Working Party Meeting: Monday, 1st April 2019
 
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Working Party Meeting: Monday, 1st April 2019
 
Working Party Meeting: Monday, 1st April 2019

Working Party Meeting: Monday, 1st April 2019

Here are the minutes from the latest supporters working party meeting between club officials and various supporters groups, which was held in the 1888 Lounge at the Banks’s Stadium on Monday, 1st April 2019.
As always there were plenty of topics were discussed during the meeting, including the Banks's Stadium, Supporters' Trust, Disabled Supporters' Association, ISSA and much more.

In Attendance, Apologies and Minutes
Present:
Daniel Mole (DM) – Walsall Football Club
Bob Thomas (BT) – Walsall Football Supporters Trust
Ian Buckingham (IB) and Dave Beckett (DB) – Walsall FC Disabled Supporters Association
David Bromley (DBr) and Dave Joesbury (DJ) – Independent Saddlers Supporters Association

Apologies:
Stefan Gamble (SG) and Laura Greenhouse (LG)
Walsall Football Supporters Club (The Saddlers Club)

Minutes:
Nick Adshead (NA)

1: Points still to action from last meeting
DM starting the meeting by apologising for the issue with the minutes of the last meeting that were initially published with an error. IB responded to accept the apology.

2: Questions Raised for Laura Greenhouse, Ticket Office Manager and Disabled Supporter Liaison Officer
The answers to the questions were prepared by LG in advance of the meeting and read out to the meeting by DM.  DM said that if there were any queries to the answer LG would be able to answer queries at the next meeting.

Questions Raised by Disabled Supporters Association:

General Ticketing - An email was sent to some supporters, but not all, offering family ticket for £10 for the Barnsley fixture quoting CommunityOffer2019 for those who attended the Fleetwood game.  Why was this offer not open to all supporters who attended the Fleetwood game as it appears the email was not received by all supporters who went to that match?  DM explained that as part of the Club’s ongoing strategy to engage with new supporters we offered a discounted ticket to any fan who attended the community partner game initiative (free tickets to selected schools) with the WFC Community Programme.  This is something we have been doing now for the past year, we find that fans who attend for free under the community initiative would come back to the next Saturday game if a discounted ticket was given to the child and parent.  It acts as a bridging gap if you like from free ticket to potentially converting new fans to become season ticket holders during our EB period gain, it's worth noting that any discounted tickets we offer to our fans have to be replicated to the opposition, otherwise we breach the EFL rules so at times, it's not as simple as just 'putting an offer on' for a game, without going through our opposition and the EFL in order to comply with their rules and regulations.

Where one family member/friend purchases multiple tickets in one transaction which is indicative that other supporters will be attending matches, does WFC intend to create a booking history for those supporters who have not completed the actual purchase?  DM explained supporters have always been able to do this. They just need the Client Reference for everyone attending to assign their ticket to their booking history.  It was then clarified under EFL rules, a ticket is issued for your sole use and you shall not resell or (save as set out in clause 4.3 below) transfer any ticket to any other person without the prior written consent of the EFL. If more than one Club or EFL ticket is issued to you those tickets may be used only by you and the person intending to accompany you to the match. In the event that you and/or the person intending to accompany you to the Match are unable to use any Club and/or EFL ticket then.

a. You may transfer the Club Ticket to a natural person that is known to you who would be entitled (under the Terms & Conditions of Entry) to purchase such Club Ticket and attend such match PROVIDED THAT such transfer takes place in consideration of no payment or benefit in excess of the face value of the Club Ticket and such transfer does not take place during the course of any business. Any transfer will be subject to the Terms & Conditions of Entry.

This does include adhering to the order of sale as set out by the Club. Where supporters cannot attend, they should return the ticket(s) to WFC and obtain a refund.

If purchasing tickets for a number of fans e.g. adult plus two-family children, then you should give the football club the client reference for the other supporters so they can receive a booking history. If you need to obtain the Client Reference, please contact the Ticket Office.

Parking - Will you provide the full data obtained from other football clubs that was used by WFC in determining that it would be reasonable to levy parking charges against disabled supporters?  DM’s response was that the Club are happy for this to be viewed by the DSA and Disabled Liaison Officer, Laura Greenhouse, will circulate to the DSA.

What was the basis in deciding the level of the charges at £30 (year 1) increasing to £60 (year 2 onwards) especially taking into consideration that many disabled supporters are reliant on State Benefit as their sole source of income?  DM’s response was that the Club has introduced a bridge price as recognise it wouldn’t be fair to introduce full cost immediately.

During a phone call between SG and a supporter, SG said the £60 charge was quite high and that the money raised would be used in future projects even though no decisions had been made as to what the projects would be and when they would come into effect.  Given this admittance, will WFC consider withdrawing ALL parking charges for supporters who hold current parking permits and blue badge holders without an parking allocated bay irrespective as to whether they be a home or away fan?  DM said that SG had done a lot of work of this and would not want to make a decision without SG being aware.  DM agreed to speak with SG who would advise at next Supporters Working Party meeting.

Can you say what these future developments are and when will they come into play and in what way would they directly benefit disabled supporters?  DM advised that spaces will be marked during the close-season which will include new accessible bays.

When and how many additional accessible parking spaces will be made available and where will they be located?  DM confirmed that there will be 5 spaces on the Red car park and 5 spaces on the Blue car park.  IB then enquired whether the two Land Rovers that are parked in spaces on the Yellow car park should be parked there.  DM said he believes they are Market vehicles and that he would speak to SG to liaise with Steve at Bescot Market and ask that they are not parked there for matchdays.

The issue of parking was first raised at a WPM last October.  When was the decision made to introducing the parking charges for permit holders and why did WFC fail to properly engage in open dialogue with the DSA?  DM confirmed that the decision was made just before the start of Early Bird with the matter being discussed at Working Party Meetings with the DSA present.  IB responded to say that the first time he was aware was the email received from LG.  IB also advised that the issue was raised at the DSA Open Meeting but no response was given.  DM said he would speak to LG and ask her to liaise with IB.

Wheelchair & Ponchos - How is the club publicising that the wheelchair and four ponchos are available for use by disabled supporters?  DM advised that the Club released a story at the time and this information is now included in Visitors Guide on the Club Website.  The visitors guide can be found at https://www.saddlers.co.uk/club/visitors-guide/.

How can supporters arrange to borrow any of this equipment?  DM advised IB to contact LG. This information is contained in the Visitors Guide on the Club Website.

Season Tickets - Where is it publicised that season tickets for disabled supporters and carers can be purchased for any part of the ground, especially as part of the early bird initiative?  DM advised that this information is on the following page of the website,  https://www.saddlers.co.uk/ticket-information/season-tickets/.  DM also agreed that the Club can do more to promote this in its final week on the online story. We'll also push this out to the fan database in the coming weeks. The information is provided on the season ticket terms, under the pricing chart.

Given that parking charges have been imposed against disabled fans, does WFC have any plans to remove the concession of providing season tickets or one-off ticket purchases free of charge in respect of the carer and will WFC provide an undertaking now that this will not occur?  DM advised there are no plans to change how tickets are run so Disabled Supporters will still be entitled to a free carer.

Training - In what ways does WFC intend to provide diversity and accessible training for staff, especially match day stewards, so as to ensure they properly support, assist and advise disabled supporters?  DM advised that Safety Officer Jim O’Grady ensures training is provided during close-season to Stewards.  The Club are happy for DSA to have an input and asked IB to contact LG to go through the elements that Stewards should be aware off to raise awareness of issues faced by supporters in their matchday experience.

Accessibility Audit - How many of the improvements identified within the audit report been completed to date?  What improvements have yet to be undertaken and when is it anticipated that they will be completed?  DM confirmed that LG has gone through the report broken it down into the various areas and marked the items which have been completed and confirmed that LG can go through this information with the DSA.  IB asked that a meeting is set-up between the DSA and LG to go through the report in the Close Season between Mid-May and Mid-June.  DM also confirmed that some of the items addressed would be to be undertaken if and when the club were to change the layout of the Stadium significantly so they are very long-term goals and some are ‘in an ideal world’ ‘best practice’.  Of those that are achievable we are working on completing as many as possible but some may need fundraising to achieve.

3: Update from Walsall Football Supporters Club (The Saddlers Club)
In the absence of any representative of the Saddlers Club, no update was available.

4: Update from Walsall Supporters Trust
BT asked questions raised by the Walsall Supporters Trust.

The question was asked regarding the End of Season Awards Nights which earlier the season the Club would take place.  DM answered that in current climate, the club feel that, with our league one status yet to be secured, it is not the right thing to do.

The question was asked Stewarding at the end of the Barnsley game?  DM said that he requires further information before he can comment on the matter.

The Allan Clarke night at Rushall Olympic raised £3721.  DM thanked the Trust and said that the tickets the Club promised as a prize for this Saturday’s game can be collected from the Ticket Office.  NA to ask LG to put the tickets in collections.

The question was asked what happened the event Jonny Cole was involved in and referred to his comments on social media which were critical of the Club following the late cancellation of the event.  DM answered that the Events Team organised a comedy night. Sales of the event were low and as a result the event was cancelled due to low ticket sales. We have held successful comedy nights in the past with Jonny.  Sadly, on this occasion, the event didn’t attract the same level of interest as previous nights.

The question was asked if there are any plans for another ticket offer before the end of the season.  DM answered that we can do as many as you like but need permission in advance or run a similar offer.  The Marketing Team are in discussions with the EFL as we hope to do a ticket offer link-up for the Southend United and Peterborough United fixtures.  DM also gave a summary of the ticket offers so far this season and their take-up:

The Walsall vs Burton Albion November 2018 was a Walsall FC Community School Partner match.  Again, this attracted an extra 918 to the game.  We have again contacted these fans through our database to promote any offers or throughout March, Early Bird.

The Walsall vs Bradford match in February 2019 was a £5 ticket offer for the HomeServe stand. This was open to all fans who wanted to sit within the HomeServe Stand. This brought in an additional 1648 on the gate. Since then, we have contacted those fans with promotional offers on our Early Bird campaign.

The Walsall vs Fleetwood Town match in March 2019 was our second Walsall FC Community School Partner match.  This offer gives free entry for schools across the community partner programme.  For this match it increased our gate by 988 which gave us a potential of 550 fans to email and promote an offer for the next game, plus the chance to promote our Early Bird Season Tickets to under 18's to advertise the Free Football element.

The Walsall v Barnsley match was part of the Community initiative where our Community Programme along with First Team players went out to local schools and delivered 500 free t-shirts and 1500 tickets to Year 2&3 students for Fleetwood and Barnsley fixtures.

The question was asked as to how Early Bird Season Ticket sales are going.  DM responded that sales are holding up against last year’s figures.  At this moment we are 30 down with the same amount of days left as we were last year.  However, it is hard to compare as Dean Keates had not long been appointed and the campaign has run longer this year to incorporate Saturday’s fixture against Oxford Utd.  DM also added that there has been an increase in sales in the last few days as the offer comes to an end. DM also explained that new Credit Provider would be sourced and an extended period would be in but in place to cover the issues created by Zebra Finance.

The question was asked as to why Matt Fryatt took the Walsall Academy Under 15 side to Derby County on his own with no Assistant Coach or Physio which is against the rules and if the Club is investing in people why is this allowed to happen?  DM advised he has spoken with Ben King, our full-time Lead Youth Development Phase Coach who advised that Matt was in attendance at Derby County with another Academy Coach Kieran Squire and Head of Academy Recruitment Matt Taylor. As is recommended and standard practice, Ben had agreed with Derby that there would be an AREA Qualified Physio present who would look after both teams in case of a serious injury.  DM assured the group that no rules had been broken and all staff fully-complied with the agreement in place which follows EPPP standard. DM also advised that all Academy Coaches – including the three in attendance - are qualified in the BFAS (Basic First Aid for Sport) qualification and carry a First Aid kit.  DM also felt that this question was unnecessary for a working party as SD was making this assumption based on his role as an Assistant Referee and not as Secretary of the Supporters Trust.

BT advised that the Trust have a Board Meeting this evening.

Documents on the Trusts Accounts were presented to the Trust by ISSA and questions were asked regarding membership numbers as the money in the accounts for memberships did not add up to the membership numbers.  Questions were also asked on how the trust are getting people to be signed up as members and referred to people being signed up as members on the back of purchasing items of memorabilia and asked if this contributed to the numbers not adding up.  BT was unable to answer the questions but assured the group he would report back to the WP and provide answers at the next working party.

BT was asked to ask if the Trust will provide it’s Membership numbers at the next meeting.

5: Update from Walsall FC Disabled Supporters Association
IB confirmed that current membership figures are as follows:

65 members signed up, 68 members on Facebook and 32 followers on newly created Twitter account.

IB wished to thank LG for her help and support during the presentations that took place at the Portsmouth game.

IB confirmed that in the DSA constitution and policies, if there is a conflict of interest in matters then DB would not be able to participate in any vote.

IB confirmed he had exchanged emails with Joanna Sainsbury, Secretary of the Rainbow Group regarding Sensory Equipment and a suitable Area for such equipment and a quiet room as it is felt the Fan Zone would not be suitable.

IB said that along with Lesley Buckingham they had visited West Brom and had viewed their Sensory Area, amongst other issues.  The Shippey Campaign are a useful company to work alongside in funding a Sensory Room.  An offer had also been received from the Albion Foundation that two students from Worcester University may be able to visit the stadium to look into potential rooms to develop such a room at the Stadium.

IB said that he would be attending a Level Playing Field Meeting on Wednesday at West Bromwich Albion.

IB said that the DSA are starting to develop a relationship with a local charity and hopes to be able to report further at future meetings once the relationship has been established.

6. Update from Independent Saddlers Supporters Association (ISSA)
DM welcomed the ISSA to it’s first meeting.

Prior to the meeting two questions were submitted which were as follows:

In view of the proposed planning application put to Walsall Council in regard to planned changes to the Homeserve Stand.  If planning approval is granted, how will said building works be funded.  Will it involve the Chairman drawing down into his and Robert’s Pension Fund and loaning the Club the money to fund said improvements, and if so will it involve a rent increase or will the Club just repay the costs as a straightforward loan agreement until such a time the original outlay plus any agreed interest has been paid back, or have the club sufficient funding themselves to carry out planned works, without the need to borrow?

DM gave an overview of the proposed works and explained that the proposed works will be funded in the main through a Grant Application with the Football Foundation with the balance being provided by the Walsall FC Community Programme and the Club.  DM advised that plans for this area would see it used during the week as a Community Hub, the Academy would use in the Evening and on Matchdays it would be for supporters.  This project will not be funded as a ‘Landlord’s Improvement’ and therefore there will be no associated rental increase.  DM re-iterated that planning approval has not been received as yet and that once permission is granted and funding secured, it is expected that the building work will take 14 weeks.

Given the recent statement from Club that the Chairman would talk to serious potential buyers who proved they had best interests of Club at heart.  If none are forthcoming is there any possibility that he looks at the possibility of the current rent payments, being turned into some sort of let's say for want of a better phrase some sort of mortgage scheme, where he sets a figure he would require to purchase freehold, and all future payments are used against this valuation, are still paid to Suffolk life, but at the end of the agreement, Walsall Football Club would get said title deeds back and own freehold in its own right.

DM advised that this matter needs discussing in greater detail with SG on his return to the office from annual leave before a detailed response can be given to this question.

DBr then offered an update on the ISSA which has approximately 200 members.  The ISSA are working with closely with the DSA and plan to have DSA members become associate members of the ISSA.  DBr then confirmed that 14 new members joined the ISSA at the Doncaster Rovers game on Saturday.

The ISSA are holding a Fun Day on 26th May 2019, which will include a Charity Football Match.  DJ asked if the Club would donate a prize for the day.  DM agreed to donate two tickets for one of the Pre-Season Friendlies which will be announced in due course.

DBr advised that the ISSA and it’s Committee Members are committed to work with the Club and keep them advised of all activities that they plan to do.

DJ offered feedback on the kiosks not having enough hot food prior to the kick off at the Barnsley game.

7. Club Update
DM advised that everyone at the Club is focused on the remaining League games and to ensure we remain a League One Football Club.

DM advised that the Stadium improvements are still ongoing with the Bonser Suite refurbishment almost completed.

DM confirmed that an Open Training Session is planned for April.

DM then advised the work that the Club and Community Programme Team have done since the last meeting which includes:

Worked with WH Smith on World Book Day to give away books to supporters in the Fan Zone.
School Partners Game where 1,000 tickets were given to local Schools.
Luke Leahy met the supporter who he struck in the face with the ball during the game and gave him a signed programme.
Club supported the Level Playing Field Week of Action.
Leighswood School have won the Northern Area EFL Kids Cup and will represent the Club at Wembley prior to the EFL League One Play-Off Final.  This is the first time the Club will be represented in this Final.
EFL Day of Action saw Joe Edwards, Liam Kinsella, Matt Jarvis and Scott Laird visited Delves Junior School and delivered a workshop as well as answering questions and distributed t-shirts and tickets.
Joe Slinn and Josh Gordon did a Q&A with Staffordshire University Academy Year 7 Students.
Adam Chambers and Andy Cook visited Old Church CE Primary School.

8. Trust and Club Joint Activities
None.

9. Other Business
IB said that he has been in touch with LG who will facilitate a meeting between the DSA and Rainbow Group on a date to be agreed here at the Stadium.

The meeting closed at 16.45. The next meeting will take place at 3.00pm on Tuesday, 7th May 2019.

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