Supporters Charter Group Meeting

Carl Jackson opened the meeting tonight with a brief update on the administrators’ progress and related questions:

–          They have a good grasp of the cashflow.

–          They have removed some costs from the business and are hopeful there won’t need to be more, but it depends on the next few months.

–          They have ensured the Academy can retain Category 1 status.

–          They have secured accelerated funding from some sponsors, but are still looking. They will need additional short-term funding. The club is OK for the next month or so, and are confident they will secure additional funds as required.

–          They have completed a report to the EFL to confirm the club can complete the season.

–          There is a lot of interest in the club – some previously engaged with Mel Morris, most retain an ongoing interest.

–          There are additional interested parties – some time wasters, some won’t pass financial tests or Owners’ & Directors’ Test, but some are still in discussions.

–          They having sensible dialogue with the EFL. They will fight the existing points penalty and the additional charges still outstanding. Potential purchasers are aware of the points deduction and possible relegation. As a result, it is possible to proceed with the purchase of the club without the points deduction being resolved. They still want to get this resolved as quickly as possible.

–          HMRC is the bigger threat to the viability of the club. They have had an initial call and are planning a meeting. A ‘big slug’ of the outstanding HMRC debt (over £26m) is preferential debt.

–          The next 2-3 weeks will be critical in assessing the full financial situation.

–          The administrators do have a figure in mind they believe creditors will accept (which includes payment to HMRC, football creditors, purchase of the ground and at least 25p in the £1 to unsecured creditors).

–          They are also fighting legal charges – for the Middlesbrough charge, lawyers has already been engaged lawyers on both sides.

–          Contrary to reports, the MSD secured debt is still in place, but they are onside with the process.

–          They need to file a financial report in 6 weeks, which will include an assessment of previous directors’ activities.

–          There may be a need to sell players in January if the situation is not resolved by then.

Specific RamsTrust members questions:

Have there been any surprises in their investigations since joining the club?

–          No, they had done a review prior to appointment. They have been hugely impressed with the infrastructure and the commitment of the staff and players.

The situation with the ticketing is immensely frustrating with the requirement for a fan ID, for every online purchase and no walk up ticket sales, despite other Championship clubs now offering this. There have been plenty of complaints and this is putting off casual fans and hitting potential revenue at a time when the club needs it most. Are there imminent plans to relax these restrictions?

–          This is due to Covid regulations – they are only allowed to sell 1 ticket per fan ID. Only 2% of sales require the ticket office – vast majority of sales are completed successfully online. They are increasing Ticket Office hours to 3 days per week, and the ticket phoneline to 5 days per week. They are also training additional staff to provide more capacity. 

Can we get confirmation on what % the club makes off the club shop, commission as low as 5% has been quoted? Are there any lines in the club shop where a higher percentage benefits the clubs? I’ve also heard it’s been franchised out, but there should still be a revenue stream here or have Fanatics paid a big lump sum up front for this, which in theory makes the club shop a poor source of income for the club?

–          The deal with Fanatics is very good for the club. They have a multi-year contract which provides a guaranteed income and additional percentages on all sales – which vary between products.

–          They also have a similar deal with concourse sales which pays a significant percentage on all sales.

–          Umbro also has an ongoing contract with the club and Fanatics.

Everybody wants to know what is the best way to help the club, buying tickets and spending money in the concourse has been called out by the administrators already, which is great, but there are fans who don’t live in Derby and can’t make it, so how can we help overall?

–          Every ticket has to be associated with a fan ID (Covid regulations) so should not be donated or passed to another supporter. For fans to accept a free ticket they should first set up their own fan ID.

 I’ve bought my kids memberships (being charged £20 postage with their packs not yet here a week later… but that’s another days’ work) is this a direct benefit to the club?

–          Yes, again there is a minimum guaranteed amount and a percentage of sales. Postage is through an external provider.

I understand the focus has to be on local fans but how can international ones contribute?

I’ve seen online that people are buying tickets and season tickets but can’t attend games, this could, potentially, lead to tickets sold but empty seats. Can we look at a virtual ticket or is that a RamsTV pass?

–          The club will look into potential ways of selling a ‘virtual ticket’ and possible benefits.

How important is RamsTV as an income stream for the club and do the administrators have any general comments to make or future plans for it.

–          RamsTV is a good way to contribute to the club. It does provide an income to the club (over costs), so will be retained. 

Attendances haven’t increased dramatically despite a rally call from the management, squad and various supporter groups. Is there any initiative here to boost attendances, money is important but so are results and a packed Pride Park brings a 12th man?

–          The issue here is that higher attendances cost the club more in running costs (stewarding etc.), so this would actually have a negative effect on club finances if they give away free tickets.

Are there any other ways to maximise income? Stadium and Moor Farm Tours?

–          They have looked into it, and are trying to find a way to allow this but current Covid regulations make this very difficult – even open training sessions for fans.

Can the club reopen The Backyard? And look at hospitality options and pricing – seems overpriced and ‘corporate’ which excludes the majority of fans who want to help.

–          The club highlighted it is only £50 for the ‘Captain’s Club’ – which includes a £36 match ticket and a meal. It is also possible to upgrade existing match tickets to this option. They suggested this would also be an option for overseas fans to ‘donate’ to other fans.

–          Some executive boxes have been sold but are not being used due to Covid, some are still available but have to retain same pricing structure. There will be special offers available later.

–          Regarding The Backyard they are in discussions with Delaware, but looking at options to avoid direct competition with other existing options around the ground. They want to cater to different potential customer groups (e.g. families).

Further points raised:

–          A valuation is being done of club memorabilia as they have to provide a full report on all assets, but there is no intention to sell any of this in the foreseeable future (this may be reviewed if the situation is still unresolved by the end of the season).

–          Concourse TVs are not allowed to show matchday content to avoid encouraging supporters to congregate (due to Covid regulations).

–          They are working with Umbro on a new shirt idea for fans.

–          Paul Aldridge has been brought in as an independent consultant to work with the administrators.

–          They will continue to regularly update supporters on progress.

–        The next meeting will be in about a month.

Jim Wheeler, Society Chair.