CG – Claire Gamble; PM – Paul MacLeod; KF – Karl Fitzpatrick – CEO; SM – Stuart Middleton – Chairman; AC – Andy Crawley – Retail catering manager
Karl Fitzpatrick opened the session by welcoming everyone to the forum, and explained that Claire Gamble and Paul MacLeod would be discussing the match-day experience, and seeking feedback from the fans’ perspective, followed by an open Q&A session with the Chairman Stuart Middleton.
CG thanked everyone for joining, especially for coming out in the heat and missing the England football game. PM explained that he had been with the club for eight weeks now, having spent the previous eight years in a similar role at Wigan Warriors. CG then went on to show the forum one of the post-match videos created by Graham Kirk. She explained that a post-match debrief was held after every home game, to look at what did, or maybe did not, work and to use that as a basis for improvement. To tie in with this debrief, she had created a customer experience wheel, to ensure that all areas of the whole match day experience were captured and reviewed.
One fan had been unable to purchase eight tickets online using six different member numbers. CG advised that there was the facility to do this but acknowledged that the process was not clear and agreed to send details out. Another fan had experienced issues as his account showed four different memberships and another had given up using the online account (because they had forgotten their password and it was too difficult to reset it).
It was noted that there had been issues with collecting previous CC Final tickets, due to members receiving multiple emails with different collection points, one being from Wembley on the day, and it was hoped that this would improve. It was also noted that a number of links on the website did not work correctly, so these would be reviewed. It was good to hear that the customer service was good for all fans once they reached the front of the queue.
General opinion was that the turnstile operators were great but some stewards could be ‘hit and miss’. The question was asked “what is the policy on bringing your own drinks into the stadium?” It was confirmed that all fans could bring in their own drinks as long as they were non-alcoholic and the container seal was not broken.
General consensus was that the club store was too busy on a match day. KF asked if a pop-up store on the concourse would be an appropriate alternative and this was met with agreement. KF asked if members would utilise the option for print-at-home tickets and again those present were in agreement, along with the option to have tickets/barcodes sent to a mobile phone. PM advised that this was definitely on the radar and work would continue.
CG asked if bags were being checked and those present said that they were. CG asked how additional security measures would be received, such as a quick pat down, and everyone agreed that the more security checks the better, given the current climate. It was noted that some bag searches took place whilst fans were waiting for the turnstiles to open and this was good as it minimised delays getting through the turnstiles and into the ground.
CG explained that there were always game changers around the ground on a match day, to assist with all general enquiries. One member said that they were not prominent in the South Stand and another asked how they could be identified – CG advised that they all wore game changer tops, and asked members to keep an eye out for them.
CG asked if members bought programmes and if there were any issues. Only a small number did buy them, and CG agreed to provide those present with a free copy of the 29 June edition so that they could assess the content and provide us with feedback. It was noted that as programmes would not be compulsory from 2019, one option would be to provide an online version or a monthly edition.
KF asked if the tannoy announcements were clear and the response was that this varied but did not seem to be as loud as it was when first installed. CG agreed to ask the announcer to repeat messages, for clarity.
There was a mixed response in relation to the noises and tunes played when the opposition missed a goal or had a player sent off – some enjoyed it whilst others felt that it was disrespectful. KF asked members for their views on playing music during the game, when there was a break in play, and this received a positive response. KF advised that the music choices had been reviewed and tracks were now being played that would hopefully appeal to all ages, as well as the playing of Hi Ho Silver Lining at the end of a winning game
It was noted that there was often mess from pigeons at the rear of the South Stand as well as on some seats in the East. CG acknowledged that this was an issue, explained that a thorough clean of the stadium took place after every game, and asked members to report anything that they were not satisfied with.
One member commented that the toilets were often smelly, and perhaps the use of toilet blocks would go some way to eradicate this.
Another member asked if the concourse walls (breeze block) could be painted and CG agreed to look into this, perhaps utilising local schools to come along and provide the artwork.
It was mentioned that the backs of the doors in the ladies toilets in the South Stand were in need of a clean and CG agreed to investigate.
AC was asked if there was the possibility to provide healthier options alongside the pies and hot dogs – such as sandwiches and salad pots. AC asked if members thought the healthier options would sell and it was felt that they would so AC agreed to trial the provision of healthier options on one kiosk per stand (North, East, South). AC agreed to look into vegetarian and gluten free options.
AC was asked if staff were recruited locally and he confirmed this to be the case, with most recruitment via local colleges, but explained that staff do move on (for more hours elsewhere) so there was a high turnover of match day staff. KF and SM both stated that, in comparison to other grounds, ours was well staffed on the catering side.
One member asked if there was any chance of a supporters bar within the stadium, and SM advised that he would like to see that happen. Another asked why the price of a pint of beer was so high and KF explained that Centerplate need to cover their costs/make a profit, and the price per pint was on a par with other stadia as well as pop concerts etc. KF advised that the club subsidise each pint by 30p to keep the cost to the fan as low as possible. SM asked for opinions on the beer being sold and those present advised that they were happy with the offering.
PM asked for opinions on the club offering discounts on ticket prices for weekend games, making them a true family event – would members feel aggrieved or that they were not getting value for money? The response was unanimous in that this would not be viewed in a negative light by members, who felt that it was important to get people and therefore money into the club, by whatever means.
One member asked if there could be any incentives associated with a membership, eg, a home shirt (even if it meant adding the cost onto the price of the season ticket)? KF advised that he was keen to re-introduce the loyalty scheme but the correct system to support it was required first. The question was asked if it would be possible to spread the membership cost over 12 months. PM advised that this was already being looked into, with the possibility of introducing a rolling membership payment where auto-renewal would take place and the DD would remain in force until the member cancelled, rather than the member having to renew every 12 months. PM also advised that other options were being considered, such as group sales and paying direct from wages.
PM advised that work was on-going in relation to increasing crowd numbers, including children’s rugby on the pitch, and getting new fans hooked by attending the bigger and more atmospheric games. CG advised that the core fan basis was within quite a small radius of the stadium so the club were also looking to ‘recruit’ from outside that area, eg, linking up with Chester Gladiators, who are now one of our community clubs. PM confirmed that Geoff Durbin would indeed be in talks with rail networks to discuss a joint travel/match ticket offer.
All agreed that the cheerleaders were very good, and everyone loved Wolfie! CG explained that Wolfie could only travel to away games if his own personal calendar would permit, and that it was not an option to send a ‘reserve’ Wolfie as fans, especially younger fans, were very astute and aware of there being a different Wolfie.
CG asked for feedback on the use of the bongo cam on the big screen and this had been well received, with members asking if the South Stand could be included!
The new half-time challenge was also well received, and CG explained that there would be a ‘Grand Final’ at the end of the season. It was also noted that the 2019 season could see the return of the Dizzy Sticks!
CG asked what members thought of a supporters’ band, with instruments being handed out, and those present said that they liked this idea.
One member asked for a return of the big flag. CG explained that it had been removed because it did not meet H&S (fire) regulations but that she was looking into the cost of a replacement and looking at alternative uses to ensure value for money, as well as the possibility of getting sponsorship for it.
KF asked how important entertainment was and most felt that a good build-up created a great atmosphere which then carried over into the game. CG advised that there were restrictions because of timing (ie, limited access to the pitch whilst teams were warming up) but that maximum use would be made of concourse entertainment.
A member asked “do you ask people if they have special needs” and CG advised that this was not yet in place but a lot of work was being carried out in relation to ensuring all special needs fans were looked after; stewards were being educated, and Dave Thompson of the Warrington Disability Association was being consulted with.
KF closed the session by asking members to always put forward any ideas or suggestions for the club to look at and to assist with making improvements.
Following a brief break, there then followed an open Q&A session with Stuart Middleton, Chairman. SM started the session by introducing himself and describing his journey from very young fan, attending games at Wilderspool, to shorts sponsor before progressing to shirt sponsor, to being a box holder at The Halliwell Jones stadium before joining the Board and then taking over as Chairman. SM then opened up the floor for questions.
No, not at all, it is simply a case of recruiting the appropriate overseas players – the Club needs a balance of young British players alongside talent from overseas. Unfortunately, there are risks associated with this but there are also a lot of successful recruits.
Definitely but the options for those players are extremely limited.
Absolutely, there has been a definite improvement within that team, under the leadership of Steve Price. The atmosphere in the changing rooms is very positive, and Kylie Leuluai has been a great signing for this club.
Matt will join the club on a 2 year deal and comes very highly rated by Andrew Henderson. Jason Clark is an outstanding clubman and will travel over before the start of pre-season as he is very keen to get to know the town and the fans – we believe he will quickly become a firm fans’ favourite.
We are exploring our options and the recruitment of a replacement has already commenced.
Yes, clubs are allowed 2 marquee players.
Although he is currently out recovering from an injury, we have Morgan Smith for that role. Additionally, Dec Patton is also an option.
Yes, it will increase.
Very much so, following the loss of the Emirates deal after the contracted four years, the commercial team did a fantastic job in acquiring new sponsorship and actually surpassed the Emirates income.
They only arrived back in the UK earlier today so we have not yet had the chance to speak to them in person but text messages have been exchanged and they are both fit and well.
We have sold over 6,300 to date and are aiming for sales of 7,500 – we have surpassed sales for all previous semi-finals. St Helens sales are close to this figure, with Leeds behind them. The total sales for the event are now at over 20,000.
Yes, we will be surveying our fans, it is very important that we obtain your views but it is more important that we act on that feedback.
Karl and Stuart thanked everyone for attending, and the forum was closed at 20:45, following the showing of an exclusive interview with Jason Clark.