Minuted by: Andy Regan
MANCHESTER UNITED FOOTBALL CLUB
SUPPORTERS’ CONSULTATIVE FORUM
Minutes from the Meeting held at Old Trafford, 11.00am
Saturday 20th March 2004.
Attendees (in alphabetical order):-
Andrews, Wendy – Club Member
Blaber, Barbara – Season Ticket Holder
Burbidge, Derek – Over 65 Year Old Supporter
Castle, Graham – Branch Representative
Downs, Phil – MUDSA
Draper, Peter – Group Marketing Director, MUFC
Evans, Karl – Director of Venue, MUFC
Gill, David – Chief Executive, MUFC
Hampshire, Sally – Branch Representative
Harding, Anthony – Family Stand Season Ticket Holder
Hepworth, Charles – Season Ticket Holder
Hirst, Gary – Shareholders United
Humby, Nick – Finance Director, MUFC
Hyland, Neil – Club Member
Longden, Mark - IMUSA
Malhotra, Amit – 16-21 Year Old Supporter
Mowl, Peter – Season Ticket Holder
Ramsden, Ken – Assistant Secretary, MUFC
Regan, Andy – Forum Chair, Electoral Reform Services
Sevren, Malcolm – Private Box and Executive Suite Member
Simpson, Maxine – Club Member
Townsend, Phil – Director of Communications, MUFC
White, John – Branch Representative
Anson, Andy – Commercial Director, MUFC
Wackrill, Vas – IMUSA
(A) MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING AND MATTERS ARISING
Chair: Welcome to Phil Townsend, the Club’s new Communications Director. Club: Phil has worked for various Sports Ministers and been involved with some of the major projects in this country in recent years. Andy Anson has also started with the Club as Commercial Director and will hopefully attend some of the meetings.Chair: It is worth reviewing how fans can propose new topics for the agenda. It is important that there is an opportunity for this, but it can be difficult to tell if a few e-mails represent the majority views of fans between Forums, in proposing additional topics.Fans: It is still probably the best way of gauging opinion. Perhaps the best method is to go over the proposed agenda items for the next meeting at the end of each one. We also need to ensure that there is a productive outcome where decisions need to be made/ opinions canvassed.Club: Our main concern was that ticketing doesn’t come up at every meeting though. We want to discuss a broad range of issues here. That apart, the proposed change is fine.Fans: From the last minutes, was there a change in CL ticket allocation policy following the Real Madrid game? Some members want it changed to reward loyalty.Club: The voucher scheme is still used for away games (it’s not a paper system though). But there is no point in sending out tickets to those who don’t want to come to a particular match.Fans: Concerning the Family Stand in the last minutes: The minutes should read that those moving into the Stand are given only LMTBs and not season tickets. There is still an issue of how to better promote the Forum interacting with other fans. We should look at this at the last meeting when the Forum is reviewed anyway. We should consider looking at media channels regularly in terms of both the Forum’s communication with fans and as consumers of the Club’s media.Re. smoking, it would be useful to have announcements on the tannoys to accompany the signs. The signs could be in more prominent positions at least.Re. the rumours concerning the Club’s ownership. Are there any developments?Club: The offer period is on-going until Mr Glazier makes a further statement, or we/ the financial authorities ask him to. Interim results are coming out soon and we’ll see what happens then. There certainly hasn’t been any statement made that the major shareholders are acting in concert.Fans: The Shareholders United website provides some more background on the situation.Club: On other matters from the last meeting, re. away match vouchers, we will barcode them.Fans: Re. the Club looking into disabled facilities in the US venues, we will be getting more information for the next tour.Also re. having coat hooks in all the toilets, they are being arranged.
The Club will look into further publicising the no-smoking requests.
(B) TICKETING ISSUES: FEEDBACK FROM THE LAST MEETING AND THE AWAY MATCH SCHEME
Club: In the last meeting, a possible ticket “swap shop” was mentioned for those who have a spare ticket. We would like to try that on a small basis first. There is the possibility of a small administrative charge certainly as we would be paying to provide a service. We don’t know what the market might be. Hopefully the ticket tout market will be diminished to some extent by this.Fans: We understand that there are many difficult issues surrounding a swap shop. Some fans may be honest in that they can’t make a specific match, whilst some season ticket/ LMTB holders may try and get a refund for a number of matches where they know they won’t be able to attend many of them but want to retain their privileges. One possibility would be to credit the amount for refunds against the purchase of a future season ticket. Likewise no fan buying a re-sold ticket should have to pay more than the standard price anyway.It’s certainly unfair for fans to be penalised for trying to sell on their tickets for face value.Club: We won’t be able to handle returns on the day though. It is also important to stress that it would depend on the Club being able to sell the tickets a second time, as to whether we agree to buy them back. Members applying originally will be re-balloted for returns.Re. ticket prices for next season. We haven’t finalised them yet. In order to notify the Forum first if at all possible, we will try and hold a short additional meeting prior to the next official Forum.Fans: A price ticket freeze would still be welcome by many fans, especially in the light of dividend payments to shareholders. That suggests there is spare money that could be re-channelled.Club: There will be a drop in Sky payments next year, so that will have to be taken into account.Fans: Is the Club looking into how fans could get a ticket as an individual, and as part of a Club trip for the Rangers match? Would a fan giving personal information to EBay have their details forwarded to the Club?Club: We would find out probably for most of them. But we wouldn’t have details passed directly from EBay. Re. the away ticket scheme, the Club has generally received a positive response. At least it provides a very clear situation and set of criteria for fans. For those in the loyalty pot, applicants are successful for around 85-90% of matches. There is a risk of those getting tickets then selling them onto touts, but that can happen anyway. We don’t want stewards looking for ID on away ticket holders in the ground.In respect to spare places in the loyalty pot, 114 have not applied for at least one ticket so far this season. There were 1,458 in the loyalty pot at the start of the season, so if the 114 are excluded, we would be down to 1,344 for next season.Fans: It seems unfair to penalise those who have only missed one match, but that is the rule at present. There again, it is important to top up the number in the loyalty pot to prevent the same people having tickets for ever more. We need to decide how fans move from one grouping to another.Another possibility would be a sliding scale so that those applying for 100% get 90% of tickets, those applying for 90% get 80% of tickets etc. for instance. It would also be beneficial to encourage children to be able to apply, but there are not the spare tickets.(The Forum voted in favour by majority of the following changes to the system from the end of the season:-- An increase to 1,500 for next season was rejected. The number will be kept at 1,458, so there are 114 places to fill.- Those who have applied for all matches in the general list for this season, as well as those missing no more than one application from the general list or the loyalty pot for this season, will go into a ballot for the places freed up by those in the loyalty pot not applying for all matches this season.- A fan in the loyalty pot cannot in the future miss one match and automatically stay in the pot, I.e. continuation of the present system in that respect.)Fans: Some supporter groups would want to look at this and may want to return to the subject at the next Forum.On another ticketing issue, for the FA Cup semi-final why can’t fans be able to choose their ideal price band when applying? That seems like good customer service, allowing for the fact that a specific price band may be sold out when applying.For European matches, if the automatic telephone system is used, can there be loyalty preference involved? What if someone has sold their ticket on but wants the loyalty points?Club: Loyalty is taken into account in European matches in the ballot. We already carry out substantial checks of vouchers etc.Fans: Will you be doing branch applications by paper for future European matches?Club: We are undecided on that yet.Fans: Re. the disabled away supporters facility, we only received seven spaces in total at Manchester City. We have been in contact with the stadium officials there. The FAPL will be laying down guidelines for all clubs soon, hopefully.
Club to announce the date of a mini-Forum meeting for ticketing.
The Club will get back to the individual fan who raised the issue.
Forum to ratify these decisions at the next meeting. The Club will look into this possibility.
Club: We now think of companies with whom we work as partners rather than sponsors. We are not being given money for nothing, and have to offer an attractive product in return. Our current partners contribute about £34-£35 million per year. The overall relationships with the clients are important and we have six staff working on them.We sit below the major championships in football, but are in a very healthy state compared to other football clubs. We don’t just work automatically with organisations who pay the most, but also look at our potential branding worldwide by working with specific companies. This was the case with choosing to work with Budweiser for instance. We want visibility in other markets, not just the financial benefits. This may not seem important to some fans on a match day, but clearly helps subsidise the team.Anyone involved in this area knows how difficult it is to raise money. There have also been cutbacks in such outlay by many large corporations. At present we have ten partners and work with a few other companies in the financial services sector. We would rather keep the number of partners quite limited and try to give them maximum exposure instead. Advertisers obviously want the maximum audience, so seemingly small aspects, such the visibility of perimeter advertising, are vital.With some of our partners we can get practical help back as well, such as data management partners who assist with our capture of supporter information.We have had 20 promotions in as many countries in the past year. Nike put our products in 60 countries straight away for instance.We believe in building relationships over time – so we tend to have at least three year contracts. We are developing rights for two years time, based on reviewing entirely what we can offer. We have digital boards for advertising rather than revolving boards for instance. We are refining them to move up and down as well. We acknowledge that the advertising shouldn’t detract from the match but should enhance enjoyment.Fans: Given that UNICEF don’t monitor minimum ages and conditions on child employment, what does the Club do?Club: We look into the issue ourselves, as well as our partners taking the issue seriously. In fact some of our partners will only employ those who are at least a year older than the minimum working age in that country. Although UNICEF will not certify anything, they do work on the issue with major employers. We cannot guarantee that such things are not happening anywhere in the world, but work really hard to try and prevent it.Fans: Amongst the direct benefits are the Ability Suite, which has benefited from partnership money.Some of the service with partners can be poor though, such as MU Travel. It is really important that the Club monitors their products carefully.Club: We are very conscious that our fans are customers and do monitor the products carefully. We tried the MU Travel service ourselves and were impressed. But we welcome feedback that helps us enhance the services.
(D) TRAVEL TO THE STADIUM/ STADIUM ISSUES
Fans: Can the Club better publicise the hotels that are in the area for fans to use for home matches?Club: We have already amended the website to reflect that.Fans: Re. transport to the stadium. At the station here, train adverts are out of date, the website has no details. There are four trains an hour from the ground, and for evening games times are of no assistance.Club: We are aware of the problems, including a broken turnstile, and have tried constantly to get the points across. We’ve also known fans to be locked out of the platform due to lack of a key.Travel will be a key issue with any proposed enlargement of the stadium: the Green Travel Plan would be part of the project, reducing the number of cars used for matches.Re. the increased capacity, we announced that we are considering the options as we were involving more partners and the story was starting to gain attention. The enlargement would be 7,500 seats with a combination of standard and executive seats. But no final decision has been made on the project.
F) ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Fans: We have been involved in consulting fans in the away loyalty scheme as to why they stand at matches(results were circulated).Fans had the option of responding by name or anonymously. 41% said they prefer to stand ideally, with 25% stating that they would keep standing in the future. A working party is being proposed at present in order to address the issue.However, the issue of standing still needs raising by the Club on a national level, and it would be good for the Club to take a lead on it.Club: We have no plans to launch a campaign but will continue to work to ensure that our fans do sit as we don’t want our away allocations reduced in the future. Having said that, we think it totally unfair that the Club is singled out for reduced allocations. We don’t believe our fans are the only ones who occasionally stand up. Villa Park should not have been chosen as the semi-final venue if they could not accommodate our fans in our full allocation.Fans: Thanks to the Club for not moving the FA Cup semi-final to Cardiff.Chair: The proposed topics at the next meeting will be away ticketing/ safe standing assuming we have the attendance of an FAPL representative, and a talk on nutrition and fitness issues at Carrington. We will be in contact when the date of the meeting can be confirmed.
The meeting finished at 1.20pm.