Saturday 11th February 2017. Stoke City Vs Crystal Palace
Supporters Council Attendees
Angela Smith (Chair)
David Harper (Vice Chair)
Tony Scholes (CEO)
Rob Killingworth (Health & Safety Manager)
Adrian Hurst (Head of Community)
Anthony Emmerson (Supporter Growth & Services Manager)
Adrian Oldfield, Wayne Harrison, Runar Kvernen
Approval of the Minutes of the last Meeting
The minutes were agreed as an accurate reflection of the meeting and were approved by all.
The Supporters Council passed on the appreciation of the Club's medical staff by the family of the supporter who was taken ill the recent Everton game (1st Feb). It was noted that their swift actions and the availability of a defibrillator was key to the supporter surviving the incident.
Shuttle Buses: There are concerns over post-match waiting times and also the potential added pressure for the service once the stadium extension is completed.
It was confirmed that eight buses are utilised for home supporters at each game. Four of these are for the Stoke Town Centre shuttle service, whilst two each are used for Newcastle and Hanley/Smallthorne services. This is an increase since the start of the season. The meeting was told that approximately 2,000 supporters use the bus services each matchday.
The Club are continuing dialogue with Staffordshire Police and Stoke-on-Trent City Council to identify how the service can be strengthened. Elements being reviewed are the number of buses, opportunities for additional routes, additional parking sites for bus users and pricing structure.
It was agreed that a stronger bus service could only improve the 'matchday experience' for existing users and encourage additional users; taking some pressure of car parks.
Parking: It was confirmed that nearby parking facilities have been withdrawn by various landowners, including Campbell Road and Heron Cross areas due to insurance and operational reasons. In addition, new Residents' Parking Zones are likely to be implemented in neighbouring locations, further restricting nearby parking options. The Club are looking at alternative facilities.
It was agreed that a mix of new car parking options plus an improved bus service was required to improve the current situation.
Transport Safety: Rob Killingworth (SCFC) showed two videos at the meeting relating to indiscriminate parking in the Sideway area and supporters being collected post-match on the A50 slip road. Both videos highlighted significant supporter safety issues due to the proximity of fast moving traffic.
The roads in the Sideway area are owned by Highways England rather than the local authority, which makes slows down communications. The police have limited powers to enforce without support from Highways England. However, it is hoped that enforcement powers can be given as soon as possible.
With regard to the A50 situation, the issue relates to private hire vehicles and private cars.
Two matchday operations between the Club, Staffordshire Police and Stoke-on-Trent City Council have identified a safety concern with this practice and this led to much less activity on those two occasions and at least one fine being issued. The situation will continue to be monitored and again Highways England's input is required to enable further enforcement to take place.
The current A50 roadworks may inevitably lead to some hold ups for supporters, but it is hoped the final design with a third running lane direct from Heron Cross to Stanley Matthews Way will be an improvement to the previous layout.
Supporter Safety Concerns
This item was placed on the agenda due to feedback from a number of supporters to unpleasant incidents during matches this season.
The most recent concern was the behaviour of a minority of supporters at WBA, with at least one supporter being knocked over in the Away Stand. Particular problems at that game related to supporters intentionally blocking the aisles and being overly aggressive.
It was clarified that whilst SCFC do take their own stewards too many away games, they are bound by the instructions of the host club's designated Safety Officer. The police also would only intervene or assume control in extreme circumstances. The club stated that they are working with Staffordshire Police and West Midlands Police on a number of specific incidents at the WBA game.
The issue of away supporters standing in the aisles at the bet365 stadium was raised. The Club acknowledged that this does sometimes happen but that a decision has to be made as to whether any intervention could lead to more serious crowd control problems. It was clarified that for the recent Manchester United game there were not more away supporters than seat tickets available. Aisle congestion was a result of MUFC supporters choosing to stand in aisles rather than their designated seats.
Specific mention was also made of supporters standing in the aisles pre-match in the Family Stand, causing problems for other supporters using the aisles to reach their seats. The Club acknowledged this had been raised previously and would look at taking further action where necessary.
Ticket Prices for Next Season
The club was asked to consider a supporters offer to celebrate - hopefully - ten years of no increase in Season Card prices. There was a discussion about whether a reward only for those who had had a season ticket for ten years may be divisive. It was agreed that both parties would give this further thought to see if an equitable and affordable offer could be provided.
It was confirmed that the single seat offer is likely to continue next season as it has proved quite successful.
An announcement regarding the ticketing arrangements for the new corner stand will be made shortly. It was requested that consideration be given to those supporters whose children were no longer eligible for the Family Stand; enabling families to remain seated together
'We'll Be With You': There was criticism of the way the 'club anthem' is currently played, being cut off short when the players line up prior to the game. It was requested that the Club consider playing the anthem after the line-ups have been announced, immediately prior to kick off. This would allow the whole song to be played and would generate a good atmosphere at kick off when all supporters were in their seats. It is done currently at several grounds such as Anfield and the London Stadium. The Club have said they will take this suggestion away and will respond.
Fan Zone: The use of Fan Zones at other grounds was highlighted as something that the Club should consider. Food and drink concessions and external toilet facilities were raised as a way of improving the quality of a visit to a game for supporters, and if done well could also encourage some supporters to get to the game early and/or stay a while after the game, which would assist with post-match pedestrian and traffic congestion also.
Supporters were reminded that Delilah's Bar is currently open post-match.
The question was asked as to whether a more permanent food and drink facility would be of commercial interest to the Club, able to be used by local people and through traffic on A500/A500 outside matchdays as well as for exclusive supporter use on match days. It was agreed that this was a significant issue to be discussed further at future meetings.
Safe Standing: The Club reinforced its position as being 'neutral' on this matter, and pointed out that currently it would not be legal to introduce standing areas in any Premier League ground. The Club is gathering information together with other clubs through the Premier League's Supporter Liaison Officer network.
It was suggested that a visit to Celtic Park would be interesting for club and Supporters Council representatives to gain a better understanding of how their system works, as there are other options than the most widely known 'rail seating' system.
Seat Plaques: Due to the 'variable condition and design' of seat plaques, the Club expects to continue to return all plaques (with commemorative certificates) when further seats are replaced rather than simply re-fit the plaques.
Prayer Room: The Club's view is that whilst it is an admirable proposal the current situation is that existing facilities would need to be used - as some players do - but that there is no proposal for a dedicated facility.
Diversity: The Club has a new Equalities Officer who can liaise further with supporters on these issues. The Council itself said it would look as to how it could be more representative of the wide range of supporters.
Supporters with Additional Needs: The Council requested the Club's support it in arranging a matchday visit for older supporters who may be alone or suffering from illnesses such as dementia. The conversation broadened to cover how supporters could assist to offer a 'buddy system' for fellow supporters who may wish to come to games but have limited social networks or require some kind of carer support.
The implementation of a buddy system would require the Club to follow its Safer Recruitment Policy as this would involve supporters with a variety of vulnerabilities.
The Club stated that it has an Inclusion and Disability Project Lead member of staff and the Club has been working with APPROACH to build on the success of last year's Men In Sheds event where a number of older supporters were able to meet former players and watch a screening of the 1972 League Cup Final.
The Council agreed to see how it could move these ideas forwards.
Removal of the Big Screen: It was asked if half time scores could be announced over the PA system whilst the screen is being removed. The Club stated that they had actually received some comments that some supporters did not wish this to happen, but it would be considered now it has been raised.
Safe/Family Away Sections: The Club was asked if a specific section of the Away Stand at clubs visited could be allocated to those who wished to sit. The Club stated that whilst the bet365 Stadium has no regular need for such a facility, individual requests from visiting fans can be accommodated.
There was criticism of the lack of functionality of the current SCFC app. The lack of presence of SCFC on Snapchat was also raised, together with the lack of much non matchday content e.g. player profiles, fun items etc.
It was also suggested that the Club could be more proactive such as responding to items like the Munich Air Disaster anniversary where other clubs sent message to MUFC.
The need was highlighted for additional resource within the Club to communicate more effectively through all media types. In response, the Club acknowledged more was needed to be done and that they are currently reviewing all their social media, including the web site and App, and replacements are due to be in place later this year. There was however a need to limit what events the Club commented on i.e. what is it appropriate for the Club to say and not say about particular matters.
Live streaming of the under 23 and youth games was praised.
Remembrance Match: There is an increasing number of requests for the Club to endorse remembrance events such as applause at a certain minute in the game, PA announcements etc. particularly where it is linked to a particular cause/charity. The Club felt that generally this needs to be supporter led.
The meeting suggested that the Club should further highlight the end of year Remembrance Match where loved ones are remembered through a presentation on the big screen.
Meet the Manager Evening: It was reported that those who attended felt it was a good event that should be repeated in time, perhaps also including first team players.
Pre-Season Fixtures: As some supporters arrange leave from work and holidays around these fixtures, the Club was asked if they have any information about the summer fixture programme. Due to the works to the ground this summer pre-season fixtures will be away from home. No major event or long-distance tour is planned. The Club acknowledged the need to get the details finalised as soon as possible to assist supporters.
Date of Next Meeting:
29th April 2017, Stoke City v West Ham United, 11.00am in the Gordon Banks Suite.