League had presented three possible options for the clubs to consider and, as a consistent supporter of doing more for away fans, he had spoken in favour of the most generous of those options, which involved a more targeted approach than an across the board price cap. In the end the clubs agreed that the simplest way to address the issue was by introducing an across the board £30 price cap and we were happy to not only support that approach but also to do something more than all other clubs by offering our own travelling fans an additional £4 discount. This ensures that our travelling fans have the cheapest away prices in the league fixed at £26.
In response to a question about the difficulty of getting tickets to away games, Ivan Worsell (IW) said it was a case of huge demand outstripping limited supply. There was a suggestion that we have some games without credits to allow people to go to away games. IW said this was something which could be considered.
Mike Maloney – Gold Member
On field performances
I hesitated before including this agenda item because there is so much negativity around the club in recent months and it feels like Groundhog Day when the same sound bites are trotted out time after time. They are often fuelled by a reaction to what is in the media. But I concluded that as a representative of season ticket holders my job is to be the mouthpiece of their views. And it is very clear that there is more negativity among the fan base than at any time that I can remember. Trying to distil it is difficult because there are (as you might imagine) varying level of anger. Many people are rational and balanced, others are less so. But here goes ...
We have no divine right to success and our ability to be successful will always be impacted by the actions of the other clubs. However we can as much as possible influence things by our own actions and it is this that the majority of fans are frustrated by.
On the field, we seem to find many ways to underachieve. It isn't of itself the losing to Swansea or to Watford. It is the manner of the losses - lacking passion, lacking game-changing players, lacking tactical variability, the team lacking the collective ability to drag themselves back into a game. This is perceived to be a fault with the management's direction and authority over the team.
Off the field, the statements that (1) we have the ambition to win the biggest trophies and (2) the squad isn't capable of being strengthened within the resource-constraints of the club become subject to criticism due to the results.
In my line of work when a strategy isn't working then (broadly) one of three things happen. One is that new people are brought in to execute the existing strategy in the belief that they will make a difference. Another is that operational changes are made to try and execute the same overall strategy (with either existing or new management). The third is that the strategy is changed because it is acknowledged to be unachievable. We seem to be doing none of these. We seem to be attempting to execute the same strategy with minimal changes even though it (the winning of the biggest trophies) isn't happening. The mediocre nature of the league this year only brings our own shortcomings into sharper relief.
There isn't much that you can say in response to this but it is important that you understand what people are thinking. This is written before the Everton game. I hope that by the time of the meeting this seems much less relevant.
MG said the comments were noted and that IG had already talked about some of the issues identified.
Mick Coppock – Club Level Member
While it is good to see the club reducing the price of tickets to our away fans by a further £4.00, the question that I keep hearing in the stadium on match days, is when are the club going to offer something or a reduction in prices for the home fans?
Lesley Williams - AST
Are the club proposing any new ticketing or other initiatives for next season and if so what?
IG said we have reduced ticket prices in real terms by 20% against inflation in the time we have been at the stadium. We continue to aim to strike the right balance between what fans want to see and what they want to pay.
Sam Blackman - RedAction Member
The away ticket price cap has been well received by fans. What alternative schemes did Arsenal prefer other than the £30 cap? Do they see this as the start of a series of more initiatives to help fans or will things remain like this for some time?
MG said this had been covered already.
Lesley Williams - AST
Since 2011, supporters have not heard from Stan Kroenke much and have no idea what his actual vision for the club is or what his targets for this season were and what they will be next season. Would it be possible for him to attend one of the supporter forums next season or participate in the end of season Q&A session? What he said at the recent MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference was fascinating and we are keen to understand Stan’s views on Arsenal in greater depth.
Daniel McCloskey - AISA
Can the club use the opportunity of the club’s AGM to set up events at which supporters can meet the club’s majority owner, as part of the dialogue that the club has with fans and their representatives?
IG said that Mr Kroenke is very engaged with what is happening at the club. He attends many games, both home and away, and personally attends board meetings throughout the year. He has not sought to change the ethos of the club as some owners of other clubs have. He is not someone who seeks a public spotlight or interferes with a manager’s footballing decisions and will never be that type of owner. His vision is to have a world class modern club that our fans can be proud of on and off the pitch. Off the pitch, that involves conducting ourselves in the right way, supporting progressive agendas with regard for example to our local community work, our global work for good (for example, our work in Syria and Iraq to support refugee children) and women’s football. On the pitch, he wants to see us progress so that we can compete for the highest honours and he has never been a barrier to spending money, supporting and encouraging us and Arsène without hesitation in signing Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, for example, and in making major investments for the long term in our training facilities.
In terms of the engagement with fans, IG said Mr Kroenke personally attends every AGM and listens to fan concerns. He said he receives clear direction from the owner to engage with our fans at all levels, and this includes his (the CEO’s) personal attendance at these fan forum sessions plus an end of season interrogation.
Turning to the analytics conference, IG said that of course there is an agenda to present Mr Kroenke in a certain way, but it is quite clear in context that Mr Kroenke was stating that ownership is not only about winning trophies. He was talking, in the context of a conference regarding the development of analytics in sport, about a much broader agenda on the need to take the club forward at every level, building for the future and ensuring we are stronger as we progress.
Lesley Williams - AST
With the consultancy services being received from KSE, would it be possible to outline the specific benefits Arsenal has received?
IG said our answer remains as previously stated. KSE is one of the leading sports companies in the world and has tremendous expertise and experience in a broad range of areas and we are fortunate to be able to draw upon their support. This covers broad areas including our commercial development strategy (revenues have doubled to over £100m per annum in three years), facilities development and stadium management, CRM systems, digital development, fitness, analytics, broadcast strategy, ticketing, catering and stadium tours among others. Our Chairman felt it was right and good governance not to expect to receive services for free but to pay a fee for the wide range of services that have been provided to Arsenal Football Club by KSE.
Lesley Williams - AST
When are Arsenal going to invest greater resources into improving the Ticket Exchange so that it can be used up to the matchday itself, and has an App for ease of use?
Daniel McCloskey – AISA
Can the Club outline progress made towards improvements requested in the Ticket Exchange, in particular the need for sellers to receive payments within weeks of their tickets successfully being sold, and for tickets to be available to purchasers closer to kick-off time?
IW said significant investment continues to be made in Ticket Exchange and this will continue. Our ticket exchange service is by a long way the most successful and widely used of its kind in the country. This season again will set a new record with an estimated 77,000 tickets being offered for sale.
He said that in respect of late/Matchday postings, our data shows that supporters posting tickets later decreases the chance of selling significantly. There is a 96% chance of selling your season ticket if it is posted early. If later posting is encouraged, then pickup will fall, making the system less effective. This in turn will jeopardise people’s willingness to use the service, which risks reversing the tremendous growth we have been seeing in the use of the system. We will continue to develop the system, and our focus will be on early posting initiatives to continue to grow the use of ticket exchange. With respect to an app, there is a project underway to optimise the service for mobile and tablet devices.
Ticket transfer is doing really well; the estimated usage at the end of the season is at c.30,000 which is an increase of 50% versus last season so we are pleased with this.
We are delighted to say, after completing comprehensive testing and a low key live trial, the cashback service is ready for deployment for the 2016/17 season. This service will allow Platinum and Gold members to withdraw their available funds held against ticket sales made via the Ticket Exchange service, rather than wait until the end of the season. Next season this service will be offered for a set period once a month and will take from three to ten working days for funds to be received in supporter accounts.
Lesley Williams - AST
Many teams in the league carry in their match day programmes a Premier League advert called “Why take the risk?” about buying tickets from touts or non-official sources. This is linked to: premierleague.com/safe-ticket-buying Has Arsenal considered carrying such an advert in the programme, and if not why not?
MG said we have run a number of items in the programme, website and in social media this season to highlight the issues around ticket touts. This included the item referred to in the question. He said we believe it is better to occasionally draw attention to this and make the information interesting and relevant rather than just have a standard line in the programme which after a time has little impact.
Lesley Williams - AST
How many season tickets have been cancelled this season because of touting or incorrect passing on? What are the figures over the past 3 seasons?
Mark Brindle (MB) said it involved a small number of season tickets but we are looking at around 1,000 memberships being cancelled as a direct result of touting. Issue is people just re-join under different names but we continue to be vigilant and work closely with the police.
Lesley Williams – AST representative
When will home credits be introduced? The on-going issue of there being so many empty seats has to be addressed as a priority.
I have brought this up many a time, but as this could be my last meeting as the Club Level representative, can the club please supply an update on the "Home Credits" situation?
Daniel McCloskey – AISA
It is crucial that fans believe that long-term loyalty by supporters is appreciated by the Club. One way in which this can be shown is by increasing the discount that is provided to season-ticket holders, which is currently a very small amount. Will the Club consider making gradual increases to the discount, to start bringing it in line with other Premier League clubs?
IW said our aim is to always have a full stadium and we continue to invest a great deal of time and effort to address this issue and continue to see attendances improve. As discussed at previous forums, Home Match Credits have huge technical and logistical challenges and we need to ensure that the benefit meets the investment in time and effort as we prioritise our long list of initiatives.
He said the club is looking at all elements of fan engagement and how we recognise different groups of fans / behaviours. We will continue to evaluate seat utilisation and home match credits as part of this process.
Once again Club Level Season Ticket Holders are being asked to renew their tickets months before Gold Members, with this year being next week - April 20th. Totally unfair. Why cannot loyal Season Ticket holders just pay a deposit upfront (say £500 ?) and the balance by June 1st - the date when Gold Members are due to pay?
MG explained that the reason our deadline is in April is that many of our members hold their seats / boxes under their company name (or are corporate clients) and therefore use the end of the tax year in April/May to split the payment evenly across two separate budgets. We have discussed a later deadline with our members and this would cause a number of them to need to drop their allocation.
Deposits wouldn’t work due to the amount of admin involved in reconciling c.4,000 accounts and chasing payments etc. in such a short time period.
Mike Maloney – Gold Member
Restricted view of the big screens
I sit under the big screen in the North Bank corner. Because I sit so close to it I cannot see it properly. Additionally, because of the bowing of the roof line I cannot see the screen at the other end of the ground at all.
There are many of us in the same position in the area that I sit and there will be an equal number at the other end of the ground who are similarly affected. It is very frustrating not to be able to see the on-screen entertainment and game replays before and during the game as the screens are an integral part of the match day entertainment. It is effectively a restricted view seat when you take the whole match day experience into consideration.
Would the club please consider erecting another big screen in one or both of the other corners of the ground. We pay the same amount of money as people who can enjoy the whole match day experience more that we are able to.
MB said we are aware of this. Installation of additional screens would affect the pitch as it would block winter light. The future of video was more likely to lie in the development of a connected stadium and personal devices.
Robyn Boparai – Women’s Representative
After the Barcelona game in Camp Nou, Arsenal fans were held back for over 40 minutes, we were not informed how long we had to wait. This was very difficult for the elderly, young children and disabled fans as we did not know how long we had to wait to exit. Arsenal fans were well behaved and supported each other. Can Arsenal work with Barcelona (and other teams) to better inform their fans of waiting times and good practice?
MB said we are aware and very concerned that there were difficulties for Arsenal supporters during the match in Barcelona on Wednesday 16 March. We are currently investigating and gathering information, and will be making representations to FC Barcelona and the relevant authorities to try to discover the circumstances from the evening.
The safety of our supporters is of paramount importance and therefore we are very concerned that there have been reported issues from this match.
The security/Police at Camp Nou entrance for Arsenal away fans was armed and very forceful, which led to a lot of distress for some fans. Why weren't the Arsenal Stewards at Camp Nou helping us and keeping us informed?
MB explained that we had our own stewards at the game and that it was a very difficult night for them too. This will form part of the analysis of what happened on the night.
Why aren't the security checks to enter The Emirates much stricter? At times, the checks seem lax and not very thorough.
MB said we have reviewed our security plans after the events in Paris and these procedures are constantly under review and are in line with the advice from the counter terrorism police
Can Arsenal establish a policy for away fans in the Platinum (and other) section (s) on appropriate behaviour whilst in the company of home fans?
MB said the Away Supporters Policy at Premium Level is as follows: Please be advised that away colours are not permitted within the hospitality areas. Whilst we welcome visiting supporters you are advised that the majority are Arsenal fans and therefore visiting supporters are asked to act discreetly. To safeguard all supporters’ enjoyment we ask that both home and visiting supporters are respectful to others seated close by. The club will not tolerate abusive behaviour to other visitors or members. Anyone considered doing so will be asked to leave the stadium.
David Sharp – Over 60s Rep
Apart from the "walking football" initiative, does the club have any other community programme work targeting older people?
MG said the Arsenal Foundation has funded Islington Giving to deliver the Saturday Socials Programme. This sees isolated, older members of the community gather at venues on Saturdays for a variety of artistic and physical group activities. Many of these are held at Emirates Stadium or The Arsenal Hub. Club Level has also been used for a tea dance and an inter-estate bowls competition.
We have also delivered a programme of football reminiscence sessions with Islington Alzheimer’s Society. Arsenal in the Community deliver six short mat bowls sessions at community centres and the Arsenal Hub each week for older people.
Partnerships with local groups include Age UK Islington, St Luke’s, The Peel Centre and North London Cares. All centres regularly bring groups for stadium tours and for other sessions such as cooking.
The Gunners’ Fund has made donations to several local groups supporting the elderly have funded various initiatives
Does the club have any policy on players' social media use?
MG said we do have a policy. We also provide training for the boys as they come through the Academy, when they are scholars and on an on-going basis. He said this is a complex area which needs expert navigation. Many of the big name players have their own pr people working with them and us on social media.
Martin O’Donnell – Supporters’ Clubs (Domestic)
TV Selections - Following the point noted by Lars Lundstedt previously concerning TV selections and ticket sales. Arsenal Isle of Man and others have asked “Should the deadline dates for all away ticket sales be delayed until the dates are finally set?” In this way the availability of tickets remains the same for all applicants. Yes, the logistics are difficult, but at least everyone has the same problem to overcome, as at the moment those with further to travel, are disadvantaged.
IW said broadcasters normally give a minimum of four to six weeks’ notice for TV Selections. There are rare occasions, such as Leicester, where this was not the case. We announce the ticket information for our ‘Away Fixtures’ five weeks prior to the calendar date of the fixture. We then go on sale four weeks prior to the calendar date.
The fixture date/Kick Off time (TV Selection if applicable) has always been confirmed on the ticket page prior to going on sale so members are not inconvenienced in any way with travel.
General sale for Disabled non-members - Many Supporters Clubs receive requests by Non-member Disabled persons for tickets home and away. There seems to be no opportunity help these requests on general sale. While Purple Season ticket holders do take up the full allocations home and away, could there not be a small facility outwith the Purple Membership, to allow a general sale to a very limited number of applicants with a view to encouraging future club membership?
Alun Francis said general sale tickets for non-member disabled supporters are rarely available. Supporters clubs should encourage disabled supporters to apply for Purple Membership because, as Purple Members, disabled supporters are able to apply for home and away match tickets and also request to go on the disabled supporters’ season ticket waiting list if they wish. Disabled Supporters wanting information on Purple Membership can contact the Disability Liaison Team on 020 7619 5050 (9.30am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday except Bank Holidays)
Ticket Master - We have had complaints from members who log on to the Ticket website at the correct time (say 10.00am) to find that the queuing system is immediately full. Further enquiries have indicated that many people log on at (say) 9.30am and sit in the queue waiting for 10.00am. Surely this is unfair? May I recommend that the queue be opened at the time advertised and that pre- queuing not be permitted?
IW said this has been raised with Ticket Master and we are awaiting a response.
Away tickets - Tickets for away games are sold on the Priority Booking system, which means that our Platinum, Gold and Travel Club members with low credits seldom have the opportunity to buy tickets before the games are ‘Sold out’ and therefore their credits seldom rise. Would it be possible to review the priority system to allow these members to obtain away tickets? As a radical idea could the Priority Booking system be suspended for say 2 or 3 Cat C games each season and allow all away tickets to be sold on a first come first served basis?
IW said we continue to take the largest allocation of tickets we can for away matches. We continue to see huge demand. Our Away Ticket Policy allocates tickets based on away attendance which, due to the volume of requests received from supporters who meet the qualifying criteria, can make it quite challenging for others to build up credits via specific fixtures of their choice rather than those that are available after sales to qualifying supporters.
Over the last two seasons and current there have been 20 away fixtures which were available to any season ticket holder to apply. When we have discussed this before at the forum those people who built up their attendances have had to do so by attending games such as Newcastle/Sunderland away. People generally felt this was the fairest solution.
Pedestrian Traffic management around the Emirates – A suggestion has been made by Arsenal South Wales and others. There is quite a crush of people leaving the North Bank at full time, making movement east and west difficult. Would it be possible to have planned and signed pedestrian ‘lanes’ to improve the flow of pedestrian traffic?
MB said he was not sure this would work as we could not use a barrier system as these would get in the way and take up space. Just having ‘keep left’ signs for instance is unlikely to work in a crowd environment, but we will look at it over the summer and see if we can think of a way. We do monitor the pinch points on matchdays and they are only a problem for about 5 minutes or so.
Connor Kielty – Red Member Rep
Emirates Stadium- 10 Years on
This summer marks Arsenal’s 10th Year at the Emirates is there any special plans to celebrate it?
MG said a number of ideas are being developed in consultation with fan groups. We want to strike the right balance between marking the milestone and not going over the top. He said we are open to ideas and asked for any suggestions to be sent in.
Emirates Cup 2016?
Are there any plans to hold the Emirates Cup this year & if so are there any teams confirmed?
As an idea being the 10th year at the Emirates would it be possible to have a one-off additional game included with ex Arsenal players involved v Celebrities or other ex-pros?
MG said the Emirates Cup would not be held this season due to the short summer window and major pitch reconstruction works which start the day after the final match. He said the thought around an additional game was a good idea and something we are exploring.
Arsenal Tour of America
Is there any update on how fans in America can purchase these tickets?
MB said MLS all-star game tickets are not available yet. Tickets for Chivas are available through the website. We are working with the Arsenal America supporters’ club on the ground. Details will follow.
How many season ticket holders opted out of the Watford F.A. Cup Quarter Final?
IW said it was a few thousand. The remarkable thing was that we sold out on short notice. It shows again that demand is high.
Lars Lundstedt - Arsenal Supporters Club – Overseas
With regards to the rescheduled Leicester fixture, it was said in various media reports that the rescheduling had been done “after consultation with the clubs involved” or words to that effect. Is this true, and if so, what was the nature of this consultation? Was there ever an option to veto the decision and if so, why was this not exercised?
IG explained that there was no option given to the club on this occasion and that this would continue to be an issue on rare occasions. Broadcasters have made investments which have been fantastic for the growth and quality football in this country. That ultimately means the broadcasters want more control of the schedule to reach more fans. He said there is always a balance to strike between those in the stadium and those who want to watch on television but we should continue to strive for as much notice as possible for matchday fans whose plans suffer great inconvenience when short notice is given.
Has there been any development in the past year or so regarding Safe Standing? What is the Club’s current position regarding the issue of Safe Standing?
IG said that he is open to safe standing at Arsenal but is not qualified to know all local environments and to say that what works at Arsenal would across the rest of the game. That broader question requires consideration by the governing bodies. There continues to be a possibly misguided but understandable fear in some segments of the game that safe standing would reintroduce an environment and culture that could move the game back to issues of fan behaviour that it had in the past.
Daniel McCloskey - AISA
How can members of the Forum, and others who support Arsenal's excellent initiative in setting up a Young Guns Enclosure, help to promote the section?
MB said we would encourage supporters’ groups to keep promoting this through your own channels. We are doing everything we can through marketing and connections with local schools through Arsenal in the Community.
Will Arsenal use a small percentage of the enormous increase in tv revenues to help supporters who want to retain their season-tickets but struggle to afford the entire payment on 1st June each year? A simple-to-operate staged payment scheme, as seen elsewhere, would help to alleviate that problem.
IW said the club has had a highly competitive offer in place for a number of years with Zebra Finance.
There are wwo options: 6 MONTH INSTALMENT PLAN. The 6 month instalment plan has an Admin Fee of 1.70% of the total ticket value. Representative 6.0%APR. 10 MONTH INSTALMENT PLAN
The 10 month instalment plan has an Admin Fee of 3.35% of the total ticket value. Representative 7.7%APR.
Members regularly report computer glitches with purchasing tickets online, especially with high-demand matches, such as the Champions League game with Barcelona. Can the Club explain the reason for sales being delayed for this match (twice)? Also what plans there are to improve the general experience of purchasing tickets, which many fans compare unfavourably with their experiences elsewhere?
IW apologised to anyone inconvenienced due to the performance issues with the online ticketing service. Demand for such games puts incredible stresses on technology, far more than for almost any comparable industry or sector. We have conducted an in depth review and in the short term have already implemented some immediate improvements by upgrading some of the physical hardware. There is also a long term project underway to improve performance. With respect to Barcelona, this was a combination of two things, one we had an issue with the ticketing solution so we delayed; the second time was a telephony failure. In respect of ticketing enhancements there is a programme of improvements that are being developed. In addition to these improvements we are in the process of replacing our telephony system as well.
3.Thanks to retiring Members
MG and IG thanked Mick Coppock, Darren Nathan and David Barnett for their time and contribution to the forum. MG said the vacancies would be advertised in due course on the website and matchday programmes.
Lesley Williams asked why stewards would check tickets when people moved to empty seats during some games.
IW explained that this was linked to touting to ensure people were in the stadium with legitimate tickets.
Dave Raval asked whether Brexit would have any impact on the club.
IG explained that we are always apolitical so it would not be right to express a view. However he pointed out that having players from around Europe playing in our league was a big part of the success of the Premier League. The implications of Brexit would need to be assessed should that situation arise.
Date of next meeting
MG said the next meeting would be towards the end of September, subject to fixtures.
Meeting closed at 1pm
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