Meeting Minutes of the All Together Town (ATT) Panel – 09.06.2021

Wednesday, 9th June 2021 – 19:00-20:30

Hosted Online


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); Dan Cooper (Ticket Office Manager - DC); Mark Devlin (CEO - MD); Phil Hodgkinson (Chairman – PH); Ann Hough (Operations Director - AH); Robyn Kennerdale (Supporter Services Manager - RK); Adam Tomlinson (Content Manager- AT); Rachel Taylor (Supporter Services Executive - RT).

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

+ Multiple panel members


Agenda

1. Matters arising from previous meeting/s (HTSA/HTDSC)

2. Club finance update (HTSA)

3. Return to stadia protocols (HTSA/HTDSC)

4. HTSA 2020/21 survey results (HTSA)

5. HTAFC Women’s sponsorship

6. Home friendlies

7. Any other business


1. Matters arising from previous meeting/s (HTSA/HTDSC)

· At the ATT panel meeting held on 10th December 2020, club representatives said that they would share the most recent Safety Advisory Group (SAG) minutes with the panel.

These minutes were shared with HTSA on 7th June. HTSA will publish them on its website in due course.

· At the same meeting, club representatives stated that they were in the process of hiring a Disability Liaison Officer (DLO).


RK stated that Zoe Shackleton has taken on the DLO role. Fans can contact Ms. Shackleton via dlo@htafc.com.

· At the December meeting and the meeting on 8th March 2021, club representatives said that they would seek clarification and provide an update on the stadium shares situation.

PH said that the club, Huddersfield Giants, and Kirklees Council are currently engaged in discussions to settle the long-term future of the stadium. The most likely outcome of these discussions is the creation of a community trust. Under this arrangement, current shareholders will be asked to transfer their shares to the trust, which will receive funding from the council in the form of a loan. PH explained that even if the club bought all the stadium shares at some point in the future, the trust would still own the stadium.

For its part, the club will gain “operational control” of the stadium. This means that it will effectively be responsible for its associated costs but will also receive more of its revenues. In addition, the club will be expected to repay the interest on the council loan for the foreseeable future. If necessary, the club will be able to generate additional revenue through the trust to cover regeneration projects, etc., with the costs repayable over a long period. All shareholders, including the Giants, are amenable to this proposed structure. MD stated that there is a strong chance that it could be in place by the beginning of the 2021/22 season.

HTSA enquired about the possibility of fans being represented on the trust board. PH said that it is a possibility, and that he expects the trust to have a more diverse, community-oriented focus than KSDL.

PH told the panel that the club is eager to use operational control of the stadium to improve the matchday experience for fans. Proposals include two “fan bars”: one at the Ropewalk if there is a possibility of taking over the lease from Greene King, and another in the stadium itself, with the potential to build a “tunnel club” (similar to Manchester City’s) in the Riverside Stand.

There are also plans to improve concourses with Huddersfield Town branding in the North Stand and South Stand, and joint-Town and Giants branding in the Riverside Stand and Kilner Bank. PH mentioned the possibility of constructing a canopy roof over the back of the South Stand, which is currently uncovered. PH further reported that the Fosters lines and pumps have been replaced with Amstel, and the club is in positive talks about selling Magic Rock in the stadium.

With regards to the fanzone, MD admitted that its most recent placement caused several issues for staff and fans alike, but that it was still better than nothing. For the first few games of the 2021/22 season, fanzone activities will be spread around the stadium site. That said, there are plans to develop a better, permanent site in line with the club’s goal of maximising matchday revenues—a goal which could also be realised by the expansion of the megastore. PH and MD said that the club will consult fans on the matchday experience (food, drink options, etc.) in the coming months.

Moreover, PH stated the club wants to increase the stadium’s general usability and profitability through the development of a conference venue, which will be served by a nearby 165 room Hilton hotel.

· At the previous meeting, club representatives stated that they would speak to the EFL to clarify whether disabled/shielding fans will be able to continue watching games via iFollow next season.

AT said that the club, along with others, is still speaking to the EFL about different options—not just for disabled/shielding fans, but also with regards to games that sell-out. AT said that the club hopes the EFL will return with an answer soon.

· Club representatives said they would provide an update on efforts to improve accessibility on videos (closed captions/subtitles/BSL).

AT said the club is still working on improving accessibility and expects something to be in place for 2022.

HTSA asked what obstacles are preventing a timelier solution.

AT replied that producing captions to accompany videos is a time-consuming process. The club has considered using auto-generated subtitles, but in the end, they proved to be too inaccurate (YouTube did not correctly spell ‘Huddersfield’, for instance).

· Finally, club representatives said they would enquire about the possibility of adding a bank transfer option for the payment of Blue and White Foundation prizes.

AH reported that this option is now available. AH also stated that the club is considering relaunching the Blue and White Foundation. The details will be published in due course.


2. Club finance update (HTSA)

HTSA noted that the most recent club accounts confirmed that the repayment period on Dean Hoyle's directors' loans has been extended. HTSA asked how this might impact the club's short and long-term finances and strategy.

PH responded that the reason he asked Dean Hoyle to extend the repayment period is because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which he estimates has cost the club £12-15 million in lost revenues. This, PH continued, will mean that there is less of a drain on cash and cashflow in the short-term.

PH reiterated his position that, as a custodian, he is determined to avoid the situation in which many other Championship clubs find themselves (i.e. financial fair play breaches, unsustainable revenue-to-expenses ratios, etc.). The club’s approach is to be both sensible and clever.

As an example of such shrewdness, PH cited the development of relationships with a number of Portuguese, Brazilian, Colombian, French, and German clubs over the past six months. The hope is that these relationships will pay dividends in the transfer and loan markets.

With regards to wider financing, PH stated that he has invested money directly into the club via loans and sponsorship—for example, PH sponsored the 2020/21 kit for £300,000. The key, PH suggested, is for the club to be free of debt. PH said that money generated from transfer fees will be used to fund the club, rather than paying off outstanding debts.


3. Return to stadia protocols (HTSA/HTDSC)

HTSA asked whether fans will be required to submit any additional documentation or sign a public-health related code of conduct to attend games next season (i.e. A recent negative PCR or LFT result, a vaccination certificate, photo identification, etc.).

PH stated that he expects the stadium to operate at full capacity next season, but that fans may be required to sign up to some form of vaccination or testing passport to attend.

AH reported that the club has not yet received any guidance from the government or EFL. The club will update fans as soon as they receive more information.


4. HTSA 2020/21 survey results (HTSA)

HTSA provided a brief summary of the results of its 2020/21 season survey.

861 fans completed the survey, the majority of whom were season card holders. One third of season card holders said they would not renew for the 2021/21 season or are undecided. Two thirds of non-season card holders said they would not renew for the 2021/21 season or are undecided. The most commonly cited reasons were: (i) dissatisfaction with the team's performance and results; (ii) dissatisfaction with the club's player recruitment; and (iii) dissatisfaction with how the club is being run at Board level.

The club said they would review the results in greater detail.

HTSA will publish the full results in the coming weeks.


5. HTAFC Women’s sponsorship

HTSA explained that, for the third season in a row, it is running a crowdfunder to help cover costs for Huddersfield Town Women players, who have to pay to play. HTSA has donated £250 to the crowdfunder and asked whether it would be possible to share the link via the club’s social media channels.

MD said that the club wants the women’s team to prosper and has taken steps to help them do so. The women’s team now train at Canalside free of charge, and the club provides them with free kits. The club also contributed to the cost of the women’s team coach to Brighton.

AT explained that the club has significantly increased its coverage of the women’s team on its website and social media accounts. The two clubs’ media teams will be meeting later in the week to discuss how they can strengthen their relationship.

MD confirmed that the club would share HTSA’s crowdfunder.


6. Home friendlies

A panel member enquired why the club does not host more home friendlies.

PH replied that it was a combination of issues, including the rugby league calendar. PH and MD confirmed that the club is currently in the process of arranging a home friendly. The problem, they said, is that many foreign clubs are not touring due to the pandemic, while the majority of Premier League clubs do not play domestic friendlies, and EFL clubs want to play at home. There is the possibility of a friendly with a top European club, but this is dependent on the potential fees.

PH also said he is interested in reviving the West Yorkshire Trophy.


7. Any other business

HTDSC pointed out that only 2 disabled toilets in the stadium are locked and accessible via a RADAR key. The others are unlocked and supposed to be supervised by stewards, but in practice, this often is not the case. HTDSC asked whether the club could push for all toilets to be locked and accessible via a RADAR key.

AH said that KSDL have said no to the idea, but she promised to follow it up. AH also observed that this issue is something the club would work on when it gains operational control of the stadium.

AT said that the club is considering a new format for matchday programmes for the 2021/22 season. This would involve producing a 16-page matchday programme to be provided to fans for free alongside a more comprehensive bi-monthly magazine (80-100 pages).

Panel members generally thought that this would be a good idea if properly executed, though some did raise questions about litter and sustainability.

Three panel members raised the issue of players taking the knee before games.


MD noted that this had been discussed at the previous meeting, and afterwards, the club discussed the issue with the players, who all said that they would like to continue taking the knee. HTSA stressed the importance of supporting the right of players to peacefully protest against racism in any manner they see fit.


Finally, AB stated that the club is looking to recruit two more members to the ATT panel. An advertisement will be published on the club website shortly.

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