Meeting Minutes of the All Together Town (ATT) Panel – 03.02.2022

Updated: Jul 7

Thursday, 3rd February, 2022 – 19:00-20:30

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Note: These minutes were taken by the Huddersfield Town Supporters’ Association (HTSA), not Huddersfield Town Association Football Club.


Present

Club representatives: Ian Birtley (Commercial Manager – IB); Andy Booth (Supporter Services – AB); Gina Buckley (Senior Ticket Office Manager – GB); Ann Hough (Director – AH); Dean Hoyle (CEO – DH); Robyn Kennerdale (Supporter Services – RK); Zoe Shackleton (HR Manager – ZS); Rachel Taylor (Supporter Services – RT); David Threlfall-Sykes (Director – DTS); Jonathan Wilkinson (Marketing – JW)


Fan Groups: HTSA (3); Huddersfield Town Disabled Supporters’ Club (1); Proud Terriers (1)


+ Multiple panel members


Agenda

1. Draft Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Strategy (2020-2030)

2. Partnership with BK8

3. Reporting and Sanctions

4. Disabled Fans

5. Inclusion Room

6. Attracting Underrepresented Fans

7. Any Other Business (AOB)


1. Draft Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Strategy (2020-2030)

Zoe Shackleton (ZS) provided a brief overview of the club’s draft equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) strategy, which has a timeframe of 2020 to 2030. She explained that the strategy has its origins in the club’s ultimately successful efforts to meet the Premier League Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Standard (PLEDIS). The club attained the Preliminary Award in 2018 and the Intermediate Award in 2020.


The strategy, ZS explained, is based on the core principles and pillars outlined by PLEDIS. The aim is to go beyond the standard by 2030. The timeframe itself is a mechanism to hold the club accountable, both internally and externally. ZS further observed that the club believes it is important to engage with fans on equality, diversity, and inclusion, including seeking their input on the draft strategy.


2. BK8 Partnership

HTSA praised the comprehensive nature of the draft strategy and the club’s EDI work more generally. They noted, however, that they had been inundated with complaints from members and the wider fanbase about the club’s decision to partner with BK8—a controversial white label gambling company. Norwich City terminated their lucrative sponsorship deal with BK8 in June 2021 after a backlash over the company’s use of young women in sexually suggestive marketing materials. In view of this, HTSA asked whether such a partnership might undermine the club’s EDI strategy. The Huddersfield Town Disabled Supporters Club (HTDSC) and Proud Terriers echoed this sentiment and the question.


ZS stated that the club was aware of concerns about the partnership. There has been feedback from the club’s Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion External Advisory Group (EDIEAG) and newly formed Women’s Network. This feedback has been passed on to the Commercial Manager, Ian Birtley (IB).


IB told the panel that the club carried out extensive due diligence and was aware of BK8’s reputation. He further stated that discussions had taken place for a number of months before the deal was signed, with the company agreeing to “clean up” its “affiliate marketing.” The club monitored this process closely, verifying its completion.


HTSA enquired whether the EDIEAG and Women’s Network had been consulted about the partnership, and if not, whether they would be in the future. A panel member also questioned whether concerns raised by either party would lead to a review of the partnership.


IB replied that it is important to recognise the positive impact that the partnership will have on some of the club’s community projects. He added that the club is still monitoring the company’s social media channels.


ZS said that she anticipates further discussions with the EDIEAG on the issue, drawing attention to the fact that the group’s meeting minutes are shared internally. In addition, ZS gave an assurance that if EDIEAG members raise any objections, they will be passed on to senior management.


3. Reporting and Sanctions

A panel member asked about the sanctions policy as it relates to offensive language, observing that offence is often subjective.


ZS responded that it was crucial to report offensive language and other problematic behaviour. Without such reports, it is difficult for the club to fully understand existing and potential issues, as well as when and where they might arise. ZS said that a lot of work had gone into matchday reporting procedures, emphasising that every case is taken seriously. She added that there is always going to be a degree of subjectivity where language is concerned, but every attempt is made to ensure that sanctions are appropriate and proportionate.


Ann Hough (AH) agreed with ZS, pointing out that all fans have the right to appeal sanctions.


David Threlfall-Sykes (DTS) indicated that initial results from the fan survey were encouraging when it came to reporting. Robyn Kennerdale (RK) provided context, stating that 80 percent of fans surveyed were confident in reporting abuse or discrimination on a matchday, while 62 percent were confident in reporting instances of abuse or discrimination on social media.


A panel member subsequently asked how frequently the reporting number is used.


RK said that the club keeps a record of every report made across all platforms (phone, email, social media, etc.). The records in relation to incidents of abuse and discrimination show that the figure is very small. AH and ZS informed the panel that the club was examining various options to make the reporting number more visible (i.e., displaying it on advertising boards). Jonathan Wilkinson (JW) reminded those present that the number appears on the back of matchday tickets.


A panel member asked about the club’s approach to discrimination and abuse by groups, rather than individuals (i.e., homophobic chanting on a matchday).


DTS said that education was an essential part of any response. He gave the example of a very young person who, some years ago, had sent a racist message to a Huddersfield Town player. The person showed genuine remorse for their actions, committing to a full education programme delivered by Kick It Out.


4. Disabled Fans

HTDSC expressed their appreciation of the club’s work on behalf of disabled fans, before asking whether the draft strategy’s timeline on training stewards (2025-2027) was too gradual. HTDSC went on to highlight the fact that stewards are a key interface between fans and the club, and as such, everything should be done to guarantee that they are able to respond to EDI related complaints and enquiries.


ZS concurred and pledged to move this objective into the 2023-2025 bracket.


HTDSC enquired whether the club had made any progress on delivering subtitled videos for the hard of hearing and deaf fans. DTS confirmed that subtitles should be included on all planned videos soon.


5. Inclusion Room

A panel member praised the club for its introduction of an inclusion room, which provides a safe environment on matchdays for fans with autism, epilepsy, and sensory processing conditions.


RK explained that the inclusion room encompasses two adjoining hospitality boxes. The boxes are fitted with an array of equipment that can create different sensory spaces. Their purpose is to make sure that as many people as possible can attend games without feeling uncomfortable, self-conscious, or anxious.


DTS revealed that a new series called ‘Terriers Together Talks’ will be released soon giving fans information about the club’s EDI work. The first instalment is due to be released imminently and will provide more detail about the inclusion room. It will also feature the club’s ‘Terriers Together’ Player Ambassador, Harry Toffolo.


6. Attracting Underrepresented Fans

A panel member suggested that the cost of tickets can be a barrier for people to attend games and should therefore be treated as an EDI issue.


ZS agreed, observing that there are many deprived communities in Huddersfield and the surrounding areas. The club, she clarified, is always exploring ways to cater to low-income fans, citing the recent ticket offer for the Swansea game as a good example. Moreover, RK called attention to the club’s school initiative, which has been one of the most successful ways of reaching potential fans from different backgrounds.


Dean Hoyle (DH) said that the club always endeavours to fill the stadium, hence its cheap season card deal and various matchday offers. With regards to the latter, the pricing for the Swansea game was a direct attempt to re-engage fans who had chosen not to renew their season cards and attract additional ones. This proved to be effective on two counts: first, it galvanised die-hard, casual, and new fans alike; and second, it led to record takings in retail, hospitality, and lotteries. It is hoped that this will result in an increase in season card sales for the 2022-23 season. DH acknowledged that there is a balance between offering discounts for undecided and new fans on the one hand and rewarding the loyalty of existing season card holders on the other. He declared that the club has thus far managed to strike the right balance.


7. Any Other Business (AOB)

ZS concluded the meeting by reflecting on the club’s EDI strategy in a broader football context, noting that it is determined to become a leader in this area (for instance, the Huddersfield Town is the first and only football club recognised as a Menopause Friendly Employer). She acknowledged that the club will not always get things right but reiterated that all staff members pride themselves on being forward thinking and open to feedback from all stakeholders.


Andy Booth (AB) stated that the next meeting of the panel will take place in March. The date will be confirmed and circulated in due course.


The meeting closed at 20:30.

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