Albion Assembly November Meeting The Hawthorns, 09/11/2017, 7.30pm
In Attendance: Martin Goodman (MG), Martin Swain (MS), Richard Garlick (RG), Mark Miles (MM), Simon King (SK), Rob Lake (RL), Drew Williams (DW), James Mackay (JM).
Apologies from: John Yeomans, Ann Staniland, Hannah Weaver, Kev Candon, David James, Dev Pal, Jayne Gazey-French, Christian Wallett, Piero Zizzi, Andrew Benbow, Heidi Zoeller.
MS said that work commitments meant that David James would have to stand down as a member. He read David’s ‘farewell’ message to the Assembly and thanked him for his positive and helpful contribution to the group.
Action points from previous meeting:
1. MS welcomed as an observer to the meeting, Marcel Jakubowski, who was leading a social media campaign to form ‘Polish Baggies’. He was introduced by Engagement Officer Gurdial Singh and welcomed by the Assembly. It was the latest in a series of encouraging signals, aided by the arrival of Grzegorz Krychowiak, in the Club’s hopes of establishing a formal bond with a significant community.
2. MG confirmed that - as urged by the Assembly at the previous meeting - the Club had accepted the full allocation of tickets for the fixture against Spurs at Wembley Stadium and the game was now sold out.
3. The Assembly and MS confirmed that ‘Proud Baggies’ was launched on Diversity Day ahead of the fixture with Watford on Saturday, September 30. The Assembly congratulated the Club for its positive role in helping this latest fans group establish itself at The Hawthorns.
Discussion of ‘on-field’ matters
MS said although the Assembly’s remit was to discuss off-pitch matters, it was unreasonable for the Club not to expect members to air their views following recent on-pitch fortunes.
The Assembly asked whether, given the Club’s wage bill and the FFP regulations, it would have to sell before it could add players in January? The Assembly also asked where the Club reasonably expected to finish this season based on the view repeated by previous and present regimes that the wage bill was the most influential factor.
RG agreed there was some merit to the theory that the level of player wages per club tended to represent the league position by the end of the season. He said the Club’s wage bill was limited to £74m and that this equated to a finishing position of between 9th - 14th in the Premier League.
RG confirmed that the Club’s wages limit under FFP meant that it would have to ‘trade’ in the January transfer window if it wished to recruit further signings. No player could be brought in without a player going out.
The Assembly also asked about the running stats from the Huddersfield game on Saturday, November 4 and whether they indicated a downturn in effort by the players.
RG indicated that the Huddersfield game was something of an anomaly because the home team had been reduced to 10 men and the game-time was extended over 98 minutes. But he stated no player was over/under 2% of the their average and that the team average was above that of the season average. RG confirmed that Albion are third for distance covered across the whole of the Premier League.
MS then welcomed a free exchange of views about the team’s performance which the Assembly unanimously agreed should not be minuted. A half-hour was set aside at the end of which Assembly members offered a spontaneous round of applause to the Club’s senior officers for their contribution to the debate.
Cost of mascots
The Assembly expressed the view that the cost of mascots at The Hawthorns was too high and pricing many fans out of what was an exciting and key experience for all young supporters.
“Prices at £250 plus VAT is a huge amount of money for an average, local family,” said Richard Jefferson. “Is it possible the Club can look at this and make the costs more accessible to all."
SK took the comments on board and stated that because the mascot packages were selling out he hadn’t reviewed the prices.
He pointed out that packages were given out to charities and The Albion Foundation and that it would also be unfair to discount mid-way through a year. SK also highlighted that the price had been set based on other, similar-sized clubs.
“It is something I shall look at,” he said. “It is a memorable experience for any young supporter but of course we would like as many as possible to experience it.”
Option to sell green alternate kit
The Assembly asked if this season’s third-change green kit would be placed on sale. A number of fans had expressed an interest in buying the product, said members.
SK explained that in the commercial contract with Adidas, a minimum of 10,000 kits had to be ordered in a sales batch. He said that the Club’s shirt sales usually amount to 30,000 (20,000 home and 10,000 away) and that it was unlikely a further 10,000 third kits would be sold.
But he suggested that a surplus of kits not used by the first team could be considered for a ‘limited edition’ sale. Every match-worn shirt will be auctioned off with profits going to The Albion Foundation, it was confirmed.
Asked about a green-and-yellow strip, MG indicated that it was always under discussion and would be again for next season.
Assembly involvement in season-ticket planning for 2018/19
The Assembly asked if they would be consulted ahead of the decision over season-ticket prices and the release of the news for next season. This had been discussed at a previous meeting at which time MG had agreed to the idea.
MG backed up that promise by saying it would be possible for a small group of Assembly members to sit down with the Club in early January. MS asked for any Assembly members willing to form a "season-ticket subcommittee" to give their names to DW at the conclusion of the meeting. Names were: Richard Jefferson, Warren Stephens, Neil Reynolds, Shin Aujla, Spiro Marcetic and John Homer.
Update on ‘Year of the Throstle’
MS confirmed Albion would be going ahead with plans to extend next year’s celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the FA Cup win to a wide-ranging salute to Albion’s history.
He said that 2018 provided the opportunity for many anniversaries to be celebrated with plans being worked upon for a first major event in March which would mark the 40th anniversary of the first ever appearance of the ’Three Degrees’ team. He said the Club were mindful of time pressing and planning to make a full announcement in early December.
MS and RG also revealed that there had been progress over plans for a testimonial for James Morrison and Chris Brunt. The Club had informed the players of potential dates and events and that talks had opened with an independent company brought in by the James and Chris to organise a celebration.
MS added that the players were also now considering which charities they wanted the testimonial to benefit while the fact that the event would come at the conclusion of Brunt and Morrison’s 10th season together at Albion added to the 2018 theme.
Demonstration of Albion’s Archive Project
Dave Bowler, the Club’s publications editor and historian, produced an example of Albion’s ‘virtual museum’ - an entertaining audio and visual presentation of Albion’s historic 1931 teams famous for winning the FA Cup winners and promotion. It was widely praised by Assembly members.
He said that he had now completed written accounts relating to each piece of memorabilia at The Hawthorns which would also be converted into audio/visual presentations.
All ‘stats' would be correct from competitive games to friendlies he added, and each player would have a profile page which fans can read.
And in the latest development, Dave confirmed that the Club’s ancient minute books, detailing board meetings from Albion’s earliest days, and copies of the Albion News programme would all be “digitised” following a new agreement with a company specialising in the process.
MS said that Albion still had to ‘crack the problem’ of finding a website developer able to build a home for the Archive on its website available but that the enthusiasm for the project was undimmed.
Update on living wage
The Assembly welcomed the Club’s clarification of its Living Wage policy following recent criticism that it did not meet that level.
MG indicated that Albion do pay the national living wage as of the start of the 2016/17 season. MS refuted reports that Albion paid the £7.50 Government Living Wage when the Club was paying the £8.45 Foundation Living Wage.
External decor - Woodman Corner / Birmingham Road Footbridge / Stadium lighting
The Assembly asked if there were any plans to improve the aesthetics on the outside of the stadium, including blue lighting around the stadium exterior.
MM said the Club is constantly looking at the exterior of the stadium as well as a digital frontage for the stadium. "What the Club doesn’t want to do is put something up only for the cladding to be removed,” he said.
MM also stated that the West Stand was also an area of interest for the Club but said that blue lights would not work on blue cladding. He was exploring other options with a keen interest on LED lighting would be the future option for illuminating the exterior of the stadium or club crest.
MM stated that the metro station was also a target for aesthetic improvements but that the Birmingham Road Footbridge belonged to the local school.
Findings from SLO meeting
JM reported on the latest Premier League Supporter Liaison Officer meeting. He stated that Albion’s reputation was considered good, with the Premier League praising the Club for its Fanzone, Albion Assembly and improvements in accessibility.
He said that the Premier League had suggested Albion join the ‘Euan’s Guide’ page - a website where fans can review disabled facilities at The Hawthorns. JM said he would create this at the next available opportunity. (This has now been completed and is available for contributions).
Further to the discussion about the exterior of The Hawthorns, JM explained that the Premier League are placing a greater focus on ‘the last mile’ - an initiative to improve atmosphere and fan experience around the stadium. MM added that this has been considered in any alterations to signage or stadium exterior. It was again noted that The Hawthorns train station was a possible place for extra club branding and signage.
JM was pleased to note that Baggies Travel had implemented a £10 cap on coach travel for the fixture against Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday, December 13. The Premier League had praised Watford FC for its £10 cap on coach travel across the season and had reported success for games with unsociable kick-off times. Dave Holloway confirmed this initiative would be implemented for the Anfield game on a trial basis.
JM noted that despite the Premier League’s praise for the Assembly, it asked the Club to consider expanding its membership via an election process. MS agreed that, given the number of apologies for the current meeting, a review of the Assembly’s membership was perhaps overdue.
Any other business
RL brought the Assembly’s attention to the ‘Football Memories’ initiative - a project to help dementia sufferers through their experience of football. He asked for volunteers to support the group if they knew of a suitable candidate.
He also announced two major fund-raising events - the annual Baggies Bike Challenge from April 4-7 before the Swansea game as well as the Great Walk of the China in October 2018. Any interested parties should head to The Albion Foundation’s page on the Club’s official website.
The Assembly noted that there was no Fanzone story ahead of the Manchester City game. MS indicated that this must have been an oversight or break in communications between departments and apologised. He said he would investigate and ensure it didn’t happen again.
The Assembly said it had been reported that there was no handrail in the Birmingham Road End and some fans felt unsteady on their feet. MM said that only gangways that are too wide or too steep require a railing according to health and safety regulations.
Lizzie Hayward will take responsibility of the assembly Twitter page. DW confirmed the mailing list had been updated.
Thursday, January 11, 2018