WHUISA were in attendance at the Football Supporters Federation (FSF) Premier League fans group meeting on Thursday 8th February. The issues discussed are national issues that transcend football rivalry and have an impact on supporters, match going or not. Please find the minutes from that meeting below:
FSF Premier League Fans Group meeting
Thursday February 8th 2018 (6pm) - Mechanics Centre, Manchester
Alasdair Bell (AB) - HTSA
Allan Galley (AG) - Manchester City Supporters Club
Andrew Taylor (AT) - North Manchester Clarets
Andy Walsh (AW) - The FSF
Angela Smith (AS) - Supporters Council
Anthony Armstrong (AA) - NUST
Bryan Shaw (BS) - Stoke City Supporters Club
Chris Wells (CW) - North Manchester Clarets
Colin Murrant (CM) - Leicester City Supporters Trust
Dante Friend (DF) - 1894 Group
Dave Kelly (DK) - Blue Union
Dave Pennington (DP) - Manchester United Supporters Trust
David Little (DL) - Swansea City Supporters Trust
David Rose (DR) - The FSF
Deborah Dilworth (Di) - SD
Duncan Drasdo (DDr) - Manchester United Supporters Trust
Goronwy Brookes (GB) - Spirit of Shankly
James Chisem (JC) - HTSA
James McKenna (JM) - Spirit of Shankly
John Ratomski (JR) - WHUISA
John Trippier (JT) - Claret Trust
Kat Law (KL) - Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust
Malcolm Clarke - The FSF
Michael Brunskill (MB) - The FSF
Nick Illingworth (NI) - The Ugly Inside fanzine
Paul Cuffe (PC) - HTSA
Peter Fanning (PF) - NUST
Sue Maisey (SM) - Crystal Palace Supporters Trust
Tim Payton (TP) - Arsenal Supporters Trust
Tim Rolls (TR) - Chelsea Supporters Trust
Tony Scholes (TS) - Burnley FC Supporters Groups
Tony Tams (TT) - Stoke City Supporters Club
Trev Whitehead (TW) - HTSA
1. Introduction (DR)
a. A range of views in the room with some feeling it was an inevitable progression and others saying that VAR isn’t a fait accompli. Those speaking against VAR highlighted the fact that it is being used for subjective decisions as opposed to goal-line technology which is objective (the ball crossed the line or it didn’t). TP said that the system is not popular in the Budesliga or A-League. NI thought it was more of an issue that it had been done badly while MC highlighted that we aren’t the only country to try this technology out.
b. The room did agree that there was a lack of clarity / communication for fans in the stadium as evidenced by first-hand experience from JM and TR who had seen it used during FA Cup ties.
i. ACTION: Find out PFA and LMA views on VAR.
ii. ACTION: End of season survey on fan views which will differentiate between match-goers and TV viewers.
iii. ACTION: Share VAR workshop link from last year’s Supporters Summit.
3. Restricted views
a. MB outlines FSF position: 1. Restricted view seats should be advertised much more clearly, with the nature of the restriction explained in full/shown in an image; 2. Fairer discounts for severely restricted views. Presently, discounts on restricted view tickets are meagre with £2-£3 being knocked off the full price; 3. Clear definition of what constitutes a restricted view. Many supporters are unaware that the official definition of a restricted view only means obstruction of either goalmouth.
i. ACTION: General agreement on this position and the idea to step up activity using social media to share images.
ii. ACTION: Table as agenda item for next formal PL meeting.
4. Structured dialogue – club-by-club update
a. General feeling that structured dialogue was not delivering and many clubs simply paying lip service to it. PF said NUFC had invited NUST back as a direct result of EFL guidance but nothing since mid-2017. Examples of conflicts of interest (e.g. ticket office manager as SLO) and a number of supporters present saying it felt like an act of goodwill on behalf of clubs that could be withdrawn at any time (which is not in keeping with the original intentions of structured dialogue). AS had more positive experiences at Stoke City and answered questions from the group about how it worked there.
b. TP felt the rules were not prescriptive enough and feared the moment had been lost. The leagues signed up to report’s recommendations and failed to implement the recommendations and produce a template document as they had committed to doing (3.37 Each of the Leagues will therefore provide a template to clubs outlining the minimum level of information which should be shared at these meetings. Although the focus of these meetings will be on strategic and major issues, all parties will be able to table additional topics where relevant and timely, to ensure that the issues which matter to supporters and clubs are discussed).
c. DP and DDi suggested possibility of mirroring PL club feedback with fan feedback to illustrate shortcomings of that one-sided information.
i. ACTION: MB to circulate PL structured dialogue claims.
ii. ACTION: MB to circulate EFL guidelines.
iii. ACTION: MB to circulate club feedback on structured dialogue.
iv. ACTION: FSF / SD to consider reproducing club feedback templates
v. ACTION: The FSF and SD to address 4b directly with leagues and DCMS and lobby/campaign on it.
vi. ACTION: FSF / SD to arrange next meeting with sports minister
5. Broadcast deal & associated asks
a. MB outlined current FSF thinking which has been shaped by previous group discussions - maintain the away ticket £30 price cap, establish better rules relating to concessions for 18-22 year olds (some clubs don’t offer/some do so uniformity of pricing needed), and reinvigoration of measures to support travelling fans (as the now defunct Away Supporter Initiative was originally intended to do). General agreement that those were good aims but any new deals / initiatives / revived ASI by clubs should be done in conjunction with fans.
b. KL outlined the Fan Fare concept (i.e. flexible rail tickets which link to games rather than specific dates) and explained the PL are pushing the Rail Delivery Group for this. It is complex, with many stakeholders, but hope to see progress. Unanimous support in room for the concept.
c. DK proposed the possibility of free away tickets when games are shown on TV. Discussion around criteria – is should it happen where no reasonable public transport exists?
i. ACTION: FSF to explore asks in direct talks with PL and put the issue on agenda for next PL meeting on 20th March.
6. Safe standing update
a. MB gave update on campaign re: on-going PL consultation that we are still awaiting and reshaping of campaign in relation to “choice” agenda.
b. TP argued that it was time to “shout a bit” again – if the minister says fans do not contact her re: safe standing then fill her inbox with emails on the issue. JM says that any politicans using LFC as a reason not to be safe standing should be pointed in the direction of SoS who can go through their survey results (completed by almost 18,000 LFC fans).
i. ACTION: Reinvigorate campaign in conjunction with Safe Standing Group (email loop of FSF activists who lead this work).
ii. ACTION: FSF to propose standing as subject for next APPG.
7. KO times
a. Discussion of the work led by the FSF’s Kick-Off Times Working Group which has seen fans lobbying the PL and broadcasters in recent years. More via: bit.ly/2EmnOaj
b. A range of ideas discussed from free tickets for travelling fans where no transport is available to flexible rail tickets which are tied to kick offs rather than specific dates (the PL/EFL are lobbying the Rail Delivery Group for this measure). It has some political support and fan backing.
i. ACTION: Continue to highlight examples of football inconveniencing fans for the benefit of TV games.
ii. ACTION: Kevin Miles to raise KO times / travel challenges and group proposals with Bill Bush ahead of next PL meeting when this item will be on the agenda.
8. Setting agenda for next PL meeting
i. ACTION: FSF to draft and circulate in advance of PL meeting.
a. Guidance for fan groups on General Data Protection Regulation. The FSF has produced a briefing note for fan groups and commissioned a larger piece of work from experts in the field. See: bit.ly/fsf-gdpr
i. ACTION: Build FAQ section onsite once we have the paper.
b. Away prices for fans at European competitions – DP highlighted MUFC fans being overcharged at Sevilla and MUST campaign work on this issue with Football Supporters Europe. Liverpool fans are suffering similarly at Porto as home clubs priced away tickets at a higher point than home tickets. (Post-event note: UEFA ordered Anderlecht to reimburse Bayern Munich fans: bit.ly/2Eqbd5X)
i. ACTION: MC and KL to raise UEFA regs issue with the FA.
ii. ACTION: DP to contact other fan groups and coordinate activity.
c. TR raised lack of consistency on clubs’ policy re: iPads, cameras, flasks etc being taken into grounds. Acknowledgment that across-the-board rule difficult as Old Trafford/Emirates etc have different security concerns to less high profile grounds. But clubs should do more to advertise in advance what is/isn’t allowed.
i. ACTION: FSF to build and maintain database similar to that used for banners: bit.ly/FSF-banners