Thursday, 17th March 2022 – 19:00-21:00
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); Dan Cooper (Ticket Office Manager - DC); Dean Hoyle (CEO – DH); Karen Haigh (Lotteries – KH); Hayley Moore (Lotteries – HM); Rachel Taylor (Supporter Services – RT); David Threlfall-Sykes (Director – DTS); Jonathan Wilkinson (Marketing – JW)
Fan Groups: HTSA (3); Huddersfield Town Disabled Supporters’ Club (1)
+ Multiple panel members
1. Away Ticket Priority (HTSA)
2. Sitting and Standing at Away Games (HTSA)
3. Price Freeze on Season Cards (HTSA)
4. Stadium Maintenance
5. Transparency on Cryptocurrency Partnerships (HTSA)
6. Ownership Situation (HTSA)
7. Catering Consultancy Progress (HTSA)
8. EV Charging Points for Electric Vehicles
Away Ticket Priority
HTSA observed that dozens of fans had contacted them to criticise the new away ticket priority system, which privileges the Blue and White Members Club. HTSA stated that there is a perception that the system rewards those who can afford to pay, rather than those who regularly travel to away games. In addition, HTSA questioned the timing of the system’s introduction and the club’s failure to consult the ATT Panel.
CEO Dean Hoyle (DH) apologised for the lack of consultation. He went on to explain that, over the past few years, Blue and White members had lost several benefits, including gym membership at Canalside and ticketing priority. This, DH said, is not only unfair, but also means there are fewer incentives to join. The new priority system is an attempt to address this problem while also generating new revenue.
DH further stressed that the club has rarely sold out its away allocation this season, and only a hundred or so Blue and White members have bought away tickets through the priority system. In view of this, DH made it clear that the club will not change the system.
A panel member predicted that the flaws of the system will become more evident if the club reaches the playoffs because demand for tickets will exceed supply.
Sitting and Standing at Away Games
HTSA reported that they had received a significant number of complaints from people who had been unable to sit down at recent away games. This can be particularly problematic for the elderly and those with disabilities. HTSA therefore asked whether the club would consider block seating for future away games (i.e., clearly labelled ‘singing’ and ‘sitting’ sections).
Ticket Office Manager Dan Cooper (DC) replied that the club reserves tickets for people who have accessibility issues. He added that the club recognises the issues around sitting and standing at away games and is currently exploring various options to alleviate them. One option is to work with other clubs on a reciprocal basis.
Price Freeze on Season Cards
A panel member asked whether the club would honour Phil Hodgkinson’s promise that fans who renewed their season cards for the 2021/22 season would enjoy a three-season price freeze.
DH confirmed that the promise would be honoured.
A panel member expressed displeasure about the general condition of the stadium. Another gave a specific example of standing water and rusting metal lintels in the North Stand Upper.
David Threlfall-Sykes (DTS) said that poor maintenance is something that the club is both aware of and concerned about. They have passed this onto KSDL.
Transparency on Cryptocurrency Partnerships
HTSA identified three major concerns regarding the club’s current and potential partnerships with cryptocurrency and NFT brands (Web3).
First, HTSA argued, neither are regulated by the FCA or any other body. This means consumers have no protection or redress. Second, cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency tokens promoted by many football clubs are highly volatile and risky financial asset that can lose their value. A cryptocurrency associated with Huddersfield Town, for instance, has lost around 50 percent of its value since the club announced its partnership with them. Third, many clubs are not explicitly stating the nature of and risks associated with these products. HTSA cited the Advertising Standards Agency’s (ASA) decision to ban two adverts published by Arsenal to promote Socios fan tokens as a case in point. The ASA ruling rebuked Arsenal for “taking advantage of consumers’ inexperience or credulity, trivialising investment in crypto assets, misleading consumers over the risk of investment and not making it clear the ‘token’ was a crypto asset.”
Given this context, HTSA asked the club to: (i) clearly state the risks associated with these assets in the future; and (ii) commit to accepting all future cryptocurrency sponsorships in the respective cryptocurrencies.
DH acknowledged the challenges around cryptocurrency and gambling sponsorships. However, he pointed out that compared to other clubs, Huddersfield Town has very limited exposure to and in the market.
DTS said that the club will include a warning on future cryptocurrency/Web3 related advertisements.
HTSA enquired whether DH could provide any further information on the ownership situation.
DH replied that he is in the process of recovering Philip Hodgkinson’s 75 percent shareholding in the club, though this may take longer than initially expected. DH believes that, first and foremost, the club needs stability, and that is what he intends to provide. When asked what this means in practical terms, he said that he is committed to being the sole owner of Huddersfield Town over the short to medium term.
HTSA then queried the ownership of the stadium.
DH cautioned that the previously reported proposal had not been in the best interests of the club. The club is, however, engaged in negotiations with Kirklees Council (KMC) and the Huddersfield Giants to find a long-term solution that balances the interests of all shareholders. One of the most pressing matters is to ensure that capital expenditure requirements for the next five years are met.
Catering Consultancy Progress
At the December 2021 meeting of the ATT Panel, former CEO Mark Devlin stated that the club had launched an independent review of matchday catering overseen by external consultants. HTSA asked whether any progress had been made. DTS responded that the review will not take place, pointing out that the club regularly meets with KSDL and the caterers to provide feedback and suggest improvements.
Several panel members complained about large queues throughout games, as well as the generally poor quality of service and products on offer. DTS said that the pandemic and Brexit have had a significant impact on the hospitality labour market, resulting in staffing issues across the industry. He reiterated the club’s long-held position that it would prefer to employ in-house catering staff, rather than relying on agencies.
A representative from HTDSC recounted how, at a recent game, some beer pumps ceased to function. Fans were offered cans in their place but were still charged the full price of a draught pint. DTS said the club would try to make sure that discounts are applied if this happens again.
EV Charging Points for Electric Vehicles
A panel member enquired whether the club had any plans to install electric vehicle (EV) charging points on the stadium grounds.
DH said that the club’s commercial director, Ian Birtley, had been tasked with looking into it. HTSA also reported back from the latest meeting of the Stadium Sustainability Working Group, informing the panel that KSDL is actively working to integrate the stadium into KMC’s rollout of EV charging points.
Any Other Business (AOB)
HTSA and HTDSC asked for an update on the club’s efforts to add subtitles to its video content.
DTS said that this is part of the evaluation criteria for the Premier League Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Standard (PLEDIS) Advanced Award, which the club is working towards. Since the February meeting of the ATT Panel, YouTube has significantly improved its close caption algorithm. In cases where automatic transcription is not available (i.e., embedded videos on Twitter), the club is committed to transcribing its video content.
In light of a recent high-profile incident, HTSA asked whether the club is satisfied with the response times for medical emergencies in the crowd on matchdays. DTS said that he would pass on the question to operations director Ann Hough, who was not present at the meeting.
HTSA and HTDSC placed on record their joint appreciation for the club’s public support of Ukraine.
The meeting closed at 20:52.