Supporters’ Forum notes

The second monthly supporters’ drop-in session was held in the Ernie Moss Room at the Technique Stadium on Thursday, May 4 (it is held on the first Thursday of each month) and 15 people were in attendance with a further 27 viewing online via You Tube Liv. This worked substantially more effectively than Skype, which was used at the inaugural meeting and this methodology will be used in future.

Fans also had the opportunity to ask questions via email in advance of the meeting through [email protected] and this remains the best way to register any questions pertaining to matchday experiences (home and away) and any other supporter concerns.

Ahead of the meeting, club director Paul Stankard, who is the main liaison point between forum and club, indicated that, from the previous meeting, the club was going to explore options for a Fanzone for next season and also look at possible seating options for matches with a limited number of away supporters.

Points raised ahead of the meeting via email, which were all tabled at the meeting, included:

• Tannoy system (poor quality)
• Concourse offering – too slow, one suggested chips and mushy peas
• Stewards having to kneel at the front / in the wet
• Karen Child (East) Stand (probably across the ground) could do with a section of lower urinals for young boys
• Karen Child (East) Stand (probably across the ground) TV’s in concourse could be tilted down a little to ease viewing
• Karen Child (East Stand) wheelchair area, room by the lift, can it have tables and chairs added?
• Car Parking information for 23/24 season wanted
• Can the council open its car park on matchdays again (behind Chester’s restaurant)?
• Big flag in Kop
• Walkout music
• Negative & racist comments
• Lights on all day around the stadium
• CFC Women, ‘One-Club’ approach
• Disabled fans’ view at Bromley
• 50-50 extra internet prize (ripped tickets)
• Memorial Garden
• Segregation / front few rows when big crowds
• Drums brought by away supporters
• Away tickets going on sale unannounced at inappropriate times (Wrexham quoted, as they went on sale on the Saturday morning of the away trip to Halifax).

The quality of the tannoy is being investigated in the summer with the aim of significantly improving the output. This will be a major operation as substantial plant hire (cherry pickers etc) will be required but the club recognises the need to improve the system.

The concourses were debated at length, with the speed of service easily the main concern. The current physical layout of the concourses negates the ability to ‘cook’ food, as that would require major civil engineering to incorporate airflow units and fire retardancy methods, but the logistics of the operation will be reviewed and issues like beer in plastic bottles, or pre-poured, or a beer only queue will be investigated, though one of the aims of the club is to go ‘plastic free’ so there is a lot of work to be done. Staffing is undoubtedly the main concern. The issue of the offering was (according to those present) much more about being able to be served in a reasonable time rather than what the offering is.

Steward kneeling at the front of the stands was a concern; this is only an issue when the front rows of the stands are sold, as they would usually sit on the front row. Using stools or similar would add to the possibility of them being thrown in the event of any unsavoury incidents, so an idea to affix tip up seats to the wall was suggested and will be passed on to the club.

The suggestion for lower urinals for small boys was raised in advance of the meeting and the club is looking at fixing a step-style array to suit which would be the easiest approach, with adjustments potentially being made in the areas of the family stand sections.

Other elements experienced in the Karen Child (East) Stand, such as the angle of the concourse TVs and the facilities for wheelchair users (adding tables and chairs adjacent to the lift to ease eating and drinking) were discussed and communicated.

Information regarding car parking for the 2023/24 season will be posted soon and the question of persuading the council to reopen the car park behind Chester’s Restaurant was debated and the club urged to liaise with the council.

The Big Flags used pre-lockdowns will be used at the Bromley game, providing they can be located (this didn’t occur, they could not be found) and the need to create a vibrant pre-match atmosphere for the game, using music as a tool, was passed on to the relevant parties.

The witnessing of a small level of racist chanting was noted by the police and the matchday stadium manager will be asked to reiterate this in pre-match briefings.

The links with Chesterfield FC Women were discussed and a great suggestion was to have a team photo for next season that featured both teams together. The forum definitely wanted to see more games at the Technique and more website and social media presence.

The club is considering adding a prize to the 50-50 draw that persuades ticket buyers to take home their tickets rather than littering the stadium. One suggestion was to announce the main prize the day after as well! Please, dispose of your litter responsibly.

Explanations of why the sterile area between away and home fans in the Karen Child (East) Stand was as large as it is was given, and it is not down to a prescribed distance, but the emergency flow rate required for an evacuation. If home fans were located in the sterile area, that would put too much pressure on the exits that home fans would use, as they would not be able to use the same exit as the away fans. Everyone hoped this would become a regular problem with big crowds every match!

A show of hands revealed the majority of attendees had no issues with away fans bringing a drum and there was no appetite to have a tit for tat approach, don’t let them bring one because we couldn’t take one there.

The away ticketing issue for Wrexham was noted and avoiding a similar instance in the future has been pledged.

The feeling amongst the attendees was that the semi-final ticketing had been handled fairly well in a limited timeframe, but there was disappointment that a Maidstone ticket only guaranteed the availability of a ticket for the semi-final, not a specific seat and the club was urged to either make this more clear in future or find a way to reserve the same seat.

It was also noted at the forum that, due to the rail strike on the day of the play-off final at Wembley, many local coach companies were substantially increasing their hire costs, with examples of around two and a half time the cost of going to Bromley recently quoted. Coach parking at Wembley costs £125. A discussion on coach numbering and ensuring the right people were on the right bus, as well as ensuring people who could not find their coach for the return journey, could be successfully ferried back home. A closer link between the club and The Bridge Inn Travel Club, which is already very good, was encouraged.

At the first drop-in, the positioning of the pre-match warm-up goals was mentioned and it was pointed out that the South Stand goal had been moved at an earlier game, to in front of the accessible terrace, making it potentially more dangerous for people less able to protect themselves. A lack of specialist stewards in accessible areas was also a concern and also, it was noted that on occasions, disabled supporters who didn’t attend with a carer were passing their carer tickets on to others to enable free entry. A question was asked if the sensory room was to be restored.

A lack of half-time entertainment was mentioned, with the request if the crossbar challenge or similar could be reintroduced.

The request for additional members for the forum led to three applications, and the view was that all three (John Church, Neil Kerry, Nigel Goodlad) should be invited onto the committee, and that has been acted upon.