The Walsall Football Club Supporters Working Party Meeting. Held via a Zoom conference call on Monday 3rd August 2020, 3pm.
Daniel Mole (DM) – Walsall Football Club
Stefan Gamble (SG) – Walsall Football Club
Chris Saunders (CS) – Walsall Supporters for Change
Ray Dale (RD) – Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust
Graham Whittaker (GW) – Walsall Football Club Supporter Liaison Officer
Ian Buckingham (IB) – Walsall Football Club Disabled Supporters Association
Minutes: Sam Hadwen (SH)
DM and SG began by thanking everyone for attending the Zoom meeting.
DM began by discussing that the 2020/21 season has been finalised as Saturday 12th September meaning that the club can plan ahead for the upcoming campaign. DM added that there will be a cup game dated before this, with Saturday 5th September looking likely as our first competitive game of the season.
DM confirmed that the players and first-team staff returned this week for Stage 1 training (socially-distanced) and this will continue for five clear days. The players completed their first coronavirus tests and move to Stage 2 training (contact-training) this week.
The pre-season schedule is currently being finalised and we are looking at 4-6 games as part of this between 15th August and 2nd September, with all games to be played behind closed doors.
DM went on to expand on the testing regime and stated that we will be required to test at the start of pre-season, midway through pre-season and before the first competitive fixture. This will be facilitated for all players and staff as well as operational staff. Once these have been complete, DM added that we will then await EFL guidance which will be led by the Government on the testing regime once the competitive season has begun.
DM said that the season looks likely to begin behind closed doors and although the pilot schemes have been held back by the Government, the work around the stadium continues to gather pace. DM met with the Sports Ground Safety Authority and Local Authority last week to see how well we could make the Banks’s Stadium a socially distanced environment.
DM is hopeful that supporters will be able to attend from 1st October onwards (if not before), dependent on approval from the Government, so that we have a better idea at how we can best service the current season ticket holders and potentially have some spare capacity to give supporters the chance to purchase a 20/21 season ticket, enabling them to attend the games during the socially distanced period. RD responded to this and used Edgbaston as an example of a socially distanced capacity event which was pulled recently following the announcement from Government.
DM added to this by mentioning the fact that our Deputy Safety Officer was involved in this process, which gave us a good insight as to how things would work from our perspective.
DM reiterated that the club are taking matters stage by stage and that boxes are being ticked along the way to meet the various guidelines and protocols to ensure that we are in a good position when the campaign begins.
GW asked DM about whether there are any indications on away supporters attending games. DM responded by stating that although no official confirmation has been received, the likelihood is that there won’t be any present at games.
DM then mentioned that we are working on the streaming product which will allow supporters to purchase a match/season pass to watch the games from the comfort of their own home. CS asked whether fans that can’t attend games would get a match pass given to them and also if there are any plans for some social interaction at the games.
DM responded by saying that season ticket holders will be granted with a match pass in the event they cannot attend games and that the club are working hard with the EFL to ensure this is an option. SG added to this by saying that the conversations taking place are for giving the option for both home and away games via iFollow if required.
If this was the case DM also stated that we are looking to produce a digital programme for the home games to send out to our season ticket holders via email on the morning of the game. In answer to the second question, DM responded by stating that we will be looking at using the big screen or the Monopole for this and stated that SH will look into this to see how this would work.
DM did add in mentioning that we will await guidance from the EFL for this option as we haven’t had any guidelines as such on this matter.
GW then asked about whether any of the facilities would be open to supporters at the stadium on matchdays e.g. toilets, bars, kiosks etc.
DM responded to this stating that toilets will need to be accessible for supporters and that we will need to follow Government Guidelines in order for these to be used. DM added by saying that stalls could be looked at for concessions to use outside for food and drink, with portaloos to be looked at also.
IB then enquired about how our disabled fans would access the stadium during this period in relation to parking, where they will be positioned around the stadium for matches etc.
DM responded to this by saying that we will make their experience as similar as possible where we can.
DM added that we have sold majority of the disabled car park spaces so we would hit the criteria within the Green guide for number of spaces available and that they will also have access to the bays in the Yellow Stand and have access to their toilets also. DM is hopeful that the entirety of the stadium will be open with all toilets and additional ones on our footprints available to utilise, with the catering side being the only area that would remain restricted.
Socially distanced seating plans will then be implemented, with a questionnaire to all current season ticket holders to be looked at this week to gain more knowledge of our supporters based on the guidelines set by the SGSA.
IB then asked if there is anything the DSA could do in relation to promoting this or enquiring to our disabled supporters on our behalf. DM responded by stating that Laura Greenhouse (LG) is currently working on a survey to all season ticket holders and advised IB to liaise with her on this in due course.
DM went on to discuss the playing side of the club stating that 19 first-team players are now under contract following the announcement of Danny Guthrie’s new deal, with a few members of the Academy team training alongside the group upon request from Darrell Clarke (DC). DM added stating that DC is able to add to the squad should he deem necessary in the next few weeks as preparations ramp up for the new campaign.
The Community Hub continues to gather pace and DM mentioned that we are on course to have this completed for the week commencing 24th August and that we will continue to post updates in the next few weeks.
DM then touched upon the training kit range which has received positive feedback since its unveiling as has the home and away kits released in the last few weeks.
SG then touched upon the subject of salary caps which is being talked about in the wider football context. SG mentioned that there is a vote taking place on Friday (7th August) on bringing in squad and salary caps for League One and League Two clubs. SG believes that should this be the case; the leagues will be more competitive and SG believes that the majority will vote for this to be implemented.
SG mentioned that no date has been confirmed as of yet for the return for the Academy football and that we await guidance from the EFL on this front, which SG is hopeful of receiving in the next few weeks.
SG then touched upon the overall outlook of the stadium stating that it is gradually reaching some form of normality, with members of staff returning to the office such as the Conference & Events sales team and Communications department now back in on a full-time basis. The Conference & Events operational staff are yet to return due to the updates from Government on conferencing venues however the sales teams are taking bookings post 1st October.
The Sunday market has continued to do well since its reopening in June and is benefiting the club in a positive way, as is the M6 advertising signs which has been consistent throughout the lockdown period and has seen companies such as JD advertise again following their reopening.
SG added that Leigh Pomlett (LP) will be doing a reflection video piece with Tom Heslop (TH) in the next few days on his first year as chairman of the football club and this will go out on our social media channels at some point this week.
SG concluded by stating that the club is in a good position financially and in as good of a position as most clubs in the football pyramid, whilst reiterating that there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes as we look forward to the return of football and the return of welcoming fans to the stadium.
Update from Walsall Supporter for Change:
CS enquired about the refund package that is on offer to season ticket holders and asked whether the ticket benefits within the package will be rolled over should restrictions not be lifted and whether these only apply to those that had a season ticket for the 19/20 season. SG and DM responded saying that the ticket benefits in the package will roll over until there is a time in which they can be used and that they only apply to those with a season ticket from last season.
Update from Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust:
RD touched upon the upcoming 50/50 draw which is due to take place on Saturday 29th August and asked whether this could be pushed via the club, to which DM agreed to and stated that this will be facilitated by the Comms team.
RD also highlighted the 1888 Lounge Draw organised by the Trust, which raised £240 proceeds for the football club.
Update from Walsall Football Club Supporter Liaison Officer:
GW asked DM and SG as to whether there would be any additional face masks in stock at the Club Shop in-store and online. DM and SG responded stating that an additional batch of masks have been ordered and are expected to be with us this week. DM went on to say that he has spoken to our Head of Retail about increasing the ordering and offerings.
Update from Walsall Football Club Disabled Supporters Association:
As all points had been covered previously, IB had no more questions for DM or SG.
The meeting closed at 15:30.
Next meeting to be held on Zoom on 7th September 2020 at 15:00.