This is the annual report on the Trust’s activities for the last year as presented by the Chairman at the recent AGM.
Business Review and Future Developments
The CST board feel that the surplus currently held (£6,060 as at 31/5/16) should be maintained, in case there should be a need for a ‘fighting fund’ or similar unplanned contingency requirement. The amount held in surplus is reviewed regularly by the CST board and, if appropriate, changes made to the membership fee structure.
The CST has a direct c8,000 reach through individual memberships and affiliations, plus 12,100 Twitter followers and 9,400 Facebook followers (figures correct as at 9/8/16).
Progress on Motions Passed at 2015 AGM
Stamford Bridge Redevelopment
The future of Stamford Bridge is the most significant issue facing Chelsea supporters and the clear wish of the majority of CST members is for the club to stay at their spiritual home. It was therefore of great interest for supporters to be able to see, last summer, the exhibition showing outline redevelopment plans, which if implemented will certainly make a 60,000 capacity Stamford Bridge one of the great football stadia of Europe.
The lack of any further announcement with regard to the stadium redevelopment, which is currently subject to the local authority planning permission process, is clearly a frustration for supporters but it is probably understandable that the Club hold back until there is something definite to say. It is to be hoped that the project team are able to update supporters with regard to progress in the near future.
Ongoing supporter input as the plans, designs, facilities and pricing structures firm up is essential, to ensure that the final stadium design meets, as far as is possible, the needs of supporters and, crucially, allows a greater proportion of younger supporters to affordably attend games.
Closely related to the planned redevelopment is the proposed move to a temporary stadium while Stamford Bridge is rebuilt. The location, timing and duration of such a move is the subject of much speculation in the media and among supporters and, again, it is to be hoped that news regarding such a move can be given to supporters in the near future.
Tottenham’s attractive pricing for their Champions League games at Wembley provides an interesting benchmark for Chelsea, regardless of their temporary home, and, again, supporter input into pricing and seat allocation decisions can only be beneficial.
A list of concerns and suggestions with regard to such a temporary move were sent to the Club during the season and we will look to work with the club to address supporters’ concerns about any temporary absence including travel, cost, ticketing and atmosphere’.
Future of Chelsea Pitch Owners
The CST board, and (from motions overwhelmingly passed at previous AGM’s) our membership, has always believed that CPO is an essential long-term safeguard for Chelsea supporters with regard to the stadium, regardless of the Stamford Bridge redevelopment.
We will continue to work with relevant parties to help ensure this is the case. We are in regular contact with CPO Chair Charles Rose and will continue to offer help and support to the CPO board as appropriate.
Atmosphere Concerns and Safe Standing
Concerted efforts by a number of groups and individuals, including the CST, continued to improve the atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge last season, and their efforts are welcomed.
CST board members continued to meet with senior Club executives on a number of occasions to discuss this specific issue. The work done by groups like Shed End Atmosphere in trying to create a vibrant atmosphere in the ground, and produce banner displays, is to be commended.
Ticket Pricing and Availability
Ticket prices at Stamford Bridge were frozen for another year, which is welcome, but the big news this year was the introduction of the £30 cap on away PL tickets from 2016/17.
This is testament to the hard work over a number of years by the Football Supporters Federation and Supporters Trusts across the Premier League. It ends the argument that supporters from different clubs working collectively together can achieve little or nothing to coordinate mutual interests.
Of course, just because away ticket prices have been reduced does not mean that campaigning will stop, as a statement we issued following the ticket price announcement made clear. Given the enormous sums of TV money pouring into Premier League club coffers there are clearly opportunities for clubs to reduce home ticket prices, incentivise young supporters and so on. We will continue to raise these issues with the Club and also work with other appropriate groups on a Premier League-wide basis.
The Chelsea subsidy of away travel outside London continued in 2015/16 and the announcement of a continuation of the scheme in 2016/17 is to be welcomed. From discussions with other PL Supporters Trusts it is clear that a number of other PL clubs have ended subsidised travel, and other away supporter initiatives, following the announcement of the £30 cap. There are also concerns that at some clubs concessionary prices have risen, to partly offset the revenue loss caused by the cap, and that at some grounds away allocations could be reduced. The CST, in conjunction with other PL Trusts, is keeping a close eye on this issue.
Membership of Hammersmith and Fulham Safety Advisory Group
The Met Police, Hammersmith & Fulham Council, Chelsea FC, British Transport Police, London Fire Brigade etc. meet twice a year as the Chelsea Safety Advisory Group (SAG) to discuss safety issues relating to Stamford Bridge. It is clearly counter-productive that supporter input is not sought.
Following last year’s AGM motion we approached the Council and, following a meeting with the SAG chair and officers, we now have input to the SAG agenda and receive feedback after meetings. This is progress, and we have made a number of valid points which were discussed at SAG’s, but the longer term objective is to gain full SAG membership and the CST board will continue to work towards this.
One issue that continues to frustrate is street ticket touting. Little progress seems to have been made over the past twelve months and it is important that the CST are more effective in ensuring the SAG proactively address the issue.
Over the past year CST board member dialogue with senior Club executives has continued. As well as a number of meetings relating to atmosphere, referenced above, there have been a series of wider discussions and, critically, a presentation of the results of the annual CST members survey.
The CST continue to work with other Premier League Trusts on developing engagement at a senior level in the FA and Premier League. We had representation at a meeting held between senior Premier League executives, the Football Supporters Federation and a supporter representative from each PL club in July. Issues discussed included ticket pricing, kick-off times and safe standing. It is planned that such meetings take place twice-yearly. It is to be hoped that effective dialogue and positive initiatives will result.
Ad Hoc Issues
European Away Ticket Collection Process
The Club introduced a new collection process for European away tickets which excited much comment from travelling supporters. A CST board member organised a survey among travelling Chelsea supporters regarding the process at the Porto away game and passed the results to the Club.
Kick Off Times
The CST probably get more ongoing complaints with regard to the late announcement of matches rescheduled for television, and the problems caused by matches kicking off at inappropriate times, than almost any other issue.
The financial and logistical problems caused to home and away supporters by delayed announcements, and the number of matches it is impossible for away supporters to travel home on public transport from, is a cause of frustration for supporters across the Premier League.
We have complained to the Premier League on a regular basis about announcement delays. A board member led on the issue at the meeting with Premier League executives (see above) and will be actively involved in further stakeholder discussions on the issue.
Chelsea Graves in Brompton Cemetery
Following liaison with Friends of Brompton Cemetery, Chelsea official historian Rick Glanvill and the Club, the CST have organised three clear-ups of graves in Brompton Cemetery relating to Chelsea FC. The graves of four club founders (Messrs Janes, Kirby, Maltby and Mears) have been cleared and tidied up and are now easily accessible.
Thank you to the CST members who have given up their spare time to help carry out this work. We plan to build on this initiative in the coming season, both in terms of other Chelsea graves and other community activity.
Communication and Dialogue with Members
In line with their stated practise, the CST held an Annual General Meeting and three Special General Meetings in 2015/16.
Location again became an issue, but a successful SGM was held at the Chelsea Pensioner in May. We hope that this venue can be used in future.
Guest at that May SGM was well-known Chelsea journalist Dan Levene, who did a lively Q&A session on a range of Chelsea issues. Dan also ran a Chelsea quiz at the 2015 AGM, and given the success of this event a followup is being held this year.
In November we held an SGM Q&A with three experts on policing and stewarding issues at football matches. This SGM was held immediately after the launch of ‘Chelsea – The Complete Record’ by Paul Dutton and Rick Glanvill, giving attendees an unexpected and welcome chance to meet Bobby Tambling.
As in 2014/15 one of the SGM’s was held virtually (a Virtual General Meeting) in February, with members again accessing and interacting with the meeting through the internet. The level of interaction and quality of questions was again pleasing.
The AGM and SGMs are broadcast live via the internet and also made available via a podcast, meaning members from across the globe unable to attend in person have the chance to participate and/or listen.
CST newsletters are e-mailed to members on a monthly basis, designed to keep them informed on a range of issues, on issues relating to Chelsea but also more widely. It is always a judgement as to how many members e-mails to send, as there is potentially a law of diminishing returns, but survey feedback indicates that monthly newsletters are about right.
The CST website is regularly updated with current news items and has just had a redesign/refresh. The CST has a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter, as these are clearly key tools in terms of getting important messages out quickly, to our membership and beyond.
We must not forget, however, that many supporters do not use social media, hence the continued need for newsletters and, where appropriate, member e-mails.
Our fourth annual members survey was conducted over the summer, and results will be presented to members later this year. The Club, media and the wider supporter base will also receive relevant highlights.
Board members have also represented the CST position on various issues on the Chelsea Fancast, London Is Blue podcast, the Chelsea Fans Channel and other supporter-led communication channels.
Building and operating effective member dialogue processes in a world where face-to-face interaction is increasingly replaced by virtual engagement is an ongoing challenge, but essential if the CST are to truly identify and effectively represent the wishes of its members.
CST board members continue to have a regular media presence and are regularly asked for comment and opinion by a wide range of media, on a range of issues, both relating to Chelsea and wider football matters.
The results of the 2015 annual members survey again received wide coverage, as did statements on key issues affecting Chelsea supporters and the CST last season, and campaigns held with other Trusts and organisations the CST took part in. We have always tried to put over our views in a considered and rational manner and will continue to do so.
2016/17 is likely to be a pivotal and challenging year. Progress will hopefully be made with regard to the details regarding the Stamford Bridge development and the resultant temporary move, and it is imperative that supporter input on issues around facilities and ticketing is an integral part of the process in the years ahead.
A key challenge for the new CST Board is to work effectively with the Club and other stakeholders to help ensure such input is relevant, properly represents members views and is fully taken into account.