Albion Assembly, September Meeting, The Hawthorns, 12/09/19, 7.30pm.
Club staff in attendance: Martin Swain (MS), Luke Dowling (LD), Rob Lake (RL), Haden Tye (HT), Mark Miles (MM).
Chris Jones, Sarah Atkinson, Paul Kent, Kev Candon, Ashley Nock, Jayne Gazey-French, Paul Bridges, Simon King, David Price
Why was the Birmingham Road End drum stopped?
MM explained the Club were happy to accommodate the drummer but numerous complaints forced its withdrawal.
Shortage of rubbish bags in BRE food areas?
MM agreed rubbish bags should and will be added
Can early kick-offs be shown on the big screens?
Unfortunately not - MM explained the Club’s contract with Sky did not permit this.
Why is Sandwell Academy no longer in use for parking?
MM said our agreement with Sandwell Academy had come to an end and the parties were unable to agree a new on. However all supporters, including all disabled supporters who had seasonal passes, had been relocated suitably.
Why have young fans been stopped at the front of the BRE before kick-off?
MM explained problems of access for wheelchair users at the front of the stand had led to this problem. But he agreed this was a valuable part of the young fans’ match experience and the Club would look to find a balanced solution.
Have the Club ceased end of season DVDs?
MS pointed out that in the age of streaming, DVDs no longer enjoyed sufficient demand to make their production viable. But if Albion enjoyed “a special season” he said he would expect a DVD review to be considered.
Why is the Club investing in gates and bollards around the stadium?
MM said these were the lead recommendations of a wide-ranging security review undertaken by the Counter Terrorism Unit and the Club felt it right and proper to pursue best-practice in such an important area as the security of their supporters. MM stressed that they were not being installed due to any specific threat or information.
Will the Club look to resume its interest in bringing safe standing to The Hawthorns?
MM explained that Albion continued to monitor the demand for safe-standing and the products that are available to facilitate it. But the biggest element involved was cost and it should be remembered that government guidance demanding all stadia should be all-seated remained in place.
Why was the Fanzone removed and will it be brought back?
MS said there were no immediate plans to re-open the Fanzone. The Club had noted the atmosphere in the build-up to the play-off semi-final and were keen to attract fans to the stadium earlier. The Fanzone represented a cost in the region of £200,000 and after an unsatisfactory experience last season it was decided to make the change.
He added that there had been no great outcry from supporters about its closure but did not rule out its return for certain games this season.
Why is Dave Bowler no longer producing the programme and what did this mean for the future of archive projects and the ‘Albion News’?
MS explained that the Club could no longer justify a member of staff dedicated to the production of the programme. Sales had been steadily declining to the point where they were now less than 10% of the matchday audience.
He recognised Dave’s standing within a section of the Albion fanbase, as evidenced by his continuing contribution to the programme, but unfortunately sales reflected the public’s growing disinterest in hard-copy media content.
However, the archive projects which had been led by Dave and supported by the Club remained an important element of Albion’s media and it was planned that a new website for 2020 would include this content.
Equally the first-team Caps project continued but the Club had decided to scale down pitch-side presentations in an effort to protect the value of the awards. However, there were more presentations planned before Christmas.
As for the long-term future of the programme, MS said that their continuation in the age of dominant digital comms was the subject of endless discussion for all clubs. But Albion’s hopes of retaining a programme had improved by using its in-house media team to produce it.
Why has there been so many departures from the Academy?
LD said any departures from the Academy had been forced upon the Club. Mark Harrison, the former manager, left for Aston Villa causing a chain reaction by taking two staff members with him. U23s coach Jamie Smith had understandably opted to move to Doncaster for a first-team level appointment while Under 18s coach Mike Scott took a promotion at Derby. Meanwhile Jimmy Shan had chosen to strike out on his own following his first-team experience at the end of last season.
LD insisted he was happy with all the staff recruited in their place who he insisted were of a high quality, possessed great Football League experience and had a good knowledge of the Club.
He also stressed that those who had attempted to link changes in the training ground operations to staff turnover were hugely misplaced.
Cultural changes were designed to improve the first-team experience at the training ground and drive aspiration within the Academy players. Already the changes had seen positive effects and been given widespread support from all staff, including senior Academy personnel.
What is the Club going to do about the price increase on ticket-booking fees?
MM explained that the fee is applied to the Club on all bookings except by phone, but reminded members the Club is not making a profit from them. It was just passing on the fee it is charged by the ticket company.
However, he announced that the Club was to launch a new strategy which would see it absorb the booking fee for supporters choosing print-at-home and digital tickets in the hope it might ease ticket-office congestion on match days.
Any Other Business
Away season ticket holders still don’t have priority to select their seats for away games?
MM said he will raise it with his staff and resolve this complaint.
The visibility of numbers on the back of the players’ shirts is poor?
In a written answer, CCO Simon King acknowledged the complaint but said that in the past there had been a huge demand for stripes to continue down the back of the shirt. “We have to deal with the shirt we have, however this can be taken into consideration for the next season,” he wrote. As part of that process, the Club wished to assemble a small sub-group from the Assembly for feedback on future designs and preferences.
Date of next meeting: Wednesday, November 20. Venue TBC.