The latest meeting of the club’s attempts to create (recreate?) a Supporters’ working group took place on Tuesday 21st October in the 1904 Lounge at the Circle.
James Mooney, Commercial Manager of Hull City AFC
Pete Curry, chair of the stadium’s Safety Advisory Group
Geoff Bielby, part of City Till We Die
Mike Gothard, Ulltras Obergruppenführer
Angie Smith, “Hooligran”
Nigel Edwards, East Stander
Charlotte Ball, Tigerlink
Andy Dalton, Amber Nectar fanzine wanker
Ian Waterson, City Independent fanzine wanker
Rob Harmer, Not606/CTWD
Ron Black, HCOSC
Dave White, East Stander
John W, West Stander (sorry for mishearing you last time, John)
Tony Conway, Senior Tigers
Phil Dixon, North Stander
George Machin, local football coach
Ellie Cressey, Ulltras
Dan, another Ulltra
The meeting kicked off at 7.30pm and was chaired by James Mooney, though Simon King may oversee some future gatherings.
The first topic was ticketing – James Mooney spoke of the clubs successes on a “revenue basis” so far this season, with gates up for every game so far apart from the Man C fixture, which itself generated over £200,000 more than 2013/14 owing to the £50 matchday cost.
This steepling cost was grumbled at, and the presence of empty seats does suggest it priced people out, however JM observed that it does make season tickets a healthier proposition.
Half-season passes, incidentally, will be released in November. The club also hope to introduce a print-at-home system soon. The club generally sells 100-250 tickets for a home game in the 24 hours before, this will lower costs and make tickets easier to buy. It may not be in place for the upcoming Southampton game, for which 22,000 tickets have already been sold.
Much of the debate centred upon the yawning gap between price levels. £16 to £50 is a considerable difference, noted Tony Conway; indeed, it was pointed out that Arsenal charge City fans less than we’ll charge Arsenal fans. Kate Ogram suggested pricing fixtures at £20/£30/£40. This was well received in the room, and although James M wouldn’t be drawn on that specific suggestion, “changes will be made next season” that “may” include smaller gaps in cost. The club may also price the central parts of stands higher than the wings, something it feels may encourage more like-minded people in each category to assemble with other rather than being randomly mixed up.
Dynamic pricing is another possibility, and is gradually arriving in English football – the principle working similarly to airlines or rail companies, where early purchase guarantees a cheaper seat.
It was revealed that the club is usually aware that a game will not sell out by the preceding Monday, to which Angie Smith suggested discounting tickets for seats that may go unsold to local community groups. The club already does something along these lines with local boys’ clubs, said JM, but agreed it’s a good idea in principle.
Kate Ogram raised the contentious issue of disabled pricing, noting that City worsened the deal for wheelchair users in 2012, the “only club in the country to have done so”. Despite no little unhappiness in the room, James Mooney would not commit to reversing that this season and said that take-up in these areas has not unduly suffered despite the hefty increase. Angie Smith suggested offering better value half-season tickets for disabled fans when they go on sale, something JM agreed to look in to. The club’s commercial manager certainly didn’t hide that the current offering is, in his words, “poor” and compares badly to other clubs. A rethink certainly seems to be on the cards.
The club ran discounted travel for Arsenal, and plans to do so for Liverpool. This runs a little against previous agreements that the £200,000 the Premier League sets aside for each club would be used to offset ticket costs rather than travel, as only a minority use official coaches to get to away games. One bright spark asked whether some of this £200k can be used to restore disabled concessions right away.
Burnley’s insane levying of £37 for the upcoming fixture was universally derided. Though speaking for ourselves, it’d be nice if City didn’t take revenge over this, the only people who’ll suffer will be Burnley fans. Then again, if you were at Turf Moor in 1984…
Rob Harmer enquired about the lack of season tickets available to buy in N5, right beside away fans. The explanation was not completely expected, that the club wanted new/occasional fans to be between the noisiest home section and ever-noisy away fans, making the experience as exciting as possible. Judge for yourself the merits and success of that, though it did seem fairly creative. As of 2015/16, N5 will be available for season tickets, with Ian Waterson urging the club to have proper organisation in place for the sale of what’ll be a highly sought after area. For some Cup games, City may also need to give N5 to away fans; this would be mentioned as a condition of sale.
The club hopes to have 2015/16 season ticket information out by January, and on sale by March, a significant improvement on this season. The old chestnut of membership points and loyalty systems, something we’ve been hearing since the early days of Adam Pearson’s reign, was mentioned. Progress is slowly being made.
The club want to rearrange some of the existing facilities at the stadium to have a bar in the East Stand where take-up of such a facility is likely to be higher, and a Family Lounge not in the East Stand, again where such an offering will more suit the clientele of the respective areas. The club has evidently learned from the Lokeren experience and hopes to have fan parks “at some point” in the future, ideally in West Park – though that depends on agreement with Hull City Council.
The recent one-off event of City fans singing a City song at a City game was touched upon. The club sought not to make comment upon that at the time, not wishing to inflame the situation; given that it hasn’t occurred since, that seems justified. James Mooney was not impressed by the boos, however. He also reads various fans’ forums, judging by his observance that CTWD have collectively joined them all. He said nice things about our very own Things We Think We Think, which “everyone” in the office reads. Except Assem Allam. That’s probably for the best…
Pete Curry from the SAG introduced himself – turns out he was coppering at Boothferry Park, and vividly recalled the Bradford match of 1996. It also seems that the notes from SAG meetings about the policing of City games are subject to Freedom of Information legislation, that beautiful little law that eventually beat an apology out of West Yorkshire Police.
He said there’s an increasing view across the country that supporter involvement in SAG meetings may be a good thing. Hull City AFC are in favour and Ehab Allam may formally advocate this soon.
City’s third kit was with the club and has now been launched – this was intended to be a European kit, though the decision to prioritise a point against Stoke rather scuppered that. The club may not introduce a third kit next season, to which Ron Black neatly suggesting using this one for two seasons.
The crest, which James Mooney “really likes”, was raised. The shirt for 2015/16 is already being discussed, but as badges can be signed off at a later point in production than shirts, there’s scope for this to be changed well into 2015. The addition of the club’s actual name to the badge was suggested by several. We don’t really see this happening in truth, but it would be nice, particularly after the FA confirm that the name Hull City AFC will be kept.
Angie Smith eloquently urged the club to tie themselves and their name into the Hull City of Culture 2017 celebrations. HCAFC are one of the city’s most venerable and influential institutions and this seems an open goal for the club. JM said that Ehab Allam is keen to be involved, and meetings are already planned.
The official Twitter account’s much scorned use of “#UTT” and banishment of “#hcafc” as the hashtag affixed to messages was raised. James Mooney initially said this will not change and ties in to the club’s determination to make “Up the Tigers” a prominent part of the club’s marketing. Fine, said many, but why banish #hcafc? That remains the one used by the majority of fans and most media outlets, and effectively places the club outside of conversations about itself. We were told at the last meeting that the deliberately provocative use of “www.hullcitytigers.com” instead of “www.hullcityafc.net” is a “board decision” – ie, an Allam decision. This smacks of the same thing. We observed that it represents both pointless aggravation and also a quick and easy win for the club should it listen to people and use #hcafc, either instead of or in addition to UTT. It was, we acknowledged, not the most pressing global matter, but still an odd way for the club to alienate its own fans. Eventually, James Mooney promised to raise the issue with senior management.
Angie Smith criticised the “Tigers/Tigresses” above the loos at the stadium. These may not be long for this world.
The playing of “Caravan of Love” just before kick-off isn’t working, agreed almost everyone, which led into a discussion of pre-match music, in which everyone not surprisingly advanced their own personal favourite songs in the build-up to the game. Except us – we wondered aloud why we even need music from 2.45pm onwards. Wouldn’t it be better to cut the cheesy pop and let the fans make their own noise? JM agreed up to a point, though said some fans “like it”. They probably do, but we still think football chants and songs at a football match are preferable to whatever shite Simon Cowell has ordered us all to like, and gets the atmosphere building up much more. Plus it’d save the club money in royalties, JM acknowledged. Go on City, do it…
The tiger in the room was eventually touched upon. The club, JM said, has “several” reasons for challenging the FA’s fair, transparent and thoughtful adjudication process from last season. In the unlikely event of the FA ruling in the club’s favour, this “could” pave the way for a second application, although Assem Allam has stated before that he wouldn’t want to do this. The FA’s verdict on this arbitration is expected within the next month, now that a third person on the arbitration panel has been decided upon.
Most in the room opposed the club’s move, in keeping with the general mood of the past 16 months, but the discussion remained civil enough. We asked who is paying for the lawyers who are acting against the majority of fans’ wishes, the club itself or the Allam family – James Mooney didn’t have this information to hand but has promised to look into it.
The clubs accounts were praised, and the 11 month reporting period – designed to align with the football season – seems reasonable enough. James Mooney noted that the club is well-run, profitable and insisted that though Mr Allam WILL sell when the FA rule against him, his legacy will be a good one. The loan interest is now only 4%, we were told. Interesting. The mortgage taken out by a previous regime was something he would not comment upon.
Could a fans’ forum with Steve Bruce be arranged? JM said that though an accomplished media operator, the manager isn’t hugely in love with such events, though the club will look to stage one.
As the meeting came to an end after about three hours, two more interesting snippets: City will be holding their Remembrance Day events for the Southampton game.
And…the club is applying to play in the 2015 Asia Trophy, something we would be insanely excited about.
And that was that. The club deserves credit for trying to reach out, and trying to listen. While the club remains so obstinately opposed to the majority over the fundamental issue of its own name that is difficult. But they’re trying.