Trust chair Tim Hartley reports on a meeting with officials of Cardiff City FC on Monday, September 3rd:
The Trust had a chance to put your questions to the club earlier this week. Chair, Tim Hartley, Vice Chair, David Craig and Board member Keith Morgan met with the club’s Chief Executive, Alan Whiteley and Julian Jenkins. It was also good to meet the club’s new Sales and Marketing Manager, Tom Gorringe, who has joined the club from Portsmouth FC.
We are all keen to know the results of the recent questionnaire the club sent us. It actually went out to 42,000 people on the club’s database. 6,000 responded and Julian and his team are working through the responses. A focus group of some 20 fans, randomly selected, but with a gender balance, will then be asked to discuss the findings with the club. The Trust and the Supporters Club will also have a representative on this group in addition to the original 20. The discussion will be based on the questionnaire and will be within the parameters set in that survey. The club will publish the results of the survey, the group’s discussions and an indication of any changes as a result of the consultation. We as a Trust will be offered a presentation of the findings of the questionnaire at the start of October.
We wanted to know how many viewers are watching Cardiff live on TV in Malaysia. Home games are shown on the Astro channel there and if it’s not a Sky game the club itself and an independent production company provide the coverage. The viewing figures have not come through yet but the club says the exposure the coverage gives us is immense. The club says that the actual value of the TV deal in Malaysia is confidential but that the revenue received from our new digital advertising boards, which of course are seen on TV, is significant.
The club says the Memorial Garden near Sloper Road, which the Trust helped pay for, is all but complete. Many members however, are keen to see some fencing and benches placed there. There may be safety issues with a low fence but the club will put two benches on the site. Keith Morgan is already in contact with local schools to try to get pupils involved to help maintain the Garden.
Following from the Trust’s meeting with the club’s Financial Director we were keen to clarify whether Vincent Tan and his associates have a legal commitment to convert their interest bearing debt into shares. We were told that this was the intention but that the priority for the club and its owners is to solve the Langston debt issue first.
Many members have expressed their disappointment at the way the colour change was introduced and have asked whether there has been any further discussion within the club on how things may be different when something like this is proposed again. We as a Trust believe that the recent online consultation is a step in the right direction. Alan Whiteley told us that there are topics on which the club will try to engage usefully and there will be others where management need to manage in the best way they can. He said that on an emotive topic such as the colour change no amount of consultation could have prevented strong and heartfelt debate and that doing so would have delayed the decision and prolonged the disagreement.
Some members want to know whether the club will allow a peaceful protest against the colour changes at the stadium. Alan said that the club would not allow a protest on the site of the stadium and that such action would only serve to perpetuate the argument and conflict between fans. He said that the vast majority of supporters have accepted the colour change, even if they have done so reluctantly.
We asked a lot of questions about the financial aspects of the rebranding and specifically if the scheme does not sell as many shirts as anticipated or receive any new income/sponsorship would the club consider reverting back to the old colours? This answer was a definite no. We noted that there is still a 7% interest charge on Vincent Tan’s investment although the club says he has not taken any money out of the club. Why then is this interest charge there in the first place? We understand that while it is a loan the Malaysian investment will incur the same interest as other loans to the club. The whole amount will be overridden when and if the debt is converted into equity.
The club’s costs appear to have risen steeply since the arrival of our current owners and we were keen to know why. The 2011 published accounts show an operating loss effectively unchanged year-on-year despite a fall in turnover (i.e. costs have fallen not increased.) The club is driving efficiencies everywhere it can but says that the loss is ‘on the playing field,’ that is, down to player fees and wages.
We asked the club whether there has been any monetary benefit to the club directly arising from the change of kit colours or rebranding of the stadium. The Chief Executive told us that the biggest monetary advantage is the securing of the investment as was made clear from the outset. The club also has a number of new sponsors on board including Ricoh, Sytner, Peters and New Law. All of these are attracted by the plans that the club has and which are being implemented as a result of the investment. In addition, the profile of the club is being increased in a number of territories through the live TV deal and the scale of the club’s ambition.
Season ticket holders get a discount to watch development games for the U21’s. It’s £5 a ticket but £3 for ST holders. The club says they cannot offer free admission to these games because opening them up to the public brings costs in itself. Any profits from gate receipts go to the Academy and they believe the subsidised rate is a fair deal for season ticket holders.
Those of us crossing towards the Ninian Stand on match days have noticed that when it rains hard there seems to be a permanent lake in car park adjoining Sloper Road. Wayne Nash the Stadium manager says they are aware of this problem and are looking into a permanent solution.
We were keen to know whether any progress had been made to get trains to stop at Ninian Park Station after games. This is ultimately a matter for Arriva Trains but Wayne is on contact with them to see how fans travelling to the ground can make the most of rail services. Getting to and from the ground will be a bigger issue if we expand the capacity at the stadium. Those of us who were at the game in Brighton saw that they encourage people to use public transport. Brighton’s Amex is of course a brand new out of town stadium and although they have a railway station, road access is not good. We were glad to hear that Wayne Nash is in discussion with the council on the possibility of offering season ticket holders discounts on the buses on match days or of providing shuttle buses to the ground.
One Trust member commented that the new club badge design in black on the glass above the main entrance to the stadium is off centre. This was not a mistake but part of the redesign. Another member asked why rearranged games are played on Sundays when a Friday night fixture might mean the crowd is bigger and less subdued giving us maximum home. The club says that sometimes their hands are tied because of television contracts but that for everyone wanting to play on Friday there will be someone wanting us to play on Sunday.
As part of the investment deal we were promised stadium redevelopment and we asked whether there is any plan for stadium expansion even if we are not promoted to the Premier League. Alan said that there would be little point in doing this while we are outside the Premiership as we would not fill the current capacity. The expansion plans have always been demand driven. Any work to increase stadium capacity would be completed between May and the start of a new season, as far as practically possible.
There are two other matters raised by members which we discussed. The club’s website is being given a complete overhaul and the new site should go live very soon. Also, a lot of fans commented on the square corner flags at the Huddersfield game. As FA Cup winners of course City can fly triangular corner flags and this will continue to happen from now on.
This was a positive meeting. I think that the Trust’s relationship with the club is growing and we are keen to organise another meeting for Trust members with the club Chairman, the Chief Executive and his team. After a difficult few months things are settling down for us at the City and Sunday’s performance against Wolves really was something to shout about. Well done lads.