FANS FORUM REPORT

I was lucky to be invited to the Fans Forum at the Cardiff City Stadium on November 17th -just happened to be in the right place at the right time

The evening mainly revolved around a presentation from Julian Jenkins regarding the feedback from the Fans survey form which they had received a healthy 1,400 replies.

Introduced by Julian Jenkins and in attendance to answer questions and make their case regarding the feedback were:

Jane from Compass

Tony  Jones, Head Steward

Helen Jackson from the Club Shop

Barry McAuliffe – Website and Programme

Wayne Nash – Stadium Manager

Debs, the away steward.

Various slides were shown with the responses to the questions…

Satisfaction ratings were given based on these.

Ticket Office

A total of 81 per cent of those questioned thought the service was good or excellent although the club recognised that this can be made better. We were told that 58% of fans now buy on-line and the club were looking to bring in the software Manchester United use which would give you an online choice of your exact seat and a virtual view as well.

Also, interestingly 98% buy BEFORE match day, so the old ‘walk-up’ is really a thing of the past. This helps the club in planning stewarding, programme print etc.. We now have almost 18,000 season ticket holders including the Premier Club.

In general ticket prices were also feedback as being decent, although given very few buy on the day and pay the higher prices, maybe that’s not such a surprise.

Club Shop

This didn’t fare so well with criticism over poor stock although the club shop has more stock now, so hopefully this main gripe has been sorted. It was the same old story of lack of funds to buy decent stock (or any at times) until now. The other issue was overcrowding on match days. It certainly puts me off. I suggested that they kick the rugby out of there as the area in the new shop is not much more than we had at Ninian Park. JJ agreed about the space. I can’t see why we couldn’t build ANOTHER, separate shop for  rugby. Apparently on match days there are extra rails for footy stuff in the rugby ‘area’. Personally it’s still not enough if we want to be a ‘big club’.

Good news though in that next year’s shirt has now been signed off. The delay last year was due to the shirts being held at the docks while the supplier waited to get paid. The club staff are hoping that this is in the past and there will be no repeat of this. They are looking at an executive range for casual clothing with toned down logos and my personal favourite CCFC towels!

Quality was mentioned, and again due to financial problems before we were limited to only a small number of suppliers, generally the cheap end, as the big boys weren’t interested due to the credit risk. This situation has been reversed and major suppliers are now contacting City, so this should lead to improvements there.

Stadium

86% were happy with the quality of the stadium. There are meetings set up to check the feasibility of extending the stadium either just the Ninian Stand or all 3 single deckers to become doubles. ARUP, HMA and Laing’s have been approached as they were involved in the stadium development and should be most cost-effective. Vince Alm mentioned that it would take 12 weeks per stand for the structure but the fit out was trickier and would have to be worked around. A figure of 34,000 was mentioned, but so were others!  Its early days yet, so don’t go moving seats just yet.

As mentioned before the number of spaces in the disabled section is large – 188 and a story was told that we only had 80 at Wembley – and after the game 20 wheelchairs were left behind! Some of these spaces had been given up to ‘able bodied’ as they were unused, but due to that idiot running on the pitch from that area we can’t do this any more. He also cost us 224 seats at QPR as they are insisting on keeping the front rows free there now. This must be very frustrating for the guys who have to fight our corner as every time we seem to be cleaning up our act someone spoils it and the same old stuff gets thrown in their faces. It’s possible we could get some more seating in the corners.

The Family Stand is sold out, but the club are looking to utilise the corner between the Grandstand and the Canton in future. Sooner the better if you ask me! The current family stand had VERY GOOD feedback from respondents.

Toilet quality

Some small issues, but a huge improvement on NP and this as cited as very important for women and families. With an 11-year old girl, I wholeheartedly agree.

Stewards

A few minor issues mentioned, but overall they are seen as very good.

Programme

Those who buy it rated it highly. However 30% never buy them. This was due to many not knowing where to buy them. The club prints them based on expected sales, both of home fans, but also importantly away as there is a higher take up amongst away fans.  Left over programmes get passed on to Community Schemes. They are printed late on Friday and even sometimes Saturday first thing.

Refreshments

The survey gave a mixed response to this, with the obvious complaints regarding price and quality. Of course, it’s probably a lot better than NP, but Compass are working on the quality, in particular the burgers which will be chargrilled (if this makes them like the Premier Club ones then that will be great). In terms of price then we are similar to other grounds and Compass having paid £4m for the privilege will be looking to make their money back. However, the club still gets (an unspecified) cut of the proceeds.

Standing

Some survey responses complained about standing. It was reiterated that a certain amount of ‘blind eye’ was given in the Canton, but that it was an issue elsewhere. It is certainly not allowed in aisles and gangways. The club are trying to manage a balancing act between those who stand sporadically to sing or at exciting moments, and those whose day is spoilt by not seeing the game whilst also trying to comply with the requirements of the Safety Advisory Group.

The Family stand is now fully sold out, including the Community Section and part of the grandstand to families. So if we get a big cup game and have to hand out 3000 tickets then we may lose part of block 117 to the away club!

Entry queues were mentioned as an issue, but it’s really just a case of ‘get there earlier’!

It was also mentioned that we have 156,000 fans on our database with 72,000 e-mail addresses and 69000 mobile numbers. So no excuse for the club to ignore us now!

The online shop is 344% up on 3 years ago.

Part 2

Stadium Access

The club has a lot of car parking at the stadium in comparison to similar clubs, but there are still issues. Many aren’t aware however that there is a huge car park at Bessemer Road market and also at the Gol centre. They are also looking into different Park and Ride options with Taffs Well and Pentwyn being mentioned. Vince also suggested the former Ely Paper Mill site, which some might remember as being one of the options for the new ground all these years ago. That one is down to the council so probably just an opportunity missed. Adverts for the different parking areas are being considered.

There have also been consultations with Arriva trains about additional coaches and trains to Ninian Park station. However the capacity of NP station is only 400 people per hour, so although it copes well with the pre-match crowds its nowhere near sufficient for the post-match rush. However Arriva threw in the fact that Grangetown station is now only 300 yards further from the CCS than NP station and has an 8,000 person per hour capacity with nearly EVERY Valleys line, Penarth, Barry and Vale line train stopping there.  In fact, it seems many are catching trains from NP to Central and changing there for a train that has travelled from Grangetown!!

The club are looking to put up signage to try to guide people to Grangetown Station. If you don’t know where it is it’s at the junction of Sloper Road and Penarth Road, near Sevenoaks Park. Arriva will announce ‘alight at Grangetown for the CCS’ in future trains.

Other moans in the survey were

– No scoreboard. This is being reviewed.

– Music too loud

–          Concourse too drab.  With no seating. Safety factors were quoted here, and suggestions were made from the floor to have fold out chairs on the walls and some shelves around the pillars. To be honest I’m not sure if there was any positive response to this from the clubs representatives as they seemed limited on what they felt they could do due to space.

–          One thing that was mentioned is that there is now a queuing system (Disney style) in the away section, as, wait for it… they are more likely to push in than we are: he,he! This is likely to be put in place around the ground over time and will help with the space issues in the concourse – as some of the queues end up blocking exits etc..

–          There was also a comment about only one two-way turnstile for smokers to come in or out of, causing queues. At the moment this won’t change-it’s too expensive – I think Wayne Nash mentioned £4,500. However, if the ground is extended more 2-way turnstiles will be put in.

Cup prices were also mentioned as an issue – why don’t the club charge less for cup games? Basically this is generally due to the away side. For example a 5,000 crowd at the CCS paying £15 each represents a decent pay day for Burton Albion. Similarly when we played Villa last year Peter Ridsdale refused to drop the prices there.

Special Offers in shop – the club will be sending out newsletters. One type to Premier seat holders, one to Ambassadors, one to non-ambassadors and one to the general database, with various offers, on a sliding scale with premier seat holders getting the best deal.

So far 300,000 e-mailers have been  sent-  150,000 opened and 65,000 have had ‘click-throughs’ , which can lead to sales.

5,000 people went on the Chasetown site from the e-mailer sent out in reference to their request for support .

Julian also showed us where the club had linked its database to a map, showing where our support came from. It went from dark red to where our support was strongest to grey/white where it was weak.  Cardiff, Valleys and Vale/Bridgend were mostly red as you would expect, but there were also red areas in Mid-Wales, (looked like Builth Wells/Rhayader) and West Wales (Carmarthen and Narberth areas).Both of these areas had 5-10% of households on the database.

Areas which were not as red as we would like were Pontypool, Abertillery and parts of Newport, even though there were red areas near them (other parts of Newport, Cwm near Ebbw Vale etc.). We then scanned in to show in more detail and then to identify the schools near them. The idea is that the club will get the community team to visit these (Scott Young’s team) and try to engage the youngsters. We have 32 people working for our ‘Football in the Community’ with 1,000 kids visiting CCS every week for football related educational visits and our team is in schools regularly throughout the week. Scott hands out up to 250 tickets each week. Personally, I think the club needs to shout this out as it seemed for a long time that little was being done to engage City in the community, but this certainly inst the case now.

Family Stand

So where do all these new fans go when the family stand is already sold out with 4,500 season ticket holders. (which, in itself, is a MASSIVE step from where we were at NP and is for me the BIGGEST success of the new stadium).

Well ,there has already been some overspill into the Grandstand nearest the Grange End, but the club are planning on opening another family section in the corner of the Canton/Grandstand. Sony is giving £50k towards Playstations for the kids to use here. The question of moving the Family Stand looks dead. The cost would be high and the fact is that there are no problems at CCS now and away fans are safe, the police bill is drastically reduced and virtually none of the families want to move anyway. I have to say I stood against the Family section being where it is, but in terms of cutting bills and giving us a safe ground it seems to have worked.

The ‘Family Day’ will be repeated this year for the DERBY COUNTY game. Last year’s against Watford was a massive success, where many of us witnessed kids sitting side by side on rides with Cardiff and Watford kits on, enjoying themselves – as it should be.

A special thanks to Norman Sayers who provided all the fairground rides FREE OF CHARGE, even allowing the club to keep the £2,500 proceeds.

Outlets for CCFC gear

Pure Football is selling City stuff in Cwmbran and Cardiff City centre.

There is also a deal in progress with Morgan Sports in Ebbw Vale.

The club can’t do deals with JJB or the big chains as they want to sell the stuff too cheap and the club can’t make money on it. I can’t remember if any other potential deals were mentioned.

Premier Club

In hindsight Julian said the club would have done things differently. The seats had been sold badly and were far too expensive. I think, he said, they were almost double what Swansea’s were sold for when they were launched. Problem being once they’d sold several hundred there was no going back. They were badly advised and the company they had engaged to sell them failed dismally. They were trying to sort this and have sold several hundred more seats this year. There were deals which involved no ‘joining fee’ on Level 4 and this level was being rebranded the Centenary Suite. Many members were bringing friends with the area being virtually sold out for the Jacks game and sales were good for the Forest game.  Of course .we are all hoping for promotion, which if achieved will see the remaining spaces filled up in no time.

Part 3;

Fans were asked what they would like in the club shop and came up with….

Beach towels (YES) – don’t know if they were joking but they said 10,000 were coming

Golf Accessories

Subtle and Discreet wear (don’t think this means frilly underwear)

Classic match DVDs

Simple designs

Baseball caps

Fridge magnets

Retro tops

And Bikes ??

A team poster was suggested which reminded me of the one the lads had up in our factory a few years ago, it had a few players heads cut off and the heads of Ryan Giggs, Bellamy and Gerrard  pasted over them!  Maybe, Liverpool fans will be posting Jay and Bellamy over theirs soon.

T shirt with fixtures on.

The commercial team had gone to USA to see what could be done – a trip organised and paid for by Mike ‘Superted’ Young.

Certain people had individual praise in the survey

Ravanelli, Nick Heslop, Barry, Joanne, Half-Time Wayne and Mona.

Away section

We have one of the lowest numbers of visiting fans visiting our stadium in the whole of the Championship. The club are trying to sort this. There are 125  seats in the away section kept for families only and a steward ‘Debs’ has the responsibility to meet and greet these families. There are also secure car parking spots behind the away end kept for families and this has all worked really well so far and is helping improve the club’s image and, hopefully, away followings. Think about it, clubs who get an extra 500 away fans a year will earn £250,000 more over the season.

The fans were also asked if they felt ‘valued’, overall most did, but many felt they weren’t. JJ put this mainly down to the season ticket scandal from the last season, but for long-suffering fans there could be 100 reasons. It will be interesting to see if this improves.

Fans were also asked ‘would they recommend coming to a match at the CCS’ to others. This is seen as a key rating and a statistic termed the ‘net promoter’ is calculated by using these responses. The score at other clubs is averaging 44. City’s score is the best achieved by any club and at 77 is the same level as a 5 star hotel. I guess the survey was done after the Doncaster game not the ‘derby’ and definitely not today!

Final couple of things – only 357 fans have had season tickets for every one of the last 11 years. The club are considering ½ season tickets and told us there will definitely be a financing agreement for next year’s ST.  The club are looking to use FORTRESS software to resell unused season tickets with part of the money going to the ST owner and part back to the club which will be great.

Well that’s the end of the marathon. I’d like to thank Mike and Tracey from the Trust for asking me to go, even though I stressed I would be representing only myself so as not to put any embarrassment on them! It’s also worth pointing out that the club staff went out of their way to put this on at 6pm to beyond 9pm and also took some fans around the stadium afterwards, so they deserve my thanks as well.

TIM WEGENER