Walsall Football Club Supporters Working Party Meeting. Held via a Zoom conference call on Monday 7th September 2020, 3pm.
Daniel Mole (DM) – Walsall Football Club
Stefan Gamble (SG) – Walsall Football Club
Chris Saunders (CS) – Walsall Supporters for Change
Ray Dale (RD) – 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 alluding to the return of competitive football at the Banks’s Stadium which saw us entertain Sheffield Wednesday in the Carabao Cup, with the first league game taking place against Grimsby Town. DM touched on the behind closed doors model being one of the main talking points at present and referenced the Q&A and the walkthrough video which went out last week and hoped that these updates gave supporters a full understanding as to what is going on behind the scenes in order to fulfil these fixtures.
Plans for socially distanced crowds are now the main focus with the club continuing to look at this body of work. The operations plan has virtually been signed off by the Local Authority and Sports Ground Safety Authority. The plan has given us a maximum capacity of 3,270, inclusive of press, scouts directors etc.
Inclusive of a small number of hospitality tickets, this plan has given us around 3,000 tickets to sell with 2,000+ season tickets purchased during the original Early Bird campaign. The Season Tickets Reloaded campaign which was publicised last week is now available and the opening day sales have been steady both over the phone and via the Ticket Office. DM is hopeful that these will sell before close of play Friday as that would then enable those who have purchased this week access to iFollow in time for the opening game on Saturday. DM is also hopeful of being able to welcome supporters back to the stadium from 1st October onwards, however we are still awaiting updates and guidance from the Government on this proposal.
DM then added that as part of the preparations for socially distanced crowds, we have had volunteers in today helping clean the stadium, including GW. DM thanked GW and the rest of the volunteers for their hard work and stated that these efforts would enable us to allocate seats around the ground for current season ticket holders so that we are ready for the return of supporters to the stadium, whether this is from 1st October or at a later date.
Alongside the videos and further updates that have been publicised in recent weeks, DM mentioned the FAQ’s that have also gone out and is hopeful that this has answered supporters’ questions. CS responded by asking about the new seating plans that are currently being worked on and asked if there was an estimated date to release this information and how supporters who don’t utilise the Online ticketing site can retrieve these details. DM responded stating that no official date has been confirmed as of yet due to this plan being influenced by tickets sold and thus being amended regularly. DM added that Ticket Office Manager Laura Greenhouse (LG) is working towards reaching a point next week whereby the Season Ticket Books can be ordered and also distribute where people are to be seated. DM advised supporters to utilise the Online site if possible, to retrieve all the information that they need, however if this isn’t possible you can email or phone the Ticket Office.
GW then asked about when season ticket holders can expect to receive their access to the platform to watch games. DM responded saying that the EFL are working on sending codes over to personnel at the football club who will then distribute details to Season Ticket Holders between now and Friday (before matchday). GW then asked whether the Ticket Office will be open everyday this week for Season Ticket sales. DM said that this has been publicised and will be referenced each day this week on our social media channels. GW asked whether supporters could pay in instalments in similar fashion to previous years. DM responded saying that the instalments option remains available for both this and the hospitality season tickets. SG added stating that the hospitality section is over a 5-month plan but reiterated that the Season Tickets can be spread across a 10-month plan as opposed to the 3-month plan which supporters have utilised in the past. DM stated that the instalment option details will be put out as a separate story via the Comms team in the next 24-48 hours.
IB then asked about how disabled supporters and their carers will be accommodated within the new setup. DM responded saying that the plans are to not disrupt the wheelchair disabled fans and carers section in any shape or form and mentioned that the only difference they will experience will be in regards to parking; moving from the Yellow Stand to the Blue Stand. DM reiterated that we are doing what we can within the circumstances to ensure their experience is as similar as an ordinary matchday. IB then asked whether there was a particular reason for the Community Stand car park being unavailable. DM responded saying that the Community Stand is being used to host the away team who will be using the 4G changing rooms within the new Community Hub.
CS then asked about should we have a run in the FA Cup and there are still ticket restrictions in place, would we have ideas of plans on how to distribute these. DM responded that for cup fixtures we would have to use the same stadium plan. DM said we would look at giving season ticket holders priority and then looking at a different distribution system based on attendance from previous seasons. DM reiterated that the best solution for us at present would be for our reduced capacity of 3,000+ to be season ticket holders for track and trace and familiarity purposes.
DM went on to say that we are in a fortunate position than other clubs further up the football pyramid in that we are able to cater for all season ticket holders to attend games when it is safe to do so and are able to use all gates around the ground as opposed to turnstiles.
DM then touched upon the week ahead with our first EFL Trophy game away against Bristol Rovers before the opening league game against Grimsby Town and by then DM stated that season ticket holders will have received their iFollow access codes.
SG added and stated that whilst a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to reach the current position we are in, there is still more to do but reiterated that the football club is in a good position and all being well we can welcome supporters back at the earliest convenience.
DM then touched upon the communications front and stated that we have communicated with fans as frequently as possible with executive board zoom calls, player and manager press conferences etc and mentioned that we are going cashless in the hospitality areas. SG added to this and mentioned that with the new cash payment system in the hospitality sector, ranging from kiosks all the way to the bar areas and hospitality suites, he is planning to do a video piece to explain in more detail. SG went on to say that this new system will be a more hygienic procedure as there is no cash changing hands and with the current climate this will only come as a benefit. As well as this, SG mentioned that moving forward this will hopefully decrease queue levels and increase revenue. Phase 2 will come into fruition which includes the Ticket Office and Club Shop being cashless but at present SG reiterated that we want to improve the matchday experience.
DM concluded by first giving an update on the Community Hub, which has gathered pace significantly since the last meeting. The build of the hub and the changing rooms have reached completion, the bar area is being tiled this week, the skins which supporters contributed to are now up and images of these will be posted out on social media later in the week. DM touched upon the proposal of allowing supporters to utilise this area when we can allow socially distanced crowds however this may not be the case. DM stated that we are waiting on the EFL to give us a decision regarding the size of the space that home clubs have to provide to the away team.
DM then referenced the three signings that were made recently to bolster Darrell Clarke’s squad and hopes that the supporters are intrigued by these and excited for the upcoming campaign.
Update from Walsall Supporter for Change:
CS touched upon the subject of COVID testing and asked DM and SG whether there was any financial support for this or whether it was funded by the club. SG responded stating it was funded by the club.
CS then asked if DM or SG were able to comment on the competitiveness of our budget. SG stated that the perennial question of ‘budget competitiveness’ was perhaps no longer relevant given that all League Two clubs are working on a salary cap for the 2020-2021 season which was voted in favour of some weeks ago and SG believes that this will create a level playing field across the division.
CS then concluded by touching upon the football side of the club and is optimistic that Darrell and his team will have a positive campaign.
Update from Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust:
RD began by referencing the draw ran by the supporters trust, which raised £2,000. RD then mentioned that he and the trust are waiting for details on how winners from the iFollow free draw will be able to log in and mentioned that Steve Davies has been liaising with Media Officer Paul Joannou (PJ) on this. RD then mentioned that in view of the low take up for the Match Ball draw on September 26th, the Supporters Trust have subsequently decided to postpone the draw and will review reopening it when the Government allows supporters to return to the stadium.
RD mentioned about a few comments he received in regards to paper copies of the Sheffield Wednesday programme. DM sent his apologies and explained that this was due to a slight issue with the franking process, but reiterated that this has been resolved and should arrive in the next few days. If not, DM advised those to contact PJ directly via email.
Update from Walsall Football Club Supporter Liaison Officer:
GW asked DM if the Stadium Suite would be available to use, to which DM responded saying that there are a few options for this area. Should the take-up of hospitality season tickets be greater than that of the Bonser Suite, we could look at using this area and tie it in. Another option could be to create a ballot for season ticket holders in attendance to be granted access (looking at 100 supporters in the area as per social distancing measures should this be a feasible option). SG added to this matter and stated that supporters will be able to get food and refreshments during their visit via the food village which will be situated outside the premises.
Update from Walsall Football Club Disabled Supporters Association:
IB raised a comment that he received from a supporter in relation to the parking permit and IB asked DM and SG whether there would be any type of refund for games that are to be played behind closed doors this season and for those games that were cancelled due to the curtailment of the 19/20 season. DM and SG both stated that they will discuss this matter at board level.
IB then mentioned about the sunflower lanyards which have been arranged and given out to people which included the DSA logo and has asked whether the football club would be willing to help promote these. DM responded stating that we will support in any way possible and advised IB to contact a member of the Comms team.
The meeting closed at 15:40.
Next meeting to be held on Zoom on 5th October 2020 at 15:00 with RD, CS,GW and IB to provisionally set two dates for face-to-meetings, with the remainder being held on Zoom.