Last month Leeds Rugby held their first Fans Forum meeting, with fans of both Leeds Carnegie and Leeds Rhinos coming together to voice their opinions towards the decisions made at Leeds Rugby.

The purpose of the Fans Forum is to give supporters a chance to give the club feedback and give their opinions and to form a link between the club and its loyal fan base; to find out what the fans of both codes are talking about and the ways in which the club can be improved.

The Leeds Rugby Fans Forum is made up of 17 supporters from both Leeds Rhinos and Leeds Carnegie who applied to work with the club to help shape its future for the fans. The forum will aim to meet four times a year and below are details from the first meeting.

Here at Leeds Rugby we welcome all feedback, both positive or negative, and if you feel there is something you would like to share with us, possible topics that can be discussed at future meetings (held every quarter) or you have any ideas to help improve your club then please drop us a line to fansforum@leedsrugby.com.

To view more about the fans who make up the Fans Forum click here

Minutes- Fans Forum Meeting (25/07/2012)

Attended by: Sian Jones, Mark Bradley, Lucy Fahey, Laura Judson, Lucy Young, Martyn Horwell, Rachel Barker, Ian Waterhouse, Scott Johnson, Paul Coward, Danny Frank, Julie Brimelow, Mark Nelson, Sue Millard, Gerry Alleyn, Alistair Senior, Jeremy Wright, Andrea Green, Elizabeth Greenwood, Simon Whitehead, Jane Shelmerdine, Mark Cotton and appearances from Gary Hetherington and Rob Oates.

Apologies from Phil Daly

Started at 7.20pm
Introduction from Sian Jones, Head of Customer Experience

  • Explaining who everyone is; with a brief description about their involvement within the fans forum.
    The Journey of being a Fan
  • 7 topics were introduced about the journey of a fan and what they encounter from ordering tickets to coming to the game and their experiences while at the game.

The forum was asked to mix themselves up into a mixture of Carnegie and Rhinos fans and discuss the journey.
The next part of the meeting was to have an open discussion about the main topics brought up in their groups which affected both codes.

Open Discussion

First Impressions/contact

All agreed that the ticket office is the first point of contact and all staff are very friendly.

Ticketing

All agreed the premium rate telephone numbers are irritating and have asked if this can be reviewed?
This will be investigated however it will not be an immediate action.

A comment was made to change the voice on the call waiting.
A new phone system will be put in place as of September 2012 and should resolve this.

The £1.50 booking fee is a query that many do not understand, would it be possible to have a reason as to why it is there?
The £1.50 is an administration to process the debit card not based on a specific percentage. This administration fee can be avoided by making payment by cash or cheque. Possible further investigation.

The travel for both codes seem expensive compared to other clubs, local newspapers have offers which are £40 cheaper for the Wembley over night package which includes a meal as well, it comes across as not necessarily cheaper is the best but fans are looking for value for money.
This needs to be investigated.

Rhinos fans stated they find it cheaper to travel with friends in a car share rather than the coaches and have only used the coaches when there is a special offer (Salford £5) or the season ticket voucher.

Carnegie fans have asked if they can have a free travel voucher, or make the price more appealing a suggestion was made to look at the Newcastle to Jersey trip their supporter’s club uses.
Investigation taking place, a possible supporter only travel club.

An untapped potential for Carnegie are those that play Rugby Union and watch it on telly but don’t watch games live.
Aware of the market – Marketing action plan for 2012-2013 season.

PR/Media

Both codes have said they do not like the cross over of information, especially within emails as each is not interested in the others code.
This will be resolved through the upgrade of the ticket system which will take place from 2013, questions will be asked to customers at the time of purchase.

Make buying programmes more accessible to fans without being stuck in queues, maybe an idea would be to get students in to sell them and offer them a free ticket as an incentive.
For Rhinos we have 8 sellers in the ground (have had up to 16 in previous seasons) and sell in both Shop and Ticket Office. Can look into getting more sellers to alleviate queues although Student sellers have been used in the past but issues with reliability during summer can become a problem. With the amount of casual work available, they won’t work for a ticket, they want cash.For Carnegie it is not financially viable to have any more sellers due to amounts sold (numbers were low in the Premiership when we had a seller in each area of the ground)

All have agreed some of the comments on the message boards are not always appropriate.

Have the programmes sent to a subscription paid App/ Android on the morning of the games, and then all the information is more up to date, as a lot of the information is old and has been printed earlier on in the week and injuries in that time frame can happen.
Can certainly look at App/Android idea but would take issue with information is old or repeated from elsewhere. On average 15 of the articles in the Rhinos programme are exclusive to the programme (this does not include fanzone and kidszone) and are not printed anywhere else. Teams, league tables, stats are always up to date(unless play on a Sunday when other teams have played). We have deliberately taken out things like match reports because these are widely available elsewhere. This year we have included QR codes to exclusive content including Brian McDermott announcing his team before it is announced anywhere else, can look to do this with Diccon but new rule should make this irrelevant next season.

Rhinos fans said how ace the idea for the twitter names was to be on the shirts.

Carnegie fans stated they felt their programme was out of date and it was just an advert with a team sheet.
The Carnegie programme is not printed until Friday afternoon so all the information is up to date to that point so unclear what information is deemed as out of date. Following feedback, Diccon Edwards notes last season deliberately included topics, he had not spoken about anywhere else prior to the game. The player article is unique to the programme and not repeated elsewhere, likewise Academy info appears first in the programme before we then add it to the site the following week. The starting home team in the programme was totally correct on 75% of occasions last season.

An idea was suggested by Carnegie fans that a fixture list was put in the free newspapers in Yorkshire but outside of Leeds as that is where most of the fan base exists. At the start of the season to promote the team.

Speak to Harlequins as they were in a similar position to us with the two codes, and how they managed it – tips and hints for the future.
Will certainly ask the question but they were in a different situation in that the Rugby League side was just a tenant and not part of the same company ie it was Harlequins RU’s home ground not joint. Have spoken to Brian McDermott extensively about this.

Carnegie fans add the advertising boards are not at the stadium or around Leeds like they used to be.
To be investigated however it is currently due to finances.

Carnegie fans thought it was an embarrassment that on the last game of the season within the match report they got players names wrong.
This was a human error but proud that our website is updated immediately after the final whistle with a match report from every game home and away, internet connection permitting, confident that we are unique in the Championship with that record. Personally can not recall the error but I’m sure it did happen, we aim to update the site as quickly as possible and occasionally that leads to errors.

Both parties have asked if maybe more staff is required within the PR/Media team as sometimes they are slow to release new news stories.
Our aim is to have five new news stories each day on both club websites in season, not always possible in the close season. Unfortunately at the end of the season and during the period of signing new players it is not always possible to announce all the players who have been rumoured to be joining us because there are contractual commitments that need to be met both for those who are arriving and leaving. Social media adds to the challenge but we look to manage the situation to the best of our ability. Can I get specific examples from Rhinos and Carnegie fans that they feel we have been slow to release?

Retail

Carnegie fans say it’s like finding a needle in a haystack for Carnegie items; would it be possible to use pop up shops on match days?
The retail arrangement will be managed to bring Carnegie retail to the front of the store

Can we look at the old YCCC shop on the Western Terrace?
This is still used by the YCCC and unfortunately not be viable as there would be a cost for usage and staffing. Possible use of match day trailers.

Or can we at least keep the Carnegie things in the same place in shop at all times because every week they are moved.
Same as the first point.

There are no Carnegie baseball caps and they are needed as they protect from the sun on the north stand.
Will look into the possibility of stocking these items.

Rhinos fans have stated the shop is not big enough or quick enough for the volume of people on a match day.
This is unlikely to be tackled in the near future in terms of extension; however there is possibilities of a layout change which will make it better.

Stadium

Nothing was mentioned

Food and Drink

Both codes agreed a little more variety with the food vans would be better.

Inside the stadium/ Match day experience

Bank Holiday games are great and it would be worth it to make more of an occasion of these for the Carnegie home matches.
Suggestions would be welcome for this point.

A break for refreshments before the Carnegie/Rhinos break out tables were formed

The Carnegie break out table was discussing the Match Day Experience

Food and drink is one of the top topics of discussion as it was described as vile, it should be of better quality, they cannot understand why Rhinos have the Wilsons pork pies and Carnegie doesn’t.
Will be addressed in time for the start of the season (referring to the food not the Wilsons pie van).

Real Ale is a must, but it has to be hand pulled and not in a bottle, maybe talking to beer festivals or local breweries.
To have hand pulled ale is not financially viable however the bottled option is. Is this not suitable?

Carnegie Cafe bar is good but more choice would be good for people who don’t want huge meals, pie or pasties make this a central point for people to meet and arrive, maybe showing highlights of previous matches.
To be addressed

Improve the quality of the coffee as it is always cold.
The information has been passed onto catering.

Put something on straight after the game as nobody wants to wait round for 40 minutes after the game, could there maybe be a (injured) player to have Q&A straight away to keep people there
This suggestion has been put forward

Injury news can it be up to date on the website
Will look to improve communication between the medical/coaching team and the Media & PR team, previous medical regime did not allow injury news to be announced due to patient/doctor confidentiality which presented challenges

Player profiles would be good to have on the webpage and put them in the programme.
Can this be clarified as there are full player profiles on the website for both of the first and the academy team. The space in the programme prohibits us from including full player profiles in the programme but can look at having more detail in.

Maybe the programme could be free and sponsored by adverts? Or make the price lower.
Our programme is as cheap as any other in the Championship and less than a number of other clubs. We lose around £13,000 a season on the programme with costs compared to sales and programme advertising. To save costs we block print our adverts in two batches during the season and have maintained the programme at 32 pages this season, despite the losses.

A lucky number each week in the programme like what they used to do in conjunction with Jet 2.
Unfortunately this did not increase sales at all when we did it and only three people over the course of the season claimed the prize, which was a shame as it was a great prize that we worked hard to attract.

Maybe we could have promotions for the first 500 people through the turnstiles, a £2 food voucher or 50p off a drink as it would be better having people in the stadium spending money-the promotions could end 1hr after kick off.
The concept of this is something which will be looked into.

The team sheet being out of date has been mentioned many times.
On 75% of the games last season, the home team starting line up was exactly what was printed, the others had one or two changes, the most being three against Doncaster, a one off. This should not be an issue going forward due to new Championship regulations that mean all teams have to announce accurate teams or be fined £150 by RFU if they change the team from 12 noon on Friday to Sunday/Saturday kick offs for full 22 man squad.

Let’s try and put everything in one place so it can build an atmosphere.
Carnegie Cafe Bar will be the main meeting point on Carnegie match day for 2012-2013 season.

Promotion of what is going on at the stadium would be better i.e. a vote before the games to see what flavour pie and then the top 2 get sold.
Will discuss this with catering as it depends on menu plans.

Get people to ‘check in’ on facebook.

It would be great if we could get the referee hooked up with a microphone to explain decisions (if this is not possible can we get it on the big screen)

Players NEED to applaud fans after each game.
To be addressed.

Can we link a fan to community placements?
We wrote this down and wondered if Carnegie fans would be able to elaborate this point.

It would be nice if members of the staff acknowledge fans when out and about, just a simple hello would suffice. Mike, Giles and Gary are all good at this.
Do we know which members of staff do not acknowledge fans when they are out and about? Is this at grounds or if they bump into them at the shops etc?

A travel club which is run by fans to be started at the beginning of the season would be great, as the operator used is a little pricey and if you look at the other clubs and what they charge their fans they have it cheaper. Also some of the mini buses we have used in the past are not the best quality.
This was something we tried a couple of years ago when Nick Fletcher was at the club, Bath do this very successfully but the onus is on the fans to organise themselves for this there.

The debit card fees are not acceptable.
These were explained at the start of the minutes.

Concession age is not fair, most other clubs offer concession at 60 why are we 65?
We moved our OAP/Senior Concession age to 65 and over from 60 and over as of the 1st January 2009, it was agreed in full by the board to take this action. The Rugby Football League (RFL) also has this age for OAP/Senior Concessions and we expected further clubs to come in line with the governing body of Rugby League in the coming seasons. As we had made this decision for Rugby League, we reflected this for Rugby Union.This was a company choice and we did ensure we had investigated our right to do this prior to introduction. Sixty Five is the official age at which men officially become recognised by the state as ‘pensioners’ and although this age is 60 at the moment for women born before or on 5th April 1950 this age will also be changing to 65 in the coming years. Therefore as the ticket concession that we offer and indeed any other ‘OAP/Senior’ ticket across a variety of sports, events and stadiums are designed to financially help those who have reached the official retirement age, finished full time employment and claim a pension it only makes sense that the tickets concession for OAP/seniors reflects this.As a club we do offer concession rates to our younger and older fan base, some clubs do choose to offer nothing.

A ramp into the North Stand to improve disabled access would be a great start.
There would need to be disabled access seating in the stand which will not be something that will happen until the refurbishment of the stand.

The Rhinos fans went off into their break out group and discussed 2013 membership

South Stands season tickets without an adult: In the South Stand, what are the chances of being more flexible and allowing juniors in without adults and it be the same as other areas in the ground.
Potential to relax for a season (2013) and see what happens

Sign up for a season ticket now for 2013 and come to the last two home 2012 matches for free.
Possibility for 2014 – will not be executed for 2013

It seems good value and very good for juniors

Concessions 65 and over, why? And is it possible to change?
See above response to concession age. No plans to change.

Automatic application procedure for all home Cup Matches/Play Offs when applying for 2013 memberships
This will potentially be trialled for season 2013

A bundle cost or pay as you go for the play offs and the challenge cup
See above

IF forms a great idea – Mirror procedure for Cup and Play Off matches

The team have only started which may suggest early decline in season tickets at the start of the season

The benefits to the season tickets need to be more rewarding and appealing.

A possible two tier ticketing system which will have categories A, B and C with different matches priced at different categories.

Early bird deadline to be later (January) Seat deadline to still be in December but cheaper season tickets to be a later date.

A loyalty scheme, season ticket holder from 2012 can purchase a cheaper season ticket for 2013. Reward fans (a Purchasing points system)

After the break out groups the meeting ended at approximately 9.45pm