Wednesday
Nov142018

Fulham Supporters' Trust statement on Slavisa Jokanovic

Tom Greatrex, Chair of Fulham Supporters' Trust, said:

"The Fulham Supporters' Trust are disappointed to see Slavisa Jokanovic leave the Club, and want to put on record the thanks and appreciation of Fulham fans for the achievements under his close to three years as manager. Earlier this week, the Club stated their wish to see him succeed, and it will continue to be a matter of debate whether this dismissal has come too early. Viewing events only through recent weeks risks missing that at the time he took over as manager, he inherited a directionless squad and club seemingly in disarray with a restless fanbase. That he was able to produce one of the most admired footballing teams of recent years in the Championship, playing with style and panache to secure promotion at a memorable day at Wembley a few months ago, will always stand as his achievement. That he did so with the backdrop of well publicised disruptive behavour in the background and a quiet and determined dignity despite provocation makes that achievement all the more remarkable. We would like to wish Slav well for the future, and he will always go down as one of the great Fulham managers."

Wednesday
Nov142018

Notes from November meeting with Fulham Football Club

On Monday 12 November 2018, Alistair Mackintosh (AM, chief executive officer), Carmelo Mifsud (CM, media relations manager), Katy Brecht (KB, head of ticketing), Rob Padden (RP, head of matchday sales), David Daly (DD, non-executive director) and Nicola Walworth (NW, supporter relations manager) of Fulham Football Club met with Ian Clarke, Dan Crawford and Sue Couch of the Fulham Supporters’ Trust at Motspur Park as part of the ongoing structured dialogue between both parties.

RIVERSIDE STAND

The Trust representatives asked for an update on the progress with the Riverside Stand. AM informed the meeting that the Club now have selected a lead contractor and are working with that contractor on the specifics of the proposals going forward. The lead contractor will be announced formally before the December meeting between the Trust and the Club on December 10th. On the details of the process, AM revealed that the Club’s due diligence whittled down the number of potential lead contractors from 21 to a preferred partner. Some potential lead contractors were supplied by supporters and AM ensured that all parties were approached, but several were not interested in taking on the job. 

The preferred lead contractor’s role covers approximately 40 per cent of project, with sub-contractors envisaged to cover the remainder. The next phase of the scheme will be to complete tendering by the Club and the lead contractor for the various subcontracted elements of the build. The Club are still planning to knock down the existing Riverside Stand when this season finishes and work to a two-year schedule for the building of the new stand. It remains the Club’s intention to stay at Craven Cottage for the duration of the project.

AM recognises that supporters would like simple answers to contractual and planning questions, but said that this is a complicated process, with the number of marine, construction and planning specifics to finalise. AM was clear that with May looming, there is a lot of work to do in order to progress the project.
AM and DD reiterated that the Club are particularly open to ideas from supporters about what should go in the new stand. The Club are sending officials and staff to visit a number of stadiums to benchmark the best ideas but would welcome ideas from Trust members around specifics. These could relate to non-matchday facilities and the sort of food and drink offering that could feature within the new stand.

AM firmly stated that the Khan family were good owners for Fulham Football Club who will deliver on their stated intentions with the new stand and emphasised the importance of Craven Cottage to them. He also referenced Shahid Khan’s recent programme article on the Riverside Stand to stress the Club’s continued commitment to the Cottage.

The Trust representatives also thanked DD for leading on the project to represent Fulham’s history in the new Riverside Stand after a successful first meeting between DD and Fulham fans to discuss ideas. He envisages further meetings before making a presentation to AM and the Club board on proposals.

HOME TICKETING

The Trust raised the strong concerns of the Trust members and Fulham fans following the publication of the price for tickets for the forthcoming home fixture against West Ham United. AM reflected on the discussion of ticket prices during the October meeting and reiterated that the Khan family are still subsidising the day-to-day running costs of the Club to a considerable degree.

AM insisted that Mr. Khan and himself want the Club to self-sufficient and believed that this was one of the Trust’s long-term goals as well. AM stated that the Club are not experiencing problems selling tickets this season and believes that the atmosphere at Craven Cottage is excellent. He cautioned that a decision to bring down the price of match day tickets would see him brought under pressure to increase season ticket prices.

The Trust voiced concern about the long-term impact of such high pricing potentially pricing out previously loyal supporters who have a lower level of disposable income. AM said he had sympathy for this argument but felt that the Club does do a lot to reward fan loyalty and bring through the next generation. He believes that the Club’s season ticket prices for this season were very generous and pointed out that the Club offered 2,500 very cheap junior season tickets as part of a ‘create a generation’ strategy.

AM and KB also referenced the recent move to limit the number of away supporters in the mixed zone in order to get more Fulham fans in the ground. He highlighted the work of the Fulham Foundation to provide tickets for younger, under-privileged fans. The Trust representatives stated that it was important to bring the views of the supporters to the attention of the Club – and that they would continue to do so.

SEASON TICKET UPDGRADE POLICY

The Trust representatives re-opened the discussion on number of season ticket upgrades allowed per season and pointed out that the Club’s current policy is losing them revenue. AM and KB reiterated the reasoning behind putting in place a limit – due to touting and misuse – but accepted that misuse by a few does in this case punish the many honest and loyal supporters.
The Trust shared extensive research on the policies of other Clubs in the Premier League and tabled a formal request for the current cap to be increased from two evening games to a higher number. AM and KB agreed to discuss this internally and come back to the Trust with a decision in due course.

TICKET EXCHANGE SCHEME

Following previous discussions with the Trust, KB, RP and AM confirmed that the Club intend to launch a ticket exchange scheme for the second half of this season. It will operate for sold out fixtures and offer season ticket holders the opportunity to sell their season ticket for games where they cannot attend. The Club believe that the introduction of this scheme will help to alleviate some of the current upgrading issues.

NEUTRAL ZONE AT THE PUTNEY END

The Trust drew attention to recent changes to how tickets are sold in the Putney End. KB replied that the Hammersmith and Fulham Safety Advisory Group and the Metropolitan Police have insisted on firmer restrictions on away supporters in the neutral zone, to avoid this becoming a de facto away end.

In practice, as with the recent home game against AFC Bournemouth, this means that away fans from non-London teams won’t be able to buy in this area (e.g. Bournemouth, Leicester) by checking postcode.  This also means that tickets for home London derbies will not be going on general sale. Fulham fans can still buy tickets for away fans in mixed zone as long as they effectively vouch for them and KB assured the Trust that Putney End stewards will know that some away fans are allowed in via this route, but will seek to act against any misbehaviour.

HALF SEASON TICKETS

In response to a question from the Trust, KB confirmed that the Club are currently discussing internally whether to offer half season tickets for the remainder of this season and that a decision on this will be communicated publicly in due course.

AWAY TICKETING

The Trust thanked the Club for their work on non-standing seats for the forthcoming away game at Chelsea. KB said that there had been a good take-up of these seats to date. The Trust and the Club will monitor progress.

The Trust reiterated the fans' disapproval of the current system for away ticketing, with a lack of a pick your own seat option, run by Ticket Master. KB and RP detailed the problems with the current Ticket Master software. The current Ticket Master contract runs for another season after this one. KB stated that she hoped for progress at that point, if not before, and had already been examining other potential options.

The Club confirmed that they were happy to place more detailed information on away sales on their website and Twitter accounts as suggested by the Trust. The Club have already implemented a template suggested by the Trust, including the order in which blocks are sold for each away match, with details of the number of tickets sold updated daily. This information is now viewable via the Fixtures page on the Club’s website.

The Trust raised the forthcoming Premier League decision over whether to continue with the current £30 cap on league tickets for away supporters, which is due to be taken to a Premier League meeting in February. AM asked for the Trust’s view – which was to retain the current ticketing cap. He felt that the feedback of supporters would determine the Club’s stance on this issue. AM believed that the large away followings this season had been appreciated by the team and that the Club were likely to support the retaining of the £30 cap.

KB, RP and AM recognised that many supporters had experienced problems with their loyalty points updating prior to being able to book Chelsea and Manchester United away tickets last week. They also recognised problems with Old Trafford blocks appearing in the Chelsea away allocation. Both of these were Ticket Master problems. In response, the Club have now set up a daily overnight loyalty point data feed to alleviate this problem and have commenced testing to identify other issues. KB and RP confirmed that the Club does not have access to a separate testing system so they have to do this testing live.

CRAIG KLINE

AM strongly denied the series of allegations that have surfaced recently from former Club employee Craig Kline. He stated that the Club and Mr. Kline are currently in the process of ‘private arbitration’. 

COACHING CHANGES

The Trust raised queries about the number of members of Slavisa Jokanovic’s coaching staff who have left the Club since the start of the season. AM said that all of these decisions were taken by Jokanovic himself and that this was an indication of the head coach taking steps to try and improve the team’s performances. He denied that any internal process had been placed on Jokanovic to make these changes and that many of them involved difficult personal decisions for him.

SLAVISA JOKANOVIC

The Trust asked about Slavisa Jokanovic’s future, following speculation in the press. AM insisted that the Club remained supportive of Jokanovic and wanted him to be successful. He stated that the Club had won promotion due to Jokanovic’s leadership and coaching methods and that they wanted Jokanovic to be the man to steer the Club through this difficult run of form. He referred to the recent coaching changes as evidence of Jokanovic taking difficult decisions to try and improve the team’s performance and reiterated Shahid Khan’s recent public statement of support.

ANY OTHER BUSINESS

NW, AM and CM informed the Trust representatives that the next home game against Southampton on Saturday 24 November would be the Fulham Foundation’s annual charity match. The Trust would be keen to hear from members and Fulham supporters who would be willing to support the fundraising work of the Foundation on the day. Please do email the Trust if you are interested.

Following a series of questions on merchandising, it was agreed that the Club would invite Sean Davies, the Club’s head of retail, to answer questions on merchandise at the December meeting. The Trust will welcome specific questions on merchandising ahead of next month’s meeting.

CM and AM referenced the Club’s desire to facilitate the formation of an independent Disabled Supporters’ Association to consult with disabled supporters about forthcoming improvements to their matchday experience at Craven Cottage. Any supporters interested in giving their feedback or getting involved should contact the Trust.

The meeting finished at 1.51pm

Wednesday
Nov072018

Away ticket policy

One of the subjects that the FST has raised frequently in recent meetings with the Club is ticket arrangements for away matches and, in particular, ensuring that all Fulham fans get the best opportunity to support the Whites in comfort.  

Whilst it is still not possible for fans to select their desired seat online we have discussed other ideas to allow away supporters to make informed seating choices.  These include the provision of more information on an ongoing basis as to the order of sale of blocks and rows and also the consideration of reserving areas of seating for those who either cannot or prefer not to stand.  Despite regulations stipulating that supporters are expected to remain seated, we recognise that many fans do choose to stand during away matches and with a larger away following in the Premier League this has presented difficulties for those who are unable or unwilling to do so.
 
We recently asked the club to consider adopting a model used at other clubs such as Watford who reserve seats towards the front of away allocations specifically as ‘non-standing seats’.  The Club have listened to our proposals and have agreed to implement this starting with the games at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge in December.  The seats in question will be available to buy over the phone and we would request that only supporters who wish to remain seated throughout the game use this facility.
 
The Trust believes this is a big step forward and a positive outcome from the structured dialogue between the Club and the FST.  We will monitor the ‘non-standing seat’ initiative and will continue to work with the Club on other ideas aimed at improving the match day experience at both home and away matches.
 
We would be delighted to hear any feedback fans may have as this scheme is rolled out.  If you are not yet a member of the Fulham Supporters’ Trust please do join us to help amplify the voice of the supporters.

 

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