Middlesbrough Supporters Forum……Meeting 35

Held at Middlesbrough FC. Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough 6.30pm 9th Dec 2019

In attendance were:

Chris Joseph Chair – Middlesbrough Supporters Forum

Peter Hodgson Secretary – Middlesbrough Supporters Forum

Caroline Walker Diversity – Middlesbrough Supporters Forum

Rob Nichols – Fly Me to the Moon Fanzine

Paddy Cronesberry, MBE. – MDSA

Representative – Red Faction

Jill Atkinson – Middlesbrough Supporters Club 2020

Dave Roberts – Red Army TV

Danny Chapman – Twelfth Man

Matthew Gale – Rainbow Reds

Mark Motley – MSS

Yvonne Ferguson – Middlesbrough FC.

Apologies were received from John Donovan.

Guests attending for discussions were:

Alex Thompson – Responsible for Data Insight at MFC.

Lee Fryett – Head of Commercial & Ticketing at MFC.

Soroush Sadeghzadeh – Middlesbrough Food Bank.

Per normal practice, after circulation to all parties by e-mail, the minutes of meeting 34 were accepted as read.

The Chair formally welcomed the guests.

DATA INSIGHT ISSUES – (Data Capture Techniques. Essential work for MFC Marketing and Ticketing)

Alex Thompson gave an oversight of his work to source solid data to support all these issues. This is a huge task but it is essential work that needs to be implemented as soon as possible to make sure MFC are “ahead of the game” in dealing with and supporting our fans in the best way we possibly can for all future Club functions and actions.

He advised that the club must be proactive to make people aware of the functionality of the digital accounts and apps and the benefits that the club and fans alike will gain from it.  He advised that there were around 60k digital accounts created but these were often for many pieces of “other types of functional data” such as ticketing, video-links, retail purchasing, events and other attractions, etc.,  Within those numbers, the data on actual season card holders is only individualised on about half of the actual season card members details.  For example, IF a season card holder was registered to buy HIS OWN ticket PLUS his wife and 2 children’s tickets – the database will currently show ONLY ONE CONTACT NAME for all FOUR purchases. It is essential for the New System to show ALL NAMES in order to operate effectively and successfully for every single fan’s benefit – and for MFC to get exact digital info to plan exactly and efficiently for our future.

Mark Motley asked re ticketing on the current app and raised the point of having to log in twice – AT advised ticketing was based on an external site but this is something currently being looked at in the new system.

Red Faction rep – asked why tickets could not be sent direct to mobile phones. This and more will be included on the new system.

Lee Fryett advised that there is a long-term project for ticketing on the app, including digital tickets with no need to print/collect/post. In response to Mark asking why tickets were not sold in the town centre on busy days before games – Lee informed us that a trial would be run to test selling tickets in the MFC retail shop which could be spread wider if successful.        

Jill Atkinson mentioned that the “new” Boro Supporters’ Club-2020 – hoped to hold a digital awareness event in the New Year.

USE BY POLICE OF FACIAL TECHNOLOGY CAMERAS: 

Chris Joseph had written to Cleveland Police asking if it was using facial recognition technology within the stadium. This was as a result of a recent incident at a Cardiff game where the local Police had operated crowd surveillance camera equipment to photograph the crowd outside and entering the stadium. The Police replied that there were no plans to introduce this and MSF would be consulted should that change.

Following on from this, the subject of children being photographed at Riverside matches was raised and it was pointed out that some children are legally prohibited from being photographed for various reasons. However, the Riverside Stadium Ground Regulations state that by entering the stadium-consent is  given for images to be used.  Lee Fryett commented that ground regulations are mainly in place for TV filming.

Yvonne Ferguson said that if she was contacted, she would look at individual cases and there were procedures in place to tackle the issue to ensure that “children who could be at risk” could be seated in an area that is not covered by camera locations.

PERMANENT FOODBANK COLLECTION POINTS:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Yvonne Ferguson stated that permanent food bank points were being installed in the ticket office, retail shop and Herlingshaw centre.  This was welcomed by the meeting.   Yvonne also advised that MSF match day collections could continue with next collection scheduled for 15/2/20 v Luton Town

Souresh thanked the MSF for its efforts for the food bank and advised that at the Aug and Nov collections almost one ton of food and more than £1k cash had been collected. Over 5,500 people had used the food bank in the last financial year, so this contribution was welcome.  He said that this was the food bank’s biggest individual cash fundraising contribution.

PH asked YF if it would be possible to move the location to near the Fans Zone.  YF advised that the club’s safety officer was reluctant while the Fans Zone was still in its infancy and other events were planned but this could be considered again in future.

PH asked about the possibility of holding a Food Bank collection at every home match. It is a comment that many contributors have suggested. Yvonne said that MFC has a significant number of charity collections and charities to support so this was not possible but could be considered in the future.

RF advised that local pub, the “Style Council” opposite the Town Hall, had agreed to act as a “drop-off point” on match day collections.   We will ensure that this information is included in all our future publicity.

Meeting with MFC re-ticketing costs, travel subsidy ideas, etc.,

RN fed back on his meeting with Neil Bausor and Paul Dews:

He had argued the case for changes to teenage ticket prices and for these to be extended across the stadium

He had discussed the success of the Huddersfield away game with the creative ticketing

RN was told that tickets are the most important form of revenue for the club and the data capture project would help to focus on ideas.

LF stated that the club is proactively looking at 18 to 21 “age group” ticketing and other solutions but they must be of a “sustainable and long term” nature – not quick fixes.

LF advised the meeting that MFC had one of the best shirt-sponsorship deals. This was mainly due to the fan engagement and closeness of the supporters and the fans which made the club attractive to sponsors.

LF also said that our LED advertising screens were considered as among the best in the market place.  MFC was leading the way.

LF said the club was open to ideas re-ticketing and packages and confirmed that the club would continue to have discussions with member groups within MSF about this issue.  He said he would welcome creative and constructive suggestions from this group in future discussions.

YF said that a match day experience meeting was being held in the New year and fans groups would also be invited to contribute ideas.

Racism in Europe – and the UK.

PH raised the topic of racism and comments from the UEFA president – Mr. Aleksandr Ceferin. He had commented about restrictions on UEFA powers applied by pressure from Governments that seemed to “preclude UEFA from applying SEVERE Financial penalties and bans to member clubs transgressing racial guide line issues.”   PH suggested that we send a further letter following on from our “European Super League” correspondence in September 2019. RN said issues in this country must be addressed and this was the priority. We will continue to monitor the situation.                                                                                                                                          

YF told the meeting that MFC had a scheme whereby individuals ejected from the stadium and at risk of a banning order could have this suspended if they         volunteer to attend as helpers at a number of matchdays – working on all sorts of general duties at the club in the family zone before and after the match. During this “penalty time” they were not allowed to watch the game.  Local agencies support this type of scheme and Yvonne commented that it has worked very successfully so far.  Although the actual “workings of the scheme” have not previously been made available for public knowledge, this very innovative scheme met with much approval by the MSF members who were not aware of it before.

RN gave a safe standing update – the issue is in all the main party election manifestos and the green guide is in favour.

The meeting agreed to write to the new sports minister (once it was known who this was to be) & remind them to keep this top of the agenda.

RN also noted to the meeting that transport pledges had been made to support fans when fixtures were changed at short notice.

CJ advised the meeting that he and PH were attending the FSA awards on Monday 16th December and would feed back the outcome.

Jill Atkinson thanked everyone who had helped with the launch of the new supporters’ club.

A.O.B.

LF mentioned that the club had been asked for Mark Page to announce Premier League scores as well as Championship / local scores. There is however, a time constraint on Mark’s timings so a compromise could be that the scores would be put on the big screen and MP would announce this rather than read out all the scores.   CW noted that it wasn’t always possible to see the big screen with people standing/walking by.  It was suggested that “trial efforts” could be held to see “what worked best” on the day.

Jill Atkinson gave apologies for absence at the January meeting as the new “Boro Supporters Club-2020” organisation is launching on that night at the Riverside.

CJ closed the meeting, wished all members a Very Happy points-filled Christmas and a Successful 2020.

CJ also advised that the next meeting would be Monday 13th Jan 2020 at The Riverside Stadium – 6.30pm start.