CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB FANS’ FORUM
2022-23, 1st MEETING MINUTES
Meeting held in the Clarke Suite/ Teams at 6.30pm on Thursday 6th October 2022
Attendees Club title/ group represented
Atkins, Steve Club Director of Communications and Public Affairs
Barrett, Neil UK supporters club
Beckwith, Gary 65 and over
Brand, Michelle Chelsea Supporters Group (“CSG”)
Broadbent, Dean Hospitality
Brown, Peter LGBTQI+
Daine, Nav Regional Manager for Retail Operations at Levy
Fatah, Kozhin Ethnically and culturally diverse
Finkelstein, Daniel Club Director
Fortag, Zack 16-21s
Goodbrand, Christine Female
Kingsmore, Paul Club Director of Operations
Middleton, Pamela UK away scheme
Regan, Andy Forum Chairman
Rosso, Dominic Chelsea Supporters Trust (“CST”)
Smith, Graham Club Head of Ticketing and Supporter Liaison
Stewart, Shaun Family
Warner, Mark UEFA away scheme
Weingarten, Ben Club Planning and Development
Wittich, Margaret Chelsea Supporters Club (“CSC”)
Wolff, Brian Overseas supporters club
Apologies for absence
Evans, Kerrie Chelsea Women Supporters Group
Kirke, Xander Chelsea Pride
Lewis, John Access
Swyer, Craig Home season ticket (“ST”)
Woodcock, Steve Member
(Action points are underlined.)
The Forum Chairman welcomed attendees to the first full meeting of the season. Representatives introduced themselves. Attendees were reminded that the discussions are confidential and only the minutes constitute the official record of the meeting.
MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
There were no changes to the minutes. Matters arising were as follows:
Fans opting out of Club communications
The Club has publicised the implications of opting out of all communications.
The Club confirmed there will be a meeting this season.
Loyalty reward suggestions
The Club said the marketing department is considering the list submitted.
The Club set out its intentions for change in the short term during the meeting in the summer. On the side of the East Stand the iconic Club name has returned. We have introduced a range of food and beverage outlets in the plaza around the ground including Thai and Lebanese food. We are also licensed for alcohol sales there, at present situated around the North West corner.
In the stadium we have new concourse televisions which are excellent quality. They will be operational post-match too.
In the East Stand concourse we have brightened the place up with white paint and bigger screens. Electronic screens have been improved generally.
In the West Lower concourse there are far more big screens and the area is brighter too. Pre-game the screens are attracting fans. In the family area you can buy alcohol in the concourse because fans aren’t facing the pitch.
The entrances to the stadium bowl are all white with a clean look now. We have also taken on feedback that seat number information should be clearer there.
At the back of the Matthew Harding Stand there are big screen TVs in place. We have also improved Dixon’s and Jimmy’s with more personalised looks.
We have “Blue is the Colour” wording above the ticket office. From inside the stadium the look of the hotel and flats above the Shed End is more dynamic. There are improvements to hospitality areas with a more modern and casual feel, with an additional “Champions” area in the Matthew Harding/ East Stand corner in what was previously office space. It accommodates about 22.
For the players the changing rooms have simpler motivational wording on the floor and the room looks brighter.
Outside the West Stand there are new banners with a shimmering wall that appears to change colour. The Chelsea logo has been moved and the windows will have a blue sheen. Above the main away section entrance is a big screen for information and football highlights. By the megastore the shirts on display have been moved from the top to ground level. Retail outlets and the bar are adjacent so you can watch the screen there.
We will have big screens in the East Upper as it’s hard to see the main screens. We had structural engineers work on this to overcome the challenges. A representative complemented the Club on improving general admission (“GA”) areas.
The Club added there will be more to come. Janet Marie Smith and her architect team are working on more initiatives, not least from ideas at our last Fans’ Forum meeting. Bars are open after kick off now and in the Westview concourse you can stay after matches. In the Tea Bar you can have a drink before and after the game. Dixon’s and Jimmy’s are open after. Generally we are trying to move away from just having a small window for F&B consumption and want to become more of a destination. We welcome Forum engagement for this.
We are looking at how fans can drink and smoke outside the Matthew Harding Stand and considering the practicalities. It would have to be for only ticket holders and authorised users, also crowd flow would have to be managed. We won’t allow an away fan or non-ticket holder to access that area.
In response to a question, the Club announced that as well as the Manchester United match being a Rainbow Laces game, there is an ongoing programme that includes information and education on LGBTQI+ issues including events on the pitch as well as having our staff, players and the academy more involved. A representative added that the “rent boy” chant is particularly bad for that match. The Club said it will be making clear to Manchester United that the chant is not acceptable.
A representative said he’d suggested having a screen by the security booth in the Shed Upper. The Club will review this.
In response to a question, the Club confirmed it would be looking at family stand facilities too including the concourse. It was mentioned that the removal of PS4s was not popular. Another representative suggested that water fountains in the family stand would be welcome, not least as an environmental measure. The Club said it’s looking to do this but had to delay implementation during the pandemic.
A representative asked for turnstiles to be reviewed given how long the queues are, particularly in the Matthew Harding Stand. The Club said it would look at this when the stadium is being reviewed. A representative asked that the squad photo opposite the West Stand be reintroduced so fans could have that photo opportunity. The Club will look at that.
In response to a question the Club said Under the Bridge is being used for hospitality and will not be reopening as a venue at present. We are reviewing that longer term. Another representative said the positioning of the open air bars is important as Jimmy’s and Dixon’s are behind those exiting from the West Stand so won’t be noticed by many. The Club said the marketing department are looking at this at present. Another representative said more should be done to advertise facilities during the match and more of an appeal to female fans would be welcome. This would encourage families to spend money around the stadium as well. The Club said it considers such issues.
It was mentioned that some supporters in standing areas join their friends so squash in to less than a seat space per person. This happened in Matthew Harding Lower Gate 8 last night including standing in the aisles and it’s happened in the Shed End. The Club said it will remind stewards about this as each fan should take up one seat space. Another commented that in the Matthew Harding Stand, a fan had alcohol in the stadium. For the Leicester game someone took up that representative’s ST place, a front row seat. Last season it was a more common problem. The Club noted that fans may be tempted to move but shouldn’t do so and it will continue to monitor issues.
A representative said the PA in the Matthew Harding Upper is too loud. The Club is looking to replace it but other fans say they can’t hear. The Club will review this.
It was raised that there is inconsistency over bag sizes as some seem to be admitted with larger bags that officially permitted. Some have to bring laptops home from work. The Club said there were over 400 bags stored yesterday and the queues for dropping off bags has increased, as has happened at other clubs. Bag size is to do with both security and safety so large bags don’t block space in the ground. Another representative said the Club sells the right size bags and Wembley sells a larger bag made of see-through plastic which must be less of a security risk.
A representative suggested it’s pointless having staff asking to see tickets on the way into the ground. Another commented that, from their work on a stadium security group, the measure acts as a deterrent, particularly if you are challenged three times. The Club agreed it’s not fool proof but is part of the deterrence measures as a “soft check”.
The Club was asked what measures are in place to stop adults using child concession tickets in the family stand. It responded there are reviews after each home match as amber should show up for a concession ticket and green for an adult.
A representative raised the issue of how dark it can be exiting the stadium from the West Stand onto Fulham Road. The Club will be looking at this issue with other changes. It wants the stadium to look brighter generally as well addressing the safety issues involved, but has to be careful around the West Stand given the adjacent residential flats.
The Club was told that Matthew Harding Upper block H seat stickers are coming off and will check this.
In response to a question, the Club said there are no plans to change the lifts currently in the Matthew Harding Upper.
A representative said he appreciated the price freeze in Westview but tickets there are still prohibitively expensive. What is the pricing basis for individual match tickets in comparison to the STs there? The Club said ST holders receive a 28% reduction per match whilst individual tickets are £120 and £240. Cup games are now included in the STs. The representative said the ticket exchange appears to show slow sales for £240 tickets there. Everything apart from the top matches are taking longer to sell. The Club responded that the hospitality ticket exchange covers that area. Tickets are selling quickly generally even though some are logging in for them but not completing the transaction. The Westview area was the slowest to sell previously but they are still selling well.
The Club was asked about tiers 2 and 3 there. Fans aren’t sure at what price cup games should be sold for, so guidance for selling cup tickets would be useful. There is a zero sum value for those cup tickets by the Club. The Club will look into this.
A representative said it would be helpful to have the opportunity to pick your own seat or at least area when displaced for a cup match from the Shed End. The Club responded that it’s for reasons of speed as it could take a few hours for the whole process if all fans choose their seat. For West Ham at home we had 18,000 members in the waiting room, which is a record, chasing 5-6,000 members’ tickets. We have lost 1,000 seats for members from the increase of ST holders in Westview and around 200 others moved their ST to elsewhere in the ground. This is the highest renewal rate for many years by ST holders so only 147 new STs were offered to members with the highest number of loyalty points. We have just under 29,000 ST holders and the renewal rate was 98%. Those in Westview were allowed to downgrade this summer due to the price changes. The Club said displaced ST holders for each match have a period to purchase a seat elsewhere.
The Club welcomes specific policy changes for ticketing at the next meeting.
The Trust asked to record that, when the matter was discussed last season, it opposed the option for those in Westview to downgrade STs to other seats around the ground. Another representative said a breakdown per stand of ST holders by gender as well as the adult/ children split would be useful. It would help target facilities to the fans in the stadium. It appears there is a drop in female attendance this season. The Club said it has that breakdown but it’s not clear how publicising it would be of assistance but will consider the request.
The online queuing system is unclear according to a representative. The Club stressed it’s a waiting area and not a queuing system so you have an equal chance if you log on at 9.30 or 9.59. We consider that’s fairer and even if we move to a queuing system you would still be let in and given a random queuing number anyway.
The Club was asked if the system could be changed for a supporter to log in first before buying tickets in order to avoid multiple devices being used. A representative said a user has to accept cookies so that issue may not be a problem. The Club responded that members with four tickets in the family could still use four devices. The Club was asked if the range of available seats could be shown as it takes time to request a stand and then find there aren’t tickets there. It replied that it’s making changes to the ticket exchange so unavailable seats are shown in grey and available seats are shown in blue. We can sell the stadium allocations in 15 seconds if fans just ask for a number of tickets but the delay is that they are locked thereafter for ten minutes for the transaction to be completed. A representative said that at around 10.13 seats can be released because the first transactions didn’t go through.
The Club said bank verification will slow transactions in the future. It doesn’t allocate seats until later. We’re one of the few clubs to handle allocation in-house. Each club runs their internal procedures differently and our objective is to get you out of the waiting room as fast as possible, ideally within half an hour. When each area sells out for home members’ tickets we see fans dropping out from the queue. We are introducing, for any Wembley matches we may get to, a chance to choose which area of each price band you want to sit in.
In response to a question, the Club clarified there is a GA ST scheme and a separate hospitality ST scheme. A block was placed on joining the GA ST away scheme but how hospitality runs their scheme is up to that department. They have 20% of the away allocation for total ST holders even though they have 25% of the seats in the ground, so GA ST holders have proportionately more opportunity to purchase tickets.
The Club welcomes a discussion on the away match split for the next meeting.
The Club added that it doesn’t allow upgrades of concessions in the family stand due to adults trying to get in on a child ticket then upgrading if they are caught. Other changes can be suggested for next season at the next meeting.
There are not many senior tickets around the ground and it has protected the East Stand Lower and Upper. On the ticket exchange a member can’t buy a match by match ticket for a senior in the Matthew Harding Upper so we’ve protected senior tickets in those other areas.
The Club was asked why the Club can’t publicise the exact number of member/ ST tickets available for an away match. The Club will consider this. In previous years the issue was whether we take 1,500 or 3,000 tickets in total from the home club but that changed dramatically as demand increased when tickets were priced at £30.
It was confirmed that if you don’t collect European away match tickets you lose those loyalty points.
The Club explained that loyalty point bands are announced relatively late due to changes implemented after supporter feedback. We used to have certainty of points overnight as they were added by the Club when previously ordered tickets were allocated. However supporters wanted their points added immediately on purchase. As points are changing until the minute new tickets are on sale, we can only work out very late exactly what points band should be available for a new sale. So overnight 400 who could purchase for a particular points band could become 500. The Club is liaising with the Trust and will explain this on the website. It’s already in the Q and As. We will be freezing points at 8am going forward then announcing a points band at 9am. You can see what points are there for your friends and family but the points total is changing overnight.
A representative said it’s been difficult to renew STs and memberships. It would be beneficial to have someone available to contact in the ticket office for those who can’t or don’t want to renew online. The Club said that constitutes a tiny number but we’re moving towards a fully digital process slowly. We had less than 20 who approached us for this season and are happy to support them over the phone. The renewal period for STs was unusually short this season.
It was commented that there was a lot of trouble after the Leeds match last season and there is no separation of fans immediately on leaving stands. That match, as well as Spurs and West Ham this season, have had major VAR incidents at the end which hasn’t helped. Also lighting is poor for evening matches. It generally feels like a menacing atmosphere. Another asked if fans can be held back, adding that an increased police presence would be welcome.
The Club responded that the police assesses risk and Leeds was a high risk match. Incidents around the country are 25% worse. The Club takes action later against transgressors, not least by utilising CCTV, but action may not be carried out during an incident as the situation could be inflamed. Fans shouldn’t have to put up with offensive chants and we have a helpline which we encourage you to use.
A supporter commented that there was a slow decision on the kick-off time for the West Ham match and the same is happening for the forthcoming Manchester United match. There should be a contingency plan, as in both cases it’s known some time before what day the match will be played on.
The Club said it’s a complicated matter involving the clubs, the Premier League (“PL”), the police, local authority, other services and in some cases broadcasters. The police may say a 5.30 kick off is not acceptable in which case the Safety Advisory Group won’t sanction the match. It would be easier for the Club if all is decided long in advance.
A supporter commented that you couldn’t get a train back from Liverpool after the Everton match on the first day of the season. Yet for the Norwich-QPR match there was pushback from those clubs which changed the match timing. The PL doesn’t appear to care about supporter travel and planning for matches.
The Club responded that the PL and broadcasters agree matches early on but then there can be issues with the authorities. A supporter added there may be another event in London for the day of the Manchester United match. The Club added it does push back but if it does so, that can lead to further delays in decision-making.
The Club added there are significant supporter developments at the PL leading to the introduction here of a shadow board. It has suggested the PL needs more communication with fans too. Televised games are important to the finances of the Club. We understand the PL intends to announce the time tomorrow and we can’t answer at this stage if allocation issues may apply. A representative added that our allocation must not be cut at Manchester United if their allocation is affected here. The Club said it pushes very hard on such issues. As regards a forthcoming PL fixture at 7pm on a Sunday, we understand that to be based on timing of a European match though it is certainly unusual.
We won’t go on sale during the Milan away match for Manchester United if the kick off time is confirmed tomorrow.
In response to a question, the Club said we obtain our pies from nominated suppliers and do so partly based on sustainability credentials to reduce our carbon footprint. The removal of beef pies is an example of this. However, based on fans feedback, the Club will add a Pie of the match option moving forward.
The new digital venue and catering app rollout is delayed but the intention is to offer a wider selection of pies as well as inclusive food and drink options in due course. The CFC Express pre-order app will be relaunched.
An extensive range of food and drink will be offered, and we would welcome fan input for the new functionality and offers on the app. This will include more premium offers, value-for-money products as well as dietary options.
Kingsmeadow/ women’s games
It was raised there are empty seats whereas matches are sometimes supposedly sold out. Also the family and friends section appears to have been moved to the regular ST area though it was acknowledged by another representative that you can go past the dividing rope to access both areas. The Club responded that it intends to move to reserve seating next season. Another supporter said a factor may be a clash between men’s and women’s fixtures. The Club added there can be a 50% drop off from those who have tickets there, including those who’ve bought match by match. A dramatic rise in prices would hardly be popular though. We are looking at the possibility of having women’s tickets on the exchange when we get regular sell outs.
The Club said we have a game against Spurs here in November and can’t play any knock-out Champions League matches at Kingsmeadow anyway due to required stadium standards. We are thinking about having a Champions League group match here. A representative added that Kingsmeadow is the women’s team home and that has to be respected.
Training/ European clothing
This can be raised at the Nike meeting.
Policing in Europe
A supporter commented on the fact that problems at away games are still a regular occurrence, often caused by bad policing and stewarding. The home club may say they can’t control policing outside their stadium but the situations are frequently dangerous. Someone could have been killed at our match at Atletico Madrid. Our fans are teargassed a lot. For the Barcelona match there was a substantial amount of feedback collected by the Club; PSG were fined for problems in their disabled area. No real sanctions appear to be implemented though. Another added that the standards here are so much higher. We are treated with contempt at away matches.
The Club said it carries out reconnaissance trips for away matches in Europe, including meeting with the police there. We can raise concerns on record. At PSG, for the second game, we placed two of our stewards in the disabled area to ensure no repeat of problems. Again there are measures in place for Milan next week. Unfortunately we have no control over the sanctions UEFA chooses to impose. We speak to other English clubs and are aware of common problems. For the Barcelona match, the bridge at the centre of many of the problems wasn’t mentioned in the planning at all.
It was raised by a supporter that you can have a positive effect when writing to the mayor of a host city.
The Club confirmed it plans to continue broadcasting academy games. It will check if it’s still the case you can’t broadcast an academy game at the same time as a PL match.
The Club is doing a limited run for match programmes for games played during the pandemic. The Club will consider reintroducing attendance figures in the programme.
Club confirmed this won’t be brought back. There were about 30,000 on subscription at most and the service averaged 21-22,000. We have 12 million downloads and over a million looking at the App and other current media so there is a clear discrepancy in reach.
These can be left until the marketing meeting.
5th Stand app
It was raised that a listener has to keep the 5th Stand app open if listening to a match as well as the audio page. The Club will look at this.
The Club was asked what the vision is for the Club in light of the sacking of Thomas Tuchel. It responded that a major aspect is to recruit the best young players in the world to help ensure the success of the team in the future. We are also looking at the multi-club model to circumvent issues arising from Brexit. We want the Club’s departments to be working together better. It’s fully acknowledged Thomas is a very good manager but the owners wanted alignment regarding the workings of the Club. It wasn’t about short term results so far this season.
It’s clear the owners want to spend big money on player recruitment and we have to be aware of financial fair play over the long term. Feeder clubs and younger players help us address this. We received advice from Neil Bath as to whom to buy.
In response to a question, the Club added that as well as the Forum we are looking at having a shadow board as a formal aspect of communication. However the Club also welcomes informal feedback directly from fans in order to gauge a wide range of views. We have very good owners who want to build on the success of the Abramovich era.
There is a clear path to the first team from our academy as shown by the number of former juniors in the first team squad. Playing for feeder clubs gives them good experience too. Reece James’ contract was renegotiated early as we want to ensure our best players are here for the long term. It was made clear to Armando Broja that he would get opportunities.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Face in the crowd
The Club responded to a question by stating it won’t be reintroducing “face in the crowd” as that would involve a camera focusing on an under 18. The Club will consider a suggestion that Junior Blues could put their names forward to be involved, with parental consent.
The Club said it is fully aware of the pros and cons of rebuilding stand by stand or moving out for a rebuild. It wants to take its time looking at the financial implications as well as the implications for supporters. We have our commitment with Chelsea Pitch Owners to remain at Stamford Bridge and are at a very early stage for such a big issue.
The Club said it welcomes speedy feedback from fans on smaller issues by contacting supporter services email address so please don’t wait for the next Forum to contact the Club.
The Forum Chairman expressed the Forum’s thanks to Steve for all his work over his time at the Club and wished him well for the future. Steve responded that he is proud of the Forum’s achievements and the fact many big issues have been resolved is testament to its success.
The meeting finished at 8.45pm.