Trust Board members Tim Hartley, Tracey Marsh and Keith Morgan met the club’s acting Chief Executive, Alan Whiteley and his team to put your questions directly to the club. These are exciting times for us Bluebirds. Malky seems to be working his magic and we are in a great position in the League.
We started the meeting by thanking the club for preparing the Trust’s new office which is near Gate 5 between the Canton and Ninian stands. If you haven’t visited it yet then please do come down before or after any home match. Brian is manning the office most match days and would love to see you!
We asked the club about the Chief Executive position following the departure of Gethin Jenkins and also about our long term financial stability as a club. Alan Whiteley is acting Chief Exec and will be in position until the end of the season. The Board will then review the position and advertise if necessary.
On the financial front, as disclosed at the recent EGM of the club, preliminary forensic accountant work has been carried out on investigating the financial activity of the club whilst under the stewardship of a former chairman, and that work is continuing. The detail of this is commercially sensitive but the agreement with Langston that outstanding debts be settled by the end of 2016 was reiterated to be the only valid legal agreement still in place.
This work has not had any effect on loan signings. There is of course a cost involved in bringing in loan players as we have to pay their wages. Malky is trying to build a team for the long term and he is not keen to bring players in for 8 or 9 weeks as that could be disruptive to the team as a whole. Meetings take place between Alan Whiteley, Doug Lee, Malky MacKay and his Head of Recruitment at which loan signings are reviewed on a weekly basis and when the right person is available the club will try to get them. Earlier in the season when it was felt a loan player was needed there were no suitable candidates available but this will of course be reviewed again with a view on the January window.
One current and sadly recurring issue for many of us is the restrictions imposed on away travel. The club shares our concerns and is aware of the particular problems experienced at Leeds. It’s worth noting that the timing of that match was dictated by the needs of television not the police. Many of you said the £36 cost of tickets was too high but Leeds were within their rights to ask this as it is the equivalent price for similar seats for home fans.
The club would ultimately like to have no travel restrictions. The menu of options ranges from a full bubble trip, to a ticket exchange to no restrictions. (We were told that a ticket exchange deters rail travel which is often where problems arise.) The aim is to ensure everyone’s safety and the arrangements between clubs are reciprocal. For example there will be no restrictions on fans at the Birmingham matches, home or away but Leeds will be subjected to the same restrictions that they imposed on us. Decisions are based on experience so for example while Bristol used to be a bubble match it is now a voucher exchange.
The Trust has pushed for a Memorial Garden at the stadium where people can pause to think about friends and family who are no longer with us. More paving is being put at the site near the old Ninian gates, a tree has been planted as will rows of rose bushes. Following the death of City supporter Mikey Dye at Wembley the Football Association of Wales, the Supporters Club and we as a Trust have all made donations to make the Memorial Garden a reality. The club is very grateful for these donations and will match them all so that we get the garden finished as soon as possible.
The club protested to Arriva Trains after they cancelled all trains to and from Ninian Park station around City matches. Arriva relented and trains do now stop before the match at Ninian Park. However, there is still a crush on the trains leaving Grangetown after the game and many of you have asked us to try to get extra carriages put on at those times. We will send the complaints we received to the club who are still in contact with Arriva Trains over this issue – if you travel on the trains and have any concerns please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Leaving the ground was something of an issue at the meeting with a request that drivers be allowed to exit ‘the wrong way’ around the main exit roundabout if turning wanting to turn right. Wayne Nash told us that a safety officer has discretion on when cars can start leaving and that they are getting away much more quickly now. It is important that drivers leave in an orderly manner and we must all accept the rules of the road.
Cycle users have complained that there are not enough spaces on the stand outside the club shop for them to chain their bikes up on match days. Consequently, people are tying their bikes to the railing on Sloper Road which is creating an obstacle to those walking to the ground. The club say there are actually three cycle racks, the one near the club shop, one near the Family Stand at Gate 9 and another at Gate 6 but that they are never all full. Please try to use these stands as stewards will be trying to discourage cyclists from using the railings on Sloper Road.
There has been some confusion over the validity of student season tickets. As we know ST’s are sold in February/March but if you buy a student season then there is a cut off point of November for you to prove, through showing your student card to the ticket office, that you do indeed qualify. Letters are sent out warning you that your ticket will be deactivated unless such proof has been given. (I know about this one as my son had his card confiscated at the last game because he had not provided the club with proof that he was indeed a student!) So make sure you will actually be a student for the academic year which covers the season otherwise you will be asked to pay the full amount.
On a similar note we asked why there were no concessions on prices for the recent cup games. The club says season ticket holders are being asked to pay £15 for an adult and £5 for a child for the game against Premiership side Blackburn and that is surely good value. It also says that League Cup games have been priced more cheaply than one off tickets for Championship matches. Interestingly, other Trust members have emailed us to thank the club for keeping the prices for the Carling Cup down.
Sometimes it appears that the Family Stand is not full and yet when families ask for tickets they can be told that they can only sit in more expensive areas of the ground. The club says the Family Stand and the provision for families is one of the great success stories at the City. We have moved from having 549 ‘family’ seats at Ninian Park to having 6,200 in the Cardiff City Stadium. The fact is that a lot of family season ticket holders do not turn up for every match however it is different families each match and not the same groups. If you have had kids you will know about the competing demands on their time. But those tickets of course cannot be sold on, so it may look like there are empty and unsold seats in that stand. Some 200 seats in the grandstand can be sold at family prices but the club says that with 25% of our stadium now reserved for families it has to draw the line somewhere.
One member asked why the pitch looks a bit bare in some places. The south west area of the pitch is always going to get less light as it is in the shadow of the stadium. This is also the worst time of the year as signs of wear start to show. However, the club has invested in artificial lights which are on the pitch for up to twenty hours a day. We were lucky enough to see them in action and it was like something out of the film ‘Close Encounters’ with the bright lights radiating up off the grass to a dark Cardiff sky. The club says playing rugby on the pitch does not affect the growth pattern. It takes six weeks for the lights to have an effect over the winter months and we are up to that date now, so we should see an improvement to the playing surface soon.
Ours is a no smoking stadium yet some members are finding people smoking in the toilets at half time. This is not just anti-social but actually illegal. The club says there are very few instances of this but that fire stewards will monitor the situation on a regular basis. There is a real risk of the smoke detectors going off. If this happens twice in quick succession then there will be no alternative but to consider evacuating the stadium. All this for a half time puff!
The Trust is keen to get the manager and players to meet the fans and we have been able to provide Trust members with tickets to the Malky Mackay question and answer evenings. The next session is in Maesteg and we have 20 tickets for that evening for Trust members. Looking forward we are hoping to get some of the first team players to a social evening in the New Year.
Our thanks go to the club for answering all our questions. That’s all for now. The international break feels oh so long, but keep the faith and I hope to see you up at Reading.