Middlesbrough Supporters Forum……Minutes 43

Monday 14th June 2021 / 18:30 – 20.00

Present: Mark Motley (MM), Rob Nichols (RN), Jill Atkinson (JA), John Donovan (JD), Paddy Cronesberry (PC), Caroline Walker (CW), Ellen Sowerby (ES), Peter Hodgson (PH) Paul Dews (PD)

1. Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received for: Matthew Gale, RF, Jen Hayton, Yvonne Ferguson, Lee Fryett (LF)

2. Welcome
MM started the meeting with welcoming all attendees. MM mentioned that he wanted to go ahead with this month scheduled meeting even though the agenda was light, as it was a good opportunity to catch up with Forum members and MFC.

3. England at the Riverside
MM advised that the first agenda point was to get some feedback from MFC on England playing at the Riverside. MSF members wanted to hear more about how things went, especially under restricted capacity and the covid restrictions in place. Also, if this opportunity had also helped MFC with any of their own preparations for the new season.

PD started his update saying that MFC had received an official email from UEFA saying that Middlesbrough Football Club had been one of the best clubs they had worked with for a very long time in terms of their organisation, support, and facilities and that the FA had also echoed that.

PD mentioned that the 2 games could not have gone any better from an operational point of view, organisational point of view and the way it raised the profile of the club in a positive way. Sky sports News, ITV, shot some great pictures of the Riverside and Rockcliffe.

MM asked if MFC had used their own stewards or if external stewards had been brought in. PD advised that MFC stewarded the game. MFC looked after all the operational side of things, the FA hire the stadium. Shauna Rob head of Operations and Chris Patzel had been magnificent in supporting it and Paul said he worked with the FA on the media side of things.

PD said the whole week could not have gone any better from arriving at Rockcliffe to leaving. PD mentioned that Gareth Southgate said it was brilliant and went public with that. Kalvin Phillips also mentioned to PD what a great place and facility Rockcliffe was. The feedback has been fantastic.

JD said that he would like to say that the Club, Rockcliffe and the whole of Teesside could not have got better exposure, it was fantastic. JD commented that some of the drone shots of the stadium and the surrounding areas made it look fantastic.

JD also mentioned that everything that he had read in the media and on a few fans social media sites and forums was positive. JD said that Teesside came out having great exposure and positive feedback is brilliant, its priceless.

ES asked about covid checks at the game and the covid situation for getting into the stadium, and if it was going to be the same as what MFC is going to use when we get back to playing championship games with fans at the Riverside.

PD advised that there was 2 categories, those that worked at the game got tested on the Sunday before the Wednesday then on Thursday before the Sunday. People who had no need to go into a red zone area, had to take a lateral flow test 24hrs before the game and they had to have proof of the result incase they got spot checked when they came to the ground. PD also mentioned that because Middlesbrough had previously had one of the highest rates for Covid, Public Health for the region advised on this process of tests and spot checking on the day.

PD confirmed that everyone that attended will have taken a lateral flow test and this worked well without a problem.

JD advised that he met somebody from Brentford before the game and spoke to a few fans from around the country after the game and they were full of praise.

PD mentioned that is showed the area is such a good light.

MM asked PD if there could be opportunity to have further England games at the Riverside. PD advised he would not rule this out, especially with the FA saying MFC had been one of the best organisations that they had dealt with and they were impressed with the way MFC delivered the game. MM mentioned even more so with plans to run direct trains from Middlesbrough to London. MM also mentioned Gareth’s comments on the ease pf walking from the hotel to the training ground and the stadium only being 30 mins away all makes for a perfect location.

RN mentioned that talking to people after the match everyone felt that this was a big positive step up towards getting back to normal. RN mentioned how easy it was just to show that you had taken your flow test on your phone, and if that must happen in the future, we just need to remind people how easy and quick It is to do.

RN asked if the 2 England games had been a useful lesson for MFC before we do go back to the Riverside to watch Boro. PD said yes, and that he is not sure what any requirements would be in place, if any when we return to crowds, but this has enabled MFC to put things into practice and see how it all works. PD also advise that MFC took a lot of other things away from the 2 games in relation to how they can support fans returning to the Riverside. Ideas range to having ambassadors and also maybe opening stadium over a 2–3-week period and let fans can come down and have a look, re-familiarise themselves and make themselves feel comfortable.

MM asked if there were any further questions on England games and then moved on to the next agenda point.

4. Raising funds for MDSA
asked JD and PC for an update on funds raised from the walk. JD mentioned we comfortably passed the target of £1200. The total currently is £2,265.

RN asked what the total amount was that PC needed to raise and when the bus needed replacing. PC said it needed replacing 2 years ago.

MM mentioned that he had spoken to PD a few weeks back on how we could raise the profile of MDSA and their fundraising campaign. PD had suggested having player or coaching staff member as an ambassador for next season and try and push the campaign on.

PD asked PC to have a think about who he would like as a figure head to lead the fundraising and then MFC can give it some real promotion and see what we can raise. PC advised that he would take it away and come back to MM and PD on who he wants once he has spoken to MDSA members.

PD advised that following the team coming back to training on 1st July, we could then reveal who the ambassador for 21/22 season is going to be and they could then be the public face of the fundraising.

PD asked if MFC had provided anything recently to raise money for the campaign. PC advised that he had some signed shirts. PD asked if PC could let him know what the MDSA are looking for in terms of a bus and he will speak to Lee Fryett to see if MFC have any contacts that could help, sponsor something else.

PC advised that the capacity of the current bus is 14 seats including the driver. PD said he will take an action to have a look into this further.

PC said the last statement he had from the bank was that there was around £14k in the fund and he needed to add in the money from JD’s walk.

JD mentioned that they have the 2nd leg of the walk to do, Riverside to Rockcliffe, and this is currently scheduled for August 8th, the Sunday after the season starts. It will be re-arranged if Boro have a game on this day. The plan is to get the total up again.

PC advised that MDSA thinks around £50k will be needed based on the adaptations that will be needed to the bus.

MM mentioned that all members and MFC will again promote the 2nd leg of the walk, to raise as much as possible.

5. Boro Pride Cads
MM moved on to the next agenda item in regard to any updates on a Boro Pride Card type scheme as lots of supporters had raised it as something they would like to see.

PD advised that this is an ongoing action and still being looked into. PD mentioned that internal meetings are taking place. MFC may be able to share more in a month or so with MSF on what the ideas are.

MM also mentioned when MFC wanted feedback on ideas of improving matchday experience and atmosphere that YV had asked for. PD advised that there has been a few meetings internally and that YF will be in touch soon about ideas. PD also mentioned that lots of ideas are under investigation. MM advised that will forward MSF thoughts on. PD mentioned that they want supporters to them what they want and MFC can then see what is possible.

6. Supporter Group Updates
MM said he would now open it up to supporter groups to raise any questions, if they have any feedback for MFC from their respective fan group.

RN said he wanted to pick up on the point around the Boro Brick Road and people being worried about their bricks being worn away especially when some of these are in memory of friends and family.

MM mentioned that he had talked to the club about this and MFC have now asked MSF to find out what are people’s expectations are with the bricks and what would they like to see happen. RN said that he knew that a fair few people would be prepared to pay for a brick renewal.

PD suggested that MSF speak to people and collate fans thoughts on what people are willing to do. MFC can look at options and move forward with it.

PD mentioned that he had been advised that they have been worn away mainly due to a chemical in the air that reacts to the brick and after a certain amount of time. PD mentioned do we maybe look at some sort of memorial garden, put some plaques up on the statues if either option was feasible. PD said if we could ask what existing people with bricks would like to see or are willing to do, we can then try to move it forward.

MM asked PD if he would be happy with MSF asking that question of fans, Paul said he had no issue with that.

JD asked if there is any form of digital inventory of the location of each brick. PD said he wasn’t sure, but there may be a record somewhere of it. JD said if there is one, an idea would be that fans could search for the location of their brick by entering the wording that was on it and the system could pinpoint it. PD said that this was a great Idea.

PH asked if anyone knew the identity of the company that did the bricks. PD advised he doesn’t as it was before his time, but he will ask around to see what he can find out and give us an update in the next meeting.

RN also then advised that we are looking to start my town my shirt campaign with MFC Foundation and MFC. This will be to photograph Boro fans from a variety of backgrounds in their boro shirts in different locations and landmarks. RN advised that we should get funding to pay photographer and to display in galleries. This will show positivity from Middlesbrough on diversity, and it worked well for Cardiff City.

MM asked if anyone else had anything they wanted to raise, and further points were put forward.

MM asked the final question to PD around planning for next season and when they would likely find out from the FA, EFL and local authority around what will happen with stadium capacity and what clubs can and can’t do.

PD said MFC are currently preparing for normal. PD advised that MFC have sold around 15000 season cards. At some point in July MFC will put season cards back on sale.

MM asked about when we can expect the new away shirt to launch. PD advised that the stock had not arrived yet, so can’t be launched until then.

MM asked for any final comments and any AOB. Nothing so wrapped up.

MM closed the meeting