The Supporters’ Forum drop-in at the beginning of June saw 16 attendees plus 18 participating via YouTube Live. We were delighted to welcome Ashley and Phil Kirk as guests at the drop-in, and they were able to give excellent feedback to many of the topics discussed. The topics discussed are outlined below:
- Wembley coaches. Clearly there was much pre-trip concern and criticism over the pricing of official coaches (£59, no concessions), but despite that, a total of 25 coaches were used for the game, eight of which were supplied directly by the coach company (including two ‘empty’ coaches as insurance against breakdowns), the rest were sub-contracted out to other operators. It was explained by Ashley Kirk the club and the coach company have an open-book arrangement regarding finances and the coaching company’s target profit was the equivalent of £7 per seat. Final accounts have not been fully reconciled at this time. The decision to allow the coach company to organise all elements of the official travel was based on a number of factors, including limited staff at Chesterfield FC combined with the four-working days maximum to arrange not only the coaches, but also many other Wembley based elements, so it was deemed worthy to sub-contract out. As a result of the rail strike, which undoubtedly meant that coach companies as a whole raised their prices, the club wanted to guarantee travel to ensure that everyone who wanted to travel would have the opportunity, so up to 50 coaches were guaranteed, and that added to the pricing pressure. It was pointed out that Notts County secured coaches at a lower cost, but could not secure more than the original number (14) booked. A question was asked on the night about whether the club considered subsidising travel, but the overall financial position of the club made that impractical. In short, the club’s decision was based on being in a position to guarantee the availability of coaches, together with ensuring there was spare capacity available in case of breakdown or similar. The coach company provided stewards on the day to ensure a safe and easy embarkation and this was confirmed as being first class. The issue of passengers not being able to use the club car park had been raised in advance of the meeting, and for safety reasons, this was not allowed, but it was acknowledged that perhaps this could have been communicated earlier. However, one attendee pointed out that on the return of the coaches, because people had arrange collections, many cars were in the car park and there were blockages and hold-ups, and this is something that will be addressed by the club via stewarding at any potential future similar event.
- The car park on matchday was commented on via an advanced question, with comments that, despite being told not to move cars until a certain time after the end of the game, many people did, and the point was also made about some people not parking where their allocated space was. It was pointed out that stewards are briefed before every match about the car park procedures, and it was agreed that this element needs to be reinforced and also the club needs to reinforce the procedures to users ahead of the new season starting.
- An advance question regarding Autowindscreens (North) Stand season tickets and whether ticket holders would be moved in case of a big away crowd was tabled. It was confirmed that for every National League game, all away fans would be housed in the Karen Child (East) Stand. However, in the event of a big cup game, where a higher percentage of tickets have to be made available to the away team (WBA is a good example), North Stand season ticket holders would be guaranteed a match ticket, but be housed elsewhere for such a game. The club indicated that having home fans on all four sides of the ground created a terrific atmosphere that the players enjoyed, and hence the North Stand tickets have been priced to encourage as many supporters as possible to attend more matches, and the opportunity to spread payments for season tickets therein was to help encourage sales to all supporters, but particularly families.
- A question about the ‘Buy a Brick’ initiative was raised, and the club’s commercial department will be asked to outline the latest position.
- The lack of handrails in areas of the stadium, making it difficult for mobility restricted supporters, was raised, and director Paul Stankard will raise the concerns with stadium director Terry Ward.
- A question about the procedure of buying from the shop online, and then collect the goods, was raised after a supporter had ordered an item online for collection, only for them to arrive and the said item had been sold in the shop. This was in time of the play-offs, so the shop was busy, but the need to protect the stock for completed online purchases was emphasised. The shop has been made aware of the issue.
- A question regarding having a family stand tuck shop style outlet was raised, in the manner of the Brampton Brewery stands, enabling children to avoid having to queue to get a bag of sweets. The idea will be examined by the club.
- On the night, the question of having hand held scanners or similar to help reduce queuing to get in on big crowd days was asked. Whilst these are relatively expensive and would not be used every match, Ashley Kirk outlined that during the summer, a substantial investment in upgrading the turnstile software has taken place which should speed up entry into the stadium.
- A comment on the mascot situation and the lack of availability of kit was tabled in advance of the meeting and the question was addressed by the mascot organiser, at his response was sent to the generator of the comment and the matter is considered closed.
Other points discussed at the meeting included:
- Three-up, three-down. Ashley Kirk will be attending the National League’s AGM later this month and he is aware of the League’s hopes in this area, but it will only happen if the EFL also have the item on their agenda, and at this stage, it is not known if this is the case.
- Ashley Kirk will also bring up at the AGM the lack of time between play-off semi-final and final, and the difficulty in organising such an event in such a short time. He confirmed that Wembley has been contracted to host the final for the next four years.
- It was confirmed that the progress on the training ground has been good, with irrigation systems due to be installed on the two pitches next week and the pitches are set to be ready by the end of July, so an interim base will be needed for much of pre-season.
- The potential for a Fanzone is being examined by the Board, with an evaluation of an area in the North West corner of the car park being considered.
- The concourse takings at the Bromley play-off match were exceptionally high, with one of the factors helping the situation being that the concession areas were fully staffed after the club hired agency staff, with the experiment being deemed a success. Ashley Kirk denied all allegations that he was a drone pilot which enabled an extra ten minute window of opportunity for sales, but he is nipping down to the drone shop tomorrow!
- The new kit is scheduled to arrive at the club shop on June 9 and there is a possibility that the shop may be closed on that or on the following day to enable staff to sort out pre-orders, so an announcement will be made ahead of that time to outline when collections can be made.
- Suggestion made that we should try and arrange a friendly at some stage with twin town Darmstadt.
- Was confirmed that the club is hoping to arrange a summer on-the-pitch concert for 2024, but dependent on who’s touring and with only a three-week window, timing is critical.
- There will not be a July drop-in, due to holiday commitments, so please keep an eye for details of the August meeting, which will have away travel at the top of the agenda, so any people that regularly or occasionally arrange transport are encouraged to attend.