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Supporters Council Meeting Minutes

A Stoke City Supporters Council meeting in progress

Image by: Phil Greig

PUBLISHED

09:51 1st January 2013

by Stoke City Football Club

Minutes of the meeting held on Saturday 24th November 2012

Date: 24 November 2012
Venue: Britannia Stadium  
Attendees:
Supporters Council Representatives:- Malcolm Clarke (Chairman) Alan Clarke, Rob Doe, Bryan Shaw, David Harper, Angela Smith, John Slaney, Julia Milton, Julia Zuk, Mark Mills, Mark Willey, 
Regina Colclough, Richard Lowe, Svein Nilsen.

Representatives of the Club:- Tony Scholes - Chief Executive, Adrian Hurst - Head of Community, Steve Buxton - PR Consultant, Margaret Stringer - P.A. to Tony Scholes 

Apologies: Ken Toft, Richard Bestwick, Jon Turner.



1. Minutes of last meeting:- Agreed.

2. Matters arising from minutes:-

Lidice:- Tony Scholes gave an update  further to the last Supporters Council meeting.  He explained that he had met with the company producing  the film about the Lidice story, and had agreed that the Club would sponsor the production of the film.

Club Lottery:- Carried forward.

Assess to photographs for Supporter Branches:- Access now agreed. Every Club/branch that completed the agreement form will receive match pictures from Phil.  

Supporters Club Events:- It was agreed that supporters organisations representatives would liaise with Steve Buxton and Adrian Hurst in the New Year to plan for future supporters club events. It was further agreed that future events could involve various personnel from the club and not focus solely upon players.

Disabled Viewing:- A discussion tool place with regard as to whether the Club could be a member of the Level Players Field organisation (formally National Association of Disabled Supporters).  It was agreed that the Club would investigate this and report back to Mark.   

Tony Scholes explained that there had been problems in the past with away standing supporters blocking the view from the disability areas and the Club had received a number of complaints about this. As a result the Club now net-off 2 rows of seats in front of the disabled bays in the away, which appears to have resolved the issue. 

Mark further commented that the view for disabled supporters in home areas was acceptable for most of the time but that he and a number of supporters have difficultly viewing both the pitch and the big screen at crucial moments in the game  because everyone stands up in front of the platform.
A discussion took place with regard to what could be done to rectify this. centering around supporters respect for each other. It was agreed  that the Club’s Disability Liaison Officer,  Lindsay Leighton and Mark should meet in near the future to discuss all issues regarding disabled supporters.

Vacant  Council seats:- There are various seats still available on the council.

Vacancies that still exist are:-

1 General Seat
U18 Family Stand
U18 Non Family Stand  

A notice will be posted on the SCFC Website advertising the vacancies with information on whom to contact.  Applications for the vacancies will be open until 1st January, following the same election process as previously.

Sub Groups Reports:-

Communications:- Angela has looked into setting up a website for  the Stoke City Supporters Council. She is in the process of obtaining quotes, and once she is in possession of all the information will report back to the Council.

150 Celebrations:- Adrian Hurst and Steve Buxton gave an update with regard celebrating the Club’s 150th Anniversary, They noted the following initiatives:- 

- Celebration match – as discussed at the last meeting it was felt that it was not appropriate for the Club to have a separate celebration match, whilst playing “big games” every week against Premier League opposition.  Accordingly the Club had identified one of the Premier League home matches in the second half of the season around which the celebration would be held.

- Community Projects – The Club are extremely keen that 150 anniversary should be inclusive and should be centred around community activities.  In this regard, a community project has been set up to work with any of the 41 council wards – not just in 2013, but then moving forward as a legacy to the 150 celebrations.  The Club’s community fund will allocate various amounts to projects which are proposed from the council wards.

- Directional Sign Post - The sign post outside of the Q-railing stand, which was used to celebrate the Club’s Europa League campaign, will be changed to show supporters 5 favourite moments in the Club’s history. 

- Celebration Tile – Adrian Hurst explained that the presentation of the commemorative tile to opposition teams Board and supporter’s groups was progressing very successfully.  In particular, he noted and many in the room agreed that opposition fans were receiving the presentation of the tile (carried out in front of the away fans) at each home game, extremely warmly.  The individual tiles which are presented to the away teams are then combined to form a large mosaic which will be retained by the Club.  Adrian further explained that a commemorative mug representing the full tile will be available for purchase sometime in the New Year.  

Ticketing:- The ticketing sub-group had met with the Club which had been a useful meeting including explaining how group ticketing worked.
Questions were raised with regard to how away tickets were distributed, and particularly why some people who purchased their tickets first did not receive the “best seats”.  
Malcolm explained that Josh Whittaker had covered this issue in the sub-group explaining that the away Club are told by the home Club the order in which the seats should be sold.  This sometimes resulted in additional blocks of seats being released by the home club at a later date and therefore for later sale, were better seats than the first block sold.
The issue of standing at away games blocking the view of some supporters who did not wish to or could not stand was discussed. It was noted that the “sit anywhere” arrangement had worked well at Norwich City because the “standers” had largely gone to the back and the “sitters” at the front.  Malcolm suggested that away sales should be advertised on this basis. Tony Scholes explained that it is very unlikely that most Clubs would agree to unreserved seating as by doing so they loose 10% of their capacity under their safety certificate.  He further explained that the home team do determine the order of sales by the away club.  However, he felt that the Club could look again at the order in which it sells seats based upon its known/best estimate of the total number of seats sold and could review whether or not there is the opportunity to determine which seats were seating seats and which seats supporters likely to stand at away grounds.  It was agreed that this matter would be picked up by the ticketing and membership working party.

3. Racism
A debate took place with regard to the Club's procedures on dealing with inappropriate behaviour by supporters, including instances of racism.  

Concerns were expressed that although overt racism is clear other forms of alleged inappropriate comments are very much a grey area and this should not be a way of “shopping” someone you don’t like.  

Tony explained that all cases were looked at on their individual merits.  There is an evidence gathering procedure before the Club take any action, which is done by a variety of methods on a match day. Tony confirmed that the Club would not ban someone unless evidence had been obtained by the Club with regard to illegal or inappropriate behaviour. 

Steve Buxton drew Council’s attention to the notice in the programme which gives details of how to raise an alert allowing stewards to investigate immediately if someone is behaving in a racist manner during a game.

4. Stadium Expansion Plans

Tony explained that the Club are currently seeking planning permission to extend the stadium seating area in the corner where the big screen is situated. This will give us a capacity of 30,000.  He explained that the club has said that we wouldn’t expand until we were confident that we could fill the extra seats.  Once planning permission is granted we would have 3 years in which to build the extension. 

Tony went on to say that in his view the supporters Council had a role, not just in bringing current issues to the attention of the Club, but also working with the Club for the benefit of everybody (Club and supporters) to grow the support base and enhance the supporter experience.  He would like the Council to consider how supporters could be involved in discussions on growing the support base and in respect of the new corner stand what type of stand this should be.  A brief initial discussion took place during which ideas were put forward including extending the family area and improving the disabled viewing facilities

5. Rail Seating Pilot.  

Malcolm reported that Aston Villa are willing to pilot a “Safe Standing” area with Rail Seats which are widely used in Germany.  An event to be held on 11th December in Parliament will demonstrate how the system would work. 

Malcolm suggested that the Rail Standing area could be an option for the new stand and asked what the Club’s current position on this was.

Tony explained that the corner stand would have to be built based upon the regulation in place at that time.  Unfortunately, at this point in time the regulations do not allow standing. 
In addition the corner stand will have to be built consistent with the East and South stands to ensure that it is a continuous bowl.  Notwithstanding this, he further explained that if the situation with regard to standing and the regulations surrounding it changed in the near future the Club would consider it.

Tony reminded the council that standing v seating would not be a case of being able just to fit more people in, it is also about the entrance and exits and the infrastructure of the stadium also has to be considered in calculating capacities.

Malcolm asked if the Club would make a statement supporting Aston Villa’s wish to undertake  the pilot. Tony said he would have to discuss this internally before committing to that. Malcolm agreed to give an update at the next meeting.

6. Control of exit areas

It was stated that the issue of supporters standing in the exits just before the final whistle is still a problem. This blocks the view of those people seated in the stand, and prevents others from leaving. It is particularly bad in block 29 & 30. Stewards do nothing and allow people to stay there. The stewards are never there at the end of the game because they have moved down to the front of the stand 10 minutes before.

Richard suggested perhaps painting yellow lines on the floor and prohibit anyone from standing in the marked area.

Tony acknowledged that it is a problem and said the Club do try to control it, albeit this is a challenge for the Club.

Malcolm suggested the Council issues a statement saying we have asked the Club to look into this and appealing to supporters not to do this.

7. Food Service 

It was stated that the availability of food in the family stand on a match day has not improved, the bars are always running out of food, and at half-time there is hardly anything left.  It was also noted that the service in the Q-railing stand is very slow and there is always large queues.  Mark also asked if there could be a counter lowered for disabled supporters.  It was agreed to establish a customer experience working party to investigate this and other Concourse issues   Members:- Alan, Julie, Angela, John, Ken, Adrian and Regina.

8. Barcode entry control

Malcolm informed the Council that the ticketing sub group had discussed this, the Club are looking into it and further updates will follow.

Tony said the Club are looking into various options, Tony asked for feedback from the Council given their experience at other Clubs.

9. Single player of the Year

Svein asked if there could be 1 Supporters Player of the Year, because with so many different categories it is confusing as different branches vote for their own player of the year. The Club pointed out that the number of awards meant that they have to be awarded before many spectators are in the ground, and felt that there is merit in a single award. 
Other representatives said that the individual awards are important to the supporters organisations and that we should not be constantly moving away from tradition. It was suggested that an alternative approach could be for the awards to be presented at an individual club function rather than on the last match of the season.  
Tony asked the council to feed back with their views. 

AOB.

Flag. Bryan asked if we were having another flag, the last one having been withdrawn due to safety issues at the end of last season.  Steve Buxton will look into obtaining another flag and report back.  

Angela raised the issue of the Supporters Club name.  The Sentinel had referred to it as “The Official Supporters Club”. Bryan explained that at no time had they referred to themselves the Official Supporters Club and agreed to speak to Martin Spinks at the Sentinel regarding this.

Tony Scholes explained that he understood that the naming issue was a sensitive issue for the Stoke City Supporters Club but it was also a sensitive issue for the other supporters clubs and branches.  Clearly the important thing is that all supporters, branches feel and are treated equally and that we are all working together. He was keen that we did not allow a disagreement over names to get in the way of everyone working together. Other Supporters organisations representatives referred to their own naming issues. It was said that democratic supporters organisations must be free to choose their own name and how they brand themselves. Bryan agreed that he would also discuss the crest used by his supporters club with the committee and report back.  Everyone agreed that the name by which various branches or clubs are called was not the most important matter but it was critical that everybody was viewed equally.  

Steve Buxton reminded everyone that the Supporters Branches are completely different from the Supporters Council. It was agreed that the Club would meet with the Supporters Club and the Knypersley and Biddulph club to discuss the issue further.

Shop - A complaint regarding the potteries shop had been made.  Andy Billingham to investigate. 

Date of next meeting;- 12th January 11.00 am

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