Saturday 29th April 2017 | Stoke City vs West Ham United
Tony Scholes (CEO), Rob Killingworth (Health & Safety Manager), Adrian Hurst (Head of Community), Lisa Smith (PA/Equalities Officer)
Supporters Council Attendees:
Angela Smith (Chair), David Harper (Vice Chair), Nigel Hackney, Bryan Shaw, Mark Mills, Mark Barnett, Joe Haynes, John Slaney, Richard Heath, Brian Edwards
Elliot Hackney, Rob Doe, Julia Zuk, Anthony Emmerson
Approval of the minutes of the last meeting:
The minutes were agreed as an accurate reflection of the meeting and were approved by all.
Lisa Smith has recently been appointed Club PA/Equalities Officer and was invited to the meeting. A brief overview of this role was explained, namely that the Club Equality Action Plan is currently underway and is being delivered and implemented to enable the Club to achieve the Premier League Advanced Level Standard, 2017/18.
Furthermore, it was confirmed that the Club will take a collaborative approach in promoting Equality and Diversity both internally and externally, including and assisting the Supporters Council in all Equality matters.
Disabled supporters tickets were discussed in terms of proof of disability being provided in time for early bird renewals since the Personal Independence Payments (PIP) were introduced to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA). It was discussed that anyone under the age of 65 will change from DLA to PIP however, in some cases this is taking longer than anticipated as reassessments take place during this transition.
It was identified that since this change, it is evident that the Club has more than the average number of disabled supporters. A Council member informed the Club that one or two other Clubs consider applications on a case by case basis.
The Club confirmed that it has a very high number of disabled supporters in comparison to other Clubs and has adopted what it believes to be a fair and objective policy.
Presentation and Update:
An accessible stadium presentation was delivered by Rob Killingworth which included the following bet365 Stadium updates:
• New 'risers' for existing wheelchair levels to aid visibility
• 38 new High Level Wheelchair Platforms
o North East Corner
o South East Corner
• Delilah's Bar (remaining as is)
• Filling the Corner - to increase stadium capacity
• 36 new Pitch-side wheelchair bays
o South Stand
o West Stand
o North Stand
• 2 New Scoreboards
o South East Corner
o North West Corner
• Changing Places
o North East Corner
• Food service available for high level and pitch-side wheel chair/accessible bays
• New media room, for new scoreboards and LED screens
• Car parking
o Dedicated spaces for wheelchair users (numbered spaces)
o Dedicated spaces for accessible parking (numbered spaces)
• General parking
o First come first served basis
o Bays are unallocated (unnumbered)
The Club consulted with their disabled supporters over the proposed plans and has listened to feedback. This has resulted in some changes to the original plans being made for the benefit of the disabled supporters and the Stadium.
In relation to the waiting list for the new wheelchair bays, it was confirmed that current season ticket holders will take priority, as the current waiting list holds approximately 25 disabled supporters. It was clarified that any remaining seats will be allocated on a first come first serve basis.
In relation the cost of the accessible stadium improvements, it was confirmed that the current works taking place at the Club has totaled to approximately £7.5 million, including nearly £1.5 million dedicated to the new facilities for the Club's disabled supporters.
Concerns were raised that the disabled toilets are being used frequently by general supporters. The Club confirmed that the away stand disabled toilets are now locked and are required to have a 'radar key' to unlock them. Furthermore, plans are in place to ensure all disabled toilets within the Stadium will be fitted with such 'radar key' locks. It was confirmed that this will be communicated to all disabled supporters prior to next season.
The Council recommended that the images and information within the presentation were to be placed on the Club website for clarity.
To view the accessible stadium improvements please click HERE
o Security Searches (pre stadium entry)
o Confiscated items
The Council suggested that 'search wands' be used during pre-stadium entry to eliminate supporters bringing in prohibited items, namely flares and knifes within the away stand. Examples of these items were shared with the Council which had previously been confiscated during the Stoke v Liverpool game on 8th April.
The Club confirmed that 'search wands' are used as an additional security measure but using these wands would not speed up the waiting process during security searches plus they will detect 'innocent' items as well banned items which could cause delays.
The Council were informed, in relation to flares being discharged during the Liverpool game, a male supporter was arrested and appropriate action was being taken. The Club confirmed that they are working with Staffordshire Police in relation to such specific incidents as normal.
Alcohol on away travel buses:
Concerns were raised in relation to supporters taking alcohol and other substances onto the buses. In addition to this, the Council has been informed that paper cups have been found beneath seats containing a substance.
The Club has a duty of care to ensure safe transportation of all supporters to any games. Furthermore, the Club relies on incidents being reported such as this and will address appropriately on a case by case basis.
It was clarified once more that the Club reserves the right to refuse entry to the Stadium and onto the club buses with relation to anyone under the influence of alcohol or drugs and has the authority to withdraw travel services provided by the Club to anyone in breach of this policy.
The Council informed the Club that thank you letters have been received in relation to extra buses being provided at the end of the game. It was confirmed the Club's supporters are grateful and appreciate this as it means shorter waiting times to improve the 'match-day experience.'
It was queried whether courier incentives are a true and fair reward for the service they provide in terms of their duties whilst representing the Club. It was agreed that this will be reviewed with a possibility of change prior to the start of the next season.
This item was addressed within accessible stadium.
The Club confirmed that dialogue was taking place with Highways England to attempt to resolve indiscriminate parking problems in the Sideway area. In addition, there will continue to be safety initiatives to dissuade people from picking up and dropping off on the A50 slip roads.
Continuation of FREE away travel for 2017/18:
The Club will confirm prior to start of the next season if this is to continue.
One Way Travel:
It was observed that for some games, particularly in London, supporters have been using the free travel as a way of travelling to London and not returning on the coaches. The Club would like to reiterate that this is not permitted unless previously agreed in exceptional circumstances with the Club.
Speculation was raised in relation to Delilah's bar becoming a 'corporate' facility, in terms of supporters no longer being permitted to use the bar in the new season. The Club confirmed that there will be no change to Delilah's bar now or in the near future. The works currently taking place adjacent to Delilah's relate to access to the new high level wheelchair section being constructed in this stand.
Evening Kick Off Times:
It was confirmed that kick off times for evening matches will continue to be 8pm.
New Stand -Seat Allocation:
The Club was asked, when and how seats are going to be allocated for the new corner stand. It was stated that this will be announced and communicated in coming weeks, and that the new section will be allocated to home supporters only.
With regards to the release dates for training and playing kit, the Club appreciated the need for new kit to be made available as soon as possible and confirmed that the launch for both kits will be announced and communicated over the coming weeks. As normal the first team are expected to play in the new kit during the last home game of the season.
The Council asked if the Club were going to commemorate season card holders who had held their season card for 10 years or more. It was confirmed that the Club is reviewing this and will communicate the outcome in due course.
Season Card Sales:
It was confirmed that season ticket sales have been "extremely successful". The Club confirmed they are confident of "sell outs" during home games next season, particularly following the additional accessible stadium works including the new corner stand.
The Club confirmed that new season fixtures are to be finalised and stated that the Club requested an away game for the first match of the season however this needs to be agreed by the Premier League.
Furthermore, pre-season fixtures will be taking place in Europe and further details will be communicated as soon as possible
o Open Day
The Council requested an Open Day to be arranged to allow supporters to visit the stadium to view the new accessible facilities and to see the 1st Team train.
It was confirmed that the Club would like to do this and will consider how this can be achieved within a reasonable timescale, once the building works have been completed. If this is not practical, the Club will consider an Open Day on a weekend when international games are being held.
Website/Radio Player issues:
The Club is launching a new website and as such the contract with the existing website radio player facility will end. The Club confirmed that the new website will have the existing facilities and much more. It was clarified that supporters will not have to pay any extra costs than they do at present.
o Ticket Sales - Thanks
The Council stated that further thank you letters have been received with regards to the professionalism of the staff handling ticket queries and sales with particular emphasis to the Club's disabled supporters and renewal of season tickets
o Supporters Council Elections
It was discussed that the Council would like to identify further ways to increase the number of votes received and the number of participants during the annual election process.
As standard procedure, details for the upcoming elections to be held at the start of the football season 2017/18 will be circulated via various media platforms including the Club website.
Furthermore, it was confirmed that voting has increased year on year by using a variety of networks to maximise the voting process.
o U18s/U23s Presentation
A request was made that our successful teams parade around the pitch during half time of the Arsenal game on 13th May. The Club agreed this request.
o Accessible Stewards Recruitment
The Council was informed that the Club are currently recruiting for Access Stewards to be part of the Stoke City Safety Operation offering support and guidance to disabled supporters to ensure they have the best match-day experience possible.
Anyone wishing to apply should visit the Club's job vacancy page HERE