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Fans' Parliament Minutes


14:16 13th September 2013

Part two from the meeting held on 11th September, 2013

We now continue our presentation of the minutes from Wednesday's meeting of the Wolves Fans' Parliament. Part one yesterday focused on the section relating to Kenny Jackett's appearance.

Recapping on previous minutes, Parliament Chairman Matt Grayson said the live blog would not be a regular thing at meetings but the presence of Kenny Jackett made this week's get-together a good opportunity to repeat the idea first introduced last season. He said Head of Football Development and Recruitment Kevin Thelwell would be a guest at a forthcoming meeting.

On the subject of booking fees that Dave Benton had previously queried, Head of Ticketing and Membership Lynne O'Reardon said she hoped fans realised the club had now removed the £1.50 charge for tickets printed off by supporters. The fans applauded the officials for the decision.  She said printing had to be on A4 paper, though, and she and Chief Executive Jez Moxey acknowledged there had been some teething problems. "Like every new initiative, it takes time to settle down," he said. "But this will eradicate some inconvenience. People can't say we haven’t done everything we can to make getting a ticket easier." Lynne said the operation would speed up as stewards became more familiar with it too. Daniel Cartwright said the process had worked 'brilliantly' for he and his family recently, with the relevant information loaded on to his member’s smartcard. Jeff Bagnall also said it worked perfectly but a possible downfall was fans using poor quality printers. Tom Bason said there had been a huge improvement in supporter attitude and asked that the club carried on doing those little things for the fans. He was delighted with the attendance against Walsall recently. There was also enthusiasm when Lynne asked whether fans would welcome being able to ring an 01902 number again on ticket matters if one were introduced. Jez said the problems at the Gillingham game were a safety issue and Matt said the club would like fans to arrive earlier. 

There was a suggestion to drop beer prices at the stadium, so fans wouldn't come down so late from city centre pubs. And Head of Commercial Affairs Paul Lakin revealed that a promotion had been brought in for the Swindon game tomorrow - of £2.50 a pint from 1.30pm to 2.30pm. Dave Benton said it should ideally be announced sooner because people made their match-day plans early. "It needs to be on-going," he said. "If you can do it for four or five games, it would help." Paul explained that each game needed to be assessed on merit and for example, we wouldn’t be able to do the promotion for Walsall on Tuesday night due to police concerns. On the general subject of late arriving, Jez said: "We can't delay kick-offs just because there are fans outside." Lynne added: "We can't continue to do that, otherwise fans won't come earlier anyway. People will expect the kick-off to be delayed." Mark Griffiths said stewards were 'ambling around' and 'could have let us know things were building up outside' at the Gillingham game. Jez said: "If we keep scoring early, hopefully supporters will get in the habit of arriving earlier."

On another matter brought forward - water trickling from the roof of the upper tier of the new Stan Cullis Stand on to fans below - Matt said he had been told by the stadium manager that a gulley had now been installed. He asked Parliament members to let the club know as best they could if the measure was working.

Daniel Cartwright asked if the North Bank bar could be renamed in honour of Dave Wagstaffe but was told by Jez that the club were keen not to dilute the name 'North Bank'. Matt said: "We created the museum and Hall of Fame to honour our players and if you do something else for one player, you may be expected to do it for more. There's nothing for Derek Dougan, for example, outside the ground but he's in the Hall of Fame."

Hilary Clews asked about the toaster banner that had appeared this season in the Stan Cullis Stand and was told by Paul Lakin that it would be looked at again by the club towards Christmas. Jez said: "We wanted something highly visible from the fans that would get their attention - something that isn't corporate Wolves. I'd like the stadium to have more visible fan input." Jez told Julian Dent that a digital clock might be considered as the stadium evolved.

To an enquiry from Tom Bate as to why the scoreboards were still in place, Jez said: "There's a possibility they might be resurrected. To film and edit something that's worth watching on them is very expensive. It's just not a priority for us. When we stopped using them, we didn't have any complaints." He responded to a suggestion from the floor that Sky programmes be shown on there by saying that could entail very high costs.

Tom Bason asked where the club were with the fair play regulations and wondered what the ramifications of keeping Kevin Doyle and Bakary Sako were. Jez answered: "We're absolutely fine. Players signed in the Premier League do not count against you in fair play calculations in League 1. We're one of the lowest in financial fair play calculations. The more substantive point is how can we afford it in reality and I think we have been successful in loaning a number of players. But we have contracts and we have to honour them, although it's painful." As a general point, he added: "Clubs will find a way round FFP. By having it, I think you are discouraging people from investing in the game which is madness."

Lesley Matile asked what had happened off the field in the wake of relegation. Jez said: "Approximately 20 people left from a staff of about 165. There was some natural wastage, some were made redundant. Some have left and not been replaced. We fought hard to make sure it didn't go too deep."

Keith Bickley said there had been talk of gloomy news in terms of figures on the next balance sheet but Jez replied: "Steve (Morgan) is an expert at running businesses. We're working on our accounts now and you'll be the first to see the results and hear the explanation. I'd still say we are in as good a shape as anybody over a five or six-year period. To me, football clubs accounts viewed in isolation of one year are pretty meaningless." 

To an observation that the showing of live matches was causing congestion and safety issues on the concourse of the Steve Bull Stand, Paul Lakin promised the matter would be monitored. "Everything was on hold because the Steve Bull was the next phase of the redevelopment. If it (the screening of games) is deemed safe, it will carry on."

When Greg Asbury revisited an old chestnut by asking why the club didn't disclose transfer fees, Jez said: "We talk about money too much in football. Putting a price tag on an expensive player can lead to fans expectations increasing and expect someone to be a star in every game. More and more clubs are doing what we do. It's commercially sensitive information." He asked back: "Why is it so important you know the fees?" Greg said: "Perhaps we consider Wolves to be our club and we want to know where the money is going" - a point Steve Phillips agreed with. Simon Wade said it appeared the news of Kevin McDonald's signing had come out before it actually happened. Jez said he was urging the club's media department to be less sensitive if there were leaks elsewhere. "Rather than deny something that was obvious or stay quiet, I thought we would announce it as the player convinced us he was going to come and we wouldn’t get gazumped," he said.

Steve Parkes asked how confident Jez was that Steve Morgan had learned from what he called his 'rash' football decisions. "I thought he employed people like you and Kevin Thelwell to make football decisions," Steve added. Jez said: "The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We have all been hurt and shed tears over this. He will have learned from the experience. I have, we all have." Dave Benton asked Jez what he himself had learned from the last three years. Jez responded: "Everyone has different opinions. There isn't necessarily a consensus. However, I believe I know 95% plus as to what went wrong and why but it's pretty easy to be smart with hindsight. I can't explain my opinion in an open forum, sleeping, breathing it, I think I know exactly what went wrong.”

When asked about his view on spending money on wages spent for players where Jez once said in the PL ‘your wage bill correlates to your finishing leage position’, the Chief Executive said. “Yes I did say that, and I believe it to be true when you consider it over a five to six year PL period.  But it's not just about wages as to who finishes the higher in any given season. While Steve Morgan is a very wealthy guy and has committed tens of millions of pounds to Wolves and underwriting any future losses, there's only so much the Club can do. The only thing that matters is getting this club back to the Championship to start again. In terms of our resources, I feel we should be between sixth in the Championship as a minimum and as far up the Premier League as we can get. But, at the moment, we are preparing to face Swindon Town on Saturday. We are where we are and that’s the only focus."

Paul Lakin addressed Tom Bate's enquiry as to how the club were performing corporate-wise by saying they had had a slow summer and needed a winning start. "Having budgeted and allowed for that, we will be there or thereabouts on budget with a fair wind," he said. "We need the team to do well. We want them flying high to reinvigorate the fans. Advertising is good and, with sponsorship, we've done particularly well. We have retained partners."

Dennis Green, secretary of Wolves' Disabled Supporters Association (DSA), raised the difficulty of one member of the group being told they needed loyalty points to obtain a ticket for the game at Shrewsbury. He asked for clarification because he said the matter wasn't mentioned at all last season and he hadn't seen it advertised. Lynne said the matter was addressed on the ticket information in the usual places and hadn’t arisen in 2012-13 because ticket allocations always proved sufficient. To the news that tickets might be bought through Colchester for the game there in October, she replied that loyalty points could only be awarded if they were purchased through Wolves. 

Darren Cash, who is a wheelchair user, said he couldn't book on-line (that facility isn’t available if a free carer’s ticket is being obtained as well), he couldn't purchase an away season ticket and had the extra difficulty of living 70 miles away. "I had my phone bill through and the minimum time for me waiting on the line to be answered was 30 minutes and the maximum was 55 minutes. For Preston, I had to make five calls over four days and it's doubled my phone bill. The same people go week in week out and, once you get through, we're still stuck with the booking fee - and I previously had to pay £1.50 booking fee for a carer's ticket that was free." Lynne said there shouldn't have been a booking fee on a zero-rated ticket like that and Lynne and Matt promised to take the whole matter up with the DSA. Dennis still said Wolves were way ahead of other clubs in League One, though, because he had had replies from only four clubs after circulating them with an email seeking information about wheelchair space. It was also pointed out that prices and allocations are posted on the official website five weeks in advance of the game, and there is always the option of posting a cheque in advance of a fixture. 

Jeff Bagnall raised the possibility of Wolves receiving smaller allocations for some cup away games as they were currently entering competitions earlier and playing at smaller grounds. Away season ticket holders are guaranteed tickets for League games only but Lynne assured him that the loyalty system would be in operation as a way of deciding priority. 

Mark Griffiths was surprised that fans who wanted to buy bricks with names on couldn't do so and suggested the club considered the sort of idea whereby he had a commemorative stone at Wembley. Matt said: "There's no money in it for us because the cost is way in excess of what we receive but we have a remembrance book for those who have passed away and also have an annual fan remembrance service."

Tom Bason said he found the club's website difficult to use and Wolves World didn't seem to have as much on as usual. Matt replied: "We found out this season they are only doing two or three minutes highlights on there after fans could watch seven or eight minutes of footage last season. There's huge frustration with the website." Paul Lakin said Wolves were locked into a Football League Interactive (FLI) contract and had a new look to the site at the start of last season. "We're very disappointed," he said. "We're in a contract that has several seasons to go, so we need to continue to work them and they are making slow progress. All I can do is assure you we are having strong dialogue but it is effecting every FLi club and there’s about 75 of them." Clive Smith was also dissatisfied with it and Matt said there were sometimes issues with information uploaded by third parties.

Back to on-field matters, Andy James had noted that Wolves seem to have been kicking recently towards the South Bank in the second half of games and asked whether there had been a change of policy. Matt said: "When you’ve been through difficulty, everything is open to change, and I think the staff are just trying it to freshen things up. But I’ll ask the question." 

Matt concluded the evening by announcing that the first meeting of the club's Youth Parliament had been held two weeks ago at the museum. He said three main topics had been discussed - improving the match-day experience, attracting more fans and the format of meetings. He also pointed out there may be a joint event between the two Parliaments at some stage. 

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