Working Party Meeting: Monday, 6th July 2020

Here are the minutes from the latest working party meeting between club officials and various supporters groups, which was held via video chat on Monday, 6th July 2020.
With coronavirus currently forcing the world of football behind closed doors the latest meeting between club officials and various supporters' groups was no different with Zoom being this month's venue of choice.

In Attendance, Apologies and Minutes
Daniel Mole (DM) – Walsall Football Club
Chris Saunders (CS) – Walsall Supporters for Change
Ray Dale (RD) – Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust
Graham Whittaker (GW) – Walsall Football Club Supporter Liaison Officer

Stefan Gamble (SG) – Walsall Football Club
Independent Saddlers Supporters Association (ISSA)
Walsall Football Club Disabled Supporters Association (DSA)

Sam Hadwen (SH)

DM began by thanking everyone for attending the meeting.

DM began by stating that with the vote to curtail the 2019/20 season being finalised, the club are working with the EFL towards a date for the start of the 2020/21 campaign. DM added that they have been given some dates to work towards, however an official date is yet to be confirmed. DM is hopeful that another meeting will take place this week for more clarity and direction on this so that we can start working backwards and get the players and first team staff back in. DM, SG, Leigh Pomlett (LP) and Darrell Clarke (DC) sat down in the last week to discuss preparations for the pre-season programme and DM added that the executive board are in regular contact with DC to keep everyone notified as and when things happen.

The Communications Team have been working hard in the last few weeks dealing with the announcements of players signing new contracts, with Joe Willis and Sam Perry both signing their first professional contracts alongside Elijah Adebayo and Alfie Bates extending their contracts, with Mat Sadler signing on in a player/coach role. DM added that following these announcements we currently have 18 players under contract at the club and that DC will be able to bring in new additions. DM added by saying that the club is in a good position compared to others who have a reduced number of players and that the team will benefit from this with the nucleus of the squad still present from last season.

In regards to the current circumstances, DM started by stating that since the last WP meeting the executive board and members of staff have been working together to ensure the office, Club Shop and training ground are Covid secure. This has since been completed at the office and Club Shop and has enabled staff to return to the Stadium on a skeleton staff basis during the week. The training ground is all complete. Once this is finalised, the body of work will then turn towards the reopening of the stadium to supporters.

GW asked DM as to whether the club would still have to incur the cost of testing players and staff. DM stated that one of the main reasons for the curtailment of the 19/20 season was due to the fact that clubs couldn’t legislate the cost involved as part of this, insisting that completing the season would have been difficult for all. DM added saying that the world has progressed since then and the focus has now moved towards dating the new season and working with the EFL on the issues facing League Two clubs with regards to the cost of testing.

RD asked DM about plastic glasses within the bars and whether these will be used over normal glasses. DM responded stating the plastic glasses were used in the Stadium Suite at first to help prevent the queues and these will continue to be used within that suite as and when supporters are allowed in those areas. DM went on to say that should the stadium be open for supporters to attend, he would initially envisage that the crowd would simply come to the game and then go home after the final whistle, with bars and kiosks to remain closed; based on the model that other leagues around Europe are following at present. CS mentioned about the recent news of the Art Theatre looking to get open-air running again and asked whether there would be some crossover with that. DM responded and agreed with CS saying that due to the fact that we are considered/linked to many industries e.g. sports, hospitality, entertainment etc we take elements of all of them so is hopeful that this recent news will be beneficial for the football club in the coming weeks.

DM continued by giving an update on the Community Hub at the stadium, stating that the process is gathering pace and that all the brickwork is done and the panelling and windows are being put in. DM stated that this will be completed for the start of the new season and that the Communications Team will provide more images and updates of the progress on social media in due course.

DM then turned attentions to the new kit and began by stating that we will be releasing teaser images in the next few days before launching by the end of the week.

GW asked DM about the Season Tickets and proposed whether there were plans to reopen the Early Bird campaign. DM responded stating that supporters wishing to get a refund can physically access this from last season, although the club has encouraged these people to take advantage of a refund package being made available but DM stated that fans are more than welcome to have a refund should they request one and they can do so by calling the Ticket Office. In regards to the 2020/21 campaign, DM stated the club are waiting for EFL guidance on whether the new campaign will start behind closed doors or with a socially distanced crowd before making a decision on this.

RD added to this and asked whether the two free tickets that Season Ticket holders get as part of the package would be used at a later stage. DM responded saying that he is hopeful that during the 2020/21 campaign the world will hopefully be back to some form of normality to which at that point fans will be more than welcome to redeem this. DM went on to say that should games be played behind closed doors, the club will look to give Season Ticket holders free access to our iFollow product to enable them to watch the matches subject to EFL approval. Should a reduced capacity plan be put in place, we are hopeful will be able to facilitate and allow all Season Ticket holders to watch the games live. DM also stated that the club would continue to work with the local authorities and provide updates as and when possible.

Based on the update and answers that DM had provided during the meeting, CS had no further queries in this meeting.

CS mentioned that the group keep in regular contact over social media and via video calls and will be picking things back up in the next few weeks in regards to the pre-season schedule as and when dates are confirmed. DM touched upon this and stated that the likelihood for pre-season would be games behind closed doors/at training ground venues, therefore meaning the voucher element of this would then roll over to next summer, however this may change. DM concluded by reiterating that the pre-season schedule is a working progress at present.

RD began with an update regarding the 50/50 draw, taking place on 18th July. RD mentioned that there hasn’t been as much engagement in this thus far and asked whether this could be pushed via the club, to which DM agreed to and stated that this will be facilitated.

RD then asked DM if he had received anything from Steve Davies (SD) regarding the press release for the 1888 draw on 1st August. DM responded saying that he linked this in with our new Head of Commercial & Retail so both he and SD can liaise on this. RD stated that he would get in touch with SD in due course to confirm.

DM mentioned that he had received details of the supporters who won the new kit competitions on social media and that the shirts will be picked out first for them as and when they arrive and will touch base with them in due course. GW added to this and asked whether we would be letting supporters know when they are available on Friday, to which DM responded saying that supporters will know via our teaser imagery as to when all will be revealed and further updates will be made depending on the arrival of the kit, as mentioned previously.

The meeting closed at 15:40. Next meeting to be held on Zoom on 3rd August 2020 at 15:00.

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