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Derby County Supporters Charter Group Meeting - 03/07/2023

Meeting Details:

Monday 3rd July 2023, 6:30pm start in the Board Room at Pride Park Stadium


Attendees:

Hilary Leam - Rams Trust

Nick Webster

Andy Ellis - Derby County Collection

David Mortimer - Rams Active

Lynn Hemsworth - Derby County Supporters Club

Mike Rothon - Black and White Together

Derby County Chief Executive Officer - Stephen Pearce

Derby County Chief Commercial Officer - Dave Biggar

Derby County Senior Communications Officer - Tom Loakes

Derby County Supporter Liaison Officer - Emma Drury


Apologies:

David Clowes - Derby County Owner

Derby County Disabled Supporters Club

Punjabi Rams


Pre-Meeting Discussion:

None


Agenda Topics:


SUPPORTER EXPERIENCE


Q: Away Supporters Coach Travel - will this continue for the new season?


A: We expect that Skills will be in a position to provide this service again for the 2023/24 season, following a successful implementation in the latter months of last season. We are just waiting for confirmation in writing from Skills, following verbal discussions, prior to providing an update to supporters but see no reason why they will not provide this.


Q: Atmosphere - can the volume of pre-match music played over the PA be turned down to 'background' level?


A: We tried this at the Portsmouth home game prior to kick-off at the end of last season, which was the sixth time in the season, to see the reaction it provided in the stands. If we feel the music/atmosphere needs firing up, we will fire it up. If we feel it will be best served for the atmosphere to be organically generated by the supporters in the lead-up to kick-off, we will endeavour to make this happen. Our staff are looking at and working on new music options and build-up videos for the 2023/24 season. We will aim to gauge things as they unfold at Pride Park and read the room on each matchday. We will also look to phase in some of our plans during pre-season ahead of the season-opener against Wigan Athletic.


Q: Would the club consider a 'paid for' Wi-Fi offer in the stadium? Most major mobile networks don't have the capacity to serve data connections on matchdays.


A: The vast majority of stadiums have similar issues - especially higher up the football pyramid - and we have looked into this extensively in the past. There isn't a quick-fix or easy solution that we could implement without spending a vast amount of money, which we aren't in a position to do at this specific moment in time. We also have to be aware that such spend would result in little financial return in the short-term.


Q: When will next season's kit be launched? Will the option to buy a kit without the sponsor continue?


A:The club is finalising plans for its kit release and in the coming days supporters will be made aware of plans for the reveal for the 2023/24 kits. We've been working with Umbro, our current technical kit partner, over recent months to receive confirmation of delivery times and, in turn, being able to finalise our release date and the work that needs to take place around this. The only reason last year's replica kits were without a sponsor was owing to the NSPCC partnership being confirmed in November, after shirts had gone on sale. Therefore this year's shirts, all first team and replica, will have the logo of Host & Stay, our new principal partner, on them.


Q: Fans Forums. This was mentioned this time last year as the one thing fans can agree is a good thing! We were told they would return, particularly when the planned Chair was brought in. Can this please be addressed whether a Chair is brought in or not?


A: This has been discussed internally and we are finalising plans to stage a Fans Forum in September, ideally at Pride Park Stadium with representation from senior club officials, football staff and the playing squad. We will provide an update once we've got all these plans firmed up.


TICKETING/MEMBERSHIP


Q: How are Season Ticket sales comparing with the same stage - the end of season ticket renewal - for last season?


A: We are doing really well in terms of sales and, in total, just over 20,000 have been snapped up at this stage. In some ways it is hard to compare last year to this year because of the short timeframe we were working towards 12 months ago, but what we can say is we're delighted with the response we've had from supporters. We are ahead in terms of the numbers we've sold right now and hundreds of fans have upgraded from a Half Season Ticket to a Full Season Ticket. We've had 88% of Season Tickets renewed and 9.2% of fans have used the Finance Plan which has been on offer; this is close to the expected 10%. We have also sold a number of 'New' Season Tickets. We are in a really good place and we would be delighted to see the number continue to rise ahead of the season starting and when sales conclude at the end of August.


Q: Will the number of Away Ticket Memberships sold be limited?


A: Away Ticket Memberships won't be limited in terms of numbers, but we will make a judgement call, as we did last season, if we need to in terms of a cut-off point for sales.


Q: With the category of 20 plus games being lowered to 15 plus is there enough provision of tickets for the lower allocation grounds for all of those to attend from that category? Or could it be that for fans that go to 99% if not 100% of games/away games there may not be enough tickets available in this 15 plus category so could miss out?


A: Those in the 15-game+ category that qualify to purchase a match ticket with an Away Ticket Membership will be able to do so for all league away games when they go on sale in that specific sales window. We have listened to feedback on the Away Ticket Memberships and believe a fair offering is available to supporters for the season ahead.


PLAYING MATTERS


Q: Is there any indication of the squad size we are aiming for?


A: Paul Warne has publicly stated he doesn't want a big squad and is aiming for around 22 first-team players, so we will continue to work to that level. We have made some good additions to the squad so far and we are all continually working hard to add to those. We have attracted some good quality and we want to make sure that is exactly the same with further signings.


Q: How do we replace McGoldrick's goals?


A: That is obviously difficult to do because David McGoldrick did brilliantly for us last season, but we are looking at the market to see what we can do to improve the squad in the attacking third of the pitch. The football staff and recruitment team are well aware of what needs to be done and it isn't always about replacing the goals with one individual; we are looking how we can add goals from right across the pitch and Paul will tell you that himself.


Q: Do we have plans to build relationships with certain Premier League clubs with a view to being a loan destination of choice?


A:We already have these strong relationships and we are viewed as a positive place for players to develop and we saw that with Everton, Brighton & Hove Albion and Tottenham Hotspur last season, amongst other clubs. The challenge for us in some ways is Premier League clubs normally want to loan players to League One as a first loan, Lewis Dobbin for example from Everton. We want to build relationships, as well as continue the relationships we've built up so far and we're extremely confident we'll do that.


Q: How quickly does Paul Warne run a 10km? I think the players have to beat him when they return to pre-season training. I'd be interested in the benchmark he sets!


A: In terms of the fitness of the players, they are put through some gruelling pre-season drills by the staff. When they returned for training last week, they took part in running exercises where their lactate levels were tested following their conclusion. Once we have the results, they are then put into specific groups and their progress can be monitored closely and they can be run at the right rate based on those lactate results. Paul and his staff are known for his tough pre-seasons but they're well planned and not about just flogging the players. Last year we had the unique situation of several players not getting a full pre-season with us as we built up the squad in such a short period of time. This year Paul and the staff have got a full pre-season with the group and, starting from this week, they are together for 20 or so days consecutively - this is when Paul and his staff will really get to know the team as people. It will be a really important time.


Q: What steps are being taken to strengthen our recruitment team and provide them with the support they need to effectively carry out their roles?


A: The senior appointments are all done in terms of the recruitment team and now we are working on establishing regional and Ireland scouts in the next phase of what we are putting in place. The majority of the team is now on board and we have tried to build it from the position the club is rebuilding from at this moment. For example, there is no point bringing in someone who is used to recruiting at the top end of the Championship with unlimited funds because that wouldn't work for what we need. We have a balance within the group of the staff watching games live, analysing data, speaking to contacts and monitoring players either in person or on video.


Q: What are the plans to re-invigorate the Under-21s after a difficult year for them?


A: We have gone on the record in saying that the Under-21s needs rebuilding, but we need to go about it in the right way. It is so expensive to go out and rebuild an Under-21 squad, maybe even more so than the first team in many ways. We will add players to the group this summer and, where possible, have some first team players featuring in the Under-21s to pass on their experience. We will also have a number of Under-18s stepping up when they are ready. We are working on our age groups lower down the Academy path, which is where we have lost players in recent years and need to build that up again. The Under-21s is a longer-term rebuild and we are hoping for a better season.


GOVERNANCE


Q: Several supporters have commented that we are now down to two Directors. Are there any plans to extend the Board? More specifically, do you have any update on plans to appoint Non-Executive Directors to the Board?


A: As David Clowes has said in previous meetings, this is being looked at. However, this will only happen if it is felt the individual is the right fit for the club and will bring real value to the Board. This is the same with the Chair position.


Q: Are there any plans to add a Sporting Director/Director of Football to the Board?


A: There are no plans to add either of the above currently. Where we are right now, we think we have what we need. As we progress as a club, we can review this again.


Q: The Football Executive Team has been referred to in club statements. Who is on this team and what is their remit?


A: When we refer to the Football Executive Team this is made up of Paul Warne (Head Coach), Ross Burbeary (Head of Football Development & Performance), Amit Pannu (Chief Medical Officer), Mark Thomas (Head of Recruitment), Matt Hale (Academy Manager) and Stephen Pearce (Chief Executive Officer on behalf of the Board). The Football Executive Team has been put together as we never wanted just one person running the club or training ground like was previously the case in football many years ago. It is very much about having the people in senior positions working together so everything runs as 'One Club'. It allows the staff members to excel in their specific roles and everyone works together really well. Having the structure allows us to work on so many matters as a group and towards a long-term strategy. The Board sets the overall strategy and then it is down to Stephen Pearce and the rest of the team to deliver this and report back.


Q: Did this group make the decision to remove Darren Wassall and Pat Lyons, as Paul Warne seemed surprised by it in his interviews?


A: We won't speak about individuals but there are no decisions made without Board of Directors approval. We've moved in a different direction and a different role at the top of the Academy, as per the statement issued last month and we wish Darren Wassall the very best. Pat Lyons offered his resignation in May and this was purely his decision.


Q: Can you give an overview of the situation now that we are approaching our first Year End. When will the accounts be published?


A: As we worked to a 30th June year end, the accounts will be published in March next year. As we have said previously, we are in constant contact with the FL and we send regular forecasts and other information to them on a financial basis so they're aware of what is happening. We have submitted our own business plan for this season and they wouldn't have signed this off if they weren't happy.


Q: How are any operating losses being funded (debt or capital injection)?


A: There is zero external trading debt, outside of normal trading, and everything is funded by Clowes Developments (UK) Ltd and will continue to be. We are in a good place as a club.


Q: Are there any further payments due to Mel Morris under any future scenarios, whether that be promotion, sell-on clauses, or anything else?


A: David Clowes answered this in his Radio Derby interview last week.


Q: Were there any clauses in the deal with Mel Morris that any personnel had to be retained, even if only for a specified period, or specific contractors/consultants used for any particular roles, or any individuals outside the ownership or employment of the club given access to the club's financials and/or involved in decision making?


A: David Clowes answered this in his Radio Derby interview last week.


Q: What is Paul McCarthy's role at the club? Why does this appear to have been kept secret?


A: Paul McCarthy is the Managing Director of Macca Media Limited, a consultancy that works with football clubs, governing bodies and individuals to advise on media policy and communication strategy. Macca Media has been working as an advisor to the board since June 2022 as a liaison between the club and local and national media and helped to devise an ongoing media strategy. Macca Media has also been asked by the Board to take the lead over the implementation of a Supporters Board and has had several meeting with the Supporters Charter Group since August 2022.


SUPPORTERS' BOARD


Q: What is the current situation regarding a Supporters Board? It was clearly indicated the club would back the Government White Paper and introduce a Supporters Board before mandated - what is the current progress?


A: We believe this is the right thing to do and David Clowes has been clear in wanting to be transparent and not hide behind anything. The Supporters Board plans are supported by the Football Supporters' Association and we are close to finalising an update to be communicated to supporters this month for a further period of consultation. However, given its importance, it is vital we get the message to our supporters correct and not be rushed to ensure we provide supporters with the right level of confidence and information.


Q: Why is the club appearing to push ahead with a Supporters Board when there appears to be no urgency around it becoming statutory and may still be scrapped in its entirety? In any form, its powers seem limited and would not have stopped Mel doing what he did.


A: As referenced above, we believe this is the right thing to do as a club and we believe the Supporters Board will have an important role to play in the structure of the club in the future.


HERITAGE



Q: Lots of praise for the exhibition last month and questions about when/if we will have something more permanent at Pride Park?


A: David Clowes referenced in his BBC Radio Derby interview last week that we do have plans to do something permanently at Pride Park Stadium and those discussions are ongoing. It is on the agenda, but we need to make sure this is done correctly. We have launched our Identity project, supporters may have seen this over the weekend, and this will form part of our plans for a place to pay tribute to our heritage moving forward. We don't want a permanent place that gathers dust; we want to create something that is different. We need to also ensure it is commercially viable and a regular destination for supporters to celebrate the history of our club.


Q: Can the club raise awareness of the grave of Archie Goodall in Nottingham Road Cemetery? Not far from Steve Bloomer's, but he was an international player, who played over 400 games and scored over 50 goals, was a circus strongman and played in the Preston Invincibles team of 1888. He lies in a totally unmarked grave. I'm not suggesting the club pay for it, just highlight it and see if anyone is interested in crowdfunding or similar to pay for a stone.


A: We will speak to Preston North End and also Wathall's, our club partner, on this matter and see if we can pay tribute to Archie Goodall in some way.


Q: It has been mentioned previously about being careful with items in the cabinets in Main Reception as the sun is amplified somewhat and photos will be damaged. You can already see the team picture at Chatsworth is fading badly but the main concern is the signed portrait of the Queen. That will suffer and fade to nothing. Either get good prints and use a print in Reception, keeping the original in the office or in the Lionel Pickering lobby or put it behind special glass?


A: The Queen's portrait has been fitted with protective glass to ensure it doesn't fade but we will look into the issues raised about the Cabinets in Main Reception.

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