Walsall Football Club Supporters Working Party Meeting. Held via a Zoom conference call on Monday 9th May, 1pm.
Graham Whittaker (GW) – Walsall Football Club Supporter Liaison Officer
Ray Dale (RD) – Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust
Dave Beckett (DB) – Independent Saddlers Supporters Association
Minutes: Sam Hadwen (SH)
GW thanked everyone for attending the Zoom meeting.
Due to pre-arranged meetings prior to the date of this meeting being confirmed with all parties, CEO Stefan Gamble (SG) and COO Daniel Mole (DM) were unable to attend and thus sent their apologies.
GW touched upon the recent update via camera from Chairman Leigh Pomlett (LP) and hoped that this was beneficial to supporters as the season reached its conclusion. GW then looked ahead to the future and stated that we have an excellent team of management staff who have already begun plans for the 2022/23 campaign, with signings expected to follow over the course of the summer.
GW then mentioned that season ticket sales are on the up in comparison to previous years as we look forward to the new campaign; something which LP was pleased with, based on previous communications to supporters, in light of the increase in living costs for all.
GW added that the club are constantly reviewing the matchday experience and are working in tandem with the Fan Experience Company to look at ways to improve this further moving forward. GW is hopeful that supporters have started to notice some changes in the recent weeks/months and is excited by the ideas that have been discussed between himself and Darren Young (DY) who he has been working closely with in recent time.
Update from Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust:
RD began with on-the-field matters and said that whilst it’s been another disappointing season for the team and more so the supporters, there is a feeling that Head Coach Michael Flynn (MF) can take the club forwards, providing he gets the backing he requires.
Off the field, RD stated that since the initial issues which occurred at the start of the season, his matchday experience from a hospitality perspective is back to pre-Covid levels, with good food and most drinks/beverages being available on request.
RD then wanted to publicly thank all members of the Trust Board who have contributed to the recent Annual Toy Appeal, Food Bank Donations and the Players of the Season Awards.
RD also added that Helen Thorpe-Wood has taken on the role of Disabled Supporters Officer and officiated at the Memorial Service at the Stadium at Christmas.
The Trust now advertise the Travel Section's away trips on their website and have been working with 'legendary' Saddlers’ supporter Stan Blandford (SB), who is currently in Delves Court Care Home, in regards to his memories of countless away games over the years which the club has kindly allowed to be published in the match day programme next season. RD went on to say that he will liaise with SB and club programme editor Terry Brumpton (TB) on these edits in the coming weeks.
RD added that he has developed a good working relationship with GW and also wanted to mention in particular his thanks for the assistance the Trust has received from SH, Media Officer Paul Joannou (PJ) and Sam Weaver (SW) who arranges the purchases of the memorial bricks when RD informs the club of the passing of former players. SH thanked RD for his kind words and said he will pass the message on to PJ as we look to continue to build positive working relationships.
RD also confirmed that the Trust will continue to sponsor the official team sheets for the upcoming season - something which the club is most appreciative of.
RD concluded on the topic of Working Party Meetings and asked if a proposal could be put forward to have 8 meetings across the next twelve months, for example, as RD believes this will reduce the need for repetition at monthly meetings. GW responded and said that he has spoken to LP on this and that we are looking at how all the communications are done and what meetings take place. GW is hopeful that updates on this will be presented in the near future.
Update from Independent Saddlers Supporters Association:
DB began by asking about GW’s position in the meeting and whether he was representing the club from an SLO perspective or from a Director’s viewpoint. GW said he is representing from an SLO front but as a member of the Board of Directors he is hopeful of answering any questions put forward to him and anything that can’t be answered will be referred back to the club.
DB then asked who GW thinks is most responsible for what he described as ‘another near disaster of a season’ that has been witnessed. Whilst there are a number of reasons for the lack of success this season, the club is not in the business of apportioning blame to any specific individuals or departments and thus no further comments on this matter was made.
DB then touched upon the Fan Experience Company and asked if the company are providing their services to the football club free of charge. GW responded and said that there is a cost to having these services provided to us. DB then said that as a director of the club, would he not think that the funds directed towards this company would be better spent on other areas e.g. the playing side of things rather than having people coming in explaining what needs to be done. DB then questioned why we need to bring these people in as he states that the club should already have these positions on the payroll and people with these types of ideas already on board. GW said that the staff at the club are working alongside the Fan Experience Company and combining our expertise together. The company have had major success with other clubs around the world, as mentioned in the initial press release and GW said that we are finding it extremely useful to be able to bounce ideas off a well-established and successful organisation.
DB then touched upon season tickets and the fact that sales are on the up compared to previous years and asked if we now have more season tickets holders at present than what we had when the season commenced, to which GW confirmed we did. DB then questioned how many season ticket holders we had signed up last year. GW said he didn’t know without the figures being handy at the time of the meeting. DB then asked how many are signed up this season, to which GW was unable to confirm. After some deliberation, DB then questioned why there is the need not to disclose such information as he states that supporters would like to know. RD felt that the information regarding season ticket sales was commercially sensitive particularly at this time of year and therefore should not be disclosed. GW concluded on this matter and said he will speak to LP on this and see if it is something that he and the club would like to disclose.
DB then touched upon the club’s recent sponsorship deal with Poundland; the biggest commercial sponsorship deal of the club’s history and congratulated everybody involved in this process for this positive news. DB went on to say that whilst it looks like an exceptional deal on paper, when you take into account what Banks’s and HomeServe have pulled out from does the deal in its entirety come to more as a whole compared against the combined values that Banks’s and HomeServe put in previously in two separate sponsorships. GW said that the arrangements between Poundland, Banks’s and HomeServe are entirely confidential and thus the club will not make comment on this, in the best interests of all concerned.
DB then asked for an update regarding another fans’ forum meeting, as this is something that LP stated would take place in a previous Working Party Meeting and asked why this hasn’t been delivered. GW said that in accordance with the customer charter the club has to hold a minimum of two forum meetings. GW said that we held a forum in August 2021 and also in November as well as our regular Working Party meetings and Chairman’s updates. GW said there will be another fans forum meeting taking place in the coming months. DB asked if this would take place before the start of the 22/23 season and GW reiterated that the club are looking at its communications plan and therefore a date hasn’t yet been finalised. DB then said that with us now embarking on our fourth season in Sky Bet League Two should the Chairman have already had this meeting, as he said that a number of supporters would like communication face-to-face. GW reiterated that this is one of the reasons for reviewing the current communications plans and that further fans forum meetings will take place, as this is something LP wants to do.
DB then mentioned recent comments made in regards to fan behaviour at games, with LP indicating that the actions of a small minority of supporters could have an impact on the playing budget. DB questioned if the removal of Darrell Clarke (DC), Matt Taylor (MT), Jamie Fullarton (JF) and other decisions have a far bigger impact on the budget than anything a fan could do. GW said that whilst he can’t speak for the Chairman, he believes that the point he was making is that incidents as seen recently can and will have an impact. DB then asked that because it’s only a small minority of supporters, as mentioned by GW, does he think the statement from the Chairman was somewhat misguided. GW reiterated that only the Chairman could respond to this.
DB then touched upon our final game of the season against Swindon Town where we opened the Community Stand up to house additional Swindon supporters. DB asked what extra income this gave to the club in relation to the extra costs for policing and if one outweighed the other as it was reported to him that extra police officers were requested and arrived before half-time. GW said that when he attended the pre-match meeting last Friday, the police team who were also present said that due to the Birmingham City game being a 12.30pm kick off, additional police officers would come down to the Banks’s to assist, with no additional cost to the club.
DB concluded by asking if the club thought it would be a good idea to go ahead with the meeting given that a senior member of the Board was unable to attend and some questions needing to be taken back to the Board offline and whether it should have been postponed until one was available to attend. GW said that SG and DM had other pre-arranged meetings to attend to and whilst he is a Director of the football club, he was looking to answer and advise on all supporter groups queries as much as he could and take any questions back offline if he was unable to answer at the time. Based on that, DB then asked if it would be worth scheduling these meetings for every 2/3 months so queries can be actioned/looked at. GW reiterated that this is something that he will refer back to LP about when reviewing the current communications plan.
SH concluded the meeting by thanking DB, RD and the members from each respective group for their support and good work over the course of the season. SH also thanked the supporters for their fantastic support, both home and away, in a season which in hindsight didn’t go as well as we had all hoped for. SH is confident that we will pick things up and have a positive 2022/23 campaign.
The Zoom meeting closed at 13:35.