Walsall Football Club Supporters Working Party Meeting. Held in the 1888 Lounge at the Banks’s Stadium on Monday 2nd August 2021, 1pm.
Daniel Mole (DM) – Walsall Football Club
Stefan Gamble (SG) – Walsall Football Club
Leigh Pomlett (LP) – Walsall Football Club
Graham Whittaker (GW) – Walsall Football Club Supporter Liaison Officer
Dave Beckett (DB) – Independent Saddlers Supporters Association
Bob Thomas (BT) – Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust
Ian Buckingham (IB) – Walsall Football Club Disabled Supporters Association (via Zoom)
Minutes: Sam Hadwen (SH)
DM, SG and LP began by thanking everyone for attending the meeting.
SG began by giving a club update and stated that since the last meeting things have moved very quickly with the conclusion of our pre-season games and the assembling of the first-team squad. SG is hopeful of a few more additions but stated that preparation is going well considering the fact that we have been behind closed doors for the last 18 months or so.
DM touched upon the work which has taken place at the stadium and the training ground in recent months and said that we are currently eradicating any glitches we had during the home fixtures during pre-season to ensure we are in the best possible position for the first competitive games of the new season. DM added that GPW are back in this week to tidy some areas up following the recent games but stated that the stadium is in good condition and that it was a quick turnaround from the Crystal Palace game to the Aston Villa game in getting all stickers and cable-ties removed from seats. DM is happy overall with the operations and is looking forward to welcoming fans back for the start of the 2021/22 season.
SG touched upon the Community Hub and the new bar and stated that these will be functioning for the start of the season but added that we are waiting for some supplies from the relevant companies.
SG then mentioned the new access systems in the turnstiles, the ticket scanners, the new EPOS system and the transition to becoming a cashless stadium in its entirety and stated that as expected there have been some teething issues to rectify e.g. network/wi-fi issues and said that the IT company who set this up are coming back in ahead of the Doncaster game so that if one router goes down within the vicinity it won’t any other areas.
SG then said that there were some issues with the ticket scanners and the barcodes but these have been rectified also and SG reiterated that any issues in the meantime will be ironed out over time so that the process and experience for supporters on matchdays will be as smooth as possible.
GW touched upon the topic of the downloadable tickets and said that some fans weren’t physically downloading the tickets into their wallets which may in turn have caused some issues. SG said that this was the case as some supporters hadn’t downloaded it into their wallet and GW added that by having it in your wallet via your phone it then doesn’t require the need for 3G/4G connection.
SG mentioned that a number of supporters have opted for a season ticket card as opposed to the download to the phone and that these are currently in the process of being sent out to those who requested them. The downloadable tickets for the season is also being worked on behind the scenes and SG said this should be out to supporters in the next few days. SG concluded on this and asked supporters for their patience as we continue to learn a new system.
SG then briefly touched upon sales for the Tranmere Rovers game and was pleased to see the uptake from this and thanked the fans for their support. In the mist of this, DM contacted Tranmere’s Club Secretary and requested a further allocation of tickets to which he is hopeful will be posted out to us to sell. DM mentioned that it is likely that tickets will be offline 24 hours before the game with none available to buy on the day and stated that this will be communicated in due course if it is the case. DM then alluded to a point raised before the meeting about a short window for Season Ticket holders to purchase away tickets and said that moving forward this can be facilitated should there be an appetite for it.
LP then gave an update to the groups and touched upon his pieces to camera whereby he said he wanted to transform the footballing side of the club hence the appointments of Matt Taylor (MT), Jamie Fullarton (JF) and Neil McDonald (NM). LP said the squad is assembling together nicely and he is hopeful of a few more before the close of the transfer window. LP reiterated that all League One and Two clubs are restricted in what we can have but reiterated that he is more than happy with how we sit on this front before the season opener on Saturday.
LP then mentioned he has been member of a team talk to the fans led review and had a meeting with Tracey Crouch (TC) who is leading it from a government perspective. After much deliberation and conversations with the relevant people, LP mentioned he made a decision to appoint a Supporter Director to the board of the football club, which is GW as Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO).
GW will become a full-time member of the board (non-executive) and will represent the broader base of fans in meetings so that we have clarity that what we are doing has the approval of the supporters. LP believes this position will eventually be assigned to all football clubs and stated that he wanted to get ahead of the game and bring GW in. LP went on to note that this position is over the period of 2 seasons followed by a review on whether to continue the relationship or search elsewhere.
In order to be appointed, GW will need to be deemed a fit and proper person and have his application approved by the EFL to join the board before he can be registered at the government’s house as a director.
LP added to the above update and stated that he has tasked GW to work more closely with the supporters’ groups in attendance and to set up a Walsall FC membership scheme in the next few months, something which has proven successful at other clubs. LP mentioned that he will communicate this to supporters in due course via a piece to camera to explain the reasons behind this. LP then touched upon the supporters’ index and said we are in the top 20% ranking in the country and way ahead of the rest of the clubs in the Midlands, but stated that there is more room for improvement.
DB mentioned the membership scheme and asked if this would be free or if a small charge is required, to which LP and GW both said will be decided and communicated once finalised.
LP concluded and said he is anticipating an exciting season ahead for all and thanked the supporters for their continued support.
Update from Walsall Football Club Supporter Liaison Officer:
GW mentioned that a number of supporters have commented on how happy they are with the ticket system and he believes that once all supporters are familiar with how it all works, it should make their overall experience easier.
GW then said if supporters have any issues/queries in the near future it would be best to email him direct so that he can relay it back to the relevant people at the club.
Update from Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust:
BT began by asking when tickets will be on sale for our Carabao Cup tie against Doncaster Rovers. SG responded and stated these are due to go on sale at some point today all being well as well as the first three months of games so that supporters can buy in plenty of time.
BT then touched upon Season Ticket sales for the 2021/22 season and asked if the club could comment in any form as to how many we have sold. SG responded and said that the club are very pleased with the figures and stated that we are up 25% on last year. LP reinforced on this and said he is very pleased with the uptake and deemed it a remarkable result. LP said that he set an initial aggressive target for this which was hit over and beyond prior to the meeting. LP praised the fans for their continued support as well as the Ticket Office team for their hard work during this period.
BT then touched upon the Saddlers Club and asked if there was any update. LP said that he has asked a member of the board of directors, a property expert, to pick this up as a project on his behalf and has some consultants authorised to work alongside him on this to turn it into an area we can be proud of, something which LP has highlighted as a main target to achieve as part of the club’s strategy document. LP reiterated that this body of work would be of a great expense to the club but he is determined to transform the area one way or another. DB followed this up asking whether this would return as a supporter’s club. LP said this would be the case, with SG adding that it would be of use to supporters on a matchday but it would need to be commercially viable during the week in order for it to be of benefit to the club.
BT then touched upon the timing of these meetings and asked if we could reconsider it moving forward. DM responded and said that the change of time for these meetings was at the request of Ray Dale (RD) and Chris Saunders (CS, formerly of the WSA) and not at the request of the club. DM stated that a conversation can be had on this if necessary to look at an alternative time to fit all parties in due course.
BT then touched upon booking charges when purchasing tickets on our e-ticketing site and asked if the club could look into this matter. SG stated that TicketMaster charge us and we pass this money on but reiterated that supporters can purchase tickets in person at the Ticket Office or over the phone and there is no booking charge. SG said we will take this matter offline and speak to TicketMaster to see if there is a more cost-effective solution.
BT then touched upon the Covid-19 season ticket wall at the stadium and praised the club for putting this together and asked if he could have a list/guide as to where certain people’s names are, including himself. DM responded and recommended him to contact Head of Commercial & Retails Alex Smith (AS) who can facilitate.
BT concluded by reminding all in attendance that the Trust are sponsoring the official teamsheets for the new season, something which SG and DM thanked them for.
Update from Independent Saddlers Supporters Association:
DB had a few questions and began by asking if the club could clarify that if a disabled supporter purchases a Season Ticket and they get a free one alongside this for the carer, is that second ticket transferrable between various people. DM stated that the second ticket is solely for the carer, whether this changes on a regular basis or not. DB asked if the club could tie this in with further information that goes out regarding Season Tickets, to which DM agreed to and stated that Elizabeth Champion (EC) will liaise with Paul Joannou (PJ) in due course and tie this in with the terms and conditions and the website.
DB then gave the attendees an update regarding the Fun Day which was held at the Railway Club and said that a total of £4,040 had been raised with a large number of Walsall supporters and former players being present on the day. DB mentioned that they are looking to do another event similar to this in the next 2-3 months which will be entitled ‘90 minutes from Europe’ and is looking to arrange some former players to be a part of it. DB went on to mention that he is looking to liaise with DM and AS in regards to a target for a club which they can put the event in aid of e.g., funds for the Youth team, something which DM was happy to look at in the near future. From the funds raised from the previous event, DB is looking to use some of it to build a new stand at the Railway Club.
DB then asked a question following some queries from members about the Q&A session in the Stadium Suite with himself and MT and asked why it is scheduled for 2.30pm. LP responded and said that it was scheduled on the back of the open training session in the first instance but stated that we can look into holding another session further down the line and possibly include JF as well as MT as part of this.
DB then touched upon former players attending games and travelling via the ISSA coaches and asked if the club could look to provide a ticket for them if and when they attend. DM said he had no problem with this being facilitated for home games but away games is something out of his due restriction. DM went on to say that we can provide a form of complimentary ticket within reason as and when we have the ability to do so.
DB then touched upon the Railway Club again to DM and said that he is going to look at arranging a meeting as previously discussed. DM said he is happy to look into this moving forward but stated that some of the club have had to move to Community and the Ladies set-up so whilst there is an appetite to do something, it might be further down the line than first anticipated.
DB also mentioned that ISSA have made their second payment to the club in reference to the licencing deal and said that things are going well, with another retro shirt due to go on sale in the coming weeks.
DB concluded on the topic of the Walsall Supporters Alliance (WSA) who have disbanded in recent weeks and touched upon previous events with a member of the group and their comments made in regards to previous Head Coach Brian Dutton (BD) and asked if the club could clarify as to whether this member has been banned as a result. LP responded and reiterated that the individual is not banned from the stadium or attending games but he is forfeited from representing any group in meetings involving the board of directors. LP said that the individual accepted the decision but added that such behaviour is something which he will not tolerate as Chairman of Walsall Football Club.
Update from Walsall Football Club Disabled Supporters Association:
IB said that things have been quiet in recent months on the DSA front but stated that he is contacting other football clubs in readiness for the new season in regards to facilities for disabled fans attending games. IB mentioned that the group will be resurrecting their meetings in the near future and asked for the club’s thoughts on having those meetings back at the stadium as they traditionally used to be with Laura Greenhouse (LG) in attendance, or whether it’s better for them to be placed at a more neutral venue. SG said he had no problems with this being at the stadium and mentioned GW is picking things up for LG in her absence so once the DSA are at a stage to resurrect their meetings, they can be hosted here and GW can attend.
IB then sent his thanks to GW for keeping the DSA and its members informed on the subtitling of video content distributed by the club.
With disabled fans looking to book tickets online, there currently isn’t the facility to pick a ticket for the disabled and the carer and IB asked if the club could work in tandem with TicketMaster to resolve this particular issue. SG said that EC from the Ticket Office is looking into this issue and that he will speak to her and come back to IB on this in due course.
IB then asked when the car parking passes are expected to be issued to supporters. SG said that car park passes are currently being finalised and these will available for collection in the next week or so and publicised on our social media channels.
The meeting closed at 14:00.
Next meeting to be held on Monday 6th September.