Joys and Sorrows were proud to attend the most recent supporters’ forum on May 2nd, which took place in the Jasper Carrott Suite at St Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium.
The Blues Trust have provided a link to the ‘Questions and Answers’ sheet that was given out, upon arrival. There’s little point typing it out in its entirety, so I link it here, with thanks to Blues Trust…Forum Q&A…
We had the opportunity to award our ‘Player of the Season‘ which went to Lukas Jutkiewicz. The other fans present were split between the Juke and Che…
The opening welcome from Edward Zheng, who couldn’t be in attendance, having already been at two previous forums, was preceded by the words ‘To my dearest Blues family…” when it was read out by Davo, the Chair of proceedings, it’s missing from the paper copy, but it was a nice touch. I’ve met him before, and he seems a genuinely interested guy. Interested in the club and in the fans. It was a pity he wasn’t there last night. Some cynics would speculate it was to ‘dodge questions on FFP’ but there would seem little point in doing that when he could have simply ‘sidestepped them’ in person and – presumably – he won’t intend to stay away for the entirety of next season so he (or his representative or replacement) will end up having to answer them eventually, you’d think…
There was plenty of scope for discussion. I have seem some online “cast aspersions” on two aspects of the evening. Firstly, that the paper copy with pre-answered questions on it even existed. It served very well to speed up matters. I have been involved in many fans’ forums here, and in many board meetings outside of football, and didn’t see the ducking of any of these issues. There was simply a huge amount to get through, and get through it we did…
Secondly, some mock the fact that we were offered food and drink while we were there. I went straight from work to the forum, and – while I wouldn’t ‘begrudge’ paying for food while I was there, feel it’s a nice touch for Blues to cater for its fans who really have given of their own time to filter up and down questions and answers about the club. It serves the purpose of ‘advertising’ the fayre available on a match day, too, as its the self-same catering staff who provided for us. Certainly, the club almost can’t win, as if we ‘reported back’ saying we weren’t even given water or bread, the cynics would jump on that, saying the Club were skinflints. In my opinion, it was spot on. No champagne and caviar, and the bread and water was accessorised.
Finally, on that subject, the very first forum I attended was only opened to fan groups. I didn’t see the problem myself, as I felt they represented a broad ‘swathe’ of fans, British and not from these shores, local and abroad, online and ‘coach travel’, disabled supporters’ groups, truly inclusive. The club themselves felt that wasn’t enough though, so – credit where it’s due – the last umpteen forums have included ‘Independent’ fans who aren’t affiliated to any particular group or forum. This can be attested to in the Q&A document, in that they’re asking questions, and getting answers.
If you, dear reader, feel excluded for any reason, contact the club and ask if you can get involved. I’ve never felt anything other than welcome, and certainly haven’t felt like my voice is more valid than speaking as the fan I am. I have acted as a mouthpiece for the opinions of others at times, and that’s only helpful in my opinion.
The paper Q&A wasn’t ignored, we were able to discuss the issues, one-to-one with members of staff present to gain satisfactory answers, and we discussed a fair few other issues, which I will try to deal with here. Davo dealt with them all with a great deal of honesty, telling it how it is, openly admitting that things weren’t perfect, but that the club are trying to get things right for the fans.
On Trevor’s book sale…the club acknowledged that they’d underestimated how many books they could sell, and said they’d liaise with Trevor to see if he could at very least sign more books for fans or perhaps replicate the book signing event. I can’t imagine Trevor will baulk at the idea of selling more books 🙂
Many fans complained about the ‘K2’ Security group and their apparent lack of training or empathy for the fans, and the revelation that some 16/17 ‘newbies’ were stewarding the Villa derby… Some went as far as to say it’s affecting fans so much they’re travelling to away matches instead of home. James Corrigan, Claire Boden and Davo are going to bring it up with the Safety Team with the idea of making progress during the Summer.
Lungi Macebo confirmed that the steward who had ‘kneed’ Jack Grealish when he leapt into the crowd had been ‘let go’ as ‘we couldn’t defend his actions’.
Fans are reminded to withdraw all unspent funds on ‘Fastpay’ before the end of May or else lose them all, with half going to charity. This may frustrate some but it has always been the terms of the deal with ‘Tapit’.
Davo said ‘Coca Cola’ were being spoken to during the Summer to see if they could improve the experience of fans trying to get drinks from a drinks dispenser.
Davo said that the technology in place in the stadium prevented a number of things from happening, from ‘Contactless technology payments’ regardless of the rumour there is one machine in the bookies 😉 and the squeeze on 4G is caused by over-capacity on matchday not – as a conspiracy theory had it – a police operation.
Shah confirmed we’re offered 2,000 tickets to away games ‘as a matter of course’ and that Reading’s were limited due to a club initiative (confirmed by Linda Goodman) to improve atmosphere amongst home fans. After 5.5k tickets were given by Bolton last season and we were credited with being the ‘noisiest and best fans’ they’d ever had there, they put their prices up and squeezed the numbers down.
The SOTV flag was debated. Not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ though it was obvious the explanation it would offend ‘football fans’ didn’t quite add up unless we were playing Aston Villa. That said, we heard repeatedly about how we were on final warnings from the EFL for throwing objects onto the pitch, pitch invasions, not to mention FFP sensitivities, etc, so perhaps that all played a part.
Claire Boden pointed out the arrival of Lungi, the Chief Operating Officer, as pivotal in the future as she could be a person fans could approach to ‘appeal’ certain decisions heads of departments had made…once the structures had settled down in the new season…
On the subject of conflicting information being provided by the club shop, Shah confirmed that an announcement would be made about a forthcoming financial partnership and an extension to ‘Early Birds’.
Davo commented on the ‘pink’ training gear the subs wear that comes across as vaguely (and embarrassingly) claret and blue and said it was an Adidas standard – Vivid Berry and was part of the contractual agreement.
Finally, we discovered that the policy stopping people from bringing in flasks was because the Blues were taking the FA’s recommendation to restrict drinking containers ‘with tops on’ to the letter, again because of our final warnings. Safer than sorry, etc…
I don’t think I’ve missed anything major, but feel free to drop a comment at the bottom and I’ll try to get back to individuals who have specific questions about the evening or questions that may (or may not) have been asked.
Many thanks to Davo for his hospitality and approach to the evening, and to the staff who really were approachable, making it a worthwhile forum to attend.
Keep Right On.