November 2019 Fan Forum
Date: Saturday 23 November 2019
Time: 1pm – 2pm
Location: Faradays Bar
Fan Forum Members - Anthony Morgan, Andy Smith, Chris Derbyshire, Graham Bell, Helen Preece, Janet Kearns, Jill Turton, Mark Evans, Michael Skidmore, Paul Stephenson, Richard Davies, Stuart Threfall, Tom Starkey, Wendy Weare
Wasps – Chief Executive Stephen Vaughan, General Manager – Delaware North Mark O’Shea, Head of Communications Tom Vale, Community and Matchday Marketing Manager Verity Brown, Insights Marketing Manager Paul Cartwright
Chief Executive Stephen Vaughan introduced himself and his early focuses in the first two months in the role and his ambition to set out clear objectives for the club as a whole.
An early indication was provided that matchdays works best for Fan Forums and Wasps v Bordeaux-Begles on Saturday 18 January would be penciled in as the date for the next Forum.
Attendees were invited to put their questions to Stephen and the team.
Is there a clear plan in place for the future of the club?
Stephen outlined that there were already plans in place on the playing and commercial side but there is a need for a common goal to be set out joining both sides together. Working on this plan, addressing primarily the next 3 years, would be his priority and is something that will be shared internally and to fans by the end of the season. The plan will focus on how to make Wasps a more sustainable club with young English talent at its core.
There is a wish from attendees for the Coventry City issue to be put to bed so both sides can move on in a strong position. Stephen and Mark both highlighted that relationships between Wasps and Coventry City management are fine. There will always be press speculation and Coventry may or may not play at the RICOH in future but we have to focus on our own business.
Contacting the club by phone was highlighted as an issue
There is a wish for fans to be able to contact the club directly without having to go through automated processes including Ricoh Arena events. This is something Wasps will look at with the Ticket Office.
Fans are being billed by AXS direct which is confusing. Paul will raise the issue with AXS in their weekly conference calls and look to ensure Wasps/Ricoh Arena is mentioned.
North Stand closure and seat relocations
Fans in the North Stand are unhappy at their selected seats being moved in recent cup games. The reason, efficient stadium management, is understood but the seats being allocated are not ideal and fans do not have a say in them. Wasps will look at this for next season to ensure a next priority is identified early, allowing more choice in where and who they sit with. We will also request that the Ticket Office attempts to allocate a similar distance from the pitch. Fans can contact the Ticket Office on 02476 786 411 if they wish to amend their seats which the team will be happy to action.
Team line up in the programme
There was a discussion around why the starting 15 isn’t listed in the matchday programme. Tom explained that getting an accurate team selection wasn’t possible due to printing time frames and that in the past teams presented have been a “best guess”. The communications team will look at options on this but the full team line up is communicated across a variety of platforms including the website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and also the big screen on matchday and is always open to club’s not wishing to ’show their hand’, last minute injuries and changes.
Replica shirt quality
One fan expressed disappointment at the perceived reduction in quality of replica shirts against the increase in pricing. Stephen outlined that Under Armour are a highly regarded, high performance brand and that shirt manufacturing is done with the players in mind. The relationship with kit suppliers is however currently being looked into.
Service in the Clubhouse was highlighted as a historic and continuing issue with those who pay a premium for membership. Mark admitted issues earlier on in the season at the Saracens match in particular and highlighted that improvements have been put in place. There is, however, still a belief that staffing levels are low. Mark communicated the issues they face recruiting staff for such irregular work and the efforts he has personally made to attract talented staff from other catering venues as well as the training in place for current staff.
Fans expressed frustration at the Buzz Points platform and their ability to use points. Paul acknowledged the shortcomings of the system currently and its integrations to the ticket site in particular and communicated that Wasps are in the process of looking into new systems to improve this to coincide with Season Membership sales for the new season. There was also negative feedback at points being erased after a certain period. Paul communicated that points are only eligible for the current and previous season as stated in the terms and conditions but we will make this section clearer on the website.
The PA System is an issue inside the stadium bowl but particularly in the East Stand. The club acknowledges this issue and will look into what can be done to improve this through the current system.
Subtitles on videos
An attendee asked the possibility of adding subtitles to videos. Tom will look into the possibility of this and if it is practicable.
A Team, and Under 18s fixtures
Fans expressed the wish to have youth team fixtures clearly communicated as part of their member benefits they want to make use of. Tom said he had already had this factored in and will work this into communication plans. We have a dedicated Under 18 reporter once again this season to provide coverage of matches while we’ll also continue to give solid coverage of our A-team games.
The meeting closed at approximately 2.15pm.
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July 2019 Fan Forum
Date: Tuesday 9 July 2019
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Location: Jaguar Lounge
Fan Forum Members - Ian Brock, Richard Davies, Chris Derbyshire, Mark Evans, Roger Evans, Peter Hanger, Paul Hodges, John Hughes, Janet Kearns, Anthony Morgan, Gareth Pegg, Helen Preece, Michael Skidmore, Andy Smith, Tom Starkey, Paul Stephenson, Stuart Threlfall, Gill Turton, Wendy Weare
Wasps – Chief Executive Stuart Cain, Head of Communications Tom Vale, Community and Matchday Marketing Manager Verity Brown, B2C Marketing Manager Emma Clueit, Production Executive Josh Coupland
Chief Executive Stuart Cain began the meeting by explaining why the Fan Forum has been created and how it will work.
We want to build strong relationships with a diverse cross-section of fans, helping the Club make better decisions as well as giving fans a chance to discuss issues and provide the Club with feedback. We aim to be transparent with the information discussed in the forum.
There was then a discussion on when and how the meetings should be held.
- Fan Forum will be bi-monthly with the next one in September.
- The first hour will provide members with an in-depth look at a particular area of the Club. For example, community work, ticket prices, food and beverage at Ricoh Arena, how the training ground works, match analysis and preparation, how Ricoh Arena makes money, etc.
- The second hour will be open for members to raise particular issues for discussion and the Club to discuss thoughts on ideas on proposed initiatives.
- The Fan Forum will consist of approximately 30 people representing as diverse and broad a cross-section of the Wasps family as possible. There are currently 20 members so invitations to join are welcome, particularly from people within Coventry, Warwickshire and the West Midlands who could discuss the thoughts of different demographics, ages and genders. Wasps to consider how to recruit for the next meeting.
- Minutes from each meeting will be published on wasps.co.uk.
Each member then introduced themselves and outlined why they had put themselves forward and which group within the Wasps family they represented.
There was then a general discussion about a wide-ranging number of subjects:
Wasps and Coventry City FC
The Club outlined the ongoing position and re-iterated the opportunity for CCFC to return to Ricoh Arena if they agreed to stop future proceedings in relation to the sale of the Ricoh Arena. The forum understood this stance and felt that the Club’s communication on the issue had been clear and consistent. There was a desire from members of the forum to try and ensure that fans of both clubs across the city were not aggressive to each other, acknowledging that the problems were not of either set of fans’ making.
Players, injuries and the salary cap
The forum understood the situation around the training ground and there was a common desire for this to be resolved as soon as possible in order to remove any uncertainty for players. There were a number of questions around injuries and how the high level experienced last season could be mitigated. Head of Communications Tom Vale ran through the back office structure and explained that Wasps have a talented strength and conditioning team so wouldn’t pinpoint injuries to training methods. Other teams do have the same issues, which can be down to freak injuries or just bad luck. As well as physical health, the players’ mental health is also taken into consideration whilst playing and injured. The Club does have a team psychologist. It was agreed that there would be a future forum focus on the training ground and how the back office staff operate. Regarding the salary cap, Stuart Cain explained how it worked and how the team had to try and have a diverse range of skills and talent but within a set budget. This has led to a levelling of standards across the Premiership which made the league extremely competitive, as seen last season.
We have lost various team members over the last couple of seasons, how are the new signings going to change Wasps' style of play?
Tom Vale explained that there will be 48 players in the first team squad next season, bigger than last year and involving eight players promoted from the Academy. With new players coming in, he reported that there was a positive atmosphere around the training ground during the early stages of pre-season with a lot of optimism and energy generated – with more to come when people such as Malakai Fekitoa arrive in August.
Will Wasps be involved in Coventry City of Culture?
Stuart Cain explained the Club’s role in helping secure City of Culture and their continued support. The events programme was currently in development and it is hoped that Ricoh Arena will be a key part of the event over the year.
A number of people asked about how Wasps and the Ricoh Arena is set up from a corporate and commercial perspective.
Stuart Cain explained that Wasps was really made up of three trading entities. Wasps Limited is responsible for the rugby and netball. Arena Coventry Limited is responsible for the venue. IEC Limited operates the catering, conference and exhibition business in conjunction with global catering business, Delaware North. Since moving to Ricoh Arena, the reliance on rugby and central RFU revenues had fallen, with roughly two-thirds of the business revenue coming from the conference, exhibition, concert, hotel and casino interests. This was crucial for the future and a key focus was growing the non-rugby revenues in coming years whilst also driving rugby attendances.
How many Sunday games will there be next season?
In previous years Wasps had tried to request games on specific days but there was no clear preference based on attendances and corporate hospitality. Community and Matchday Marketing Manager Verity Brown explained that for every person that preferred Saturday there was somebody who preferred Sunday. Therefore, the coming season would be a mix, with three games planned for a Sunday up until the New Year. The Club was looking at different ticketing options for fans who play rugby, who don’t necessarily benefit from a Season Membership, etc.
How much are fixture dates regulated by BT Sport?
Tom Vale explained how BT Sport chooses fixtures and Wasps feature highly due to high viewing figures in the Midlands/Warwickshire and the South East. They have the first pick of games before fixtures are released with games confirmed up until Round 8. After that, all fixtures are subject to change. There had been moves over recent years to choose games well in advance, so fans knew where they stood.
There was a question regarding the new hotel on-site.
Stuart Cain explained that work on planning and feasibility was underway with an ambition to progress by the end of the year. This was a key part of the business strategy as it would help the conference business as well as provide much needed hotel stock ahead of City of Culture and the Commonwealth Games.
Some fans asked about Wasps selling tickets to away fixtures, so fans can sit together and arrange travel.
Stuart Cain explained that a number of Gallagher Premiership clubs only sell tickets for their home fixtures. Wasps would be happy for members of the Fan Forum to advise where fans are sitting for our away games and advise the wider fanbase via social media channels. Wasps don’t usually put travel on to away games as there hasn’t been enough uptake in the past, but this can be revisited if required. In terms of getting fans together, Wasps are also working with affiliate pubs to provide meeting points before games with the potential to put on coaches from these locations to the ground. There was also a discussion about Zeelo and whether it was effective. The Club promised to look in to future coach travel arrangements.
Can more trains be added to the Arena Station timetable?
There is a new operator of the line and Wasps have been discussing more trains but Stuart Cain explained some of the technical difficulties due to the size of the platform and the fact the line sits on the regular route between Coventry and Nuneaton. He acknowledged that travel to The Ricoh was sometimes difficult and something to focus on next season.
Is there any information on the website for away fans visiting the stadium?
Tom Vale said not specifically, but it is something that could be added.
Do we have a park-and-ride?
Park-and-ride is available as part of our traffic management plan (which is required for events of over 10,000 people). We are doing work around promoting official matchday parking.
Electric car charging points
Stuart Cain said he understood the need and it’s something the Club would investigate as electric cars become more and more common.
Clubhouse disabled access
A member raised the issue of the Clubhouse not being connected to the rest of the stadium. Wheelchair users can use the service lift if they wish – however, there are not always people on hand who know how to use the lift. Wasps agreed to host a future forum for those who use our accessible facilities to improve their experience and the facilities around the stadium.
Credit card statements and the new ticketing provider
Some fans discussed how their credit card statements didn’t reference Wasps when purchasing tickets and this led to questions about fraud. Stuart Cain promised to look in to this.
Matchday programme sellers
Members raised that programme sellers are not always in the same locations which made it difficult for people to consistently buy programmes. Wasps will feed back this information to the company who sell on Club’s behalf and confirm seller locations for next season.
Could Season Member cards be used to make purchases on the concourse?
Not currently, but this is something we may look to do in the future. From next season (2019/20) all kiosks will be cashless.
The meeting closed at approximately 9pm.
FAN FORUM SUGGESTIONS BOX