Minuted by: Andy Regan
MANCHESTER UNITED FOOTBALL CLUB
SUPPORTERS’ CONSULTATIVE FORUM
Minutes from the Meeting held at Carrington & Old Trafford, 9.45am
Saturday 24th April 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
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
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
Wackrill, Vas – IMUSA
White, John – Branch Representative
Clegg, Mike - Fitness Coach, MUFC (Carrington)
Johnson, Simon – Director of Legal & Business Affairs, FAPL
Lee, Trevor – Dietician, MUFC (Carrington)
Anson, Andy – Commercial Director, MUFC
Draper, Peter – Group Marketing Director, MUFC
Townsend, Phil – Director of Communications, MUFC
(A) DISCUSSION RE. PLAYER FITNESS & NUTRITION (AT CARRINGTON)
Club: FITNESS - Mike Clegg is responsible for upto 70 players, having started coaching here with the Under-17s and Under-19s. Fitness coaching includes a range of aspects, including aerobic and cardio-vascular work. Free weights are used as well.
Pre-season, the emphasis is usually on technical and power work. When injuries occur, players tend to work with the physiotherapist first, and then return to general fitness work.
The balance for players is always between skills and fitness work. Relaxation to allow muscles to recover is also crucial, just as is making training enjoyable.
NUTRITION: The canteen at Carrington serves a healthy balance of meals, all checked by the dietician. Players in particular need carbohydrates. The day of a match is too late for the body to take in the right balance, so the emphasis is on continually ensuring that players base their intake on forthcoming matches. When players are injured, calorie intakes are reduced. All of the players keep a food intake diary at some point in the season.
On a match day a meal is provided three hours before kick-off. For morning matches, some players still choose to eat a full meal. Drinks are provided to restore fluid levels as fast as possible after a match (to keep blood thin) – some players eat straight after as well.
Any food prepared from outside, such as at away match hotels, is monitored, with preparatory guidelines sent in advance.
The canteen at Carrington is designed to make food appealing as well as low-fat and healthy, in the hope that players will eat there for lunch.
Cooking lessons are given to junior players to ensure that they eat healthily at home, whilst even players wives are encouraged to ensure that the right type of meals are served away from the ground.
As regards alcohol, no special advice is needed these days as players are fully aware of the standard of professionalism needed to compete on the pitch.
(B) MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING AND MATTERS ARISING
Chair: Welcome to Simon Johnson from the FAPL.
Unfortunately we will not have time to visit the Ability Suite this season, so this will be scheduled for early next season.
Club: Re MU Travel discussed last time, the issue has been resolved with them.
Re the Buyback ticket system discussed last time, we are hoping it will be in place next season, but details have not been finalised.
Fans: Re smoking, there aren’t signs in the disabled area. In the rest of the ground, it seems to be having an effect generally.
Re ratifying the decisions at the last meeting concerning the Away Loyalty pot for last season, a letter has been received by a fan criticising our decisions. However, the Forum will proceed with what has been agreed for next season after discussion last time.
Fans: We discussed the possibility of offering price ranges to those fans successful in a ballot for matches. With the Cup Final coming up is this possible?
Club: We will try and introduce this if there is time. Certainly fans in the loyalty pot with all Cup games will get a ticket. We should have an allocation of around 28,000. Cheaper tickets are for families, but we anticipate few children who would qualify.
Fans: Those with children would certainly appreciate the opportunity for these at the Cup Final, if possible. Why is the banding for Cardiff different to previously?
Club: We don’t have any control over Cup Final prices.
Fans: Re the ticket prices announced at our mini-meeting, the Forum seemed to have little real influence – we only seemed to act as a sounding board.
Club to ensure that anti-smoking signs/ announcements are prominent everywhere.
Club to try and introduce choice of tickets for the Cup Final, if possible.
(C) CONSTITUTION OF THE FORUM FOR NEXT SEASON
(Document circulated on the Club’s proposals.)
Club: The basis of these recommendations is that we want to take the Forum forward. We needed to set up a system with independent chairing initially, but with greater trust now with the fans as far as we see it, we would like to take more ownership directly. There are also space and practicality issues to consider on a match-day.
Fans: Ticketing is one of the central issues of the Forum and it is really important that we pay that a great deal of attention. We would also like to see changes to the minutes – less anonymity is needed as to individual comments.
It is important that we decide on this today quite simply so that new members joining the Forum know what they are letting themselves in for.
The fact that the agenda for each subsequent meeting is reviewed at the end of each previous meeting is vital. There seems to be a real problem of fitting in all the subjects in-depth that we want to discuss. How about a move to non-match days for meetings to allow longer discussion time and to get round the problem of finding space at Old Trafford for meetings?
It is also worth the Club providing the results of fans surveys to the Forum in order for us to have a better idea of how other fans think about issues we discuss, and for us to be able to propose issues for the survey.
There is a clear lack of communication between the Forum and fans anyway.
VOTES FOR CHANGES NEXT SEASON:-
1) For the Chief Executive to take over the chairmanship next season: For -10, Against – 2, To decide next season – 2.
2) To move Forum meetings from a weekend to a weekday in order to meet for longer: For – 12, Against – 4, Balance of weekend match days and non-weekend days - 1, To decide next season – 0.
3) Minutes to be in synopsis format for the Club programme. The synopsis to be agreed by the Forum before publication: For – 10, Against – 4, To decide next season – 2.
4) Comments in the minutes to be attributable to a named individual (if they don’t object): For – 15, Against – 0, To decide next season – 1.
In the light of the last decision, the following Club proposals are withdrawn:- the need to move meetings away from Old Trafford; to reduce Forum meetings from four to three per season and introduce an open question and answer session; reducing the number of Forums in which ticketing is a central topic.
(Following this discussion, a presentation was made to the six members of the Forum who are being replaced for next season.)
Club to introduce more interaction between the Forum and the fans survey.Club to also review other communication channels with fans for next season.
(D) THE FAPL: MUFC ALLOCATIONS FOR AWAY MATCHES/ STANDING ISSUE/ TV MATCH TIMES/ DISABLED ALLOCATIONS
Guest: As a starting point, each Club has to provide at least 10% or 3,000 seats – whichever is the lesser – has to be given to the away Club. However, this has become a problematic issue in some cases as allocations have occasionally been reduced due to persistent standing by away fans. For the away match at Charlton for instance, the local Council got involved, along with Charlton’s Safety Officer.
We agreed a season’s monitoring, whereby at each game, the issue would be observed. Standing is an issue as safety authorities believe it is unsafe, leads to increased public disorder, and inconveniences those around. We don’t necessarily agree, but they are responsible for the issue. Our monitoring shows that the Club is one of 7 Premiership clubs and 2 in Division One, where the majority of their away fans stand for the majority of games. The safety authorities are threatening to reduce allocations as a consequence next season.
There will be a meeting for the existing FAPL, the three clubs coming up next season, and the other two Division One clubs to try and agree a programme, including examining the attitude of supporters, the influence of ticketing or stewarding. Possibly we could decide that seats around gangways are not sold, for instance.
Fans: The issue came to a head in the Sturm Gratz game, with a report by Trafford Borough Council prepared by CW Atkins between 2001-2002. IMUSA have seen the interim report. The report concluded that although standing is not as safe as sitting, there was a recognition that fans will stand, and that standing at times of high excitement are the most dangerous times. Persistent standing was stated as being less dangerous than entering or leaving the ground. We want to know why the final report wasn’t published.
Also, certain positions in the ground were viewed in the report as being less safe, such as some top tier seats. One recommendation was that the most sedentary groups should sit there – we don’t know why that aspect was apparently not included in the final report.
Club: For the record, we didn’t have the report suppressed. The Club saw the interim report, and on our recommendation some aspects were withdrawn, aspects that were accepted by the consultants.
Fans: We have been refused a copy officially.
Guest: I have only seen press reports about it, but will request a copy from the Council.
Fans: We would want to be involved in the Clubs’ forthcoming meeting on this.
Guest: It’s not a meeting for fans to attend, but we have to move quickly on this issue to have something in place for next season. We need strong arguments for standing being sufficiently safe - we will take most of our guidance from safety officers.
Fans: Some Clubs clearly want the money from our away fans but do nothing to control the fans. There is sometimes a lack of responsibility by clubs. It is really important that our fans are heard before seat allocations are reduced – we have already surveyed fans about the issue.
Re strong arguments for the safety of what is happening, the issue has to be linked with safe standing areas. If fans want to stand, and there are seats that make the situation more dangerous, surely the football world should be trying to find a logical solution with safe standing areas. Fans have to be listened to and we are not included in the official process of reviewing the issue at all at present. Few clubs seem to want to take the lead on this issue.
We would also want to see clear evidence of our fans causing more danger than other fans.
Guest: The Football Licensing Authority and the local safety officers have responsibility, so if there is any doubt about safety issues, they are almost certain to play safe and not take any risks. The Government leave implementation of present rules to them, and are not interested in introducing safe standing areas – there is a complete lack of political will.
UEFA has just published criteria that all clubs playing in European competition cannot use standing areas at all.
As much hard evidence about the issue – especially regarding what fans are already doing about it – will provide backing for our case on this for next season.
Fans: We would also like to ask about kick-off times. There are so many non-traditional kick-off times at present for our Club. We understand that there is a rule in place that live TV matches cannot be at a 3 o’clock on a Saturday, but surely there is going to be a negligible effect on attendances at other games.
Guest: We know from our research that most fans want 3pm on a Saturday for the majority of matches. We have had 106 live matches this season and last season. We signed up to a regulation in Europe that there is a time we will not show a live match, and that’s 3-5pm on a Saturday. (Different countries nominate different times.) We think there is a duty to clubs for this to happen – especially smaller clubs whose attendances may suffer.
Last summer, the European Commission asked us to ensure that a larger number of matches are live on TV – the debate nearly resulted in an end to collective selling of rights. The compromise is that the number will go up to 138 TV matches per season.
Next season live TV matches will be Saturdays: 12.45 & 5.15, Sundays: 2.00 & 4.05, Mondays: 8pm. In any one weekend only four of those will be used. After that, the police are involved and they don’t want high-profile matches on a Saturday evening.
Fans: But with the two kick-off times on a Saturday, those times will affect crowds at matches anyway.
Re disabled fans – there is often no way of getting to early kick-off times, so some recognition of this would be welcome. Also for disabled fans, we have frequently not had 10% of the disabled places allocation at away matches.
Guest: We are looking into that second point to standardise allocations for disabled fans.
Fans: Is there any progress in having more notification of changed kick-off times?
Guest: We do try to now. Unfortunately with the variable of knock-out rounds in European competitions later in the season, sometimes changes have to be made quite late. But there is a 6 week minimum announcement time for TV fixtures.
Chair: Thanks to Simon for coming along.
The Club’s Safety Officer would be able to address a meeting in the future.
E) ANY OTHER BUSINESS
The meeting finished at 1.45pm.
Fans: Re ticket prices, if everyone pays by Switch for their renewals etc, the fans will pay c.£600,000 - £750,000. What will the Club be charged for this? We can find suppliers who would charge a lot less. Also, do the Club realise that fans could pay in small sums of money or small cheques to get round the charge?
Club: We would hope that the latter does not become a factor, but they have that right.
We have to pay 3% on Barclaycard transactions for a start. The fundamental issue is that we have to make a certain amount of money to run the Club. 45% of additional money we are raising from ticket prices will come from the 10% of Executive boxes etc.
Fans: To charge £50,000 for distributing Cup Final tickets seems ridiculous though.
As a percentage charge generally on match tickets, this is especially unfair on those paying for cheaper tickets.
Club: Re fans chants, some are obscene. Such language shouldn’t be tolerated.
Fans: What is the situation with the tickets found at the addresses of alleged terrorists the other day?
Club: That story came from a newspaper report. The police said they hadn’t found any tickets.
(Two fans volunteered to discuss Forum issues on MUTV for this week).
Chair: Wishes the Forum well for next season in the event that ERS are not able to provide administrative services.
Club happy to discuss administration charges next season.
Club: Eradicating obscene language from games to be discussed next season.
The meeting finished at 1.45pm.