Report on the meeting between the Supporters’ Trust and Ian Milne (Joint Managing Director of ITFC)
Trust Chair Alasdair Ross and Board member Carl Day represented the Independent Supporters’ Trust at a meeting at Portman Road with Ian Milne (Joint Managing Director, ITFC) and Sally Webb, the club secretary, on Wednesday, 16th October 2013.
The meeting lasted for over an hour with the majority of the time spent discussing ticket prices
We started by explaining a little about the history and background of the Trust and the discussion moved quite quickly on to the subject of ticketing. We praised the club for some of the ticket deals that they have – in particular the cheap tickets offered to younger supporters. But we did emphasise the point that many supporters thought the matchday price was far too expensive, especially for Category A matches, for example the game against Leeds United.
We informed the club that many supporters were against categorising games. Ian and Sally gave reasons why they have continued with the scheme and pointed out that they had reduced the number of Category A games this season. We then passed on an idea that had been suggested by a Trust member, that even if the club were to continue categorising games it would be a good idea to keep the concession prices on the low scale. The club seemed interested in this idea but then informed us that once ticket prices are set they have to be given to the Football League (the club just made the deadline for this in the summer) and after that prices could not be changed. Though it did seem they were not 100% sure about this. [Note: see the Football League regulations, particularly point 34.2.5 onwards]. They also informed us that they were only allowed to have 4 games a season where they could run special match day deals and that the ticket deals they ran last year did not bring in as many extra supporters as they had hoped for.
We said that many supporters thought the extra £2.50 cost of buying a match ticket on the day was putting many fans off watching games at Portman Road. They informed us that when they looked at ticketing at the Club, the ticket office was costing the equivalent of a player’s wage and that only 10% of sales were being made via the internet. This had now improved and season ticket sales in particular had gone very well. We told them that, although we understood this, we believe the club should bear in mind that there are still those who can’t – or choose not to – use the internet. In addition, we highlighted the point that many supporters still wanted to have the option of turning up on the day and paying at the gate. Getting rid of the extra match day price would be a PR success and should be easy to facilitate.
Ian and Sally pointed out that advance knowledge of the attendance helped them organise stewarding, policing costs and catering. It seemed to us that the Club is happy to continue having crowds of only 15,000 to 17,000 and that the certainty of knowing the costs of staging a match in advance outweighs the idea of getting more people into the ground.
The discussion then moved onto the Academy. The Trust were thanked for their petition and the detailed work that we did on that issue, and we in turn congratulated the club for changing their original decision and going for the top status of academy, Category 1.
We asked Ian about the link between the Club and the Community Trust as it seemed that the Community Trust were not as integrated into the club as they had been under the previous regime. We were informed that discussions were ongoing between the Community Trust and the Club and that a joint statement would be made in the near future. Both sides had agreed to keep current talks confidential. We thanked them for that answer but informed them that many Ipswich supporters were keen that the Club continued with its work with the community, through the Community Trust, an organisation that has deservedly won many accolades.
The next question we raised was about the Club’s response to Portman Road being made an Asset of Community Value (ACV) recently. They said that, as the ground was owned by the Council and they were just the tenants, it was of no real concern to them. They added that it was no secret that they would have liked to buy the ground and that the previous regime had been lobbied by developers looking at moving the club to an out-of-town site, but they were happy with a town centre location and there seemed to be signs of a better relationship now between the Club and Ipswich Borough Council (the landlords).
The meeting finished with us asking for more meetings in the future and in particular we said that we would like to meet the ticketing manager. We were not offered that but have now been invited to attend the next Fans’ Forum.
We left the meeting thinking that it had been both informative and positive. It seems that the club are happy to enter into dialogue with the Trust and that they also seemed to take some of our ideas about ticketing on board.
They informed us that just before the meeting they had given an interview to Phil Ham of TWTD, and from the reports on TWTD many of the same topics had been discussed. In the TWTD articles, it seemed that the joint MD’s were implying that they had got the prices of tickets just about right whereas in our meeting the Club seemed to be saying that they had just made the deadline for handing over their pricing schedule to the Football League and that they were constantly reviewing the prices.
To sum up:
The meeting was positive and has enabled us to get the views of our members over to those running the club.
We have now been invited onto the Fans’ Forum and will also be looking at other opportunities to open avenues of discussion with the club.
Ticketing – we suggested two ideas that we think will bring in more supporters and would also show fans that the club both listened and understood that, for many, football has become too expensive to go and watch every week.
We would like to hear what members and supporters think. We will be carrying out a survey to get more detailed views on ticketing and then we will present the results to the club.
We would call on the club to look into the possibility of implementing two specific things:
- Concession tickets to be set at lowest price for all games
- Remove the extra charge currently imposed on buying a ticket on match day.
We are very keen to hear what our members think on all aspects of football and Ipswich Town, but in particular the current ticketing set-up.
Alasdair Ross, Chair