In May last year, Liverpool Football Club announced the introduction of five Fan Forums, which would allow supporters the opportunity to engage with the club directly on pertinent fan issues, namely; equality, diversity, the ticketing process and stadium developments. Each of the forums comprises between eight and 12 supporters, including a representative from Spirit of Shankly, the Liverpool Supporters’ Trust as well as members of the former LFC Supporters’ Committee.
The inaugural Stadium Fan Forum was held in April, prior to Liverpool’s match against AFC Bournemouth, and was attended by eight forum members (either in person or via conference call), six representatives from the club; including chief operating officer, Andy Hughes, as well as Spirit of Shankly representative, James McKenna and Adam Kearns from Spion Kop 1906.
Anfield Road Update
Andy Hughes outlined the club’s position on proposals to increase capacity and redevelop the stand:
Over the last three or four years there has been major investment in capital projects. This has included the new Main Stand, improvements in stadium accessibility and work on the new training ground and it has all been done in sequence which, in practice, has meant that we have deliberately tried to phase these projects for reasons of finance and resources. From our point of view, there is no shortage of time or effort that is being put into this project to make it as good as it possibly can be. The program is on track and we are completely committed to this project. We definitely can raise the money and we are committed to finding the best possible answer, assuming it is viable from all points of view.
Adam Kearns urged the club to use the increase in capacity as an opportunity to make inroads on the season ticket waiting list, instead of maximizing on corporate offerings. Andy Hughes then responded;
One of our main objectives is to maximise capacity in this design.
Suitability of current Supporter Charter and robustness of its appeals process
There have been several incidents in which fans were ejected from the stadium in recent months and thus the next agenda item discussed the suitability of the Supporter Charter and its current appeal process. Andy Hughes outlined the club’s position, saying;
Many aspects of the existing Supporter Charter are really good, but some critical points are missing, and I don’t think the appeals process is as clear as it needs to be. To that end, we are definitely looking to work on the fan charter throughout this summer and then come back to this forum with a proposal and, in the short term, we have addressed a resource issue which has allowed us to make some significant progress which has ensured parts of the process have already improved significantly.
James McKenna then highlighted what had been discussed during his involvement with the club in the ongoing review of the current process. He said;
I met with Andy Hughes and Tony Barrett to discuss a number of issues that concerned us in relation to ejections and it’s good that the club has taken on board that there is a gap in the process.
We need a process which allows fans to see what they need to do. That would stop the kind of negative reactions we have seen on social media recently because supporters will know that there is a robust process which, even if there are times when they disagree with it, would stop people from thinking decisions are being made on the hoof…
We also need to know who is making the decisions and on what grounds and, furthermore, it needs to be set in stone that any supporter who is subjected to this process can be accompanied to any hearing.
To which Andy replied;
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge how difficult the job of stewarding is and there are a significant number of cases in which our stewards do an excellent job. But, as has been said, we need a clearer set of rules which would make it easier for them to do their jobs and for fans to better understand what is required of them.
Broadly we agree on this issue – the rules need to be better and clearer. The intention now is to come up with a proposal on this front by the end of the summer.
Adam Kearns then summarised the work that Spion Kop 1906 does to improve the matchday atmosphere and discussed where the club could assist in supporting these efforts.
We started off just buying flags with our own money because we wanted to make the atmosphere better. We want it to be as good as it possibly can be, not because we want a pat on the back or anything like that, because we want to help the team in any way that we can. There are issues and challenges though and it would be good if the club could help us. It’s nothing particularly major but if the club could put up posters on the Kop informing supporters that we will be waving flags during You’ll Never Walk Alone that would help communicate what we are doing and why we are doing it.
On a bigger scale, I would love to see some sort of boys’ pen to allow mates to be together so that creating an atmosphere becomes easier; maybe that could happen towards the back of the Kop. That would keep us ticking over during games when creating an atmosphere is more of a challenge.
Head of ticketing and hospitality, Phil Dutton, addressed the possibility of posters on the Kop, saying that an additional option would be for a similar notice to be placed in season ticket renewal booklets.
Regarding the suggesting of a boys’ pen in the Kop, Dutton stated that unless season ticket holders were prepared to move to other seats, it would be difficult to implement, due to the high percentage of season ticket holders in that part of the ground.
A proposal that the club should fund any displays organised by Spion Kop 1906 was then put forward, however, Kearns was insistent that Spion Kop 1906’s priority is and has always been to retain their independence from the club.
Lastly, head of stadium and operations, Simon Smith, agreed to meet with Spion Kop 1906 to discuss ways in which the club could work with them going forward, which concluded the maiden Stadium Fan Forum meeting.