Official Meeting Minutes
Supporter liaison officer Paul Richards stepped up in the absence of Matt Grayson to help chair the most recent meeting of the Wolves Fans’ Parliament on Wednesday, December 3rd.
The second session of the season was held in Molineux's International Lounge and kicked off with disclosure of the results of the club's second supporters' survey by marketing manager Laura Gabbidon. A detailed summary of those findings will appear on here in the next few days.
The regular part of the meeting started with mention of a proposal from the September meeting that had been 'actioned' - Jeff Bagnall's suggestion that the Stan Cullis car park was used as a coach park for the under-21 game against Croatia was successfully acted upon.
Michael Clarke instigated a discussion about where visiting fans should be seated at Molineux by saying it had been 'pretty hairy' at the Birmingham game on November 1, when the minute's silence was 'disgusting.' He felt some of the tension at the end of the game might have been avoided had Blues fans been in the top corner of the Stan Cullis Stand instead. Jez Moxey replied: "We've tried away fans in the quadrant but we think it makes the atmosphere inside Molineux worse. Part of the excitement at games is the banter between fans - but obviously not throwing coins or other objects. Our redevelopment plans (when completed) has the away supporters always situated in the quadrant. Furthermore, Lynne O'Reardon rightly asks why we should be thinking of giving the best facilities we have available in the new Stan Cullis Stand to away fans. Her point is quite compelling. Why give our oldest facilities in the Steve Bull Stand to what might be kids and our fans of the future especially when they can be housed in our newest and arguably our best facilities? That stand is well over 30 years old and needs redeveloping." Paul Richards commented: "It looked bad with Blues fans being kept in the ground but stewards and police were trying to contain some disorder outside. A small disorder situation could have developed into something bigger." Frank Parkes said: "Having away fans in the Steve Bull Stand makes a fantastic atmosphere for those of us in there. I would miss it if they were somewhere else." On the subject of visiting supporters being too near to the executive boxes, Lynne said there was a two-row gap between away fans and the boxes, so they were not as close as it may look to some. Jez also made the point that having away fans in the quadrant has alarmed some Wolves supporters in the Stan Cullis Stand because they were not used to seeing them there - a point Steve Galloway was also aware of.
Michael Clarke moved the discussion on to playing matters and recalled that Kenny Jackett had said he wanted a striker and then got Yannick Sagbo on loan while Grant Holt 'dominated our defence' as a Huddersfield signing. Jez said: "I wouldn't get confused between Sagbo and the summer. The amount of time we spent on trying to sign one of three or four strikers was considerable but, for one reason or another, they just didn't come off."
The chief executive said Wolves had been pleased to work with Hull City to get Sagbo back to his parent club as quickly as they did prior to the loan ending and continued: "We learned a very bitter lesson in the past years for our recruitment not being the best and we have paid dearly for that."
To a remark from the floor that Wolves had taken the right stance on Roger Johnson and others but had not grasped the nettle by going out and spending £5m on a striker, Jez added: "We won't pay £2m over the odds for any player. The amount of work by the scouts is huge - we had a big annual meeting of scouts on Sunday which I attended. Now we need to find replacements in January because it looks like Bakary Sako and Nouha Dicko are going to the African Cup of Nations." Mark Rigby asked if that would be a permanent or loan signing. Jez said there may be loan activity to cover those two absences but a permanent signing was being sought anyway. Clive Smith asked again about Sagbo and Jez said: "You get what you can get out of those that are available. You can't say that clubs don't get things wrong, especially loan players. Given who was available, and there weren't many, we went for him because he looked to fit the bill, unfortunately he didn’t work out but we quickly moved to bring in Danny Graham." Michael Clarke asked if Sagbo had been a panic signing that was costly because he hadn't been properly fit and Kenny had apparently tried to shoehorn him into the team. Jez said it hadn't been a panic move but could never promise that mistakes wouldn't occur in the transfer market again because all clubs slipped up on occasions, pointing out that Fernando Torres hadn't come off at Chelsea despite his £50m transfer fee and Albion had paid a reported £10m for a player who hadn't figured very much as yet. To a question from Simon Wade, he also replied by saying that transfer targets were collective decisions but no player would be brought in without Kenny Jackett's approval. He also said the club had signed what they wanted in the transfer window with the exception of a striker.
Keith Bickley asked what the situation was with loan players coming back and was reminded that Bjorn Sigurdarson was returning this week and had a month to get back in the groove as he couldn't play for Wolves until next month. Jez said it was unlikely other out-on-loan players, other than development lads, would come back and be considered for the first team.
Jeff Bagnall remarked that the club seemed to be suffering a lot more injuries than last season. Jez said: "Our players are having to play a lot harder because we're in a higher division. As the competition we face gets better and more physical, our players are having to work harder and one or two more injuries can occur." Paul Richards said that at the final meeting last season it had been pointed out that a small increase in injuries should be expected in the Sky Bet Championship because the pace was greater. Jez referred to Tommy Rowe having broken a bone in his foot and Scott Golbourne having had a heel problem - contact injuries rather than muscle ones. He did say, though, that Nouha Dicko had recently suffered a repeat of his hamstring problems. Julian Dent asked why Dicko had been allowed to go off to play for Mali if he was not fully fit but Jez explained that on the contrary exhaustive fitness tests had been staged for him before his departure and he had proved he was fully fit at that time. "He went away and an injury occurred," he added. "We have no control over the training when players are on international duty." Jez also assured Dave Benton that Scott Golbourne HAD been injured and had spoken to him of having his heel problem that he had played on with for some time before having to rest it.
Jez said in reply to a question from Ben Smallman that lists of potential player targets were being reviewed day by day, with 'all sorts of talks' taking place behind the scenes. He quoted a former manager by saying there was a need to ‘keep plates spinning’. Ben also said he presumed some rival clubs and players wanted guarantees that they would play first-team football before deals could be agreed.
Steve Phillips asked whether the completion of the Academy development project and the fact no further redevelopment was currently taking place at Molineux meant there was some money available for transfers. Jez said owner-commitment was a big factor and confirmed Steve Morgan was happy to finance some signing activity if the right player could be found at the right price. “He is supporting the club in ways that not everybody sees,” he added. “You always need an owner who is able to run with the financial ebbs and flows of football as well as investing in the infrastructure as we have done.” Dave Benton said there was a perception Kenny Jackett hadn’t been backed in the summer but Jez said there had been no talk to that effect at the September Parliament meeting after the team’s good start to 2014-15. Steve Phillips said the head coach was the one who was ultimately judged by what happened on the pitch and Jez agreed that this is the case with almost all football clubs.
Jez replied to a question from Simon Wade by saying next summer wasn’t necessarily a watershed one for the club with all the high earners on the fringes departing. Some could still be here, he said. Jez added that, despite the keenness to see young talent come through, there would always be a need for the signing of established players as well.
Ian Smith said two casual fans had been shocked at having to pay £1.50 for a debit card transaction when they visited Molineux to buy tickets for the Nottingham Forest game last month. Lynne said it was just seen by the system as a card transaction because the ticket office's software couldn't distinguish between a credit card and a debit card. She pointed out the alternatives that carried no such admin fee, such as paying by cash at the window (even on a match day) or printing off a ticket at home. Dave Quarrell said there still seemed to be an understanding that there was no pay-on-the-day facility at home games and asked the club to make a clear statement on this matter. He was told that this had been repeatedly done. He also said he and four friends had been able to pay on the gate at Ipswich recently - a policy Lynne said Wolves did not follow at Molineux for visiting fans.
Dave also raised a question about premium phone numbers and asked why the club were we still using 0871 numbers when he thought there had been a ruling they should not be in existence. Lynne said there was a change in legislation in June but that was for post-sale business, not pre-sale business. Steve Galloway asked, in that case, whether the music could at least be changed! Jez said he wasn’t prepared to go into how much the club would lose if it dropped the 0871 service but said it would be a big swing because to provide the services they currently enjoy the club would have to pay a service provider for something similar and could leave them less able to handle call traffic efficiently if they switched back to 01902 numbers. Regarding booking fees for away games, Jez said this was the only way the club generates revenue to cover costs for away trips as all money from ticket sales was always handed to the home club.
Dave Quarrell asked what the club’s stance was on the Financial Fair Play ruling and was told that Jez had been ‘probably the loudest voice’ in canvassing other clubs for a change to what he viewed as a ‘ridiculous’ restriction on Championship clubs. “We were probably the leading advocate for change in the Football League,” the chief executive added.
Ben Smallman raised the subject of having some protective cover in place for those who get wet in inclement weather at the front of the lower tier of the Stan Cullis Stand. Paul Richards said he had spoken to the stadium manager Steve Sutton on this subject and the feasibility of a dug-out style roof for disabled supporters was being investigated.
Derby-based Tom Bason expressed disappointment at some of the Molineux attendances and said they lagged well behind those at the Rams - a club he sees as similar-sized and with similar traditions to Wolves. He asked whether there were lessons Wolves could learn from Derby, especially with flexibility on prices. Lynne O’Reardon said Wolves were striving for the right balance between ‘bums on seats and revenue,’ with Jez adding: “We have a pretty good handle on what Derby do. They give away a lot of tickets and have done so for a long time. It’s the American influence and you would probably like us to do that but we have a different philosophy and are more about season ticket retention.” Lynne said Derby had also introduced a scheme whereby they promised to refund season ticket holders half their money if they were promoted. Jez felt, though, that it was when a club reached the Premier League that it needed all the money it could lay its hands on given the amount of money all the other Premier League clubs have. Lynne said Wolves were averaging 21,850 this season and had 13,900 season ticket holders.
Steve Galloway said he considered the East Midlands to be more affluent than the West Midlands at present but Simon Wade felt there was excellent PR to be had from following a gesture like Derby’s, even if the refund was, say, 25 per cent rather than 50. “It’s not a bad shout,” he said. He found support from Dave Benton, who said it might mean giving £3-4m back while receiving £64m from being in the Premier League. But Jez replied: “I don’t think it’s a strategy we are going to pursue - and we have talked about it. Even that £4m could be the difference between signing and not signing a player you need in the top division.”
Dave Benton said he had encountered problems when Friday afternoon traffic meant he and a group of 40-odd youngsters from his junior club in South Warwickshire arrived late for the under-21 international against Croatia in October. He said he was disappointed stewards didn’t move out the other spectators who had sat in some of the group’s seats. Dave had had to move the fans elsewhere as he had been concerned by the welfare of the children if they were left alone. He also felt let down by kiosks selling out before his group could queue for refreshments at half-time. Jez said the club had been thrilled by the 23,000-plus crowd considering the teatime kick-off had been such a challenge to everyone. He said staff couldn’t have done better in promoting the fixture and said there were mitigating circumstances, around the fact it was an FA-organised game, which meant some of the stewards were new to Molineux and perhaps didn’t know the stadium as well as we would all have liked. The chief executive thanked Dave for bringing such a large group of potential future supporters to the game, which had led to the FA writing to Molineux in glowing terms about the club’s successful staging of the match.
Dave Benton complained that there sometimes weren’t enough programmes for big games - something Jez took responsibility for as he often found himself telling the media department not to over-order and be left with 1,500 or 2,000 copies. In answer to a question from Mark Rigby, Jez said the numbers printed depended on the attractiveness of a fixture and Lynne O’Reardon added that the club worked on the assumption that about one in five of attending Wolves fans and one in three visiting supporters would purchase one. Dave Benton thanked the powers-that-be for having coaches from his junior club along to a workshop in the new Academy building at Compton - something all parties felt could help Wolves with recruiting both talented lads and future fans.
Also on the subject of supporters, Jeff Bagnall had observed an increase in the letting-off of flares, including several at Brentford last weekend. He agreed that it was all fans’ responsibility to point out offenders. Jez said stewards at other grounds maybe weren’t as vigorous at searching as those at Molineux. Terry King said there had also been trouble at this season’s game at Millwall and felt fans travelling independently and arriving very early had been to blame. Jez said this was a decades-old headache but welcomed any pledges of help from supporters to root out trouble-makers.
A question from Dave Quarrell about whether Wolves might follow Albion in reintroducing the playing of the Liquidator was met with a ‘no’ but there was a ‘keep the faith’ message when Tom Bason pointed out the parallels between this season so far and the one two years ago.