Aston Villa Fan Consultation Group Operations Meeting Notes
Below are the notes from the Aston Villa Fan Consultation Group meeting that MOMS attended last week covering operation issues. For the notes from the recent FCG meeting with CEO Christian Purslow click here. More reaction to come from MOMS shortly.
8 July 2021
Anne-Marie Fern Heroes & Villans
Jonathan Fear Vital Villa
David Michael My Old Man Said
Peter Warrilow AV Supporters Trust
Nilesh Chauhan Villans Together
Monnie Bhullar Punjabi Villans
Scott Jones Villa Talk
John Gillett Lions Clubs
Joanne McKibbens AV Disabled Supporters Association
Mo Razzaq AV Supporters Trust
Adam Lowe Interim Chief Commercial Officer
Tommy Jordan Communications Director
Lynne O’Reardon Head of Ticketing Operations
Lucy Keeling Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Officer
Ben Startin Digital Product Manager
Lee Preece Supporter Liaison Manager
Agenda items created by Fan Representatives received in advance or questions raised during the meeting are highlighted and shown in italics. Some of the agenda items have been carried over from the previous FCG, others are items that the club wished to discuss with FCG fan reps.
Item 1: Villa TV
The club presented to the group our new streaming product and price options for Villa TV. The first package options will be published shortly including an option for fans to purchase coverage of all five pre-season friendlies including 12 months access to Premium Villa TV. The prices were well received by the fan representatives. Several questions were raised by fan reps:
Will there be a discount for season ticket holders?
There are no plans to offer a discount for season ticket holders.
Can the club guarantee exclusivity – fans pay and then you get the match free on youtube?
Exclusivity has been built into the agreements with those we are playing. The only pre-season friendly that is different is Sevilla, as they will be able to show the match in Spain.
Will the package include any home matches in the Papa John’s Trophy?
Probably not as the sponsors may have an influence on this, but we will look into the possibility.
Will the Manager’s press conference be streamed live?
This is not possible as the right’s holders would have to stream live too.
Could there be a trial so fans can see if they like the coverage?
We would suggest fans maybe purchase a single match package if they are not sure before purchasing any seasonal product. Again, details of the package options will be published shortly.
Can Villa TV access be linked to Pride Rewards?
This is not planned at present.
The club noted future developments such as broadcasting live training sessions & fans press conferences.
Item 2: Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI)
Q. Updates on inclusivity/diversity initiatives?
The club reiterated our thanks for the ongoing work of supporter’s groups in supporting the club’s EDI efforts, which have contributed to the club achieving the Preliminary level of the Equality Standard.
We will be submitting our data in relation to the Football Leadership Diversity Code in August. Our commitment supports equality of opportunity for coaching and leadership roles for women and Black, Asian and Mixed Heritage applicants. It is important that our demographic data is transparent, but it is also recognised as a baseline and starting point which will guide subsequent work.
We are working towards a revised Premier League Equality Standard, now known as the Premier League Equality and Inclusion Standard, which has an added focus on mental health and wider inclusion.
Our reporting text line was trialled at our match versus Chelsea. We will continue to drive awareness across the 2021-22 season. We want to create a culture of fans having the confidence to report incidents when they occur. We will continue to work closely with West Midlands Police Hate Crime Unit and Aston Villa will have membership on a West Midlands Hate Crime steering group, where we will be working with external stakeholders to address wider trends, education etc.
The 2021-22 season gives us opportunity to continue to drive awareness of All In and we welcome ideas and suggestions on how we can do this through supporter engagement. We will begin by attending Birmingham Pride once again in September and welcome fans to join us, Villa & Proud and AVFC staff in the walking group or at our community stall.
Fan reps reiterated their willingness to help the club share anything that helps the club promote EDI messages. The offer of continued support from Fan reps was greatly appreciated by the club and we will ensure dialogue around EDI is ongoing.
Item 3: 40th Anniversary
Q. Updates on our celebrations for the league cup winners, European Cup winners, anniversaries, the former having been somewhat ruined by COVID.
As updated at a previous FCG there was quite a bit we wanted to do that was hampered by COVID. Where possible, we want to make up for it this season. Things will kick off at the start of August, then there will be a calendar of events and content throughout the season that we are working on. For example, like last season, highlights and interviews with former players were shown on Villa TV, video q&a’s with the squad that you can access via Pride Rewards, making use of the ‘All Time XI’ place holder graphics on the side of the Holte to unveil some nice artwork about the team there and an end of season event / dinner.
The club welcomes any ideas on how to tribute the 40th anniversary and anything to help us celebrate our 150th anniversary in 2024-25.
Item 4: Memberships
Q. Membership Scheme: Is the membership scheme ongoing, we cannot see details of it on the official site?
Memberships are really important for us to grow fans both locally and globally.
Our previous memberships were quite limited (Claret & Cubs where the main benefit was ticketing) but we saw massive growth with our return to the Premier League where we only had a few months to work on the product before covid.
For the past 6 months we have been working with an external provider who run memberships for a lot of clubs to come in and help revamp our offering. We will now have multiple tiers (claret for ticketing benefits, claret lite for without, global, women’s and three different ages for juniors). All of these will have access to a portal where there will be members-only content and competitions, plus access to Pride Rewards and ticket priority, gifts and events etc.
We launched with a test on Tuesday to 500 people, as making the integrations work between an external provider and then the ticketing system to enable ticket priority is tricky and so the journey for a fan to buy will continuously improve as that develops, but we are moving in the right direction. We hope to launch fully next week.
How much will memberships cost?
There will be different categories of pricing. Any 19/20 members will receive a 20% discount. Prices will be announced shortly.
When will memberships go on sale?
Once we have finished testing and before ticket sales for home matches are announced.
Will we still use memberships for home match ticket priority?
Yes – but we will also be introducing a lower priced membership offer that will not include ticket priority, for those who may not wish to attend matches but still be a member of the club and receive other benefits.
Will there be a ceiling placed on the number of memberships we sell that have access to tickets?
Not in year one, but we may consider having a ceiling or introduce a ballot system if required for future seasons.
Do the Claret and Junior memberships offer access to any Women’s team benefit’s or would we need the Women’s membership as well?
No – benefits for the Women’s team would require a Women’s membership.
Item 5: Fan Zones
Q. Fan Zone: Is there any possibility of a fan zone with street food at all/or more home games after the success of the one at the Chelsea home match?
We are still planning and assessing the impact of covid and what protocols we are given to follow by the Premier League. Hopefully, we all agree the activity pre-covid was adding to matchday experience (flags/flames/tifo drops/Trinity forecourt fan zone). We plan to continue that progress.
The main addition we are looking in to is a large fan zone in or around the car parks – potentially somewhere in North, where we can grow what we were doing in Trinity. Food would be similar to what we had there and at the Chelsea game (which was a success). The big addition we now have is licenses in those car parks to allow us to have live music and alcohol – but obviously that all comes with a lot of planning and permissions from local authorities. With covid it has been difficult to plan, but we hope we can introduce more elements this season and beyond.
Will the family fun zone in the Academy continue?
Yes – provided COVID protocols allow.
Item 6: Accessibility
The club provided detail of the project to develop wheelchair seating for away fans within the away fans area. Until now, away fan wheelchair users have been seated in the Trinity Road Stand with Villa supporters. The drawings highlighted the complexities of creating wheelchair spaces at Villa Park. We are aiming for this project to be completed as close as possible to the start of the season.
The club is also introducing a changing places toilet facility in the Trinity Road Stand and details of this project were also shared with the group. Again, the aim is to have this facility ready for the start of the new season.
Item 7: LED’s
Our contract expired on our existing LED system. We chose not to renew the current system as it is based on old technology and needed to be updated.
We have partnered with ADI to install a new state of the art set of LED boards that are double in size with a greater pixel per inch count, making the board real estate much more attractive to potential partners. We are deploying one of the largest systems in Europe.
Installation of such a system is very complex due to the size of the boards. Keeping sightlines clear with minimal disruption is a key element to the project.
Full completion is scheduled for our opening game of the new season.
Item 8: Season Ticket Waiting List
Renewals closed 30th June at 10pm.
By the end of day two of the sale, 10k season tickets were sold.
By the end of the sale approx. 90% of season ticket holders (sth) had renewed.
88% of sth renewed on-line.
26% used the V12 payment scheme.
85% of the vouchers were redeemed against season ticket purchase (approx. 16k fans took the voucher option).
On 30th June, Ticketing Operations (TO)noted that 108 ten-year sth were still to renew. The TO staff rang them personally to check they had not missed our comms. Six of the 108 renewed and would have lost their seats had we not contacted them.
We then went in the relocation window to give those that have renewed the opportunity to move seats. This three-day window was extended to a fourth day due to how busy the phone lines had been. Any calls we deal with tend to be longer during this process as various seat options need to be discussed.
Lynne offered her thanks to the FCG reps who helped shape the waiting list Terms & Conditions which will help guide fans through these first steps of our having a waiting list.
The first invites will be sent out to those at the top of the waiting list giving them a 24-hour window to purchase a season ticket. The invites will be sent in tranches of 500. You will not get a second chance this season should you miss your opportunity. You will stay on the waiting list for next season. Any fan missing three opportunities will be removed from the waiting list and would have to re-apply to join (going to the back of the queue).
If someone is made an offer in the first tranche and has a family member or friend further down the waiting list, we will need to advise you if the second fan is likely to be made an offer this season. If they are, we would advise you purchase and then transfer to seats together if the second offer is made. The offer is being made to the individual FAN ID and is non-transferable. Some clubs charge fans to be on the waiting list, we have no intention of monetising ours.
There will be a new season card for every sth, and we will begin printing these on 19thJuly.
We are moving into new territory as a club with the highest demand for tickets we have ever experienced in our history. This will bring many new challenges, such as someone purchasing a season ticket and not using it, passing it on to someone else to use or fan circumstances (University for example) resulting in someone losing their seat and then having to wait years to be a season ticket holder again.
Much discussion was had around these topics. It was noted that these are nice problems to have and are a direct result of our trajectory, and factors we will have to work around over the next few years. As stated previously, the club will always act with compassion but must maintain the integrity of the waiting list.
Item 9: Kit
Can we have an update on the kit provider situation for next season? We understand it is the last season of the Kappa deal.
Conversations are ongoing and obviously they are commercially sensitive. As per the last FCG notes the kit and training sales have been great and complaints on product massively down so we are focussed on making this season another success.
With COVID in mind, can anything be done around possible congestion in the Doug Ellis Upper Concourse – stewards moving fans along?
If we are back to full capacity this would be difficult for the club to achieve and would be reliant on fans adhering to such requests.
Will the Sevilla friendly be at full capacity?
We may have to net off the first three rows in some areas if the installation of the new LED’s is not completed by the 7thAugust. Other than this we expect to be at full capacity.
When will away tickets go on sale?
Details will be announced in due course.
Date and time of next meeting TBC