Middlesbrough Supporters Forum……Minutes 41


Monday 21st September 2020

18:30 – 20.00

 Via Zoom

Present: Mark Motley, Rob Nichols, Jen Hayton, Jill Atkinson, Matthew Gale, Ellen Sowerby, Yvonne Ferguson, Paul Dews, Lee Fryett

1 Apologies for Absence 

Apologies were received for John Donovan, Caroline Walker, Red Faction.
Both Paddy Cronesberry and Peter Hodgson had difficulties connecting to the zoom meeting.

2 Introductions & Thanks

MM opened the meeting welcoming all those in attendance and mentioned that this was his first Official meeting as the new chair of the Forum.
MM moved on to welcome Ellen Sowerby from Boro North America supporters’ group as a guest to the meeting and stated his desire to have regular guests at meetings going forward. MM also welcomed Jen Hayton from oneBoro forum who now joins the forum as a full-time member.
MM then went on to state his thanks to the MFC for their engagement over the last few weeks and their desire to work closely with MSF since he took over as chair. He pointed out that over the last few weeks a good working relationship had developed between MSF and MFC and that the club is now consulting with the group on a regular basis on matters that impact supporters.
Secondly, he also thanked the members of the forum for the support over the previous weeks, pulling together all the thoughts and concerns and suggestions around the re-sale of season cards into a document that supported the MFC in their decision making.
Both Paul Dews (MFC) and Lee Fryett (MFC) both thanked the Forum for their support in pulling together the comprehensive document. They also mentioned that the document was also read by both Neil Bausor and Steve Gibson.

3 New Ways of Working

MM then spoke to the group about the new way of working he wanted to put in place and what he had been doing to raise the profile and credibility of the group since he became chair.
MM acknowledged that over lockdown meetings had not been scheduled, however advised that he would schedule monthly MSF meetings back in the diary now that the season had started. He also mentioned that future meetings may not always be scheduled for 2hrs, and that the agenda items would dictate the timescales required.
MM advised that he wanted to develop a standard agenda for every meeting and that the plan was to share the agenda with all members of MSF, the football club and with supporters via social media a couple of days before meetings. MM also mentioned that he wanted to communicate the minutes of meetings within the same week that the meeting was held, so he would take charge of the minutes himself going forward and circulate to the group for approval before publishing.
MM advised the group that he had set up an MSF Action tracker, to capture any actions that had been raised by group members or Boro fans and that this tracker would also be used to log all questions raised to the club by the group on supporters behalf. MM advised that the chair would fully track all questions, actions, responses, and dates and the tracker would be shared with fans by our social media platforms.
MM then moved on to talk about what he had been focussing on since taking over as chair. MM advised that he felt raising both the profile and credibility of the group was a key priority as well MSF more communication and being visible and accessible with all supporters.
MM confirmed that he had now joined FMTTM and oneBoro forums and started communicating with those groups and that he had also created an MSF Facebook page and spent a lot of time on his own personal twitter promoting the group and offering support to fans. This had resulted in an increase in followers for MSF on Twitter and Facebook.
MM also advised that he had asked oneBoro to join MSF on a permanent basis as they have a large following and are a good representation of Supporter views. Jen Hayton was nominated as the oneBoro Rep and will now be part of all future meetings going forward.

4 Returning to the Riverside

MM then moved on to the next agenda point – the discussions on the return to a restricted riverside stadium and the Pilot match that took place at the Riverside on Saturday.
MM started off by saying that MSF had asked for feedback from supporters following the game and had been overwhelmed by the positive comments and the praise for MFC for their overall handling of the event especially given the time constraints.
MM advised that he had collated a lot of the comments from social media and circulated to the group and the Club.
MM then asked Rob Nichols to give an overview / feedback of his matchday experience to the group.
Rob mentioned that he felt safe and reassured and that the club guidance was clear. He also mentioned the excellent atmosphere created by the 1000 supporters and that the social distance seating worked.
Yvonne Ferguson also mentioned lots of positive feedback had been given to her from supporters when making their way out of the Stadium after the game.
MM referred to a particular piece of feedback received via Twitter that really stood out from a Fan, stating:  
‘’I’m 73 years old and still feeling unsafe to go the shops! Since February I have only visited the barber and went to the Riverside apprehensive with my grandson. I soon felt at ease! Everyone keeping to social distancing and the Boro staff well in control’’
MM then asked MFC if they had any indications if more pilots would happen / be planned by the EFL. Paul Dews advised that the club had no idea at present around this but had asked the relevant authorities questions around this subject and next step but are still awaiting responses.
MM also asked the question to Paul Dews if he thought MFC would be considered for another pilot game or if any other pilot games would be spread around other EFL clubs rather than come back to Boro. Paul advised that he hoped that now the club have now proven that they can hold a successful pilot game they would be considered for any future games.
Lee Fryett also mentioned that a lot of other clubs have been in contact with MFC asking for feedback about the pilot as the national media had picked up that the game was a success. Lee also mentioned that the local authority safety advisory group and council would have gained a lot of confidence from the event in terms of considering approval for future events.
Rob Nichols mentioned that he had noticed at other pilot games catering options had been available outside the stadium. Paul Dews advised that MFC had been unable to do this under local authority instructions. Lee Fryett advised that the club’s head of catering had been working outside the stadium to put things in place to extend fan zones. However, the council asked for it to be removed and wanted to be more cautious around this.
MM then mentioned that a couple of questions had been asked by supporters in relation to the day.
Was there a reason why we only used the west stand? Lee Fryett advised that opening the full stadium would have added to the costs and also due to the amount of time given to prepare, the seats had to have a deep clean as the seats had not been used for over 6 months. Also, it was easier to prepare the stadium by concentrating on just once space.
What was the issue was with the commentary of the livestream? Paul mentioned that this was not an MFC specific issue, 12 other club streams had also been impacted by the same issues. The club are working with the providers to get to the bottom of the issues.
MM asked for any further comments from the forum about the game and RN mentioned that leaving the stadium worked well. Having one tier leave at a time and announcements asking fans to stay in seats was a success.
Lee Fryett then thanked MSF for their support with the pilot and commented that another club had seen the video MSF had created around what to expect and they had mentioned that it was refreshing to see supporters contributing with communications, supporting and working with the club on this. Lee also mentioned that it had been appreciated that the club had been able to speak to MSF members on a regular basis to run through ideas and get opinions on their plans and that the club see that this as a valuable relationship and that this had all positively impacted the success of the pilot. Paul Dews also backed this up.
MM asked for any final points on this subject and Jen Hayton advised that the thoughts and feelings of the oneBoro forum was the club had done their best in a tricky situation and congratulations should be given to the club.
Update following the meeting – government confirming the delay of supporters returning to stadiums under new Covid restrictions.

5 Boro North America

MM then moved on to the next agenda point which was a guest slot update from Ellen Sowerby from Boro North America. The group have recently celebrated their 7th birthday.
Ellen mentioned that there are big groups of Boro supporters in New York, Ontario Canada, British Columbia Canada, and Florida and before the covid pandemic the various groups would get together to watch games in pubs. The group expect the members who watch with us in pubs to have an iFollow subscription, but it’s not required to join the 
Since lockdown, the group now watch matches together on zoom. Some former players have joined the zoom calls and quiz’s such as Robbie Mustoe, Colin Cooper, Gary Pallister.
There are 250 members in total across 35 different states.  They have a twitter and Facebook page. 
The group try and promote the club in the USA.
MM asked Paul Dews if MFC could do some sort of communication around the group and its 7th Birthday. Paul advised that club should and could do this. Paul advised we could do something on the club’s website and social media platforms.

6 Supporter Group Updates

MM asked if there were any issues to be raised, questions from any of the supporter groups that need to be discussed.
oneBoro – Jen Hayton raised the subject of Boro Pride cards and that those fans that are shift workers, work offshore or are international fans often feel a little bit forgotten about. Jen and oneBoro feel that the reintroduction of Pride cards would provide those supporters with a bit more of a connection to the club.
MM asked Lee Fryett the reintroduction of pride cards was something that the club had thought about. Lee advised that before lockdown they had been holding working groups with supporters and one of the key priorities to come out of those meetings was how the club could engage non season card holders better. One of the answers to this was something like a Pride card. Lee confirmed that is still on MFC’s agenda to look at and the club will use the MSF forum to form some ideas and help develop it when the time is right.

Boro Supporters Club 2020 – Jill -confirmed that a recent meeting took place over zoom with the committee members. They have decided to extend the membership period meaning no members will pay membership fees for the whole of this season. 
Votes for the player of the season have been counted and Yvonne F will present the trophy virtually for them. Hayden Coulson won young player of the year and Jonny Howson winning player of the year. Trophies have been ordered with the new supporter club logo on. 
Jill also mentioned that she feels that MSF communicates well with its member groups and that BoroSC2020 is very involved in discussions and decision making.
MM asked Jill about membership numbers and Jill confirmed that the new group started in January and now has 90 members.
Jill also mentioned that the group have planned a boro quiz live on Facebook on the next international match weekend, there is a chance to win a signed MFC prize.
FMTTM – Rob wanted to bring to the attention of the group a national gambling survey that was done in September that up to 1000 people that do gamble took part in it.  The results said that as many as 83% of those that completed said they would be more likely to gamble while football was in lockdown. Just to be aware that people sitting at home in front of a tv are betting more now than ever. 
Lee Fryett advised Rob and the group that he had spoken to 32 red about this. The club are working on something that shows all the things that MFC will commit to ensure that we are being as responsible as possible whilst using the club as platform to advertise. Within next few months the club should be able to communicate something around this.
FSA are trying to ramp up the sustain the game agenda, and how clubs will need to hep to survive without fans.
Rainbow Reds – Matthew – is working with other clubs LGBT groups 
Boro North America  – Ellen asked about the possibilities of having specific Boro  North America merchandise available for non-profit. Would also help to promote the club. Lee F and Yvonne F will support with looking into this. 

7 Wrapping Up

MM asked the Forum if there was any other business to discuss
Both Lee and Paul thanked the group again for the support over the last couple of weeks.
Paul also mentioned that the group had made some big positive steps forward and working relationship was valuable. Paul also mentioned that Neil Bausor and Steve Gibson are both pleased with our involvement and working together. 
MM closed the meeting