Notes from the latest fans’ working group meeting

kcsoul

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.

In attendance:

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
Kate Ogram
Dave White, East Stander
Abraham
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.

15 replies
  1. Rich
    Rich says:

    It’s all “may do this”, “will look into that”. Almost as if the person chairing as no real influence. I really couldn’t be arsed to attend and won’t until the name change issue has finally fucked off completely.

  2. JohnK
    JohnK says:

    Whatever your thoughts on the name change Rich, this is an interesting read and at least creates 2 way communication from a pretty wide selection of interested parties. I am guessing that the Amber Nectar folks that attend see it as being worthwhile, certainly based on the final paragraph of this report.
    It is accepted and understood that Amber Nectar do not believe the name change appeal will make any difference to the original decision to deny the application however I was interested to read recently that the Premier League are looking into future scheduling of league games overseas. I’m not quite sure what to make of this but it certainly adds weight and credibility to Assem Allam’s assertion that the Premier League, and the clubs that compete in it, are global brands. There is clearly some long term thinking going on over how the Premier League taps in to the existing global audience and builds on it, this cannot be denied, and quite frankly Assem Allam may just unwittingly be the vehicle for the authorities to get a sense of overall feeling. However I would not be surprised to see this “global brand” assertion to gather pace and with regards to the name change appeal fall on more open ears that might be expected. My own personal view is that Allam is probably ahead of his time in some of his assertions, if not his public relations. In 5 years it may well be a non issue and I don’t think that the continued increase in global revenues for the Premier League and its teams will be turned down in response to fan criticism. In this regard an Asian supporter base, for example, will be just as, if not, more important than a local one.

  3. Andy
    Andy says:

    An interesting comment John, so let me try to explain my views.

    The PREMIER LEAGUE is a global brand, not individual clubs. City, Burnley, QPR, Stoke et al – they’re all clubs whose support is drawn almost exclusively from one city, or at a push county. They are not going to suddenly spring from obtaining most of their support in medium-sized English towns to conquering Asia. That continent will divide itself mostly among the big clubs, in the way gloryhunters in this country attach themselves to “big clubs”.

    I expect a 39th game will be seriously tried one day. As will various other dreadful ideas whose solitary justification is financial. Which is why it is absolutely essential that the name change is emphatically defeated – so that all of football knows there are some lines that cannot be crossed. Because if we roll over and die, it will act to accelerate football’s degeneration.

    As for the worth of these meetings – it took four hours out of my Tuesday, and two more to write it up. We don’t mind doing that sort of thing if it’ll make a positive difference to the club, and its interaction with the supporters. It’s early days so we’ll wait and see. If it becomes clear they’re accomplishing nothing, I’ll spend those six hours doing something more productive. Wanking or being abusive to Labour voters on Twitter, most likely.

  4. Paul
    Paul says:

    As always an enjoyable and insightful read Andy, not least your additional comment!
    Hope the hospital went well BTW! Thanks for taking 6 hours out of your life that you won’t get back, hope it was worth it long term, I think it will be!
    Cheers

  5. JohnK
    JohnK says:

    I can’t disagree with the comments in your first paragraph Andy, as with most things the global brand clubs (we know who they are) will typically be the most attractive, a bit like they are with the media, which sickens me.
    However I just can’t see how the Premier League can be stopped pursuing ever increasing revenues in various forms and frankly bending whatever rules and breaking limitless holy grails as they please along the way.
    One day they will realize that the only people that benefit from this are the players and their agents as player acquisition costs and their contracts just rise in line with the new money that is generated. Seems to me that the sport is not about putting a spherical object into the back of a net but getting as much money for showing the placing of a spherical object in the back of a net.
    I think that Assem Allam is a very astute business man and has probably studied the industry of football and created a view on were it is going. Like most smart people in business he wants to be first to market and potentially punch above his, or the clubs, weight. Hence he has created this view on globalizing Hull City to be part of what I think will be a trend to emerge more openly going forward. His concept is actually very innovative, just all good plans need to be executed well and in this particular instance, Allem is probably more akin to Gerald Ratner than Steve Jobs, which is a shame because beneath it all I think he has his heart in the right place and has done amazing things. I hope his legacy, and his relationship with sections of the supporters, is not diluted by this name changing business and he can do as much as he can to stop himself creating further dilution.

  6. Smudger1949
    Smudger1949 says:

    On behalf of all Hull City AFC fanatics, supporters and followers, may I thank you for taking the time to attend these meetings and, more importantly, for reporting back the outcomes.

  7. phil
    phil says:

    Well written and fascinating article. Thank you for your efforts, this has genuinely made a disillusioned ex season pass holder feel more positive about giving money to the club again.

  8. Tyneside Tiger
    Tyneside Tiger says:

    “I think that Assem Allam is a very astute business man and has probably studied the industry of football and created a view on were it is going”

    Really. If that was true why waste time and money on an application that the FA were almost certain to refuse. Why waste further time and money on an appeal certain to fail. Furthermore any study of football should show you that you the fans in the local community are your lifeblood, alienate them, force them from the club and you have 22 blokes kicking a ball around on a patch of grass.

    His heart is in the right place providing he gets what he wants.

    You can dress it up anyway you want it still boils down to not getting his own way over the stadium.

    Thanks for the update Andy, keep the faith.

  9. JohnK
    JohnK says:

    Tyneside Tiger there is one thing that I do think about Assem Allam is that if he was how he is described in some quarters Steve Bruce wouldn’t put up with him. Clearly Allam has made some significant public relations mistakes however if he was that difficult I don’t think Steve would put up with it. The environment Allam has created for Steve Bruce to manage the squad and its development says a lot about him. In short I think Bruce is far too professional to put up with any crap from a difficult Chairman.
    I have little to base this on but I am not sure the appeal will be the automatic conclusion that seems to be suggested and expected. I actually hope that there could be an end to anymore disruption, although I have been in favour of Allam having his way I think it is now right to get on with focusing on the development of a sustained long term PL residence. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  10. Obadiah
    Obadiah says:

    I think the last thing Assem Allam wants is for the FA to agree to the name change. The reason James Mooney couldn’t be more definite, might, just might, be because he expects the decisions to be made by a new owner.

  11. Rich
    Rich says:

    Aside from matters on the pitch and the price of tickets, everything else just seems pointless and trivial compared to the name change. I’m not saying I don’t think the working group is a good idea, but who cares about the the pre match music and the use of the third kit when Allam is regularly antagonising us (to put it very mildly), and continues with this ludicrous idea against the wishes of the majority of the people attending the working group?

  12. Bosco
    Bosco says:

    Andy, thanks for the write up and keeping us all informed.

    JohnK, I think you give Allam way too much credit. The Premier League being a global brand is not a good thing, look at our national team, the cheating, the greed and histrionics in this League, the only ones who benefit, as you suggest are the players, and in may cases average foreign players (at the expense of English players) and dodgy agents. Sky has corrupted the game.

    City in comparison are a relatively decent team, we don’t cheat and Steve God and his players seem an honest bunch. I am grateful for that.

  13. Bartontiger
    Bartontiger says:

    I am not a frequenter of the bar facilities at halftime but would it help with queuing if you could purchase your items before the game using some kind of ticketing arrangements. Would it make things quicker?

  14. Les
    Les says:

    Maybe, JohnK, Steve Bruce is such a good man manager that he manages to navigate Allam’s notorious difficulty in a way that few others can. It’s also pretty clear from Allam’s comment that he wished Steve Bruce would invite him to the training ground more often that Bruce limits his exposure to Allam to make sure he doesn’t get on his wrong side. It’s clear that Allam thinks the Sun shines out of Bruce’s arse and respects the managers sphere of influence (doesn’t tip up at the training ground unless invited), and those are two qualities Assem Allam can be justifiably praised for.

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