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CUSG: Minutes from the August meeting

Update from the latest meeting of CUSG

17 August 2018

CUSG Meeting Summary - East Stand Offices, 13 August 18.

Attendance - Simon Clarkson (Chair, London Branch), John Kukuc, Jim Mitchell, Alastair Woodcock (CUOSC), Kate Rowley, Keith Elliott (CUSAT), Barry Carter (Disabled Group), Keith Ward (Scottish Supporter), Dan McLennan, Matt Spooner (TheCumbrians.net), Nigel Clibbens, Amy Nixon, Andy Hall (CUFC)

Apologies - John Ireland (West Cumbria Travel), Nigel Dickinson (CUFC), Derek Walsh (Ex Players Association) 

The minutes of the last meeting were accepted.

Simon Clarkson introduced Dan and Matt as representatives of TheCumbrians.net messageboard.

Andy informed the meeting that a match between former players of Carlisle United and Gillford Park FC had been arranged for September 15. It was understood this would take place on the training pitch at Brunton Park. Simon offered to liaise with Derek Walsh over the organisation of this event.

Club updates

Manager Q&A event – this had been sold out. Feedback was described as 'excellent' by Andy. The Facebook streaming had worked well. Andy said that most future events of this nature would be done the same way. Jim praised the managerial team for their contributions. A further forum in September was planned, though no date had yet been fixed. This would focus on off-field matters. The next directors' press conference was coming up on Thursday and would be attended by Nigel C and Jim. Matt commented that when it came to release of news the club was too reactive and rumours got out first. Nigel C said there will always be rumours and calls for information are fair but will always be there.  Club has come a long way.  Regular press conferences and CUSG meetings were there to help ensure a regular flow of information on top of the normal web and media releases but club was always seeking to improve and recognises the supporter concerns and would continue to look at additional ways to address them.

Commercial Dept – Jenny Anderson and Katie Mitchell were now heading up this department.

Family Fun Day – This was again considered a success. Nigel C put on record his thanks for all the club staff who worked on Sunday morning to prepare for the event.

Fans Zone – The Bradford City match was a 'wash out' but there had been a proper Fans Zone before the Northampton game. Heineken's support was acknowledged by Nigel C. It was accepted it would take time for this to become established. CUOSC were amenable to the idea of moving their fans' surgery to the Fans Zone. The ex players taking part in the Tranmere match could attend on September 15.

Maintenance – since the last CUSG meeting in July when this was discussed, photos had appeared on social media showing areas of the ground with missing or damaged seats and leaking roofs. Nigel C summarised all the work carried out since the last meeting. This included: extra seats in the bars, external painting (particularly in the West Stand), repaired leak in East Stand roof & cleaned, work in Warwick Road End – one leak fixed, another needing more work, Pioneer Stand – ripped seats replaced and cleaned.  More painting work was being done internally and externally. Nigel C put on record his thanks to Matt at CITO and Stuart from Pioneer for their work.  He added the work was ongoing and there was much to do.

Nigel explained that the focus had been on safety critical work. Failure to do essential maintenance affect the capacity and certification. Broken drainage pumps had been fixed and various electrics addressed. TV aerials were on the to-do list for an upgrade. Nigel thanked volunteer fans who had helped with painting work. All involved had been offered free tickets for the Bradford City friendly.

Simon suggested the Warwick Road toilets and older Paddock toilets were long overdue an upgrade.

Scoreboard – six months of negotiations with the firm providing this had led to the firm concerned claiming not enough advertising could be sold to fund the scoreboard. However the firm were now selling advertising boards to test the market. This firm had installed scoreboards at Luton Town, Crawley Town and Portsmouth, as well as at Kendal rugby club. The existing scoreboard had been out of action for a long time but further repairs were to be attempted.

Fixtures board – the supplier of this had been asked to improve it. This work was in progress. A complete replacement would need planning consent.

Shirts – Umbro's latest promise was that the shirts would be shipped out last Friday, and this had taken place. The club were still awaiting confirmation on the delivery date to Brunton Park. The away playing kit had still not arrived [Arrived Tuesday 14th]. Nigel C stated there was no particular delay in the club placing their order. The club had made a decision not to show the kit in the club shop window until its available for sale. Matt suggested players go into the club shop to help sell the shirts, as had happened in the past. Prices would be 'almost identical' to last season. There was a minimum order number, as part of the contract.

Mascots – there had been a change in policy to charge for this. It had not been discussed at the last CUSG meeting. Andy indicated at that time, the policy had not been changed, but Nigel C accepted it could and should have been communicated better. Parents of Junior Blues had complained for a while that their kids had not been picked using the old system, which involved a random draw. Nigel C said the decision was taken with good intentions, and was not designed to make money. The club reported no difficulty in filling the mascot spots.

Remembrance – KORBR launching 'Arroyo' appeal and would attend the Yeovil Town match on October 27. The British Legion has also been in touch with the club. Club were open to the suggestion that they sell shirts with poppies on.

Protest – Nigel C raised the topic of the protest. Matt commented that fans are not bothered enough at the moment to even attend a protest. Nigel had offered the group a meeting with Andrew Jenkins on Saturday. After initially agreeing to meet, they said they were unwilling to meet pre-Northampton. All the board members were offered for a meeting. The protest took place and there was some dialogue afterwards. Nigel was contacted by the group after the weekend and would be speaking to them again.

Counter terrorism policing – Nigel C circulated latest Anti-terrorism advice from EFL and Counter Terrorism Police.

Web link below:

https://www.carlisleunited.co.uk/news/2018/august/knowtheplanaug18/

Supporters' Liaison Officer – Nigel Dickinson was standing down from this role, alongside that of disabled fans liaison. Barry said it was important to have someone in the latter role. Nigel C asked the groups for comments on how best to fill the roles.  Eg club staff or a fan. Fan groups to feedback views on how best to fill the position.

Finances – unchanged with £897.29 in the bank. This amount was ring-fenced for the moment to help support the Sunset Suite memorabilia installation.

Sunset Suite memorabilia – Simon reported progress was being made in framing all the old photos and mementos. About 60% of the work had been done to date. The placement of the frames within the Sunset Suite had still to be finalised. 

Supporters' Groups update

CUOSC – Had been asking for feedback on catering from Saturday. One complaint had come in from a fan in the Pioneer Stand and was being investigated by the club. Service in the Sunset Suite and Sporting Inn had been found to be good. Signage for the Fans Zone could be improved. Entertainment in the Fans' Zone was going to be introduced at future matches. CUOSC undertook to advertise the Fans' Zone in their weekly briefings. A response was being put together to a critical piece by Jon Colman in the News & Star.

The equality & diversity survey had been completed by 60 fans. This data was combined with that from club staff and would be sent to the EFL.

CUSAT – Keith asked about the chances of further loan signings. There was no news to report, yet. The season ticket total was over 1,800 and growing as they were still being sold.

Disabled Fans Group – Barry reported two disgruntled members. One had been asked to bring his benefit forms into the club and had not renewed his season ticket as a result. The other had been barred from the disabled areas under the club's policy for disabled fans, despite using a Zimmer frame. He had managed to get round this by registering as a carer for another disabled fan. The club were aware of this workaround. Andy undertook to re-word the club's policy on disabled supporters which was available via the club website.

Grants for work in the Paddock, to double the capacity of the disabled shelter, were in hand.

Scottish supporters group – Keith explained that an informal Facebook group existed for fans based in Scotland, in response to a query.

London Branch – Had enquired with Nigel D about the whereabouts of a couple of banners that had been previously housed in the Waterworks End. Thanks were offered to Nigel C for attending the AGM. Draft designs for a Jimmy Glass 20-year celebration T-shirt were shown around the group. A plan was being put together to re-unite the team from that match. Simon would liaise with Derek Walsh over this. Keith Ward offered to help him.

TheCumbrians.net – Nigel had answered a lot of questions posed by messageboard members. Details below:

“To what extent percentage wise are EWM contributing to David Holdsworth's salary costs?”

Its in the Club's off-field budget to pay salary and other costs – no different to anyone else.

“Why do we need a chief executive and a director of football at a time when the playing budget has been slashed and who’s paying their wages?”

CEO and DOF have separate roles and responsibilities. Trying to improve and build on what we have by adding to the team.

DoF is focused narrowly to bring more football expertise into the club to support the manager and the board with football decisions and football operations – pathways, recruitment.  Brings consistency and continuity in football.  Even at L2 level it's more common.

The appointment is part of us changing how we work to try and do better and make better decisions than we did before, to do things differently.  It the past there as been criticism from some that those making the decisions didn’t have the expertise so I would have thought the change would be welcomed.

The budgets on the field (football budget) and that for off the field (like the CEO and DoF budget) are separate.

It doesn’t follow cost changes off the field mean more or less money for the football budget.  The football budget and off the field are set and each is ring-fenced as far as is possible.  We have moved away from seeing spending on the wider club as a means to direct more and more to the football budget. This is part of the re-balancing we have talked about.

Seesaw - “I want to know how the written plan for the future direction of the club is going as was asked for at the Fans Forum.”

The plan for the club is outlined in writing in the Club Charter:

https://www.carlisleunited.co.uk/siteassets/documents/club-charter-june-2018-19.pdf

And there is more detail in Strategic report:

https://www.carlisleunited.co.uk/siteassets/documents/cufc-1921-accounts-2017.pdf

For example in terms of actions -

We have started to do what we said going back to December 2018.  Made and continue to make changes in the way we operate to lose less money and be more viable and sustainable.  This reduces the pressure on those funding the losses, makes the club less vulnerable and also more attractive for investment.  Re-balancing our expenditure to avoid being too short term and consider the needs of the whole club.

Implemented changes in commercial and more will follow – maybe overdue but now able to push on.

We have continued to be committed to the Academy and are pleased with the way John Sheridan has approached it.  Made it clear we want more contribution from the Academy.

We are continuing to work hard to build relations with fans like this meeting but there is clearly lots more to do.

What we have to do is take fans with us.  That is why these meetings for me are crucial – fans can share info and be in it united together.

The amount of information we have provided fans with has increased but we understand there is always desire for more.  I always ask – if it's not enough what else do you want to know? 

CUOSC said they had 626 members at their membership year end, but this included 28 non-paying students from Runcorn. They had 422 renewed and were about 40 behind where they were 12 months ago. They believed their members were older than the CUFC average. Younger fans were much less likely to join a Trust.

TheCumbrians.net messageboard had 1,001 registered users, of whom 90% or so were considered 'active'.

The messageboard reps offered a login to any supporters group to publicise events, away trips etc. 

AOB

There had been some positive feedback about the new match day publication 'The Blues' which had replaced the full match programme. 

Next meeting – September 24


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