Meeting Minutes of the All Together Town (ATT) Panel – 16.10.2023
Monday, 16th October, 2023 – 18:30
Hosted at the John Smith's Stadium
Note: These minutes were taken by the Huddersfield Town Supporters’ Association (HTSA), not Huddersfield Town Association Football Club.
Club representatives: Andy Booth (Supporter Services – AB); Gina Buckley (Head of Ticketing – GB); Jake Edwards (CEO – JE); Luke Cowan (Head of Retail – LC); Ann Hough (Operations Director – AH); Robyn Kennerdale (Supporter Services – RK); Domenic Notarfrancesco (Director of Global Brand – DN); Rachel Taylor (Supporter Services – RT); David Threlfall-Sykes (Director – DTS); Jonathan Wilkinson (Marketing – JW)
Supporters’ Groups: HTSA; Huddersfield Town Disabled Supporters’ Club; Cowshed Loyal
+ Multiple panel members
1. Club Update
3. Matchday Experience
4. Huddersfield Town’s Global Brand
5. Any Other Business (AOB)
1. Club Update
Jake Edwards (JE) introduced himself to the panel, outlining his background in football and commitment to Kevin Nagle’s overarching vision for Huddersfield Town.
HTSA asked the first question, enquiring whether any progress had been made on the club’s publicly stated aim to own a majority or exclusive shareholding in the John Smith's Stadium.
JE began by declaring that Mr. Nagle and the board regard the stadium as the club’s spiritual and physical “home”, an asset to the wider community, and an important part of their long-term financial strategy. However, he pointed out that the current tripartite ownership structure presented several challenges. During the past few years, JE explained, the three shareholders had been at odds over how to run the site, with the Huddersfield Giants and Kirklees Metropolitan Council unable or unwilling to provide funding for necessary maintenance and improvements.
In view of this, JE reiterated the club’s desire to take operational control of or a long-term lease on the stadium. To achieve this, key decisionmakers are in the process of
building trust with the rugby club and council. JE observed that this process had, so far, been relatively successful, adding that there should be more clarity on expected timelines in the new year.
HTSA asked whether the club or Mr. Nagle were able to fund the estimated £8-12 million worth of infrastructure investment needed to extend th stadium’s lifespan to 2050.
JE cast doubt on the quoted figure but acknowledged that significant capital expenditure was required to repair, update, and replace much of the site’s heavy machinery (i.e., boilers, generators, etc). He also suggested this process was already approximately five years behind schedule.
JE added that, if the club gained control of the stadium, the board planned to invest in commercial and retail infrastructure to increase revenue. As things stand, the club has limited scope to expand its income from the stadium, with little say on naming rights (i.e., stadium sponsorship), hosting events in the close season, and investment in premium spaces (i.e., restaurants, bars, etc.).
HTSA queried whether, as a custodian, Mr. Nagle would place his stadium shares in a community trust.
JE said he could not provide a definitive answer to the question, stressing the club’s focus on resolving more immediate matters.
A panel member asked whether the club had any ambitions to purchase the Ropewalk pub, which is located in between the stadium and Odeon cinema.
JE replied that the licence on the Ropewalk was due to expire soon, intimating that the club was examining the possibility of taking it on as a sports bar. In addition, he said the club was looking to buy premises in the town centre.
Another panellist enquired whether the club was interested in taking over the Stadium Health & Fitness Club in light of Kirklees Active Leisure’s (KAL) decision to legally withdraw as its operator.
JE said the club understands the importance of the leisure centre and swimming pool to supporters and the wider community. To this end, he asked Kirklees Sporting Development Limited (the stadium's management company) to provide the club with an overview of the centre’s revenue and liabilities.
HTSA asked whether player trading was still a core part of the club’s financial strategy.
JE informed the panel that Huddersfield Town was in the bottom quartile of the league in terms of revenue. As a consequence, the board’s priority is to increase commercial revenue from this low baseline. JE stated that player trading was not a central part of this strategy. He concluded by emphasising the club’s proposal to reduce expenditure on the B-Team and reinvest the savings in the traditional academy structure.
HTSA asked about consultants and how they fit into the club’s strategy.
JE remarked that hiring third-party consultants was common practice in the United States. He explained that the club was using consultants to analyse business performance and improve supporter engagement and experience.
HTSA and a panel member asked whether the club intended to raise season card prices for the 2023/24 season.
David Threlfall-Sykes (DTS) said that it was too early to hold discussions on the subject, before pointing to the club’s comparatively cheap prices.
A lengthy debate ensued, with some panel members referring to soaring inflation and the club’s ambitious objectives to justify price increases, though it was agreed that
anything over 10 percent would be onerous for many supporters. Others, including the HTSA representatives, expressed opposition to price rises, arguing that the low cost of season cards had, over a long period, led to high attendances, contributed to a good atmosphere on matchdays, encouraged new supporters, particularly younger ones, to follow the club, and positively impacted commercial, retail, and catering income. HTSA also warned that significant price increases would have an outsized impact on season card numbers during a cost-of-living crisis. A Cowshed Loyal delegate added that many supporters would only pay more if the club had a successful year on the pitch or invested heavily in the first team squad in January and over the summer.
A panel member enquired whether the ticket office opens at 09:00 or 10:00. The ticket office manager, Gina Buckley (GB), confirmed the office opens at 10:00, but staff would sell tickets from 09:00 if a queue had already begun to form.
The Huddersfield Town Disabled Supporters Club (HTDSC) complained that, in many cases, the only way for disabled supporters to sit with their chaperone on away coaches was for them to arrive at the departure point inordinately early. They asked whether the club could instead pre-allocate seats to disabled supporters. GB said this was possible and the ticket office would investigate the different options.
Next, several panel members asked for clarification on the timeline of events leading up to the club’s reciprocal pricing agreement with Leeds United.
GB said the club enquired about the possibility of a reciprocal pricing deal via the ticket office soon after Leeds United signalled their interest in such arrangements. In response, their counterparts at Elland Road suggested discussing the subject closer to the date of the game. When the Huddersfield Town ticket office followed up, the Leeds United ticket office asked about categorisation. The Huddersfield Town ticket office stated that the club operated a flat price of £25 for all supporters in line with the EFL’s rules on comparable sectors. On this basis, Leeds United rejected the offer of a reciprocal pricing deal. After the backlash against Leeds United’s decision to charge Town supporters £47, Jake Edwards directly phoned Leeds United chief executive Angus Kinnear. During this call, the two agreed to charge away supporters £20 for each fixture.
After praising the club’s handling of the situation, which delivered affordable tickets for both sets of supporters, HTSA criticised the extortionate pricing models of some second-tier clubs, highlighting the fact that travelling supporters in the league were often charged more than the £30 cap introduced by the Premier League in 2016. They drew attention to their Away Fans Matter campaign, urging the club to formally back its core demand of an away ticket price cap in the Championship.
JE said the club was considering submitting a resolution on a flat price cap to the EFL.
HTSA asked whether there were plans to review the away ticket priority system.
GB said the system worked well, with all fixtures proceeding to general sale, adding that there were no plans to change it.
3. Matchday Experience
Various panel members disparaged the stadium speaker system, stating that it was too loud in the South Stand and too quiet in the Core Stand and Big Red Stand.
DTS said the speakers were old and in needed of replacement. He explained that the club had spent a great deal of time and money trying to improve the sound, including hiring temporary speakers. In the end, DTS concluded, the club must implement a longer-term solution. In the same vein, JE indicated the club was eager to install a new, more modern scoreboard screen.
A panel member asked whether the club could replicate the pre-kick-off floodlight display sometimes employed by the Giants. DTS replied in the affirmative. A panel member subsequently raised concerns about the safety of epileptic supporters. DTS said this was an important point that the club would consider.
HTSA reported they received numerous complaints from supporters about excessive queues and delays at the Middlesbrough League Cup game. DTS said the club was aware of the problem and had removed the contributing restrictions for the QPR fixture.
Following on from the previous ATT meeting, a panel member described further problems with vaping in the South Stand. They said some supporters were persistently vaping in contravention of the stadium rules and ignoring requests from other supporters—some with health conditions—to stop doing so. The member said they had contacted the safety officer, Brian Slater, who assured them that stewards would be briefed on the situation.
Ann Hough (AH) reminded supporters that they can contact the Tackle and Text It phone number or provide the seat number of the relevant people to the club to address such concerns.
HTSA raised the issue of increased food and drink prices in the stadium.
JE said wholesale costs had risen and suppliers had passed these on to customer facing businesses.
4. Huddersfield Town Global Brand
The club’s new director of global brand, Domenic Notarfrancesco, summarised his role. He said the board’s goal was for him and his staff to clearly define the club’s brand—or its story—across every department and improve its marketing and commercial operations.
A panel member asked DN about the club’s present global reach. DN relayed that the club shop had customers across the world, with some interested in specific players (i.e., Yuta Nakayama) and others intrigued by the club’s impressive history. Even so, he suggested the club was determined to develop more meaningful relationships with international partners and audiences. JE provided context, noting that there is a fascination with English football in North America, which presents an opportunity for the club specifically and the town more generally. He further stated that the club was interested in embarking on a pre-season tour of the United States in the future.
A panel member sought an update on the potential Netflix documentary mentioned by Mr. Nagle during recent press interviews.
JE said discussions were in the very early stages.