The latest Yorkshire Carnegie Fans Forum meeting was held in October at Headingley Carnegie Stadium to discuss Yorkshire Carnegie specific issues. Here are the minutes from the meeting.

Fans Forum Meeting Wednesday 8th October

Fans Forum Members:

Attendees: Ian Waterhouse; Andrea Green, Scott Johnson.
Non-Attendees: Jane Shelmerdine

Leeds Rugby Attendees: Sian Jones (Head of Customer Experience & Meeting Chair), Hollie Fisher (Customer Experience Sales Assistant/Minute Taker)

Agenda for the evening:
7pm Arrival at Meeting Room- usual tea and coffee
7.15pm Fans Forum Meeting to begin
The Fan’s match day (make the big game bigger – Worcester)
The Future of the Forum from a Yorkshire Carnegie perspective
General Feedback
Meeting to close approximately 8.30pm
Sian welcomes everyone to this evening’s forum.

Fans Forum Members:

Ian Waterhouse
1.Why was there a decision to KO on Sundays at 14.30 this season? So far it appears to be having a detrimental effect on gate figures and is a difficult time to many who are involved in Minis and Junior rugby earlier in the day.

Sian: We toy every year with dates and kick off times, when we were the Tykes it was a 2.30pm kick off. The players like Fridays and a month of Fridays works well for the turn around, gives them time for a break. The perception is also that more fans would come along on a Friday, which is why we have a few Friday nights this season to test them out. However with a Friday night we may not get the full away support. When the Rhinos first changed to Friday nights there was an uproar, now everyone loves it.

Ian: Travel is easier

Sian: It works on a Friday for corporates and schools and on a Sunday with minis and general fans. It went down to a board decision and a lot was considered such as light, half an hour earlier means we get a better light throughout the game.

2.What has happened with the replica shirts and their availability from the Club Shop? It is appreciated that the renaming and sponsorship elements may have delayed the process, but the fans seem to be suffering the majority of the inconvenience occurring from the move to Kooga as kit supplier. In addition Kooga’s own website still does not name Yorkshire Carnegie amongst the clubs supplied with kit. Is this a further indication of the way Kooga have treated the Club?

Andrea: The display in the shop looks great, I love the shirt.

Ian: Why no Satsuma?

Sian: At the time we had them done, we didn’t know who the sponsor was going to be. The shirts are now in the shop, we have prioritised having them in the shop for initial sales. In regards to us being on Kooga’s website, they have an external marketing department who have only just contacted us recently. In relation to other bits of feedback we have had in regarding the shirts, Kooga have admitted full blame for it all, they have taken full blame for not managing or looking after us. We have a meeting next week with the Managing Director at Kooga. We had tried making it work without dragging others in, Kooga have been extremely apologetic and accept all blame. The rebranding and sponsorship make no odds; there was only a slight delay due to those factors. When we selected Kooga as kit supplier they knew 100% what they had to fulfil and were more than happy to meet our requirements and were 100% on board. They gave me exact time frames, in which they failed to meet. Everyone has suffered and Kooga accept it is down to the failures and weaknesses in their organisation. We will be having conversations discussing our future partnership with them.

Ian: When we went to ISC there were problems.

Sian: This was a big order with it being an entire rebrand. Previously we have had left over gear which we have been able to use to sort out senior players, juniors and staff, this year we have changed everything.

Andrea: We went up to West Park and they had old Carnegie kit.

Sian: This was because they were waiting for bits of kit to arrive and it was raining.

Andrea: Design looks great, looks really good together.

Sian: The academy kit is slightly different.

Ian: Did you see the Doncaster’s kit; their winger looked as if he was in nappies.

Sian: Well BLK and Kooga were originally one, but have since parted ways.

3. An old favourite of some regarding acknowledgement of the fans by the players at the end of games, although I have to say that today they did join as one and applaud the small travelling band as they left the pitch.

Ian: They did all do this on Sunday.

Andrea: On Sunday at the Nottingham game, there was a small group of us, they looked up and clapped us which was lovely. We just want them to turn around

Sian: At home fixtures they are not doing this?

Ian: No.

Sian: I will have a word with Gary and instil this into him.

Andrea: It is a real bug bear.

Sian: I will speak to him.

Andrea Green

‘We do not know what has changed with the security team this year but they appear to be locking gates around the ground very early.
We were in the South stand and had to walk all the way to the main gate on the first home game.
Last weekend it happened again and the fans were getting quite fed up and not at all happy with security. Additionally, gates were closed approaching the Carnegie bar. I did actually hear raised voices last weekend, not a good way to finish a visit to Headingley.
Lastly it has been mentioned on the message board.’

Andrea: There were a couple of people hanging around the South Stand gate, there was some shouting. Trying to get out of the gate was the problem; one of our fans had the security lady in their face during the game. The gates were shut, which no one had mentioned at the first game, but when they were shut again, people were getting agitated. There was a steward at the front of the gate who I believe had something thrown at him and he wouldn’t move.

Sian: If I had something thrown at me I would be pretty annoyed.

Andrea: The supervisor was in the guy’s face, he was asking for him to move so he could get past and he wouldn’t. This then escalated to other fans becoming angry. People wanted to get round without going on the road.

Ian: In previous years the gates have always been open.

Andrea: It’s the gate under the South Stand which goes into the Car Park.

Sian: I will flag this up and ask about the gate, I think what I need to say is that we need a satisfactory route for people to get out of the stadium and around towards the Café Bar.

Andrea: Also give us time after the game, the security people are normally lovely, always saying good afternoon.

Sian: I will check this.

Andrea: Every little thing that is happening seems to be mounting up, what seems as insignificant is being blown out of proportion.

Sian: It’s a conversation that I need to have, I wasn’t aware of it and we are two games in. If someone threw a piece of paper at me when I was at work I would be pretty upset. It also depends on how he was being asked to move.

Andrea: People noticed it.

Sian: It’s all come from seeing the incident and has esculated.
Andrea: Yes, let’s stop it before it escalates. Feedback:

Robert Hart – Yorkshire Carnegie Fan
“Having now played a number of games into the new season, what is the feeling amongst die hard supporters of the Yorkshire Carnegie brand?

“I myself began the season open minded to the change of name, but now really dislike the county title as opposed to my city of Leeds. It feels as though my Leeds rugby union team has been taken away from me. I like the badge, and I don’t mind the home and away kits. But we SHOULD be known as Leeds again as soon as possible.”

Sian: In direct response, it will not be changing. In terms of the brand what are your thoughts?

Scott: At first I thought it was strange, and then I began to like it. At this current time I am not as big of a fan.

Ian: I have been to four games now, the first one being Gloucester. What do I shout? It comes down to “Carnegie” or players names. It’s difficult to get your head around but I will support the principles.

Sian: I get the association that comes with the Yorkshire brand and I am completely behind us and our development of the grassroots. This links to the feedback sent in from Gary Marks, that there is a lack of atmosphere.

Andrea: We need some identity, we have MOT but now we have nothing. Maybe we should put it to the fans.

Ian: Chants and songs usually come from the fans.

Sian: I went to the players and they chose the song which they run out onto the pitch to.

Andrea: Is the song they come out to definitely staying?

Sian: Yes it is.

Andrea: Can you sing to it?

Scott: Before we had the gap between so we knew that the players were about to come out and it was about to start.

Sian: With chants it is hard, I can understand when chanting “Yorkshire, Yorkshire” can be hard amongst teams such as Doncaster. We need to come up with our own.

Andrea: I feel it has to come from the fans.

Ian: Usually there are a few more fans to sing together.

Andrea: MOT (Marching On Together) is football isn’t it?

Sian: Yes it is.

Ian: Something around White Roses would be good.

Sian: It’s so direct being Yorkshire; I have thought about it a lot and think we could base it around the White Rose.

Ian: It does work with the kit, playing in white at home.

Andrea: To be honest I don’t shout, I never have.

Sian: On a match day what do you think would help change the look and feel, hang a few more banners around? It is something that has to be interchangeable.

Andrea: Does anyone notice this? I see Terry (Mascot) has a new kit.

Scott: In Café Bar its pictures for both codes, could we change this for each game.

Sian: Now it is just Carnegie pictures in there. In terms of banners if I was to hang some would it change the look and feel?

Andrea: To be honest not in the South Stand.

Ian: The encouraging things would be the results.

Scott: Banners, big free flags.

Sian: Banners at every game to give sense of identity.

Scott: At London Welsh they have them across the seats.

Sian: Possibly have them over the Western Terrace, why don’t we look at buying some banners and cable tying them across the Western Terrace and Paddock seats. This is where we hand it out to the fans, any ideas improving identity.

Andrea: Will it enhance more fans or just keep the ones we have, it’s about the money.
Scott: This came from my son, he came along with me and wanted to go on the bouncy castle, he was only on for five minutes. He then wanted to come the following week because of the bouncy castle. How much does it cost for the day? How much would one cost to buy? Then it’s there every game for both codes, with both logos on. Investing into one means it’s always there, kids asking and we don’t know if it will be there. I know Rhinos have lots more fans, would it be an investment? Should you charge or give it for free? If you charge then everyone wanting a go gets a go.
Andrea: At our games someone could monitor who has a go, but at a Rhinos game you couldn’t do that with the mass of people.

Sian: We wouldn’t charge, there is no point. It comes down to do we want to roll it out, inflate it, pay a member of staff to supervise. It’s not hard but is it generally worth it when you could get an expert.

Scott: If kids are wanting to come along to games and asking if the bouncy castle will be there, as a parent I don’t know the answer and if it’s not there it’s likely they will be upset.

Sian: Add it in to possible ideas and we want any other ideas you and other fans have. I will price banners up and look at the concept of the song and a chant.

Karl Fletcher – Yorkshire Carnegie Fan
“I wanted to highlight my disappointment at the lack of new branded products that are available for purchase by fans. There are no jerseys yet, no hoodies. When at away games, as I was at Nottingham yesterday, the majority of fans are still wearing the Leeds Carnegie tops, which feels we don’t support our new brand. It would be good to get a firm date for when the full range of products will be available.

“I also wanted to recognise the players for recognising the fans who travel to away games. This shows their gratitude to those that travel and long may it continue.”

Sian: They will be coming in over the next few months. The priority was to get the shirts in. People however will continue to wear old jerseys. In regards to recognition of the fans, we have gone over this.

Scott: At away games we are often in a small area rather than a full stadium.

Andrea: All they need to do is turn around and clap to the fans.

Sian: It will be flagged up, we have covered it.

Paul Preston – Yorkshire Carnegie Fan

“I am a season ticket holder and would make the following observations.
The first thing is I am a keen supporter of RU and have been for many years and I enjoy watching my team and will do so for as long as I am able. However the following issues are troubling me.

1. The transition from Leeds to Yorkshire doesn’t appear to have brought about any positive improvements to the fan match day experience. Apart from a new shirt and a new badge there doesn’t appear to be any changes for the better if at all. A highbrow vision is all well and good but in actual fact what we need is investment in the team and into the infrastructure of the club generally.’

Sian: Thank you for your comment, what ideas do you have?

2. The appointment of the new head coach after the season started was quite frankly a ridiculous situation. The new coach should have been appointed within a couple of weeks at the most so that he could work with the players before the season started. To me the situation that was allowed to develop with regard to the appointment of the coach smacks of a lack of professionalism and concern.

Sian: Unfortunately Jimmy Lowes left at the drop of a hat, we did not want to operate recruitment in haste.

3. Club Shop. Need I say that an empty shop or at least empty with regard to the items that the fans and the younger fans want to buy is again totally unprofessional. The shirts should have been in the shop for the first game of the season. Every other professional team in the country has managed to do this. This sort of thing is absolutely basic in terms of marketing to the fans. Quite frankly you have let your fans down seriously on this one. It is no good blaming Kooga. It doesn’t matter who was at fault because the situation should not have developed in the first place.

Sian: The answer for this has been discussed earlier.

4. Apart from the discussion and blue sky thinking around Yorkshire Carnegie, is there actually a plan to develop and strengthen the squad into a unit capable of gaining entry to the top flight and then actually staying there? Exeter are a shining example of what can be done, London Welsh are making the same effort that Leeds did during our yo-yo years. I, like most other long standing fans realise the financial commitment that this takes from sponsors, directors, other backers and the fans but I get the impression and have done for many years since the fall from grace during the Davis years that we are not really serious about top flight rugby and that the backing necessary isn’t really there. I hope I am wrong but perhaps these areas of deep concern to many fans might be clarified at the fans forum and then published on the web site. If the vision for promotion is wound up in the vision for Yorkshire Carnegie, can we have some concrete explanations as to how this is to be taken forward instead of the wishful whimsical thinking that seems to be the sum total of the Yorkshire concept.

Scott: Owners.

Sian: We can’t say anything until it has been completely confirmed, we have to make sure they are the right investors.

Scott: Could you say new owners are not invested until such a date?
Ian: Sir Ian did say at the beginning of the season that it would not be announced until end of October.

Sian: Need to speak to Sir Ian for a response.

Please forgive my cynicism but its clear hard facts that matter, not beautiful visions for the future that really don’t make much difference to the performance on the pitch and the outcome of games. Let’s have a clearly articulated plan with a timescale, agenda, dates and factual aims.

Plus points
1. I like the match day paper and the fact that it’s free is really good.
2. I like to sit in the café bar and have a coffee. Nice place with a good atmosphere.
3. I like the fact that Gary H has a walk around the ground during the game and says ‘hello’.

Andrea: It is good he has taken the time to write in and does have some positives

Gary Marks – Yorkshire Carnegie Fan
I feel the new brand lacks atmosphere at home games there is a lack of identity from the change. Will there be anything done around it?

Question addressed earlier in the minutes

Sian: I have had email communication from an anonymous supporter in regards to ideas for the club. I have informed him to send me in specific details as there is a lot of negative but nothing direct.

Ian: The message board is doom and gloom with no detail.

Sian: I think sometimes people confuse us not saying anything and us not having anything to say. I did state to the supporters that I do read the message board and there is a lot of negative opinion which people are entitled to. It takes me a while to go through it and find a gem. I did also say about Fans Forum, people choose not to use that option to communicate, which is fine but please do not drill us for it. We have a very open line of communication.

Andrea: It is a lot better than a lot of other clubs.

Sian: The supporter is going to email me with his ideas.

Andrea: We put it out there and we get nothing.

Sian: Anything else?

Ian: There was a throw away comment about “decent food”.

Sian: I may suggest something along the lines of a hot pork sandwich??

Ian: How about mince pies and mulled wine?

Sian: No harm in running this from the Café Bar, see how it goes. We could trial that and the hot pork sandwiches, if we sell out, we will do it again.

Andrea: You will never please everyone.

Ian: What about Headingley Experience?

Sian: We will work with them, the fans forum and the fans; we will just ask what the chance of having some mince pies are. It is worth asking, any ideas I am happy to take them and have a go.

Ian: Players in the Café Bar?

Sian: We can try that; we can stick them behind the bar.

Andrea: As long as a member of staff is with them.

Sian: They may not be pulling pints, might be passing glasses, something like that.

Ian: A shuttle bus, from Leeds City Centre to Headingley on the 27th December?

Sian: I will speak to Fourways and ask if they can do me a bus, people must use it though.

Sian: I will scribe a plan and do some investigation. Throw out some more ideas; we are willing to attempt anything within reason.

Sian: Future of the forum? We have dwindled; we are out looking for new members, as long as you want to continue I do. I like that we sit together and we talk and work as a team. I want you to get a benefit, let’s go forward with this match day.

Andrea: The beginning of the season event was brilliant meeting the players, was brilliant and free of charge, you could just turn up.

Sian: Those little things, we are a club, fundamentally a business, like any club we need to survive, as long as you’re happy I appreciate your support.

Sian: Next meeting is group meeting is Christmas on 17th December.

Ian: Possibly have some players at this one?

Sian: I can look at this.

Andrea: All the things the forum have done have been good.

Sian: Thank you all for coming this evening.