NOTES OF GENERAL FOCUS GROUP – MEETING 2

Held Vitality Stadium Thursday 30th March 2017

Present:
Gary Chapman
Peter Ive
Carol Toller
Ron Westcott
Paul Frank
Gary Hickson
Ray Ford
Ray Khan

Liz Finney – General Manager
Dan Clarke – Ticketing Manager

AGENDA

Apologies
Clive Sheen / Tim Sharp / Trish Drodge

Introduction
It was proposed and agreed by all present that the notes of the meeting would be circulated for approval by the group before details of the meeting were made public by group members.
Update from last meeting
• LF went through the notes of the last meeting to review actions:
• She confirmed that she had spoken with the MD of the security company to request that security staff remain polite and considerate to supporters when dealing with access or any other issues.
• Supporters waiting for taxis after returning from away games were advised to wait by the reception rather than outside the Club store due to extra lighting
• Where the SMS update system had not worked for Clive, the particular problem was identified, rectified and relayed to Clive. He subsequently reported all was working fine.
• Regarding the hand driers in the North Stand not working, LF explained that they worked during pre-matchday testing but evidently failed once the volume of use increased beyond a certain point. They were replaced at the earliest opportunity and there have been no reports of failure since.
• Hot water signs were in place for the game after the last meeting.
• RW is happy with his programme purchase routine.
• Lack of lighting was mentioned at the last meeting as an issue on the NW corner near Thistlebarrow Road. A lighting rig has been placed there for a good number of games now and seems to have alleviated that problem.
• LF had spoken with the safety officer to explain concerns about stewards being placed inside the north stand vomitaries and the issues caused. And the SO had briefed supervisors accordingly. They had also discussed the floating cordon behind the east stand and it was suggested that, except in higher risk instances, the cordon not be used but rather stewards stand to the side and only deploy should it be required.
• LF had discussed concerns regarding the congestion in the 1910 Bar pre-match with Black Label Events management, although all present at the meeting agreed that the outside bar facility had much helped in this respect. Regarding the size of the tables, these are required for non-matchday use as well and the club does not have the facility to store two different types.

Ticketing
Away allocations
GC explained that he had raised this agenda item but that since doing so away allocation of tickets had improved with the way sales had been structured by the ticket office for the Saints and Spurs games. DC explained the details to those in the group who were not aware and further advised that he had received the Sunderland seat map and that tickets for that game would be available via a pick your seat option.

General ticketing update:
• pick a seat: DC explained some of the restrictions in being able to offer this for every away game but would report to the next meeting on how the Sunderland option worked
• posting tickets: the ticket office now has a target of posting tickets out 1-2 days within booking and to date this has been achieved in almost all cases.
• enquiries line: a new call management system has been installed and the club ticket office is able to track the number of calls, duration, call answer and talk time and if any are abandoned. Where the latter TO staff with call back. Call answer times now average under 40 seconds and more than 95% of calls are answered within two minutes
• how to guides: guides to easy use of the online ticketing booking function have been produced and voiced over by Steve Fletcher. These cover: how to book tickets and coach travel and the process of setting up and checking account details; there are available currently on the club website and shortly on the ticket website. There was some discussion around the online ticket booking facility and the question of a transaction charge that was applied to online but not in person sales was raised. DC has undertaken to look into the booking process across the board over the course of the summer.
• accessible tickets online: DC advised that accessible tickets were available to purchase online and had been trialled by some members of our disability focus group. There will be a registration process over the course of the next few months so that all disabled supporters can have the relevant changes made to their account which enable online sales
• accessible training all ticketing staff: all ticket office staff had completed training in dealing with supporters with disabilities
• away coach online tickets & pick a seat: DC confirmed that the facility to pick your coach seat and book online had been in place for some time. A couple of the group raised specific issues they had encountered in booking and DC spent some time going through the process. He further explained that a guide to booking coach tickets would be produced to assist fans going forward with particular focus on booking match tickets and coach tickets in the same order
• email responses – DC explained that duties within the ticket office had recently been specifically allocated with one member of staff dedicated to email responses. Incoming messages are colour coded in respect of urgency and the responses recorded and tracked. LF advised that email sign-offs were now the name of the person who responded and not a generic ticket office sign-off.
• season ticket key dates: LF advised that, as mentioned in the notes of the meeting between the club and the Cherries Trust board members, season tickets would go on sale on 22nd May until 19th June. There would be a period for seat moves from 20th June to 23rd June and that it was planned to post ST cards out to arrive by the middle of July.

Touting
LF raised the issue of tickets being sold on, outside the points scheme, and cited an example received that day. She explained how the ticket office planned to deal with these instances when they became aware and received the group’s full support for a firm approach. RK suggested a dedicated touting e-mail so that supporters could report anybody selling tickets above face value. LF and DC confirmed that they will investigate

Upcoming features:
• Updated ticket policy: this would be previewed at the next meeting
• Website upgrade: LF advised that she had that afternoon had sight of a selection of new website pages and that they were a huge improvement on our current website. The development team are now progressing with the set-up and another meeting of the website development focus group would be arranged towards the end of April to review and have the opportunity to play with the new version.
• Access control: it was confirmed that automated turnstiles would be introduced at Vitality Stadium for the start of the new season and there was some discussion around the features and benefits of the system such as easier upgrade of tickets, better queue management, fraudulent use detection and improved reporting,

At this point a question was asked as to why in certain areas of the north stand tickets were checked twice. LF explained that some supporters there do not sit in their seats but transfer to areas where supporters tend to stand. There were also a small group of fans who repeatedly report their tickets missing or lost and request duplicates. The checking of tickets by stewards inside the ground helps to deal with these issues.

RW asked why not revert to one point drop at a time and DC explained that to group the points gave a longer general sale period which led to improved service by the ticket office. LF advised that there had been no negative feedback on the points grouping since its implementation and that supporters seemed to recognise the benefits of the system.

Policy on bottle tops
RW asked that a consistent approach to tops being removed from plastic bottles at point of sale be adopted and LF undertook to ask that concourse catering staff were briefed accordingly.

Away coach timings
RW has raised this as an agenda item and LF confirmed that, having spoken to the Rob Nicol our away travel co-ordinator, the times were initially put forward by the coach supplier and tweaked if they didn’t seem reasonable. LF asked if there had been a particular issue with timings for a game and Ron explained that sometimes coaches arrived quite early. It was agreed that, taking into account weather, traffic, accidents, driver regulated stops and other unforeseen factors it would never be an exact science.

Any other business
GC asked if there would be the possibility of making available executive coaches for some away games for next season and LF said she would investigate and report back.

RW asked that the voice message on BH Live line be changed as was irritating. DC explained that new messages had been recorded and were soon to be in place.

The group asked what AFCB do for visiting away fans; LF explained that the club run a number of initiatives to ensure that away fans are welcome at the Vitality Stadium

Thistlebarrow Road traffic management was raised by GC and RW raised the issue of police vehicle movement around the NW corner once fans had arrived. LF explained that the process is for all vehicles to be in place however police vehicles may arrive once there are crowds or if they are called away for other business.

RK was upset that our staff behind the dugouts wore Man City colours for that game. LF explained that this was not something that could be changed for that game but likely to be a different colour next season.

RW asked for the Gates/Bricks to be cleaned in the north east corner-LF explained that there is a balance to be struck between cleaning and the damage that regular cleaning can cause but agreed to look at this

MOTM vote – RW asked why do young supporters have to go to the Mansion website to see the winner.

LF and DC gave the group the ticket allocations offered by Leicester for our last game of the season and asked them to each choose the option they would take. The group discussed the various factors that could affect attendances and the result was between two options with no clear preference.

PF asked about the involvement of the club’s American investors and LF advised that they have a love of sport and were impressed by the AFC Bournemouth story. They have full confidence in Neill Blake to manage the club and their focus is rather on its long-term future growth and the new stadium project.

The question was raised as to whether there would be any development of the current ground and LF confirmed that there would not be.

RW mentioned that the away attendance column in the programme is not completed and LF advised that she would check with the media department on this.
RW also mentioned that the newsletter was greatly improved.

CT enquired about charted trains and LF explained that the club had had some discussions with SW Trains regarding this and other matters but that it had been difficult to get matters moving forward with the franchise looming. Now that this has been awarded and SWT staff are settled in their roles again, the club will re-engage with the company.

The meeting ended.

General Focus Group Minutes – 23rd November 2016

The first general focus group meeting was held on 23rd November.
The notes from the meeting as read and approved by all attendees are below.

The first meeting of the Disability Focus Group is set for 14th December while the Family Focus Group meeting is set for 9th January.

Attendees
Gary Chapman (GC)
Paul Frank (PF)
Ray Ford (RF)
Ray Khan (RK)
Kerry Miles (KM)
Mark Ouzman (MO)
Tim Sharp (TS)
Clive Sheen (CS)
Carol Toller (CT)
Ron Westcott (RW)
Liz Finney – AFCB (LF)
Anthony Marshall – AFCB (AM)
Tony Maycock – Cherries Trust (TM)
Kerry Smith – Cherries Trust (KS)

Introductions

The meeting started with round the table introductions and with each fan adding what they hope to achieve from the meetings. The most common items were to improve communications, help out both AFCB and Fans, help to restore a community feel.

AFCB hopes for the Focus Groups

RK asked LF what the club hoped to get out of the Focus Groups. LF replied that it gave the club an opportunity to hear the requirements and wishes of supporters, and where possible action or answer.
LF also stated that the biggest challenge the rise through the leagues had brought was demand versus capacity and that the club had appreciate and recognize this.
It was mentioned that the Junior Cherries Open Training Day had been a huge success, and that from the feedback received, every child had got what they wanted with regards to autographs and photos etc. This was widely agreed by all those who had attended.

Ground Access on non-Matchdays

GC relayed an experience of being shouted at when near the East Stand Mural Wall on a non-matchday and queried why this was so. AM replied that the possible reason for the restriction is due to some players’ cars having been ‘keyed’ whilst parked there. The reason was widely accepted for the restriction, but not the manner of the message relayed from security staff. ACTION – LF to talk to security staff about their approach to wandering fans etc.

Meeting Process

It was agreed by all present that we would work through the agenda prepared from attendee questions. TM would take notes that would be circulated to all attendees for agreement before being released.

Ticketing

RK opened with some positives about the ticketing for away games, that postal and collections seemed to work fine. The issues though appear to mainly be with the phone lines. LF explained that this was a known issue, and that there is a problem on the BH Live system whereby you can enter the queue but then be told it is full and to call again. BH Live are investigating this but in the meantime the club is looking at handling enquiries calls differently as it is difficult for the club to staff the peaks and troughs of calls. It is an issue always being sought to be improved and by publishing the on sale dates and associated points drops and trialling the SMS points advice service, this has helped to reduce the number of enquiry calls.
RW made an observation that the phone dialog is unfriendly. LF agreed and said the club has rerecorded the messages and is waiting to roll these out once the ticketing calls management has been finalised.
The question was raised about why it is not possible to purchase away tickets in-house. LF answered that due to the volume of ticket sales it was not possible to process in-person sales as well as manage the incoming phone/internet sale notifications – when a sale is made it automatically feeds to the Ticket Office and gets processed ASAP.
GC raised a question about ticket sales getting quicker to General Sale. LF replied that the system had been reviewed with on sale dates and points drops being published for the whole season and including a general sale period of usually over a week. As part of this discussion, GC asked whether the club could take a gamble and take a full allocation for away games so that fans had the opportunity to buy tickets and get on the ladder. LF made the point about the club being charged for all allocated seats not being sold if this was the case. She questioned why the Manchester City fixture had sold 3000 tickets last season, but only 1400 this season, which had led to a financial impact for the club.
The issue of standing at away games was asked, and what provision the club could give to ensure that everyone was able to view the game in comfort. GC outlined his desire to stand, but it can be an issue for those behind if he gets a ticket in the 2nd row. RW and CT expressed a desire to sit, but having no choice if all around were standing. LF outlined the process that home clubs go through of requiring the visiting club to sell blocks in a certain order and not across the allocation, making it currently almost impossible for fans to be able to specify where they would like to be located.
LF outlined a trial SMS update system in place to update fans with their points tally after away games. CS said he had subscribed but it hadn’t worked for him. ACTION – LF to look into this, CS to supply email address for follow up.
LF outlined that there were as an upgrade due in the near future on the ticketing system to resolve and improve some issues.
GC asked about the Preston ticketing ‘debacle’, RW questioned why no apology had been forthcoming from the club. LF believed one had been but RW believed it had not been extensive enough. GC asked why people collecting tickets were in the same queue as those buying, and that the club should have been selling tickets / vouchers so that fans could be processed quicker. LF said that the between 7pm and 7.10pm on the day the crowd size went quickly from manageable to excessive and it was difficult to change at that point. Delays were experienced as the 1600 new customers needed to have details taken to log their Cup point. LF said that there were things the club would do differently in the future such as trying to have a longer general sale period where possible and different queues for collection and sales.

Communication

MO expressed a desire for more communication from the club, using the recent information about the ground planning/development as an example. AM replied that the club were unlikely to release a statement for the sake of making a statement, especially when there was nothing new to report. It was pointed out that even no news is news. On this item in particular, it’s a hot topic and the fans do want to know what is going on.
Cherries Player was discussed and AM stated that Cherries Player is currently being maintained with some video content, but the media department is shorthanded and the longest serving member has been there 11 months. However two new members of staff are joining the department by the New Year. AM went on to say that for next season there would be a new, custom website and that the existing site was part of a deal set up across Football League clubs. He went on to explain that video content going forwards with the new site could be free to view, in line with many other clubs.
LF announced that a new marketing manager would be starting in the New Year, and that the club had not previously had one.
LF mentioned that the Premier League attender survey had just been released and said that it was a good vehicle for the club to help improve with over 1000 Cherries fans having completed last season’s survey. LF highlighted that AFC Bournemouth have been voted the best ground for away fans to visit.
GC raised the issue of supporter facilities, and cited non-working hand driers in the North Stand toilets. LF was surprised to hear this. ACTION – LF to chase up this with the view of getting them working.
CT raised the point that hot water taps were labelled as cold. ACTION – LF to look at having signs put up saying that the water is hot.

The question of relations between Cherries Trust and AFC Bournemouth was asked. TM outlined that the parties have met on numerous occasions, that a good relationship was developing and that CT were working with LF to further increase the level of information shared. LF stated that the PL are due to issue guidelines, in line with The FSF, Expert Working Group and Club SLO recommendations.

Purchasing Programmes

RW outlined the previous process of being able to purchase programmes for home and away games, and how this season it seems to have been removed. ACTION – LF to see whether this can be reinstated and a new storage location organised.

Coach Travel

RW questioned the process for determining at what percentage of occupancy a coach would be cancelled and whether it could be replaced with a minibus. LF implied that coaches close to at least half occupancy would likely always run. LF stated that Bluebird Coaches assign a set number of coaches and that AFC Bournemouth try to advise in advance where they feel there will be greater demand to give Bluebird an opportunity to source more.

Health and Safety

RW questioned the suitability of the gates at the Thistlebarrow Road exit and whether the gates could be widened to aid egress from the ground after the game. LF stated that the gates met all requirements. RW also questioned the lighting in the open area outside the club shop, and whether it could be improved. LF stated that previously the lighting in that area was better due to the older floodlights and car park lighting, but since the new LED lighting for the floodlights has much less light spill and is pitch facing, plus much of the lighting in the car park had failed. These have now been repaired so lighting should be better in that area but the club would review at the next match. LF said that lighting had also previously been rented to help with this problem and would be again if needed. ACTION – LF to investigate lighting in this area.
GC questioned the positioning of stewards in the North Stand tunnels at half time, and that their positioning in the tunnels severely restricted the flow of fans to and from the concourses. LF described how this was an issue created by the available space enforced by pitch side LED boards, press requirements and Premier League specifications on run off areas from the pitch. ACTION – LF to work with stewards to see what can be improved here as stewarding is still essential in this area.
The flow of fans away from the ground behind the East Stand was discussed, and the stewards cordon. LF explained that there was a floating cordon in place in the event of an incident, but home fans were still able to exit past the away fans section. TM suggested this be better explained to home fans so they didn’t feel compelled to walk all the way around the ground to exit.

1910 Bar

PF questioned the capacity and access to the 1910 bar, and facility to sit/stand in the bar prior to games. CT agreed saying there was not enough space for sitting, and questioned the size of the tables. TM suggested smaller table or interlocking tables to enable more capacity. ACTION – LF to speak to the catering/hospitality team to see if anything can be improved.
LF said that the club are always looking to provide capacity for pre match hospitality, recognising that fans have pre-match ‘rituals’ and that Season Ticket holders were able to use the Bowling Club at the South End of Kings Park. LF also outlined the trial that occurred at O2 in Boscombe, and that after 2 games it had been shelved by them due to under use.
LF announced that for the Liverpool and Southampton games the club would be trialing a pop-up bar area in the area opposite the club shop entrance for home fans. This bar area had to be cleared prior to kick off to ensure the area is clear in the event of emergency.
RK asked about the possibility of bookmakers returning. LF said that previous bookmakers had pulled out due to lack of business, and this was unlikely to change due to the take-up of online bookmaking.

Thank you to everyone for attending and involving yourselves. We hope that you found this a useful exercise and will continue involve yourselves in follow up meetings.