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Friday
Dec152017

DECEMBER MEETING NOTES WITH FULHAM FC

On Tuesday 12 December, representatives of the Fulham Supporters’ Trust board Dan Crawford (DC) and Michael Gregg (MG) met with Alistair Mackintosh (AM, chief executive officer), Peter Limbert (PL, general counsel), Darren Preston (DP, chief operating officer), Sean O’Loughlin (SOL, finance director) Carmelo Mifsud (CM, media relations manager) and Mike McSweeney (MM, chief executive, Fulham FC Foundation) of Fulham Football Club at Motspur Park. The Trust and Club representatives were joined by Ashley Brown (chief executive) and James Mathie (club development manager and head of England and Wales) from Supporters Direct.

SUPPORTERS DIRECT AND MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING

The meeting began with the regular participants being introduced to the representatives from national umbrella group, Supporters Direct, who had been invited to see how structured dialogue worked at Fulham for the first time. Ashley Brown, the Supporters Direct chief executive and board member from the Portsmouth Supporters’ Trust, who until recently had been in ownership of Portsmouth FC, and James Mathie, Supporters Direct’s club network manager, said that they had followed with interest the progress made on supporter engagement at Fulham and thanked AM and the Trust for their presentations at the Supporters Summit earlier this year.

AM welcomed AB and JM to Motspur Park and said that the Club felt the monthly meetings had provided mutual benefits to themselves and the supporters. Having achieved a positive working relationship and, upon review of the Supporters Direct Engage document on how to further supporter engagement, the Club had agreed to draw up a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that would formalise the structured dialogue undertaken between the Trust and the Club since 2014.

This MoU was devised following consultation between the Club, the Trust, Supporters Direct, the EFL and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. It recognises the Trust as the democratically-constituted body that represents Fulham fans and commits to the regular exchange of information between the Trust and the Club, a monthly meeting between the parties and the furthering of the successful working relationship that has developed over the past three years. More information can be found in the statements released by the Trust and Supporters Direct as well as on the Trust’s website HERE

MG and AM then signed the MoU and the meeting proceeded with a discussion of a mixture of topics that had been raised by Trust members and Fulham fans.

RIVERSIDE STAND REDEVELOPMENT

SOL confirmed that the Club had formally submitted a new planning application to redevelop the Riverside Stand to Hammersmith and Fulham Council last night. Both SOL and AM believed the consultation events with supporters, which were organised following consultation with the Trust, were useful in terms of gauging fans’ feedback and generating ideas about the type of facilities Fulham fans would like in the new-look Riverside Stand should it be granted planning permission.

AM, DP and SOL reiterated that this planning application would help to secure Fulham’s permanent future at Craven Cottage for the fans. The new planning application builds on the 2012 planning consent that approved the extension of Craven Cottage’s capacity to 30,000 and incorporates significant benefits to the local community, including the opening up of the current River Thames walkway alongside the Riverside Stand to connect Hammersmith with Putney Bridge in full. SOL pointed out that the investment in the stand was not being prioritised over additional funds to improve the playing squad – and stated that this was seen as an investment with an identified financial return for the Club. The decision to redevelop the Riverside Stand was taken after detailed cost-benefit analysis and does not preclude renovation of the Hammersmith or Putney End stands in future seasons.

AM and SOL confirmed that there had been no significant material changes to the plans that were presented to the supporters in October. In response to a question from the Trust, SOL, AM and DP confirmed that the new plans included provision for nine apartments to be located on the footprint of the Riverside Stand, but that these were not for private sale. SOL pointed out that the previous planning schemes had included firstly six and then four apartments and it was confirmed that the inclusion of rentable apartments does not change the planning designation from that of a sports stadium. AM commented that the inclusion of apartments and living quarters within modern football stadiums was now commonplace.

The inclusion of the flats could deliver substantial income to the Club. The question of actual size of the flats in proportion to the previous planning was raised and SOL said that as actual floor space while the number of apartments has increased, the floor space or percentage of the stand is similar. The Trust will confirm further details shortly in future correspondence with our members. The Club did not include questions about the inclusion of apartments in their online survey because they were trying to capture the views of supporters about their current matchday experience at Craven Cottage and how a redeveloped Riverside Stand could shape this and both SOL and AM told the Trust that they had not received adverse feedback from the fans since the consultation events had taken place.

SOL and AM reiterated that the Club are committed to consulting with existing Riverside Stand season ticket holders about their seating options within Craven Cottage whilst the new stand is being built. Both the Club and the Trust had received feedback from season ticket holders within the Riverside Stand and AM confirmed that the Club are undertaking work to look at the best possible options for relocation within the ground.

In response to a question from the Trust, CM confirmed that the Club were considering providing further details of the specifics of the planning application in future matchday programmes and on the Club’s official website. AM revealed that, having submitted the application last month, the Club were hopeful of a decision during the scheduled March meeting of Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s Planning Applications Committee.

The Trust representatives also handed over feedback from the consultation event and a recent online survey which asked fans to offer suggestions as to what could be included within the new stand. The Club agreed to continue to discuss matters raised by supporters in respect of the Riverside Stand planning application before the January meeting.

MICKY ADAMS EVENT

The Trust thanked the Club for their assistance in the organisation, promotion and running of the successful Supporters’ Trust evening with Micky Adams at Craven Cottage last month. The Trust thanked the Club on behalf of the supporters and members of the 1996/97 Division Three promotion team for organising their attendance at the home fixture with Derby County and their presentation to the crowd at half time.

The Trust agreed to work with the Club and, in particular director David Daly, in respect of further work to promote the Club’s history and facilitating the return of more former players to Craven Cottage on matchdays.

MATCHDAY EXPERIENCE

The Trust thanked the Club for making available to the supporters their study of noise generated during their home fixtures. The contents of the report that generated a lot of feedback from Trust members, but there was still a feeling that the design of the Hammersmith End, especially at the back, allows sound to escape easily. The Club committed to providing as much non-confidential analysis as possible and invited Trust members to feed into the ongoing Club review of the matchday experience and atmosphere at Craven Cottage.

The Trust representatives raised reports received following Saturday’s home win over Birmingham City about stewards in the Johnny Haynes stand congregating on the gangways in the upper section and obscuring the view of supporters as a result. The Trust handed over pictures taken by Trust members at the time their view had been obstructed and the Club undertook to investigate this as a matter of urgency.

Representatives from the Trust shared several complaints about the public-address system not being audible within the Johnny Haynes Stand and DP, CM and AM said that, whilst the sound system was an ongoing issue around the stadium, the Club would come back with an update on this in due course.

During Saturday’s fixture against Birmingham City, supporters in the Johnny Haynes stand advised the Trust that all of the concession stalls had run out of burgers prior to half-time – and replacements only arrived towards the end of the half-time interval. Both AM and DP advised that the Club were aware of this issue and highlighted the difficulties of running concession stalls within the tight dimensions of the Johnny Haynes stand, but that steps would be taken immediately to ensure that this problem does not reoccur.

The Trust representatives also raised instances of prolonged huge queues at both the real ale bar and the coffee concession stand opposite the George Cohen statue on Saturday at half time. Many supporters were left unable to purchase their chosen refreshments and struggled to get back to their seats before the hour mark.

AM and DP told the Trust that this would be looked into as a matter of urgency and invited the Trust representatives or selected fans to take part in running a concession stall at a future home game. This offer was accepted.

CLUB SHOP MERCHANDISE

Following previous discussions regarding the range of products within the club shop, the Trust shared with the Club officials the results from a recent Trust run supporter survey that listed a number of items supporters would like to see in the revamped Club shop and in the online store. The Club agreed to analyse this feedback and discuss these proposals further with the Trust Board. 

PLAYING MATTERS AND THE JANUARY TRANSFER WINDOW 

AM told the Trust representatives that, despite the desperate disappointment of the derby defeat to Brentford, morale and belief remained high amongst the first-team squad following three league wins out of four, including two clean sheets at home. AM confirmed that recruitment is well under way for the January window, led by Director of Football Tony Khan and his interim assistant James Lovwell in consultation with head coach Slavisa Jokanovic who, as his recent programme notes detailed, has already identified a number of potential signings who could immediately strengthen the first-team squad.

AM reiterated that Club would have significant funds with which to support the head coach during the January transfer window and that the Club’s recruitment policy would remain the same as had been outlined during the Trust’s November meeting.

AWAY SUPPORTERS ISSUES, STEWARDING, AWAY COACHES AND FUTURE AWAY TRAVEL

Following on from last month’s discussion of issues faced by Fulham fans at Wolverhampton Wanderers, the Trust representatives raised the experiences of travelling supporters before, during and after the fixture at Sheffield United. AM and DP were concerned to hear reports of overzealous stewarding at Bramall Lane and asked the Trust to formally document any further information so that the Club could follow this up. The Trust has also raised these concerns about stewarding and policing with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sheffield United, the relevant police forces, the EFL and the Football Supporters’ Federation’s case officers to provide each party with the full information.

AM, DP and CM confirmed that the Club do liaise regularly with the Metropolitan Police prior to first team fixtures and the Trust representatives agreed to discuss the recent policing and stewarding issues in their submission to the next Hammersmith and Fulham Safety Advisory Group meeting. In response to an enquiry about future away travel and coach arrangements, AM and DP advised that that the Club will examine any future changes before providing full details of the travel arrangements to supporters. The Club keeps their away travel arrangements under annual review and asked the Trust to facilitate feedback from Fulham fans about their experiences this season.

THE FULHAM FOUNDATION

MM introduced himself as the new chief executive of the Fulham FC Foundation, who has taken over from Steven Day following Mr. Day’s appointed to a new role at the Football Association. He said he was keen to build upon the Trust’s existing portfolio of work with the Foundation and offered a meeting with the Trust representatives to provide more details of the Foundation’s upcoming work and how this can be effectively communicated to the Fulham fans.

MM said that the initial feedback following the Club’s annual Charity day, this year held in support of the Foundation’s disability outreach programmes, had been very positive. The Trust members who had volunteered as bucket collectors enjoyed the experience and commented that it was great to be joined by Denis Odoi and Lucas Piazon before kick-off in Stevenage Road. It was thought that the bucket collections and ‘bring a pound to the ground initiative’ had raised at least £3,000, but the Club would provide full details in due course.

The Trust representatives thanked the Club and the Foundation for their ongoing support of the Fearless Foundation, set up in honour of the lifelong Fulham fan and former Daily Star football correspondent Danny Fullbrook, who sadly died of cancer aged 40. The Fearless Foundation held a charity fundraising evening which was a great success and MM said he hoped to be able to outline ways that the Fulham FC Foundation could support the Fearless Foundation’s aims and objectives over the coming months.

The meeting closed at 12:31pm.

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