Official Meeting Minutes
Members of Wolves’Fans Parliament, including the latest intake, were given an advance look at the club's spectacular new Academy facilities before their first meeting of the season.
A guided teatime tour given by Chief Executive, Jez Moxey, Academy Manager Gareth Prosser andElite Development Squad Lead PhysiotherapistJazz Sodhi culminated in an inspiring inspection of the Club’s new Wolves Academy development, which includes a new synthetic indoor pitch at Compton that is almost as big as the Molineux pitch and is about to be put to regular use by the wannabe stars of tomorrow.
Mike Hatton, contracts manager for Kingswinford-based A & H Construction, where Wolves supporters are well to the fore, was also on hand to answer questions from Parliament members.The group included Head of Marketing & Communications Matt Grayson, Club Secretary Richard Skirrow, Head of Ticketing & Membership Lynne O'Reardon and Supporter Liaison Officer Paul Richards.
Jeff Bagnall said it had been 'exceptional' viewing the new facility and said he would love to see it again in six months' time when it was up and running.
As Parliament chairman, Matt formally welcomed the new members when the meeting kicked off in the players' restaurant at the Sir Jack Hayward Training Ground and opened proceedings by asking for assistance in promoting the crucial England v Croatia under-21 game at Molineux on Friday October, 10(Kick-off: 5:45pm).
"It's a great reflection on our facilities that we have secured the fixture," he said. "It's an attractive game, the first leg of a play-off to see who goes to the European Championships, but we have a limited time to sell tickets. Any help supporters can give us in promoting it would be much appreciated."
Jez Moxey pointed out that part of Wolves' sales pitch to the FA was the potential for a big crowd after the bumper attendance at the under-21 international between England and Poland in 2008.
"Tickets cost only £10 for adults and £5 for kids, with season ticket holders half price," he said. "We want you to help fill the stadium as much as possible."
In answer to a question from Mark Rigby, Jez said that the FA had required tickets would be sold in a certain order to ensure that those areas of the ground most likely to be picked up by TV cameras looked well populated. He also explained that the 5.45pm kick-off time was definitely not Wolves' choice but had been fixed by UEFA in accordance with start times in other International games night.
Matt said tickets for the showdown were selling strongly.
Lynne O'Reardon answered a question from Ben Smallman by saying there was a deal to provide local FA Chartered Standard clubs with 25 complimentary tickets and half price for any seats requested beyond that. She said 76 primary schools and 15 secondary schools were being targeted in a drive to fill as much of the stadium as possible.
Tom Bason asked why the Club wanted to stage the game. "It's prestigious for us to host any England international, it's not about money," Jez said. "It's a chance to showcase Molineux and to help the England set-up. We want England teams to be successful.
"We want kids to come, some of them for the first time, and, hopefully, some might become Wolves fans. We've had similar games here in the past and we're keen to have them again in the future."
Matt concluded: "It has to be positive for the city. We want to see Wolverhampton get the kudos of hosting a match like this. There were big names like Joe Hart and Wojciech Szczesny involved in the England v Poland game in 2008 and having under-21 players here and seeing our facilities might do us some good with recruiting players in the future."
Steve Galloway asked whether the England side would be based around Wolverhampton in the build-up but was told they were staying and presumably doing most of their training at the national headquarters at StGeorge's Park based near Burton-on-Trent.
Roger Phillips asked if Molineux's 125th anniversary could be trumpeted at the under-21 game. Matt said it was good that Gareth Southgate (England's under-21 coach) had already picked up on the milestone.
Jeff Bagnall asked whether the Stan Cullis Stand car park might be used as a coach park for the evening to avoid the risk of having young fans crossing busy main roads at rush hour. As the meeting moved on, Jeff praised Reading for offering a £2 reduction to Wolves season ticket holders for the game at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday. He urged Wolves to consider making the same concession at Molineux to season ticket holders of visiting clubs, even if the measure was countered by an increase to those who aren't season ticket holders. "It might encourage more people to buy season ticket holders, which can only be a good thing for clubs," he said.
Dave Quarrell asked if the club had considered putting on a cash turnstile for part of the Stan Cullis Stand as he felt there would still be a demand for paying on the day in this way. Lynne said that couldn't be done in that stand because it was all automated but stressed that fans were still free to pay cash on the day as long as they purchased tickets from theticket office. "The data and the tracking of fans is very important and I don't see cash being paid on turnstiles except maybe for some big cup matches," she said. Matt added: "There's a huge drive generally to get fans to buy in advance as it improves the experience, making sure we get people into the ground with shorter queues."
Jez expressed the opinion that, in time, mobile phones would become more and more important in our lives, as he had proved recently when using it for a flight without printing off his ticket or boarding card for a flight. "We're going that way and are not inclined to step back to having cash admission on the turnstiles especially when a cash facility is available from the ticket office," he said. The meeting was also told that match tickets were on sale as well from the club shop in Dudley Street and had been for some time.
Looking back to the last Parliament meeting in May, Matt pointed out that, following a suggestion from member Steve Parkes, the club had launched the flexi ticket - a scheme designed to help regular fans who can't commit to enough home games to justify a season ticket. Lynne said 60 flexi tickets had so far been taken up, mostly by adults, and there had been no complaints from fans who had bought season tickets and then learned of this new offer.
Going back to academy matters, Dave Quarrell said there was probably a 95% failure rate among young hopefuls and asked how the club managed that issue. Jez said: "The exit programme is very difficult but naturally boys are failing at every age group as we strive to find excellence. We are as sensitive as we can be with lads and their parents when they are told they have not made the grade but we try to get other clubs to take the older players we are releasing. I would be very disappointed if our people weren't very sensitive to any young player who has not made it here and is, therefore, exiting the programme."
Adam Watkins enquired as to the extent of the financial commitment to the academy. The response from Jez was: "People talk about business plans in football but you can't look too far into the future. We believe wholeheartedly in developing our own players. Steve Morgan is absolutely gung-ho about it because he's a developer who likes developing things, so 'growing' players resonated with him. As far as we can project, we are totally committed to it."
Dave Benton said he had approached Gareth Prosser a few months ago asking for help because he ran a junior club in South Warwickshire. He said the reply he received was 'a really positive thing' as he had found Wolves keen where other West Midlands clubs weren't interested."They seem to want to coach the coaches here, not just the boys," Dave said. "It has made Wolves heroes in our area because clubs generally just don't come out." He also felt Wolves would be one step ahead as a result if any promising lads surfaced in the Stratford area.
Ben Smallman wondered whether there were specific targets on how many kids should graduate from the Academy. Jez said: "If you produce one per year, you're doing really well. We're doing better than that these past few seasons but where we want to go (the Premier League) makes it more difficult to continue to achieve that. To a follow-up question from Ben about the club's long-term aim, Jez said: "I believe the Club’s natural pecking order is sixth in the Championship upwards, if you look at the historical stats Wolves are in the top ten of all time wins since football began. I’ve said it before, I don’t’ think in my life time we're not going to usurp Manchester City or Manchester United but why can't we emulate, say, Everton? That's the dream. We're striving to get there."
Keith Bickley asked if there had been a change of recruitment strategy among young boys? "No, but we are trying to make sure we spend money on good young players with real potential," Jez said. "We're very big on bringing local kids into the system and are very strong in Ireland. We're trying harder to extend our recruitment boundaries, as Eusebio and the other foreign lads show, and have a stronger recruitment department that I feel we must support as much as possible."
Clive Smith enquired how the Financial Fair Play regulations had influenced Wolves' summer window recruitment. Jez replied: "We haven't been constrained by FFP because we have been compliant each time. But it's going to get more challenging to do so."
Kieran Newey was keen to know more about the departure of Jamie O'Hara - a development he said had been announced as mutual. Jez again answered and said there were many meetings with Jamie’s agents and Jamie himself. "When it became apparent that we were prepared to take the financial burden of him staying with us but training away from the first team, the message eventually sunk in that something had to change in his life," the Chief Executive added. "In the end, it was very amicable and we wished him well.” Simon Wade enquired about whether the club would be dissuaded from offering five-year deals in the future but Jez said: "If you're buying someone in the Premier League for that sort of money, you have to give that sort of contract. You hope, of course, that a player you sign for £5million turns into a £20million player."
Greg Asbury brought up the subject of Molineux's two video walls and asked whether a some kind of scoreboard would be created as previously discussed. He was informed that the video screens wouldn't return to their former use. “We will probably put some more advertising on the video walls because we're not resurrecting them or dismantling them. They will be addressed at the time we deal with the stadium redevelopment." As for the subject of a scoreboard "It can't be done," Jez said. "We had a meeting with ADI and it’s just not possible but we might bring in one digi board, similar to one of our LED advertising boards, and place it on the upper tier of one of the stands to create a scoreboard. That's the solution.....it's just whether we want to do it.”
Dave Quarrell asked what had to happen for the Steve Bull Stand redevelopment to go ahead and was told by Jez: "We need enough money and we haven't got the answer yet. We haven't got an open cheque book to do all the things we would like to do. As you have seen, we’re investing large sums of money on our new Academy facilities and this has been our focus from a capital investment standpoint."
Jez answered another question from Dave about the need to replace certain seats by saying it was a matter of priorities. "There's probably a stand that needs replacing first," he admitted. Matt added: "We pressed the button on the Compton expansion despite relegation. For the chairman kicking that on when he did was very important."
The Chief Exec also cited the rebuilding of the Steve Bull Standas going some way to resolving the problem, raised by Ben Smallman, of some fans getting soaked in the Stan Cullis Stand on wet days.
Richard Perkins moved the debate back to player matters and asked what the situation was with Bakary Sako. "We'd love him to stay long term," Jez said. "He's the one player who has managed to establish himself from the previous regime but we bought him when our economics were different. He has always said that if he could go to the Premier League, we have to know he'd be interested. He chose to forego opportunities to go on international duties to stay with us in the past, he’s been a loyal player. He has had interest from clubs like Nottingham Forest. We thought he might well leave in the summer, so we brought in Rajiv van La Parra and it was possible that Bakary could have left us in the summer. But he was content to stay provided he didn't get an offer from a Premier League team. Steve Morgan more than anyone was adamant he didn't want to lose Sako this season. The relationship between the club and him is very good."
Will Thomas said he had noticed that Fulham had had a half-hour highlights package on their website of Wolves' win there a month ago and remarked that Wolves were showing only goals and one or two more highlights on their site. "Can we put on more?" he asked. Matt responded: "We're part of the Football League Interactive agreement. Fulham aren't part of that and own their own website rights. We recognise our site is nowhere near where we want it to be but there are longer highlights on the subscription ‘Player’ channel. FLI drive this part of our content and we respect it as much as we can."
Terry King revisited an old theme by saying Wolves fans standing up at away games was a problem, especially for elderly colleagues who didn't find it easy to get off their seat so they could see over them. "Can't we have a couple of hundred seats at the front of our section for elderly fans or youngsters?" he asked. Jez explained the difficulties of implementing such an idea. "We get hard ticket stock from home clubs - we're not selling off plan," he said. "It's just not easy to make it as efficient as you would like. We're aware of it and will do what we can." Matt endorsed that point by saying there was only so much the club could do.
Kieran Newey said well done to the club for organising the training run through the city centre that the players had been sent onduring pre-season. He referred to it as another good way to reconnect with fans.