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SCFF meeting with the Club, Tuesday 26th April ‘05

Club Guest Suite, Britannia Stadium


Fans Forum
Terry Hughes - Chair , Fans Forum
Ken Moreton - Vice Chair
Laurence King -  Secretary
Shaun Flynn - Treasurer
Brian Shaw - Stoke City Supporters Club     
John Slaney  - Knypersley & Biddulph Supporters Club
Tony Tams -  Stoke City Supporters Club                        Dave Wiggins - Birches Head Supporters Club                        Andy Harrison - Potters Trust
Paul Barker  - SWIMM (Stoke City Wheels in Motion)            Martin Eagles -Non-aligned Supporter

Stoke City Football Club
Tony Scholes Chief Executive, Stoke City Football Club
John Booth Commercial Manager
Richard Potts - Ticketing


Chris Morgan - Fans Forum
Julia Zuk - Fans Forum
Jan Middleton - Fans Forum
Adam Allcock - Fans Forum
John Alcock - Stoke City , Stadium Manager


Terry gave a short introduction, particularly for the new attendees for the Fans Forum and management at this meeting, explaining the development of the Forum over the last year and the establishment of a constructive relationship with the Club.

Apologies, minutes of the last meeting accepted. There were no matters arising that were not in the main agenda.

Season tickets – sales & PR strategy:
 Tony Scholes gave an overview of season ticket sales to date. There had been sales of just over 8000 tickets in comparison to 9400 last year, equating to a 14% drop at this point. The Club were overall however delighted at the figure, and he recognised the value to sales of suggestions such as ‘introduce a friend’ that had come from the Forum. He reviewed the 3 months taken to develop the pricing policy and sales strategy. The Club decided on the use of a centre page pullout in the Sentinel because there would seem to have been a larger target audience, though there had been a delay in the Sentinel producing the pullout. In addition, the season ticket details and application form were placed on the Club website, plus copies of the pull-out available at the two home games during the early bird period (Rotherham/Cardiff), however there would seem to have been a problem in distributing them at the games. Overall the Club believe the strategy was right, majoring on the value of the offer with the cheapest prices in the Championship, the £20 season ticket, and the introduce a friend offer, etc.

Underpinning the ticket sales had of course been the recent disappointments, which had completely overshadowed our early season expectations, plus other Club, and team issues, which had entered into the public domain. One of which was the manager’s contract situation, and because this had not been resolved during the early bird period it was decided to extend the deadline date.

Forum members expressed their recognition of the consultation that had taken place with the Club in formulating pricing and sales strategy for the coming season.

However there were also frank views expressed about the PR strategy, team performance influences and perceptions about the Board that may have affected total sales. Concern was expressed about the worry of an underlying bias at the Sentinel against Stoke City.

Several points were discussed that in hindsight may have influenced the sales total of season tickets. Tony Scholes expressed the wish and intent to improve on PR and customer relation issues during this coming year, as well as pursuing an active policy of  ‘pulling the Club together’ in terms of supporter expectations and a much more positive communication policy with the fans.

As for the structure and pricing of new season tickets for 2005/6 both the Club and the Forum believed that it had been relatively well received with very few complaints, the concept of trying to maintain an attractive price for the first sales deadline was considered to have been, once again, very successful.

The main issues of concern were (once again) the credit/debit card surcharges, which are outside the Clubs control.

There was also the timescale of the sales period (which unfortunately covered 2 home defeats), which caused some concern, and not sending renewal letters out to current ticket holders. The Club and the Forum agreed that they would begin consultation in January of next year regarding season ticket prices and sales strategies for the 06/07 season.

Review of meeting with stadium caterers:
The Club ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE for the catering facilities at the Britannia Stadium, a fact which the Club which to make quite clear to all of the supporters, an independent catering company ‘Azure’, are responsible for all the catering issues and functions.

Fans Forum members and a representative of Stoke City however recently held a productive meeting with Azure on all issues associated with catering and drinks provision. Having raised a number of comments from supporters particularly about food availability during a match, Azure explained the mechanics and constraints of food production at such a venue. For example, some food such as chips has a very limited life on the shelf and therefore has to be produced ‘on time’. The production was therefore aimed at the peak periods, e.g. half time. There was discussion on how to communicate this to customers, so that instead of being told “we don’t have any” it should be made clear that the food is in preparation rather than not actually available. In addition there was some discussion with Azure about improving the use of Delilah’s bar, and using that facility more for organised functions, particularly for supporters groups.

Forum representatives raised an issue on what appeared to supporters to be heavy-handed stewarding against a fan that had entered the playing area during the Sheffield United match. Tony Scholes accepted and recognised the seriousness of the incident and agreed to undertake further investigation.

Alcohol consumption in the seating areas:
Complaints had been received by the Forum about supporters taking alcoholic drinks out of the concourse areas and into the seated areas, where it is not allowed, and what could/should be done to solve the problem without causing any potential aggressive reaction from supporters that are not observing this rule. The discussion raised some issues that could occur next season when the smoking ban is to be introduced in various sections of the Stadium. There was a discussion about the issues and how to discourage the practice, all agreed that drinking and smoking outside the designated areas cannot be condoned.

Pepperami promotion:
The ‘pepperami’ promotion at a home game raised some concerns from the Forum, similar incidents at other stadia had actually been previously been reported to the F.A.

John Booth explained that they had explored all the issues beforehand and were content for the promotion to continue; it provided income for the club and something for the fans. However the Club are to investigate why some of the snacks available at the game were a day out of date!

Children’s age thresholds:
It had been noted that there were some inconsistencies in pricing thresholds for children for say match tickets to meal in the stadium prices. Tony Scholes recognised that consistency was important and he would look into the matter.    

Information/support from Club staff/training needs:
The Forum reported occasional incidents that had caused frustration for some supporters, and raised the issue of how to improve the overall level of service from the Club. Tony Scholes
acknowledged all of the issues and the need to address staff training in particular.

The issue of matchday ticket availability was also discussed particularly for away games. We questioned whether away tickets could be sold at the Hanley Store (or even other outlets around the city). Tony Scholes and Richard Potts agreed to take this away for further investigation, though there are some identifiable difficulties that would need to be overcome. There is some hope that future combined sales/ticketing systems could be an avenue for investigation.

The Forum raised the issue of availability (or lack of) of clothing ranges/sizes for Club products, particularly important if the Club is trying to encourage an increase in their younger supporters. Again this has been recognised and will be looked at when a new business manager for the Club outlets has been appointed.

Website liaison:
The Forum now have a volunteer to assist the Club in identifying and inaccuracies or missing items on the official website, Tony Scholes welcomed that assistance.

Any Other Business:
Guest tickets; The Forum raised some of the issues around the use of the ‘guest ticket’ availability for away supporters cardholders. There was a frank discussion and all sides agreed that the use of the guest ticket is not meant to be a way of circumventing the principles of the away supporters card. There are of course still a number of sensitivities over the card and that needed to be reflected in the use of the guest tickets.

The position of the Club is well known, and the matter is still under current review and consideration at this moment in time.

Foot, Aim, Shoot!
With the latest comments coming from the Chairman of Stoke Holdings regarding the Manager, the Forum made a number of observations about the way the Club seem to continue to want to shoot itself in both feet. The Chief Executive noted the comments.

Again the meeting with the Chief Executive was conducted in a positive and co-operative manner, and the Forum members expressed their view that there is now a much more professional and encouraging response from the Club with the aim of improving the many elements of the matchday experience at the Britannia Stadium and acknowledging the need for better communications with the supporters.