Trust Board members Tim Hartley, Brian Mertens and David Craig met the Cardiff City’s Chief Executive, Alan Whiteley and his team to put your questions directly to the club. On the field the team seems to be wobbling a bit at the moment but we have great memories from our day out at Wembley and are still in with a chance of the play offs
We started the meeting by thanking the club for their continued support for the Fred Keenor statue appeal. We have now raised £71,000 of the total cost of £85,000 needed to build the statue and are hopeful we can have a fitting memorial to one of the City’s true greats erected by early next season.
Another joint project between the club, the Trust and the Supporters Club, is the Memorial Garden near Sloper Road. We handed over a cheque for £1,000 to the club from the Trust to help with the work on the garden. Wayne Nash told us that the weather now means they can get on with planting trees alongside the rose beds which have already been dug. When completed there will also be a plaque to the memory of Jock Stein and an ‘upstand’ for religious services in the garden.
We asked about the state of the club’s finances. The recently published accounts for the year to 31 May 2011 show a second consecutive year of a £12m loss. (2010 was “masked” by an exceptional profit from selling Ninian Park and other land parcels). This clearly cannot continue indefinitely and we asked whether 2011/2012 is likely to show significantly improved results? We also asked about the missed opportunity for the club to convert over £2m of debt due to PMG into shares, which was agreed at last year’s EGM. Alan Whiteley said that this was a matter for the club Board and would not go into any detail.
It is disappointing that the club felt unable to comment on this. These ‘off the field’ issues are legitimate concerns for supporters. The matter of converting debt into shares was raised by the club itself at last year’s EGM and approved by the club board in December 2011. We would not wish the club to divulge commercially confidential information but they should tell shareholders whether they feel their option to convert the debt to shares and significantly reduce the club’s debts is to be taken up in the near future.
We also asked about the new director of the club, Mehmet Dalman. Mehmet is a is a British-Turkish Cypriot investment banker, a Partner and Executive Vice Chairman at Toscafund Asset Management LLP and Chairman of Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation. Alan told us that he has no links to Sam Hammam or Langstone and was appointed for his considerable business experience.
Some of you have asked if Trust members could receive a discount at the club shop. It was pointed out that Season Ticket holders and Ambassadors already receive a 10% discount on clothes and goods in the superstore.
We asked about the way the ticketing for the cup final was handled as people had queued for some time before securing their tickets. Julian Jenkins said that the system they put in place was similar to that used for previous visits to Wembley and that they had not experienced queues before. The club simply didn’t expect the crowd and if they had, then tea and coffee could have been provided to those queuing outside the ticket office. We also received complaints about online ticketing for the cup final. The club again says it will learn from the experience.
The club were disappointed that the Trust had not taken a table at the pre cup final dinner. We explained that every member would have been expected to pay his or her own way and that the ticket price was simply too high at a time when we had already paid for the Wembley tickets and bus. If the club had discussed the dinner with us in advance we could have suggested a more suitable price for the event.
The Trust wants to help build the Bluebirds profile worldwide, starting in Malaysia. We were told that junior leagues are being launched in Malaysia and that we should watch the progress there first. ‘International’ membership is still an option that the club could consider. Similarly, the club is looking at group ticketing and different pricing for different category games which would be particularly attractive to those supporters who do not live in Cardiff.
We received some criticism of the club’s decision to hold the Burnley match on the Sunday after Wales’s grand slam decider against France. We can see the sense of moving matches on big rugby weekends but some of you would prefer a Friday night kick off. The club said that Sunday was the manager’s preferred day and that despite attempts to make it a ‘family day out’ the Burnley match atmosphere probably suffered from it also being Mothering Sunday. Moving games on international rugby weekends will be considered on a match by match basis.
The club, a representative of the Supporters Club and another City fan recently travelled to Borussia Dortmund to see what they could learn from seeing a different match day experience. They do things very differently in Germany and have 28,000 supporters standing behind the goal. Wayne told us that Dortmund were using open terracing but that there were better ways of standing at grounds. It is a pity the Trust was not involved in this discussion as we had already brought the Safe Standing Roadshow to Cardiff before Christmas to demonstrate European style ‘rail seats’ which allow people to stand safely. This Trust event was attended by the local MP and several Assembly Members and gave an insight into the options for safe standing.
In terms of the atmosphere at our Stadium, opinion over the drumming behind the Canton stand seems to be split. Goal celebration music has been tried but no-one really liked it so it was dropped. The club are constantly reviewing their offer to fans. There will be an online fans survey soon – so be sure you make your voice heard on the drum and all other matters.
There have been concerns at the queue for the bar in the Grandstand at half time. We were told that queuing systems had been introduced into other areas of the ground but that the bar area in the Grandstand is actually quite confined and that putting rails in there would take up comparatively more space.
Getting to and from the ground by rail was again raised with the club. We have managed to get Ninian Park Halt station reopened before games, but for safety reasons it is still closed for an hour after matches. It is worth noting that the same happens with Queen Street station in town when the rugby is on. Disabled members have complained that there is no access at the alternative station, Grangetown, and that there are a lot of steps to negotiate there. We were told that taxis for disabled supporters may be put on by the train companies so please do make inquiries about this. The club and Arriva Trains will again review rail services on match day at the end of the season.
Thanks to Alan and his off the field team for meeting with us.
Now come on lads – one more push for the play-offs!