Albion Assembly, April Meeting, The Hawthorns, 04/04/19, 7.30pm.
Club staff in attendance: Martin Swain (MS), Simon King (SK), Rob Lake (RL), Drew Williams (DW), Haden Tye (HT).
Apologies: Ann Staniland, Jayne Gazey-French, Iain Bate, Dave Holloway, Alan Cleverley, John Homer.
Introduction and action points
Following the January meeting of the Albion Assembly, action points were noted relating to free supporters coach travel for the Leeds fixture, more considered use of pre-match music and the return of "The Liquidator" in recent fixtures and the forthcoming maintenance work of the Baggies Brick Road.
It was also confirmed that the Head Coach’s office at The Hawthorns would be renamed ‘The Everiss Suite’ next season to pay tribute to the Everiss family for their distinguished service to the club. This had been a subject of frequent lobbying from the Assembly.
Junior Baggies membership, Hawthorns phone signal and larger warm-up safety nets
SK confirmed the club were planning a relaunch of the Junior Baggies to offer improved value to help boost membership and incentives.
The Hawthorns phone signal was beyond the Club’s control and significant investment would be required for stadium Wi-Fi, which wouldn’t necessarily improves services.
Recent incidents of supporters being struck by balls during pre-match practice were raised. Although the club have no plans to extend goal-side safety nets it was agreed it can do more to caution fans.
EFL/club-wide agreement to cap away ticket prices
Assembly members raised the issue of ‘unfair’ price differences between EFL clubs. Albion would back any supporter-driven campaign to try and align match ticket prices for away supporters. However, SK explained that, ultimately, it was down to the home club and individual commercial pressures would determine prices. If Albion raise prices in our away end, we had to raise prices in the home end under regulations.
Recyclable plastic ticket wallets and ecological footprint
The Assembly asked what was being done to improve the club’s green footprint, including changing the envelopes within which tickets are distributed. MS confirmed the Club were in the process of replacing these in line with a broader ‘Eco Albion’ project to be launched on “Non Plastics Day” next month.
More information would then be revealed about how the club intended to reduce single-use plastic and make The Hawthorns as eco-friendly as possible. Assembly Chair Hannah Weaver proposed involvement from the Albion Assembly in the launch.
Developing mobile phone “swipe” technology for entrance to the stadium had been slower than expected but it was expected that this would be available for match tickets at some point next season and season tickets for the 2020/21 campaign,
Ticket selling arrangements for away matches
The Assembly asked whether away season ticket holders could receive priority seating when selecting location of tickets. As indicated in the January minutes, match tickets for AST can now be purchased in more central viewing areas but this had to be done by phone or in person. That flexibility is not available online.
Green and yellow kit next season, tickets enquiries and stadium announcer
SK informs Assembly members they won’t have to wait long to discover next season’s kits.
The Assembly ask whether it’s possible to see the loyalty points of friends and family on the ticketing site, for which, despite some concerns, the ticket office were happy to trial if demand was there and ticketing website providers were able to supply. MS suggests idea of two/three Assembly members visiting ticket office to go through details and other bugs, this was agreed.
There was confirmation of 3,072 ticket allocation for Derby County fixture on final day of Championship season.
And there was unanimous Assembly agreement that BBC broadcaster Richie Anderson was a major success as match announcer for the Birmingham City game. MS said he had already spoken to Richie about reprising the role subject to his availability this season.
Loyalty points credited to accounts, catering queues and service
The Assembly raised the issue of loyalty points not being credited, which will be picked up in line with the suggestion above relating to members visiting the ticket office. It is emphasised that allocating points online is simpler using ‘assign owners’ option. Supporters are advised to contact the ticket office should they experience any issues.
In response to half-time queues for catering, SK stresses catering queues are commonplace at all entertainment venues but the club continue to strive for improvement. Swipe stations are set to be introduced next season, including a pre-ordering system and designated cashless points. Hopefully this would ease congestion.
Brentford tickets sales arrangements and possible stadium expansion
Assembly members asked why certain areas at Griffin Park appearing as sold online on the ticketing website shortly after release. MS explained what was seen as sold were tickets put to one side for designated allocation or later sale.
In response to a healthy debate on the topic of stadium expansion, there remained no current plans to increase capacity.
Giant flags, Yuning Zhang transfer, Albion Foundation financial support and stadium beer outlets
The Assembly wanted to encourage the use of giant flags at home matches. SK stated the Club would be open to their inclusion and it would be discussed further with a view to being deployed next season.
The Assembly asked for clarity about the recent sale of Yuning Zhang. MS confirmed it had been a “cost-neutral” project for Albion. It had been hoped Zhang would develop into a player strong enough for the Club or to reap a major profit in transfer value but this had not materialised.
RL clarified the make-up of financial support from the Club for The Albion Foundation which saw the Club pass on money made available from the Premier League for community programmes. He said the Foundation suffered from the impact of relegation just as the Club had. It was his challenge to try to cover budget gaps.
In response to the number of stadium beer outlets, SK explained the removal of mobile bottle outlets related to issues with contactless sales and a preference for sellers not to carry cash. It was frustrating but the Club were keen to bring them back.
Any other business
Early Bird season tickets: Assembly members were critical of the recent Early Bird season ticket strategy which had set deadlines for seat renewals at the end of April. Members were also annoyed that the Assembly had not been consulted. There was clarification that May would see all sales frozen and that supporters who needed or wished to wait until then to purchase tickets would be very unfortunate not to renew their chosen seat.
But SK and MS admitted that the Club had learned lessons from the process. SK explained that Early Bird renewals were a successful strategy at all of Albion’s Championship rivals but perhaps it was not so well established at Albion and it was natural to have some challenges.
Unauthorised use of official club crest: The Assembly once again expressed concerns that a political group associated with far-right politics was again pictured marching with a banner bearing the Club’s crest. Was it time for the Club to speak out against them?
MS acknowledged this as a clear subject of concern but continued to favour denying the group the chance for further. But this should not be mistaken for complacency and he thanked the Assembly for bringing it to the Club’s attention. He also argued the club’s excellent work in the community and proud history protected it from serious connection to such a group.
Date of next meeting: Thursday, August 15 (subject to possible change)