Minutes of the Millwall Supporters’ Club Annual General Meeting
22 April 2015, ‘Arry’s Bar, The Den

Attendees
MSC chair Bob Asprey
MSC vice chair Ted Robinson
MSC committee Kevin Allen, Stan Godwin, James Groves, Dave Hart, Jamie Howlett, George Lampey, Laura Romitelli

MSC members attending
Peter Brittain, Peter Martinelli, Micky Simpson, Paul Turner, John West, Matt Wood

Apologies for absence
Fan on the Board Peter Garston
MSC secretary Graeme Smale
MSC treasurer Ian Toal
MSC committee Ayse Smith
MSC member Pat Skelly

Introduction and welcome by MSC chairman
Thanks to those that have come along; it’s fair to say that the turnout is fairly average.

Proposal and acceptance of the minutes of the AGM of 16 April 2014
A substantial meeting due to the fan on the board election that was taking place around that time. Any questions? [No]. Proposed by Kevin and Stan. Majority accepted, none against.

MSC chairman’s report
It’s been an interesting year; as with most years, the committee has had some successes and things that weren’t successful. Good things: memorial garden, so well done to all that contributed. Sean McCarthy, the poppy man, came to Millwall and onto the pitch, so well done again. Fans’ Forum at the start of the season – Holloway filled everyone with optimism; actually, it was quite a lot of bull**** and a lot of people were taken in, from the chairman to the fans. It was a little interesting in that he [Holloway] chose to criticise the fans’ behaviour at the Leeds game, which didn’t go down well with me and others. We eventually saw his true colours, so he came and he went. It was the second disastrous management appointment in a row. Happily, the supporters’ club had nothing to do with either but I’m sure the board of Millwall are having a good look at themselves, or should be, to see how such an appointment could turn out so disastrously.

We’ve been tearing our hair out for years over the ticket office system which is inevitably a disaster whenever there’s some pressure. Finally, after the Fulham debacle, it seems to be able to cope; so the amount of time we’ve spent trying to convince the club it’s not good enough seems to have come to fruition.

Vote on next season’s shirt. We convinced the club we’re the target audience so we should have a say. There were apparently 106,000 votes, but the club dealt with that by reviewing the votes for authenticity.

BT Sport was launched and the club resisted buying it, but we were asked if we could have it so the MSC funded that.

We’ve been talking about an away season ticket for years; it’s of minority interest but the club came up with a scheme. It’s very popular with those that took the option up, even though there’s a surcharge.

Lions Live: it’s fair to say that this has gone from strength to strength. Shows are always well written and delivered. George works his magic with former legends, players and staff. It’s an excellent tool for the supporters’ club and the feedback we receive is all very positive. And obviously this is linked in with the website and Twitter accounts. So a nicely integrated piece of media for the supporters’ club.

Now not so good stuff.

Club issues: performance of the club, the sponsorship debacle, recruiting the wrong manager; it’s been a disastrous year really. We can only hope that the chairman stays interested. Life after Berylson is difficult to imagine, so let’s hope it’s not any time soon.

Our relationship with club has remained pretty constructive. We’ve had quite a few disagreements with the club this year, not including the player of the season vote, which is pretty fresh in our minds. We heard from supporters that nobody deserved to win it and, up until three weeks ago, I don’t think we could credibly name a player that deserved it. And if you look at previous winners, it’s a pretty good list, with maybe a couple of lucky winners. But we decided not to hold a vote and we told the club this, and whilst they said they reserved the right to hold a vote, they understood our position. They tried to make us change our mind but we didn’t. We didn’t hold a vote and after Jimmy’s goal, they held a vote; we imagine Jimmy will have won it. This wouldn’t have been the case on the day of the Watford match, when we would have held the vote. I don’t know if there’ll be a pitch presentation.

Leeds away: same old nonsense. No progress through any of the usual channels. Leeds being in a difficult place at the moment, just strengthens the police’s hand. So it was Woolley Edge again, about 150 went.

Tiered membership: there were due to be three tiers – platinum, blue and another. The additional benefits it was designed to bring for an additional fee were ultimately deemed to be not worthwhile and the launch was scrapped at the last minute (or put on the back burner). Not a particularly well thought through scheme.

The MSC didn’t run any trips this year. Blackpool came at the end of January, so wasn’t a runner. There was no quiz, as the mood around the club was so downbeat. We planned it but took the view that we’d wait for the team to start winning, which didn’t happen. It has been successful in the past and hopefully from next season will be so again.

Liaising with the police: from time to time, police contact us for various reasons. It’s usually positive, they have messages to get to us: what pubs to use, practical advice; obviously they talk to the club, so know numbers of fans travelling. Bradford contacted us way too late – on the day of the match. Rotherham contacted us way in advance, with a big charm offensive and came to talk to us; on the day of the match it all went out of the window, it was a waste of time, so we won’t talk to them again.

FotB election: this time last year, we had just had the election. It had been a little messy, does Paul agree? [Yes]. It was not as we’d all have liked it to be run, nobody came out of it with any credit. [Paul: not the candidates, everything about it. It became two tribes and negative on both sides]. The fallout was that we identified that we needed more clarity on what the role is and what it entails, where there’s no clear answer. Other issues included that only about 1,100 voted, much less than last time and a very disappointing number. This was a shock for the chairman and consequently the fallout is to question if the supporters want a FotB, how much commitment there is from the incumbent, and how can we run a similar vote in future. The chairman says he won’t want a further representative. And that will happen unless changes are made – Pete will carry on until he stops and then there’ll be nothing more. And the supporters will suffer. [There can still be a voice? A supporters’ panel has been discussed.] But there won’t be a fan in the boardroom. [Paul: the chairman didn’t bring in the FotB role]. No, the chairman inherited Pete, but they get on very well. Sadly, Pete’s been unable to do as much as he has in the past (for perfectly valid reasons). We’ll see what happens in the future.

With a view hopefully to leaving the door open for a FotB, we’ve devised a process for arriving at candidates that would be suitable and accepted by the club. One of the jobs we’ve done this year is go through the whole constitution and bring it up to date. We’ve also incorporated the proposed FotB process and I think it’s reasonable. It remains to be seen if it will ever be applied.

One thing the committee is not good at is responding rapidly to issues that arise. It’s very difficult to do with a committee that tries to operate as a unit. We need to respond, it takes time to write, agree and release. We don’t want it to take three days but often it does and we need to find ways to change that. One suggestion is to have a press officer. All committee members have a job on the board, which I thank them for. Lions Live, website and Twitter respond as they see fit. We don’t always get it right all the time, we’re all emotive, so sometimes there are knee jerk reactions and things are insufficiently thought through. By and large we try to reach agreement before statements are released. But we are too slow, I’ve said this before but we do need to improve at this, with social media as it is and the world turning a lot faster.

It seems to have been a long, hard year, but we’re influenced by the team. When they lose, it’s hard to keep your enthusiasm to do voluntary stuff to help the supporters when every ninety minutes is a form of torture. But I’m hoping that whatever division we’re in next season, we’ll be full of enthusiasm and ready to fight the fight.

MSC treasurer’s report
Ted gave Ian’s report in his absence. The report is attached.

Ted reiterates the spending of funds is to the benefit of all supporters; we ask members to please make suggestions that the committee can consider.

Peter B: am I right in thinking, as I don’t see it minuted, that the club had asked the committee for ten ideas on how to spend the money in the account that the club controls.

Bob: I do remember the conversation. As Ted said, coming up with good and appropriate ideas for all supporters is not something we’re good at. Sometimes they come up and we implement them, which is why we decided to draw up a list, but I don’t remember that we did. If we did make the commitment, we failed to deliver.

Peter: I think that’s what I’m saying, ask the supporters. I think that’s a general point about being more open.

Bob: people do come to us with ideas and issues and they are discussed but in terms of opening it up to everyone, this is a good idea.

Peter: not just on spending money but generally.

We have helped out with such as naming the stands, we’ve paid for half of that. We tend to wait for something the club mentions but it really should be the other way round. There is money but it’s not a massive amount and we don’t want to spend prematurely. But people should come to us with ideas. We’ve discussed maintaining the bus, for example, unplanned items. I think the committee agrees we need to spend.

Bob: we can put it on the MSC newsletter.

Dave: we made a commitment to ensure an away coach would run but that only affects a minority of supporters. Somebody suggested a VIP coach, but again it’s a minority benefit.

Bob: running an away coach is good in principle but since the club have handled this well, it’s not been necessary. Maybe it will be different next season.

Ted: for example, BT Sport, some fans will say, I don’t watch that, but it’s partly to attract people to the ground early. There’ll always be a negative, but the more ideas, the better.

The £15 membership fee? We receive £1 from the £19 fee. From season tickets, only full adult members, so a little more that £8,800 per year. So that money’s there; in 2006, we persuaded the club it would be a good idea to help the supporters and won that battle, and it’s now ongoing and I think it’s a good set up. We’ve been better at getting it in than spending it, as you can see by the balance.

Ted: the difficulty is to decide what to spend it on. If we receive more than ten ideas, we’d need to decide what we proceed with.

Paul: flags should be paid for by the club.

Ted: Paul, where would you spend the money? There’s lots of things, but flags aren’t necessarily the thing.

Paul: it’s got to be relevant, so maybe the club think that you’re duty bound to spend the money on stuff they should be paying for.

Bob: in response to that, I welcome the fact that the club consult with the supporters on that and whether you’re a supporters’ club like this or a fans’ panel, then yes the expenditure should be made by the club but this gives the supporters an influence.

BT Sport improves beer sales, and we think that it’s good that it supports the club. The idea of the south stand bar came from the MSC. We could do with more of those. They were looking at expanding ‘Arry’s Bar but it went on hold due to the regeneration/redevelopment. That kind of led to the creation of the south stand bar.

I’ve just remembered I need to thank all the committee. They all work very hard, it’s often a thankless task for each and every one of you I thank you very much. We’ve had successes and not so much but everybody has pulled their weight and worked very hard. It’s not an easy job, so well done.

Address by Peter Garston (fan on the board)
Bob: I have nothing from Pete. He’s improving but has not seen much football lately. Since his last operation, has been trying to keep out of it as far as possible as he previously came back too soon, so has really had to obey doctor’s orders this time. He is there if you need to contact him by email. He’s been to the occasional game and I wish him the best of health. This was seconded by the audience.

Proposed constitution changes
These have been out for a few weeks; whilst a lot of the changes are minor, to update wording, there are two pieces that need focus and hopefully take it as read that the other tidying up isn’t substantial. Is that okay? [No dissenters]

Peter B: 4.3 the chairman will be elected by the standing committee, what’s that?
Answer: It’s the committee that’s elected at the AGM for the coming year.
Bob: so we don’t need the word ‘standing’? I understand that.
Peter: to me, that’s something other than ‘the committee’. Some organisations do have a standing committee and what a lot of organisations do is have an executive (standing) committee for urgent items.
Bob: so we should drop the word ‘standing’.

Peter: In 4.2, ‘…will initially…’ what other? This is in the rest of the clause.

Peter: 4.4 ‘committee members should note that failure to attend…may attract sanction’. What’s ‘sanction’? It needs to be defined.
Bob: we would need to understand the reasons and, if it’s not reasonable, we would consider their position. Do we say ‘their position will be put under consideration by the remaining committee members?’

Bob: FotB. The idea is to leave a route open for fans to apply for FotB if we manage to persuade the board to take on another FotB. At this stage, there won’t be one. But in my opinion, we shouldn’t give up on this, whatever other fan representation we end up with. Let’s assume Pete serves his three years, so if someone wants to be Pete’s successor, we’re looking for a route for someone to achieve this. They will have the chance to gain exposure at the club, gain the trust of Andy Ambler, etc.

Could they not hold an interview? But I wouldn’t want them to have the final say. This is allowing them to know the proposed candidates in advance.

Paul: How many of the current committee would be able to stand? Maybe one or two? So you’re narrowing down the options. It’s irrelevant at present as Pete’s in place but what you need to consider is, does that mean the role will be all encompassing?

Bob: the other parameters don’t change. At the moment, there’s no route in at all. If Pete resigned, who is eligible to stand? Everybody has met the criteria.

Paul: the criteria that candidates were an existing ‘board director’ was painted as a pre requisite.

Bob: No, it was a preference.

Ted: we knew that people would query this change. The fact is right now there won’t be another FotB. It was brought in under de Savary and the only way we could see to keep the position open, most importantly, was to bring in something that will help the club stay interested.

Bob: We’ve told the club our plans, and they agree.

Paul: do you think it makes it more or less inclusive?

Ted: the decision to have the role comes from the club. I stood for the role originally and there was no job description.

Paul: my reasons for standing were very different to yours, Ted, as there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then.

Stan: elections are much the same everywhere.

Ted: Paul, things are very different now, so the position has evolved from when I applied. So we’re trying to keep the position alive and give people a route to the role.

Paul: my ideas include a maximum of two terms. This may have given the club less ‘tunnel vision’ at this stage

Ted: perhaps so, in hindsight. We need to convince the club that they need the FotB, because I think they need it.

Bob: we’re speculating, because we need to know the chairman will take a new FotB. At this stage, he won’t.

Ted: regardless of what you call the panel, MSC, whatever, a new owner would blow it all out of the water.

What’s the point of the FotB, we’ve had the worst years at the club and sometimes you need somebody coming in from outside.

Ted: when the elections came round, I said that one of the things we’d done wrong was let Pete drift too far away from us.

Paul: You do become ‘yes’ men. And I don’t see how this is a good idea. You need somebody to create some anarchy and rock the boat. If there was no FotB, Holloway would have gone in January. I don’t think the FotB has been a good role.

What advantages do the fans have by having a FotB? Were the fans’ views represented to the board? I don’t think so.

Bob: once a supporter is a fan on the board, he does become more establishment, whether you like it or not. So he does become more tuned in with the way the club is trying to go. However, here the chairman is so completely dominant, as he funds everything. So even if Holloway should have gone post Bradford away, it’s totally down to Berylson when that happens.

But the chairman was blaming the fans for the problems and he let it carry on.

But the fans stuck with Holloway all through the autumn when the manager kept changing the team.

Micky: the AMS has come about because many supporters feel alienated by the committee. I’m one person and I have more exposure than the MSC.

Ted: how do you know that? We raised the issue of the Fulham tickets, we raised the issue of the memorial garden.

Micky, all AMS is doing is arranging away trips, we’ve donated to charity, donated to the lionesses; we’re not looking to start any wars, and I’ll happily sit down with any of you, but I have to leave now.

Peter: I don’t agree with the proposal and won’t vote for it: ‘Active committee members’, what does this mean? Remove ‘active’. And ‘Performance record’.
3.4 take out ‘current’ and not subject to any MSC restrictions, as it’s repetition.

Regarding the prospective meeting, take out the last sentence of clause 3.3.

Bob: so to the vote on the proposed changes: the FotB process, the purpose of which is to keep the door open – for 10, against 3.

Oher amendments: for 13, against 0.

Thanks to Peter for his observations.

Dave suggests Peter B reviews the revised constitution for next year. Bob is concerned about the perception of the constitution and this also needs attention.

Peter: I think you need to explain to the fans why you’ve made the changes. Not just through the minutes. Also, because this (FotB role) may not be a runner, I think there needs to be some real consideration of what takes its place.

Paul: I think regarding the fans’ panel, my perception and my discussions with John is that there will be an all encompassing group including fans from outside the committee.

Bob: perception is critical and the MSC has never been good at this. Perception being that we’re too close to the club.

Paul: look, two steps forward – you have the opportunity to enhance the group’s reputation. You have that as there is unlikely to be another fan on the board.

2015-2016 committee
There are currently less than the maximum 13 committee members, so all that have come forward are elected. Any objections? [No]

Aims and objectives of the committee for the coming year
Last year was dealing with the FotB situation; we have addressed that, so have succeeded in achieving that, but there’s more to be done. The future? The chairman’s plans? What kind of representation might there be without a FotB, this needs to be addressed.

We need to improve communication with the supporters. It’s hard, it’s easy for small groups but hard with 8,800 people. Media now available is bigger and wider and we need to tap into that and be more successful in being more reactive, more quickly. It’s not something we’re good at, which damages the perception.

Stan: why don’t people come to the committee with issues rather than go off separately?

Any other business
John: what is the situation regarding the sponsors? Have we received any money from them?
Bob: no idea if they’ve paid, but suspect not. There were rumours they were to pay for the replacement screen, but that didn’t happen. Club won’t say anything until it’s sorted, and need to be careful about what they say. Assume club are looking for another sponsor, but can’t be seen to be doing so. The club had said that the contract was ‘watertight’, but we need to see where it goes.

Brighton game: £19 for match ticket for a 16 year old. The only other club that also does this is Charlton.

For the Bradford game, it was pay on the day. Why the inconsistency? Just because the club had made an error in number of tickets. The club isn’t defending its supporters, it’s defending the club.

I don’t think it will change, as ticket restrictions are there to defend the club and it’s the only control the club can claim to have implemented. Bradford wasn’t an issue. I don’t agree that the club don’t want supporters there, but they want it under certain conditions.

I think the MSC should try to improve the away game experience.
It’s difficult as it’s the home team’s responsibility but we can get messages out better. Give consideration to free tickets/coaches?

Child season tickets: can we stagger the pricing?
We’re opening the dialogue very soon. Student cards should be considered. Note that the club has concessions up to age 21.

There being no further suggestions or matters for discussion, the meeting closed at 10.05pm.

 

Millwall Supporters Club, c/o The Den, Zampa Road, London SE16 3LN  -  phone: 07895 022 325  -  email: info@millwallsupportersclub.co.uk


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