Often Partisan

Supporters Club Forum

Yesterday, Blues held their end-of-season Supporters Club Forum meeting, and I got to attend courtesy of Andy at www.smallheathalliance.com, on the condition I’d act as scribe and take notes for him. As such, I present my report from the meeting:

1) Stadium / Security

Garrison Lane Redevelopment

The club have asked three companies to put together development plans for the rebuild of the the Garrison Lane Stand, and they have come back to the club with extensive plans. The outline cost to do something like this is in the region of £20 to £30 million, and as such it’s something that isn’t going to happen quickly. Premier League survival would be paramount to be able to fund this. In the words of the Safety Officer, Peter Smith, the stand was suffering because of “what has happened in years gone by.”

Subway Store

The club appreciates that the empty unit that Subway formerly occupied is a bit of an eyesore, and they have discussed what to do with it, but they are mindful that whilst the unit would be busy during home games, the rest of the time it would be empty. Some ideas floated have been a cafe, or a studio for the AV people. The previous idea of a museum has been nixed, due to lack of good enough memorabilia and the costs associated with running it. Later in the meeting, it was suggested that the unit could be used by supporters clubs as a point to meet/recruit new members, which was taken on favourably by the panel.

Tilton Bar

The club are looking to upgrade the bar again, as a “second phase.” They want to put up memorabilia on the walls, and make it something akin to “Shearer’s Bar” at Newcastle United. The planning application for the Tilton Road restaurant that was mooted was successful, and the club have three years to decide whether they want to move on this; again, funding/business plan is an issue.

Away Fans Location

Peter Smith, the safety officer, stated that Premier League rules (pdf link) state we must give a minimum 10% (or 2,800 seats) to the away club as an allocation (rule J7) Unfortunately, the paddocks only hold 2,000, which means it’s quite impossible for us to give the away fans those seats. This is in addition to the ease of segregation within the GML, and the police’s views with regards to the away car park.

Ladies Toilets

The club are reporting that there is now running hot water in the first two blocks of ladies’ toilets, and that they’re gradually working their way around the Tilton/Kop stand – unfortunately the damage the Villa fans caused dented a hole in the budget for this.

2) Ticketing

Away ticketing purchases online

This hasn’t been done before as Ticketmaster didn’t have the means to see priority in booking on away matches; this can now be implemented next season as people have bought tickets to their patron number, which means the technology is now available.

Telephone number

The club have looked at restructuring the telephone system, but as there are so many different products handled by the same staff, it’s impossible to have different numbers for each product.

The club has confirmed the minimum allocation for European games is 5% of capacity.

The club will assist official supporters clubs in obtaining away tickets, as they have this season.

Season Tickets

1500 people have renewed so far (as of yesterday morning). The club feel that people are happy with prices, and have confirmed STs will only be offered as 1 year only, and not 2 or 5yr deals.

In addition, the club have implemented a system where after 10 calls are holding in a queue people will have the option of going through to Ticketmaster. In light of this, the club will be looking to absorb Ticketmaster costs next season.

3) Retail

Replica Shirts

The club have confirmed that there are no dates set for shirt releases; they are looking to get out in time for people to be on holiday but won’t rush it – it won’t be by the end of May. They said that they’re happy with how far down the line they are with Xtep, and that they believe they have solved this year’s sizing issues by contacting a UK manufacturer, and getting a UK sizing guide to send to China. It’s TBC if there is a new shirt for the Europa League. It’s worth noting that the club is NOT allowed to sell Europa league badges until we qualify for the group stages.

Product Range

The club acknowledge that the merchandise for the Carling Cup final wasn’t good enough, but believe that they have made up for their errors with the Winners merchandise. They said that people’s view on the product range is subjective; they know that they can’t please everyone and point to the fact sales are growing continuously that things are getting better. Some products can’t be done because the club just don’t sell enough of them.

4) Commercial Operations

In-house catering

The club feel that this year’s catering has been a success; they accept it’s a steep learning curve and that things are going to continue having to get better. They are looking at tweaking the range next year; the Balti Pie will make a full comeback for instance. Kevin Smith, the Commercial Head, said that the club was trying it’s best with the kiosk staff but there were some constraints that were beyond their control; the kiosks are narrow, which doesn’t help the people serving, and the concourses are too small for proper queueing systems. The club also said that they feel the “cage” at the back of the Garrison Lane Stand is a success.

Europa League Packages

The club have appointed a travel agent for the Europa league fixtures to take care of the team and the management. They are working out what needs to happen for the supporters; provisionally they are looking at utilising available space on the player’s flight, and using brand name hotels in the city we’re playing in. Obviously, a lot will have to be organised after the draw on 5th August. Match dates are 18/25 August.

5) Football Administration

Reserve Team

Julia Shelton, the Head of Football Administration confirmed that it is more than likely Blues will not enter a reserve league next year, as Alex McLeish likes to have control over when the reserves play – the reserves played 14 fixtures this year, the same as in a league. The club will of course be entering the Birmingham Senior Cup. The reserves will also play local fixtures as friendly matches in the run up to the 2011/12 season.

6) PR and Social Media

The Club are very pleased with the way the social media has developed over the season; with 17,500 likes on Facebook and just short of 6,200 followers on Twitter. Andy Walker (head of Social Media and PR) said that the club are looking to increase video content on the FB page, as well as extend the shop content. They are also looking at interactive games.

The liveblogs run by the club are going well, issues with the website provider have now been ironed out, and Andy is looking at getting webchats with players, and online supporters forums. He is also looking at utilising other social media applications such as foursquare.

7) AOB

The club have confirmed that with segregation, the maximum tickets available is 29,704.

The club are willing to look into unallocated seating in certain blocks for games where attendance is likely to be poor.

The club said that unfortunately, ST holders must use the entrance that they are told to due to access control systems – this was in response to a question about Kop ST holders going into the 1875 bar in the Tilton.

The club said that the community department are doing what they can to encourage local school children to come to the club, and are willing to talk to any schools not currently covered by them.

The club have confirmed that shirt sponsors are in negotiations.

The club have confirmed that whilst they wouldn’t be averse to bringing back standing areas, the Premier League/FA would never allow it. Peter Smith, the safety officer was quite adamant on the point that the PL are totally against it.

The club are to mailshot people within supporter club areas to let them know of official supporters clubs, in an effort to boost memberships of supporters clubs.

As you can see, a lot was discussed, and the club are doing a lot to try and keep improving on what is going on at St Andrews. If you would like this post as a word document, please email almajir@oftenpartisan.co.uk

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