Aston Villa Fan Advisory Board: Chris Heck’s first meeting

16th September 2023 Villa Park
28th September 2023 Follow up Microsoft Teams meeting

Fan representatives: Villa Park

Joanne McKibbens – Aston Villa Disabled Supporters Association
John Gillett – Lions Clubs
Ian Stokes – Vital Villa
Nilesh Chauhan – Villans Together
Scott Jones – Villa Talk
Mo Razzaq – Aston Villa Supporters Trust
David Michael – My Old Man Said
Lena Curran – Fan Representative
Julian Bristow – Independent Supporters Clubs
Dave Woodhall – Heroes & Villans
Ravinder Ubhi – Punjabi Villans
Nick Sanders – AVillaFan.Com
Sarah Breslin – Villa Bellas
Connor Smith – Fan Representative

Club representatives: Villa Park

Chris Heck – President of Business Operations (not on follow-up teams meeting)
Ben Hatton – Chief Operating Officer
Paul Tyrrell- Chief Corporate Affairs & Security Officer
Tommy Jordan – Communications Director
Lynne O’Reardon – Head of Ticketing
Lee Preece – Supporter Liaison Manager

Meeting Notes

Consultation

The last year of meetings have largely been presentations by the club. Yet, recent statements from the club on various matters have stated that consultation has taken place with supporters. In terms of the badge and the Holte End developments, both initiatives would have been better served with consultation before the club’s respective surveys, which seemed to preset the club’s thought process on both matters.

The club is happy to ensure the lines of communication are kept open with FAB fan reps and will provide a schedule of dates for monthly meetings.  At least three of the meetings will be FAB meetings with an agenda set by FAB fan reps, and other meetings will be informal discussions.  This will allow for further consultation and communication. 

With regards to the away ticket group – notably the topics of away prices and the passing on of tickets & punishments – the FAB group has had zero communication about this process or outcomes. Can there be more structured communication to the FAB group.

Prior to the formulation of the Away Ticket Consultation Group (ATCG), the club approached FAB fan reps via email to ask for the FAB to identify one or two people to ensure the FAB fan representatives had input into the group and the process.  The club was contacted by one FAB fan rep who has been present at all meetings and has raised points on behalf the FAB.  The club is more than happy for a second FAB fan rep to join the group.  We hope that the nominated FAB fan reps would be able to structure communication back to the group. 

Terrace View

Why did the mooted GA+ offering upgrade to velvet ropes, ‘Hospitality’ lanyards and hostesses? This is not really conducive to what the Holte End represents for fans. Also, claret members and the general public have been frozen out of getting tickets for the upper Holte, with it being blocked off for TV sales.

What is the take-up so far on a season and match-by-match basis? What feedback has the club received from supporters, particularly in the light of the reported abuse members received at the Everton game?

We appreciate that The Terrace View has attracted negative feedback with some people opposed to it in principle, but in practice the facility has proved popular with the supporters who are using it both on a seasonal and match-by-match basis. It is part of the Club’s plans to widen the offering we wish to make to supporters on how they can watch their football at Villa Park.  

Related to the Upper Holte, what happened to the proposed rail seating? And why has there been such poor communication on it, can the club put out an update statement to supporters?

We notified the FAB in the April meeting that we intend to install rail seating in Upper Holte and in the away supporters’ section of Upper Doug Ellis this season. We said an installation timetable would be agreed with the relevant authorities which would be mindful of a number of factors including, the calendar of fixtures (especially the frequency of UEFA Europa Conference fixtures), progression in cup competitions and further dialogue with the stakeholders including the local Safety Advisory Group. When we have increased clarity on all of these factors, we expect to be able to give more details to both the FAB and all our supporters.  

Matchday facilities

There have been numerous complaints about the poor organization with regards to catering, basic service and the dirty/unfinished nature of concourse facilities.

We have discussed this situation for the entire duration of the group’s existence, yet there has been very little progress.

And with the example of the Terrace View, general concourse capacity has actually been reduced.

We understand the frustration experienced by supporters and respect the feedback we receive. In Lower Holte we have introduced the frictionless kiosk system and self-pour facilities which have had a positive effect. However, we know we must continually improve facilities across all parts of the stadium. 

In Holte Upper, there are immediate works taking place to provide additional toilet & catering facilities which should see clear improvements. Outside The Holte End, we are also looking at utilising the car park to increase matchday provision. 

We will continue to look at further upgrades across Villa Park and report back to FAB with details as soon as possible. 

Away ticketing

There has been criticism of the criteria for away matches, with a drop of 19 to 15 for Burnley seen as too large. Then fans with 10 aways are in the same allocation round as season ticket holders with no away record for the season.

We will continue to analyse sales data and create the fairest criteria we can, whilst doing our utmost to provide some opportunity for those who view our away sales process as a “closed shop”.

Could the club make a statement to clarify the situation regarding corporate members receiving away tickets?

Our Hospitality department operates their own system and replicate the away criteria for seasonal corporate members that applies to season ticket holders.  The allocation given to seasonal corporate members is calculated each season as a % of our overall season ticket holding (if we had 20,000 season tickets, and 2,000 were seasonal corporate members, then corporate members would have access to 10% of an away allocation, with 90% going to season ticket holders).  This season, this equates to less than 7% of any away allocation being allocated to seasonal corporate members. 

Can the Terrace View ballot be explained for transparency purposes, where allegedly members can ask for up to four tickets per game?

Terrace View seasonal members are included in the calculation above with other seasonal corporate members.  No seasonal corporate member can apply for more than one ticket.  In fact, if a corporate client holds 12 seasonal memberships (such as an Executive Box), they can only apply for a maximum of four away tickets. 

Also, were the club offered a larger allocation for Hibs and if so, why were they declined?

We took the entire allocation offered to us for the Hibs game. 

Disabled facilities

When will these be upgraded to meet legal requirements? For clarification, what are the deadlines in play and can we actually have a final fulfilment date.

Compliance with the Accessible Stadia guide remains a massive challenge for the club, as our only path to compliance involves expensive projects (with no return on investment) and the further loss of seats for more season ticket holders around the stadium (and only inferior accommodation to offer those losing long held season ticket seats). Last season we introduced Accessible seating for away supporters in Lower Doug Ellis, thereby freeing up extra accessible seats in Trinity for our own fans. This season we have added Accessible seats into Holte for the first time. 

Our plans to redevelop Villa Park also include proposals to comply with all the statutory Accessible Seating requirements. The development of the North stand presents our best opportunity for compliance.

Ground redevelopment and transport improvements

How are these progressing and what effect will the recent news about Birmingham city councils s.114 have?

We submitted a revised planning application regarding redeveloping the North Stand and its environs to Birmingham City Council which was approved last week. A separate – but equally important – decision on where the 2028 UEFA European Championships is due next month. 

We continue to engage with all the relevant stakeholders concerning these developments and are also working with the West Midlands Combined Authority and Birmingham City Council on the complex issue of transport improvements. 

Any other business

The club was asked for its reflections on the Everton pricing structure given the 23k attendance.

The club acknowledged the feedback on the prices and reminded the group that both clubs have to agree on the pricing structure for cup matches. The club will ensure prior consultation with the FAB fan reps prior to any future cup matches.

Could the club give clarification on the Lower Grounds pricing and has there been any consideration for children’s prices?

The price includes access 3 hours prior to kick-off and 90 minutes post-game. Within the price unlimited food (Burgers, fries, hotdogs, nachos, ice cream) beer, house wine and soft drinks are included, this is until 30 minutes pre kick off and drinks for 60 minutes post-game. Former player Q&A’s & matchday programme also provided. The club have now introduced under 14’s prices.

Could the club explain what was meant by The Lower grounds price being advertised as an opening offer?

The price will be reviewed accordingly.

The Holte Suite has been a long-standing benefit for season ticket holders and as such has been advertised as part of the benefits prior to someone purchasing a season ticket. Those who use the facility would have renewed expecting to receive the benefit.

Whilst the Holte suite was not included in the listed benefits prior to anyone purchasing a ticket we recognise that some would have expected this and can understand their disappointment.

Will Holte Lower fans be able to access Lower Grounds at half-time?

Access to Lower Grounds at half-time will not be feasible. As alerted to earlier in discussions, additional provisions are being planned for the Holte Car Park which will allow for more space to be utilised pre-match and at half-time.

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