Fans Liaison Committee – December 2007

The FLC met for the final time in 2007 on Thursday 20th December. With the meeting principally concerned with catering issues, chairman Paul Duffen was absent. In his place were marketing manager Andy Dawson and members of the catering operation employed by the Stadium Management Committee.

Food
Discussed first were vegetarian options, which one Amber Nectar correspondent considered to be slightly lacking. For those who choose not to eat the dead, cheese and onion pies as well as pizza pods are available. The catering company are also looking at introducing baked potatoes. These will require a proper examination as their preparation will be lengthier than most existing foodstuffs, but they will hopefully be on sale later this season.

Could we also have a plain burger? Not really, it was explained – they are pre-prepared and primarily with cheese, the removal of which would not be feasible in a high-volume operation.

Beer
That perennial issue for thirsty Tigers, the beer, was also discussed. Mention of the pre-pouring systems was made, with it being noted that lager is always more readily available than bitter. It was explained that lager outsells beer by a 4:1 ration, hence the required to have more of the former ready. The FLC was informed that the alcohol operation ran by the former suppliers Carlsberg was one of their biggest UK accounts. Somehow, it’s quite nice to note that City fans are such excellent consumers of ale. Or does it just mean we were a bit poo last season and alcoholic sustenance was frequently required?

The temperature of the bitter was also raised, with the complaint being that it’s too cold. This is unlikely to be remedied, as the same remote cooler is used for both lager and bitter.

A price comparison was produced for those who consider the ale to be too costly. A pint at City costs £2.60 – when viewed alongside to “comparable and fairly local clubs” (Derby, Sheff U, Sheff W, Leicester, Notts Forest, Sunderland, Stoke, Huddersfield, Leeds, West Brom, Wolves and Barnsley), ours is actually the cheapest.

The increase in sales when additional beer-only kiosks were introduced into the ever-crowded East concourse demonstrates that supply is not presenting meeting demand. Without major reconstruction to this part of the ground, no easy answers are available for solving this problem.

Finally for non-teetotallers, 500ml bottles of Magners are to be trialled later this season. Not over ice. Hopefully.

The Catering Company
It was asked if the catering company makes a profit. Their dual operations was described – the one of providing matchday food and drink, and that of events. An example of the latter was occuring on the same evening as the FLC meeting, a dinner with former boxer Nigel Benn. These each contribute roughly half of the total business. The price elasticity of products was raised, but it is not felt that reducing prices would bring about the increase in business to increase profitability. The division of money between the club and company was enquired about. The club gets a percentage commission from sales.

Sales
As City fans are notoriously late arrivers, with 75% of the crowd not inside the ground until 2.45pm on a typical matchday, ways of increasing sales before the game are being looked at. One is a price reduction before the game in order to increase sales and revenue for the club before matches instead of the money being spent away from the ground.

The issue of pre-paying for half-time drinks has been raised several times, with nothing coming of it. The club and the catering company is aware that this scheme would be potentially popular, but it was noted that the same number of people would still be queuing during half-time.

The successes of the pitchside vendors was mentioned. The hawkers have experienced the difficulty of repeatedly having to return to re-stock and they can only sell about 20 or so hot drinks in one go. It is also difficult to station them in the crowded East concourse for safety reasons, and there are no plans to equip them with alcoholic beverages.

Difficulties communicating with some of the kiosk staff were raised. Frequently, these are agency staff with an uncertain command of English, which produces obviously problems in a crowded and noisy area. With 200-250 casual staff required on an average matchday the problems of recruitment are ever-present, although greater attempts to attract students at local colleges and universities are being made.

The issue of identity was raised. At some clubs, the plastic glasses are branded with the club crest and the signage makes reference to the home club. This could not easily be introduced at City owing to the presence of the eggchasing infidels, but the possibility of branded glasses will be looked in to.

Some have observed that the food is too hot. This is a health and safety issue as undercooked food would be extremely unwise, and the catering company were (rightly) unrepentant about it. As an aside, it was noted that the regular food hygiene inspection will be occurring on an upcoming matchday. Expect supernova-hot foodstuffs on this day.

Less popular items (wine and soup) will be advertised more, in order to let supporters know that these products actually are on sale.

The problems with items selling out at some kiosks was raised. The company feels that this is handled quite well (with the caveat that it’s a high volume operation in a very tight time frame), with each kiosk having a manager in communication with the rest to whisk stock from one to the other if required.

Is unsold food kept? No – a “four hour rule” is in operation, and even giving it away may contravene some regulation or other.

Other stuff
The FLC members jointly signed a letter from one of the members requesting the council examine the present condition of the entrances and exits of Walton Street carpark, plus the state of the lighting and surface. It is hoped that a representative of the council can attend a future meeting.

Sky enquired about the possibility of televising the Sheffield Wednesday fixture on December 30th, with a distinctly horrible kick-off time of 1130am. With the West Brom match already confirmed for live coverage (at a more supporter-friendly 5.20pm), this was not pursued.

Les Motherby

Fans Liaison Committee – October 2007

Has it really been a month since the last meeting? Wow, time really flies when you’re moaning about pie flavours. Chairman Paul Duffen, Commercial honcho Andy Dawson and FLO Danny Pratt met with the rag tag bunch collectively known as the Fans Liaison Committee at the KC Stadium on Thursday 18th September.

Briefly recapping from last month’s meeting, Danny Pratt outlined what had been followed up on. The main issue of note was the Stadium PA System. A full audit was undertaken on the PA system after supporters noted that the sound was too loud in some areas and inaudible in others. The survey found no problems with the equipment already installed, however more speakers are needed in the South/West corner so the volume can be reduced to avoid over amplification and improve clarity. The club are taking quotes for the cost of the purchase and installation of new speakers.

Last month the issue of the club’s visual presence throughout the city was raised and supporters were asked to generate ideas as to how the club could improve it’s profile. The marketing team have also been discussing this in detail, they agree that a greater visual presence is needed and they are looking to put together a coordinated campaign so the attempts to raise the profile do not appear ‘scattergun’.

Onto this month’s queries…

“Why aren’t Hull City represented in the Masters football tournaments?” asked one supporter, miffed that South Yorkshire jikes such as Barnsley and Rotherham have teams in the Sky Sports broadcast 6 a side competition and the Tigers do not. It was a question that bemused all three men from the club, they weren’t even sure who organised the tournament, but they’ll find out.

There has been much talk in the media of late about allowing supporters to stand in ‘controlled terrace areas’ in Premiership and Championship stadia, a practice outlawed by the Taylor Report in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster. “What are the chairman’s thoughts on this matter?” queried one shaven headed fan. The DuffMan expressed scepticism of the idea, questioning whether the addition of a terraced area at the KC Stadium would be worth capital investment needed to create it. That said, he would be receptive to the idea if, should legislation be altered, it was overwhelmingly popular with fans and the increased capacity from terracing would pay for itself. So, it’s feasible, but far away, and not high on the club’s list of priorities to investigate.

One Nectarine had witnessed spectators wearing headsets and listening to commentary of the snooker at The Crucible and wondered if something similar could be done at the KC. “Already done” beamed the FLO. A limited amount of headsets, mostly used by visually impaired supporters, are available each game and feature the Hull Hospital Radio ‘Tigerfusion’ commentary. Headsets can be requested for games, just get in touch with the FLO (01482 304 835 or daniel.pratt@hulltigers.com). Intrigued, and envisaging selling headsets that play the KCFM commentary, commercial type Andy Dawson said he’d explore possibilities of rolling out the service further.

Why are there no urinals placed at a height suitable for children (or Verne Troyer) in the gents toilets? Blank looks from the club-men to that question. It will be looked into, especially for the toilets near family areas.

The pikey/chav culture road show that is Hull Fair recently left town, and one fan felt compelled to ask if the club considered asking the Football League for two away games on the bounce during the period of the fair’s visit, to minimise the impact on crowds and of the loss of the Walton Street car park. No. Three Saturdays without a home game would not be good on club finances says the chairman, mindful of the October international break. Some supporters had experienced difficulty getting into the ground when arriving after kick off. There is a set policy in place for late arrivals but perhaps the stewards need it reiterating to them and it evidently isn’t clear to supporters. A turnstile remains open on each of the four corners of the ground for some time after kick off, and even if you arrive after their closure, a steward on the gate can take your ticket and admit you. The club will arrange for some signs with late arrival procedures on them to be posted on or around the turnstile gates.

You’ll be pleased to know that DuffMan is as opposed to music after goals as Adam Pearson was. Despite consistent and overwhelming opposition to the practice from the club, FLC and fans in general, this topic keeps getting raised. Every time, eyes are rolled, teeth are gnashed, and the despicable idea is giving little shrift, some would say the shrift given is short. Just who suggests this? If it’s someone under 10 years of age then fine, they’ll learn, but if this person (and I reckon it’s the same person every time) is of an age that allows them to vote, drink ale and have sexual relations, then they ought to be repeatedly kicked in the cock/minge. A Hull City Online user I’d wager.

I also suspect the next question came from some HCO meff, such was its smug piousness. “Why is it that we are sponsored by the local telephone company, the stadium is named after them and yet the only way to telephone the main office or the ticket office is to use a non KC number? Can we please have a local number for our local club?”

Deadpan, DuffMan answered that the ticket office IS a KC number, allocated by them. You could hear the sound of chips being pissed on at this point, and the questioner fell silent. Really, what has a sponsors name got to do with anything anyway? Because Arsenal’s stadium is sponsored by Emirates are they compelled to fly fans to away games, Middlesbrough via Dubai? Because Huddersfield play at the Galpharm Stadium should they offer fans buying tickets Ibuprofen if they have a headache and some Entrocalm if they have the shits? Utter nonsense. The point about using a premium rate number is valid regardless of which company pays to have their names associated with our home, and there are already plans to change to an 01482 number, that should happen in January, but the decision to do this is the chairman’s and is in no way connected to the KC sponsorship agreement. Adam Pearson said during his tenure as chairman that the club made no money from the 0870 number so there was no value in keeping it.

Was there much uptake of the travel cost compensation package offered for fans that were affected by the decision to bring forward the Ipswich game? The club received 20 written complaints, mostly from Ipswich fans, and those were referred to the RFL who had agreed to shoulder the burden of compensation. Few City fans complained, the Southern Supporters (HCSS) rep mentioned difficulties faced by those fans travelling on train from London and it was noted that they too are eligible for travel cost refunds if they had to rearrange their train for the Ipswich game.

Would the new ownership review the need for the security fence that separates home and away fans in the North-East corner of the stadium? The chairman simply replied that it hadn’t been brought up in his tenure so has not been reviewed so far. By implication it will not be reviewed unless there is a groundswell of opinion against the fence, most people it seems have just learned to live with it.

Members of the Sports Bar are having some sort of existential crisis and are wondering what the advantages of having membership are. The chairman, not joking in the slightest, said that bellowing PA hoon Steve Jordan added value. Blimey. He also added that he’s enjoyed popping in the Sports Bar a few times and his appearances have been appreciated by supporters. Commercial Director Andy Dawson commented that membership gave people an exclusive area to be in and in turn a sense of inclusion, and there were guest speakers too. Someone had asked if a covered smoking booth could be added outside the bar, however the smoking ban extends to an 8 metre exclusion zone outside the stadium so this isn’t possible. The exclusion zone also rules out Smoking Pens which had previously been proposed. Some fans continue to smoke in their seats, the club seem reticent to be too heavy handed about this and don’t want to provoke violent confrontations in the stands (and let’s face it, when stewards chide supporters in the seating areas for whatever, mutually supportive mob mentality kicks in). The chairman thinks that since the ban on smoking in public places is now national law, such instances will gradually fall in number and the matter will be peer policed.

“Does the club get value for money from Humberside Police?” asked one supporter. DuffMan replied that since paying for policing is not optional and that Humberside Police have the monopoly, he couldn’t opine on whether the club gets value for money or not. However he did state that Hull City pay less than most Championship clubs. It has been some time since any notable policing issues were raised at an FLC meeting, which implies there has been an improvement in the service given since the committee met with Divisional Commander Sean White to present supporter issues. Certainly the issue of riot gear clad officers gathering menacingly in South-West corner has been resolved and the chairman said no policing problems have been brought up with him so far.

The value of the SMS news service was questioned when KCFM often announce big stories before the club send these texts out. The club feel that mostly the SMS service gives news first but occasionally an intrepid journo from KCFM will get a story from the manager on the training ground before the club are ready to officially announce the news. Also, KCFM only broadcast locally, whereas the texts from the club are a global service.

And briefly…Stadium manager John Cooper continues to harangue the Council about the lighting on the approach to the stadium but the club has no ability to enforce change. There is nothing to report as yet in the search for the original Hull City railway plaque. There was no hot water in the gent’s toilets at the Chelsea and Ipswich games, John Cooper has been informed. Some meff keeps turning of the TVs in the concourses which …zzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZ. Sorry, that subject triggered a narcoleptic response.

That was pretty much that. Next month, Stadium Manager John Cooper will join us to discuss operational matters in detail.


 Les Motherby

Fans Liaison Committee – September 2007

Chairman Paul Duffen met with the Fans Liaison Committee for the second time on Thursday 20th September, accompanied by marketing man Andy Dawson and FLO Danny Pratt.

It wasn’t a long meeting, generally when things are going well the questions posed are few in number, and coming off the back of City signing Jay Jay Okocha, drawing Chelsea in the League Cup and snaffling all three points at Wolves, the Tiger Nation is quite content. When we’ve lost the game immediately before an FLC meeting then the pies aren’t warm enough, brown sauce sachets are not in sufficient supply and the pitch is too green. Such is life.

Chelsea Tickets
Inevitably, with the visit of Roman Abramovich’s plaything next week, the issue of ticket allocation for ‘big cup games’ was raised by pretty much every FLC representative.

The chairman is acutely aware that you can’t please all of the people all of the time where ticketing arrangements are concerned and pre-empted many of the comments and complaints about the sale of Chelsea tickets by saying the club will hold a ‘post mortem’ meeting to review the way the club prioritises tickets for such games.

Some were unhappy that the tickets had to be bought in person (well, unless you sent a mate with your season pass that is) and could not be procured by post, over the phone or online. Season pass voucher A cannot be sent to the club over the phone or online, which is why those options were not given, and the club decided against postal applications because that would slow things down administratively. The club wanted the passholders tickets to be sold as quickly as possible so the general sale period could be organised.

If pass holders are entitled to just one ticket, then “is it fair that those non pass holders with vouchers from the last two games could buy two? ” asked one FLC rep, a question that didn’t really get an answer, just an acknowledgement that the club will review all of this but for now “the horse has bolted, it’s too late to close the door”. It is worth noting though that the decision to limit passholders to one ticket per pass was made after much opinion canvassing for a previous FLC meeting. Does this policy need changing or is it fair that if you have paid for one specific seat for every league game then you only get the automatic right to that one seat for cup games? If you have an opinion on the matter please let us know.

The club intends to install new Customer Relationship Management software that will assist ticket prioritisation by scoring fans on home and away game attendance, Tiger Leisure purchases, lottery membership etc.

Away Direct
A complaint that has arisen several times is that members of the Away Direct scheme sometimes receive what could be considered inferior seats. The club’s ticket office does strive to give Away Direct members the best seats but it depends on the way the home club allocate us briefs. Many clubs indicate they will let us have X number of tickets, but won’t release them all in one go, and send additional tickets when the first tranche have been sold. Sometimes, the second allocation of seats is in an area considered preferable to the first, but since the club is obligated to make sure Away Direct members are guaranteed a ticket, they are given a ticket with the first lot of seats available.

Beer Kiosks
Could we have an express ‘checkout’ beer kiosk that takes previously paid vouchers to reduce queuing on the concourses? asked one fan. Maybe. The club are always looking at ways to alleviate queuing on the choked up concourses, and the club are considering having ‘hawkers’ with drink filled backpacks that can dispense beverages to those in a queue. The matter will be discussed in depth at a management meeting and we’ll hear more next month.

Kit changes
The “industry standard practice” of the club changing playing kits every season will continue under the new chairman, who this week approved designs for next seasons kits. DuffMan favours the rotation of shirt styles each year so given that this years Umbro shirts are plain amber, black and amber stripes are likely to be adopted next season (yay!).

Ticket Prices
One supporter had asked us to gauge the Chairman’s thoughts on “testing the elasticity of football ticket prices”, and the example was given of Bradford drastically cutting prices to improve attendances. The chairman liked the term “elasticity” and pointed out the words implication that prices can go up as well as down while grinning. DuffMan said that he is very much in favour of initiatives to fill the stadium and the club will continue with the league wide ‘Fans For The Future’ policy of each club having several fixtures where tickets are available at a reduced price. The supporter who asked the original question postulated that TV revenue pretty much outweighed gate takings, but while that maybe the case at Premiership level, playing in the Championship the chairman says TV money is but “a drop in the ocean” and that ticket sale revenue is vital to the club. Before any decision is made on what new initiatives to increase attendance are needed, the club want to see what our average gate is and will give it three months. A decision has not yet been made on whether half-season passes will be sold.

Smoking Area
The act of supporters smoking in the toilets has become prevalent since the nationwide ban on smoking in public places was introduced, so the question was asked about having smoking ‘pens’ like Derby County have, as was discussed at a previous meeting during Adam Pearson’s tenure. This matter is the subject of a “live debate among management staff” and the club are checking Health and Safety legislation regarding such pens. Andy Dawson, formerly an employee of Derby County, noted that the pens at Pride Park were not easy to manage, presumably in terms of having stewards monitor them. So, no decisions as yet, watch this space.

Banning Orders
The chairman was asked if he’d read the Hull Daily Mail on the 4th of September, which apparently had a headline of ‘Tigers yobs known by Police’, he hadn’t, neither had many of the committee. It was asked that if the club knew who trouble causers were then why were they not banned from the KC Stadium? A bemused Duffman said the club have no hesitation in issuing banning orders and said several had recently been handed out after incidents at the Norwich game.

Missing Seats
“Why are seats missing in the South/West corner?” asked one fan. This is because that is where Sky Sports install their big telly when televising rugby games. Next season Sky will use only the stadium’s own screen meaning the seats can go back in, but for any play off games at the KC this season Sky will use both their screen and ours. It was pointed out that the Ipswich game could clash with a possible Hull FC home play off tie at the stadium, and a decision is to be made on whether the kick off time for the Ipswich game will need changing.

Tiger Travel
When the Tiger Travel coaches return to the KC Stadium on an evening, can the lights near the drop off point and parking bays be switched on? Yes they can, and the stadium will be contacted 10 minutes prior to arrival in future to arrange this.

Last season, for one away fixture, the club provided free use of Tiger Travel and it was asked if this would happen again. The answer was cryptic, and suggests that yes, there will be one instance of this happening this season, but it’s likely to be be aimed at those who use Tiger Travel regularly as a thank you, as opposed to being open to all. As such, there will be no public announcement made, instead those who travel with the club regularly will be told in person nearer to the time.

Miscellaneous
DuffMan has initiated a search for the old Boothferry Park railway plaque.

A lift for disabled supporters in the South Stand is out of order, this will be looked into.

The chairman was thanked for making a brief appearance in the Sports Bar after the Stoke game, when he was joined by some of the players. This is a marked change from when Adam Pearson ran the club, he always insisted that chairmanly obligations prevented him from attending . Also, previous managers didn’t want players in a bar with fans after games, something Phil Brown clearly has no problem with.

On the subject of the supporters bar, a 16 year old fan who had purchased a Sports Bar pass queried whether he was allowed to drink alcohol since it’s a private members bar, figuring the law was different in those establishments. The bemused looking chairman said “that sounds like a load of twaddle .” Quite.

There has been a full audit of the PA System which concluded that the speakers work just fine, and that any clarity issues come from the roving microphone that Steve Jordan bellows into. To counter this, more speakers are being added to the South West corner of the stadium to prevent ‘overamplification’.


Les Motherby

Fans Liaison Committee – August 2007

The first Fans Liaison Committee meeting of the post-Pearson era took place on Thursday 16th August, 5 days into the 2007/2008 season. The usual format of a roundtable discussion with members firing questions sequentially was suspended for this meeting to allow the new chairman, Paul Duffen, to introduce himself and outline his plans for the club and see what the FLC was all about.

The new man in the hot-seat sat before us, dressed in a black pinstripe suit paired with a red silk tie, looking confident though a little cautious. Opening with the standard new chairman script line about being excited to be here, he went on to acknowledge that Adam Pearson casts a large shadow over his chairmanship, saying that many new chairman are appointed following a disastrous on-field period or economic crisis. Following a popular chairman who presided over a period of unprecedented success may well be “the toughest job in football” he ventured.

He stated that his main job role is to support the manager (which neatly pre-empted any awkward questions about the selection of Danny Coles) and went on to say he thinks an awful lot of rubbish has been written about the squad and that we already have a ‘squad of capable footballers’. He feels that the players under performed last year and that we should have finished around 15th in the table, but that the spine of the team now has more quality. He then exclaimed that given the clubs less than stellar history that struggling in the Championship isn’t a bad place to be, but that of course he wants to put the club in the Premiership. To do that will require ‘sustained incremental investment and improvement’ over the next three years.

Though the wage bill has already risen from £4.5m to £6m, that investment extends beyond just paying transfer fees and wages, and he pointed to the refurbishment of the Millhouse Woods Lane facilities ‘to Premiership standard’ and the installation of Pro Zone 3 technology (few Championship clubs who haven’t recently been in the Premier League have this) as evidence of attempts to grow the club on all levels. The manager has been backed financially and though frustrated by a lack of available players, some clubs are reluctant to let players go if it impacts their strength in depth, however “there isn’t a single signing that hasn’t been made if he [Phil Brown] has wanted to make it” where a player has been available.

Both the chairman and manager appear to have learnt lessons about releasing the names of transfer targets to the media with a deal nowhere near completion. DuffMan says he wasn’t prepared for the relentless media speculation regarding transfers and his efforts to be media friendly backfired when deals didn’t happen. “Now we keep quiet about targets” said the chairman in a tacit admission of naiveté earlier in his tenure, stating the name of a player we’d recently bid for that the press hadn’t gotten hold of, just as well as his club refused to let him go. The chairman has met with John Meehan from the Hull Daily Mail following the reporting of the Cresswell transfer saga, which the club were unhappy with. As far as Duffen is concerned, the club had tried to be diplomatic about the reason the transfer broke down, having been told explicitly by the club surgeon to not sign this player on a three year deal on the back of major reconstructive knee surgery. Leeds, the players employer at the time had no complaints over the way City had conducted themselves, so the chairman was surprised to see that Stoke boss Tony Pulis had been given a soapbox to attack Hull City’s handling of this matter, and was particularly dismayed that our club was not given a right to reply in the local paper. In only 11 weeks the new boss has recognised what the rest of us have known for years, that the Hull Daily Mail isn’t particularly supportive of it’s local football club. “It’s an editorial thing, so ultimately is the responsibility of John Meehan, who we’ve spoken to about this. It’s a great shame, especially as I think Phil Buckingham is a good football reporter.” Duffen hinted that he’d have no compunction about playing hardball with the local press, as did Pearson on occasion, but said he wants the relationship with the HDM to be benign.

Regarding the Juninho debacle, the chairman said that Phil Brown now regrets organising the HDM to photograph the clubs’ meeting with the Brazilian, who agreed terms with the City but the deal imploded when the players agent later said they wanted £2M should Juninho help City into the Premiership. Though there is frustration at the slow progress of the squad rebuilding it was stated that this is not a City-centric problem, and that most Championship clubs were sitting on their hands during the summer. Many agents thought the Premier League’s announcement of solidarity payments to second tier clubs would lead to a great deal of milk being suckled from the teats of the Championship cash cow, but the speculated £5m for each club turned out to be just £700K. The difficulty in attracting players to the club was acknowledged, “this is not a sexy football club or a sexy city to live in” said Paul ruefully.

Duffen understands cynicism on the part of fans as regards the summer player recruitment drive but insists there is no need to worry about the new owners motivation for buying the club, saying that there is nothing but financial risk in it for him at this stage. Sure, money could be made if the club reaches the Premier League but at this point the chairman says the £10M+ paid to buy the club has “bought me nothing but a raft of liabilities, such as players wage contracts and rent agreements, I’ve bought nothing tangible’. The evasion of a question about a mortgage charge taken against the SMC’s stadium lease asked on KCFM aroused suspicion, but it was answered here. When you buy a business, Duffen explains, you inherit the last owners credit facilities, and when Pearson owned the club, he had financial guarantees underwritten by someone else.

This debenture agreement, taken out with RBS, this consortium’s bankers, provides security on the two businesses (Hull City and the SMC) and the club’s facilities (Millhouse Woods Lane and the Priory Road academy grounds). This is, says the chairman, a normal business arrangement, and says that in order to take credit card payments, the club had to provide a security interest for £500,000 to the bank. Neither the club or SMC have any debt, insists DuffMan. Asked why he didn’t give this answer on KCFM, he said he thought had, but this wasn’t the case, he said he wasn’t prepared to discuss financial dealings. The question evidently took him by surprise when asked on live radio, “it was a bit leftfield” he said, but the lack of an answer meant the question cropping up again was inevitable.

Though supporter cynicism can be healthy the new chairman was surprised to receive angry letters just four days into the job. Asked to elaborate about the ‘hate mail’ mentioned by the Hull Daily Mail, he told of a number of anonymous letters (from the same person) that contained threats, but added that Adam Pearson would get these too every week but chose not to read them. Duffen’s curiosity got the better of him so he read them. One letter complained that the chairman hadn’t responded to earlier correspondence, somewhat difficult when it was sent anonymously!

Whereas Adam Pearson fretted over the reduction in fans taking up season pass offers, the new man figures this can work to the club’s benefit if we attract more people to pay on the day, as they’d be paying more for their ticket than a passholder.

The new owners are looking to spruce up the KC Stadium, which will be 5 years old in December. The West Stand reception has already had a makeover to make it look more impressive to visitors. New machinery for cleaning the concourses has been purchased and price quotes have been obtained to jet wash the cladding around the ground. The big screen is part of the ‘winding up of investment in property maintenance’ and its operation is a work in progress. The complete installation of the screen, which includes installing new cabling, cameras and software and syncing it with the PA systems, has been done in 5 weeks when it was anticipated it would take 12. As the screens operators become more familiar with it’s use then we should see big improvements, the club plan to show past game highlights as well as replays for the game in progress (within strict Football League guidelines about what can be shown). The screen is described as the best you can buy and it is hoped Sky will pay the SMC to rent it for televised Rugby games rather than install their own. The SMC paid for the big telly, though since investment in that company is provided by Mr. Duffen it was effectively him that bought it.

The Tigers Co-Op asked if selling shares in the club to fans were part of the consortiums long term plans, no was the concise answer. When asked what benefit the fans holding shares would get a Co-Op member said that some fans like attending AGM’s and could use them to ask questions of the board, but since the club grant access to the chairman through open forums and the FLC, attending an AGM would give them no further access. Financially, fans holding shares makes no sense either concluded the chairman.

Commercial Director Andy Dawson was in attendance at this meeting and a few brief questions were directed at him, one being a follow up to a suggestion that the matchday programme be made slimmer and the price reduced (it’s currently £3) to increase interest in the City magazine. Offering his 2 pence worth, Chairman Duffen questioned the wisdom of this and asked what the price of programme was at other Championship clubs, £3 was the answer. “Irresistible economics suggest we should match the industry standard”. That told ‘em.

That was pretty much it, next month the usual bombardment of questions about smoking pens and pie prices will resume but tonight was meant as a gentle introduction to the FLC meetings for the new chairman and once his initial caution melted away, he seemed to enjoy the frank and open nature of proceedings and said he’ll be back for more. First impressions of the new chairman? Quite good. He appeared naïve in his first few weeks and maybe that’s understandable, he’s never run a football club before and by his own admission it’s a very different animal from running a PLC. He appears to have learnt a lot in a short space of time, though there is undoubtedly much for him to still learn. Adam Pearson had the benefit of seeing the workings of a football club from the inside before he bought Hull City. It’s too early to have concrete views at this early stage, but a willingness to attend this meeting and others is a positive sign.

Les Motherby

Fans Liaison Committee – March 2007

flc
The Fans Liaison Committee was belatedly convened for their March meeting at the KC Stadium on the evening of Monday 19th. Many issues were discussed as usual but the main topics of the evening were season pass prices and the drawing up of a code of conduct for the police and supporters.

Season Passes
Adam Pearson was annoyed at the Hull Daily Mail’s headline to the article about pass prices as it bore no relation to any text in the article itself and gave the impression that the club are about to slash prices across the board, something not financially viable right now. Asked if the club would use any increase in TV revenue to subsidise a cut in admission prices should the club be promoted to the Premiership, the chairman said “yes” as the club would be in a position to do so. However, people reading the Mail’s ‘prices slashed’ piece were led to believe such reductions were going to be made in the summer, but on Championship income it is not viable at this time.

Pearson said that at no time was the term ‘35% reduction’ used. Nonetheless, the Chairman is acutely aware of the growing calls for prices for live football to be cheaper and is striving to achieve the balance of making prices affordable while still having the club be competitive in the Championship.

Nobody will pay more for a pass next season than they did for this, and around 2500 people will see their pass price reduced slightly, the age of eligibility for a £100 child’s pass has risen from 7 to 10, the family areas are priced at £17 adults/£8 concessions and from 2007/08 there will be some budget seats available.

Why was the ‘West Wing’, a section of seating in the upper tier of the West Stand, chosen as a budget seat option? Simply put, they are the least popular seats in the house, and it makes sense to try to fill them. With people telling the chairman that games are too expensive he has given the option of paying less to see a game, albeit in a less desirable seat.

The chairman asked rhetorically if prices should be reduced if the club were relegated, as even with price freezes admission to a League One game would be expensive at current prices. Ideologically speaking yes they should, but a reduction in matchday revenue “would not be in the interest of the football club” so it wouldn’t happen. “I can’t make apologies about the prices staying as they are” Pearson added.

A decision was taken to give current passholders until the end of the season to decide whether to renew their season tickets, that way they’ll know if a 2007/08 pass will be for Championship or League One football. The club’s mentality when devising the pass policy for next season was ‘keep what fans we’ve got’ rather than to have a big drive to attract new season ticket holders. The chairman is a little worried about falling attendances and hopes the amount of people renewing passes isn’t too much under the current level of just under 10,000.

Police code of conduct
At a previous FLC meeting the idea of drawing up a code of conduct for the Police was mooted, listing what both the club and fans expected from Humberside Police on matchdays. When the idea was presented to the local constabulary they reacted enthusiastically and suggested it be a two-way policy with the Police outlining what they expect in return from supporters.

Chief Superintendent Sean White has drawn up 10 ‘pledges’; 5 for the Police, 5 for the club and fans – all very New Labour. Listed below are the suggested pledges, but this is up for discussion and change, the language for a start is a bit bureaucratic and indigestible and needs to be simplified, and maybe some of the proposals need more clear definition. Still, it’s a start, and though cynicism from all sides is inevitable, there does appear to be a genuine will to maintain a dialogue from all three groups, the Polizei, the club and the supporters.

To that end we invite comment on this draft code of conduct so it can be refined to have realistic and achievable expectations for both sides.

Five Pledges – Policing at Hull City (KC Stadium)

Overall Ambition
To work together, in partnership, to promote successful, enjoyable and safe football match days both at the KC Stadium and at other venues promoting the football interests of Hull City AFC, the interests of supporters and the reputation of the City of Hull.

Police Pledges
1. Partnership – Humberside Police will work in partnership with Hull City AFC, the Club’s fans and other agencies to achieve the overall ambition.

2. Respect – and courtesy for home and visiting fans and Club staff will be set as a priority by the Match Commander and reiterated through staff briefings and other methods.

3. Accountability – individual police officers will be accountable for their actions (or inaction) and the minimum amount of police activity to achieve a safe match day will be set as an objective.

4. Leadership – senior police officers and match commanders involved in policing fixtures will listen to concerns/representations of third parties and explain their actions.

5. Regulations – the Police will support the Club and assist in enforcing stadium regulations and the law as it relates to the policing of football and public events.

Fans’ Pledges
1. To respect and abide by Club and Stadium rules.
2. To treat club officials and police personnel with respect and courtesy.
3. To give feedback on Club and police match day operations (through regular forums)
4. To support anti-racism and other Football Association, Club or Police campaigns aimed at tackling issues.
5. To promote the positive reputation of Hull City AFC and the city of Hull by their actions in following and supporting the Club.

Perimeter parking rules violation
People driving through crowds of pedestrian traffic immediately after home games continues to be an issue for the club, and it was asked if the people contravening the 15-minute wait rule are unable to be identified. When a violation is reported and a vehicle’s registration number is given, the club cannot identify who is responsible, but the Police can. The local constabulary have issued letters on behalf of the Club warning permit holders that driving through crowds is dangerous and not permitted, and that a further violation will result in the parking pass being rescinded. Stewards outside the ground are told to watch for this and on their evidence of seeing people leave the numbered bays the club have issued warnings. Terms and conditions will be printed on the next batch of passes issued and it was suggested that the club note the registration number of the passholder’s car when they are applied for.

KuHCC issues
Several issues that require the cooperation of the Council to resolve were raised, some of them for the umpteenth time. The pedestrian gates in the Walton Street car park for example: these are needlessly bolted shut, so pedestrians cutting across the car park to get to Spring Bank are weaving through lines of cars exiting the fairground. These get locked by the Council at the end of a market-trading day on the grounds, pretty pointless really as the gate can be easily vaulted or the lift barriers can be limbo danced under if people want to get in, so the pedestrian gates may as well be left open, this matter will once again be raised with the Council so the gates are open for matchdays.

Similarly, the club are continually stressing the need for better or repaired lighting along the Londesbrough street footpath to the local authority, but as yet no action has been taken.

There are some parts of the ground that are in need of a lick of paint as the original paint used was the wrong sort for the materials being coated and it has begun to peel and look unsightly. The Council will not permit the club to repaint the areas and say the work is under warranty and any defective work should be put right by the company who did the original work, though that company obviously thinks it’s no longer their responsibility. This bureaucratic attitude is frustrating the Club and SMC who just want to keep the stadium in good nick.

Contract offers
The wisdom of offering players contract extensions during a relegation scrap was questioned, the Chairman answered that no contract extensions have been offered yet. Danny Coles told the HDM he and the club have an option to extend his deal for a third year which is true, but the club have not made a decision on whether to exercise this, and won’t until May. Even if the club did offer him a third year, it may only be to preserve his transfer value, and it would be no guarantee he’d be here next year. A contract extension has been drawn up for Ian Ashbee but this hasn’t been presented to the player and wouldn’t be until the end of the season, the club are shrewdly keeping all options open, despite what is reported in the local press.

Finances
Because the club do not own the stadium there are few assets to borrow money against, so taking out loans to strengthen the squad is an unwise move as it mortgages the clubs future and can result in a Leeds style financial meltdown. Given this club’s history of financial difficulty, do we want to go down that path again? The chairman has constantly sought private investment since he’s been here and would be happy to have a ‘fuller board’ but sadly private individuals in Hull are not willing to invest. There are many wealthy individuals in the corporate boxes on matchdays but it seems they are happy with just paying to watch games and for low key sponsorship and do not wish to make any significant investment to take the club up a level or two. Any investment would have to be significant for Pearson to release equity and he said that even a single investment of say 3 or 4 million quid wouldn’t make that much difference and can easily disappear quickly.

The manager, whoever it may be, will have money to spend in the summer though the chairman would not be drawn on how much, it will obviously depend on what division we’ll be playing in next season and what our projected revenue will be. It was confirmed that many of the players’ salaries will drop by a third should we be relegated.

Speaking about the finances of football in general the Chairman said that the FA Premier League are scrutinising the ‘parachute payment’ system with a view to changing it to reduce the gap in wealth between existing Premiership clubs and those promoted from the Championship. Teams making the step up need to be competitive for the good of the top division, and the current system negates parity in the Championship as clubs recently relegated from the Premier League have a massive financial advantage with parachute payments.

Pre Season games
Three local away friendlies have been organised for the summer, City will make the short trips to Grimsby and Scunny as well as visiting Donny’s new Keepmoat Stadium for the first time. There is the possibility of a brief tour of Ireland but there is nothing concrete in place at this time. Home friendlies haven’t been decided but the needs of the first team may be put over the desire of fans to play attractive apposition. The club have been burnt financially when trying to bring in high profile opposition in recent years as the cost of bringing in a big team is rarely recouped by gate receipts as attendances for home friendlies are generally poor. Juventus would come but at a high price, Rangers would come and bring 7000 fans but we’d have to pay their teams expenses and where would we put 7000 away supporters?

Miscellaneous
“How many free tickets are given away?” one supporter asked. The answer, given by the owner of both Hull City and the SMC is around 500 each game. These go to schools and Council designated special causes.

Sports Bar members wonder why players don’t go in there after games to talk to fans any more. Because they don’t want to is the simple answer, and the manager is of no mind to force them to do it. The club is happy with the community work the players do and feel this is a much better way of being connected with fans than having them sitting in a bar.

It was noted that recent programmes have contained many mistakes, such as a picture of ‘Tom Finney’, which depicted some rugby union player rather than the Preston legend, and Steve Bruce may be alarmed to know we think he manages Norwich rather than Birmingham.

Somebody suggested a specific ‘singing section’, tickets for seats elsewhere are exchanged for seats in this new section designed to make noise. Wouldn’t this just dilute the noise made around the ground and restrict it to one pocket of noisemakers?

When people book away tickets in future they’ll be asked if they want to sit in an area full of families and those delicate flowers who don’t like, shall we say, colourful language or if they’d rather be in an area for people who like to sing, stand and goad opposition fans.

The meeting almost went by with no mention of Steve Jordan until somebody asked if the announcement of full time scores from other Championship games can be slightly delayed, a) so they are actual full time results and not latest scores and b) so people can hear them after the team are applauded (ahem, or booed) off the pitch. It would help if the music was turned down when reading scores out too.

Les Motherby

Fans Liaison Committee – February 2007

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The Fans Liaison Committee met for their second monthly meeting of 2007 on Monday 5th February.

Policing
Reviewing last months meeting which focused on policing issues, one member who had witnessed match day Police operations before the Leeds game gave some feedback on the experience, which took him to the ’Silver Command’ room at Queens Gardens and the ’Bronze Command’ station situated in the control box at the KC Stadium. An officer in attendance at the police briefing at 4pm that day was asked if there had been a change to regular briefings and said that before this game they were told that that ordinary supporters should be accorded with respect and that officers milling near the briefing room and refreshment facilities in the South/West corner should not be on view to supporters in the stands.

Some FLC members expressed cynicism, dismissing the attendance of Superintendent Sean White and Football Liaison Officer Gary Neale at the last FLC meeting as a PR move, one member said that an officer he knew said that they were told to treat all supporters the same, as potential trouble makers.

Still, the willingness of the Police to listen to and address supporters concerns is a step forward, previously they were not prepared to meet with the FLC whereas now they said they will attend whenever invited. It is clear that there are serious issues that need addressing, several incidents that occurred after the conclusion of the Leeds game were discussed. It was said that some 40-60 youths were ‘looking for trouble’ at the Leeds game, they did attend the game but apparently ‘are not regulars’. They were not the only source of incidents after the Yorkshire derby however.

Reviewing CCTV footage after that game the Club stumbled across some film which Chairman Adam Pearson described as ‘quite shocking’, it apparently shows an incident that was ultimately created by overzealous policing and ‘encapsulates all the issues [we] have over policing at the stadium’. The chairman could not elaborate further as after showing the tape to Humberside police, they have launched an investigation that is ongoing.

The club continue to maintain a dialogue with Humberside Police and both the chairman and stadium manager John Cooper seek to change ‘things which can tangibly improve’ such as having officers removing riot helmets when in the stadium. At the suggestion of the FLC, the Club will seek to establish a ‘code of conduct’ with expectations of the standard of policing at games documented. The club are slowly winning over the police on the issue of segregation, for example the rozzers wanted four rows of seats empty either side of the Leeds fans though eventually the club talked them down to two.

Away fans standing
Seeking notoriety, Leeds fans persistently stand at every away game and as a result many clubs in the Championship are reducing their ticket allocation by 10% for the next game each time they do so. One health and safety conscious FLC member said that Leeds fans should be forcibly removed for persistent standing, all of them if need be. While this may be ideologically sound, it is just not practical, there aren’t enough police in the stadium even at a category C game to forcibly eject thousands of away fans, never mind that doing so would incite infinitely more mayhem than is caused by a few thousand people standing up.

There was another, frankly quite foolish suggestion that we reduce capacity for Leeds but charge the fans that do attend more money to offset the reduction in away tickets sold. Apart from the fact this would be utterly unethical, Football League rules state that away fans cannot be charged more money than home fans for comparative seating, so charging Leeds fans more would require charging home fans in the South Stand more too.

Walkway Lighting
Lighting on the Londesborough Street walkway is poor and gives the place an air of eerie menace. This tract of land is the Council’s domain but the Club will let them know the current lighting is inadequate. It was noted that there are enough streetlights, just that many or either broken or just not turned on.

Perimeter Parking & Car Park Egress
People parked in the spaces around the perimeter of the stadium are still attempting to drive through crowds of people within 15 minutes of the game ending. This is against the terms and conditions of being a permit holder for these parking spaces and is obviously very dangerous. People found to be doing this are warned by letter that further violations will lead to the removal of their parking pass. Around ‘half a dozen’ people have had their passes rescinded for this but the FLO Danny Pratt admitted this is ‘a real problem’. Terms and Conditions will be printed on the perimeter parking passes from next season.

The club are pressing for the closure of Walton Street to incoming traffic after matches to improve the flow of traffic leaving the car park. Stadium Manager John Cooper is yet to receive an answer from the Council.

Food kiosks
One FLC member praised a recent offer on food from the concourse kiosks and asked if this would be repeated. The company in charge if catering at the stadium may intermittently run offers and the club will ask them if they could extend the offers, though there is no chance of refreshments prices being permanently reduced.

At a recent game the kiosks ran out of bread rolls for the hot dogs, and wouldn’t sell the sausages on their own. At another game the heat probes used to determine whether the pies had been cooked properly or not were not working, so pies were off the menu that day. Substitute heat probes will be kept in the kiosks to prevent such a happenstance occurring again, so rest assured that when you are able to buy one, your pie will have been probed. Eww.

Public Address
Everyone’s favourite Magic FM disc jockey was the topic for discussion again, and it was noted that after a brief period of improvement, PA Steve Jordan had eschewed a subdued style and gone back to bellowing into his microphone like Brian Blessed doing Ice T on karaoke.

Drawing almost unanimous criticism, even from the Chairman, was the announcement of the attendance at the Leeds home game. It may well have been a record attendance at the KC but saying so during the game just gave those in the away end ammunition to mock us with chants of ’2-1 in your cup final’ and ’you’ve only come to see the Leeds’ etc. Also, the ’giving birth speech’ (© Adam Pearson) of ’C’mon! C’Mon! C’MON!!!!’ in the nanoseconds leading up to kick off in an attempt to get the crowd going have crept back into the routine somewhat irritatingly.

It’s a great shame that it needs mentioning again because when Jordan had toned his style down a bit he got it spot on. The club will have a word.

Casino & Stadium Development
The Government’s licensing of a large casino to the city of Hull led to rather inevitable questions of whether it would be built near the stadium and finance the long ago proposed extension to the East Stand. The chairman feels there is now ’next to no chance’ of the casino being part of the stadium complex, saying that the now Lib-Dem ran Hull City Council would prefer it to be part of CityBuild’s planned regeneration of the Fruit Market area near the Marina.

Pearson has turned his attention to working with the Council to oversee development of a triangular tract of land adjacent to the stadium, it could be used to build a hotel, leisure facilities and accommodation for hospital staff. Any such development though is unlikely to help increase the capacity of the stadium.

Any capacity increase will be financed by the SMC and the chairman of both Hull City and the Stadium Management Company feels that wouldn’t need to happen until City had tasted Premiership football and shown they could achieve that status regularly.

Sports Bar
Attention turned to the Viking FM Sports Bar, which is supposed to be a members bar but in reality the yearly £25 payment to get in is more admission fee than true membership. It was asked if the bar could be linked to membership of the Official Supporters Club, or if the place could become simply pay on the day for all. There is a big difference between those suggestions so the club will have a think about how to structure sports bar admission.

Warm Up
Phil Parkinson’s rather odd preference of having the players warm up in front of the away fans before home games has been jettisoned by Phil Brown. The players now exercise in front of the South Stand in the build up to games.

Admission Prices and Passes
The next FLC meeting will have an agenda to discuss season ticket issues. The admission prices have been decided for 2007/2008 but are yet to be ratified, the club will hold one more meeting before announcing them. Tickets for certain areas of the ground will be offered at a ‘significant reduction’. Passes were on sale from March 13th last year and this years will go on sale at a similar date, though there will be no escalation in price until after April 18th so that fans unsure about renewing their season ticket will know what division City will be in next year.

This issue led to a brief discussion about admission prices up and down the country and the chairman said he believes that the maximum price of a Premiership game should be £25, and that as originally planned, the television money should offset the cost of cheaper tickets. Clubs in the Premier League now receive £40M a year from the BSkyB and overseas transmission deals, and can easily afford to absorb any loss in ticket revenue should they reduce match day prices.

There is a growing consensus among Championship clubs that action needs to be taken to halt the slide in attendances and even some Premiership clubs have joined the chorus when talking about prices being set at a sensible level.

 

Les Motherby

Fans Liaison Committee – November 2006

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The November meeting of the Fans Liaison Committee took place on Monday 4th November 2006, and started by reviewing some past issues discussed at previous meetings.

There was good feedback for the PA system, both the revamped delivery by Steve Jordan and the pre-match loop. The changes to script, including a more restrained tone over the PA address, attracted praise.

There were positive comments for the club’s proactive approach to dealing with tickets for the upcoming match away at Colchester. Many supporters on away direct had received a telephone call from the ticket office enquiring if they required a ticket, and ascertaining whether a standing ticket was their preference.

City’s match at Elland Road next month is causing some concern, with the possibility of the police imposing an earlier kick-off. This needless exercise is feared because of “ongoing conversations” with the police, who have refused to confirm a 3pm kick-off so far. It was also confirmed that OSC members will be among the priority scheme for tickets.

The club are still looking at ways of significantly reducing prices for next season. Heavily discounting both matchday tickets and season passes for some areas for the ground is being considered, so as to be fair to pass holders. Additionally, it was noted that the family areas of the stadium are not selling out on a regular basis. It is felt that these need to be advertised more strongly, and the club will look at ways of getting the word out about the offers available to families.

Colin Murphy is no longer in the charge the Ideal complex since resuming his role as assistant manager. This is not a major problem at present as planning permission is yet to be granted for some aspects of the development, however the club are looking to appoint someone to oversee the project.

A comment was raised about disabled supporters being unable to purchase tickets online – this is because of the need to produce ID to obtain a concessionary ticket. However, wheelchair-using supporters can buy tickets over the phone using their Customer ID.

The club has received a few complaints about supporters using the disabled lift in the West Stand, which frequently makes it unavailable for wheelchair users. The club will remind stewards in the area to keep it free for disabled fans.

A fans’ forum is presently being planned for some time in the Spring.

Replica shirts
A query was raised about the possibility of replica shirts being sold at outlets other than the Tiger Leisure. For the moment, the club prefers to keep things in-house, although this may be reviewed as the club broadens its supporter base. Future stock orders are to be reconsidered, as a surfeit of XLs are available in the club shop but not enough Large sizes are on sale.

Sunderland game
Several comments were made about the recent Sunderland fixture. The police’s handling of the game was predictably poor in several regards. The new (and external) match commander made the decision to allow Sunderland fans to exit via the area of the crêche. This was in spite of opposition from the club at the time. The club are compiling complaints to pass onto the police, who have at least admitted their mistake.

Their decision to deny alcohol to Sunderland fans inside the ground was also criticized, which led to away fans drinking throughout Hull and Beverley, and led to the club having to admit 2,300 fans in 7 minutes before the game, a number bordering on the unsafe and in contravention of the recommendations of the Taylor Report. Had Sunderland fans been permitted alcohol inside the ground, a more gradual admittance would have been possible,

However, as the police have the ultimate power to refuse to police fixtures, the power remains with them and the club has to be wary in criticizing their repeated mistakes. The present match commander may be invited to a future FLC meeting to have these errors explained.

Ticket office
A comment was made about the ticket office, which is looking a little unclean with chewing gum on the floors and a general aura of untidiness. This situation has been noted, and a plan of action to remedy this is soon to be signed off by the chairman.

The Sports Bar is now much improved, with many more stools and coat pegs. All that is now required are later hours, with some instances of last orders being called at 5.30 being reported. The current £2 entrance fee may be reduced to increase custom, and advertising of the facility will be stepped up.

OWS
Positive comments on the club’s official website were made, with several obsolete sections removed and features being kept up to date more efficiently. Premium TV, the organization that holds the rights for all Football League clubs’ websites, are intending to relaunch their template within the next year.

Praise was received for the City mag and DVD. Although this is not a great money-making operation for the club, the chairman considers it worthwhile from the perspective of providing the club with a platform for the fans and it is thought useful as City seek to expand in coming years.

Problems were noted in the West Stand, both with poor service on the concourses and the water in some of the gentlemen’s toilets. Both issues are being looked into.

Coaching structure
The club’s management structure was touched on. Colin Murphy will now oversee the reserve team and scouting matters. Phil Brown will exclusively coach the first team, and was given glowing praise by the chairman. He will also have input on the technical side, looking after the implementation of the Pro-Zone technology and liaising with the sports science aspect of the club ran by Simon Maltby. As manager, Phil Parkinson oversees everything. The chairman is happy at having a greater “football balance” to the management staff, and reiterated his faith in Parkinson.

The decision to release Stuart Ayles and Frank Barlow was a joint decision by the chairman and manager, both of whom had identified the need to make alterations.

Miscellaneous
The Chinese link-up was raised. This is presently some way down the club’s priorities. Some useful groundwork has been done should City wish to return to this issue, but at present team matters are very much the main issue.

KCFM is presently “on target”, although owing to commercial sensibilities the chairman was unable to give any specific dates or progress updates.

The present hospitality packages that were sold upon the opening of the Circle a few years ago are up for renewal next year. Adam Pearson is confident that selling these will not be a problem, and the club is already taking steps to make sure that this happens.

Criticism of the stewarding in the carpark was made, a recurring theme. As all stewards are trained together there should be no inconsistencies, but the correct means of instructing fans on leaving will be given again to those stewards operating in this area. The pedestrian gate near the Spring Bank end of Walton Street has also been closed for some recent games – there is no reason for this to be so and it should not happen at future matches.

A new club sponsor is being signed up at present, however the chairman was unable to comment any further, to the dismay of one FLC member…

Danny Mills is unlikely to make a permanent move to City as he is still on a lucrative contact in Manchester. The club would love to sign him, and the chairman praised his “exemplary professionalism”, but any deal would entail persuading him to drop a division and probably require Manchester C paying up the remainder of his contract.

City are not presently intending to make many signings in the January transfer window. Some funds are available if required, although at the moment Phil Parkinson has no desire to add to his squad.

Future U21 fixtures are likely to be played at Wembley Stadium, and the club is not anticipating any future games at the Circle. However, City will continue to apply for games.

 

Andy Dalton/Les Motherby

Fans Liaison Committee – December 2006

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The Fans Liaison Committee met for its final gathering of 2006 on Monday 4th December.

Occurring on the day that Adam Pearson dispensed with manager Phil Parkinson, that event understandably overshadowed fans concerns about queues at the beer kiosks and hot water in the womens bogs. The Chairman was quite willing to discuss the termination of the managers contract and the search for a new boss, but it was decided that we’d conduct the meeting as normal and then move on to that topic.

So, to begin proceedings, the club’s latest boardroom recruit was introduced – Andy Dawson, formerly Commercial Manager of Derby County. He has been brought to the club by Adam Pearson to strengthen the club’s commercial activities, and brings with him experience of working at a fellow Championship club in a modern stadium.

Programme
The first supporter issue raised was the club’s programme. Although everyone agreed that it is an excellent product, sales remain low, both in real terms and as a ratio compared with other clubs in the division. Part of this is down to the price, with many feeling that £3 for a matchday programme is too expensive. The chairman noted that this is the standard cost throughout the division, but observed that in the future it may be better to have a smaller programme with fewer pages costing less money, as many of the featured content could easily be transferred over to the monthly City mag. Part of Andy Dawson’s brief is to raise the programme penetration rates, as it is apparently termed, up to a level more consistent with our Championship rivals.

East stand Stewarding
Overzealous stewarding in the north-east corner was discussed, with one committee member passing on a complaint that a fan was instructed to sit under pain of ejection while just to his right several hundred away fans were allowed to stand. Although the club cannot openly tolerate persistent standing without risking the removal of the licence for some areas of the ground, the stewards are discreetly asked to take a common sense approach. The chairman noted that the more experienced stewards are posted to this area, and that they generally will not take swingeing action against standing supporters unless it is considered necessary at the time. Interestingly, the chairman noted that a Stoke supporting acquaintance of his who went in the away end for our recent fixture against them offered praise to the stewarding operation.

Away fans in west Stand
The amount of away fans seated in home areas of the ground at the Sunderland game was discussed. The club took the decision on the day that the situation was manageable in terms of leaving Sunderland fans in situ – despite it being technically an offence to enter home areas as an away fan, the club could not follow its customary procedure of escorting them to the away end as it was full and considered that mass ejections would cause more ill-feeling. Situations such as this are taken on a match-by-match basis however, and if the club believes that visiting fans in the Upper or Lower West stand are causing a problem they reserve the right to act. It was noted that most of the Sunderland fans in home areas were in the West Stand as guests of hospitality box owners. Those with corporate boxes have been notified that they are responsible for the behaviour of their guests.

Mascot package
One supporter asked for some positive feedback for the club’s mascot packages to be noted – the chairman and FLO both observed that praise for these packages is commonplace and the club are very proud of the service they provide for younger supporters wishing to be mascots for the day.

Public address
Predictably, the practice of the PA announcer prompting the crowd to recite a goalscorer’s name was moaned about again. It was decided at the last meeting that it would be given a bit longer, but it hasn’t really caught on and even Adam Pearson terms it ‘hard work’, Chairman speak for ‘a bit naff’ we assume. Granted, the scarcity of goals and lack of good football is not conducive to raising enthusiasm for it, but it’s likely the practice will be dropped. If there is a consensus amongst the committee to do so then it will be gone, but at this meeting there were other things on our mind. As for Steve Jordan, his recent improvements in delivery and tone were praised. One member observed that he sometimes seems to be giving out “too much information” that sounds almost like a barrage, though that’s the fault of whoever tells him what to say, not of the announcer himself. Andy Dawson commented that he’s among the better PA announcers he’s come across in the Championship, damnation with faint praise indeed.

Admission prices
The Chairman was asked if anything concrete had been decided upon with regard to the mooted price reductions for next season. At present, the club is “out of step” with the rest of the division in terms of the ticket prices for under-7s, and the club needs to catch up with some of the successful initiatives being run by our rivals. Although nothing has been documented yet, the club is minded to lower both “entry-level season ticket and matchday ticket costs”, with the Upper West stand being the likeliest area for this.

Marketing
The chairman feels the club may have become a little complacent in marketing the club to attract new supporters during the promotion seasons, and that the dropping gates now are a consequence of this. To address the problem, more initiatives will be launched to attract children, with the focus on targeting parents rather than schoolteachers, the former being more likely to give up their time than the latter. City will also look at restoring some of the schemes in place from the Boothferry Park days, when local businesses were given a couple of cut-price tickets in exchange for arranging for a group of people to attend. Although announced attendance figures suggest there are usually 15,000 at the KC Stadium, this figure can be misleading as it is not just a count of those passing through the turnstiles. It is that number added to the number of passholders or corporate ticket holders, so the announced figure will include passholder and corporate no-shows. Recently the actual figure of people in the ground has been nearer to 13,000, so the club are aware of the need to attract more paying customers.

Merchandise
On the subject of merchandise, the Chairman feels that the current range is of good quality and superior to stock sold in recent years. A request for more (and more faithful to the originals) retro shirts was noted.

Concourse TVs
The long-running issue of the televisions on the concourse may be finally solved (breath not held) – any area in which a television is not currently placed is one that is not intended to have one. Some have been removed so as not to encourage large numbers of people congregating in some areas in an already overcrowded concourse. However, in order to hopefully stem the complaints about missing sets, the club will look at removing the empty brackets that remain. The remaining TV’s have been serviced so those that haven’t been turned on recently are definitely not faulty, they’ve just been turned off by some dilweed steward. Dilweed stewards will be told not to turn TV’s off.

Smoking ban
80% of fans voted in favour of a smoking ban in a recent poll ran by the club. The club are happy to implement such a ban whenever the committee feels it necessary, although with Football League likely to impose such restrictions next summer this may not be necessary. Once this diktat is received, the club will examine ways of facilitating those who wish to smoke at half-time, possibly by copying Derby’s excellent system of creating a small pen outside the ground that is fully stewarded and may offer catering facilities too.

Away Direct
Negative comments about the seating allocation for Away Direct members at Norwich were once again raised, although some present thought there seats at Carrow Road were quite good. The club is usually instructed by the home side to sell tickets farthest from the home fans first, although City do seek to over-ride this instruction by offering the best seats to Away Direct members wherever possible.

Playing kit
One member requested that City wear black and amber at away games wherever possible in the future. The reason behind the recent spate of wearing light blue at away matches was due to Phil Parkinson, who wanted to stick with the same kit that brought success at Southend. Next season’s kits, which the chairman is yet to unveil (likewise the sponsor), will be ‘more sharp and crisp in design’. Although Adam Pearson has steadfastly refused to reveal the identity of the new supplier, we have a sneaky feeling it will be a company who’s logo is a double diamond. Ahem. the new away kit will be all white, a welcome return to tradition.

Miscellaneous
Although they are not convinced of the need for such a service, the ticket office will trial-run opening after home games – the fixtures on which it does so will be announced shortly.

The club is reviewing the matchday bookmaker arrangements, new commercial director Andy Dawson bragged of his contacts with Ladbrokes and he will oversee the replacement of the current company running the concourse bookies.

The Sports Bar was praised, ‘very good’ said the Sports Bar rep who has been asking for more stools since the move to the KC Stadium, he’s finally got them! The new bar manager was complimented also. The club wishes to restore interest in the bar, and as well as cutting the admission cost will seek to advertise it more heavily now that the facilities within are improved.

City have an initial allocation of 3,000 tickets for the Leeds away fixture – this is likely to suffice, although more can be requested if necessary.

A request from a supporter for a pre season tour of Norway was aired but not commented upon.

Parkinson Departure
External advice was extensively sought by the Chairman before the Parkinson appointment in the summer and he was the standout choice. Adam Pearson feels that fundamentally Phil Parkinson is a good manager and that he will succeed at another club, though he acknowledges that any success may come as a result of lessons learned from his time at Hull City. If appointing him was a mistake then it was a mistake that several other clubs were prepared to make in the summer, Ipswich, Derby, Preston and Charlton all courted Parkinson but he chose to come here and at the time it was seen as a coup to land such a highly thought of, up and coming boss. Pearson doesn’t feel another Championship chairman would have chosen differently.

Asked when the decision to push Parkinson was made, the Chairman said he was happy with the Norwich performance, feeling we had turned the corner, and was ‘110% behind him at that point’. Even after the Colchester debacle which was described as ‘a major concern’, the decision to move the manager on had not been made. He said it was as late as Sunday afternoon following the Southampton defeat, when after pondering the next six games, games he feels are ‘vital’ to City’s chances of retaining Championship status, he didn’t feel confident that Parkinson could have inspired the players to produce the performances needed.

Did the Chairman regret giving Phil Parkinson the public backing he gave him? It’s a tricky one he concedes. Maybe in hindsight to say the manager would not be sacked no matter what happens was not right but he wants to give the manager an atmosphere he can work in and not feel he cannot do his job properly because of the threat of the sack. Pearson pointed to the recent situation at Norwich where the boss was told he had three games to get it right, this isn’t right says Adam, all you get then is ‘a dead man walking’. He knows as well that the press will not accept a simple ‘the manager has the backing of the club’ statement and will continually ask ‘so how long has he got then?’ in response which leads to unequivocal backing to (hopefully) end the speculation and let the manager get on with his job.

When asked how this leaves the club from a financial standpoint the Chairman stressed that ‘we shouldn’t be hung up on finances’ and that the amount of compensation due to the manager should he be fired was never a factor in whether he stayed. He did though admit that the sheer amount of money spent by Parkinson since the summer will hinder the next manager, adding that ‘a substantial amount of private income’ injected into the club has been spent. The Chairman added that the club is financially structured so that we could handle relegation if it were to happen, ‘it doesn’t frighten us going down, it frightens us more finding the money to stay up!’. Even if relegation would not be financially debilitating the Chairman knows it must be avoided for the sake of ‘the momentum of the football club’. Where finances are concerned Pearson feels the club will have to trade better in the future, and that maybe our rigid ‘we’re not a selling club’ ideology will need some change. The chairman also believes that for the third season is a row the recruitment of players was done poorly, and while he acknowledges that he is the man signing the cheques, he wants to give the Hull City manager, whoever that may be, his full backing in the transfer market and will continue to do so.

Where did it all go wrong? Adam Pearson feels that a mistake was made not getting the backroom staff right from the start, a situation that led to a change in late October when Frank Barlow departed and Phil Brown was brought in. When asked the question himself, Parkinson said that he felt the fitness of the players going into the season was wholly inadequate and felt during the West Brom game on opening day that this was a big problem since the club faced 3 games in 8 days. Because of this concern, the manager adopted a conservative approach following the game at The Hawthorns and felt we never fully recovered from a poor start, a start he attributes to the players not taking fitness seriously enough. The players have been told in no uncertain times that they have let a good man down, and Pearson feels that the respect that the players have for the club has been eroded in the last three months. The players also know how important the next six games are

No timeframe has been set for the appointment of a new manager, and Phil Brown and Colin Murphy need to be given time to prepare the team for Saturday’s trip to Plymouth. Asked what he’s looking for in a boss the Chairman said we need ‘an impact manager’ with experience. An internal appointment hasn’t been ruled out, and Brown and Murphy are said to have a good rapport with the players, but Pearson will wait to see if any external managers come forward in the next 24 hours and will choose the outstanding candidate. Asked if he knows who he wants, the Chairman simply replied ‘yes’.

Next month
The next meeting will take place on Monday 8th January 2007. The guest for this will be Sean White, the matchday commander of Humberside Police, who has accepted in writing an invitation from Danny Pratt to attend and answer the many concerns about the policing of City fixtures.

We would therefore like to invite as many comments and suggestions as possible for him. Mr White is the man accountable for the policing at the Circle and is perfectly placed to explain their actions and decisions. A thread will be opened on the message board closer to the time, however if you simply can’t wait to get your message to Mr White, please feel free to e-mail the editors at the usual addresses.


Andy Dalton/Les Motherby

Fans Liaison Committee – September 2006

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FLC meetings are normally held on the first Monday of each month but this one was delayed because of the unavailability of the Chairman and FLO on the 4th. No bad thing that, since City had mustered just one solitary point by the start of the month and propped up the division, a meeting then would have been a very solemn occasion indeed.

Not so now, since City have won two on the bounce, and questions for the chairman have become ‘that song we play when the players run out is crap, can we change it?’ as opposed to ‘are we going to be relegated? Should I drown myself if so?’.

Public Address and Scoreboard
It was the pre match routine and Steve Jordan’s manner on the mic that kicked off the meeting. A fair few people had expressed dismay that Republica’s ‘Ready to go’ was no longer the song the players run out to, it having been replaced by Planet Funk’s ‘Chase the Sun’, which also soundtracks televised Darts coverage.

The Chairman thought this had been changed at the behest of the supporters, but this is not the case, at previous FLC meetings it had been mentioned that some felt the ‘loop music’ played before the ‘Tiger Tiger’ intro kicked in was getting a little stale and needed refreshing, but nobody had moaned about the use of ‘Ready to go’ at previous meetings. It should not be a problem returning to the ‘Tiger Tiger’ then ‘Ready to go’ set up.

Announcer Steve Jordan continues to divide supporter opinion, some feel the ‘round the ground’ pre match routine has had it’s day, that he tends to bellow when just talking will suffice when a mic is being used making some utterances sound garbled, that repeating the goalscorers first name in the hope the crowd will chant the surname and screeching ‘get behind the Tigers, come on!’ before the kick offs is both embarrassing and a nauseating attempt to choreograph the fans.

Though accepting some of the points made, Adam Pearson said that he had received contrary viewpoints about Steve Jordan from people quite happy with his style and method. He said that going round the ground does get the desired response prior to kick off but agrees that exhorting supporters to ‘get behind the Tigers!’ is a bit much, there was a consensus around the table and that element will be dropped. As for the goalscorers name being stated twice, the second time just the first name so fans chant the surname, the Chairman said this appears quite popular to him.

On a show of hands to determine who was in favour of this and who was against, the committee was split. As a result it was decided that this will remain for now, but that the practice had to be done ‘tighter’, it must be announced as quickly after the goal is scored as possible so it’s done before play has recommenced. Although abominations such as drummers and music after goals are unlikely to inflicted upon us any time soon, the chairman noted that some elements of crowd prompting are useful for younger supporters. Striking a balance between maintaining a traditional atmosphere and including younger fans is imperative.

It was decided that when reading half time scores, results from the division City are in should be announced before those from other divisions, and these should appear on the scoreboard also. The practice of showing other scores on the electronic board was observed last season but it hasn’t happened so far this term. Both teams line ups should be displayed before kick off too.

On the subject of scoreboards the Chairman said the club would be in a position to afford a giant screen next summer, but it’s all a question of priorities. Such a screen would cost £250,000 to buy and around £70,000 a year to run, and if the club feel the money would be better spent on a new player at the time, then we are more likely to make a signing rather than a TV purchase.

The Council’s bus
The issue of the bus for supporters with disabilities being parked outside the South Stand after home games was raised for the infinitieth time. Stadium Manager John Cooper is satisfied that there is no health and safety issue with it being there even though some supporters feel it hampers mass egress from the stadium complex.

Walkway lighting
The walkway from the Anlaby Road flyover to the stadium complex is poorly illuminated. The club will ask Hull City Council to review the matter.

Away Direct and Ticketing
Several complaints were made about Away Direct members being allocated poor seats at recent fixtures, Birmingham being a notable example. This is frequently due to home clubs insisting upon a certain pattern of sales due to segregation reasons. However, Away Direct members are supposed to be given the best tickets for away fixtures and the club will disregard unreasonable selling instructions to ensure this is done in the future. Complaints of this nature were made last season and it may explain why the number of supporters choosing to be part of the Away Direct scheme has dropped significantly. It was also noted that tickets for Southampton have been sent out already, the fixture isn’t until November and there are three away fixtures between now and then.

Away ticket postage was raised. Although the committee was successful in ensuring that season tickets were posted out in unmarked envelopes, tickets for away matches can easily be identified as they are sent in windowed envelopes. This may be behind a number of instances of tickets going missing.

City have requested an allocation of 5,000 tickets for the trip to Elland Road in December, Sunderland received that amount recently. Leeds United had their first meeting with the Polizei about the fixture last week and because of their parlous financial situation are hoping for the maximum number of briefs to be allocated to Tiger Nationals. If the police reject the request for 5,000, we will get 3,200 tickets with travelling restrictions highly unlikely. No alteration to the kick-off time is envisaged.

Sales for the Crystal Palace game are in line with expectations, with a crowd of around 18,000 anticipated. The chairman compared our away support favourably to most of the division, noting that Coventry and Derby combined barely brought a thousand to the Circle.

Season ticket holders on a 4/6 month payment scheme will soon receive a mailshot inviting them to switch to the popular 12 month payment scheme for next season. The scheme allows you to pay for your pass in twelve instalments – eleven at 1/11th of the present price, with the twelfth payment including the final balance plus any increase in price for next season.

The club will trial opening the ticket office after games for a short time following several requests. Previously the view was taken that this was not necessary as there are now several ways to purchase tickets as well as in person at the stadium, such as on the web, by phone or at the new kiosk under the City Hall.

Official Website
Last month we raised a supporter’s issue regarding the dearth of information on the clubs juniors on the OWS. An update was made but this has since been the only one, and the supporter was seeking regular updates about the youth set up. This comment will be passed on to the OWS editor.

Youth development
How is the academy facility at Ideal Standard progressing? Building work has slowed down somewhat as a need has been identified for more dressing rooms that was originally planned. The pitches are practically ready though and should be in use in a matter of weeks. The club are keen to enter the FA Academy League to improve the level of oppostion the juniors face. A proposal for a Championship reserve league, split North and South, will be discussed at a forthcoming meeting of Championship clubs, this too would raise the standard of opposition faced by our reserves, which will include members of the youth team. The Chairman is confident the proposal will be given the green light and the regionalised league should kick off next season. The present reserve set-up that City are part of does not provide strong enough opposition either for first-teamers dropping down to the stiffs or for improving young players.

Refreshment costs
The high cost of matchday refreshments was commented on by one supporter. The Chairman observed that the price of food and drink is comparable to other social activities (he cited Lightwater Valley as an example) although he agreed that it is higher than is ideal. The costs incurred running the refreshment kiosks, there are 700 matchday staff to pay on a matchday, dictate that items cannot be sold as cheap as they can at a newsagents or a garage. Contracts with suppliers also mean that the club cannot just slash prices on a whim. Adam Pearson takes the view that he should focus on ticket prices, catering costs are very unlikely to fall, so he is looking at ways of making entry to games more affordable.

City’s monthly wage bill is approaching half a million pounds, and with gate receipts just making six-figures, the club has to look at other streams of revenue to make up the shortfall. Sky Sports only chip in £60,000 for televised fixtures and arguably that is lost when some supporters choose to watch at home or in the pub rather than in the stadium.

Several Championship chairmen have made noises about making football more affordable, although all are aware that lowering costs places them at an immediate disadvantage. Pearson hopes that a consensus will emerge in the next few years that prices simply have to stop rising in order to reduce the risk of pricing fans out of the game. He stressed that if City ever made the Premier League, the TV money would probably be so great that a reduction to £15 per ticket would be feasable.

Issues about the quality of the catering service were also raised. The club feel this is down to the average age of the staff – the club would like more mature individuals to be serving, but they are not able to recruit them as easily as teenagers.

Sponsorship and Revenue
City are in talks with a new sponsor to replace Bonus who will not renew when their deal expires at the end of the season. The Chairman was staying tight lipped about the new backers identity, though he feels it is a done deal. The Gemtec back of shirt sponsorship deal gives them the option to renew for a second season, replica shirts will not carry the Gemtec logo on the back of the shirt if the deal is extended though supporters will have the option to have it screened on. City would only seek a replacement sponsor for the back of the shirt “if the money is right”.

The Chairman stressed the importance of revenue from the League Cup, accusing many Championship clubs of endangering one of the games last means of redistributing wealth from the top tier down. If Championship teams field reserve sides, this makes it far easier for the Premier League teams to follow suit, devaluing the whole competition to the point at which it may be killed off. City will be fielding strong sides in the Cups this season and the manager is determined to make lengthy progress in them both, which is a welcome change for Adam Pearson.

Stewarding
Are the stewards at the KC adversarial? Some wondered just what the female Tranmere fan who was forcefully ejected during the 1st Round League Cup game at the stadium had done to deserve such treatment, and the pointlessly confrontational attitude shown towards a group of young City fans in the North East corner that evening was questioned. This seems to be an issue at the start of each season, when new recruit stewards display overzealous tendencies, with more intolerance of intermittent standing a particular problem. The club will review all ejections to date this season to see if any have been unreasonable and indicative of an overall deficiency in this area.

Smoking poll
The recent OWS poll to gauge opinion on a possible smoking ban at the KC Stadium received just over 2000 votes. The results were 75%-25% in favour of a ban. 68% of those in favour of a ban were non smokers. Of the 25% who voted against a smoking ban, 15% indicated they were not smokers. A smoking ban in the stadium then is inevitable, but there is no inclination from the club to rush things, they would like to further explore the idea of smoking pens, fenced off areas outside the ground that people can stand and smoke in at half time.

Miscellaneous
A question raised on behalf of ‘someone who likes mascots’ (oh dear) queried why other clubs don’t bring their grown men in furry suits to the KC Stadium for interactive japery with Roary. City do permit teams to bring their mascot with them but many choose not to.

The magnificent fighting Marines and a ball-juggler have been booked for upcoming half-time entertainment, and Tony Norman has been invited to be a special guest for the Sunderland home fixture.

There was some confusion about whether the Tiger Travel coaches are permitted to make drop offs at various locations. Officially they only stop for alighting at the KC Stadium and that’s the line the ticket office will trot out, though in practice stops are made. This is completely at the driver’s discretion, though they are being encouraged to do more, particularly when returning from night matches.

It was suggested that the club could do more to promote itself around the City. In years gone by a tiger striped bus stalked the city, there was a Hull City taxi and outside Boothferry Park billboards advertised the next home game. Hull FC do a fair bit of this, the next fixture is displayed on posters in the old Black and Decker shop opposite Pozition nightclub, that vintage record shop on Spring Bank has a big picture of Hull FC players holding aloft the Challenge Cup and beneath it are details of how to buy season tickets. One suggestion was a board or banner in Paragon Station welcoming people to Hull, home of the Tigers. The McDonalds opposite Elland Road is Leeds United themed, could one of the fast food restaurants in the city centre display a framed signed City shirt to increase exposure of the club to junk food addled youths? The club inviting further suggestions.

Finally, the chairman discussed a few team matters. The club turned down a couple of bids and enquiries for players as the transfer deadline approached, the Chairman wouldn’t divulge details but said that Leeds made no approach for Jon Parkin despite media reports to the contrary. Stephen McPhee will be fit and playing by December, the club was very eager to extend his contract despite his prolonged injury problems as he is viewed as a valuable asset and one they don’t want to lose on a free transfer. Much of the thinking behind the recent acquisitions was the manager identifying a need for greater leadership on and off the pitch. He has brought in experienced players who add to the dressing room, and the early indications are that this policy may prove successful.

The next meeting will take place early in November. Topics to be taken forward from this meeting and discussed further are:

– advertising for the club, both in Hull and beyond. What can the club do to continue raising its profile?

– Off the pitch, what should the matchday routine be like? What role should the stadium announcer play? What music should be played?

Les Motherby

Fans Liaison Committee – July 2006

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The Fans Liaison Committee entered its fifth year of existence on Monday 24th July with the first meeting of 2006/2007. During the last four years many initiatives have been implemented at the behest of the FLC and chairman Adam Pearson says the clubs policies on issues such as ticketing, catering and stewarding are largely shaped by discussions at these monthly gatherings.

Fans Liaison Officer Danny Pratt added that sometimes the successes of the FLC are overlooked and pointed out historical achievements such as the implementation of popular schemes like Away Direct or the 12 month payment plan and also more recent changes such as the revamp of the Viking FM bar with new big screens and stage, the heightening of the ‘Rhino’ posts on the paths around the stadium to make them more visible and a change in the way season passes are posted so as to not make it obvious that a valuable pass is inside the envelope.

It’s easy to be cynical and assume that the club pay lip service to requests and suggestions from fans but they do listen and will seriously consider change when positive ideas are offered.

Before the roundtable discussion where FLC reps ask questions and make suggestions on behalf of supporters, Adam Pearson took some time to go over the tumultuous events of the summer which saw the departure of Peter Taylor and the installation of Phil Parkinson as manager after some legal wrangling with Colchester…

Taylor’s protracted departure
Adam Pearson had no issue with Peter Taylor talking to Charlton when they made an approach, he was their preferred choice of manager from a list of three at the outset, but after his first interview other managers came into the frame, Billy Davies, Phil Parkinson and Iain Dowie. The process dragged on and with Charlton not making a quick decision, Taylor got cold feet and withdrew from the candidacy and Charlton went with Dowie. Upon his return to Hull, The chairman and the manager had ‘words’ over Taylor’s handling of the matter, Pearson felt Hull City had been left hanging around and unable to plan for the forthcoming season. Although as in Taylor’s words the relationship between chairman and manager had ‘become skinny’ the pair patched things up in anticipation of working together in the new season, but Pearson was very frustrated that his manager had no idea which players he wanted to sign.

Then Palace came in and Taylor was keen on that job, so the chairman gave his blessing for him to be interviewed at Selhurst Park and when offered the job he took it, though not before a wrangle over pay. Taylor told Pearson that he wanted £50,000 more than Palace were offering and that if he didn’t get it he’d be back at Hull, “Err, no you won’t” thought the chairman, surprised at Taylor’s apparent greed when the deal as offered benefited all sides, Taylor got the move back to London he wanted, Palace got their man and we could plan for 2006-07. Evidently Simon Jordan, the Palace chairman, offered the extra 50k and Peter Taylor left ‘the building.’

Life after Taylor
The chairman quickly set about filling the managerial vacancy, and Phil Parkinson was the number one choice, though he did speak with Martin Allen, Paul Simpson and Mick McCarthy, who though interested, ‘was hardly beating down our door to get the job’. Parkinson though was very keen to come to Hull City after having tendered his resignation at Colchester. Parkinson was a man in demand, Derby and Ipswich were sniffing around and Colchester chairman and shrub rocketeer Peter Heard had rejected overtures from Wolves for Parkinson’s services shortly before his manager resigned.

Heard is evidently a vindictive man and refused to let Parkinson join City without a fight and sought a court injunction that would prevent him from taking another job for 12 months, a move that if successful would effectively ruin Parkinson’s managerial career. Pearson was dismayed when a temporary injunction was granted within 20 minutes of the application being submitted and feels that the judge didn’t even read the papers regarding the case, instead ticking it off to end a Friday afternoon early. Heard must have doubted that he would get a permanent injunction though, and a deal was reached with Colchester the Friday before the injunction case was to be held on the Monday. Heard’s hard-line stance wavered when City employed Frank Barlow, Pearson stumped up £400,000 in compensation (having initially offered £150,000) reasoning that the acquisition of Parkinson represents ‘the most important transfer this club has made in my time here.’

As well as trying to block Parkinson’s move to the City, Colchester also tried to prevent physio and fitness co-ordinator Stuart Ayles following him to The Circle after he too resigned his post. Adam Pearson signed an agreement that City would not approach any Colchester United employee or ex-employee for a period of 12 months, though unbeknown to the pissy panted Heard, he had joined the Tigers a week before that deal was signed. Arf!

First impressions of Parkinson
When asked about Phil Parkinson, Howard Wilkinson told City’s chairman that the young manager was top of all of his classes when studying for coaching certificates, including the UEFA Pro-Licence course, the highest coaching qualification available. He holds two first class honours in Sports Science and Sports Psychology and is known to be an excellent communicator with players (as opposed to Taylor, who ignored most of them) and is big on fitness.

Pearson describes Parkinson as ‘a joy to behold’ and says ‘working with him is ‘a breath of fresh air’. The new Tigers boss has an encyclopaedic knowledge of players (Pearson isn’t desperately awaiting the new Rothmans annual this year) and religiously studies videos of his players and those of opponents. The chairman believes we have ‘the brightest young manager in the country’ and expects a hard time keeping hold of him, which is why there is a significant buy out clause in his contract should a top 8 Premiership side want to take him. He feels Parkinson and assistant Frank Barlow complement each other very well and are the duo to take City forward. Parkinson is now living in North Ferriby and his family will join him in a matter of weeks.

The chairman has more confidence in Parkinson than he had in Taylor when it comes to identifying transfer targets, whereas Taylor often didn’t know who he wanted and would change his mind on a whim when he did, Parkinson knows exactly who he wants, what he is willing to pay and has two alternative players in mind if the first choice is unavailable. He feels we need a new winger to compete with Stuart Elliott and may need a new centre half with the injury to Delaney. Overall though the new boss is delighted with the squad he has inherited and has been full of praise for Andy Dawson and Ryan France in particular. He has also stated that he ‘needs’ Ian Ashbee and that he thinks Jon Parkin is ‘a gem’ despite his size which is currently been worked on intensively after the big man was ‘somewhat unprofessional’ in the summer regarding his fitness. No players are currently transfer listed and Parkinson has nobody in mind to leave right now, preferring to take a good look at them before making up his mind.

Transfer bids and injuries
Peter Taylor attempted to sign Boaz Myhill and Damien Delaney for Palace and bid £2.5M for the pair of them, it isn’t going to happen. He’s also interested in Elliott and Duffy, though neither are likely to want to play for Taylor again and we have no intention of selling. Peter Taylor and Adam Pearson fell out late last season when the chairman said he was offering Leon Cort a contract extension, it’s easy to see why now, as that years extention raised the price of Cort’s transfer fee from around £400,000 to the £1.2M Taylor had Palace pay us for him. Adam Pearson was highly complimentary to Leon Cort regarding his behaviour during the transfer talks, saying he helped City get a good deal.

Parkinson’s style of football is poles apart from that of Peter Taylor and he is finding that it isn’t easy to quickly change the mindset of players who have played a certain way for many years. For example, ‘Parky’ wants us to defend further up the pitch and press opponents but many players are so used to going to two banks of four behind the ball when defending that they naturally do that even now.

Still, ‘Big Phil’ has set his sights on a top ten finish (as has Adam Pearson), although the injuries to Delaney, Ricketts and Parkin may make a decent start to the season a harder task now. As regards other injured players, Ian Ashbee is hoping to train properly with the first team the day before the WBA game, though it is hard to say when he’ll be ready to play, the same goes for McPhee, both players’ knees are re-calcifying and the time that takes varies from person to person, but hopes are Ashbee will be back late August and McPhee back ‘this side of October’. Danny Coles should be fit by the end of September. Several players have voiced satisfaction that training continues in an afternoon whereas previously it was mornings only.

It has been a long and difficult summer for Adam Pearson but he looks and sounds much happier now than he did at the last meeting in late may when he looked at the end of his tether with Peter Taylor, back then the relationship wasn’t so much ‘skinny’ as atom thin.

Roundtable discussion

Smoking
The issue of smoking at the KC Stadium has caused some heated debate on the AN forums and at FLC meetings. The Football League have set up a task group to look into the issue and conducted a poll that perhaps predictably came out 80-20 in favour of banning smoking in grounds. The chairman has an open mind on the matter and the FLO said the club will hold a poll for City fans to gauge opinion and also consult stadium manager John Cooper.

Derby County have banned smoking within Pride Park but do have ‘smoking pens’ where fans can smoke just outside of the ground in a small fenced area that has a burger van nearby. It was suggested we could have a similar model at the KC with the pens being down the stairs at either end of the concourses.

It was asked that stewards be vigilant in moving smokers away from the vomitaries and onto the concourse proper to avoid situations where fans filing through pass people holding cigarettes in a confined space.

Football League Board
Adam Pearson was recently elected onto the Football League’s board by fellow club chairmen (replacing Colchester’s chimney bottler Peter Heard incidentally) to represent the Championship. It was asked if this role was beneficial to Hull City. ‘Not really’ answered the chairman, ‘though it gives the club added credibility and keeps it in touch with policy making at the Football League. There are no downsides and it just requires that I attend meetings once a month or so.’ The other two Championship directors on the board are Neil Doncaster of Norwich and David Sheepshanks of Ipswich.

Academy and Millhouse Woods Lane
Work on academy facilities at the former Ideal Standard Sports and Social pitches on County Road North is said to be progressing full steam ahead. The pitches are currently being re-laid after being scorched during the recent hot spell and it is expected games will be being played there by the end of September. Colin Murphy is the facility director and is very pleased with the work so far.

Phil Parkinson is delighted with the training ground at Millhouse Woods Lane, which will soon be expanded to include a new weights room and rehabilitation facilities.

Policing
Humberside Police have made no objection to Hull City v. Leeds United being played on a Tuesday night. The fixture has been downgraded from Category C+ (as it was last season) to Category C.

The policing bill has not been reduced following the erection of the fence around the away stand, in fact the bill is expected to be raised by 25% this coming season. The Police argue that the presence of the fence does not mean less officers are required on match days, just that they are deployed elsewhere, such as on the car park.

Away Direct
A supporter had experienced problems with the Away Direct scheme, with his tickets being sent to other fans or more worryingly not being sent at all. The chairman apologised for this and said mistakes of this nature were not acceptable and would be looked into.

Juniors
Could highlights of junior games be featured on the City mag DVD? It’s a possibility says the chairman and it will be looked into. More information on the juniors is needed on the Official Web Site too, some supporters have no idea who (hopefully) the players of the future are, and which players are being retained following their scholarships. A full time member of staff works exclusively on the OWS now and many have praised recent improvements in content. Incidentally Atkinson, Plummer and Bennett are all in the final year of their scholarship and Colin Murphy wants to sign all three of them.

Catering
As usual, the topic of queues for beer in the East Stand was discussed. Would a pre-pay system where tokens were bought before the game and redeemed at half time help matters? Could one of the betting kiosks be used as a bottled beer station? Both suggestions will be looked into. A new multipour system should speed up the process of buying a beer.

One fan asked if vegetarian balti pies were available, as they had heard they were available at the Bryan Adams concert. The chairman was mystified by the veggie balti pie claims, and wasn’t aware the supplier made them. The only vegetarian pie offered by the supplier is cheese and onion, for those who don’t eat the dead.

OSC affiliation
If a Midlands supporters group was formed, what would be the benefits of affiliation with the OSC? One of the main benefits would be appearances by the chairman and other club staff at supporters forums in those regions. Full benefits can be discussed with Tony Conway who is in charge of regional branches of the OSC. Contact him at tony.conway@tiscali.co.uk

KCFM
Would KCFM benefit Hull City in any way? Only from a marketing standpoint claims the chairman. Financially it of little use to the football club but Pearson is positive about what the station can do for Hull as a city and is glad that local investment is behind KCFM.

Customer service
The club are taking a long hard look at the service offered by the club and looking to improve. The ticket office should be open after games, after the Leeds home game last season up to 40 people wanted to renew season passes there and then but couldn’t. A new service centre will be open on the West Stand.

11900 Season passes have been sold so far, this figure is down 2000 on this time last season.


Les Motherby