Meeting Minutes of the All Together Town (ATT) Panel - 08.03.2021

Monday, 8th March 2021 - 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: Andy Booth (Club Ambassador - AB); Mark Devlin (CEO - MD); David Threlfall-Sykes (Marketing & Communications Director - DTS); Ann Hough (Operations Director - AH); Robyn Kennerdale (Supporter Services Manager - RK); Rachel Taylor (Supporter Services Manager - RT); Dan Cooper (Ticket Office Manager - DC)


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


+ Multiple panel members


Agenda

1. Club Communications / Fan Engagement

2. Huddersfield Town’s Short-, Medium-, and Long-Term Strategy (HTSA)

3. Revenue, Investment, and Club Finances (HTSA)

4. Sustainable Stadium Campaign (HTSA)

5. The John Smith’s Stadium as an Asset of Community Value (HTSA)

6. Continued Remote Access via iFollow for Disabled Supporters (HTDSC/HTSA)

7. Club Video Communications & Closed Captions / Subtitles (HTSDC/HTSA)

8. Club’s Approach to Tackling Racism and Other Forms of Discrimination

9. Season Card Holder Points System

10. Any Other Business


1. Club Communications / Fan Engagement

A panel member pointed out that the club has continually overpromised – claiming to be in the market for "Premier League quality players" and overplaying the redevelopment of PPG Canalside, for instance. The panel member further stated that the club's recruitment policy is difficult for some fans to comprehend, especially when so much money has been spent on compensation for former coaches and backroom staff and results have not improved in any meaningful way.


Another panel member asked how the Board intends to reengage fans who have lost interest and/or trust in the club.


DTS said that the club is aware of the current mood among the fanbase on social media and is attempting to engage with fans' concerns and keep them informed. One example of this is the monthly updates published on the club's website, but there are other initiatives planned for the coming months. A panel member asked whether those who attend ATT panel meetings can publicise the minutes from these meetings. HTSA stated that they take minutes and publish them online. MD said that panel members are free to discuss ATT meetings and that the club is happy to have critical friends.


MD reported that the club is still investing significant resources into the redevelopment of PPG Canalside. MD further acknowledged that the club has overpromised in the past. It is now focussed on delivering results both on and off the pitch.


MD also said that the club's current injury list is the worst he has ever seen in football and has meant that the club has been forced to make emergency signings. With regards to compensation for former coaches, MD made it clear that the Board and Danny Cowley did not have the same vision for the club, especially on the youth setup and giving young players a chance in the first team. MD said the Board believes that Carlos Corberán has done an excellent job so far considering the circumstances. Panel members suggested that the injury crisis is more acute than it should be due to an initial lack of squad depth.


A panel member then asked whether there was any truth to rumours that some fans who had deferred season cards until the 2021/22 season still have access to iFollow during the present season. DTS stated that the club aims to be consistent and has asked the EFL to remove iFollow access for any season card holder who asked for a deferral.


2. Huddersfield Town’s Short-, Medium-, and Long-Term Strategy (HTSA)

HTSA asked whether the Board’s long-term aim is still to make Huddersfield Town a top-30 club.


MD said the club is in the early stages of formulating a long-term strategy. The club wants to compete at the top end of the Championship in the next 3 to 5 years – in line with the aim set out in the club charter – but in a manner that does not involve significant financial risk.


3. Revenue, Investment, and Club Finances (HTSA)

HTSA asked whether the Board believes that the club can secure the right level of funding to achieve the goal of becoming a top-30 club, and, if not, what plans are in place to secure such funding.


MD responded that the plan is for the club to be sustainable. Part of this plan involves improving the club's commercial offering, which MD said has not been as good as it should've been over the past few years. This could be achieved by replicating something similar to the PPG Canalside fan zone – a place for fans to gather – closer to the stadium.


HTSA asked for clarification on what sustainable means in the context of the Championship.


MD said that a small level of debt is manageable, but not high levels of debt that the club would struggle to service – such levels of debt would mean the club would have to cut back on core activities. The new commercial manager has been told to expand the number of commercial partners and businesses that the club works with.


MD said that it was possible for the chairman to invest more money into the club, but the aim is for the club's income to cover the cost of day-to-day operations. The chairman's investment will cover the club's activities in the transfer market. Extra funds will come from increasing the club's commercial revenue streams. MD again stressed that the club is at the beginning of a much longer journey which will hopefully end with it competing for promotion to the Premier League.


HTSA replied that many season card holders will want to hear something more concrete about how the club will invest their money.


MD said that the club cannot quote exact figures, but the aim is to increase commercial revenue to the point where the chairman's investment goes directly into improving the playing squad.


HTSA said they appreciated the club's efforts to explain its strategy.


4. Sustainable Stadium Campaign (HTSA)

HTSA asked when the club and KSDL intend to resume multi-stakeholder meetings on efforts to make the stadium more sustainable.


AH stated that spring is too soon to restart meetings and that the summer is more realistic. HTSA expressed scepticism over this stance since the meetings generally last one hour and many of the proposals discussed would benefit from prior planning and communication. HTSA also pointed out that they are meeting with Kirklees Council in late-March to discuss next steps. HTSA asked whether the club would be happy for other stakeholders to meet without them. MD replied that informal meetings could still take place between the club and interested parties.


MD further observed that the club is investigating all options to improve the club's sustainability.


5. The John Smith’s Stadium as an Asset of Community Value (HTSA)

HTSA asked whether the club intends to back the trust's nomination of the John Smith’s Stadium as an Asset of Community Value. HTSA explained that the nomination is purely a measure protect the stadium should the overall ownership change from the current arrangement, rather than any change within the current 40/40/20 share structure.


MD said he did not have any objections and would discuss it with the rest of the Board and KSDL. In addition, HTSA asked whether any progress had been made on putting the stadium shares into a trust. MD said he would seek clarification.


6. Continued Remote Access via iFollow for Disabled Supporters (HTDSC/HTSA)

HTDSC asked if fans who are not comfortable returning to stadia would be allowed to continue watching games on iFollow or an equivalent service.


DTS said that he would speak to the EFL about the available options.


7. Club Video Communications & Closed Captions / Subtitles (HTSDC/HTSA)

HTDSC asked whether the club has considered using software to add closed captions/subtitles to its video content. DTS said that the club is considering all available options and welcomes any feedback.


A panel member asked whether a sign language interpreter might be an option. DTS said he would examine its feasibility.


8. Club’s Stance on 'Taking the Knee' and Approach to Tackling Racism and Other Forms of Discrimination

A panel member asked about the club's stance on players 'taking the knee'.


MD said that the players have told the club management that they want to take the knee. The club is led by the players on this issue. MD acknowledged that much more still needs to be done to eradicate racism and anyone showing overt racism, or homophobia, will be dealt with. Tackling discrimination is an important part of the club's mission.


Another panel member asked what support is given to players who are victims of racist abuse.


RK stated that the club works closely with groups such as Kick It Out and provides support and advice to players, liaising with the relevant authorities when necessary. Procedures to this end have been improved and expanded over the past couple of years through the work of the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion group.


9. Season Cards and Season Card Holder Points System

DC provided an update on season cards for the 2021/22 season. More information will be sent to fans in March or April.


A panel member asked how the points system will work when fans return to stadia – could points be accrued from iFollow purchases, for instance? DTS stated that the club will look into the accumulation of points for away passes.


10. Any Other Business

A panel member asked whether the Blue and White Foundation could pay out prizes via bank transfer instead of by cheque. AH said she would follow this up with the relevant people at the club.


MD responded to a question about whether pre-season training will be abroad or in the UK by stating that the club had no issues, so long as everything is within the guidelines.

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