Albion Assembly, November Meeting, The Hawthorns, 20/10/19, 7.30pm.
Club staff in attendance: Martin Swain (MS), Luke Dowling (LD), Rob Lake (RL), Simon King (SK), Drew Williams (DW), Haden Tye (HT). Apologies from Mark Miles (MM).
Dean Walton, Selwyn Owens, Kev Candon, Shin Aujla, Heidi Zoeller, Hannah Weaver, Spiro Marcetic.
Following Hannah Weaver’s decision to step down from the chair it was agreed that volunteers from the Assembly membership would be sought in time for the next meeting. It was agreed that MS would chair this meeting.
Third kit and Sky fixtures
Questions were raised by members about the need for a third kit and complaints about its design/colour. “Why does the Club need a third kit?” one member asked.
SK said that while the colour was not to everyone’s taste, it had proved popular with many other supporters to the point where 75% of the third kit stock had been sold. It offered another option for supporters and was commercially viable in that it increased shirt sales. The purple kit was worn at Hull as the green and yellow would have clashed with their orange.
Sky TV fixtures
Could the Club exert any influence over the increasingly heavy number of Albion fixtures being switched for TV, members asked. It was acknowledged that Sky’s TV selections had dictated much of our fans’ calendar this season. SK explained we had no control over the selections but that we were proving a popular choicer for Sky with strong viewing figures and plenty more selections anticipated.
While accepting team matters were not the main purpose for Assembly business, members did ask if there could be any update the Club could offer over his loan from West Ham? LD went over the background of the agreement with Grady’s parent club and the initial proposal that only a serious injury difficulties for West Ham would provoke a January recall. Manuel Pellegrini had re-stated his desire to see Grady stay for the season in the belief that it would pay greater dividend for West Ham, but he acknowledged that each season brings challenges for clubs and Albion must wait to see how the situation pans out. It was a standard loan deal, he explained, in the way that Albion had the right to recall both Sam Field and Jonathan Leko should we wish to do so.
The Assembly asked if more information could be provided on the screens during cap presentations as the stadium’s tannoy sound remained difficult to hear. MS acknowledged the difficulties with the sound system but explained the Club put names and number of appearances on the screen but then when filming the presentation, had to take those details off.
It was suggested former players could do a lap of honour with their cap to get more applause which MS acknowledged as a positive idea that would be explored at the next presentation.
The Club was asked why match reports are no longer in the programme – and was there a worry that Albion’s history would be lost? MS said that the vital details of previous games were still recorded in Albion News but that this was now a two-page stats and pictures-led service.
He said that in an age of instant information, instant video and audio, it seemed out-of-step for the programme to be carrying full reports of games that had occurred several weeks earlier. It was part of the Club’s efforts to freshen up the programme in an attempt to revive flagging sales.
But he was conscious that the Club’s history had to be preserved and it was intended that next year’s planned summer launch of a new, purpose-built website would include extensive historical data.
There were questions about whether or not the Club would be offering subsidised, free away travel to a game this season. It was explained that the Club had changed policy a couple of seasons ago and now offered subsidised travel throughout the season. Prices were reduced by £2 per trip to help supporters who travel to every game.
Seats in the Birmingham Road End, smoking in toilets
The Club was asked if a row of seats could be added inside the BRE concourse for disabled supporters to use to consume refreshments before and after games. MS explained MM had accepted this was a positive idea and the Club would look into it. There were also renewed complaints from supporters about smoking in the stadium toilet cubicles. MM said there’s no space to increase cubicles without losing urinals, however it would be reported and it should be looked at by stewards.
Why was there not a wider and more extensive range of leisurewear for young girls in the club shop, members wanted to know? SK accepted this was the case but explained it was a very small market which meant it was difficult to order minimum amounts which may be quite high. In the past, the Club had been left with dead stock when it had tried to resolve this gap in the market.
Stadium expansion and stewarding
The Assembly again raised the issue about stadium expansion and reduced capacity this season. SK said the Marc Darcy sponsorship had taken a section of seats in what was a commercial decision to increase revenues. It was a subject regularly discussed but it remained difficult to justify stadium expansion without regular sell-outs or a waiting list for tickets, he added.
There were also complaints that stewards had been blocking views by standing up in the BRE and gathering in walkways before kick-off preventing fans getting to their seats. MM explained by a pre-written answer that stewards were only adopting established safety policy to block any pitch encroachments. But he was happy to advise stewards not to block walkways.
Disabled seating and stadium improvements
RJ pointed out disabled supporters aren’t covered from the elements like they are in the East Stand in the Smethwick End and asked if rail seating had been added to the SME. MM explained there was no location in the SME where disabled supporters would be covered from the elements so unfortunately they had to be at the front - and while rail seating hadn’t been added, a rail had been installed to protect disabled supporters.
The Assembly asked what the Club are doing in terms of PR to capitalise on the Bilić factor. MS said that winning games is the greatest PR of all. The Club’s output has been more positive than ever and the Club was in a really positive place.
RL thanked the Assembly for their support on Foundation Day and said a record £32,000 had been raised. He praised the current group of players for their support and enthusiasm to engage in the community at the recent Disability Awards which had been "a joy".
Any Other Business
It was pointed out by the Assembly that the Junior Baggies Christmas Party had sold out in such double-quick time and resulted in some supporters who did not attend games regularly snapping up tickets at the expense of many regular fans. SK acknowledged the system had not been without any rewards for loyalty. This will be amended for the next one.
The Assembly asked whether enough had been done to celebrate the centenary of Albion’s 1919-20 title win. MS said the Club had begun the year by re-naming the Manager’s Office at the stadium “The Everiss Suite” in tribute to one of the key figures and was carrying a timeline trail in the Albion News.
Date of next meeting: Thursday, February 6