Meeting Minutes, Arsenal Football Club Supporters’ Forum, 18th October 2014.
AISA Representative - Daniel McCloskey
Arsenal FC (Chair) - Mark Gonnella
Arsenal FC - Ivan Gazidis
Arsenal FC - Sue Campbell
Arsenal FC - Mark Brindle
Arsenal FC - Charlotte Kenny
Arsenal Supporters Club – Domestic – Mick Padfield
Arsenal Supporters Club – Domestic – Paul Ellis
Arsenal Supporters Club – Overseas – Angel Georgiev
AST Member – Stephen Cooper
Club Level Representative - Mick Coppock
Disabled Supporter Representative – David Barnett
Gay Supporters Representative – Stewart Selby
Red Member Representative – Connor Kielty
REDaction Member – Tony Bernhard-Grout
Shareholder Representative – Lesley Williams
60 and Over Representative – John Christie
16-21 year old Representative – Elliot Guthrie
1) Minutes of previous meeting were approved. No outstanding actions
2) Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis gave an overview of what has been achieved on and off the pitch during the last five years.
He said the transformation of the Club had continued across every aspect of activities following the move from Highbury to Emirates. This has enabled us to continue competing financially with the top teams at home and in Europe and has provided a platform for the club’s footballing future. He showed two slides. One underlined the financial transformation driven by dramatic growth in the club’s broadcast and commercial revenue streams, which will be further enhanced by the addition of PUMA income in this financial year. The other showed the resulting investment in players and wages.
IG reinforced the message that while there was some money available for further investment in the team, the figures in the public domain were inaccurate. He explained that from a reported cash balance on May 31, 2014 of £207.9 million, we have committed £99 million consisting of £53 million on new signings, £29 million on previous transfers and £17 million of performance related costs. Much of the remaining £108 million was needed to run the Club across the season, including player wages, and to comply with our debt obligations relating to Emirates Stadium, which require us to keep a substantial cash reserve at all times.
Mick Coppock (Club Level representative) asked why the team had gone into the season short in key areas.
IG stated that the manager had to make his judgement based on the squad he has and what is available in the market. The club believes that it is appropriate that these footballing judgments should be made by the manager, who has the best insight into the players who are available and those already in the squad.
Angel Georgiev (Arsenal Supporters’ Clubs International) asked how the analysis of the injury situation was going.
IG said the Club constantly looks at what is happening and why, because it hurts not to have players available. He stressed the Club has top class people working across all aspects of fitness, preparation and prevention and are all working to improve the situation.
Angel Georgiev (Arsenal Supporters’ Clubs International) asked what impact the international Club tours have had for the Club and whether we would ever go to Africa.
IG said the pre-season tours have been very effective and helped us engage our fans around the world and grow our global support. Our membership numbers are bigger than ever, both domestically and internationally, we have 30million Facebook follows and nearly four million on Twitter. This growth in engagement has been built on the back of a lot of work across the club. The pre-season tours have been an important part of our growth in commercial partners which now number 22. He noted that we tried to play a game in Nigeria three years ago.
Mick Padfield (Arsenal Supporters Clubs Domestic) requested formally at the meeting that Stan Kroenke attend the next meeting in order to keep his promise of engaging with fans.
IG said that Stan Kroenke has continued his commitment by engaging directly with supporters through the AGM. He has met supporters’ groups and individual fans and has directed regular on-going dialogue with supporters to be conducted by senior Club executives, including IG’s personal involvement in the fans’ forums and many other formal and informal meetings, some public and some private, throughout the year. IG said he felt Arsenal had a strong record in this area and spent a great deal of time listening and talking to its fan representatives.
Steve Cooper, AST, and Tony Bernard Grout, REDAction each asked for the Club to clarify its position on safe standing.
IG said the club is open to the concept of safe standing but it is a complex issue which requires consideration across the game more broadly. Ultimately safety at all grounds across the country is the paramount concern and he said it is a matter for government and the football authorities to consider the best way forward.
Steve Cooper, AST asked if the Football Association had responded to Arsenal’s concerns about FA Cup Semi and Final ticket allocations. Tony Bernard Grout, REDAction asked about the allocation for the Community Shield.
IG said he had publicly and privately voiced his concerns and that his understanding is the FA are looking at what options they have.
Angel Georgiev (Arsenal Supporters’ Clubs International) asked about the process for allocating tickets to Supporters’ Clubs for Champions League matches.
Mark Brindle (Arsenal Supporter Liaison Officer) said Overseas Supporters Clubs are allocated tickets for European Away Fixtures on a best endeavour basis. We normally receive a large allocation for European away fixtures, with the majority of fixtures going on sale to all levels of membership before tickets are offered to our overseas SC.
Angel Georgiev (Arsenal Supporters’ Clubs International) asked if there is an agreement/stipulation between Arsenal FC and Puma on the prices of Arsenal equipment sold around the globe as prices vary considerably.
Mark Gonnella (Chair) said there is absolutely no agreement with Puma and Arsenal as to retail prices around the world as this is illegal. Puma UK or the relevant Puma subsidiary sets a wholesale price in the relevant market and the retail prices are 100% at the retailer’s discretion. Typically, continental European kit prices are much higher than the UK.
Darren Nathan, (Family Enclosure Representative) noted that at the members day, some players walked around the North Bank goal end of the pitch but not around to the side where other supporters were seated. This had disappointed some young fans.
MG said we understand this would have been disappointing but it is difficult for a player to get round the whole stadium and satisfy everyone. We will see what can be done next season.
Mick Padfield, (Arsenal Supporters Clubs) asked what the club can do to eradicate flares and how the club plan to help promote humane treatment of its travelling fans in Europe in light of the Belgian police stance on carrying out an arrest for fans without a ticket.
Sue Campbell (Head of Travel, Supporters’ Liaison and Events) said the Club worked hard with police, UEFA and Galatasary before the recent match at Emirates Stadium. This involved extra security checks by police and our own stewards. In terms of Belgium, she said the Club was working with local authorities but this is local legislation so the advice to supporters without a ticket is not to travel into the Anderlecht district and to stay in Brussels.
Lesley Williams, (Shareholder) asked whether the Club Level restaurant can be offered to other season ticket holders if there are spaces available
MG said the restaurants on Club Level generally sell out well in advance of fixtures so there was no current need.
LW asked what is being done to reduce wastage at the food kiosks within the stadium at the end of a game.
MG said we have been working hard with DNC to reduce wastage without it impacting on fans. It is a fine balancing act to strike because demand varies match to match and by area by area of the stadium.
LW asked what could be done to stop our fans smoking at away matches and what happens at Emirates Stadium.
MB said there is not much we can do away from home as it is the responsiblity of the home Club. We rarely have incidents of smoking at Emirates Stadium but the policy is to eject if caught and if a persistent offender to ban for 3 games.
LW asked what average/normal cost of policing a match?
MG said the average cost per game is about £15,000.
Tony Bernhard-Grout, REDaction asked what is being done to ensure all sold seats are occupied and whether a utilisation reward system could be implemented.
MG said we all want a full stadium and we are working hard to achieve this. Our occupancy levels are very high and we are working hard to increase this further. Improvements to Ticket Exchange have seen a big increase in usage by season ticket holders with 60,000 tickets expected to be sold through the system this season. He added that utilisation rewards was something for the long-term.
TBG asked about what is the official club policy on bottle tops being removed from soft drinks purchased inside the Emirates?
MB said these should not be being removed and will raise it with DNC.
Daniel McCloskey, (AISA) said problems continue with the stadium sound system.
MB said they are all checked each game. The PA is very subjective - one person will say it is too loud and the person next to them will say they can't hear it!! We continue to monitor. DMc asked if signs could be installed saying if food and drink has run out
MB said the situation was very fluid on a matchday which made this difficult.
DMc asked about whether the Club would offer senior fans a discount on tickets?
MG said this is something we have explored previously but at the current time it is not something we are able to introduce across the stadium. John Christie (Over 60s representative) asked that this topic be minuted and discussed at the next forum meeting.
Peter Brown, (Gold Member Representative) raised two questions received via the Supporters’ Forum portal relating to standing in the stadium and use of bad language.
MB said standing is a tricky issue and is very difficult for stewards as they receive nothing but abuse trying to get people to sit. The added problem is that the ground regulations state it is allowed in periods of exciting play. In terms of bad language, he said the numbers of complaints are low but stewards are trained and will take appropriate action if it is brought to their attention.
Stewart Selby suggested better promotion of the text alert number of matchday screens would help.
MG committed to explore this idea.
Stewart Selby updated people on progress with the Gay Gooners. He said the group now has 225 members, 145 men and 80 women, and was managed by a team of nine. Ages ranged from the young to 70+ and had resulted in other similar groups being established at other Clubs.
Date of next meeting
MG proposed date of next meeting for January 31st pre Aston Villa, depending on TV selections.
Meeting closed 12.45.
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