In September fans from Yorkshire Carnegie and Leeds Rhinos gathered for a Fans Forum meeting held at Headingley Carnegie Stadium to discuss issues concerning both clubs. Here are the minutes from the meeting.
Fans Forum Meeting Wednesday 17th September

Fans Forum Members:

Attendees: Simon Whitehead, Rachel Barker, Alistair Senior, Barbara Senior, Danny Frank, Sue Millard, Ian Waterhouse; Paul Coward, Mark Nelson, Julie Brimelow

Non-Attendees: Andrea Green, Jane Shelmerdine, Martyn Horwell, Gerry Alleyn, Scott Johnson.

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

Agenda for the evening:-
7pm Arrival at Captain’s Lounge – usual tea, coffee and biscuits
7.15pm Fans Forum Meeting to begin
Review and the next step for the Fans Forum
Recruitment Drive for new members
Any other business and ideas factory!
Meeting to close approximately 9.00pm

Sian thanks everyone for coming this evening; she will go through feedback for both codes.
Introduces Jessica Ives to the forum, Jess has undertaken a new role within telesales campaigns and aftercare for customers with a variety of other things she will get involved with. She has had an intense first week meeting with each department. So if you see her round, please say hello.

This evenings meeting will be a general housekeeping. I do have a recommendation that we get someone from the RFL to come along to a meeting, it will be interesting to get a Governing Bodies view and it will put a nice spin on being part of the Governing Body team. The next group meeting will be our Christmas Forum.

In terms of feedback, it has been brilliant and we will start by going through that first this evening. Anything else we will discuss after and finish with a discussion on recruiting new members, possibly three or four more people, we will go through the procedure of how we want to do this and if any of you know anyone who you would like to be part of the forum.

Fans Forum Members

For Wednesday’s meeting I have been asked the following by users;
1.What is the latest situation regarding the South Stand redevelopment?

Sian: I don’t have an answer for this. As you are all aware the plans for the North Stand have been initiated by Yorkshire Cricket and will have a influence on us. This may have taken over the plans for the South Stand. The stand is currently safe. We have to manage this as due to the potential loss of the North Stand, we have to put the 5,000 people from those seats in other areas of the ground. There is no real update at the moment; we would like a new South Sand however the North Stand may take priority.

2.Since having our supporters club stolen from us can the club please replace the poor quality beer in the South Stand with something decent at an affordable price?

Sian: Headingley Experience, Sodexo control all food, drink and concessions around the ground. They sell the beer at a competitive price for a stadium. They do not put them up for certain events or fixtures, it remains the same. I don’t think the prices will change, if anything they may go up a little.

3.Has the review into the crowd congestion at the joint SL / cricket game been concluded? Did it decide to abandon the idea given it has never worked well and collapsed spectacularly when tried with a near full stand?

Sian: Reason for the joint Super League and cricket fixture was down to the fact that the cricket already had a game and we had no choice, we had to stage that game on that day. Sometimes we have to play the Challenge Cup games when the BBC tells us and yes it may clash with the cricket which means we have to manage it – we have learnt from our previous mistakes when the Salford match took place on Easter Monday. We know we didn’t work it as well as we could have. We did put out an apology and we managed all feedback, and where possible will avoid having both fixtures staged on the same day.

4. I cycle to games and am in the south stand. When I have tried to park my bike at the stadium I have struggled to be allowed in to do so. As the bike stands are in / behind the car parks (one being just behind the South Stand / Carnegie Stand corner, the other being under the cricket stand, further behind the long bar), I have not been allowed in by stewards as access has only been given to car drivers whose names are listed for parking. Instead I have to park at the shops in Headingley. I appreciate my name is not ‘listed’ to use the car park, but then I am not going to take up a car-parking space to lock my bike up – I merely need to access the car park to get to the bike stands. Can the policy on cycle storage on match days be clarified – ie. is cycle storage off-limits completely before games, or what process do I need to follow to get access?

Sian: You should be allowed to park your bike in the designated areas; I will make sure the stewards are spoken to regarding this.

5. Yellow ‘non-standing’ areas in south stand…On quieter match days / earlier before kick-off people who stand in these areas are generally told they can’t do so and eventually move on. However some stewards don’t bother doing so, thus late-comers also then stand there and often the rule then ends up going out the window (or, another steward attempts to enforce it and struggles as people have been stood there a while without being told to move). What generally happens is people then move to the closest spot they can nearest to where they were; unfortunately this is an area that I tend to stand. This results in these areas becoming very cramped and tight fitting as these (usually angry) fans refuse to move elsewhere as they have been told to move once already. I get to the games in good time for my spot, but as I go alone, invariably when this ‘bunching’ happens, I tend to end up being one of the people gradually forced to move during the game, as these groups of late men clump together and barge in where people previously were. From experience, the sooner groups are asked to move from the yellow, the less of an issue it has been but the longer they are left there, the more problematic it is when they move. Generally where I stand (against the rail, just before the yellow bit behind it) it is older people, families, or younger people – in that position to use the rests behind them, but they usually end up getting shunted from these areas by the groups who come late and with a chip on their shoulders who rather than going to the areas with more space, simply go to the place the least distance from where they previously were.

Sian: We can condense this with some of Danny’s feedback as well. The yellow areas are there for people’s safety and in case of an evacuation. The issue we have is people come in late, will stand on the end of a line which maybe in the yellow areas. The stewards should be moving them; however we also expect a form of etiquette within the stand. Majority of my feedback is regarding the yellow areas and that a fan wouldn’t move. We understand the stewards should move those in the area, sometimes people push their way in and cause congestion. We do need to know about this when it is happening, get in touch with the fans phone, 07500312832. Once it has been reported we can send a steward to deal with the issue.

6.Has there been any progress on the commission of the Bronze Statue of John Holmes?

Sian: The cost of this has been looked into and will be between fifteen and twenty thousand pounds. When we want to redevelop other areas of the ground, I am sure you can understand the money could be better spent elsewhere. A proposal may be put together, however there are no plans to go ahead.

NB Since the Forum took place it has been confirmed this is going ahead and the Leeds Rugby Foundation are involved in raising the funds by
donor subscriptions

Sue Millard:
1.A couple of people have commented on the sound quality of player interviews on the website. They do vary, but often it is difficult to hear the question, which makes the answer a bit confusing. Can the text of the question be overlaid on screen? Also, they are often recorded in noisy environments with an echo.

Sian: I have spoken to Phil Daly and he has recently changed player interviews for the Rhinos. He now does the questions in a quiet space and dubs them into the interview.

Sue: I listened over the weekend and it was much better.

Sian: He has done this to make it clear what the response is. We had some similar feedback but in regards to Carnegie, Rhinos has a more accessible conference space for the interviews to take place. Also for example when we play Cornish, everything has to be done before he sets off on the long journey home as he doesn’t want to keep fans waiting Therefore he has now started cutting the response from the players, so within the answer there is a link back to the question. Please keep listening and giving feedback to us on this.

2. Re season tickets, the club is obviously making a huge effort to get to 10k members, so it seems odd that no discounts are available this year for early purchase or bulk buy?

Sian: We are currently working and floating around some ideas for this in which I would like to discuss with the forum to get their opinion before any final decisions are made.

3.Lastly, my query, which I know will be answered at the meeting but I am impatient! I saw the piece on the website appealing for certain types of supporters to be part of a new group. Will this run alongside the fans forum or replace it, and are we eligible to apply?

Sian: No, this is certainly not replacing the Fans Forum and yes, you can apply. This is separate work which I am doing with Mark Bradley. We want different views from different eyes. This is just a one off session, done in regards to match day experience. I do work with Mark as he was involved with the family excellence awards from football. We have given ourselves a benchmark to do our best with this. I have been allowed to work with Mark to extend my resources. I will be doing a lot of work which will include the forum, such as the questionnaire and survey. We have allocated a couple of target markets. I am meeting with him next week. There will be no replacing of the forum.

Alistair Senior:
Whilst as a recent Rugby Foundation Dinner, there were several Gold Members sat at the same table as us and although they knew that Gold Members were being moved next season from the Café Bar to the Long Bar, I found it interesting that none of them knew the reason why. I obviously do know the reason why and informed them of this. Do you think that it would be a good idea to inform all Gold Members as to the reason why, by email or maybe putting something on the website?

Sian: The Café Bar will now be a public bar and the Long Bar will now be the bar allocated to our Gold Members both pre and post-match. I agree it would have been nice if we had sent an email, as we have had such an overhaul and lot has changed. To incorporate your second question, yes there will be food; we will emulate what you get into the Long Bar. There aren’t many places for fans to have a drink and watch the screens; most people feel the Sports Bar is members only, even though it is a public bar. Ronnie’s Bar is small and the South Stand people tend to go in and come straight back out. We are conscious that we do not have a bar for both hard-core fans and new fans to the game. When it’s a cold Friday night in winter and you have kids with you we want somewhere for them to be able to go. We have to make compromises, and we can direct new fans with families into the Café Bar, everyone can go in, no passes needed. The Long Bar will be for members only, they may allocate half the room to corporates, and this will be done based on assessment of how many members use the bar. It’s a big space therefore manageable.
Concerns were raised first of all with regards to food. Is the club going to offer hot meals in the Long Bar pre-match to make it like for like as per the Café Bar? All of us have a meal before each game and I have to say that this is part of our “Headingley Experience”. I realise that fans could still go into the Café Bar pre match and have a meal, but that is not the point and defeat’s the object.
Answered in response above.

Gold Members next year will no doubt be sharing the Long Bar pre and post-match with Corporate Hospitality customers. I would just point out that the Café Bar & the Sports Bar both currently charge £3.50 per pint for Tetley’s bitter but the Long Bar charges £3.80 per pint for the same product. I do hope that the club are going to address this and make the prices across the board the same. I realise that more is being charged in the Long Bar because it is classed as a “Corporate Hospitality Bar”, but next year Gold Members will have paid £25.00 for the privilege of using the bar and therefore the prices should reflect this. If the club wants to charge extra for Corporate customers then fine, but surely if Gold Members show their cards to bar staff they should get it at the price I have previously mentioned.

Sian: I do concur that the Long Bar is more expensive, I will speak with the bar manager regarding this.

The lady who sat next to me at the dinner would like to know: –

Would the club consider a Platinum Members card as an add on to the Gold Members card. She suggested charging an extra £50.00 or so and to include free parking for 2 or 3 home games and maybe 1 or 2 extra Gold Member type events. I realise that parking is at a premium and therefore could be a problem, but as for the extra events, as you know, this is something that I have been banging on about for years!!

Sian: For us the parking is a no go. Extra gold member events, the players are very accessible, it’s not something I want to rule out but I am not sure how much extra value it would provide. The gold member events are brilliant with the themes. We wouldn’t want to put on three semi standard events during the year. This year the theme was the quiz show “Pointless” and it was very good. We had players and fans on teams, led by JJB. The whole thing worked very well. We also do the Pie and Peas night which is always great.

Danny: Ryan Bailey’s Testimonial night was very good.

Sian: It was a brilliant night, it’s great to have those nights, and we don’t want to lose the classic gold member evenings.

Finally, Barbara and I rant and rave to friends so much about how great it is to be a Gold Member and all the excitement and pleasure that we get throughout the season. The upshot of this is that a friend of ours, her husband and his mum and dad are all joining up to be Rhinos season ticket holders next year, ironically they are Leeds United fans, but do watch the Rhinos matches on television.

Sian: This is great news, what we like to hear!

Rachel Barker

1. Official Buses to Wembley – the bus driver we had didn’t seem to know where he was going. When we left Leeds we went all around the A64 (up and then back again) to get to the M1 and coming back we drove around the city centre twice before we got back to Headingley. Due to the volume of buses, do some go along different routes or did we just have an odd driver?
(Sorry probably too late to change anything but would be good to know for next year!)

Sian: I would go with that it was an odd driver.

External Feedback

Alexandra Pullan:

1. The only I think I want to ask or highlight is, (and I am putting this way more politer than the individual on Facebook!), when will the Yorkshire Carnegie replica shirts and other items of club stash be available to buy in the Club Shop?

I appreciate the lateness of the sponsorship deal has probably had a significant impact here, however, we are going into the first home game of the season and it is looking like we won’t be able to buy a club shirt, polo, hoody, etc. This is a time we should be advertising the birth of Yorkshire Carnegie and the deal with Kooga to the max. It is great to have Kooga on board and I for one can’t wait to grab a shirt and polo. As nice as the key ring and tie pin are, they aren’t a shirt!

Sian: Unfortunately we were let down by Kooga. We have been promised the new jerseys will be in store for the Doncaster game.

Patrick Wardman:

1. Still allowing people to come into South Stand ten minutes before kick-off, mainly groups of males, drinking heavily, and not a Leeds shirt in site. Many of us with young families are sick of being moved by stewards to accommodate them.

We arrive over an hour early to make sure the kids can see…This is unfair on us.

Sian: This came directly to me; it does revert back to what we spoke about regarding etiquette within the terraces. We are not going to stop people coming in ten minutes before kick-off, we close the central vomitories.

Danny: You can’t win.

Sian: We can’t take the risk of having everyone in the middle; it could possibly lead to a crush

Rachel: It is noticeably better since that rule.

Brenda Wilson:

1. Regarding interviews both before and after matches it is almost impossible to hear the questions put by Phil Daly. The replies are good but the quality of the questions is terrible.
All the same, thanks for providing the interviews.

We had some similar feedback but in regards to Carnegie, Rhinos has a more accessible conference space for the interviews to take place. Also for example when we play Cornish, everything has to be done before he sets off on the long journey home as he doesn’t want to keep fans waiting, therefore he has now started cutting the response from the players, so within the answer there is a link back to the question. Please keep listening and feedback into us on this.

Paul Hicks:

1. As Leeds no longer sell game day DVDs for some reason, is there any way to purchase copies of games either as DVD or as downloads. I used to buy most games that had not been shown on Sky/BBC and built up a good collection but now all I see is a few minutes of highlights with appalling music added onto it. It would be better with crowd noise only but what would be best is for replays of full games to be available.

Come on how difficult would it be to upload them either as subscription or individual purchase or indeed put a recording onto a DVD, no need for a commentator crowd noise is fine.

Other clubs manage to sell DVDs but for some reason Leeds are not interested in fans who like to replay the games they have attended. I have checked with micron video and according to them it’s at the discretion of the clubs as to whether they sell recording of games.

Sian: Please read previous minutes, we have had this conversation before. We do not have a professional to come and film in good quality, those that come in and film do so for analysing purposes. We are not allowed to film certain games due to Sky. When we have done this we spent a lot of time sending them back and getting them changed. We will not be paying for someone to do this professionally.

Victor Craven:

1. I think the assessment of referees should be published and the results put in a table. Referees used to earn and command respect. Not this set of arrogant, ignorant idiots. Also touch judges should be charged admission, same as the rest of the spectators.

I am sick of having my entertainment and love of the sport being spoiled week in week out, by blatant and inconsistent calls. This is not a rant about the Rhinos games only, but refereeing in general.

Sian: Thank you for your feedback, no comment made.

Robert Wivell:

1.There is constant criticism of missed opportunities and lack of imagination by the Yorkshire Carnegie Marketing Dept. Is this a matter of unrealistic expectations or a lack of strategy or lack of experience? Even with limited resources, a lot can be achieved. Please could we have an objective assessment?

Sian: I have requested more information from Mr Wivell. There have been several opportunities where we have invited comments and ideas.

Simon Whitehead Feedback

What are the plans for Boxing Day this year (if any?). Last year wasn’t very good value for money, any thoughts about changing the format or cancelling totally?

Sian: We haven’t had much conversation about Boxing Day yet, we obviously have the Play-Offs and potential Grand Final. We welcome any ideas, please fire them through. We have had the conversation that many feel it isn’t great value for money, we know we need to do things better this year.

Simon: Was poor last year

Sian: Any thoughts?

Alistair: a 9’s competition?

Simon: If it stayed the same I wouldn’t come.

Danny: Change the day?

Ian: What was the crowd last year?

Sian: Around 9,000

Paul: Crowd dropping every year?

Sian: Yes, when I first started it was up to 14,000. Have a think, rally round, and ask what would be the one thing you would change about Boxing Day? Cannot guarantee where it will get us, but worth a try.

New kits – when are they launched?

Sian: 1st November Home, Away kit to be confirmed.

Why didn’t ISC do Super League Super hero shirts, like they did for the NRL?

Sian: We are not sure if Marvel just went for the NRL teams, when we did the Superhero shirts it was carnage with ordering etc so may have just choose to stick with NRL.

Simon: They did look good but I didn’t buy one as I don’t support an NRL team.
Are there any dates for the next business to business networking meeting? (Believe JP attended last time).

Sian: Yes 22nd October then again on 10th December

Danny Frank Feedback

‘I don’t like the overzealous stewards. (Appreciate they’re not all bad) they need consistency though. Don’t tell me to move off the yellow markings and then let some big burly men stand on it and in front of me because they’re too scary to move. Also most weeks you can stand in the area which is the top of the yellow markings then other weeks they move you on. This is at the top of the south stand tunnel left hand side….. Sorry bit of a rant but some of the younger stewards are very rude.’

Answered above under Paul’s Feedback.

‘Please ask them to make announcements that electronic cigs are not allowed. Like the guy in the north stand terrace seats section against Saints puffing away on his and big clouds of vapour. Stewards don’t do anything.’

Sian: There are signs which go up on the big screen to state no smoking in the stands which also include electric cigarettes, there is also an announcement, however I will push this further.

‘Stewards are not very good in the South Stand – especially when that man got punched at the Saints game. They could have prevented it but chose to do nothing and the man was punched in the face and fell down the steps knocking loads of people over causing my Auntie to be crushed against the bar. She is nearly 70 year old and uses a stick so wasn’t a pleasant experience for her (or others around us) as you can imagine. My Aunt will probably not return to Headingley after that and it could have been avoided.

Sian: The incidents at the St Helens game have been addressed after more information was gathered. In the South Stand it can be extremely loud and difficult to hear even the person next to you, if a steward was not directly told that there is a problem, even if they are a few rows away, they may not be able to gain a full understanding of what is going on. The stewards again will be spoken to regarding the incident, but again please contact the Fans Phone should you feel an incident will occur and a steward will be directed to deal with the situation.

‘Good feedback from me, the new range of merchandise in the club shop is a pleasant surprise! The new lines of clothing and other bits and bobs means we as supporters put more back in to the club. One thing that would be beneficial though is a printing service, like initials on the training range etc. I know I would buy this for my son who plays rugby to wear when he training.’

Sian: This has been mentioned before and I will pass this onto Lee Jenkinson, Head of Retail to look into this regards to the printing of initials. Lee has brought a lot of experience with him from Hull FC and through his contacts we have been able to order smaller amounts of items, which means we can have more of a variety.

Feedback finished, short break!

Talk in regards to attracting more fans to the Yorkshire Carnegie game.

Mark: For those fans, who attend alone, could we put something in place, which allows them to contact other fans attending alone, such as if you live in this area and you attend alone, contact a certain person. Match with a member

Mark: Within our group there are 6 of us who buy season tickets and occasionally others come, they give me the money and I order their tickets. Could we do a match by match reward for members?

Danny: Gain a point every time you buy an extra ticket and at the end of the year, add up the points and exchange for something in the shop.

Sian: In 2005, we did similar things with the Headingley Carnegie Reward. We do have something in the pipeline of a loyalty type.

Danny: There is potential, as many people come in for away tickets and more home tickets.

Sian: You are right; it would be great to monitor what people are buying.

Danny: I have a friend who comes and buys multiple tickets for the home fixtures and the big games; it would be good to give perks to those who actually come down.

Sian: I do have a meeting planned with access control. Fortress would house all the points, and then there is the case of making that run alongside the tills and ticketing system. Fingers crossed it will be up and running.

Recruitment for New Fans Forum Members

Sian: I think we need to recruit another 4 people. We have lost Betty and Jeremy from the Rhinos side and Mark from Carnegie. I think we should send out some applications. There is a vetting system which you all went through, can everyone remember? What do we think are the best ways? Paul what’s your thinking?

Paul: I think this could be my last one

Sian: In that case I think we could possibly need 5 new people.

Simon: What’s the split with the codes?

Sian: We need three direct replacements, I was thinking two new Carnegie and three Rhinos. We will have to see what we get; when we advertised the first time, we got around 70 applications. We had it in the programme, on the website and on the screen. We will also get it put out on Facebook and Twitter.

Danny: Are you happy for us to pass it on and ask people?

Sian: Yes, we will manage the admin side, send to you all and you can email out to those you think would be interested. Adverts with the application attached. During the vetting process we had a spread sheet with all the names of the applicants and their responses. We were able to work out where everyone stood, in terms of, membership types, ages, sexes. There is a similar plan going on for a junior board, we need a view point from the kids.

Sue: At Calverley Rhinos we have a guy with a lot of child related questions, I could approach him to come on and give the perspective of a family.

Simon: Individuals with unique perspectives.

Danny: Maybe sponsor or business side?

Sian: With sponsors it can be tricky, a lot arrive, go upstairs for a meal then straight to their seats, don’t soak as much of the atmosphere around the ground, a lot are hard-core fans. Something like the family, bringing in fresh perspectives, bringing us back to full strength in terms of numbers of people. We may have missed the chance to get it in the programme for Saturday, but I can get it in the Carnegie Times. Give it around three weeks, with a push every week, aiming to have the new members at the December forum. Once applications are in we will file them in order and probably send you for example customer x and a break down, with the information of each customer. I will get it on the website then email to you to send out and have everyone selected for Christmas. Everyone ok with that, any ideas?

Paul: Are we looking for specifics?

Sian: It all depends on what comes in; where we have lost people I am not sure if we want direct replacements or we look at a new angel.

Danny: Maybe the meeting with you and Mark, anyone from there would be interested.

Sian: I can certainly put it out there

Sian: That is pretty much everything, anything else?

Simon: RFL….Disciplinary procedure, it would be good if we could get someone to explain this to us. As a paying punter I have no idea, how things are graded and how some get certain bans and other players do the same thing with no consequence.

Danny: As a sport trying to get new fans to the game, a lot of people are saying it’s a joke, a Governing Body showing us up.

Simon: There is no consistency at all, we are paying to watch and I do not understand the process.

Ian: From the union side, there was an appeal, which I haven’t heard the outcome of, where the RFU were appealing against the leniency of the ban, as a player had punched a referee and received a 10 year ban, whereas the RFU wanted a lifetime ban.

Alistair: We have a lady sat near us who says the more she watches the less she understands.

Sian: I can understand the frustration, more so over the last season. I will be happy to try my best to get someone to come along. I have a meeting with the RFL at beginning of October so I will try stretching it out.

Sian: Thank you all for coming; next Rhinos is the 12th November and Carnegie 8th October.