Bristol City Fans Advisory Network and Supporters Club & Trust
Special joint meeting, Wednesday 7th March 2018, 7.30pm
Supporters Bar, Ashton Gate Stadium
This special meeting was called in response to the unprecedented adverse reaction to the Football Club’s announcement of Season Card prices for 2018/19. Mark Ashton (CEO,MA), Doug Harman (Chair, DH) and Gavin Marshall (Chief Finance Officer, GM) were present to present the case and answer questions on behalf of BCFC.
Stuart Rogers, BCSCT chair, opened the meeting by outlining some questions needing answers before handing over to Mark Ashton.
MA explained that BCFC, Ashton Gate Limited and Bristol Sport Limited work in one area as one team. A group of officers from different areas of the organisation developed the SC pricing policy before sending it to the BCFC board for approval – “the buck stops with me.” This was confirmed by GM, who was asked, “Why were the fans not consulted during this process?” The answer was that management by committee was difficult but they would listen and take on board views. It was pointed out that FAN was quoted wrongly in the Club’s announcement as being consulted in drawing up the details. IN fact FAN gave their views at the January FAN meeting but were not consulted again before the announcement, which was very different from what had been discussed.
GM continued saying that in general ticket prices had been kept very low for many years. Now that the stadium redevelopment was complete, the Club felt it was time address this position and begin to raise prices. In particular prices for the lower age groups were seen as being far below the average for the Championship. They had deliberately protected the entry prices in the South Stand and Family Area and the free shirt scheme. The new prices placed eighth out of the 11 Championship Clubs, which had so far announced their prices. Only two other Clubs had a blanket price for U12s. On being questioned, “Why bridge the gap so quickly?” GM answered that the gap is not bridged in entirety, suggested more increases can be expected next season.
Rob Wood, Chair of the Disabled Supporters Association, questioned the increases for that group. The Club believes it is obliged to raise them according to law. He quoted a Level Playing Field Documents which brings this into doubt and says that increases, where they occur, are best made in stages. He asked can changes be made at this stage; the answer given was probably not. DH said they would “take the matter away and look at it.” Fan after fan then put forward their personal positions, most of which were greatly affected by the increases for the lower age groups. There was a fear that all the good works which had been done in recent years to encourage new young supporters would be undermined by the new SC prices.
MA countered this by saying much work is done in schools. We had an owner who is first of all English, secondly Bristolian and thirdly who cares. We are loss making and he is the person who puts his hand in his pocket. As a result we have one of the finest facilities and players in the Championship. We had to be financially prudent and bridge the income-expenditure gap. An U12 SC for £99 amounts to around £4 per match, which is good value.
One fan agreed that the Family Area was fantastic but he was still in difficulty over the increases taking place in one step. Other fans explained in turn how they were affected including:
- the two-week window to ensure your seat for next season was far too short and the three-week change was still inadequate
- the Club had shown a serious lack of understanding what football means and had got the prices “so, so wrong”
Two questions were asked:
- “Is there anyone to play devil’s advocate at the Club planning meetings?” MA answered that we will go away from this meeting and look at the questions of prices for the disabled and of consultation – what we mean by it and how we can implement it.
- “Will the increases be sweetened at all by a new loyalty scheme?” Matt Joy of Bristol Sport, who was in the body of the meeting replied that the scheme they want to implement is technology dependent. He mentioned they were thinking of a cashback scheme to replace the current discounts. The Club will consult with FAN/BCSCT about the scheme.
MA summarised by saying the Club will go away and look at three areas – Extending sales to one month to cover pay-days, prices for disabled supporters and consultation in future.
SR said in conclusion that much was still outstanding and he hoped “we would go again at some point.”
After a short break, a large number remained behind to think about what they had heard.
The atmosphere was flat, the feeling being that we had been listened to but not heard and understood.
There was a common concern that much of the good strategic work in recent years could be undone by short-termism.
This was just the latest example of failure to consult. The “bunker scenario” MA referred to was of the Club’s creation.
We respect and applaud the fact that SL “puts his hands in his pocket” but so too do the fans at their level.
There is a current in some members of FAN to resign en bloc.
Suggestions followed that FAN and BCSCT could come together for many purposes.
Ideas for protests were also considered but no specific action was agreed appropriate at this stage.