The Trust and other supporter groups met with club officials on April 8th for a virtual Fans Consultation Group Meeting.
Here are the matters that were discussed and details of the attendees.
Peter Warrilow & Mo Razzaq, AVST; Joe Costello, Heroes & Villans; John Gillett, Lions Clubs; Scott Jones, Villa Talk; Jonathan Fear, Vital Villa; Nick Sanders, avillafan.com; David Michael, My Old Man Said; Steve Gough, AV Independent Supporters Club; Joanne McKibbens, AV Disabled Supporters Association; Nilesh Chauhan, Villans Together; Harjit Badesha, Punjabi Villans; Sam Timms, Villa & Proud.
Paul Tyrell, Chief of Corporate Affairs; Nicola Ibbetson, Chief Commercial Officer; Lee Preece, Supporters’ Liaison Manager; Ian Dimmock, Operations Director; Lynne O’Reardon, Head of Ticketing Operations; Lucy Keeling, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Officer; Adam Lowe, Head of Marketing.
The club wished to consult with FCG reps on a number of matters, and these are shown as 1 to 5 in the meeting notes. Questions raised by Fan Reps are shown in italics.
1 Equality, Diversity & Inclusion
Lucy Keeling gave a short presentation highlighting the launch of our new Equality Policy which cements our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and includes our zero-tolerance stance on abuse, discrimination and harassment.
The policy covers our club commitment, legal obligations under the Equality Act (2010) and the positive action the Club is taking to eradicate barriers for certain communities to take part in Club activities.
It will be published externally towards the end of this month (April 2021) and will coincide with our support for the No Room for Racism campaign.
The Policy outlines different forms of discrimination, and clarifies reporting processes for fans who wish to report incidents of discrimination as follows:
Online discrimination or hate crime
In the first instance, we suggest reporting incidents to the relevant social media platform. Hate Crime reports can be reported by calling 101, the West Midlands Police ‘Operation Valdivian’ reporting line. To report on-line incidents to the club please email [email protected]
If fans encounter discrimination on matchday they can report directly to a Steward, or we are introducing a new Text Reporting Line – 60060 which will be in use when fans return to the stadium.
The club will be assessed by the Premier League in May as we aim to attain the preliminary level of the PL Equality Standard.
Fan reps then raised the following questions and comments:
Can we help promote the new text reporting service?
This will be launched later in April and any help with promotion would be greatly appreciated.
How can supporter groups help with EDI, an example being an open letter from all supporter groups?
The club welcomes any support we can get in helping achieve our EDI aims. Our Equality Working Group will help identify areas where fan groups can directly support our objectives.
Whilst social media outlets can do more to deal with on-line abuse, fans also have a responsibility to educate other fans who may be do not understand what discrimination or what a Hate Crime is. Could the club produce scenarios that will help fans modify their behaviour? Could fans voices help with this?
The club are happy to work alongside fan groups, West Midlands Police etc in educating fans accordingly.
What can the club do to deal with reactions to religious posts? Has the club considered using filters to ensure certain phrases are prevented from being seen?
In relation to the recent reaction to the Passover post, the club very quickly put out a statement which clarified our position regarding religious tolerance. The statement was very well received. It was noted that we were not the only club to experience “angry faces”. If a post is directly offensive we will do what we can, but we cannot police 27k angry faces. Whilst we already apply filters for foul & abusive language, we will see what we can do in terms of increasing those filters, but recognise how difficult this would be, particularly when faced with translating posts in foreign languages.
2 Chelsea – 23rd May
We are still waiting for confirmation that fans will be allowed to return for our last home match of the season, albeit with a maximum capacity of 10k fans. Lynne O’Reardon reminded the group of the following:
Invitation to apply will be given to 19/20 season ticket holders. If oversubscribed a ballot will apply. Fans can put their name in the hat and must apply with those they wish to sit next to. If successful in the ballot you would be contacted with a window of opportunity to purchase. Photos must be uploaded to your FAN ID for us to comply with COVID protocols (10k have done so to date). Fans will not be allocated their season ticket seats and all tickets will be Print at Home. Gift vouchers can be used to purchase tickets.
We are ready to announce details once we have the go ahead.
One fan rep asked it if was fair to have only one match on sale as up to 20,000 will miss out if we return to normal for the 21/22 season?
If we have the opportunity to have some fans back for Chelsea we should absolutely go ahead as planned.
3 Season 2021 / 2022
We continue to look at all the variables in relation to season 2021/2022.
One fan rep asked if vaccine passports were being considered?
This may become a mandatory requirement (stipulated by Government) so something we would need to be prepared for.
Whilst there are simply too many variables at present to start selling season tickets, we are conscious of communicating answers to some of the questions 19/20 season ticket holders may have in relation to 21/22. It is our intention to ensure that 19/20 seats are reserved and that season ticket holders will be given the option to renew. Smart cards are being replaced and a payment option will be available. The season ticket buyback option will continue to exist.
FCG fan reps were invited to contact us with any questions they feel fans may need answering as we aim to communicate with all season ticket holders later this month as best we can.
21st June is a key date as the government may provide more clarity for 2021/2022.
Fan reps then asked the following questions:
Can we renew season tickets even if ballots will be required?
Too soon for us to answer but certainly a possibility. We may be forced to go down this route and would clearly factor in pro-rata refunds if needed.
How will the club manage the waiting list?
Albeit in a smaller space of time, we will look to set a renewal date, and then give those that have renewed opportunity to relocate to better seats as we do each year. We would then make offers to the waiting list in a controlled fashion dependent on time. Given we may not be able to confirm season ticket sales until as late as June, these windows of opportunity may only be a few days.
We have received concerns from the Irish Lions that they may not be able to travel out of Ireland until 2022, and the effect this would have on their renewing their season tickets. There is a suggestion that the season ticket re-sale scheme is not open to those from abroad?
The re-sale scheme should be open to all.
4 Accessible seating
Ian Dimmock updated the group on our route to compliance with Accessible Stadia Guidance. As we all know, Villa Park has four stands and work with consultants on identifying areas where we can introduce accessible seating has been difficult and ongoing. One priority has been creating wheelchair seating for away fans with their own supporters, as they are currently housed in the Trinity Road Stand, albeit within the family enclosure. Clearly, supporting their own team with their own fans would be a much better for all.
We are delighted to announce that the summer of 2021 will see the introduction of the following:
13 wheelchair spaces within the away area – lower tier Doug Ellis.
22 wheelchair spaces within home areas – lower tier Doug Ellis.
The provision of the away fans accommodation also releases the eight spaces currently afforded to away fans to be used by home supporters.
The route to full compliance will include further developments in the summer of 2022 and 2023.
The introduction of more accessible seating cannot be achieved without seat kills, and it is inevitable that some season ticket holders will lose their seats. The club will ensure these season ticket holders are notified accordingly and will prioritise their relocation as part of a 1:1 handling process.
The cost of compliance is expensive, but we are ensuring that the options taken to compliance are based on the fewest number of seat kills possible.
Fan reps welcomed the news that the provision of wheelchair is increasing and thanked Ian and the club for their efforts. Ian will ensure direct communication with Joanne McKibbens (AV Disabled Supporters Association) on the project.
5 Heritage & History
Adam Lowe updated FCG reps on our Heritage & History commitments.
This season being the 40th Anniversary of winning the league, we have had content on Villa TV (Interviews, re-runs, highlights etc). We had aimed to reflect the 14 players used alongside The Holte End where we have 11 spaces on the brickwork for dressing. COVID has seen this slip by, but we intend to use the spaces to honour the ’82 European Cup win and then use the spaces for an All Time XI for our 150th season.
COVID has prevented much of the support we would have liked to give to the AV40 group such as book signings on matchday. We are hoping to use Pride Rewards to offer fans the opportunity to Chat to some of the squad and will be offering some exclusive items and classic programme reruns.
Retail items such as a special edition programme, and (Covid Dependent) Tour with a legend will hopefully follow.
We have recently begun our Chat with a Legend series offering fans a virtual opportunity to meet some of our legends. Our next sessions will include players from the 80/81 squad.
Planning is underway for how we honour the 40th anniversary of the European Cup. As mentioned, the Holte End wall will feature the players across season 21/22. FCG reps were invited to let us have any ideas on how we may honour the players achievement. We would like ideas on events we can create as we have missed opportunities for the 80/81 squad due to the pandemic.
We also welcome ideas on how we can celebrate our 150th season.
Is there any update of Witton Railway bridge being painted?
Sadly none, although we continue to ask!
The club updated FAN reps on the following:
We are waiting final planning permission for the Inner-City Academy development at our Brookvale Road site. There will be one turf pitch and one astro turf pitch helping us identify and develop players from local areas.
The High-performance centre at Bodymoor Heath is nearing completion.
EE have now completed a full install of a 4G network at Villa Park with 5G provision now also commissioned. This will also work for EE’s virtual partners. We already have 4G with Vodafone, and we are working on getting O2 on board in the future. We just need fans at the stadium so we can test the success of the EE install.
Fan Reps congratulated the club on the U23 and Youth Cup coverage now being provided through Villa TV. We are hoping to work with more clubs on providing away match coverage.
Fan reps raised issues with the availability of kits and training wear. In training wear we have tripled our purchase for next season.
It was recommended that we change the wording 1st team to MENS on the AVFC APP to fall in line with the Website. This was duly noted and will be actioned accordingly.
It was also suggested that we use the POP UP within the AVFC APP to highlight our EDI work.