Minutes, 1st meeting, season 2014-15
Attenborough Suite, Millennium Hotel, Chelsea FC
27th September 2014, 11.00am
Attendees (Constituency represented/ role)
Hayden, Lisa – Non-ambulant season ticket (“ST”) holder
Hayes, Tim – Non-ambulant match supporter member
Law, Matthew – Honorary committee member
McGeever, Timothy – Ambulant ST holder
Piggott, Diane – Disabled Liaison Officer and Supporters’ Clubs Manager, Chelsea FC
Powell, Mick – Ambulant match supporter member
Regan, Andy – Independent Chair
Smith, Graham – Head of Ticketing and Head of Supporters’ Liaison, Chelsea FC
(Action points are underlined.)
The Club explained the evacuation procedure for the room in case of emergency.
The Chair welcomed members to the first committee of the season. Committee members introduced themselves.
MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
There were no changes to the last minutes of last season. The Club will cover the outstanding action point later in the meeting.
POSITIONING OF DISABLED FANS AT AWAY GROUNDS
One member said there is no disabled area at Liverpool and disabled fans won’t be moved to their own area until they have a new stadium. Aston Villa said it would move disabled fans to sit with other away fans. The Club said there was no feedback yet from Villa. When ticket information is published for an away match, the Club announces where the disabled allocation is.
Another member commented that the away section in Spurs is quite cramped as ambulant and non-ambulant fans are placed together. There can be a wait to get to the disabled area. The Club said it takes an allocation in the ambulant area there when there is an overspill due to the configuration but it may not be suitable for some with disabilities. Such feedback from fans is very useful. For Manchester City the Club liaised with them beforehand to discuss the building works at the Etihad and try to find solutions. There is a lot of liaison between clubs. A twenty minute wait to get in is not acceptable for instance and we can speak to other clubs to try and improve matters.
One member suggested that a league table for grounds may help. The Club said that a large part of the problem is the configuration of older stadia, such as ours. In the East Lower some disabled fans have to go through the groundsmens' entrance. Of course if we had the opportunity with a change of stadium we would at minimum meet all rules and standards for disabled areas and probably do a lot more. One member added that at Spurs some time ago all disabled fans seemed to be placed near the away fans. One member commented that Chelsea may not do well if there were a table for disability standards.
The Club commented that Chelsea is incredibly popular at present as shown by tickets for all matches selling out in three hours. All clubs have a liaison officer for disabled fans.
One member commented that at Manchester City there were no longer flags hanging down from the tier above obstructing the view. Another said there have been problems in the past there with coins being thrown. The Club said there was a report that it happened last year.
The Club was asked if it could fill a 60,000 stadium. The Club replied that this season has seen the fastest sales time for tickets in at least ten years. We expect to beat our previous membership record this season. There are five million on the database. In the lower tier of the away end and the family enclosure we can’t sell alcohol as the kiosks face the pitch. These are examples of further constraints hampering enjoyment of fans and revenue for the Club. We are also constrained by losing 3,000 seats for Champions League matches for health and safety reasons associated with outside broadcast facilities. Capacity has gone down from 42,500.
One supporter said that disabled fans are all in the back of the lower tier at the Emirates.
NON-AMBULANT FANS IN THE WEST LOWER STAND
One member commented that sometimes capes are not distributed quickly to disabled fans when it rains. The Club said it would be better prepared for this eventuality at matches.
Lisa commented that she had attended the appeal in Geneva with Diane and others. At first PSG accepted part closure of the stadium and a fine of 15,000 Euros. She and others had asked if the fine could go to charity and PSG agreed to provide it to the Centre for Access to Football in Europe (“CAFE”). Also a letter of apology was proposed, to be addressed to all Chelsea disabled supporters. Just before the hearing PSG said it withdrew everything but would provide four all-expense packages including tickets to watch a game. This was rejected. PSG offered ten match tickets only, which was also rejected.
The matter went to appeal in front of a panel of six. PSG, UEFA and Chelsea were all represented. PSG asked in what way our fans were abused. We told them what was said in the stadium which took some time to translate accurately. We were shouted at in the ground and had coins and bottles thrown at us. The result of the appeal was a 50,000 Euros fine. We suggested that disabled fans could have been in front of our own fans with carers behind. In France police have jurisdiction in the stadia.
The Club added there were problems for our fans elsewhere with fans being made to sit in an overcrowded upper tier. Lisa added that PSG also have to change their layout for disabled fans going forwards.
Members said there hadn’t been problems at other European away grounds for our disabled supporters. There had been problems at another ground but not necessarily aimed at disabled fans. The Club said it provides an information sheet for those travelling. It added it also has an emergency line. In the UK we don’t have police in the stadium at all unless there is a special reason, so we have more control of how the crowd is managed.
Lisa added that she had to show the appeal panel where the problems occurred on the footage. There was only one steward nearby at the match, who didn’t help.
One member commented that at the last meeting it was announced there would be an audit over the summer and asked what the improvements were. The Club responded that this review, not an audit, focused specifically on both improvements and possible increased capacity. It remains optimistic that improvements can be made. They will however need to be fully costed and approved by the board of the Football Club. Additional consultation will also be undertaken with CDSA. The Club will start the process this summer, with the hope that any changes can be in place by the start of season 2015/16.
Matthew responded that Level Playing Field (“LPF”) are putting pressure on having changes.
The Club added that there is the ROTA scheme for 50 disabled individuals and 50 personal assistants.
MATCH DAY PARKING
The Club was asked if there can be more disabled parking spaces. One member had been told for a match that he had to be within the first three to phone to get a place in the stadium but that there are also some spaces at Fulham Broadway. The Club said that after a match it can take a minimum of an hour to get out. Even car parking for UEFA officials is tight. We used to have access to a local church car park but that has now gone.
The Club clarified the situation. There are six parking spaces in total. The first six to call up four weeks prior to the match get the spaces, three at Fulham Broadway and three designated in the stadium complex. The Club advises fans not to travel by car to matches for obvious reasons. The Club has also informs fans about the lift availability and facilities at Fulham Broadway. There is a reserve list for parking spaces in case someone decides not to attend. Ideally fans should park two and a half hours before kick off.
One member commented that he found the website difficult to navigate for ticketing. The Club responded that Jerry, in charge of the website design, will hopefully address the next main Forum about the site. The member in question added that the problems in particular are accessibility of disability ticketing details. The Club commented that the disability section for ticketing replicates the non-disabled pages. Another option is a grid with basic details such as match, date, sales dates etc which would be easily accessible. The call centre is getting a lot of calls from fans who can’t get information readily. There is a concern with fans ticking the wrong box between ambulant or non-ambulant tickets if there is a generic booking page.
In response to a question, the Club confirmed that disabled fans can now book by phone, email or fax. The Club welcomes further feedback on the new website. Returned tickets go back on sale.
One member said he found the previous website easier to navigate. The Club said that the new site is completely mobile friendly now which is why a new design was needed. A new app will be introduced in due course.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
The Chair confirmed that the next meeting will be in the second half of the season with the date to be confirmed.
The meeting finished at 12.00pm.