Fans Liaison Committee – March 2006

flc

The Fans’ Liaison Committee held its regular meeting at the Circle last night, and discussed the following topics…

Boothferry Park
A question was asked about Boothferry Park’s ownership, one fan wondered if the club could hold a nostalgic open day at City’s former home. However the club no longer own the old stadium and have no right of access to it. A housing development is planned for the site and the relocation of Kwiksave is being negotiated. The club do hope that items from the stadium (i.e. seats) can be removed and offered to supporters at a later date, although this is dependent upon the site owner granting consent.

Groundshare
The issue of groundsharing in the Premier League, should we ever make it, was raised. The Football League have recently signed up to the same regulations as the Premier League, which oblige football clubs to offer assurances that they can fulfil fixtures no matter what. This necessitated a discussion with the rugby lot, but City have priority when it comes to use of the ground and Pearson notes that the relationship with the rugby club is excellent and that a fixture clash remains unlikely. Wigan Athletic’s Premier League excursion has set a useful precedent in terms of top-flight clubs being permitted to groundshare.

Litter
A large amount of litter has built up on the footbridge and the walkway towards the stadium coming from Argyle Street. This, and everything else on the stadium complex, is the responsibility of the SMC and will be tidied up ahead of Saturday’s fixture and maintained in future.

Bar stools
The familiar gripe about insufficient stools in the Sports Bar was raised. The last count was 18 for a venue that regularly attracts upwards of 350 people on a matchday. The Chairman suspects that there are sufficient chairs in the ground but they’ve been hidden somewhere! This matter should finally be resolved soon.

Policing
The club are deeply unhappy about Humberside Police’s maddening decision to impose a 12pm kick off for the Leeds home game. The chairman opined that our best chance of gaining a result would be to have a 3pm kick off and whip up a fervent atmosphere, and is aggrieved that the police’s implied inability to look after football fans has denied us this. He added that a 3pm kick-off against Leeds is unlikely to ever occur, a sorry state of affairs indeed.

Gate
Positive comments were offered about the club’s decision to have the gate at the North-East corner open before games. The chairman admitted that keeping it closed prior to kick off was perhaps a step too far but that the club have learnt the lesson from the exercise. It inconvenienced East Stand ticketholders and was also affecting takings in the club shop – not the driving force behind the decision but certainly a factor. With luck, the gate will remain open before all future home games, including Leeds United. For the time being though, the policy of keeping the gate closed after the game will remain in place regardless of the opposition.

Pitch
The state of the pitch was commented upon. It is definitely looking worse for wear but cannot simply be relaid, the artificial elements woven into the turf mean only a re-growing will help. It will receive a two-week rest period during the optimum growing season in June, during which the groundstaff are optimistic that major improvements can be made. The chairman noted that the Council are upset that Skirlaugh’s amateur eggchasers have been refused permission to stampede across the pitch this month, but they have no more right to use it than you or I have to play an impromptu game of headers and volleys there. It is simply not in the interests of City or Hull FC to allow more wear and tear on a surface that Pearson suggests could be the most heavily used pitch in the country. Despite appearances, City’s players have said that the pitch plays well and they have no problems with it.

Leicester away game
Leicester City’s farcical handling of getting ticketless fans into the Walkers Stadium last week was raised. City first made a formal complaint to LCFC at 2.20pm when it became clear that they had massively underestimated our support. Nothing was done, despite communications by the Fans’ Liaison Officer, the club secretary and the chairman. The club are very disappointed by Leicester’s attitude. 1,740 tickets were sold prior to kick-off and an official away attendance of 2,400 was announced, a figure that has raised a few eyebrows. Amber Nectar wrote to Leicester City last week and received a reply that “records show that Hull City has an average ticketless away following of 160″ – quite where this figure has come from is anyone’s guess, but it was something of a surprise to the chairman. We were also told that 1,200 ticketless fans arrived and caused the problem, which would suggest that their stated total figure of 2,400 is plainly untrue. We were also told that it is the first time this has happened at the Walkers Stadium, an assertion immediately contradicted by the chairman and the FLO. We will be in touch with Leicester City again this week (and if necessary, the Football League and the FA) to try to uncover just what went wrong. At no point did Leicester contact the FLO to enquire as to our likely following. We will report back on this.

Season tickets
Many queries about season tickets have been raised. The chairman said that the earliness of the renewal date is a valid issue, as it is 2/3 weeks earlier than the past seasons at the Circle. Although seats need to be reserved by April 8th, payment does not start until May 26th, a point stressed by AP. He also feels that the £12 fee for spreading the payment across 12 months is a fair one for being able to stagger it for such a long period, and reflects well compared to other clubs – take-up of this scheme has also been strong. The club has noted that a lot of people are unhappy about being invited to make a decision while the possibility of relegation remains, but it is also true that the discount period rewards those will make a financial commitment to the club come what may. The FLO noted that he had received a glut of emails from people expecting their seat to be reserved for now even though they have no intention of renewing should City be relegated. The U7s pass, which is just £100, applies throughout the stadium. Incidentally, by means of comparison Leeds United fans are required to book for the following season in early February. Scunthorpe’s renewal date is early July.

New kit
Mock-ups of next season’s kit were shown to the committee. Bold black and amber stripes remain the order of the day, with black shorts with amber panels and black socks with amber trim. City are seeking a national sponsor for the 2007/8 when the Bonus deal expires, although they will remain an associate sponsor of the club and the chairman noted his gratitude for their unswerving support during darker times. Please click on the thumbnailed image below to view these mock-ups in full.

Miscellaneous
A rather peculiar issue regarding ball rotation was mentioned. It appears that if the ball is thrown onto the pitch from the stands twice during a game and causes the match to be held up, the ball rotation system is suspended. Seemingly a piece of trivia, but the club want to have ball rotation in place for home matches to prevent away sides slowing things down – a la Plymouth’s keeper – and hope that fans throw the ball straight back to ball-boys rather than onto the pitch. You learn something every day.

A request was made for a pre-season tour. This is something the chairman would be happy to arrange for a future time (though probably not this summer) if the manager wants to do it. Peter Taylor has organised tours of Norway with past clubs and the chairman appreciated the benefits that could come from a tour abroad, even if just a couple of games in Holland.

This summer’s open day was raised, particularly an issue with collecting autographs from the players. Last summer, the players were split into the three rooms, which reportedly caused difficulties for some young fans in collecting all of the signatures. The players were split to prevent one massive queue forming around a single table with those at the back unable to get any signatures by the time the players left for the training session on the pitch, the idea being that this way many will get some signatures rather than a few getting all of them and most getting none. This will be repeated for the 2006 open day – anyone who is unable to collect a full set of signatures is invited to the write to the club, and they will provide them.

Friendlies are currently being arranged – Aston Villa at the KC on July 25th is pencilled in, with one more home friendly to be arranged, possibly against a foreign side. Happily, the annual fixture at North Ferriby is being retained. Adam Pearson noted that David O’ Leary is keen to come to Hull because we are a ‘nice team with a nice set up and our players don’t get kicked.’ He’s clearly unaware that we’ve signed Jon Parkin!

City have received a warning over plastic bottle-throwing incidents in the North East corner. However, the FA and FL are pleased that the club is actively taking measures against this and immediate sanctions are unlikely.

Baffling, the Upper West stand ran out of pies for the last game and the Lower West stand ran out of lager. The club is puzzled as to why supplies were simply not switched from kiosks with available items, there is a radio link between the kiosks for such eventualities.

The state of the PA system was raised – it is reportedly very muffled in the South Stand. The difficulty appears to be with Steve Jordan’s roving microphone while on the pitch, as the quality is generally excellent when announcements are made using the static mics in the PA booth. The company charged with maintaining the system attend every match and are generally eager to provide a good service, so hopefully things will improve soon.

A bout a dozen final warnings have been issued and one fan has had his parking pass on the stadium perimeter rescinded for attempting to drive away when the crowd is leaving, a staggeringly stupid act. The stewards are being asked to keep on eye on this with the club concerned that serious injuries are being risked by those who merrily drive off with 18,000 people attempting to leave a football ground.

More complaints about direct debits being taken out of accounts toward the end of a month rather than the beginning were aired. This will no doubt crop up again unless sorted, and we’ll see what action has been taken ahead of the next meeting. The chairman has assured us it will be looked at.

The FLO attended a forum at Glanford Park last week at which the issue of smoking in stadia was discussed. Derby and Wigan have recently made their grounds no-smoking. Curiously, Derby have an option whereby fans can have their hands stamped and can exit the ground for their nicotine fix in a stewarded area. The hassle of this saw low up-take at Pride Park, and both clubs reported that the move to no-smoking has been fairly smooth. City’s intention remains to make the Circle a no-smoking ground when, as seems inevitable, the FL dictates that they must. The sentiment around the table was in favour of a total ban earlier than that – the club will organise a means of collecting a broader section of opinions on this issue.

Programme sellers close to the new pathway by the crêche are causing an obstruction and will be repositioned for the next game.

Ian Ashbee’s recovery is continuing well. There is no prospect of an immediate return to the side but the beginning of next season is the target.

Finally, the chairman discussed the club’s plans for this summer. 5/6 new signings will be made, with the emphasis upon experience at this level as City seek to build upon this season’s (very much hoped for) survival. Household names seeking final paydays will not be the order of the day, but the manager is aware that inexperience has cost us this season.

Peter Taylor is keen on Alan Rogers and the player likes being here, but there is no urgency to sign him. Rogers currently has one more year on a £10,000 a week contract and though Forest have hinted that they don’t want the player back, they would need to put off that contract in order for City to sign him an a much more reasonable wage.
A shake up of the play off format for the Championship is in the offing.

The next meeting will be on Monday 8th May – one is not scheduled for next month as there is a Fans’ Forum on April 19th. As usual, the message boards are available for anyone with any queries for the next meeting or comments upon this one.

 

Andy Dalton