Friday
Oct122018

Notes from October meeting with Fulham FC

On Monday 8 October 2018 at 12:30pm, Alistair Mackintosh (AM, Chief Executive Officer), Carmelo Mifsud (CM, Media Relations Manager), Katy Brecht (KB, Head of Ticketing), Mike McSweeney (MM, Chief Executive, Fulham Foundation) and Nicola Walworth (NW, Supporter Relations Manager) of Fulham Football Club met with Tom Greatrex, Ian Clarke, Dan Crawford, Sue Couch and Archie Rhind-Tutt of the Fulham Supporters’ Trust at Motspur Park as part of the ongoing structured dialogue between both parties. David Daly (a non-executive director of Fulham Football Club) sent his sincere apologies.

The Trust focussed this meeting on the two issues of key importance to Fulham supporters at the present time – the Riverside Stand and ticketing.

RIVERSIDE STAND

Update

The Trust asked for an update on the progress of the Riverside Stand redevelopment and highlighted our concern that with a lead contractor yet to be appointed the timescales may start to slip.  AM confirmed that the Club were still out to tender for a lead contractor on the works and, while there was no winning bid yet, the Club were in advanced and detailed discussions with a final shortlist of potential contractors.

Timeline

The Trust pushed for an update on the timeline against that included in the London Borough Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s planning documentation.  AM revealed that whilst the fine detail of that timeline was no longer relevant, the Club are still operating to their original timescale of a project start in May 2019.  When asked how this would be possible without confirmation of a lead contractor AM disclosed that there is “a high probability” that a preferred contractor will be in place by the end of November 2018.

The Trust asked for confirmation of the high level timeline.  AM explained that the Club’s current plan is to begin work in May 2019 with the demolition of the existing Riverside Stand and for Craven Cottage to operate at a significantly reduced capacity for two seasons. The plan is for the new Riverside Stand to be ready for the 2021-22 season. He revealed that he is in constant touch with Shahid Khan over the progress of the plans and that the Club want a well-thought out scheme. He added that as the project is highly complex the club are using information provided by multiple bidders to constantly enhance the offers and plans.

Wembley

The Trust raised concerns that Shahid Khan’s proposed purchase of Wembley Stadium may have some bearing on decisions being taken in relation to the Riverside Stand.  AM told the meeting that there is no consideration of Shahid Khan’s proposed purchase of Wembley Stadium in the Club’s current planning.

Temporary relocation

Following up, the Trust asked whether bidders have made suggestions that the Riverside Stand build would be easier or cheaper if the Club moves out of Craven Cottage temporarily and, if so, whether these would be considered.  AM revealed that bidders have stated that the project would be easier with full access to the site, but that the cost differential between the two options (staying during the build and moving out temporarily) was not great.

The Trust set out our opposition to any prospect of Fulham playing anywhere other than Craven Cottage, even on a temporary basis, with representatives pointing to the organisation’s foundation as ‘Back to the Cottage’ and the history of the Club and the ground.   The Trust further explained that were any consideration ever to be given by the club to a temporary relocation  we would wish to see significant guarantees of a return.  AM acknowledged this and pointed out that in the event of any temporary relocation ever being considered, a £100M plus contract would already have been signed and begun.
AM reiterated that he firmly believed that the Riverside Stand will be built and committed to provide an update to the wider Fulham fanbase.

TICKET PRICING

Matchday prices

The Trust expressed concern that current ticket prices are too high and could risk pricing out a generation of supporters,  highlighting minimum adult prices for the home matches against Arsenal (£55) and Bournemouth (£45) as examples.  AM said he understood but didn’t necessarily agree. He stated that Shahid Khan still subsidises the business to a considerable degree and, given the long-term objective of making the Club sustainable, revenue needs to be raised. Fulham are tasked with being “more commercial” and not less and AM revealed that the Club does not benchmark well commercially against comparative Premier League and Championship competitors.

Season ticket prices

AM stated that he felt the Club had tried to successfully reward loyalty with a strong offer to season ticket holders last season, which realised a 99% renewal rate. The Trust representatives stated that there remained concern amongst Fulham supporters that, should season ticket prices continue to rise, many longstanding fans would not be able to renew. AM and KB confirmed that, as per previous discussions, the Club had not made any decisions about the price of next season’s season tickets.

KB confirmed that a number of options were being considered to reward the loyalty of season ticket holders in next season’s pricing. KB and AM also revealed that the club do research other clubs’ prices and schemes. KB stated that the Club recognise that they can’t raise season-ticket prices to beyond this year’s early post play-off final level – and that they won’t seek to do so.

Away ticket prices

As part of the discussion on matchday prices, AM revealed that the Club did not support the initiative for a £30 cap on away match tickets.

Next generation of fans

MM pointed out that the Fulham Foundation run several successful schemes and reward participants, including local schoolchildren from some of the most deprived parts of London with free tickets. AM said he would be happy to receive further ideas from the Trust and Fulham fans with regards to ticket pricing.

OPERATIONAL TICKETING ISSUES

Away ticketing

The Trust raised the issues of persistent standing at away matches and confrontations between Fulham fans caused by this at away games this season, including Tottenham, Brighton, Manchester City, Everton and Millwall. The Trust further highlighted that we would like to work with the Club to alleviate the problems via practical ticketing solutions.  The most obvious of these is the ability to select a specific seat when booking an away ticket

KB confirmed that the Club does have to build a detailed seat map of all away allocations into Ticketmaster’s system, including the location of sides, aisles and entry and exit points, before each fixture. This work usually takes around two days for the ticket office staff, but Ticketmaster’s system does not allow this information to be made public, so the option to pick your own seat is not possible.  The Trust one again asked the club, in conjunction with other Premier League clubs, to continue to put pressure on Ticketmaster to make this facility available.

The Trust put forward a number of other suggestions, including options offering supporters the choice of the front or the back of the stand.  The Trust also highlighted the plans that other clubs have put in place this season around ‘non-standing’ areas (Watford) and seats at the front of the stand for supporters to move into (Cardiff). KB reiterated that the Club position is that all seats are for sitting only.  However KB agreed to talk to Watford about their system to further understand their thinking. 
The Trust asked for more information to be made available online on the order of selling away blocks and rows and also the current status of sales.  KB and AM agreed that the Club would make more information available.  The Trust also asked if the Club could ascertain whether other Premier League clubs were experiencing similar problems. 

Home ticketing

The Trust expressed members’ concern regarding the withdrawal of the ‘print at home’ ticketing option.  KB revealed that this option was being regularly abused by large scale modification of bar codes and subsequent re-sale. Fulham want to retain control of ticket sales, so they have removed this option this season. KB and AM stated that many other Premier League clubs are also taking this position – and the Premier League has provided additional guidance on tout-prevention measures.

The Trust pointed out widespread concern about the inability of season ticket holders to be able to upgrade concession season tickets for weekend games.  KB and AM said that the Club’s previous upgrades policy was being abused by both touts and supporters. The Club felt that their compromise was to allow upgrades for evening fixtures, these being the fixtures that most genuine concession season ticket holders cannot attend. The Trust suggested that the Club could offer a couple of additional weekend games for upgrades as a further compromise. Following further discussion, AM agreed that the Club would consider this proposal.
KB also confirmed that the Club had concluded that a ticket exchange scheme would be viable and they will be announcing details of this in due course. NW and KB said that the Club envisage that the ticket exchange would only operate for sold out fixtures.

DISABLED SUPPORTERS

The Trust raised correspondence from the Arsenal Disabled Supporters’ Association about the sight lines for disabled supporters in the Putney End being disrupted by persistent standing during the recent fixture at Craven Cottage. AM and KB confirmed that the Club were in the final stages of removing a section of seats in P2 and P7 in order to install a new disabled supporters’ viewing area with greatly improved views of the pitch. This work will reduce the capacity by around 400 seats and the new disabled supporters’ section is due to be ready for the home against Southampton next month.

MISCELLANOUS

The Trust passed on the thanks of supporters to the Club for the recent return of Clint Dempsey to Craven Cottage during the Watford home fixture and for making some of the match reaction content available to non-Fulham FC TV subscribers. The Trust representatives also relayed details of individual feedback on the matchday experience from our members to NW for her attention and response.


The meeting closed at 2.51pm

Thursday
Oct112018

Wembley Stadium update

As you may know, as well as being involved in our Trust, I am also a member of the FA Council, one of the two supporter representatives. The Council met yesterday to discuss the potential sale of Wembley to Shahid Khan. This was the first of two meetings of the Council dedicated to this issue alone - the second will be on 24 October, at which a vote will be taken. If the Council vote to support the sale in principle, then a formal decision on whether to proceed to negotiate a sale of Wembley will be taken by the Board of the FA at a subsequent meeting. Even if the FA decide to proceed, I anticipate it will take some time before any sale is concluded.

Thank you to all of those of you who took the time to complete the short Supporters Direct and Football Supporters Federation survey we circulated late last week. The two supporters' representatives were able to share the interim results of the survey with the FA Council as part of our discussion today. One of the striking interim results of that survey we could share was that the potential of an anchor tenancy of a football club at Wembley in the future  was in the top two concerns expressed by supporters (the other related to protection of games traditionally played at Wembley  - cup finals, play-off finals etc).

The reason I wanted to provide an update to members of our Trust, though, is that there are some aspects of this that may have a particular relevance to Fulham fans. 

When I joined the Council in July, and there was a discussion on the sale of Wembley, I asked for there to be consideration given to a safeguard in any proposed sale that would prevent any future owner moving a club side to play at Wembley on  a permanent basis. I argued that this was a wider concern than just Fulham, although that might be the most immediate possibility.

Over the course of the last couple of months, I have been seeking to persuade others in the FA and associated with this discussion of the merits of such a safeguard. Necessarily, as with some other aspects of the work the Trust does, this has had to remain low key.

At the meeting of the Council today, it was confirmed that any sale of Wembley includes a condition that explicitly prevents any new owner deciding to give any club, other than an NFL franchise, a principal tenancy at Wembley. This would prevent any football club being relocated to Wembley by any future owner of the stadium. The power to allow any change to that remains with the FA and Sport England, even if they no longer own the stadium.

I should also emphasise that during recent weeks, when the Trust has met with Fulham and also with representatives of Mr Khan, there has been strong commitment given to the new Riverside stand, and work on that project starting at the end of the current season. As you will have seen from the notes of our meeting with the Club earlier in the week, this was the subject of most of that meeting. As a Trust, we have no reason to doubt those statements, and no evidence to suggest any alternative agenda.

Our Trust was initially established as the Back to the  Cottage campaign, and it is part of our aims and objectives to work to ensure Fulham remain at our historic home. Given the twists and turns in this saga for almost the past 35 years, the Trust is just the latest of a long line of fans who have fought, campaigned and lobbied for Craven Cottage to remain Fulham's home. We welcome the most recent reiteration of the long term commitment to the Cottage made by Mr Khan, and we continue to work constructively with the Club to achieve that shared ambition - but we will also always remain vigilant. 

With your continued support for the Trust, together we can be an important voice towards ensuring our Club retains the historic link between Club and ground that is so much of the identity of Fulham.
If friends, family and fellow Fulham fans are not already Trust members, please do encourage them to join - so we can ensure our voice remains strong. You can join at our website here: http://fulhamsupporterstrust.com/join-us/

With best wishes,
Tom Greatrex

 

Wednesday
Oct102018

Statement from the Fulham Supporters' Trust

Fulham Supporters’ Trust Chair, Tom Greatrex said:

“Generations of Fulham fans have worked, campaigned and lobbied for many years to keep our club at its historic home - including during some very grim times when the future of the club itself was in jeopardy. Throughout that time, we have highlighted the link between the character of our club and its historic and much-loved home.

“The club has secured planning permission for a new stand, and committed this week again to construction work starting at the end of this season. We welcome this commitment to Fulham staying at Craven Cottage for the long term. As a Trust, we continue to press the Club on progress towards this goal, which will secure Fulham’s future at Craven Cottage.

Fulham fans who are not already members of the Trust can join the Trust here

Monday
Oct082018

Supporter consultation on Wembley Stadium

As you will be aware, the Football Association are currently considering an offer from Shahid Khan to purchase Wembley stadium. Mr Khan has made clear that this is not directly related to Fulham, and his continued commitment to the Club playing at Craven Cottage, and building a new riverside stand as part of that long-term commitment to the site.
As part of their decision making process, the FA Council will meet this week and again later this month to discuss the offer, and various conditions that have been attached to any sale. While it is the Board of the FA who will make any final decision, they have sought to take on board the view of the Council.
The two national supporters organisations - Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters Federation (the Fulham Supporters Trust are members of both) - are represented on the Council, and have asked us to circulate the following short survey.
There are a few short questions, including one on club sides playing at Wembley in the future,  and it is particularly important that there is input from Fulham fans - so please take a couple of minutes to complete the survey and help give the supporter representatives on the FA Council a steer.
(As well as chairing our Trust, I am also the Chair of Supporters Direct and a member of the FA Council.)
With regards, and thanks for your continued support for the Trust.
Tom Greatrex
Chair, Fulham Supporters' Trust 

 

Thursday
Sep272018

Fulham Supporters' Trust statement on Wembley Stadium

Responding to the decision of the FA Board to approve in principle the sale of Wembley to Fulham chairman Shahid Khan, Tom Greatrex, chair of the Fulham Supporters’ Trust, said:
“With Shahid Khan’s bid for Wembley subject to much speculation, the Fulham Supporters’ Trust has continued to discuss any implications for Fulham FC with both Chief Executive Alistair Mackintosh and also representatives of Mr Khan. They have reiterated that Fulham’s long term home will continue to be Craven Cottage, with Shahid Khan committed to building a new Riverside stand to improve the ground. Craven Cottage is an integral part of the unique character of Fulham Football Club - something the owner and senior executives at Fulham understand and appreciate, as well as fans. Whatever the outcome of the bid for Wembley, Fulham fans want to see Fulham play at Craven Cottage for the long term.  The board of the Fulham Supporters’ Trust will continue to represent this view.”