Fans Liaison Committee – December 2005

Loyalty Scheme

The meeting opened with a discussion of the club’s intentions to implement a loyalty scheme for supporters which awards points for attending away games to determine priority for occasions when demand for away tickets exceeds supply. The committee agreed that this is a good idea ans that fan reaction had been positive. The exact nature of the points scheme is yet to be determined, one simple method offered was to base points scored on reversal of our own categorisation of home games – ie, attending Plymouth away (a “B” home fixture) would be rewarded with more points than Leeds away (an “A” home fixture).

Difficulties must be overcome, however. It will require supporters to buy away tickets using their own Customer Number at the club, so that points can be correctly allocated. At present, it is often the case that one person buys a batch of tickets for a group of friends, so in future it may be necessary to provide a list of names and customer numbers so that points can be given out. This has been an issue with Leeds tickets, with quite a few people having been to 3+ away games but being unable to prove it due to not buying tickets on their own customer number. The club intends to contact fans in the future to advise them of how the scheme will work and the benefits of using their Customer Number, as these will “become more important as the club progresses”.

The scheme Sunderland use was researched by one committee member. Fans there have a unique customer number, and at the start of each season are invited to apply for away tickets for every game. Those who commit to buying the most receive higher priority when lesser allocations are available. The scheme runs on a rolling basis over three years.

As an aside, it was noted that fans are becoming more accustomed to pre-purchasing tickets – the considerable majority of home tickets this season have been bought in advance, it is estimated only 300-400 tickets are bought on a match day.

The attitude of the police, home and away to fans, was discussed at length. The club accepts that the police had a “difficult afternoon” for the visit of Cardiff’s knuckle-scrapers. Future meetings are scheduled between the club and Humberside Police. It was the case that the two sets of supporters were successfully kept apart inside and outside the ground (the much maligned fence playing a part in this), which can only be a good thing, although the police’s decision to send fully kitted riot police to glower at those in the East Stand while Cardiff fans were assaulting stewards (several were hospitalised) was criticised. The chairman said that the restraint of the City fans “showed us in an excellent light”.

There was a minor commotion outside the East Stand on Saturday – the reason for this may be that the police identified 150 Sheffield Wednesday fans whom they were eager to escort to the train station as soon as possible to have them on the 6pm train to Sheffield, and not hanging around Hull for another three hours awaiting the next one. A voluntary holdback was in operation, and was judged a reasonable success. Additionally, no alcohol was on sale to away fans on Saturday, another consequence of ill-behaved Welsh types a week earlier. This measure may now be implemented at other high-profile home matches this season.

Adam Pearson is pushing very hard for a nationwide task force to examine and monitor police operations at football stadia across the country, with the aim being to standardise operations, and also costs, which are rising exorbitantly as police forces become ever keener to recoup costs from football clubs. Sadly, only 50% of Championship clubs concurred with such idea (70% was needed to carry the motion), the reason being that several clubs currently receive excellent deals from their local police forces and are probably unwilling to rock the boat. Leicester, who also received a stupidly high police bill, are as keen as City to see some standardisation. Derby County pay significantly less than Leicester although the clubs have comparable attendances and are just down the road from each other.

The Sheffield United match, which Sky wished to televise, is not being played on the Bank Holiday as the police felt unable to cover it adequately, or at a cost that would be even remotely close to reasonable. The club are remaining fairly diplomatic about this, despite the loss of £60,000 in television money – those whose taxes fund Humberside Police may arrive at a less charitable viewpoint.

That bloody bus
Another complaint was registered about the silver community bus that parks outside the South Stand and causes an obstacle after matches. This will no longer block egress points from the stadium, although it will remain in close proximity to the ground to assist disabled supporters.

A query was made by an Amber Nectar contributor about the prospect about hosting the Leeds beamback in the Arena rather than the stadium itself. The reason for having it at the stadium is sheer numbers – the arena could house only 1,700, and that many tickets have already been sold and the club are expecting 4-5000 will attend the beamback. The Sports Bar will be open, and the chairman has agreed to buy a number of programmes from Leeds to sell at the Circle on the day.

A complaint was made about West Stand turnstiles shutting at 3.05pm for the Watford match – this will be looked into, and a repeat hopefully prevented.

The issue of coffee cups was made, both about the occasional lack of lids for hot drinks and the difficulty of holding a scalding hot beverage. Possible solutions may include a paper holder, Starbucks stylee, or polystyrene cups in the future.

The shocking condition of the pathway by the crêche was raised. This has seen increased usage since the fence was erected, and with the onset of winter has become treacherously muddy. John Cooper is aware of the situation, and is meeting representatives of Hull City Council this week to discuss improvements to the area.

The prospect of a second KC windfall for the council was mentioned, with reference to possible financing of stadium developments. With Labour in danger of losing power to the Liberal Democrats, the situation is currently unclear. However, should yet more cash be raised through a further sale of the telecoms company it is not likely to find its way towards improving the stadium, as the two political parties (particularly the Liberal Democrats, who opposed the building of it) will pledge it towards ‘worthier’ causes. The club submitted two possible expansion schemes into planning a while ago, which is little more than a technicality at this stage.

The chairman spoke positively of the gates this season – averaging 18,000+ with the side struggling and no appreciable rise (yet) in away support is quite something. Favourable comparisons were drawn with Sheffield United and Leeds, both of whom are barely eclipsing the Tigers yet are having much better seasons. The Championship now draws the fourth highest gatest of any league in Europe, and is the only of the four divisions to see an increase this season. Rumours that this is because City are massive and ace are probably well-founded.

Pearson noted that the Villa game is maybe a trifle over-priced, although commented that it would have taken quite a significant reduction in prices to have an appreciable impact upon the attendance. Around 18,000 are expected, including 3,000 from Aston Villa. They were in favour of keeping prices at the usual matchday level, but were comfortable to negotiate with City – how admirably mature. Prices of £20/£10 will be in place in the massively unlikely event of us not losing this televised game and forcing a replay.

Comments about the muffled PA in the East Stand were again made. Although it appears to be crystal clear in the West, the quality in the East has never been great. A full audit of the system is planned soon.

Some fans noted that some of the televisions on the concourses were missing at the last home game, they haven’t been permanantly removed, they’ve been sent away for repairs and servicing and will be back soon, and in future at full time will be weighted more in favour of live Final Score programmes rather than the club’s in-house programming.

The committee was shown two draft proposals for next season’s home shirts. Both designs feature sexily thick black and amber stripes (hurrah), one features a round-neck and the other has a proper collar. The committee slightly preferred the look of the proper-collared one. Diadora should have some samples ready soon, hopefully in time for the next meeting. Also, do you prefer black socks or amber to go with a striped shirt. Feedback on the kit issue would be particularly welcome.

The situation on the Walton Street carpark is not great, with traffic wardens and stewards seemingly issuing contradictary instructions, including the rather bizarre forbidding of drivers turning left from the “left turn only” exit. The club is not happy, with a particularly detoriartion noticed in the past two games. Reports of traffic taking an hour to leave have been made.

Issues with the Sports Bar were raised, including the perennial gripe about Radio Humberside not being turned on, the live football being turned off and there being too few stools. A proper bar manager may now be installed to oversee the place and ensure it is run correctly.

Smoking within the stadium is gradually creeping up, with some supporters smoking in their seats during games. There have also been requests to make the concourses no-smoking areas. With the Government’s attitude to smoking in public places taking an authoritarian turn lately, the chairman suggested that legislation may soon be introduced to prevent smoking anywhere in the stadium. For this reason, the club will probably not prohibit it themselves and will leave that to another swathe of Government meddling.

Peter Taylor is looking to sign another forward in the January transfer window, although no names are known yet. With safety (hopefully) achieved in April, the manager and chairman will be plotting the next stage of Tiger Nation World Domination, consisting of the signing of 3/4 players with the ability to kick us on next season. A reasonable approach has been taken by fans and management this season about the need to survive, however the club’s ambitions exceed the mere treading of water at this level.

Players have not been loaned out this season because of the club’s gargantuan injury list, although the chairman spoke of the value this can have. Matt Duke appears to have benefitted from his stay at Stockport. No firm offers have been made for any City players (including Boaz Myhill), save for interst in Kevin Ellison and Jason Price, neither of whom the manager wished to release.

The next meeting will take place on Monday 9th January 2006. The two main topics for discussion will be:

– ticket prices for next season. The club are hoping to cap increases wherever possible at a fair level; the chairman spoke of a “moral” aspect to keeping football affordable.
– more about the police: how can things be improved at home matches, and what are supporters’ experiences with them recently?

Andy Dalton