Walsall Football Club Supporters Working Party Meeting. Held via a Zoom conference call on Monday 5th October 2020, 3pm.
Daniel Mole (DM) – Walsall Football Club
Stefan Gamble (SG) – Walsall Football Club
Chris Saunders (CS) – Walsall Supporters for Change
Bob Thomas (BT) – Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust
Graham Whittaker (GW) – Walsall Football Club Supporter Liaison Officer
Ian Buckingham (IB) – Walsall Football Club Disabled Supporters Association
Minutes: Sam Hadwen (SH)
DM and SG began by thanking everyone for attending the Zoom meeting.
DM began by giving an update about the club to the Working Party members. Since the last meeting there have been further updates with regards to the return for fans at all stadia. DM started by confirming that the Government were no longer allowing fans to attend from 1st October as originally planned and also that our game with Leyton Orient was postponed due to Covid-19 effecting their first-team squad and staff. Whilst this set of news was disappointing to hear, DM thanked the various groups and volunteers who have assisted us in getting everything in place, with the operations side of things nearing completion. DM also confirmed that we had a sign off from our Safety Advisory Group and, whilst our plans were affected by the recent decision from Central Government, the club have the plans in place should that decision change.
DM added that an EFL meeting took place last week, however no further dates were proposed for supporters’ return during this meeting, although the Head of Policy at the EFL is lobbying central Government and we are lobbying our local MP Valerie Vaz (VV) who SG and chairman Leigh Pomlett (LP) met with last week to discuss the current situation. Our point will be taken back to Parliament, however with Boris Johnson’s announcements in recent weeks DM stated that our default position is working on the basis that these new restrictions could be in place for the next six months. Whilst this was disappointing news to take, DM reiterated that the club are doing everything they can behind the scenes to get through this period and are in regular contact with the EFL on dates as well as a potential rescue package for EFL clubs.
DM then discussed the compensation package which was publicised to supporters last week and this has been received well with the majority of Season Ticket Holders opting for option 1, which sees them opt to keep their money in the club and claim other benefits as part of the package such as a commemorative plaque in the Community Hub and their name on a commemorative Third kit next season. All stakeholders and members of staff at the club have also contributed to the process, something which DM stated was one of the main focus points at present and following this DM thanked the Working Party groups and all supporters for their continued support and show of generosity under the current circumstances.
SG also thanked the Working Party groups and supporters for their support and alluded back to the news stating that whilst it came as a real ‘hammer blow’, with the plans in place to welcome back supporters from 1st October onwards, the club are budgeting and working towards a 6-month plan however SG is hoping that it will be less than that. SG then touched upon the regular updates that LP has given supporters via social media and was quick to once again thanks supporters for their support and kind comments. SG added that the club are looking at every element of the football club on a financial basis to get through this period whilst also being competitive on the pitch.
IB touched upon the compensation package and had some queries to bring to the attention of DM and SG with the refund/termination aspect of Season Tickets ahead of the October deadline in addition to iFollow passes and car parking refunds for disabled supporters and asked whether the club would be looking to faciliatate a refund where a support sought it as well as the remaining games of the previous season, something which was highlighted in the last meeting in September.
SG firstly highlighted that with regards to the refund query, we have requested that supporters make us aware of their intentions by Saturday 31st October to which at that point we can then process refunds in one lump sum, as it is much easier for us to do this as one rather than individually from a transactional point of view.
In regards to iFollow between now and the end of the month, SG stated that he will speak to Laura Greenhouse (LG) about this. SG did go on to mention that once supporters who wish to have a refund on their Season Ticket have received this, should they wish to watch the games on the platform they would have to buy a match pass for £10 on each occasion as they would no longer be entitled to receive an activation code to watch for FREE. In terms of disabled parking, SG mentioned that we are in a position whereby we either have to refund those concerned or roll them over for the following campaign.
SG concluded on this saying that this will be bought forward at an Executive Board level and then fed back to LG to see how this can be facilitated. Supporters will then be given a clear policy on this matter in due course once things have been finalised.
CS touched upon the commemorative plaque and kit and asked whether the names on these would include Swifty Squad members, to which DM responded stating that anyone who had a Season Ticket and is leaving their money within the club will be featured. DM added that we would need to contact everyone to collate all of the names, something which DM is hopeful of completing before the end of 2020 with a view to placing the kit order in January. DM added that we have had tentative discussions with Errea on this and it is something that can be arranged. DM did mention that due to the cut of the shirt and printing, some names may appear twice however this will be explained nearer the time to which DM is hopeful the fans will take some understanding to.
Update from Walsall Supporter for Change:
CS began by giving everyone an update in regards to the crowdfunding page that has been set up with current donations before the beginning of the call standing at £2,885. CS thanked everybody for their kind generosity and is hopeful that this number can grow for the benefit of the club. CS also praised the work of the other supporter groups and is confident that by pulling together as one we will get through this period.
CS then asked, although somewhat alluded to earlier, about the position of the club in the long run following the recent restrictions. SG responded stating that the next deadline we are working towards is not having supporters back at the stadium until 1st April 2021 and SG assured CS that we will get through this period. The club are ready to bring back supporters at any point so should anything change we can then move things forward.
CS concluded by asking whether it would be worth supporter groups coming together and writing a formal latter to the Government to raise their thoughts on the subject of fans being able to attend football matches giving the fact that lobbying is taking place. SG responded that the more people that contact the local MP highlighting how important the football club is to the town and the community the better and there is no harm in doing that should that be on the agenda for supporters to do so. SG mentioned that he and LP had a positive meeting with VV last week and that she is very supportive of the situation and will do what she can to lobby for fans to return to stadium/receive a rescue package.
Update from Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust:
BT began by touching upon the 50/50 draw and stated that the Trust would like to thank the football club for their support in promoting this via social media and on the club website.
BT then alluded to the recent passing of Alan Miles, a board member of the Trust, to which everyone on the Zoom call sent their condolences to Alan’s friends and family. BT mentioned that Alan was sponsoring goalkeeper Jack Rose for the current campaign and that the Trust would continue this and honour the sponsorship in full.
BT then gave credit to the Walsall Supporters for Change for their initiative which they have set up to aid the football club and also thanked LP for his continued and honest dialogue with supporters during this difficult period.
DM thanked BT for the update from the Trust and again sent his condolences to everyone who knew Alan Miles, stating that everybody associated at the football club was saddened to hear of the passing of a popular figure at the club.
BT concluded by mentioning alternate dates for meeting via Zoom and in person which was raised at the end of the previous meeting and asked whether this is a no-go in light of recent restrictions. DM responded and said that with the current climate and given the fact that the club are working on a skeleton staff basis whilst also working from home where possible, it would be worth continuing to hold these meetings via Zoom for the foreseeable future.
Update from Walsall Football Club Supporter Liaison Officer:
GW didn’t have any other queries to put forward to DM or SG but highlighted all the fantastic work that has gone on behind the scenes and the effort of all supporters in helping the club get through this period, alongside the volunteers who have come in and helped set/clean things up in and around the stadium. DM responded to GW and asked him to follow this up and check with Alex Smith (AS) and Bryan Taylor (BT) that anybody who volunteered to help out around the stadium receives something back from the football club e.g. face mask, gift voucher etc.
Update from Walsall Football Club Disabled Supporters Association:
IB gave an update in regards to the sunflower lanyards which we were spoken about in the previous meeting and mentioned a few have been given out so the DSA are now looking at touching base with local schools and distribute some more that way.
IB did then raise another question referring back to the good initiative set up by the Walsall Supporters for Change and asked whether any of the other groups have engaged in any fundraising activities/promotions. SG responded and stated that ISSA (Independent Saddlers Supporter Association) are currently doing something in their own right and have held a meeting with AS about this and SG was quick to show his appreciation for this and that the club welcomes everything that the various groups and supporters are doing to help out.
The meeting closed at 15:30.
Next meeting to be held on Zoom on 2nd November 2020 at 15:00.
Everybody at Walsall Football Club would like to thank the supporters for their fantastic support and understanding over the course of this difficult period, it is much appreciated and we look forward to welcoming you back to the Banks’s Stadium as soon as possible!