Middlesbrough Supporters Forum……Minutes 44

Monday 2nd August 2021 / 18:30 – 20.00

Present: Mark Motley (MM), Rob Nichols (RN), Jill Atkinson (JA), Paddy Cronesberry (PC), Caroline Walker (CW), Matthew Gale (MG), Red Faction (RF), Paul Dews (PD), Lee Fryett (LF)

1. Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received for: Jen Hayton, John Donovan, Peter Hodgson, Ellen Sowerby, Yvonne Ferguson.

2. Welcome

MM asked PC if MDSA had decided on which MFC player they wanted to become MDSA ambassador for the season. PC advised that they would like Matt Crooks and that they are waiting on final confirmation from PD on this. PD advised that once he had confirmation, MFC could start to look at a campaign to promote fundraising for MDSA. (Update 3.08.21) – PD confirmed that Matt Crooks would be happy to be ambassador and he would do something next week to help promote the 2nd leg of JD’s walk.

MM moved onto the 2nd action – which was for MFC to try and identify any support / contacts that they could provide for the MDSA bus. PC confirmed that they are going to get some mechanical support to ensure that the bus can be used in the interim of raising funds for a new bus. PC advised that this would mean that MDSA could still travel to games if the bus passes its MOT etc.

The 3rd action that MM mentioned was for all groups and MFC to promote the 2nd leg of the Twe12thman walk to raise funds for a new MDSA bus. In the absence of JD, MM confirmed that the walk would take place on the 15th of August from the Riverside Stadium to Rockcliffe and would be setting of at approx. 8am. PC mentioned that the hope was that more people could be involved.

MM advised that he would briefly move onto the next item which was Boro bricks. MM advised the group would speak in further detail around this later in the meeting as an actual agenda item.

MM also then advised that the final action was for MFC to provide some further detail on potential membership schemes for supporters. MM advised the group that LF was going to provide some further detail on this today.

4. Membership Scheme / Boro Pride Cards
MM advised LF that MSF have had a lot of feedback from supporters around re-implementing a membership scheme like Boro pride to ensure that supporters that were not season card holders still felt very much part of the club.

MM mentioned at the last meeting, PD advised that a new membership scheme was being looked at and that MFC could hopefully share some initial details soon. MM asked LF if there was any update on this.

LF advised that re-implementing a membership scheme has been very much on MFC’s agenda for the last 2 years and covid has delayed some of the clubs plans with this, but this is now being picked back up.

LF advised that a positive step forward that he can share with the group is that some may have noticed match by match prices got released today and the 18-21 price bracket is missing from this pricing. The reason for this is that because of concession abuse, the club must now think about how they combat this and one of the things that the club is proposing is that it will kick off with a 18-21 membership. This will allow MFC to validate peoples ages in the same way the club do with concession season cards. LF advised that MFC hope to start doing this within the next month. LF advised that this will be the first stage of re-introducing a membership scheme. LF advised that then beyond this, MFC will be looking at a junior membership scheme (a bit like a Roary club). LF advised that the details and mechanism of how the 18-21 membership scheme will work still needs fully confirming.

LF advised that not everything within a membership will be related to discounted ticket prices, but it allows MFC to segment the fanbase further and create an offer inline with what those supporters want. LF advised that they would also look at a Boro pride option within that could include a discounted matchday ticket within the membership.

LF advised that one of the proposals that MFC have also been looking at is something for offshore workers, that incorporates a season card with a stream and maybe a bundle of match tickets. If supporters know that they can attend 6-12 games a season, this could be an opportunity to put a package together that gets them a book of tickets at a discounted rate.

LF advised that moving forward from now, what supporters will see is the first step which is the introduction of the 18-21 scheme and the Club are working out the final details on this.

LF advised that what he would like to do at the next MSF meeting is to bring a bit of a proposal of what MFC think the rest of the packages may look like and get some feedback on them.

LF said that he thought that the consensus from the club was that there is massive % of the fanbase that may not be able to commit to the full season card but may commit to a few more games.

LF mentioned that the general principle of the membership scheme would be to reward loyalty, but at the same time protect season card members too. LF advised that the sports services departments are doing some in-depth research on what other clubs do, not just football clubs but what other industries do. LF also advised that MFC don’t want to over complicate things.

LF mentioned that when he was London based, he was a Boro pride member and that worked well for him, and he can see the benefit to such a scheme.

LF reiterated to the group that they will kick the membership scheme of with 18-21, then a junior scheme then something like a Boro pride scheme. LF said that the goal would be to get those supporters that are going to 6 games to go to 10 games etc.

Membership scheme would also help MFC gather data, LF advised that this is one of the areas that MFC would like to improve on. What MFC have found is that those supporters that fall into the 18-21 category, the club don’t have a lot of detail on them such as address or any contact details. LF also advised the group the MFC have started to put together a 5-year plan that MFC will be working on in regard to match pricing. LF advised that he would really like to get MSF involved in this process. LF advised that this will take 12-18 months to plan out.

MM asked if the chairman and Neil Bausor are onboard with the 5-year plan looking at ticketing. LF advised that they are onboard with being more creative around tickets.

LF advised that now that things are improving with covid, LF will look to join the MSF meetings more regularly as like before covid. Also, MFC will look to set up sessions with others to discuss options and gain feedback.

MM asked if anyone else had any further questions for LF on memberships, RN said that he thought that the idea around the Offshore ticket package sounded good and that we have a situation in the championship were there are lots of midweek matches and that has probably been a hurdle for a lot of people committing to season cards because they can’t make midweek games. LF mentioned that his biggest fear following covid was match by match and people getting out of the habit of going to games. LF advised MFC have the appetite to explore flexible ticket options.

LF advised that the decisions being made on memberships have got to be long-term and not quick one-off decisions that don’t address the issue of attracting supporter’s long term.

RN asked LF that when he had a Boro pride card when if felt the link between himself and the club. LF advised yes it did, having a card and the ease of being able to get tickets kept him connected to the club whilst he was in London.

MM mentioned that he thought a membership card scheme would work well for MSS.

MM mentioned that it was good that this is now being looked at and MSF would be very happy to be involved to help shape the schemes. RF also acknowledged that it was good that this is being looked at.

MM asked if there was anything else for LF before he let him go to another. No Further questions asked, MM thanked LF for attending and LF left the meeting.

MM then moved onto the next item on the agenda Matchday experience and atmosphere.

5. Matchday Experience & Atmosphere
MM asked PD if there was any further updates on the matchday experience and atmosphere improvements that YF was asking for feedback on.

PD advised that supporters services have been meeting different fans in different age groups and that the have had a lot of meetings over the last 4-6 weeks (in total around 120 meetings have taken place). Supporters’ services picked random fans.

Supporter services looked for comments and a grading system to highlight what MFC do well and what they don’t do well. The idea is to then improve and develop items that MFC are not doing well and continue with things that they are doing well. Once this feedback has been collated and analysed the info will then be shared with MSF.

PD said that the feedback will look at the whole experience from arriving to concourses to seats. PD advised there will be a 2nd round of these surveys taking place.

MM advised that MSF would look forward to seeing the results and advised that we can move to the next item on the agenda.

6. Return to the Riverside
PD advised that the club don’t expect any restrictions such as Covid passport for stadium entry for the first home game and moving forward and that he will know more for certain on Friday.

RF commented that any restrictions would be government or EFL restriction and not MFC. PD advised the club would implement the usual safety measures such as sanitisers and will ask people to take responsibility.

PD mentioned that the friendlies at Plymouth and Rotherham had been brilliant and that Boro fans had been brilliant.

RN asked PD if the concourses would be as normal. PD advised that what the club will be doing (this is work in progress at the moment) is to look at outdoor areas to expand the concourse outside, so you are not going to be on a packed concourse at halftime if you don’t want to be. This also keeps the air flowing.

RF commented that this is a really good idea for those that don’t want to be on a busy concourse.

JA asked if the club still expected the concourse to be busy as people enter the stadium and try and get to their seats? PD advised it still could be busy on the concourse its going to be a matter of waiting to see.

MM asked if there was any further advice and communications planned around what to expect at the first home game in terms of processes and what is open etc. PD advised that there will be a comprehensive guide coming out next week covering all these things.

PD also mentioned the open day that was happening later in the week and that over 800 people are due to attend. MM advised that this was a good thing to do by MFC.

MM asked how the open day would work, PD advised that 500 people had booked slots, the doors will be open, their will be MFC staff on hand to answer questions PC asked if there would be any restrictions on stadium capacity, PD advised that as far as MFC are concerned the stadium would be normal capacity. RN mentioned that he had different feedback from different clubs in the championship, in that different clubs had been put in place different things, such as Stoke banning all bags. PD mentioned that MFC are not looking to add anything like this now.

JA mentioned that a fair few people are still feeling nervous about leaving the stadium and congestion. PD advised that there won’t be staggered exit times, we would just ask supporters to be sensible.

PC asked if wearing masks would be mandatory, PD advised that it’s up to the individual as per government advice. MM mentioned that he felt that there would be a good mix of people that do and don’t wear their masks as people still feel cautions.

MM asked if anyone had any other questions on the return to the Riverside, and then moved onto the next agenda item.

7. An evening with Neil Warnock
MM asked if there was any reason for the Evening Neil Warnock cancellations as few people had contacted MSF about this.

PD advised that those that had booked tickets for the event have all been contacted directly via email and the club will be looking to reschedule these events at a later date. PD reiterated that Neil Warnock is still very much wanting to do these.

8. Boro Bricks
MM advised that MSF members had asked for some feedback via social media on this and that following the last MSF meeting, and that PD was going to make some investigations around who installed the original bricks.

PD advised that he had spoken with YF and she has advised that MFC still have a record of everyone that purchased a brick and that MFC do know the company that installed them – Brickenomics.

YF had also advised PD that they had enquired with the company many seasons ago about if they could do anything to restore them. YF advised that it was very costly, and wear and tear would be a problem again if they did get restored. YF mentioned that MFC give supporters the opportunity to paint the bricks themselves and clean them. If supporters want to do anything with their bricks, they should contact supports services directly.

YF also mentioned that MFC had previously been asked if the bricks could be moved to another location. This had been looked at, but again this was costly, and the bricks could end up damaged when moving them.

MM mentioned that he had received mixed feedback, some supporters advised they would be happy to pay for replacement bricks or for somebody to clean them up. Other supporters suggested that bricks should be put into a wall. Other supporters suggested they wanted the brick to remain in its position.

PD advised that it is on MFC’s agenda to look at some sort of alternative memorial garden / area. RN advised that he was aware that when he purchased his brick that it was for 10 years but emphasises that it was an extremely sensitive thins as people treat these as memorials to loved ones. It’s a difficult situation. MM advised that the best thing is for those with bricks is to contact supporters services.

MM advised that he would speak to YF to ask if she could to identify how much the company would charge for restoration. RF advised that we could also investigate if any local companies could help with cleaning or restoring the bricks. MM advised that he will look into this.

MM advised that he would move to the next agenda item.

9. Streaming of games
MM advised that he had been asked to raise a question by ES around international streaming packages and when the information would be released around this.

PD advised that he is expecting the EFL to advise MFC tomorrow. PD advised that should be able to announce straight away once he has the information. PD advised that he expected that the streaming offering would be the same as what it was pre covid. (19/20 season)

10. Riverside TLC
MM advised that he had received a lot of feedback about improving the look of the stadium and if there are any plans to change the faded seats, PA system, and freshening areas up with a new paint job.

PD advised that they had completed some tests over the summer with the PA system. PD advised that to replace the PA system is a fortune and its money that could be spent on other areas. PD advised that he would love a new system but its on the nice to have wish list rather than the must have list.

PD advised that regarding the faded seats, MFC have looked at the machine that Motherwell have used and will go away and find out what the outcome of this was. PD also advised that they had been looking at various other things. PD mentioned that they had been tagged by supporters on social media about this.

MM asked about if safe standing would be considered at any point. PD advised that again the club would be looking at a huge financial investment. RF advised that it would be more viable if the club had to replace seating. MM advised that he recalled from a previous meeting that the club said that they would maybe consider this when the seats were due to be replaced and he thought that this was within the coming years. RF said that seats were due to be replaced after 25 years and this was last year. PD advised that he would go away and ask the question and get an update on replacing seats.

MM advised that Riverside TLC was last on his agenda items and asked if anybody needed PD for anything else.

11. Supporter Groups
RF advised that he would like MFC to promote the wear red for the first game campaign. PD said that he would.

There was nothing more from the groups or for PD. PD left the meeting

12. AOB
MM mentioned that PH had proposed that MSF make a £500 donation to MDSA to go towards the fundraising for the new bus.

MM suggested a vote on this, all members voted in favour of this.

MM also mentioned that PH wanted to raise the point about changing over the signatory on the MSF bank account to CW from CJ. CW advised that she was happy to do this. MM advised that he would call PH.

MM advised that all should promote Twe12thman walk.

RN mentioned that Basecamp Boro could be a base for foodbank drop offs. It’s a new venue in Middlesbrough that offers food and drink and is on one of the walkways to the stadium from the town. MM mentioned that he needed to contact the foodbank as previous manager had left and had been replaced.MM said he would speak to PH. CW said we should look at date for a Christmas collection at the Riverside.

RF asked that everyone could promote the wear red campaign for the first game.

MM asked if anyone had any other items to discuss, as nobody did.

MM closed the meeting