Middlesbrough Supporters Forum – Meeting 7

MSF Meeting 7 – Held at Boho 5, Middlesbrough at 7pm. 14th August, 2017.

Attendees were :-

David Roberts Chairperson Middlesbrough Supporters Forum

Peter Hodgson (Secretary – pro-tem.) Middlesbrough Supporters Forum

Paddy Cronesberry, MBE Middlesbrough Disabled Supporters Assn.

Rob Nichols Fly Me To The Moon Fanzine

John Donovan Twe12th Man

Representative Red Faction

Steve Rock Middlesbrough Official Supporters Club

Christopher Joseph President – Middlesbrough Supporters Forum

Apologies for absences were received from Caroline Walker. MSS were not represented. The Forum was also joined by Mark Ellis and Yvonne Ferguson of Middlesbrough FC.

The meeting opened at 7pm and all were welcomed by David Roberts.

Minutes of Meeting 6 had been previously agreed and distributed to all parties and posted on the various media sites, as is now the norm.

Matters arising from minutes of Meeting 6.

(which were discussed in a different order to that stated on the agenda).


3c.) FanZone Family Fun Day.

Yvonne Ferguson reported that the first Family Fun Day of this season will be held on the QPR match day (16/09/2017). It is a much bigger and better event than last season’s events and will be held from 12 noon to 2.45pm before the game, and, then from 5.10pm to 7pm.

Yvonne mentioned more intricate details of groups attending, exact performance times and also a slightly different layout of some stage sites to benefit more people. A full list of all times, attractions, competitions, etc. are to be displayed on the MFC website. MSF member pages were also asked to promote this event wherever possible.


3a & b.) Safe Standing.

Dave Roberts reported that the MSF survey had attracted approximately 3,400 successful entries with 94% of respondents supporting fans being given the choice to sit or stand at games. The responses were representative of supporters who themselves choose to sit or stand.

DR showed several slides containing elements of the survey results and our survey showed that there was only a small percentage of fans responding who did attend Boro away games. Suggesting that a good cross-section of Riverside attendees did take the time to answer the survey, giving a good cross-section of Boro supporters feelings.

Rob Nichols also reported details of the recent Liverpool FC survey, which was answered by more than 17,000 fans who showed a huge majority in favour of the introduction of safe standing. Rob also mentioned the EFL and Sports Ground Safety Authority have approved safe standing at Shrewsbury Town.

There followed a general discussion about the many variables and problems of this issue to consider before any POSITIVE action could be taken, the main one being that the whole issue of safe-standing is currently illegal in England and Wales, therefore, the law will need to be changed before any action can be taken.

On this basis, it was then suggested by Chris Joseph that our next step should be that we take the step of writing to our local MP, Andy McDonald asking for his support in taking this issue up to Government level. Dave Roberts and Mark Ellis both suggested that we should involve all of our local Teesside MP’s to take this issue on board. Chris Joseph then proposed that this should happen and asked the Chairman to draft a letter to this effect and send to all our local MP’s and a copy should also be sent to the FSF. Seconded by Steve Rock. Passed unanimously.


3 d.) Ticket Pricing in Championship.

Rob Nichols raised the subject again about Ipswich Town offering a reciprocal away fan price package for the Boro game at the end of the season. This would mean Boro fans would pay £25 rather than the minumum £30 that will be charged for this potentially all-important last match of the season. Ipswich have reported that 12 clubs have agreed to the reciprocal deal which means cheaper prices for travelling fans of both clubs. Rob also quoted statistics that average EFL seat ticket prices are more expensive than those in the Premiership for away fans.

Mark Ellis quoted from his information that currently Leeds & QPR are more expensive than Boro. Aston Villa the same, 6 clubs are less and the other 11 clubs have minimum prices below MFC and maximum prices above MFC

Rob then introduced a copy of a letter that he suggested the forum sends to MFC Chairman Steve Gibson asking him and the club to re-consider their stance on the introduction of reciprocal pricing.

Mark Ellis stated again MFC’s stance that their pricing system is fair to all fans and offers very good value across the board. He also stated that MFC had minimised price increases for away supporters over the past 5+ years.

John Donovan put an instance of how a lower reciprocal charge might benefit MFC in terms of how much a discounted price would not cost as much to subsidise at the Riverside as most teams bring far less fans than Boro take away. Mark Ellis calculated that it would still mean a difference of maybe £100k per season to do this. This is a significant amount in terms of the overall operational budget for the Club and it would not be easily replaced.

Chris Joseph proposed that it should still be our duty to send a copy of the letter produced by Rob to MFC to outline the situation and request a review of MFC position on this issue. Seconded by John Donovan. Passed unanimously.


3 e.) EFL Digital / video streaming of games.

Mark Ellis provided an update on where the club is in respect to video streaming of Boro games, offering the following points.

  • The EFL have introduced iFollow, a live match video streaming product that is made available to all clubs that are part of the EFL Digital organisation.
  • As a non-EFL Digital Club, MFC have been offered terms involving a substantial payment for access to iFollow. MFC has decided not to take up the product for a number of reasons including cost, quality, availability and the administrative controls required to meet EFL regulations on restricting access to overseas subscribers.
  • MFC has already made a significant investment in a new digital platform and has plans to extend this to include broadcast quality video and audio programming that is part of a multi-year strategy, independent of the league in which the Club is participating. The investment required will be submitted for Board approval in the near future.
  • MFC has had to purchase a licence from EFL Digital In order to be able to provide audio / video content and statistics from matches played by the Club. This covers both live and recorded content available after defined holdback periods.
  • The MFC digital strategy is based on offering supporters ‘free to air’ content as far as is possible. The terms of the EFL Digital licence require that live audio and video streams are only available to subscribers and the product is behind a paywall. MFC is continuing to discuss the exact terms for subscriptions with the EFL.


Further items for discussion.


4 ) Twe12th Man Bar – Yvonne Ferguson.

Yvonne asked for support in promoting this to other supporters. A new addition to this bar will be a photo gallery, hopefully v PNE. A discussion took place on music sound levels and heaters. These are ongoing. GAME – Teesside Park has also donated some new games and X-Boxes for the younger members who visit the Twe12th Man area.

Yvonne and John D both reminded all members that anyone with any suggestions for improving or adding to the Twe12th Man Bar for this coming season be passed to them for consideration.


5 ) Benefits & Rewards for Season Card Holders.

Yvonne reported a considerable number of new companies and offers available to all Season Card Holders have been agreed. Full details will be added to the MFC website in the next day or two.


6 ) Minority Ethnics Groups representation .

Steve Rock reported a conversation he had with a senior member of a local Asian Community who suggested that the main reason that there is an almost-negligible support in the area for football, is that members of their communities are looked upon very badly if they consort with other groups of people when involved in sports such as football. This being a perception that these people do tend to congregate, socialise and meet up in pubs and clubs and drink alcohol. This behaviour being in conflict with the Muslim religion.

In relation to the recent contact with Rainbow Reds. As the group have not been back in contact as yet, Yvonne suggested that we leave this contact with her to encourage the contact further and suggest the MSF link when the group does officially engage. The MSF group agreed to this.


7 ) Dave Roberts asked for this subject to be removed from the agenda. Agreed.

Any Other Business

Rob asked whether there had been any further thoughts on the Boro Pride or a similar scheme. Mark Ellis said there hadn’t.

Away ticket sales by phone or Internet – with a sell-out of Nottingham Forest tickets within 20 minutes, it was suggested that the sales access process was maybe unfair to fans without access to Internet. Could anything be done to alleviate this problem for those booking by telephone.

Mark Ellis stated that Internet sales to phone sales were more than 4 : 1. There had already been a thought in MFC that there should maybe longer times or later / earlier times for phone sales. This was a matter which MFC would look at further. Chris Joseph suggested phone sales may increase if MFC were to remove the 7p-per-minute call rate on the telephone booking line.

The RED FACTION representative suggested to Yvonne that with the new system of kiosk catering, there had been some changes for the worse as well as the better. Standards of tea, Coffee, etc. were very poor compared to previous supplier/brands. Same applied to various new brands of lager on sale. Some very poor comments. MFC has taken details and will investigate further.

Mark Ellis also clarified a question as to ‘exactly how many away tickets’ are made available for our away fixtures in the EFL. The HOME team is required to offer at least 10% of total seats or 2,000 – whichever is the lower.

Mark Ellis stated that they are also implementing tighter controls on the use/abuse of Disabled ticket allocations. They are aware that abuses of these privileges have been taking place over the last few seasons and so validation documentation has been requested when applications were made. Most have been provided but currently about 30 requests have not been provided.

MFC have also this year provided a new audio match service to our partially-sighted and blind fans. Very well received.

Equality Commission have sent a survey to all Premier League Clubs from last season asking for as many fans as possible to complete and return. Details on the club’s web-site. Please encourage people to submit this form.

Paddy Cronesberry MBE – advised that the Middlesbrough Former Players Association are having a Dinner in September starring the John Neal 1980’s side. Tickets are £50 per head.

Rob also asked that we put on record and our web page that a group of Norwegian Boro fans, and support us across the North Sea, have an annual Christmas appeal and raised £771.45p to donate to some deserving Boro fans. Yvonne mentioned that MFC had provided 4 season cards to be used by lucky fans.

There being no further business, Dave Roberts closed the meeting at 9.25pm.

Next meeting on Monday, 11th September at the Riverside Stadium.