Friday, 15 March 2013

Hull City FLAG meeting 15/03/2013

Today saw the first meeting of the Hull City FLAG (Fans Liason & Advisory Group) at the KC Stadium. The meeting, despite agenda, was dominated by the situation with West Yorkshire police over the Huddersfield away trip with the talk coming back to it time and again.

Present were Tigers Press Officer Ash Lord and MD Nick Thompson. Andy Dalton (Amber Nectar), Chris Cooper, Chris Smith and Tony Conway (OSC), Pete Mills (WHCR), Tom Lee (Tiger Chat) and Paul Atkin (Southern Supporters). Ryan Kerr represented the younger element of the Tigers support, Rob Harmer represented the corporate element (!) and there was representation of the Senior Tigers (Sincere apologies for forgetting the name).

There wasn't a lot of information revealed about the WYP situation that we didn't already know. While Nick Thompson and the club are completely unhappy with the situation, NT calling it "absolutely wrong", they do appear to feel they've done everything they could and think the only way you can change the situation is by infiltrating things like the Safety Advisory Group going forward. NT listened to a lot of views from the "floor", many of which you will have already read or heard, suggesting a complete boycott would have been the way to go, suggesting ways to protest, alternative arrangements and the like. Nick Thompson was adamant that there'd be no complete boycott. He felt it would "piss off Steve and the team", would remove freedom of choice and it would just make West Yorkshire police happy that there job was done for them. The club are officially supporting an FSF march in Huddersfield on the day of the game (press release due shortly). NT stated that the Football League have done and said nothing. He has asked for it to be put on the FL AGM agenda for June, though if promoted, we won't be able to attend.

The previous back down by WYP when a travel bubble was suggested for Leeds away in 2006 was brought up. NT said this was "PR from the club" and that the club hadn't actually turned that situation around. NT could find no evidence from the clubs records and also spoke to ex-employee Phil Hough, now club secretary at Doncaster Rovers, and Phil could not recall any action from the club causing the turnabout.

When asked by Chris Smith what he'd learnt from the Huddersfield situation, NT replied that he was surprised by how much football people negotiate in public. He shared the general view of Karl Turner MP to some amusement.

As well as being unhappy with the way our fans are being treated by WYP, there was also frustration from Nick Thompson and the panel at the situation at home games. NT explained that the risk level at football  games is set by a Safety Advisory Group. This consists of the Police, Fire Brigade, Ambulance Service and SMC. Nick himself has recently being added by making a lot of noise and has had Tony Sutton from Hull FC added. He hasn't yet attended a meeting. His goal is to have two fans added to the group to give balance to the discussion. He feels that currently the police bring the risk assessment and the rest of he group are "nodding dogs". This advisory group are stopping the club having home fans in the North Stand at games. This led to discussion of the away fans situation. Nick Thompson said the ultimate goal is still to move away fans and have home fans behind both goals but the design of the concourses and positioning of the turnstiles currently prohibits this.

The club are keen to take more control of car parking attendants and stewards. The want to instill an attitude where they "treat the fans as if they were your friends". The club are introducing SLA's (service level agreements) for the car parks and stewarding and also for Tiger Travel. The last two TT contracts have gone to whoever said they'd do it cheapest without any thought of the quality of service. At the moment, NT feels there are "too many police, too many stewards". Chris Cooper, who had some interesting views on things the club could do going forward, including introducing a Supporters Liaison Officer in line with UEFA guidelines, mentioned the dislike fans have for being filmed by the police. NT is going to look into this at home games.

This provoked a discussion on the younger aspect of our support, a rare agenda item. There is a big feeling that the support of 16-25 year olds is being lost. Nick Thompson was impressed by the support from the young element at Cystal Palace and wants to do something similar at Hull City. Giving the youngsters somewhere to store banners at the ground and somewhere to display them. Systems like Palace where they store large rods to wave flags or Bolton where they hang them and roll them up at the end of games where suggested. In the meantime, NT is going to ask Stewards to take a "sensible approach" to people hanging banners off advertising and seats. 

A (worrying) agenda item was labelled "themed stands". We never really got into discussing it but I was appeased by Nick Thompson's explanation of it. He's thinking of ways the club can make the areas of the ground more relevant to the fans who use it. In terms of ways to dress the concourses and the approach of the stewards. So NT wants stewards to turn a blind eye to standing and choice language in the East Stand but it would be strictly enforced in the South family stand. While in the West Stand, where it's more corporate, something like a coffee shop instead of/as well as kiosks may go down well. It was mentioned in brief that a new caterer has been found for next season, hopefully giving the club more input on pricing. Smoking areas outside the stands where suggested. It was also requested that the club give the Senior Tigers a room for memorabilia display to brighten up the ground tour. It was then suggested that memorabilia could brighten the dull spaces on the concourses.

As time ran out, a few questions were fired in. The Season pass renewals have been sent and should arrive any day.... Away Direct is not being scrapped, it will be replaced with something else.... Forest have sold 3,486 tickets for tomorrow.... The Allams will have put in £65m to the club by the end of the season.... A private fans coach was stopped in West Yorkshire prior to the Burnley game. The coach driver called police as he felt some fans "were being rowdy". The coach was searched and no-one arrested.... NT feels the KC Stadium will be our home for the foreseeable future. Felt that under the liberal council, the stadium may well have been sold to the Allams. Thinks it will take 2 or 3 sustained years of Premier League football for the capacity to become a real issue. Allams will not pay for extensions to a stadium they don't own though.... I brought up the removed Disabled concessions. It was explained that the Allams felt it was a system that wasn't fair when compared to other local sports teams. I suggested it as an agenda item for next time as time was pressing.

That was about all there was time for. NT and Ash Lord gave 2 1/2 hours of their time, as did the fans who attended and it was mutually appreciated. It was suggested that there be representatives from the disabled fan base for next time and also from the 'ulltras group. Both were accepted. Both Ash and Nick Thompson sounded determined to improve the atmosphere and the experience of visiting the stadium, for both home and away fans. 

I'll finish with a Did you know?....

Did you know that the club employs a fans liaison officer?

Me neither.


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