Your questions answered: January 2012
3rd Sep 2010
The latest SCG meeting saw 20 fans - made up of season ticket holders, message board users, single match ticket buyers and Lions Club representatives - put their questions to a panel which included chief executive Paul Faulkner.
Here are the questions and answers from SCG13, held on Saturday January 14.
Question One: After the hugely exciting Proud History Bright Future era, what is the immediate to long term goals of the club? Can Randy personally send out a message to all to clarify this? There is a lot of unrest and apathy throughout the stadium on a matchday. Let's know exactly where we're at and move on supporting the Villa.
In November, the chairman conducted an interview that was published on the official website and also printed in the matchday programme for the Man Utd game - click here. In this, with regards to the club's goals he said: "We are focused on running Villa well and fighting to be in position, ultimately, to get back into Europe. At a very simple level this sums up the goal that everyone at the club is working towards. We qualified for Europe for three consecutive seasons between 2007-08 and 2009-10 and our aim remains to be competing for European football on a regular basis. As we all know, the Premier League is an extremely tough and competitive league and we have no divine right to be successful. The 2010-11 season in particular presented us with a number of significant challenges which could have caused a club without the strength of Villa even more problems than it did, but we believe that we are now stabilizing the Club and putting ourselves in a position to once again push forward with confidence.
Paul Faulkner, Chief Executive
As mentioned in previous SCG communications, removal of the large video screen in the corner of the North Stand was undertaken as part of an overall program to improve certain aspects of the grounds.The club is very much aware that its removal has resulted in some concerns expressed amongst the supporters. Whilst the smaller Cornerflag video wall does help to communicate player and scoreboard information, we understand it has size limitations to adequately display video images viewable at a distance. Towards this end, and in our continued effort to improve our supporters' matchday experience, the club is presently assessing the possibility of locating another large video screen in that end of the grounds. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide a firm commitment or further details at this time, but will endeavor to develop a solution that meets with everyone's approval.
Tom Fantini, Head of Facilities
We have and continue to be proactively engaged with the media in a series of activities/campaigns which have promoted at regional and national level the good work in which we are involved in the community, the continued success of our Academy and the personalities/aspirations of our players and manager. The chairman and CEO are constantly engaged in the process of driving these efforts. From the interviews conducted with the chairman which were published in The Times, Birmingham Mail, the Villa official website and the matchday programme in November to the Sunday Times, Daily Star and Sun interviews with Gabby Agbonlahor about a scheme in which local clubs received £25,000 worth of kit and equipment donated by Villa players, clear and consistent messages have been sent out by the club about who we are, what we stand for, the values we espouse and, ultimately, our ambitions. As a club, we are very proud of our association with Acorns and our official Acorns ambassador, Gabby Agbonlahor, and Marc Albrighton (after scoring the Premier League's 20,000th goal and donating a cheque for £20,000 to Acorns children's hospices) have, in particular, highlighted both at national and regional level the essential role performed by our charity partner. We have also supported the Saving Lives charity (promoting HIV awareness), the West Midlands Police Christmas Drink and Drug-Driving Campaign, the restoration of William McGregor's grave (the CEO's contribution securing strong regional coverage especially) and next month at Villa Park we will host the first joint conference by Kick It Out and Show Racism The Red Card, all of our associations with these various organisations having been covered extensively in all areas of the media and generating overwhelmingly positive coverage. We have built up close and valuable relationships with the media over a number of years and the club will continue to utilise these relationships to positive ends.
Brian Doogan, Head of Media
Question Four: Have you considered a larger Q&A style forum similar to those that used to be run by local radio stations or at the old AGMs?
Yes we have. Whilst the SCG has been our principal consultation vehicle, we are looking to make a real effort to offer different types of consultation to our fans. This may include the type of forums suggested in the question. We are keen to widen supporter involvement with the SCG, and have even considered taking the SCG "on the road" to give more of you the opportunity to engage with us. We continue to be open to ideas that improve our communication, and welcome any suggestions to email@example.com on what, how and where our consultation with you should look like.
Lee Preece, Head of Football Operations/Projects
Question Five: Can there be toilet facilities for women throughout Villa Park?
Villa Park currently meets all regulations with regard to toilet facilities throughout the grounds. Based on crowd profiling and other guidance documents, the specific number of male and females facilities is an imposed design requirement (based on the overall capacity of the stadium). That said, however, we certainly will look at the male-to-female ratio to see if there are any areas within the available toilet blocks that need improvement (whilst maintaining regulatory compliance).
Tom Fantini, Head of Facilities
Question Six: Are the board being over cautious with the introduction of the financial fair play rules? How can the FA sanction so many clubs in the football league that would not be compliant?
Sanctions will be administered by UEFA, not the FA. We understand that UEFA is planning to publish more detail on sanctions in May 2012 so we cannot really comment on sanctions at this juncture. Nor can we speak for other clubs and their plans to comply or not with the Financial Fair Play rules. Our motivation to comply is driven by the desire to put the club on a financially self-sustaining footing.
Robin Russell, Chief Financial Officer
Question Seven: Most of the focus seems to be on bringing younger fans in. Having a seven-month old daughter the infants and child ranges are very limited and expensive. Could this issue be looked at to get the Villa experience started earlier?
Please note: responses to Questions Eight and 15 are dealt with in the response to Question Seven.
The club store sells both the replica home and away infant kits from the age of three months+, along with a range of unisex infant wear from newborn which features sleepsuits, vests, bodysuits and romper in the claret and sky kit design, along with a range for the girls in pink. Available also is a range from new born to 18 months for both the girls and boys in white, which feature a four-piece set, two sleepsuit set and a two bib set. In addition to the product lines above we sell an infant tracksuit and reversible winter jacket from age six months +. We also sell a bath robe from age three months along with a range of accessories which feature baby booties, crib slippers, bibs, soothers, feeding bottles and a weaning bowl. With regards to pricing we will be looking for alternative suppliers for quality and competitive prices.
As regards the new kit for next season, the club will be making an official statement in late-February/early-March on any future contracts. We understand our supporters' concerns regarding kit launch dates and we will be endeavouring to launch next season's kit in June/July 2012.
John Greenfield, Head of Merchandising
Please refer to question 7.
Question Nine: Do you regret turning down the chance of Olympic Football now that no development is taking place at Villa Park this summer?
No. We held preliminary discussions with LOCOG about the possibility of hosting some games, (none of which were to feature Team GB), in the Olympic football tournament in 2008 and early 2009, but took the decision that the requirements of LOCOG around exclusive access to Villa Park and the potential disruption that would cause to our preparations for the start of the 2012-13 season, as well as our non-matchday business (such as conferences and weddings) during the summer, meant that hosting such games was not in the best interests of Aston Villa.This decision was never made in light of firm plans for development work to be taking place at the stadium this summer. We hope and expect that the Olympics will be a fantastic success for the country, and will be cheering on all of the British athletes involved in the games.
Paul Faulkner, Chief Executive
The club's commitment to the community is and will remain of utmost importance. We work closely with all stakeholders, including the Premier League, national, regional and local bodies and community members to deliver a robust community programme. In addition, we are always looking to enhance our efforts within the greater Birmingham area.
There has been a conscious effort this season to demonstrate our work at both national and local level in the media and this has been achieved in various campaigns.
An example is the Player's Kit Scheme, a national scheme involving all Premier League clubs. Villa was one of the first to get organised player efforts for this scheme and this was reflected in coverage of Gabby Agbonlahor donating kit to Continental Star, a local team in the inner city of Birmingham in the Sunday Times, The Sun, Sky Sports and internationally via Premier League Productions. Due to the club's proactive efforts on the scheme as a whole, the PFA have stated that Villa will be used as a case study to be presented to the Premier League on the efficacy of the scheme in its inaugural year. The answer to Question Three refers to other initiatives which have demonstrated the club's good work in the community and the way we have showcased this by working effectively with the players.
Over the next six months an effort will be made to enhance the community section of the Club's official website to better inform fans of the overall efforts made by the Club with its community and Corporate Social Responsibility work.
Our Villa in Harmony campaign continues to flourish, continuing the positive promotion of our efforts towards encouraging and achieving equality and diversity.
Ravinder Masih, Community Relationship Manager
The Premier League have made a number of changes to the Reserve League in recent seasons and are in the process of reviewing it again for the 2012-13 season. Once the format of the competition for next season has been determined (it is likely to become an U21 competition allowing a certain number of over 21 players), we will then have a clearer idea of when and where matches will be played, and if certain games will continue to be played at Hinckley, or if more will be played at Bodymoor Heath or Villa Park.
While we would not envisage putting on coaches for travel to Hinckley, we will continue to cover all reserve games on the official website, offering audio commentary free on AVTV for all subscribers and season ticket holders, as well as the text commentary service on avfc.co.uk. In addition, when games are played at Villa Park we will consider showing these free on AVTV as we did with the quarter-final of the Next Gen against Marseille.
Paul Faulkner, Chief Executive
In recent months we have had a number of meetings and discussions with the FSF (Football Supporters Federation) and the SGSA (Sports Ground Safety Authority) to understand more about the concept and existing debates around the idea of safe standing areas at football grounds. We have also done some preliminary work to look at areas of Villa Park which could potentially be converted into safe standing areas, the work and costs associated with that, as well as raising the issue for discussion at the last SCG, where there was strong support shown by the fans present. With all that said, safe standing is clearly a complex and emotive topic and the club's position is that while we feel there could be scope and support for a small safe standing trial area at Villa Park, the matter requires further discussion and debate, which we would participate in fully.
Paul Faulkner, Chief Executive
The club is keen to explore any method of enhancing the spectator experience at Villa Park and will be exploring the possibility of providing areas where persons may legally smoke. All aspects of this question need to be considered including the geography of Villa Park and the legal and safety constraints specific to a football stadium. It may be that it is not practical to provide such areas, but a thorough examination of all the possibilities will take place. The club will always be required to take action to deter illegal smoking and the enforcement action against those who ignore the law and smoke in the toilets and washrooms will continue.
John Handley, Head of Security
ANY season ticket holder not renewing their seat is always a concern to us and something which we would always look to address. We recognise the vital part that season ticket holders play and the club will continue to do everything to drive match day attendance to support the team, including retaining and welcoming as many season ticket holders as possible.
Ahead of last season we conducted a number of research sessions with existing season ticket holders to understand more about benefits and offers we could include with the season ticket package in order to make it more attractive to supporters, to provide a greater degree of reward for the loyalty shown and to help bring season ticket holders even closer to the club. This resulted in the revamped season ticket offering for the 2011-12 season and is something we are constantly looking to refine to ensure season ticket holders benefit from sensibly priced tickets when compared to other PL clubs. We'll continue to look at ways to enhance the overall package including exclusive invitations to meet the manager and first team and watch them train at Bodymoor Heath as well as ways to further enhance match day experience. We also plan to put season tickets on sale earlier this year and will be looking at ways to spread the cost of a season ticket as well as review all other opportunities to recognise and reward season ticket holders for their loyal support wherever possible.
Nicola Keye, Head of Consumer Sales
Please refer to question 7.