CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB FANS’ FORUM
2022-23, 3rd MEETING MINUTES
Meeting held on Teams at 6.30pm on Wednesday 15th March 2023
Attendees Club title/ group represented
Auger, Cliff Chelsea Supporters Trust (“CST”)
Barrett, Neil UK supporters club
Beckwith, Gary 65 and over
Broadbent, Dean Hospitality
Brown, Peter LGBTQI+
Brown, Tracy Board Supporter Adviser
Craig, Toby Club Director of Communications and Public Affairs
Daine, Nav Regional Manager for Retail Operations at Levy
Englefield, Lou Football v homophobia
Evans, Kerrie Chelsea Women Supporters Group
Finkelstein, Daniel Club Director
Fortag, Zack 16-21s
Glick, Tom Club President of Business
Gray, Jamie Club Head of Facilities
Kirke, Xander Chelsea Pride
Lewis, John Access
Middleton, Pamela UK away scheme
Regan, Andy Forum Chairman
Shaw, Michelle Chelsea Supporters Group (“CSG”)
Smith, Cat Club Head of Supporter Relations
Stewart, Shaun Family
Swyer, Craig Home season ticket (“ST”)
Warner, Mark UEFA away scheme
Wittich, Margaret Chelsea Supporters Club (“CSC”)
Wolff, Brian Overseas supporters club
Apologies for absence
Fatah, Kozhin Ethnically and culturally diverse
Goodbrand, Christine Female
Rosso, Dominic CST
Woodcock, Steve Member
(Action points are underlined.)
MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
There no changes to the minutes. Matters arising from the last full meeting and the marketing meeting were as follows:
Black and gold stripe top
The Club is continuing to investigate and will respond next time.
Westview ST holders
The Club said that, for 2021-22, supporters there could downgrade as new prices were introduced. As a general rule downgrading isn’t permitted around the stadium though there can be exceptions due to personal circumstances on a case by case basis.
Ticket exchange sales message
The Club said it welcomes further information so it can investigate.
Away ticket split
The Club said it’s not intending to introduce this on a match by match basis. For every game we announce the total number of away tickets. A small number go to Club delegates, guests, player families. If these allocations aren’t all used, the remaining tickets are released to supporters in good time so they can be purchased.
Team information prior to kick-off
The representative who raised the matter said he’s discussing it with the Club outside the Forum.
The Club said this issue has been raised by fans both in the Forum and to stewards on match days. There is a cross-function working group, regarding supporters getting the best experience at Kingsmeadow, that is looking into this. There is an informal atmosphere at Kingsmeadow for autographs and photos which is popular but we’ve asked stewards to keep an eye on this and ensure players are taken to different parts of the stadium for such fan interaction.
Youth match transmission
The Club commented that critical streaming hardware caused problems before the World Cup, particularly with PL2 and match day live shows. The relevant hardware has been replaced and we have a backup too. No further issues have been identified since that’s happened and the Club welcomes notice of issues that arise.
Kingsmeadow sensory room
The Club stated that the working group has concluded we don’t have sufficient space for the size of room we would like, so we are looking at a temporary solution. We welcome supporters with access requirements contacting us so we can assist on a match by match basis.
Minutes from the last marketing meeting
These were circulated after the last meeting.
FOOTBALL v HOMOPHOBIA
The Chairman and Club welcomed Tracy who many Forum members will know as one of our board supporter representatives, and also Lou who will tell us about her organisation’s work. The Club said this is part of the Club’s No to Hate campaign aimed at raising awareness about discrimination in football and helps reiterate our “no to hate” stance. It’s one of a series of initiatives.
Lou started by discussing terminology. Acronyms, along the lines of LGBTIQA+, change a lot and there is no “correct” answer. The community is an umbrella and changes with new groupings identified or new vocabulary being introduced. LGBT+ is commonly used, as we used to talk about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groupings. Now we have non-binary, pansexual people included which comes under the bisexual umbrella for those who are attracted across genders. Some add the “+” in the UK whereas in the US the acronym LGBTQ+ is used more. Words have different levels of popularity – some younger people use the word “queer” and find “gay” less popular as it was the pejorative term used when they were growing up as opposed to some older people who think the reverse.
In short, LGBT+ or LGBTIQ+ are fine. The “IA” are sometimes added and stands for intersex – those with diversity of sex characteristics which is important in sport, such as the Caster Semenya situation, as she was deemed by sporting authorities to create too much testosterone to be classed as female. Our organisation uses LGBTIQ+. “A” stands for asexual or aromantic people who experience a lack of sexual or romantic feelings. We tend not to say LGBT anymore as it’s a bit old-fashioned and restrictive, or LGB as used recently in current affairs, as that excludes a number of others.
- LGBTIQ+ view of sport
LGBTIQ+ people across the board describe negative experiences of sport at school. At high school in particular people are split by genders generally. Boys’ teams can be stereotypes in terms of “laddism”. LGBTIQ+ people can feel left out.
At girls’ school again there can be a lot of policing of girls’ gender in terms of playing sport.
Some find watching sport off-putting due to homophobic atmospheres. Such language can alienate young people and they won’t get involved in the game as fans or players. They may have fears of what football grounds are like even if they don’t go to matches. Trans people are likewise put off attending.
With recent political developments trans people may consider they won’t be welcomed due to being ostracised generally.
Toilet facilities can be a factor as non-binary toilets are rarely found at grounds and some may feel put off by this.
- How can fans assist?
The important aspect is not to use LGBTIQ+ language and to challenge it where possible. If you don’t feel able to challenge it at the time, reporting it is important so it’s not ignored. If we assume LGBTIQ+ fans are around us, that will make everyone feel more comfortable.
Challenging gender stereotypes is important. If unsure, use gender-neutral language. Being misgendered can be an unpleasant experience. There should be a message of respect for everyone and we’d request you support the Club’s campaigns such as football v homophobia and the Rainbow Laces campaign. The Club’s reporting line can be used or Kick It Out.
It’s best not to make assumptions about someone’s gender so they tell you their own story. If someone uses language you don’t understand, ask them about it or you can look it up on Google. The LGBTIQ+ community is often invisible so positive signs such as badges or involvement in campaigns is important.
Working with younger people can be powerful for education and supporting your LGBTIQ+ fan groups is also important.
- Chelsea Pride
Tracy said she started working with the Club seven years ago, saying there are fans who aren’t being represented. Chelsea Pride grew well at first then encountered homophobia from our own fans in particular. Death threats and rape threats were not uncommon.
Education is the key. Tracy said she is asked a lot about what the acronyms mean and what the types of flag are. The Club is very progressive in working on diversity issues. Our allies are very important and those who aren’t linked to Chelsea Pride speaking out is very significant. Many campaigns are run under the No to Hate umbrella by the Foundation. The Club is shortlisted for awards for Rainbow Laces. Football v homophobia is another good cause with a women’s game held last year and we’ve had our first men’s game. We will keep pushing these issues with the Club.
Campaigns are short term though, whereas gender identity lasts all year. Combatting racism should also be a conversation long term. Such aspects are still massive in the game, as are antisemitism, homophobia and transphobia. The “rent boy” chant has been screamed at our Club, at Frank Lampard and at our players on loan. We have worked with Proud Lillywhites on this at Spurs. We had to challenge the CPS and FA for several years to have them acknowledge it’s a hate crime. It will take years to educate all supporters but the Club wants to promote these aspects. The “Y” word isn’t acceptable being sung here irrespective of whether Spurs sing it. We want to lead the equality fight amongst football clubs and all discrimination being opposed.
It would be good only to discuss football at matches but we are some way from that. The game should be welcome for everyone and we need all representatives on the Forum to support our campaigns.
In response to a question as to what the reporting mechanisms are, Tracy said there are details in the programme and on tickets as to how to report. The more precise information as to where the perpetrator is sitting or standing, the better the chance of focusing on those individuals. There is a great education system in place which is the ideal route, but those who can’t be educated should be banned across the game.
A representative asked how education can take place on a wider scale given that large groups of fans sometimes sing offensive songs. The Club said it works with groups such as Chelsea Pride and Football v homophobia but we welcome ideas as to larger scale education. We run campaigns but want to keep the messages in the forefront for fans throughout the year.
Another representative said some fans don’t consider what they do as being offensive, let alone illegal. Some of the chants sung at specific players fall under that category. Everyone attends to support the team and the Club should be proactive regarding some chants. Tracy agreed that crowd mentality can be a big factor and, when challenged, some who sing offensive songs deny being racist, homophobic etc. Lou has worked with the Club on this closely and has been very helpful.
- Social media abusive messages targeted at players and LGBTQI+ fans
The Club was asked its views as to how to deal with offensive messages on the Chelsea Pride sites in particular. It’s certainly the case that potential players and fans are put off by such behaviour. The options seem to be to close those threads or comments down, to leave them open and counter them publicly or thirdly for the Club to be more active in condemning abuse and answering questions such as why Chelsea Pride is even needed.
The Club responded that it should provide context before answering directly. There is a social media policy which falls under the No to Hate banner regarding discrimination and abusive comments. We use a third party provider called CRISP who monitor social media channels – Facebook, Instagram and YouTube – but there isn’t the functionality for this on Twitter. Abusive comments are identified and removed. We have had a similar discussion as to whether to shut down comments and currently leave them on but are happy for feedback. We leave them on as it shows the scale of the problem and also so we can take action against transgressors. If comments are turned off, it implies we are expecting abusive messages. Five years ago there were more negative comments than positive but that has switched so we get a lot of good feedback.
Tracy thanked Lou and the Forum expressed its thanks. Tracy added that there are still homophobic comments made by some. When those people say they’ll support another club, that club won’t want them either. It shouldn’t only be for Pride to defend the Club as we just get the backlash. The rainbow symbol can lead to hateful rants as well. We need to keep an eye on home grown issues as well as offences against players more widely in the game, such as aggression aimed at Ivan Toney at Brentford.
Another representative agreed there is racism against Raheem Sterling whereas some others, such as Mason Mount, receive abuse despite the colour of their skin. How does the Club see itself as an advocate in changing attitudes?
The Club said it’s very aware of these issues. Abuse of Mason was difficult to fathom. If someone has the opinion that a player is not playing well, it’s difficult to decide if they should be entitled to criticise on our social media. We don’t want to close comment lines but we also want to protect our players. Tracy said it’s a double-edged sword and a few harmless comments can lead to a stream of abuse. We also want those people to be tracked down.
Lou was asked for her views and commented that they are doing work with EE’s Hope for United campaign regarding such issues. If comments are allowed to be posted, they can make a major impact on younger fans who are reading them. It’s a difficult balance and those different approaches have benefits but protecting the vulnerable in society is important. Ignoring the comments and allowing them to be expressed without interruption is not ideal though.
The Club thanked Lou and Tracy for their presentations and added that Tracy’s input internally to the Club is very welcome. We are better equipped to deal with some social media rather than other streams. The Online safety bill is working its way through Parliament. It’s not a new issue and some clubs at least are constantly in dialogue with platforms to ban individuals. We are not going to call out individuals on social media and make them a target for abuse in turn. That’s not the right way for the Club to manage the issue. Both today and recently we have been tracking down individuals and if they are ST holders or members we can ban them. That takes the perpetrator by surprise when it happens and there is no justification for their behaviour. We try and educate fans so there should be punishment and rehabilitation in turn. We welcome feedback and want our fans to be in tune with our actions. No element of discrimination is acceptable and it’s an ongoing conversation as to how to deal with it.
Fan Advisory Board (“FAB”)
The Club said that, as time for our meeting is limited, it will summarise the main aspects. A fortnight ago we announced the launch of the FAB and this is a new and important step forward for fan consultation. This Forum won’t be replaced or will our other forums, and we will keep working with fan groups outside those forums too. FAB is intended to look at long term strategic issues. Danny will be our nominated board official for FAB. We want to identify three new members who, along with the three current supporter advisers, will make up our first FAB. Membership will rotate with three elected and three appointed members. Andy, Barbara Charone from our board and Graham Smith will constitute the appointment committee. Applications are open on our website where there are also Q & As regarding the FAB. Cat and Danny aren’t involved in selecting the new members. Applications are open until 24th March. Cat and Danny are happy to answer any further questions.
The Club was asked when the election process will be announced and how it will be formulated? It responded that supporter advisers will serve a further two years so we will start to look at the franchise and process in about a year. We have told the Premier League we will complete the next part of our process this season, then work out how the heritage items sit, then work out the franchise for the election stage. We have stated that the current system of the Forum, supporter groups and other diversity positions each electing a representative will be replaced by a single ballot. In response to a question, the Club added that diversity will be taken into account in the appointment of the selected positions this season. Once we have an election in a couple of years, we can then take account of diversity issues amongst the group after that. The process this time is likely to involve CVs being requested and short interviews for the final contestants during April, with the FAB meeting at the tail end of this season. We are confident that we will hit that timetable even though we’ve had over 2,700 applications so far!
The Club was asked if FAB meetings have to be held during the day given work commitments and responded that it would work with the new advisers to find a convenient time for meetings. The aim is obviously to work with the FAB.
STs/ seat upgrades/ away tickets
A representative asked whether there will be ticket price increases given that supporter groups have made representations to the Club against higher prices. Seats have been upgraded in the East Lower and is that an ongoing programme for the whole stadium? If so, why now, and how long will works take to complete?
Another representative said it’s really difficult to obtain away tickets this season and asked if there has been a change to the system. Others have provided the representative with the same feedback. The ticket office is no longer open for away tickets. It was acknowledged there is a limited supply of away tickets generally.
A representative asked what will happen to Club Chelsea ticket prices, given that European matches are included in some STs, if we don’t qualify next season.
The Club responded that currently we don’t have a position yet regarding ticket prices. This is usually announced at the end of March but is likely to be later in the season for this year given the new ownership. CSG, CST and CSC have sent in letters, which Todd and the board are aware of. ST prices have stayed flat for a long time and costs in running the stadium continue to increase.
The Club added that it is changing East Lower seats and intends to do so in the East Upper. The Shed is unlikely to change as we’ve only introduced rail seats recently. The same is true of the Matthew Harding Stand. We don’t plan to upgrade other seats but the East Stand really needed them given the length of time those seats have been in place.
As regards away tickets and CL prices being included in tickets, the Club will review both those issues amongst its ticketing decisions.
The Club was asked about redevelopment plans. It responded that it is keeping all of its options open and pursuing them in detail. We look at every possibility to have Chelsea in the best possible situation. In response to a question, the Club said it won’t talk about specific alternative sites but is looking at possibilities in detail.
As regards the East Stand, a representative asked if it’s true that the stand has to be replaced soon. How does that affect things?
The Club responded that it’s not aware of specific East Stand issues. There are aging parts of the ground and we want a solution as soon as possible. We are constantly reviewing the infrastructure here and carry out checks many times a year to ensure fan safety. The East Stand could continue for many years should we need it.
The Club was asked about Earl’s Court and said it’s looking at various options.
Current stadium issues including music/ volume/ Wi-Fi
It was raised that the music volume in Matthew Harding Upper is really loud. Another added this is also the case in West Lower, East Upper, Shed Upper and the area between East Upper and Matthew Harding Upper. The music is too loud and not good at times. It’s an important topic given we have to create the right atmosphere.
Wi-Fi was better last season and is much worse now. No thought seems to be going into having Wi-Fi capacity for our matches. It works at other big grounds. Also the roof leaks in the West Lower.
In the Shed Upper there is a sign in the gangway stating “safe standard is permitted” but the message should be that fans can’t stand on that exact spot.
The Club responded that it takes onboard music feedback. It carries out inspections and tests to ensure we are within the regulated volumes. The issue regarding choice of music should go to the marketing team. Music played on match days has changed dramatically over the years.
We are looking at options for improved Wi-Fi including more mobile phone use.
The Club said it is trying to fix the roof as part of the overall infrastructure plans. The Shed Upper safe standing requirements are for fans to be in their ticketed position. It will remind the stewarding team to monitor this.
Stadium tour and megastore
This will be discussed at a further meeting when Adam can attend. CST said it would like to move forward with a heritage item proposal with the Club in due course.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Disability recognition/ Facebook/ King’s coronation
A representative said there was an incident at the weekend at the Leicester away match. Can we have autism and other disabilities added to the No to Hate campaign? It was an upsetting occurrence.
A representative said Facebook has been overtaken by aggressive language. Proper discussion seldom happens these days. The Club was asked to look at this again.
The Club was asked about a rescheduling of our match due for the day of the King’s coronation.
The Club will come back on these.
Atmosphere/ ex-player appearances
A representative said it liked the look and sound of the ground for the Dortmund match. The Club should be credited.
It was requested that former players be welcomed on the pitch at half time. The Club will respond to these points.
The Club was asked if players are aware how the Club would assist them should they wish to come out. It responded it has open dialogue with players generally and of course they would get full support for any assistance they need. The Club said we support and celebrate diversity.
The Club was asked about the fans forum that used to be on there. There are questionable opinions expressed by some as well, so only members and ST holders should be allowed on ideally. It responded that we couldn’t move everything across to new platforms during the sanctions period. We will probably run focus groups over the summer and Peter’s participation will be born in mind.
The Forum chairman thanked all Forum members for their contributions and in particular Craig, Gary, John, Zack, Neil, Brian and Kerry who are leaving the Forum having completed their two year terms.
The meeting finished at 8.10pm.