Ask the Chairman – Norwich: Report
A small group of City fans enjoyed a healthy exchange of views with the Chairman Steve Lansdown in the Horse & Dray pub before the game at Norwich.
Steve Lansdown, landlady Leanne and Trust Chair Stu Rogers
When asked if it was going to happen, the answer from Steve was yes, subject to getting the finance right. It will be for the use of Bristol City Football Club, but couldn’t rule out using it for the occasional rugby match to help balance the books. The stadium will sit amongst a development of retail outlets; however, there are still some decisions to be made about what else may be included within the stadium complex itself. Bristol hopes to be one of 10 host cities for the 2018 World Cup, with Portsmouth likely to be in the running as well.
The stadium name will be subject to who is prepared to pay for it. Supporters Trust Chair, Stuart Rogers confirmed that the Trust is working with the club on the latest plans to help ensure that the wishes expressed in the fans survey were reflected in the design as much as possible. His view is that it is pretty much on track, with the main area for debate still being the acoustics. Steve was surprised to learn that the noise generated within a stand is as important to fans as the noise that is projected out onto the pitch. Steve would have originally liked home fans behind both goals, however, logistically, away fans can only be accommodated at one end.
When asked about the likelihood of Premiership football anytime soon, Steve obviously couldn’t commit, however, it led on to a conversation about how, in Steve’s words “it’s more difficult to say no in football”. The Premiership is something we would all like to achieve, although not by breaking the bank to get there, as it can very quickly go the other way, with Charlton being a good example.
Steve revealed that this year he has only once been verbally abused by a fan - during the half-time break against Wolves. When asked if he ever thinks about walking away when he sees negativity on internet forums and from the stands, he says no. There is limited time to make a difference in any lifetime and you have to hold on to the good times, it’s the main reason he and Keith Dawe continue to invest. Steve recalled the Wembley experience, Trund’s goal against Palace and the other play-off game against Hartlepool.
Without wishing to sound disparaging, Steve feels that Bristol City fans are “growing up” and that the club and fans now share more of a common purpose. Going 1-0 down at Ashton Gate used to be met with groans and general quietness. These days the fans get straight behind the team to help get them back in the game. When asked why that is, Steve cited two reasons. The relationship that Gary has with the fans and the initiatives by fans groups like the Trust and others.
Away match tickets
Steve fielded questions from exiles, who have missed out on important away matches, namely play-off final and Portsmouth FA Cup this year. Not being able to attend many home matches, but a few away matches, means that they have to become members, but still miss out. One fan would need to spend £40 on a family membership and still not get away tickets and not benefit from the discounted home tickets. Steve recognised that an exiled fan of 27 years standing is currently being geographically disadvantaged, but that in attending only away games, is not actually contributing financially to Bristol City Football Club. Loyalty is starting to be recognised by the Football Club and the Supporters Trust has worked with the club on the membership scheme on the understanding that it will evolve into a more complete loyalty scheme. The first year of the membership scheme was just about getting it up and running and collecting relevant trend data.
A fight between our own supporters at Southampton and the Senior Reds complaining about it at Portsmouth prompted a question about standing at away matches. Steve was asked why it’s not possible to sell away tickets with the choice of a seat at the front or the back of the stand. Steve agreed it would make sense, but also that fans bear the responsibility of sorting these things out on their own as well by offering to swap seats. The problems really occur when we sell out. When it was suggested that the club don’t always go the extra mile for fans if it involves a bit more effort, Steve responded that he felt fans expected everything to be done for them and sometimes this was just not possible.
An exile from Brighton is a season ticket holder and right behind everything Steve is looking to achieve with the club, however, one thing particularly leaves a bitter taste. On receiving a recent phone bill, he realised he had spent £7 trying to book tickets for 2 away matches and called on Steve to scrap the 0871 telephone number or make more away tickets available online. Steve agreed to look into this.
Although a smaller number attended than the last Q&A at Palace, the Trust feels that these sessions are valuable for fans to get access to the Chairman of their football club and for him to hear about issues affecting fans living away from Bristol. We thank Steve Lansdown for making the time to work with fans in this way.