Fans Liaison Committee – April 2005

The FLC met with chairman Adam Pearson for one of the final meetings of the 2004/5 season –  here’s what was discussed…

Season Tickets and Match Day Prices
Adam Pearson stated that it is the ongoing philosophy of the club to ‘look after’ season ticket holders in terms of discounts and other benefits of being a passholder. Those who pay on the day will effectively subsidise these benefits, which the club justify as STH’s underpin the club’s financial stability. By making the benefits of being a passholder better the club hope to attract a significant amount of new season ticket holders. The chairman is hoping we can have as many as 14,000 STHs by the start of the 2005/2006 season.

Although matchday prices have not yet been set, a season pass will give fans a significant discount on each game compared to a fan paying on the day. Furthermore, new season passes bought before the end of April will be cheaper than if purchased from May onwards. For example, a new East Stand adult pass bought before April 30th will cost £350 (£15.21 per game), a pass bought from the start of May onwards will cost £370 (£16.08 per game). Contrast this with an expected matchday admission fee of £21 (this is an estimate only, no on the day prices have yet been set). Existing passholders renewing their season ticket receive a further discount, a renewed East Stand adult pass will cost £330 a discount of £40 on a new pass bought in May (Passes that were renewed this time last year will be even cheaper, £295, meaning an increase of only £20, less than a quid a game). In addition to the matchday saving, STHs are entitled to a 5% discount from any purchases made at the Tiger Leisure stores (though not from the website, as the club are not yet equipped to check discount eligibility electronically, discounts at the shop will be given on production of a passbook.)

The most expensive single person season ticket available next season (West Stand pass bought after April 30th) is £425. Contrast this with average pass prices at Leeds which cost £640, QPR fans are expected to pay in excess of £700. The admission prices across the board for City games are expected to be among the bottom 7 or 8 in the Championship.

Pass prices for new applications before April 30th (Not including family packages):

West Stand (both tiers); Adult £390 Concessions £235
South Stand; Adult £340 Concessions £170
East Stand; Adult £350 Concessions £180

Pass prices for new applications After May 2nd (Not including family packages):

West Stand (both tiers); Adult £425 Concessions £265
South Stand; Adult £365 Concessions £190
East Stand; Adult £370 Concessions £200

Scoreboard and added time
One supporter asked if the scoreboard clock could count upwards after the 45 minute countdowns reach 00.00, in order to gauge how much additional time has been played following the Fourth Official signalling of how much time the referee intends to add. Adam Pearson is under the impression this is not done because of a Football League regulation, the reasoning being that the amount of time to be added signalled by the Fourth Official represents only a minimum of time to be played, and that additional time for stoppages within stoppage time is a possibility, so a scoreboard clock count would not offer an accurate reflection of the referee’s decision, they being the sole arbiter of how much time is to be played beyond the regulation 90 minutes. The club will check to see if this regulation is still in place.

PA Bloke/Opposition line up
An opinion was given that Simon Jordan, matchday P.A. man, is not up to the job, and that previous incumbent Martyn Hainstock should be reinstated. Adam Pearson’s first response was that Martyn Hainstock has made no attempt to communicate any desire to return to the role to the club, if such a desire exists. The chairman also added that although there is scope for improvement, he feels Mr. Jordan is growing into the role and becoming more confident, and that negative comments about him have significantly decreased – views echoed by most of the committee. Mr. Pearson is content to give the new man more time, and is grateful to the commitment shown by Simon Jordan, who left a permanent job at Nottingham Forest to come work at City with no guarantee the role would be permanent.

Adam Pearson agrees that the visiting teams line up should be announced nearer to kick off, instead of 20 minutes before as is the current practice. The chairman accepts this is ill-mannered and that he would not be happy if City’s line up was announced when few fans were in the ground to hear it. Colchester’s chairman recently wrote to City stating his displeasure with this and a decision has been made to announce the away team at the same time as the home team is announced just prior to kick off.

Plastic glasses
There was a request for more rigid pint glasses as the flimsy ones lead to spillages when gripped tightly. The club will enquire if this is possible but when the safety licence for the stadium was first granted the non-rigidity of beer glasses was one of the specific conditions of the license.

Away shirts
The club had ordered a new batch of the sky blue away kits, as these are to be used as a third shirt next season. However the supplier have let the club down and as yet it is unknown when these shirts will be delivered. They will feature the regular City crest as opposed to the centenary branding on the chests of shirts produced earlier in the season. The new home shirt is still scheduled for a July 1st release date.

State of ground and surrounds
A few complaints had been received about the state of the walkway that connects Londesbrough Street with the stadium, this has been used as a dumping ground of late, with mattresses and other large items being disposed of on the grass verge. This will be brought up with the Council.

There will be a spring clean of the stands in the close season as many seats and fittings are very dusty. There are signage errors all over the ground and these will be rectified shortly.

Away ticket allocation
It was raised that supporters who receive away tickets on the Away Direct scheme are always given poorly situated seats in the corner of stands, the chairman agreed that the club should ‘go the extra mile’ and try to give Away Direct members decent tickets since they are agreeing to travel to away games and paying for tickets long in advance of the game.

Programme sales
Adam Pearson is disappointed with programme sales, especially since the matchday magazine has garnered much praise this season, and has been given an official award. Programme sales tend to be one sold for four people in attendance, the average at Premiership games is one sold for every two and a half customers. Only 3,000 were sold at the recent Barnsley match.

Queues at betting outlets
It was suggested that barriers are erected near the betting kiosks to prevent a queue forming across the concourse, obstructing the path to the toilets, food kiosks or vomitaries. This will be looked into, if no barrier is permitted under safety regulations then a steward could be deployed to ask people to queue along the side of the concourse. Betting slips and pens may also be made available away from the kiosks.

Sports Bar
The beer pumps in the Sports Bar simply do not pour quickly enough to satisfy demand, leading to long queues at the bar. Although staff do attempt to pre pour beers in anticipation of orders, the pumps just do not pour quickly enough to make a difference. The club will speak to the brewery they have a contract with about installing more or faster pumps. A stage will be erected in the Sports Bar for post match ex-Tiger interviews. Gareth Roberts has ceased his appearances in the bar as he felt daft that no-one could see him in the middle of the bar, wee chap that he is. It was the consensus that the Sports Bar is a little bleak and unwelcoming and this will be looked at, no promise of a total refurbishment, but it may be possible to add bench seating along the walls.

After 18 months of complaints and dialogue with Humberside Police, the situation with away fans leaving the ground at the same time as home fans is still unsatisfactory. The Match Commander is unwilling to force away fans to stay in the ground for 15 minutes after final whistle as at several games, notably the Bristol City game, away fans have charged the gates, endangering the safety of the stewards and officers manning the doors. With Championship football and increased away followings a near certainty next season, this must be addressed soon. The Match Commander will be invited to the next FLC meeting to discuss issues with the committee. Don’t hold your breath.

Wage structure for 2005/2006
After long consideration, the club will seek to consolidate a Championship position rather than blow a fortune on going for promotion straight away, thus putting the club’s current healthy financial situation in peril. However Adam Pearson is determined that City shall be competitive and is aiming for a top ten finish. To that end, the chairman has decided there will be a budget of £3.75m for player salaries. There may be some transfer fees paid but these can be paid over a period of time and this will not affect the salary budget. Adam feels the transfer market is ‘knackered’ and that few players will move for significant fees this summer. Peter Taylor has said he doesn’t think he’ll need all of the budget to build a squad fit to compete in the Championship, but it is there anyway, and should City struggle then the amount would go up.

The clubs relegated from the Premiership this season or last have a huge advantage as they qualify for ‘parachute payments’ from the Premier League which they’ll use for salaries. Nonetheless the chairman estimates our wage structure would be around the 8th or 9th highest in the Championship. He cited the example of Stoke, who started this season with a salary budget of around £3m, but they struggled until this was raised to £3.7m at which point they found life a lot easier. A budget of £4m or over would damage the healthy state of affairs the club’s accounts books show at this stage, Cardiff are wrestling with a budget of £7m and have borrowed against ownership of their ground, something City cannot do as the KC Stadium is municipally owned and frankly should not do, we’ve been down the administration route before and it’s not worth the gamble.

Apparently some Premier Club members were unhappy when Pearson explained the financial philosophy for next season, which begs the question where were they when we played Rochdale and Kidderminster twice a season? City’s rise up the Football League has been meteoric but that upward motion cannot be sustained in the short term without risking financial ruin. Surely a season of consolidation and a decent cup run is enough next season? We’ll be playing at a level we’ve never bettered and playing teams such as West Ham, Leeds and Leicester. Our chairman knows we need to compete in order to maintain the current high interest in the club and will pull out stops to make sure we have a sniff of the play offs throughout, but he won’t pull out all the stops and rightly so. In 1990, the last time were were playing in the second tier of English football, the Hull Daily Mail ran a headline entitled ‘We’ll break the bank to get promotion’, we were relegated that season and the club was broken, seemingly beyond repair until the arrival of Adam Pearson 11 years later. Expectations are inevitably raised when a club is promoted twice in succession, and indeed Peter Taylor’s superb work over the last three years have allowed us to dream again, but we need to temper our demands for 2005/2006. Of course the aim is to get into the Premiership, but the chairman anticipates the next phase of evolution for the club will be slower than the first phase, which was completed more quickly than expected.

Peter Taylor has not yet determined his summer transfer targets, so any names bandied about right now are pure speculation. Signings will not be discussed until promotion is assured. Adam Pearson says he finds stories linking Stuart Elliott with a move to a Premiership club amusing, as he feels no club would offer in excess of £500,000, and since we don’t need £500,000 he’s going nowhere. The chairman expects at least 6 new faces ‘in the building’ over the summer. Peter Taylor knows the money has to be spend wisely, and that mistakes that have gone awry the last few seasons have not cost the club that much, but that changes in the Championship. Pearson noted that “a £4000 a week player on a three year contract that doesn’t work out is a big problem for the football club”. In Leagues One and Two players will accept a one or two year deal but higher up they expect a long term contract.

Les Motherby