Stoke City Fans Forum
Meeting with Club Chief Executive, Tuesday 2nd August ‘05
Club Guest Suite, Britannia Stadium
Terry Hughes Chair, Fans Forum
Ken Moreton Vice-Chair
Laurence King Secretary
Shaun Fynn Treasurer
Brian Shaw Stoke City Supporters Club
Tony Tams Stoke City Supporters Club
John Slaney Knypersley & Biddulph Supporters Club
Andy Harrison The Potters Trust
Paul Barker Scwim (Stoke City Wheels in Motion)
Apologies: none received
This was the first full meeting between your Forum and the Club before the start of the new season.
Ticketing, and other matchday issues: Following past confusion or lack of information on ticket prices, availability, etc, the Forum sort assurances that there would be improvements for this season. Tony Scholes (TS) focussed on the SCFC official website being the main source of accessible Club information which should always be kept up to date. The ‘guest ticket’ arrangement for holders of supporters cards for away games will also continue for this season.
Reception at Away Grounds: For all clubs, particularly the ones new to the Championship, the Club intend to communicate with them to attempt to ensure an agreeable reception for supporters, following the unsatisfactory reception that has occasionally been experienced at past away games. In addition, the Club, along with Staffs Police, will meet with some individual clubs and their associated police forces to promote good relationships and build upon the turnaround in the behaviour and reputation of the away support. [The Forum will also take up an offer to meet Staffs Police though the Club to discuss home matchday policing issues].
Stewarding: The Forum asked about improving the relationship between fans and stewards which can also be crucial to the matchday experience. TS said that it was about appropriate training for Stoke City Club stewards, and keeping the use of external stewards to a minimum, in seeking to ensure a high standard. For stewards at away clubs, it is about continuing to communicate the significant turnaround in the reputation of travelling fans and emphasise the need for a friendly and positive relationship.
Fixture lists, and game ‘categorisation’: The matchday prices for home games have been held at last seasons prices, except for a few changes to ensure consistency around the ground and stands. However, this year a new system of ‘premium’ and ‘discount’ prices will be introduced based on the “attractiveness” of some of the fixtures during the season. This means that based on the standard matchday prices there may be a £2 premium or £2 discount for a particular game. The aim will be to balance the number of premium games with an equal number of discount games, and it is intended to identify such games well in advance and in fixture lists (the games will be categorised as A – premium, B – standard, C – discount). This pricing system will also apply to disabled prices.
Away Supporters Membership Scheme: The Forum pointed out that the old format for application forms was still on the website. TS agreed that should have been changed, and would address it.
Club Shops, merchandise range availability: Following last season’s criticisms, TS said that a considerable amount of work has been done during the summer to improve range availability within some limits imposed due to required production runs – though he would review individuals’ requirements where there was a request. The Club were looking at introducing a mobile retail facility to cover the north and east areas of the ground designed to complement the Club shop and access to merchandise for fans on matchdays. As for the Hanley shop, a PC terminal would be installed to improve access to Club information available from that location. The FF asked if the sale of away tickets could also be investigated for the Hanley shop which would assist convenience to fans.
Introduction of No Smoking Areas in the Ground: Following survey requests from fans, large areas of the Stands will no longer permit smoking from the beginning of this season. The Forum identified that this will be a sensitive issue as it is introduced, and there needs to be clear signs within those areas. TS recognised the issue and reported that stewards would be given a briefing prior to the new season, but emphasised that the restriction will be applied in the designated areas.
Academy: A number of meetings were held with the FF, the Stoke Supporters Club, the Potters Trust and a local business man during the summer on the future of the Stoke City Academy. The future is secure for the coming season, and further work is taking place to ensure the financial resource required beyond that. It is welcome to see a ‘return’ on Ben Foster, an Academy graduate, and the inclusion of more of the younger players in pre-season (perhaps due to the arrival of a new manager and his stated belief in developing young talent?).
“City Seven’s” Initiative: TS reported that having researched the demography of the Britannia home supporters it was clear that something had to be done to increase the number of under 18 year olds which was proportionately very low. There will be various initiatives to improve this, with the major programme being the “city seven’s”. Through the Local Education Authority, and with the co-operation of schools, an attractive package has been put together by the Club aimed at 7yr olds to introduce and interest the youngsters to the Club. As a follow on, the current ‘Junior Potters’ scheme is also being redesigned to ensure contact with and interest through the junior years of, hopefully, a new and continuing generation of Stoke City supporters. The Forum welcomed this worthy approach by the Club.
“Junior Fans Forum”: Not to be outdone!!! the members of the Forum had recognised at the end of last season the need to involve not only the adult supporters in issues about their Club but also the formative younger generation. We are establishing the ‘junior FF’, there will be an age limit of 16 years, it will meet on a regular basis and a ‘representative‘ will then attend the main FF meetings. The junior forum will be lead by Rob Stanway of the FF, and there will be a contact with the Club who support the initiative.
Fans Forum Newsletter: This has been under consideration for some time but has been delayed by other commitments. However, the Club is currently reviewing the layout and content of the matchday programmes. In the discussion with TS it was suggested that current supporter contributors, ie the Forum, and the Official Supporters Club, could consider changing from very short contributions in every programme to much more in depth articles but over a less regular period than every game. This has some merit in probably being able to reach a larger target audience on issues that all the supporters groups (including the Potters Trust, SCWIM, etc) may wish to describe. The onus is now of course on the groups through the Forum to produce interesting and informative articles. In addition however, TS recognised that there was a continuing need for the Club to assist in advertising supporter organisations, and their Club associated pre-arranged events, on a regular and consistent basis in all programmes.
AOB: Vehicle and pedestrian access to the Trentham Lakes site and the Britannia Stadium was discussed due the current road development on the A50 in particular. All supporters are encouraged to perhaps allow a little more time in getting to the ground especially for games anticipating large crowds. More care in the effected areas should also be exercised.
TS raised the issue of the ‘Pot of Gold’ lottery scheme run by the Club, of which there seemed to be mixed awareness. (There are currently 6000 members, money can be paid direct debit if supporters wish, cost is approximately £4.33p per month, weekly max prize £2000?). TS wished to expand the promotion of the scheme along with a new “50/50” matchday draw (so called because 50% of the income will go into prize money), there is a need to increase the number of agents (for whom there are some benefits) and of course members or matchday participants. Further discussion will take place on these issues.
Meeting with stadium caterers ‘Azure’, has been arranged for the 11th August with the FF to address issues on provision of all things catering for supporters and visitors around and within the stadium.
Summary: The meeting continued the useful, frank and productive discussion with the Chief Executive that started last season. Though there is much to be done to improve the Club, the Forum welcome the constructive changes and initiatives introduced so far.
The Forum and all the participant supporters groups would welcome your membership and participation during this coming challenging season. We will be advertising how to contact them shortly.