The minutes from the first meeting in August 2011 can be found by clicking here>>
The minutes from the second meeting in November 2011 can be found by clicking here>>
The minutes from the third meeting in March 2012 can be found by clicking here>>
To find out more about the Liverpool FC Supporters' Committee and its members, click here>>
JUNE 2012 SUPPORTERS' COMMITTEE MEETING - MINUTES:
This being the fourth meeting between the Supporters' Committee and Liverpool Football Club, William Montgomery, the facilitator, proposed a time-saving measure, and change to the usual format, whereby the club simply answered the questions that had been submitted in advance of the meeting.
Questioners were encouraged seek clarification to any answer received before comments were invited from other members of the committee. Karen Gill welcomed Richard Pedder as the committee member for fans in the Merseyside postal code area and, on behalf of the Committee, welcomed Jen Chang, the new communications director for Liverpool Football Club.
IA - Ian Ayre - Managing director
AP - Andrew Parkinson - Operations director
PD - Phil Dutton - Head of ticketing strategy
JC - Jen Chang - Director of corporate relations and communications
Question 1 from Laurie Whitehead representing the Corporate Fans
Question: Can the club explain the rationale behind the significant increase in hospitality prices for the coming season and give examples of what 'genuine' additional benefits hospitality season ticket holders are receiving to compensate for such an increase during a time of economic recession and the team having finished 8th in the Premier League last season? Also, as a linked question, we ask that the club looks at offering hospitality fans an interest-free loan facility to pay for their tickets (the minimum hospitality season ticket price is now around £3,000) and also the ability to return tickets for resale to other fans in exchange for either a credit for the following season's season ticket or a cash payment (less a small commission payment to the club).
PD: The club is constantly trying to improve the facilities around the stadium and, at the same time, increase revenues in a responsible way. The club is conscious that some of the lounges have not been improved for many years. This is for a variety of reasons, but mostly due to the uncertainty surrounding the redevelopment of Anfield versus the building of a new stadium. However, the club has decided that, while the decision is pending, it needs to reinvest some of its revenue on improving the facilities at Anfield. The Premier Club Lounge in particular was showing its age and was little more than a seating access where fans could purchase light refreshments prior to the game. This lounge has been identified as a priority and the club is spending upwards of £1m on refurbishment both sides of the room. Whilst there has been a price increase, the club feels that the benefits, which now includes the provision of food, justifies the increase and is in line with what is being offered by other clubs. With regard to extending loan facilities, the club has looked at this and has introduced Zebra Finance for hospitality members this year. This is an area that the club continues to look at and will consider extending loan facilities to lounge users and season ticket holders also. Regarding the seat exchange, the club will consider this, but it is complicated and potentially problematic, as some members might hold numerous tickets and may only want to exchange a small number of them. With season ticket holders it's far easier, as they can advise that they are not attending a game with a simple insertion of a customer number, at which point the club attempts to sell the seat on behalf of the ticket holder. Anything is possible, and this will be investigated further.
LW: Some of the criticisms received are from 'normal' people who have made a conscious decision to spend a good deal of money supporting their club, rather than having a holiday or doing other things with their money. Whilst some fans understand that the club needs to increase revenues, some feel they are being neglected in the process. An interest free loan facility might help, as will being able to trade their tickets when they can't attend or, for those where the price has reach a point that they can't afford, to be able to exchange their hospitality ticket for a more affordable season ticket.
IA: One of the challenges is that we have a stadium that is sold out every game and whilst we want to improve the quality of the match-day experience, we have to increase revenues at the same time. If we want to compete on the pitch, we have to compete everywhere else. We should be able to offer a person who can't afford his current hospitality ticket with another more affordable option, but only if we have one to offer. Right now we are constrained by the facilities at Anfield, as we don't have the capacity to easily move fans around the ground. As we get through the first stage of renewals, we will have a better idea of what options are available and then present these to those who have been affected.
Actions: The club will look at extending loan facilities to lounge users and season ticket holders also and will consider a seat exchange programme if a workable solution can be identified and implemented.
Question 2 from Abu Nasir representing the Ethnic Minority Supporters
Question: There have been numerous discussions between fans in regards to the club's financial strengths in comparison to some of our rivals. When FSG took ownership of our club back in October 2010, Liverpool fans were optimistic and very positive about the future and appreciate the transfer budget spent on players last season and the professional manner in which FSG have managed the club. A lot of fans felt we would now be able compete on a level financial playing field with the likes of Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea, Real Madrid and now Paris SG etc.
However, can the owners give any assurances on whether we will be able to compete with our rivals in the short, medium and longer term from a financial perspective as there have been some doubts expressed due to a number of issues and an example is; no real progress on a new stadium or decision to redevelop Anfield and the feeling is that we haven't moved any further forward since the Hicks / Gillette era?
Therefore can you be clear on whether we have the same financial clout as some of the Premier League's big spending teams, and are we in a position to compete with others in the transfer market for top players if required to enable us to dominate English football once again? Having long term strategic goals are fine, however our fans have been very patient for over 20 years and the Premier League title should be an immediate short-term priority for us, however what real actions are we taking to make this a reality?
If we do not have the cash flow to enable us to invest substantially in players, capital infrastructure and the regeneration of Liverpool FC both on and off the pitch, then what progress are we making to bring in revenue and investment to the club, and are we looking to bring in further investment if it benefits the club and enable us to compete with the likes of Man City?
IA: In terms of the club's financial strength, the best indicator would be last season. We were the only big Premier League club not to be playing European football and if you look at big football clubs that don't play European football, they struggle. From the Champions' League to the Europa League there can be anything from £10m to £40m of differing revenue. Even though the club didn't enjoy the benefit of European football last season, the club still managed to invest significantly and compete. Whilst the club didn't finish high enough in the Premier League, the club nevertheless has improved significantly from the previous ownership. The current owners have removed nearly £200m of debt, which was costing the club around £20m each year in interest payments at its height and is now around £2m a year. Our commercial business has grown massively over the past four to six years and we are expanding the team responsible for increasing international revenue. We are currently punching above our weight when compared with our rivals, perhaps with the exception of Manchester United, and we are doing this without success on the pitch. We have to get the balance right between our revenue, investment and success. Revenue continues to grow; we are investing in people, facilities and players. Whilst success on the pitch still eludes us, we have renewed optimism with the new manager. The revenue is there, the investment is there; we now have to get the football right. Manchester City and their solution is not the solution for football. It is not the solution the UEFA or the Premier League will allow going forward. What Liverpool needs is a long-term sustainable business and, if we can get the piece on the pitch right, we actually have more of the ingredients than our competitors.
AN: From a business perspective I am very happy. However, fans don't always see the business side of things and they concern themselves with whether we are competing in the transfer market. So it is important that fans understand where the club stands from a business perspective and this could be achieved through more effective communication on business related matters. If I was John Henry, I would be very happy with the way the club is being run at the moment, but fans don't always see things this way.
Question 3 from Bob Humphries representing Season Ticket Holders
Question: The price freeze on season tickets and indeed ticket prices generally is to be welcomed by the Committee and supporters generally. However, the relentless upward spiral of ticket prices at Anfield that has occurred over the years requires a rethink, taking into consideration a longer term view. The club need to realise that its fan base has increased due to the success it has achieved over the years and equally this increase will move on if a period of limited or no success is encountered. People are creatures of habit and if the hard core support is lost due to affordability then it will be extremely difficult to entice them to return coupled with the loss of the next generation of support also. A reduction in ticket prices should be achievable given the other lucrative revenue streams that are available to the club such as the new £3 billion televised rights deal recently announced.
Will the club therefore commit to a series of open dialogues with the Supporters' Committee to explore the economical model that ensures its supporters also benefit from the income received from these revenue streams?
PD: With regard to pricing, the club looked at around 50 different permutations last year for the coming season and we believe we made the right decision to freeze the pricing for general admission.
Models included ones that saw some seats increase in price while other seats saw a price reduction; we looked at whole range of solutions
The biggest problem the club faces is that over many years prices increased evenly across the board, which now leaves the club with a very narrow band of prices in which to work. The result is that a seat on the halfway line is £48, whereas the worst seat in the stadium is priced just under £40. By comparison, Manchester United has a ticket range from £30 to £52.
The charging model employed by Liverpool is wrong and applying the percentage increase across all seats doesn't help anyone in the long run. So we are developing a charging structure where the best seats and worst seats are priced accordingly in the stadium. With regard to having a dialogue with the Committee about the proposed changes to the pricing structure, the short answer is yes.
BH: I fully understand everything that you have said and really pleased that you are committing to having some open dialogue. We face numerous challenges, not least with the economy, trying to compete with other clubs and wishing to drive the younger generation away due to price increases. If people can't get into the stadium through availability or affordability, then there is a possibility that younger fans may change their allegiance. If we lose the local support, it is going to be very difficult to get it back. From the creation of the Committee we've had very little discussion on the pricing models being considered. We may be able to bring extra dimensions to the debate that might help the club so we welcome the opportunity to get involved in the dialogue.
JB: We have recognised that Anfield has finite capacity and the importance of getting families more involved. We are agreed that children are the lifeblood of the club. I'm looking to see what alternative things we can do on match days, which includes people who may not have the disposable income to attend the game, but could still be part of the occasion. We have a big base of children who have Liverpool membership with whom we don't do very much with on match day or offer them any alternatives.
AR: We are conscious that there is much more we can do for families on match day. We are looking to have a family park next to the food village in time for the new season. It will attract families to the area and give the kids an opportunity to do something productive instead of wandering around the stadium. In the upper Anfield area, there are 500 tickets that we are going to reserve for exclusive use by families as well as making the area a lot more family friendly. It's a journey, but we are conscious we need to do more.
Actions: Club to arrange meeting with Committee to discuss and review proposed pricing models.
Question 4 from Bob Humphries representing Season Ticket Holders
Question: The LFC Supporters' Committee was formed with the intention of two-way dialogue to take place, to improve the relationship between the club and its supporters. Why, therefore, have over 50 main stand season ticket holders been forced to move their seats to accommodate hospitality customers without any prior consultation with the season ticket representative or indeed other members of the Committee?
PD: The club took the conscious decision not to divulge too much information publically before individual discussion had taken place. As a relatively small group of fans were affected, the club believes its approach was justified at the time. In hindsight, involving the committee at the outset before speaking to the individuals concerned would have been a better option.
BH: We've had some good dialogue and made progress in some areas. On this specific issue, contact only needed to be made with the member representing season ticket holders to avoid any confidentiality risks. There could have been some consultation at the outset and hopefully this will be considered in the future.
Question 5 from James Benson representing Anfield and Breckfield Supporters
Question: With the decision to move the Liverpool weekly magazine to a monthly publication, why have the club also decided to move the production of this magazine out of the North West region, resulting in the loss of many local jobs that the city relies upon?
Local institutions like Liverpool Football Club are expected by many to stay loyal to the city and provide employment whenever possible; any job losses like this can have a detrimental knock on effect right across the city region, especially during these difficult economic times.
Would the club therefore agree to adopt a policy that any services the club uses/employs are sourced from the North West area unless they are only available outside of this area or there is a justified reason for doing so, and making this reason public?
JC: The club is aware of its social responsibility but has a duty to consider the wider financial aspects as well. It is something that the club is happy to take on board.
IA: Not only is the magazine moving from weekly to monthly, but it is also moving from Sports Media, which is owned by Trinity Mirror, to another supplier. The magazine didn't work in terms of how much content the club had to supply in return for the revenue it generated. The decision to produce the magazine outside the area was not taken lightly, but the opportunity significant enough to make this happen, as opposed to keeping it with the existing publisher or publishing it in-house. The financial contribution from the new supplier was significant and material to the decision. However, because of the TUPE rules and regulations, the new publisher will employ those currently working on the publication.
AP: When it comes to tendering for work, irrespective of whether this is print, refurbishment or building works, the club has a positive approach for using local contractors where possible, and will continue to deploy this policy.
Question 6 from James Benson representing Anfield and Breckfield Supporters
Question: As there has still been no definite decision announced by the club regarding the stadium, what information are the club willing to divulge and discuss with the committee at this time?
With the club deciding to open into public dialogue with a number of supporters internet forums and websites regarding the concerns they have raised about the stadium (amongst other things), what dialogue have the club had or have planned in the future, with local residents, groups and businesses in and around the Anfield area on this issue?
In addition to anything planned would the club consider organising an open public forum, allowing for any local residents and business owners the chance to attend and voice there opinions on this matter? This could go towards alleviating any fears the local area may hold, restore lost faith and increase cooperation between the community and the club, whilst also producing a number of ideas and initiatives that could help with the match day experience and local quality of living moving forward.
IA: Recently there have been developments in the local area that have helped the club lean towards the refurbishment of Anfield. Would we like to stay in the spiritual home of Liverpool, then the answer is yes. People are desperate for us to announce that we are staying, but matters are simply beyond our control, such as the situation with the local housing and the ownership thereof. Until we are certain about such matters, it would be irresponsible for the club to announce, one way or another, its future plans. We are involved in a detailed and extensive regeneration project of the area that involves numerous stakeholders, including the City Council, property owners and local housing associations. As these discussions move forward and progress is made, Liverpool Football Club staying at Anfield may become a greater reality. However, until such times as the situation, one way or another, becomes clearer, the club cannot make a definitive statement as to whether it will remain at Anfield or move to a new stadium. However, a move will only work if all the pieces fit together and the club achieves a sponsorship deal for naming rights that will pay for the new build. The open public forum requested as part of the question cannot happen until some certainty can be achieved with the very people who are in a position to make things happen.
JB: From my perspective, and speaking on behalf of the local fans, there is so much uncertainty around the subject that nobody really knows what is going on, but you're saying we're in a healthy place. We just don't need empty promises and must make it clear that no decision has been made, and won't be made until there is certainty.
Question 7 from Jeanette Dodd representing the Disabled Supporters
Question: Will LFC consider employing an access development officer to ensure that the needs of disabled people and inclusive access issues are fully considered in all the club's proposals, policies and activities? It is envisioned that the duties of this role would include:
To promote and improve disabled people's access, and use, of existing facilities and proposed changes in the club's built environment;
To promote and improve other areas not directly related to the club's built environment, which enable fuller participation and better integration of disabled people;
To establish a programme of regular consultation with the LFC SC Disabled Supporters Representative, and other LFC SC representatives as appropriate and the Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association;
To liaise with all departments of LFC and other clubs to improve the match day experience of disabled supporters, providing information related to services, match tickets, equipment, information in different formats and facilities at away grounds;
To have an awareness of equality legislation and current good practice guidelines;
To provide an effective advisory role in seeking solutions in matters relating to disabled people and inclusive access issues;
To develop an up-to-date staff training programme linked to current developments in equality legislation and inclusive access initiatives.
JC: We currently have a disability access liaison officer who, in the past, has spent some of his time working with the foundation and community teams. Going forward, his role will be more focused on the specific area of access and in addition we have three ticketing advisers who focus exclusively on the needs of disabled supporters.
AP: We are conscious of the current jobholder needing a more defined role. The impending accessibility audit will only help make his role clearer and the club is committed to making this happen.
Actions: Review the role of the current jobholder and ensure it is more focused on accessibility issues, not just those for disabled supporters.
Question 8 from Jeanette Dodd representing the Disabled Supporters
Question: Will the club actively explore re-locating away supporters who are wheelchair users in the forthcoming access audit of stadium facilities at Anfield?
Currently there are eight wheelchair bays for away supporters located with the home fans in the Anfield Road end of the stadium. I have received several complaints from disabled away supporters who are wheelchair users who have stopped travelling to away games at Anfield because they find the situation so dreadful.
Being able to attend a match and sitting with family or friends is taken for granted by most fans, but it is being denied to these supporters who have to sit with the opposing set of football fans, often hiding their team colours and refraining from celebrating goals. Away supporters have reported to me that they find this an intimidating and hostile experience, with some being verbally abused and feeling threatened.
In 2012, this is completely unacceptable and makes for a miserable match-day experience; 82 per cent of British football fans agree that being around other fans in the atmosphere of the grounds is as important as watching the game itself. 85 per cent of British football fans associate football with friendship and camaraderie (Football Passions Report 2008). Disabled fans should not be deprived of this experience simply because they use a wheelchair and are visiting Anfield.
AP: The Club recognises that there is an issue with disabled away supporters sitting with the home fans, which is not ideal. The club has committed to investigate this issue and identify a solution to the problem. Initial findings reveal that there will not be an easy solution, but a fuller review will form part of the impending accessibility audit, and this will be a priority outcome.
JD: The latest edition of the Level Playing Field e-newsletter did not give the club a favourable review in light of away disabled fans being positioned with the home supporters. As part of the accessibility audit, finding a solution to this problem should be a priority.
AN: Are the club doing anything about the equality review that was previously discussed?
JC: The review is still underway, but the likelihood is that the club will be recruiting a corporate social responsibility manager.
Action: Communicate results of the accessibility audit
Question 9 from Paul Amann representing the LGBT Supporters
Question: What support will LFC give to LGBT Supporters at Liverpool Pride?
JC: This is part of a wider review within the club where there will be less focus on multi-tasking and more on well-defined roles and responsibilities, such as the new corporate social responsibility manager discussed during an earlier question.
Action: PA to meet with JC as soon as diaries allow.
Status: The club has now sent out a public press release supporting Liverpool Pride and will be marching on Aug 4th 2012 to show our commitment.
Press release excerpt: Liverpool Football Club today announced that it is making a stand to kick homophobia out of football, as it becomes the first Premier League club to be officially represented at a UK LGBT Pride event. The club will show its support at Liverpool Pride on Saturday 4 August.
LFC will provide a banner featuring the club crest with LFC staff and LFC Ladies FC (the Liverpool Football Club women's team) marching together with LFC LGBT and other supporters at Liverpool Pride. LFC will also have a stall at the market place on the day at the festival's Pier Head site and will provide signed merchandise for fundraising auctions.
Question 10 from Sam Armstrong representing the Female Fans
Question: Can you tell us if there have been any discussions, developments or policies implemented on ways to encourage female fans to attend Anfield.
AP: Firstly, we are trying to communicate more effectively at different levels and with different sub-groups of supporters. Secondly, from a match-day experience, the club is very aware that it needs to provide facilities for a diverse group of fans, including female and younger fans. Whether it is in the lounges or around the ground, the facilities the club will be offering will be taking into account the broader fan base travelling to Anfield. Recognising the diverse fan base the club has, the club is also looking at the staff structure and composition so we are better equipped to meet the needs of the fans. There is work to be done, the club is committed to appeal to as many groups of fans as possible.
Action: The club should communicate more of its good work it does in the community and the work of the Foundation in meeting the needs of its diverse fan base.
Question 11 from Les Wright representing the Away Fans
Question: Would the club consider a '12th man' fan award in recognition of outstanding loyalty and commitment to LFC? This would not just take into account attendance at every game, but also influence in bringing young fans through the ranks, a sort of 'Bobby Wilcox' type of award.
IA: The club has a Standard Chartered Fan of the Month award. The potential recipients are recommended by fans and are inclusive. Past winners really do reflect the great achievements and commitments of fans. It would be better to better communicate the existence, and making easier for fans to be considered, rather than creating a new award. The current award could easily accommodate a 'fan of the season' and 'fan of the decade' as a badge of honour for those who travel and go to great lengths to support the club, both home and away.
Action: Club to determine how to incorporate both 'fan of the season' and 'fan of the decade' into the current award scheme.
Question 12 from Torre Hansen representing Official Supporters Clubs
Question: With the new branch policy for 2012-13 ticket allocations will no longer be available to official LFC Supporters Clubs. Many branches feel that many years of commitment and loyalty to the club is no longer appreciated. Can you explain why these changes are made and what benefits there are for being an official Supporters Club?
AP: The club is committed to its official supporters clubs. The clubs have evolved over the past 15 years and now number more than 200 spanning 50 different countries. Naturally, some have been more successful than others, not least because the club has not had any dedicated resource to assist with their development and deal with queries. The club has recently undertaken a review of the Supporters' Clubs to determine the best operating model going forward - and achieved an 80 per cent response rate to its feedback questionnaire. Over their lifetime the Supporters' Clubs had, in effect, become a mechanism for distributing tickets and the feedback revealed that they should operate more like supporter networks for likeminded people. The number of tickets going to Supporters' Clubs was disproportionate to those being allocated to other fans, only for some to be returned in advance of the game. It is not the case that Supporter's Clubs are not going to get tickets, but rather they will receive a fairer allocation in line with availability. The solution reached is better for the club and its wider network of Supporter Clubs, but as with all change, there are winners and losers. The club is committed to growing its Supporter Clubs, but in order to achieve this, the purpose has to be about more than a means to obtain tickets. Branch members who wish to travel to matches now have access to tickets in several ways - group booking facility through the new branch ticketing policy, becoming a Full, Light or Junior LFC Official Member and purchasing tickets in the Members Ticket Sale or purchasing tickets through late availability.