Supporter Advisory Board minutes

For: West Ham United Supporter Advisory Board Date: 26 May 2011 Time: 6.00pm Location: Legends A

The meeting began with an address from Tara Warren, Head of Marketing, who thanked the members of the Supporter Advisory Board for their applications and contribution. TW gave an overview of the initial set up of the founding members and stressed that both the format and the agenda were to be set by the Supporter Advisory Board going forward. The initial suggested format was outlined as follows:

* Club received hundreds of extremely high quality applications

* 120 'pool members' have been selected which the club will call on relevant to their area of expertise throughout the year

* 120 includes a good cross- section of the supporter base (gender, age, geography etc.)

* These 120 members will then be divided in to 4 sub-groups of up to 60 who will communicate with the club regarding four headline topics pre-determined and agreed by the group

* These sub -groups will split into smaller groups to carry out research but the core quarterly meetings direct with the club's Directors will involve the full 60 in each group

* The four topics were confirmed as Olympic Stadium move, Club Products, Matchday Experience and Commercial/Marketing & Communications.

The issue of confidentiality agreements and MOU's was discussed in respect of the sharing of commercially sensitive information. As the meeting progressed it was clear that there would be a need for such an agreement for the SAB members in general. This was considered in one of the breakout sessions and ideas were submitted.

Members of the SAB identified themselves as having examples of good practice which they agreed to send to TW. TW to distribute a draft for consideration by SAB members with a view to all signing ahead of the group meetings commencing.

Action (TW/ALL)

The overall aim of the Advisory Board was described to members along with the fact that supporters have the genuine ability to affect change by advising on key policy issues. The group is neither intended to be a fan forum (others have been organised throughout the year) or a Supporters Trust where fans hold shares in the club.

The focus will be on areas that people can genuinely influence such as improved facilities, shaping the Olympic move and so on.

Questions to David Sullivan, Chairman

The SAB were asked in advance to submit questions that they would like Chairman, David Sullivan to answer. Some of those below which were the most popular were chosen to stimulate discussion:

Stuart Dean: In light of our relegation, and in keeping with the Board's ten point plan that stipulated West Ham would no longer be a selling club, what assurances can they give us over the futures of the younger players at the club - in particular Collison, Tomkins, Noble, Sears and Spence?

I think most Hammers fans accept the likes of Parker and Green may well be off, along with others, but to everyone I know it is absolutely imperative the board resist any overtures whatsoever for these players. Seeing Collison in another team's shirt next season would physically hurt.

The Chairman stressed the Board commitment to create a young team with a strong emphasis on British players. He added a desire to bring in additional more senior players who will improve the current squad.

Michelle Gabriel: Do you agree that the appointment of the manager is the most critical one this summer, and, if so, what steps are you taking to maximise the chance of the right appointment and minimise the impact should that not prove to be the case?

David Sullivan confirmed that the club would be seeking someone with experience in the Championship or at a higher level. (club has subsequently appointed Sam Allardyce as first-team manager)

Jill Dower: In view of our relegation can the Board assure us that funds will be available to strengthen the team for an effective quick return to Premier League Football?

David Sullivan confirmed that he and David Gold plan to invest in the club this summer to enable the purchase of new players. The Chairman added that both QPR and Norwich were promoted this season without spending big money.

Q&A Session

Greg Demetriou, Head of Media - managed a short Q & A session from the floor where various 'on the pitch' topics were addressed by the Chairman.

Tony Carr, Academy Director

Academy Director, Tony Carr gave an enlightening overview of the Academy system and youth players and answered questions. He was asked whether he would like to be Manager and responded by saying that he is happy in his current role. He identified a host of young players coming through and when pushed to name them referred to Tombides, Turgott and Chambers as ones to watch.

Core Topics

Tara Warren introduced the club's Directors including Ben Illingworth, Operations Director and Debbie Silver, Head of Retail and Ticketing and explained their roles and how they would liaise with the SAB members going forward.
Key questions in each area of interest identified by the SAB in advance of the meeting were addressed by TW and the club's Heads of Department.

Olympic Stadium

Ian Tompkins gave a full presentation on the current situation in respect of the Olympic Stadium and noted the following points:

The club and Newham Council have formed the Legacy Stadium Partnership as a separate JV company responsible for the move and on-going management of the Olympic Stadium. A full procurement process and planning application process are currently taking place for the Stadium conversion.

IT stressed the original business plan had already planned for the relegation scenario and the fact that the move was in no way affected by relegation.

The club is exploring retractable seating and have asked the bidders in the procurement process to come up with a solution. It is hoped that a workable solution can be found.

IT confirmed that it is hoped that the Supporter Advisory Board can help shape the new Stadium and define the offer.
TW stressed that supporters will know that it is a West Ham stadium and outlined the ways in which the SAB can help to define the offer.

The Supporter Advisory Board will be among the first supporters to visit the Olympic Stadium.

Ian Tompkins invited the SAB to suggest groups who may wish to discuss the move to the new stadium in greater detail and offered to meet supporter groups separately to discuss specific Olympic Stadium related matters.

The proposals for the existing Boleyn Ground were also discussed with IT confirming that the most likely use will be for it to become a retail and residential mixed-use site - subject to planning permission. IT will welcome suggestions as to what is and isn't retained at the Boleyn Ground site to mark the club's occupation.

Karren Brady, Vice Chairman

The Vice Chairman addressed the SAB and re-iterated the full Board support for the group and encouraged supporters to engage with the group. KB thanked the group for their participation ahead of her and the Chairman's departure to carry out club business.

Breakout sessions (Feedback from members of the SAB)

Twelve core questions which had been suggested by the SAB were given to twelve groups who were asked both to feedback for discussion and to submit the ideas in writing. The questions and a brief summary of some of the ideas discussed can be found below.

Please describe the sub-topics you would like to see covered within the Olympic Stadium discussion group:

* Allocation of tickets from the Boleyn to the Olympic Stadium
* Retractable seating
* Facilities
* Individual lounges for key groups e.g. Season ticket holders
* The establishment of a supporters club
* Where the away area would be
* Singing area
* Season Ticket holder priority on concerts and other events
* Possibilities for cashless stadium
*Please describe the sub topics you would like to see covered within the Matchday Experience discussion group
*Family activities
* Targeting the Asian Community (Advisory Board Member offered to lead separate conversation taking place between said member and TW. This is likely to be one of the first sub topics outside of the main agenda - interested members please make yourself known to TW. Further information to follow) ACTION - ALL
*Catering - pricing / service / quality
*Entertainment
*Improving existing facilities
* SAB members to research other clubs on behalf of the club

What benefits would you like to see added to Season Tickets to make them more attractive? Please answer both for the Boleyn Ground and the Olympic Stadium.

* Discounted travel
* Discounts on additional tickets
* Season Ticket holder areas
* Priority purchasing on surrounding seats
* Discounted merchandise
* Loyalty bonuses for long term Season Ticket holders

The Olympic Stadium offers to a certain extent a blank canvass for supporters to determine the facilities they would like to see offered. With this in mind what type of facilities would you like to see at the Olympic Stadium?

* Decent pubs / bars / restaurants
*Post-match just as important as pre-match
* A fans square where people can have BBQ's, get together to watch big screens
* Premium away facilities to encourage visitors
* More club related merchandise throughout the entire site
* Accessible bar offer
* Hotel
* Improved parking

Please describe the sub-topics you would like to see covered within the Retail and Club Products category.

* Loyalty rewards - e.g. meeting players
* Loyalty points for discounts on retail products
* Cross selling tickets at the OS
* Increased player events
*Increased retailing via concessions to enhance brand presence

Considering there is limited resource available at the club and the hectic schedules of many Advisory Board members could you please make suggestions as to how best the members communicate with both the clubs and each other going forward?

* Dedicated intranet for closed member group
* Email group
* 'Closed' Facebook Group

What suggestions do you have to help the club fill the stadium on a Matchday to try and aid the level of support for the team and the overall atmosphere that doesn't devalue the Season Ticket?

* Improved matchday experience (e.g. a better PA System)
* Ability for Season Ticket holders to purchase additional tickets
* Increased family offers

The Boleyn Ground is obviously over 100 years old now and as a result has its issues in terms of being able to provide the modern facilities many supporters would like to see offered. With this in mind and given that the club is set to move in three years time can you suggest any cost effective improvements the club could make to the Stadium to improve the supporter experience?

* Improve in house catering
* Mobile drinks sellers
* Improved customer service from matchday staff
* A return of a pie and mash stand
* Fireworks at night games
* Player autograph sessions pre and post-match (currently being investigated)
* Youth Team to play fixtures before first team to encourage dwell times (currently being investigated)
* A suggestion box in the ground (will be in place for first game of next season)
* VOX POPS for supporters to give their feedback on camera (will be in place for first game of next season)
* Ability to upgrade Season Ticket to Hospitality on a match by match basis (will be in place for start of season)
* Entertainment outside (will be in place for start of next season)

Please would you consider the draft Code of Conduct provided and make suggestions on improvement aspects you as a member consider to be important for inclusion.

* Could be more positively worded
* Clearer on the confidential aspects and that which can be discussed

Please describe the sub-topics you would like to see covered within the Marketing and Commercial discussion group.
How to attract Asian fans - (separate group being formed as above)

* Pricing
*Loyalty
*Frequency of communications
*Online content
*Programme
*How to attract younger fans

What ideas yet to be offered at this meeting do you think the Supporter Advisory Board should be considering? E.g. additional areas of focus for the smaller groups.

*Travel to the new stadium
*Disabled supporter group
* A group that researches what makes West Ham special, what draws people to games and how this can continue at the new stadium

In order for the Supporter Advisory Board to be effective the club needs to share confidential information for consideration by its members. Therefore aspects of the agenda must remain within the group. However the Supporter Advisory Board also represents the wider fanbase and therefore must cascade information down to other supporters.

Please feedback on suggestions as to how the club can best manage this going forward.

* The club need to communicate messages through the programme, website and email
* Feedback methods to be clear and consistent

The session was very productive and the club have already had a series of internal meetings to see what ideas can practically be advanced. It is intended that a further meeting of all members will take place and the club expects to feedback on a number of the suggestions that will be implemented/trialled in the forthcoming season ahead of it commencing. A number of initiatives will be trialled at the pre-season friendly fixture.

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