Date: 12 January 2013
Venue: Britannia Stadium, Gordon Banks Lounge
Supporters Council Representatives:- Malcolm Clarke (Chairman) - Alan Clarke, Angela Smith, Rob Doe, Bryan Shaw, David Harper, John Slaney, Julia Milton, Julia Zuk, Mark Mills, Mark Willey, Regina Colclough, Richard Lowe, Runar Kvernen, Wayne Harrison, Paul Edwards, Richard Bestwick.
Representatives of the Club:- Tony Scholes - Chief Executive, Adrian Hurst - Head of Community & Supporters Liaison Officer, Steve Buxton - PR Consultant, Margaret Stringer - P.A. to Tony Scholes
Apologies: Ken Toft, Jon Turner.
Minutes from Last Meeting:- Agreed.
Resignation from the Council:- Malcolm informed the Council that Ken Toft had resigned from the Council, therefore his seat on the council us now vacant. It was agreed to thank Ken for his service.
Ticket Prices:- Malcolm invited Tony Scholes to discuss both the price of Season Tickets, and ticket prices, in football generally.
Tony said that he wanted to address the two issues separately. Season Ticket prices are the most important issue for the Club. The starting point for us is the general price of an adult ticket. Tony said he wanted to give the council a little background information, then he would like to invite the council to give their views regarding how the Club had managed the season ticket pricing to date, i.e. groups, areas etc.
Tony said that the current (2012/2013) early bird price remains the same as the mid price ticket was when we were in the Championship. The early bird price has not gone up for 6 years. We do take into account that the economy in general is not good at the moment and the importance of keeping a sell-out stadium and the positive impact this has on the atmosphere.
Malcolm said that he thought that there should not be an increase, because of the increase in revenue from TV broadcasting the Club would receive. In Malcolm's view the supporters should see some of the benefit, no Premier League Club should be thinking of increasing their prices.
Mark commented that he thought the Club had got it right, when you watch Match of the Day and see stadiums half empty, Stoke City is generally full (or near) to capacity.
Julia thought that the Club had been very fair on prices and said that she didn't think a small increase would be wrong.
Angela suggested that if there was an increase could a % of it i.e. £1 go to the Community Trust, now that the Community Trust was a bigger part of the Club.
Runar said the Norwegian supporter's views was that Stoke City have done very well not to increase prices, in the long term keeping the prices the same, it is appreciated by the fans.
Tony explained, that the Club's objective is to fill the stadium, we feel football should be available to as many people as possible. The more people we have in the stadium the better the atmosphere is, and that helps the players and the Club.
It was asked if a Cup game could be included with the season ticket. Tony explained that the Cup games were a different matter because the gate has to be split with the other Club and the F.A.
Tony asked the Council whether the Club have got it right in terms of different groups e.g. family stand, disabled, premium seating etc. tell us what you think.
Malcolm said that the average age of people watching Premier League games is going up, and that there is a danger of losing 18 - 30 year olds. He asked if the Club had any data on this.
Tony said yes we do, we know that we appear to lose fans once they reach the age of 17, and think that is a mixture of perhaps the economy and students leaving the area. We do get them back perhaps once they have a job and are earning. The other problem we have is when families have to leave the family area (age restrictions when the child reaches 14) where do they go? They want to stay together but how do they get seats together.
Tony asked again have we got it right?
Richard said yes, he thought the Club had got it right. The only issue had been the introduction of Premium Seats.
Tony said that he could hear loud and clear, that a general price increase would not be welcome or appreciated.
Malcolm raised the issue of an the article that had been published in the press quoting Stoke City as having proposed that free away travel be provided for all games in the Premier League.
Tony confirmed that whilst the story had not been released by the Club, it was true. The Club had made a proposal to the other P.L. Clubs to subsidize away supporter travel and to ensure that away fans never paid more than the cheapest home fan ticket.
He said that the Club felt that supporters should see some of the benefit of the T.V. dividend.
The away fans are important to the atmosphere. We need to increase the number of away fans, and the Club suggested that the P.L. could subsidize away travel as a means of increasing the away crowds.
Richard said that the away pricing was wrong and as a result the away attendance is dropping, the price is one factor, live TV has also had an effect. Richard also asked if the Club is involved in the pricing of away games, he thought the price for Crystal Palace was a really good price?
Tony replied yes for Cup games (not P.L. games) we agree with the other Club the prices for all fans. It is all about trying to get the balance right, and the Club don't think that any away fan should have to pay more than the cheapest home fan.
Julia said that the ticket price isn't the only issue, if you have to travel a long distance there is accommodation etc. What if the game is moved, you can't get a refund.
Tony said that whilst the suggestion he had made to the P.L. didn't get a very good response, it had highlighted the issues.
Runar said that he thought the Club had got it right, please just keep communicating with the fans.
It was asked if it was possible for the Club to subsidize the away travel.
Tony said we have done, in fact we arranged free travel for the Blackburn game a couple of year ago.
Malcolm summarized the discussion that the Supporters Council did not support any price increases for the 2013/4 season and endorsed the Clubs efforts to raise these issues in the Premier League..
Rail seating pilot:- Malcolm reported back that the meeting he attended in Westminster regarding rail seating had been very successful.
Tony said that the Club are watching and monitoring what happens with the trials, and would not commit to doing anything at the moment.
Disabled area viewing:- Mark will update the working party group separately.
Vacant Council seats:- To date one person had applied in the under 18 category. Malcolm said he thought that if there was only one applicant, then they should be elected unopposed. There was also the vacancy created by Ken Toft's resignation, it was agreed that Angela would discuss it on Radio Stoke to raise the profile of the council vacancies.
Website:- Angela had received three quotes for the publication of the Supporter Council's website, Angela said she would update the working group at a later date, but in her opinion she didn't think we should proceed at this time.
Tony said that a dedicated section on the Club website would be a better forum to communicate.
Richard said he would prefer to use the Club website and following a short discussion it was agreed that any communication would be done via the Club website.
Stadium expansion plans:- Tony had no further updates, however he asked if the council would give their feedback on the matter at the next meeting.
Control of exit areas:- The problem of fans standing in the exits to the concourse prior to the final whistle is causing an obstruction and is a possible safety issue. The possibility of painting the area around the exit and marking as a no standing zone is being considered. The safety team is looking into where the stewards need to be position at the end of the game. Also delays occur because fans are staying behind to watch the TV in the concourse area. The Club have looked at installing more TVs away from the exits, but this could be a problem because of the wiring. It was agreed that a member of the safety team would be invited to attend the next meeting.
Customer experience working party - report back:- Alan, Jon, Julia and Regina were conducting a mystery customer experience visit based on the Premier League's "Visit Britain" quality assurance programme.
Working Party Groups:- It was agreed that each working party group would have a Co-coordinator, a person that reports back to the council with the findings and progress of the group, the following were appointed:-
Customer Experience - Regina Colclough & Julia Milton
Communication - Angela Smith
150 Anniversary - David Harper
Ticketing/Membership - Bryan Shaw
Disabled Supporters - Mark Willey
Barcode entry:- Deferred.
Single Player of the Year:- The Club raised the issue of having a single award, which did not command support among supporters organizations representatives. However it was agreed that an alteranative to the present arrangement of multiple presentations before many people are in the ground individual would be for players who have won an individual organization award to visit the supporters organization or if more than one organization selected the same player a shared event could be arranged. For the Club's player of the season Malcolm asked if the Club would organize an on-line vote.
Flag:- Steve Buxton is looking into obtaining a replacement flag and will update at next meeting.
Identity of supporters organizations:- Resolved, on the basis that supporters organizations will use the "official logo" including their geographical location when communicating with the Club but will be otherwise free to use other badges or logos if they so wish and can determine their own name.
Satellite merchandise outlet:- It was suggested that the Club was missing an opportunity to sell merchandise to fans on a match-day.
Tony said that we had done is in the past, but it had not done very well, it was more a case of the supporters like to see it but very few actually purchased anything. Tony asked if we know what the supporters want in there we will review it, the Club will report back at the next meeting.
Date of next meeting:- 16th March 11.00 am (West Brom game).