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

Attendees:-

Sian Jones, Lucy Fahey, Mike Bidgood, Jason Booth, Ryan Golding, Rachel Barker, Ian Waterhouse, Scott Johnson, Martyn Horwell, Danny Frank, Mark Nelson, Sue Millard, Alistair Senior, Andrea Green, Elizabeth Greenwood, Jane Shelmerdine, Paul Coward, Jeremy Wright and Mark Cotton.

Apologies from: -Gary Hetherington, Rob Oates, Sir Ian McGeechan, Phil Daly, Simon Whitehead, Gerry Alleyn and Julie Brimelow

Sian welcomed everyone back and introduced Lucy who is taking minutes for the evening, Jason Booth who is the Head Groundsman and Ryan Golding who is the Assistant Head Groundsman at Headingley Carnegie Stadium and Mike Bidgood who is the Leeds Carnegie Finance manager.

Sian explained the agenda of the evening: –

  • Discussion of feedback which was emailed in previous to the forum
  • Jason Booth (Head Groundsman) to give a presentation with an over view of the pitch and its progress
  • Coffee break
  • Break out groups – Leeds Carnegie with Mike Bidgood and Sian Jones. Leeds Rhinos with Lucy Fahey
  • Both codes reform to answer any questions which they may have and also be informed of the next meeting which will be on the Wednesday 8th May 2013.

Travel

The Carnegie Fans expressed how the £5 offer for travel was not well received – They explained they felt cheated having to pay £5

Club Response: – The club informed the fans prior to purchasing their season tickets that these matches would be ‘On the Road’ therefore believed that by offering the discounted travel to help fans get to the venues wasn’t unreasonable. This has clearly not been met with good feedback from the fans therefore should this happen in the future we will re-visit this and see what options would suit both the fans and the club. The club did offer free travel for all the ‘On the Road’ matches which were not scheduled.

Website Error now resolved

Alistair mentioned there seems to be an error on the website for Carnegie and Rhinos regarding the minutes – The minutes were on the website on both sites on the 18th December. Recently we had an upgrade on the site and the updated pages that included the links were not copied over, this also coincided with a major issue our web providers have had on all of their sites with the archive section which meant that we were unable to access the page to get the address and re-add the link. This issue has now been resolved and the links to the minutes are now back on the site.

Leinster British and Irish Cup Game and Communication

Mark brought up the situation of the Leinster Game which was played at West Park, and how on this particular day the fans felt they had been let down due to poor communication. The fans mentioned they would like information in one area i.e the website.

Mike Bidgood explained what happened that day and the decision to play was only made 1 hour before the game was played, he admitted things could and should have been dealt with better however the communication was handled the best way it could have been given the circumstances. There was however a story on the main website saying a decision was still to be made regarding the Leinster game and the club did not at any point communicate that the game had been called off to fans or to the coach company and as soon as a decision was made it was communicated to fans.

Signatures on Emails sent from Leeds Rugby staff

Mark brought up the signatures on the bottom of the emails which staff send out externally, as one of those were incorrect and not updated for the Newcastle game. Sian explained the reason behind this is an outsourced IT department deals with them, but Leeds Rugby are taking the job over, so they will be up to date for the future.

Turnstiles on Rhinos match day

Sue enquired about season ticket holders bringing small children and having to be separated to go through the turnstiles. Reconciliation of the turnstiles at the end of the match is the reason why and Sian mentioned there should have been a funnel type mechanism for families to go through the turnstiles at the same time! Sian will go ask the question to G4S and until the answer is known, for families attending games and entering with juniors, please inform the supervisor on the turnstiles to be kept together.

Ambassador programme

Sian explained the new Ambassadors programme which is now in operation across the key hubs across Leeds for Rhinos fans to get together, discuss matches, travel to games together, have social events, etc. The Rhinos fans asked why it’s in the ‘Squeaker’ (local publication in Pudsey/Calverley area) and not really anywhere else. It was explained that it was put in there by Sue as she is part of running the Ambassador programme in the Pudsey/Calverley. Sian has explained that it will be in the programme and on the website once everything is in situ with lists of places and contacts, if people wish to join. This project is still in its infancy.

Sue suggested maybe having someone from the Ambassadors’ programme joining the Fans forum and then it was suggested that instead of bringing more people into the forum, that it would be useful if Lucy contacted the Ambassadors to see if they would like to give any feedback to take to the Forum.

Retail

Danny mentioned having nothing available for 4-6 year olds, there is some stock but not track suits, we would like to get more in but in order to do this we need to look for suppliers which produce garments that match our high quality expectations however in small quantities. We will also speak to our kit suppliers, ISC, to see if they are planning to produce garments to satisfy this.
Fans Forum Representatives

When the Fans Forum was first brought together, it was in the contract that the representative would be involved in the first 4 meetings which would be a year and then would have the option to decline or accept another year. Sian explained the next meeting would be the fourth and it would be prior to that meeting which we would like the representatives to let us know their decision as to if they would like to continue that role.

Additional Fans Benefits

One idea which was suggested by Danny was to try and raise interest for season ticket holders by introducing a loyalty book scheme for the local businesses in and around Headingley, similar to match day offer which is held with Arc Inspirations. It shouldn’t have to imply any extra costs to Leeds Rugby but could be good for fans and local businesses. Sian suggested making a list of what types of things would interest the fans. It could be part of the Season Ticket Holder packages for the next season.

Fans Village

Comments were made on the subject of this and most fans seem to think until the weather gets a little warmer it will be appreciated more, but they like the concept of it, even though a few miss the supporters club.

Sian asked if there was any more feedback and as there was none, she introduced Jason Booth – Head Groundsman

Jason started by introducing himself and explained he was in to talk about the Pitch redevelopment.

Jason explained he wants to get rid of any misconceptions and clarify the first we at Leeds Rugby knew of the new pitch project actually being carried out was September 7th 2012 although this was a project that had been planned for a couple of years we had to await the go ahead from the Club Chairman.

The club could no longer guarantee fixtures and events – in the annual report to the board, Jason stated he estimated we would lose six fixtures with the old pitch over the winter period and that would increase year on year.

The actual start of the process began on October 8th 2012

We set a precedent to undertake a project of this nature at this time of year.

We were actually 20 years behind modern stadia and this brings us on par.

We are the 1st stadium in the UK to have pitch sensors which will make us more environmentally friendly and it will enable us to use our utilities (water and under soil heating) more efficiently and economically.

There are 20 miles of under soil heating pipes are fuelled by gas (like central heating at home)

Pitch Dimensions (100m x 68m – 4.6m in goal area) haven’t changed and there is still 3m round the pitch and those areas are artificial grass in line with RFL rules and regulations. We are slightly less than the RFU rules and regulations however as we are in situ we are allowed to be.

There is a 20 year lifespan for the pitch

The Turf that has been installed was 18 months old (ideal age for harvesting)

In order to maintain the new construction water plays and important part as this binds the turf together and creates a firmer, faster playing surface. Quote Jason ‘the wetter the better’

As Jason stated the only thing which beat us was in fact Mother Nature and for that reason it changed the timescale.

Break-out Groups for Carnegie: –

Coach travel for future away matches

Mike Bidgood and Sian agreed coaches are definitely going to be available for the Doncaster and Moseley game

Next Season

Decisions have not yet been made as to whether ‘On the Road’ games will be happening next season however it will be a very small amount if it does and will most likely be Cup Games only – this year was out of our hands hence more than the original plans going on the road. The original plan for ‘On the Road’ was based on spreading the word of Leeds Carnegie and working with local clubs in the West and East Yorkshire region – we still believe this is something for us to do.

Fans feel they deserve some kind of compensation, due to many games going ‘On the Road’ Martyn sent out information on the unofficial message board the day after the Forum meeting to see what how the fans felt and what they would be happy with for going forward for next season. This was done on the unofficial message board only as we needed to rally fans opinions and we didn’t wish for it to be a club request. The club has some up with ideas and we will collate all feedback to ensure we are working with the fans to provide what they would like the club to do.

Questionnaire to fans

Having gone through the questionnaire, we are now waiting for the final bits of feedback so we can make the finishing touches and get it out to fans and find out their true opinions. Ideas which were thrown out there to get as much hype about filling out the form are: –

Start the campaign from the Monday before the Rotherham home match (31st March 2013 – Headingley Carnegie Stadium) – this would be in the form of a web story with a link to complete it online. This would also link to twitter and facebook.

Hand out leaflets to fans which promote the link @ the Rotherham home match (31st March 2013 – Headingley Carnegie Stadium)

Promote it on match day via the big screen, the Carnegie times and via the on pitch announcer.

A possible prize draw to reward fans giving their time to fill it in

Rhinos Break-Out Group

Questionnaire to fans

The representatives were given a draft copy of the Leeds Carnegie questionnaire and we wanted their opinions on it, as we want to do one for the Rhinos fans and find out their thoughts on the match day experience.

First impressions were that they felt closed questions should be at the start of the questionnaire and only towards the end should the open questions be introduced as many thought the questionnaire was too long and the fans would lose interest.

Some feel the questions are not relevant and may only appeal to the Carnegie fans.

As the questionnaire is long the representatives were asked to take it away and send any feedback through which they thought relevant and if the questions may need changing or could be reworded.

Hull FC – 1st match feedback

The Rhinos representatives were then asked to give any feedback from the first game on the 1st February 2013 against Hull

There was a concern with a few stewarding matters, in the Carnegie Cafe bar and in the South Stand, these have been passed on to G4S.

An issue with the sound quality of the pre-match singer, Lemar was brought to our attention and these have been passed on to the entertainment team.

The fan village was brought up in conversation and many thought it had not been advertised enough and didn’t know it was there, it was suggested that the food vans could have been a little different as many come straight from work and eat at the games and the choice is always the same.

With all topics which are raised in the forums, if any fan has any feedback which they would like to share then please get in touch with lucy.fahey@leedsrugby.com

After the break out groups it was mentioned that the next Fans Forum would be held on Wednesday 8th May 2013.