Middlesbrough Supporters Forum……Minutes 46

Monday 15 November 2021 / 18:30 – 20.00 via Zoom

Present: Mark Motley (MM), Rob Nichols (RN), Jill Atkinson (JA), Paddy Cronesberry (PC), Red Faction (RF), John Donovan (JD) Liam Wilson (LW), Peter Hodgson (PH) Matthew Gale (MG), Caroline Walker (CW), Ellen Sowerby (ES), Jordan Evans (JE), Paul Dews (PD), Lee Fryett (LF), Yvonne Ferguson (YF)

1. Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received for: Ifshaan Mahmoud (IM)

2. Welcome
MM started the meeting by welcoming all attendees.

MM mentioned it was great to have all fan groups in attendance as well as 3
representatives from MFC.

MM advised that there was a lot to get through, and if all items are unable to be covered, items would be taken offline, and the minutes updated with relevant responses before publishing.

MM advised that he had removed football green from the agenda following
discussions with LF as this is now very much part of Helena Bowman’s new role at MFC and that he would look to invite her to a future meeting.

3. Membership Schemes
MM advised that he would kick off the meeting with an update on membership schemes.

LF advised that work is ongoing and that the research needs to be thorough as the impact of it is wide reaching.

LF advised that the club have enlisted the help of some PHD and master’s
students at Teesside University to assist on the project. LF advised that one of the key parts of the student’s work would be for them to meet and engage with the Middlesbrough Supporters Forum members quickly. LF also advised that the students would also be getting involved in wider scale research on a match day.

LF advised that it would be likely that the 18-21 scheme is what the club lead with as a starting point and that it was good to have an 18-21 member joining meetings. LF advised that following this piece of work, the Club will also be looking at a Boro pride style membership for other supporters. LF advised that he wants the University students to work with MSF and come up with recommendations and help shape any future offers.

LF advised that he has a scheduled meeting with the PHD students later in the week, and that they will then look to engage with supporters on 2 levels. LF advised that this would involve more in-depth discussions with MSF and then engagement on a bigger scale with fans on a match day.

MM asked LF what is the expected timeline for this to be introduced and if it was now likely to be next season. LF advised that it is more than likely going to be something for next season, but the club may conduct some tests this season to get some learnings from it with a plan to launch it big bang for the new season.

MM asked the group if anyone had any comments or questions on LF’s update.

JD asked if there are any ideas that the club could take from previous Boro pride scheme as this was very successful. JD advised that people had been keen to take it up in the past as it had provided a match-by-match saving. LF advised that they would do, and that he had previously been a pride member himself. LF advised there are some key learnings from it but sees this as an opportunity to start with a blank piece of paper as technology has moved on a lot since then. LF advised the club are doing things more digitally now in terms of ticket sales and that priority points also may now need to be considered as part of this.

JD advised that he thinks the Club have a good opportunity to target age groups or different types of supporters that may work away, and it would offer great flexibility. LF advised he thinks this is big thing to get right, and that the club needs to think about the whole supporter base, for example digital memberships for supporters that live abroad that may want a streaming service or certain content digitally, and junior members like a Roary club type membership. LF advised that they need to engage with the fan base from the top to the bottom, if we get it right it could be massively beneficial to the club and supporters.

MM asked LF if the club had been looking at any other clubs as a best practice example. LF advised that they had spoken to Aston Villa last week as they have recently implemented a good membership scheme which is wide ranging and well thought out. LF advised that Swansea have also done a really good job with their membership scheme. LF advised that Aston Villa membership scheme is certainly one MSF should have a look at as its very good and is something that is very achievable for MFC.

MM asked if anyone had any further comments or questions, LW advised that MSF should maybe think about getting a ticketing survey out to the fans, LF advised he would be happy for MSF to do that. LF advised that the work MSF does adds credibility to proposals the club make to the board, LF advised the document MSF had produced over the summer around a restricted capacity riverside return went down well with the board. PD advised that 90% of club ideas that impacts fans, Neil Bausor will advise the club to have a chat with MSF and get their views.

MM advised that MSF would be more than happy to work with the PHD students when required as the membership scheme is a top priority for supporters and anything we can do to push this along we will do so.
MM advised that he would move onto the next agenda item which is ticketing.

4. Ticketing
MM asked LF if he or Neil Bausor had reviewed the information that LW had put together around ticket prices and the comparisons of other championship clubs against MFC. MM also advised that he would still like to set up a dedicated ticketing meeting.

LF advised a dedicated ticketing meeting would be ideal, and that Neil will be more available in the new year to potentially attend this.

LF advised that the strategy is about where we want the club to get to in 5 years and it’s about the need to take small steps over the next few years to get there.

LF advised that the key thing is to take MSF on the journey to ensure that the club are going in the right direction.

LF advised it would be good to have a real in-depth discussion outside of the monthly MSF meeting dedicated to ticketing and that it would probably develop into a series of ongoing meetings as things develop. LF advised that Neil Bausor is supportive of the ticketing meetings and it’s just a matter of agreeing a date in the diary for the first meeting.

LF advised the club are already in the early stages of looking at season card
pricing for next season and that he is determined that we continue to make good progress.

MM asked LF if he thought Neil Bausor would be happy to attend the ticketing meetings, LF advised that yes. LF mentioned that Neil he highly values the forum and their opinions and it’s just a matter of getting time in his diary.

LF advised the information and data provided by LW and the key themes that have come out of it, are very much the themes the club are working on.

RN advised that if the club did reduce ticket pricing in certain stands or walk-up match day prices that it would be very much appreciated and that the club would get a great deal of support in the general community and the perception of the club may change. LF advised that club also must have an eye on protecting the revenues and its about getting the balance right.

MM advised that he would arrange a meeting for the group.

MM asked if anyone had any further comments or questions around ticketing. As no further questions had been raised, MM moved on to the next item.

5. Away Game behaviour
MM advised that MSF had been contacted by several supporters who are
concerned about attending away games due the vibe on the concourse and the behaviours of others. MM advised that the feedback MSF had received seems to suggest that the behaviour within the concourse had massively changed since crowds returned.

MM advised that he would read a message out that he had received from a
female fan that explains her experiences and how shocked he was.

PD advised that anti-social behaviour has gone up right across the board at
football games, it seems to have gone up everywhere particularly away from home. PD advised that there has been more incidents of trouble this year than others.

MM asked as a group what can we do to send a message out that the behaviour being reported is not acceptable. MM read the message out from a female fan to give the group an idea of how others are feeling.

LF advised that the club are aware of some of these issues and have made some changes. LF advised that MFC have had a police officer or a steward presence for some of the coaches as the club have had a lot of feedback regarding anti-social behaviour coach travel.

LF advised that drug use at football matches is getting out of hand throughout the country unfortunately. LF advised that MFC staff had been abused a lot at the start of this season and the club put out a respect campaign about this and it made a difference. LF advised that some of the abuse ticketing staff, and concourse staff had received on a match day was unacceptable. Simple messages won’t necessarily stop actions, but it shows a united front.

MM asked if MSF could do something jointly about supporter conduct and
respecting others.
RN asked if we could do something to prevent men going into women’s toilets, RN also commented that there is no way you can go into the concourse at halftime at an away match and it’s hard to get to your seat.

RN advised that there is a large element of supporters that go to away matches that have a very different agenda to everyone else. PD advised that he thinks the support this season has been unbelievable away from home in terms of numbers, and that it is always the case the bigger away followings attract people who are having a big day out and this is a contributing factor to some of the issues now being seen.

PD advised that we could expand the respect message to fans but is was unsure what impact that would have. PD advised that not to pass the buck, but the onus is very much on the home club to control these issues at their stadium.

YF advised that the respect campaign for MFC staff worked well. YF advised that she agreed with PD in that we can act regarding what happens at our stadium but can’t really act when fans are away, it’s up to the home club.

YF advised that if anyone does see issues in toilets or on a concourse at an away game that they must report to a steward.

RF asked if MFC steward’s police the toilets in the Riverside away end and is this a Boro fan thing or a football issue. Everyone agreed it is a football problem.

PD advised that the stats he had seen a couple of weeks ago regarding
supporters being ejected from stadiums around the country for possession of drugs had rocketed.

RN advised that he thinks it could be useful to have a meeting with Chris Patzelt about the issues we are hearing about and see what we could do going forward.

YF advised that she would ask Chris Patzelt to get in contact with MM to discuss further.

CW advised that we should we be raising awareness as a forum and as a club that this is a problem right across football that it is unacceptable, and it is not the norm. CW suggested we put something out from the Forum with the support of MFC. LW suggested that we ask other fans what their experience is of away games. LW suggested a supporter survey and the group agreed.

PD advised that a key message to include in any communication is how do
people report this.

PD advised that there is an app for reporting racism (Kick it out) and there may be an app for reporting anti-social behaviour. PD advised that he investigate this further.

LF advised that he would also raise this subject with the football league
MM advised that once he has been in contact with Chris Patzelt, MSF could look to what to do next with MFC.

MM moved on to the next agenda item

6. Betting Sponsorship
MM advised that some supporters wanted MSF to raise their concerns around a betting company sponsoring the shirts.

RN advised that feedback on FMTTM was that people wanted football clubs in general to move away from betting sponsorships, and that if you can’t have betting sponsorship on the kid’s shirts why should they be allowed on any shirts.

RN asked if there as any thoughts of moving away from betting companies in the future.

LF advised that there is a lot of debate going on throughout football around this subject and that MFC are taking an active role in it. LF advised that the club will follow any advice provided to them by the government or football authorities. LF also advised that the opinion of supporters would be essential to any decisions going forward.

LF advised that the club has a pre-existing agreement with Kindred that has
another couple of years to run on it.

MM asked if anyone had any further questions or points to make on betting
sponsorship, as they didn’t MM moved to the next item on the agenda.

7. Foodbank Collections
MM advised that JD had raised a point at the last meeting about the Forum
looking to organise another foodbank drop off point at the Riverside Stadium before Christmas like they did pre covid. JD advised that this is a key time of year for them to get donations in.

MM mentioned that he had been in touch with YF who has said that this could be do the home game against Swansea on the 4th of December and we could hold a further collection at home game mid-January.

MM advised that he had spoken to Alan the manager at Middlesbrough
foodbank, and he was very much up for doing this, however he had advised that he leaves his role on 3rd December, so this would then fall under somebody else to support.

MM advised that Alan had assured him that he would be in contact later in the week to confirm who would support this in his absence.

YF advised that she just needed confirmation and timings of arrival so that she could make the relevant arrangements with Chris Patzelt. YF advised that we could have 2 spots, 1 near the south stand (legends) and the other at the North stand.

MM advised that once he had heard back from Alan, he would let her know and a communication could also be arranged.

8. MDSA Fundraising
MM asked PC for an update on the fundraising for MDSA and if there was
anything further MSF or MFC could support with.

PC advised Matty Crooks is continuing to pledge £10 to MDSA each time he
scores a goal.

PC advised that PH was getting figures from vehicle distributors to follow up on and that he had some promising financial pledges that he needed to follow up on.

PC also advised that he is looking to plan out the annual MDSA awards night in January and needs to sort a date out.

PC advised that if anyone has any ideas or can help with fundraising to get in contact with him.

MM asked what the current total raised so far was, PC advised just under £20k.

MM advised that MSF and the club would promote the dinner once a date is

PD advised that some players would be able to attend the night once a date is sorted.

9. Match day experience and atmosphere
MM asked YF if there is anything to report from the meetings she has been
having with supporters.

YF advised that they had finished the 2nd round of speaking to supporters last week and will be putting the information together.

YF advised that a lot of supporters wanted half time penalties to return and that the club are slowly introducing pitch side flag wavers and Roary retuned at the last match.

LF advised that supporters will see new signage going up around the stadium and that there will be a new here to help hub for supporter services on a matchday located next to the fan zone, so YF has a permanent base.

LF advised that a lot of the people in the queuing at the main ticket office on a match day are just wanting to make general enquiries. So, this is a real positive that they can now just go to the hub.

LF also advised that from supporter feedback, MFC realised that there is no sign to show which stand is which for away fans and first-time visitors, so something is being put in place for that and that that ticketing procedures have now been finalised for a matchday in that collections are at a particular stand and sales are at another to make things easier.

MM advised that in some of the feedback MSF had received previously was
around what the club could do to make the approach roads and walkways to the stadium more Boro themed. LF advised the club are having ongoing discussion around this subject.

11. Supporter questions
MM advised that a couple of questions had come in from supporters that they had asked us to raise with MFC.

MM advised that the forum had lots of questions around Parmo in a bun and fans wanted to know if there are any plans to reintroduce these. PD advised the main issues was that at the start of the season the club was short staffed and that the preparation to put these together was more complex than other food offerings and took more time and skill. PD advised that to enable a quicker service and to support staff training needs in other areas, the decision was made to take the Parmo off the menu in the short term. MM asked if there are any plans for these to be reintroduced and PD advised they would be at some point.

PD advised that he would double check with Peter in the catering team. YF
advised that the last update that she had received was that it would not be this side of Christmas. MM asked if they thought they would be reintroduced this season, YF advised that it depends on the staffing situation over the coming months.

MM moved on to the next question which was bringing back the option for fans to vote on kits. PD advised that this is certainly something that can be looked at going forward. RF advised that a lot of fans liked to participate in this, and it would be a good thing to re-introduce. LF advised logistically we won’t be able to introduce this for next season but following that it is certainly something that the supplier is keen on as is the club.

MM advised that the next question that had come in was around full squad
photographs and if there is a reason why they have not been done. PD advised that squad photos did not take place last year due to social distancing and has not been done this year for similar reasons. PD advised that this may be progressed following the January transfer window.

MM advised that he had received a request about having something up in the stadium as a tribute to Ugo. PD advised the club would have a chat about it and see what they could do to take it forward as it was a good idea.

MM advised that 18 months ago it was mentioned about naming some of the bars after players, MM asked if this was still in the pipeline. YF advised that it is still on the list to do, but was put on the backburner due to covid, so this could also be looked at.

12. Meeting with Chris Wilder & Kieran Scott
MM asked if MSF could get some dates in the diary for a meeting with both
Kieran Scott and Chris Wilder.

PD advised he would arrange something with Chris Wilder in the run up to
Christmas and that he had already spoken to him about it and had advised that he would love to do it. PD advised that he would come back to MM on date and time.

PD advised that he would also look to get a date to meet Kieran Scott in the new year.

13. Supporter Groups
MM advised the final part of the agenda is supporter groups updates, questions items to raise and would around the virtual room.

JA advised that BoroSC 2020 are having their first face to face supporter group meeting on Friday at 7pm in the Middlehaven suite at the Riverside with Anthony Vickers as guest speaker.

RN advised he had a few events coming up and that on the 25th of November there would be a showing of the game of their lives at base camp Boro telling the story of North Korea world cup team.

RN also advised that he has also something on the 9th of December at basecamp Boro regarding a book that has been written about Rob and what he has done over the years. RN also advised that on 15th Dec, there would be some readings from his book my Boro debut at base camp Boro.

JD advised there a couple of issues around the twe12th man bar which he is
discussing with YF already. JD also advised that we really need to do something with away game behaviour.

MG advised that the rainbow laces campaign has come back around again on the 8th of December so MFC’s rainbow laces match would probably be on the 4th December against Swansea. YF advised that it would be good if MG did an article for the match day programme and for the website.

CW – asked LF if the concessions at the older end of ticketing is still for over 65’s. LF advised that it is. CW asked if it was worth upping that age limit inline with the state pension range has risen. It would help with revenue streams. LF advised that he would take that away.

MM asked if anyone else had anything to raise, as they didn’t MM asked PD, YF and LF if the football club required any support from MSF.

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

MM closed the meeting.