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Cockle43

Manager
Joined
Mar 20, 2008
Messages
1,175
Location
(Was) Back home on the North Bank now back in W.
A couple of weeks back I promised a report back from the latest Supporters Group Forum meeting, apologies for it taking so long but things have been a bit hectic and time has been at premium, anyway I’ve now managed to find a couple of hours spare, so here goes. Hope you've got a couple hours spare to read it....:smile:

We met on 4[SUP]th[/SUP] November with representatives from SZ (me), TZ, Shrimpers Trust, Disabled Supporters Group, All at Sea, The Blue Voice, and SUFC Exiles present; the new Commercial Director, Danny Macklin represented SUFC. Unfortunately Steve Kavanagh had to give his apologies due to urgent domestic issues.

Danny introduced himself and gave a potted history of his recent involvement with Essex County Cricket Club and emphasised that he and Steve are very keen to establish a close liaison with all the supporters groups as they appreciate the Club has got to improve not only the match day experience but also the general customer experience of dealing with the club on a day to day basis.

It was decided that we would work through the ‘wish list’ that we had submitted from the previous Forum and see where we could go from there.


CATERING


  • Faster service at half-time. The forum had suggested that some pre-pouring of drinks and pre-cooking of burgers, etc. could help with faster movement of the queues. Danny responded that this could lead to increased wastage if not managed very carefully but in an effort to help the Club would like to encourage more pre-ordering and pre-payment of half time drinks before the game, these would them be ready for halftime and considerably ease the queues at the bars.
  • South Stand catering. The South Stand Tea Bar has been shut due to it being condemned both on environmental health grounds and electrical safety. Danny responded that due to the high costs being quoted for the remedial works it is economically unviable to spend the money to put it back into operation, the Club have looked at providing some form of mobile vending in the South Stand but have been unable to find a position that would not impede stairways or aisles and therefore fall foul of the ground safety regulations.
  • Could there be alternative draught/real ales in the West Stand bar. The Club are looking at this but although all the catering is in house the contract for supply of the bars restricts what can actually be supplied. The worry of supplying real ale in the West Stand is the risk of wastage, if a barrel isn’t consumed it would not be able to be kept in a condition fit for sale at the next home game.
  • Food Hygiene Standards. It was observed by a few of the representatives that some of the food hygiene standards in the snack bars left something to be desired. Specific examples were given and Danny undertook to raise these as a matter of urgency with those responsible for the catering; the catering is under the direct control of the club and not franchised so action would be taken.


CAR PARK & PARKING


  • Permit holders being refused entry. It had been the subject of some complaints that valid permit holders had been refused entry to the car park because it was full if they arrived close to kick off. This had resulted in them having to find alternative parking some distance from the ground and missing the kick off even though they had paid for an allocated parking space. It had been observed that some of this had been caused by cars parked before 11am in the car park meaning insufficient spaces remained for permit holders. Danny asked that any occurrences should be notified to him directly and he would see that action was taken to prevent further occurrences.
  • Condition of the Car Park surface. The Forum had previously raised the condition of the surface of the car park, particularly at the southern end. Danny replied that the Club had undertaken some repair work to the worst areas but really a complete re-surface was required however the cost to do this was into 5 figures and therefore we were likely to only see repairs done when necessary rather than a full resurface.
  • Car Park congestion and pedestrian/car separation after matches. The question of the congestion to exit the car park after games and also the safety aspects of cars and pedestrians using the same area had been raised. The club are aware of the issue and more stewards are available to try and ease the situation but it was felt that trying to separate the vehicles and pedestrians might actually raise the safety risk as vehicles might them be tempted to travel faster and any resulting collision could be far more serious, the situation will continue to be monitored.


GENERAL FACILITIES


  • Possibility of having a bookmaker onsite. The possibility of having a bookmaker onsite had been raised at the previous forum as it was felt this would encourage people into the ground earlier and therefore be more likely to use the onsite catering as well. Danny pointed out that although this would be a good thing the League sponsorship deal with SkyBet puts obstacles in the way of achieving this as there are certain conditions in the sponsorship deal surrounding onsite betting facilities in Football League grounds. The club are willing to keep this in mind for the future but can’t see a realistic way forward at present.
  • Toilet Facilities and Hygiene therein. The forum had previously identified problems with doors/locks on toilets in the South Stand, also flushing issues in the same area. Lack of hot water in the West stand toilets and regular flooding in the same. The forum had suggested that toilets should be checked and repaired on a more regular footing. Danny said that the club accepted that the toilet facilities were far from perfect but all doors should now be OK and lockable, they are now all checked before each game. Some of the forum members also raised the point that there also seems to be an issue with the North Stand toilets and that the club had come in for a fair amount of criticism on away clubs’ fora and on away fans posts on Shrimper Zone. Danny said that he was well aware of the state of these toilets and said that he had been shocked when he visited them and felt that they must still be the original toilets from the building of the ground being little more than a channel beneath a wall. This is being pondered on but he’s not sure what they can do to improve the situation in the immediate future.


ATMOSPHERE AND MATCH EXPERIENCE


  • Pre match Atmosphere. The forum had previously mentioned that the pre-match singer before the Cheltenham game had been well received and could more like this be done? Danny said that part of his remit was to improve the pre-match experience and that he is more than keen to try and give an outlet to any budding performers who would be willing to perform before games, there are also thoughts on developing pre-match entertainment outside the ground and possibly more catering outside the ground. There are thoughts about trialling some of these ideas with a view to what can be offered around and within the immediate area of the new stadium. Danny also mentioned that he would be asking, within the next few days on the OS, for supporters to come forward with ideas for the pre-match music and with ideas to make the 15 minutes before the game a more impressive build up.
  • Match Experience. Danny said that he is keen to experience the match and match day experience from all parts of the ground and is slowly working his way round each part of the ground to see things from a supporter’s point of view rather than just sitting in the Directors Box. The TBV representatives spoke about their discussions about possible better locations for TBV as they appear to be outgrowing W Block. At this point the Blue Voice representatives brought up the issue of their missing flag, the Blue Voice had responded to the club request following Wembley for some flags to decorate the open top bus for the victory parade. Unfortunately the largest of the flags failed to return home. It would appear that one of the players threw the flag into the crowd, where it promptly disappeared. Understandably TBV were not overly impressed as the cost to replace it is considerable. Danny said that he would look into the matter and would discuss directly with TBV.


DANNY’S VIEW

Danny then spoke about what he has observed since his arrival at the Club and what he can do in the immediate future to improve things as well as what can be done in the future.

His first impression was of the passion show by the supporters for Southend United. He said that that passion is fully appreciated by the players and management of the club and was embodied by a comment from his wife at the Gillingham away game. She had come to Gillingham to see her first Southend game and had sat with him in the main stand, she had said that she couldn’t believe the number of us that had travelled to stand on an open piece of scaffolding and the noise we made even though it was pouring with rain; he did mention that the other games she’d seen were at our country cousins ground, so she’d probably never seen a crowd before.
Sorry couldn’t resist that :tease:

He has been particularly impressed with the commitment of those who travel away and the passion of the Blue Voice.
He then picked up on things that he said needed improving and spoke about what was being put in place to try and change things for the better.

On ticketing he said that things were far from perfect but that things should begin to improve as the new ticketing system bedded in. The new system was one with which he was very familiar having used it at Essex CCC, he did say he was impressed that the ticket office had got it in and working in little over six weeks, in had taken Essex CCC a lot longer. He said that they would be rolling out new facilities as they go, the first would be giving ST holders their cup/friendly tickets on their season card rather than issuing a paper ticket, that would save the ST a trip to the ticket office to pick up a paper ticket and save the club the time and effort of posting it out or the manpower to enable collection; secondly, would be extending that facility to ST’s being able to buy online and adding the ticket directly to the season card themselves; thirdly, will come e-tickets so that tickets can be bought online and then printed out at home, again saving the postage and ticket office personnel time; lastly, will be the facility to have a ticket loaded on to a smart phone as a barcode.

He rounded up by saying that he was always available to speak about/resolve any issues and that he could be contacted at danny.macklin@southend-united.co.uk

He also mentioned that although it's against club policy for him to have an account on any supporters forums he does read ShrimperZone on a regular basis.:thumbsup:


MY VIEW

I thought it was a very productive evening all round.

Danny Macklin is obviously keen to make things work at Southend United and has a good idea of how he wants to see things develop as time moves on. He is plainly looking to the future and the holy grail of a new stadium, he has experience with a major sports club, he also sees that things are, and have been, far from rosy and is not blinkered to the issues. He understands the current situation and realises that there is no bottomless pit of money to sort out the problems. He was quite open with the members of the forum about what he can and can’t do and was also open, and trusting, enough to talk about some things which cannot be shared on an open forum.

I felt that the meeting was also productive in that it allowed the supporters groups to demonstrate that we are all trying to achieve the same thing, a successful football club with a good experience for all who attend, something which Danny appreciated.

I was cautiously cynical when we started this process but I think it has been useful so far as it has certainly brought the various supporters groups closer together in that we now understand better each other’s issues and has opened up a useful channel of communication to senior members of the Club management team.

The jury is still out but I'm now optimistic for the future. :smiles:
 
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