The latest assembly of the club’s new fans’ working group met on Tuesday 2nd December. Here’s what happened…
- James Mooney, Commercial Manager of Hull City AFC
- Simon King, Marketing Manager of Hull City AFC
- Henry Crane, catering overlord
- John W, West Stand veteran
- Bill Shirley, for the Senior Tigers
- Tony Conway, HCOSC
- Ron Black, HCOSC chairman
- Rob Harmer, City Till We Die
- Ian Waterson, City Independent
- Nigel Edwards, East Stander
- Phil Dixon, North Stander
- Ryan Kerr, Not606
- Dave White
- Nigel Hill
- George Machin, Hull boys’ league coach
- Peter Gamble, who knows stuff about marketing
- Andy Dalton, Amber Nectar editor and hooligan
- Angie Smith, “exiled until this regime clears off”
- Ellie Cressey, Ben & Mike Gothard, for the Ulltras
Ticket pricing for disabled supporters.
Following the previous meeting, James Mooney has spoken with Ann Holland (the Fans’ Liaison Officer) and Ehab Allam, who’ve in turn spoken with the Premier League. “There will be changes next season”.
Overall ticket pricing.
“£16 may be too cheap, £50 is too much”. Again, costs will change next season. Not necessarily fall, however. After we asked, JM confirmed that the club is factoring in the effect relegation would have on 2015/16 prices, but assured us the club do that every season. Fair enough.
Having taken up (and paid for) their allocation of 2,500, West Brom have only sold 1,300 tickets so far, while City themselves are far from erecting the sold out signs. That rather deflated James Mooney, whose job it is to fill the stadium. On this, he has a point – it’s only £16 after all, and he said the club is spending “about £6,000 a month” on local advertising. He wondered aloud if fans can do more to drive ticket sales, particularly when it’s cheap. Granted, that isn’t our job, but we’re all in it together…
The club’s twitter hashtag
There’s perhaps no finer example of low-level aggravation of your own fans than the club’s banishment of “#hcafc” in favour of a Huddersfield Town hashtag. James Mooney, somewhat fed up with the issue we suspect, has said that the latter can go, but that the former cannot be reinstated until after the FA’s arbitration. We suggested “#hullcity” as a compromise. JM wants to see the fans’ verdict, so we’ll put a poll on the forums soon.
Name change arbitration
The club may be in a position to release a date for the final arbitration of its name change idea within the next couple of weeks. The club prefer not to have it during January, for fear it distracts Steve Bruce. The arbitrators have been finalised and City have submitted everything they can (boy, would we enjoy reading it). At this point, Simon King observed that City may still spend during the transfer window, but said it’d be the club’s own money, not the owner’s.
Safety Advisory Group
The club remains keen to have a supporter on the SAG, which governs policing and safety within the stadium. That person may come from its new working group. The SAG will reconvene in January to assess games in the second half of the season. JM cited this and other things as evidence that our monthly gatherings can pay dividends.
City of Culture
Angie Smith lauded one of the city’s rugby franchises, Hull KR, for adopting the colours of the 2017 celebrations as a forthcoming away kit. JM said that club officials continue to meet the 2017 organisers, and Simon King said that one of its chiefs attending the Tottenham game as a guest of the Allams. SK believes it to be an opportunity to “showcase our stadium and our club”, while some observed that Hull KR’s approach contrasted badly with City’s, who currently do not even feature the word “Hull” on their shirts.
Premier League funding
The funding that the Premier League offers clubs to make away travel more affordable is not, as previously discussed, going to be spent on Tiger Travel, which conveys only a minority of fans to most away games. Instead, it will be spent subsiding tickets – possibly the upcoming West Ham away game, though a decision has not yet been made. As for what we offer away fans, James Mooney said that the Football Supporters’ Federation has nominated City for an award for the facilities they offer.
Bill Shirley enquired about the cost of Tiger Travel. James Mooney said that he inherited the costs and structure of it when assuming his current role, and that it runs “about at cost”.
FA Cup draw
Steve Bruce and Curtis Davies will be at the FA Cup draw in Hull next week. Reduced prices for any home game we receive are inevitable.
Simon King introduced himself and his role. The corporate revenue is approximately £5.5m a year (gross), and prices remain towards the bottom end of the Premier League scale. He spoke of “loyal local sponsors” who perhaps became “disengaged” during our previous stint in the Premier League.
The Cash Converters deal worked out very well for them, having signed a contract with a middling Championship club and ultimately sponsoring a Premier League side in the final year. When City came to renew, the quote was much too high for them. 12Bet now pay the most in the club’s history, and “just below midtable” in the Premier League (it’s interesting how the club always ranks itself in a hypothetical league table of income, isn’t it?)
12Bet had a choice of a few similarly-positioned clubs when entering the Premier League sponsorship market, but opted for City owing to our relative success last season. Another sponsor, not named, was looking at City with a clutch of other sides and opted for someone else based on League position. SK put forward the contentious assertion that a change of name could have garnered an extra £1m. Really, we wondered? Was this a firm bid? JM described it as a “Heads of Terms”.
SK was convinced that the club’s tigery heritage is a huge draw in Asia, which no-one demurred. JM said that sponsors are “looking for something different”. That got the meeting a bit tetchy, as often happens – it’s an impossible situation for James Mooney and Simon King really, being confronted with the dissatisfaction of the fans but having to represent their boss loyally. But it is still a silly idea. Luckily we moved on…
Tony Conway had the neat idea of restoring the advent of sponsoring a player’s kit, or parts of it. Amber Nectar used to sponsor Brian McGinty’s socks, or something, and all we ever got was a weekly mention in the programme. Tony thought it a good way of re-engaging local businesses and fans, and indeed it could be. SK promised to look at it.
No news yet. Hurry up City, there’s a lot of flowers and chocolates that’ll need to be bought if we’re going.
City are looking at ways of working with the reigning County Champions, Yorkshire CCC. As the county’s only Premier League side and cricket in the region obviously on the up, more partnership makes sense. A few YCCC players may be at a future City game.
We like Henry Crane, his enthusiasm for the club’s catering is quite splendid. This observer prawn-sandwiched it up recently, and was struck by the genuine quality of the offering. The club has now launched an app that you can use to pre-pay for half-time refreshments, and that is “moving forward” and feedback is good. He wants to introduce a wider range of items too, including pizza.
Sadly, offering concessions stands outside the stadium for mucky smokers isn’t viable, as sales are low and it presents stewarding issues.
Should our catering staff wear the colours of visiting clubs, asked Phil Dixon. It’s not club policy, we were told. Though not club policy not to, either.
Brighton’s offerings were praised – they have real ale, stay open after the game, and so on. It was therefore a little deflating when Henry told us that while their service is good, financially it’s not so hot…
Yorkshire Tea’s link-up with the club is an example of the club linking products with advertise. Henry wants more of this. Simon King nodded along.
After persuading the police that we are not, after all, a bunch of hooligans (wherever did they get that idea?), catering staff can now sell bottles to City fans in all areas without first decanting them. Moderately insane that the police once regarded an open bottle in the Upper West as a step towards civil insurrection, but at least City have made them see sense. They hope to extend this to away fans, too.
Henry is “proud” of City’s offering, and pointed out that beer is cheaper than all but Burnley in the Premier League (those imaginary League tables again…) – and most people around the table noted that improvements are being made.
Abraham asked whether an alliance with the mighty Hull Pie is feasible. As occasional patrons of that store we’d be in favour, however Henry thought that issues with volume could make it unfeasible, at least for now.
The Ulltras and another group involving Dave White are both busily created visual displays of support for Steve Bruce. The Ulltras have already ordered theirs, and the club has agreed to pay for it. The second one may also receive assistance from the club. JM said he’s keen to back this sort of thing, providing they are “non-controversial”.
John W asked about standing at away games. Man Utd was particularly horrific, and the club really urgently needs to look at how it keeps apart those who want to stand with those who’d rather not, because quarrels at more fashionable grounds are a common occurrence. It’s probably hard for City to sell an explicitly standing ticket to an all-seater ground, but there may be ways of doing it – City will think of something. We hope.
We asked whether safe standing itself is something the club is currently thinking about. Not the mechanics of converting parts of the stadium to standing, more the need to change the legislation first. Simon King said it hasn’t been raised at recent PL meetings. Perhaps it could be, we suggested? James Moony promised to minute that for discussion at an upcoming club meeting.
City have seen a slight increase in programme sales recently, now up to around 2,700 per game.
Rob Harmer complained about mouthy stewards in the North Stand causing difficulties. “Report them”, was James Mooney’s concise advice.
PA attendance announcements
Should we stop announcing them, it was asked? As one of the Premier League’s smaller clubs, it only ever causes delight among traveling fans. That’s understandably something the club have never even thought about, but will do so.
They were also asked about reading out away teams before kick-off. As veterans of Adam Pearson’s FLC, we knew why – it was to stop away fans getting pumped up by cheering their heroes just before kick-off. Probably best to keep it that way.
Why don’t we kick towards the North Stand in the second half, queries Phil Dixon. That not only sends City towards their most partisan fans, but away sides away from their own. James Mooney promised to ask Curtis Davies about this, while SK said that Steve Agnew had spoken about this and he (SK) wasn’t sure why it wasn’t done more.
That led in to a more general discussion of atmosphere. There do seem a couple of grassroots movements to improve things, with the Ulltras involved in many. Nigel Hill was unhappy about the switching of fans for this season, though most seemed in favour. JM was sceptical about why CTWD are getting involved in the debate, but said he’s happy to speak to anyone about the issue.
Meanwhile, Caravan of Love before kick-off has been quietly dropped…
George Machin, the local lads’ Sunday League coach, said that City’s “ruthless” approach to taking on young kids and then discarding them had left many of them deeply unhappy and reflected badly on the club. Both JM and SK spoke highly of Tony Pennock, who now oversees this sort of thing, and said it should no longer be happening, and that City will aim to keep kids on longer at the club.
With the 2015/16 shirt having already been signed off and a decision required fairly soon about its accompanying crest, the likelihood is that the un-named variant we see now will remain for another season, particularly as the FA’s arbitration is not expected yet. JM took the opportunity to stress that Assem Allam really will walk away if things go against him. Well, we’ll see.
And that concluded a 3¼ hour meeting. The club are aware that they need, in their own words, “some wins” to come from these – and if people are to still attend them, so do we. Movement on the hashtag, admittedly the ultimate example of a first world problem, is encouragement, though meatier subjects such as disabled pricing, safe standing and pricing continue to exercise many. And of course, the name change remains the elephant in the room, and will continue to be so until the FA finally says “No”. Again. But we’ll continue attending, and let’s see how it grows. Unless the FA do something silly next year, of course…