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GIVING A VOICE TO BRADFORD CITY SUPPORTERS

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By Bradford City Supporters Trust, Jul 26 2021 07:53AM

One of Ryan Sparks’, the CEO at Bradford City, key commitments is one of ‘fan engagement’, which is an objective shared by BST.


It is part of a whole series of improvements to football as a whole that BST wishes to see, and for us it is the key focal point whereby Club and fans can discuss mutual interests.


This can be achieved through Club initiated forums, such as Fans’ Forums and the Supporters’ Board. These are the minimum standard required by the Government’s Expert Working Group, and by the EPL and EFL. Or it can occur through a representative fans’ organisation such as the Trust meeting directly with the appointed representatives of the Club to discuss ideas and strategies in an agreed official setting called ‘structured dialogue’.


The Fan Engagement Index

‘Think Fan Engagement’ (TFE) is a consultancy company that works with clubs, other rights holders (leagues, associations), brands and other organisations who seek to understand fans and the relationships they have with their club.


Kevin Rye is a co-founder of the consultancy and a former Head of Policy & PR at Supporters Direct/SD Europe. Kevin was involved supporting us back in 2004 with fundraising the necessary £250,000 to save the Club at the time of the second administration.


At the end of every season TFE produce the Fan Engagement Index, see here, which is a score table of how clubs do out of the 91 professional clubs across the EPL and EFL. The categories judged are ‘Dialogue’, ‘Governance’ and ‘Transparency’. In the most recent table for season 19/20 Bradford City came 43rd out of 91, but this was a great improvement on season 18/19 when we were 86th. So, whilst there is a lot to work on, moving from 86th to 43rd is a big leap forward!


In this close season, already we have seen the largest fans online survey buy the Club about season tickets as a form of fan engagement/consultation, see findings here, and we have seen a leading example of transparency where last year’s finances (19/20) were recently published, see here.


Football governance is about the things that ‘underpin’ or make those meetings happen, or provide guarantees that engagement will happen – it is providing a structure recommended b by the powers that be in the game.


What will improve the Club’s fan-engagement ratings is having a structured dialogue relationship with the Supporters Trust.


On the 24th June, Bantams Supporters Trust Chair, Manny Dominguez, met with Ryan Sparks to set up the beginnings of structure of formal meetings and began by identifying key interest through sharing our City fans’ findings of a recent survey we conducted in March of this year, see here.


The Cost of the Lease of Valley Parade

It was immediately picked up that we had made a cautious underestimate of the rental figure which the Club pays to Gordon Gibb’s family pension fund each year. The actual figure is over £400,000 - is twice as much as the amount we had assumed.


iFollow and the Return to Valley Parade

We discussed iFollow and how the Club would be managing fans’ return to Valley Parade. Ryan had said that it was the Club’s intention to keep iFollow for the section of the Clubs support base that don’t frequent away matches at all. He said there is no evidence that lifting UEFA Article 48, which instructs Member Associations to block out the live screening of Saturday 3pm fixtures will reduce attendances. This view is contrary to the fears and concerns of some smaller clubs that depend on gate receipts, but the outcome is beyond the control of the Club and we will have to wait and see the evidence.


With regards to the return to stadiums the Club were confident on all restrictions being lifted by the start of the season and restrictions in crowd numbers had not been factored into any plans for fans returning to Valley Parade.


Moreover, it was expressed that if there were restrictions, fans would be offered the availability of continuing to watch home matches on iFollow. Failing that, a credit for a game they are going to miss, or if that wasn’t accepted, they would offer a refund a match ticket of £8.61 - which is 1/23rd of the price of an adult season ticket (other age categories would differ).


However, the FSA, has recently put out a survey (now closed) on supporters’ attitudes to the return to stadiums in light of the increasing numbers infected with Covid this Summer. These questions ask if fans would feel safer if Clubs adopted restrictions to prevent increasing infections such as requesting proof of Covid vaccinations, proof of a negative test, staff and supporters wearing masks on the concourses, temperature checks etc. The findings of this survey have been shared with the EFL and have been revealed on the FSA website.


You can see the findings here, and we’ve shared them with the Club.


The Cost of Covid

Referring to the Trust survey, Ryan felt the government should have done more to cover the cost of Covid. They supported other sports heavily, though the furlough scheme was hugely supportive for the club. If it hadn’t been for the Premier League, many clubs like City would have gone out of business. Manny expressed the view that certainly the Government but also the Premier League could have done more.


Government fan-led review

The Government fan-led review is highlighting issues arising from football being unable to regulate itself, and for finances being managed so poorly that clubs go bust. The ‘big 6’ drive for the formation of a super league brought these issues under the microscope, and brought the process of the review forward. Manny explained how the Review begins to readdress the balance between clubs and to clean up the game’s image. The review process has involved consultation with the FSA networks. BST is part of the FSA’s League One & Two Network.


Season tickets

Manny shared in the enthusiasm for the take-up of the season ticket offer – around 8,500 at the time of the meeting - and welcomed the survey the Club had put out. Referring to the Trust’s own survey, he said that fans were happy to pay more for specific purposes – to make up for Covid losses, to create better facilities and to cover the lease of the ground.


The strong sale of season tickets, see here, are an indicator of confidence and excitement to return to Valley Parade from fans.


£25 matchday price

Manny flagged that the survey said it was too expensive for non season ticket holders. Ryan said it was initially designed to drive fans to buy the season ticket, but that the match day price was coming down slightly into next season, and there are new categories such as ‘young adult’ and senior citizens – they now for those 65 and above as opposed to from 60 as that was 15 years out of date.


The pleasing latest news is that the matchday price has dropped to a much more desired £20 – in line with the FSA’s ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ campaign. See here.


Improving facilities & Lottery Scheme

Manny pointed out that earlier in the season the Trust proposed a lottery scheme similar to the current one but where funds would be raised to improve facilities at the ground.


Ryan’s response was that the costs of improving facilities is built into the budget at the moment and that the Lottery scheme is designed to help the Burns Unit and develop the Academy, where we can trade players who may become superstars and in turn we can increase our revenues that will improve facilities.


Improvements within Valley Parade over the Summer

It was reported the Trust Board felt it was good for the Club staff and good for fans to see the improvements in the ground happening, such as the new seats in the main stand, the new dug-out, improvements in toilet and wash facilities in the concourses of the Kop, and new local catering company operating the kiosks etc. It gives fans something to look forward to when they return for the new season.


Ryan responded by saying that he would like to see every seat in the stadium changed by the end of the following season, except in the TL Dallas Stand, which is not a priority at the moment. And the Club are looking at the potential of safe standing in the upper tier of the North West Corner Stand if the atmosphere section works.


Asset of Community Value (ACV)

Manny brought up the ACV, saying it was the highest priority of our members to campaign, proceeding to explain that the ACV was to secure it as an asset for future years and hold up the bidding process if people wanted to buy it. Ryan felt it was unlikely that Flamingo Land would sell it to housing developers.


Fan Engagement

There was a discussion about the Fan Engagement Index. Using the ‘Fan Engagement Pyramid’ in the Supporters Direct guidance on fan engagement, Manny explained that Club-initiated fan engagement initiatives such as Supporters Boards are a minimum requirement. ‘Structured Dialogue’ rates higher on the Fan Engagement Index. The Trust would welcome regular meetings with the CEO of the Club, highlighting the fact that we had being meeting regularly with Julian Rhodes, and that format could be used again to begin with, in the hope of reaching an even better level of trust, openness and partnership.


Trust objectives - Structured Dialogue

Manny highlighted that within the Supporters Board the level of interest about structured dialogue and the level of detail around that, and strategy are not always issues that interest participants/representatives.


He underlined that part of the Trust objectives is to meet the CEO and address our concerns, and put our ideas forward. Asked if we do have any concerns at the moment, Manny said that our overarching one was of genuine consultation. We would like to see a level of consultation where the Club consults the Trust directly or the Supporters Board and not just communicate ongoing developments.


Ryan’s response was that the club put out their season ticket survey and they do like to think they are talking to as many fans as they can. Manny agreed that online surveys are the future, but said we need to develop the consultation through the SB and more directly through the Trusts, and it would be nice to discuss plans before they are formally decided and announced.


Memorandum of Understanding

It was explained that the Trust’s objective is to formalise these structured dialogue meetings into a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) – similar to a gentleman’s agreement (or perhaps a gentleperson’s agreement!). We can work towards this, and it is not something we think is going to happen overnight. Quarterly meetings were agreed.


Fundraising

Manny brought up fundraising with the Club as an objective, explaining that not only do we want to raise money for good causes such as the Darby Rimmer Foundation and the Burns Unit for example, but we want to raise money for ourselves so that we can continue to raise money as an independent organisation, sponsoring Club initiatives. Ryan offered us to let him know of any plans we are thinking of.


Summing up

The Trust feels that this was a very positive start that we can work to build upon, sharing ideas and any guidance documents that can give assurances, and give confidence in a working relationship where both parties can offer a range of expertise, experience and influence to ensure an overall improvement in the fan-engagement process that can benefit all the stakeholders that love Bradford City AFC, and the majority within all stakeholders are of course, the ordinary supporters.


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By Bradford City Supporters Trust, Jul 26 2021 07:32AM

Bantams Supporters Trust is setting a financial target to reach £5,000 by the end of next Summer so that we can invest in a Membership Benefit Scheme and to ensure we have enough to sponsor future Bradford City players and managers and other causes generally.


Membership Benefit Scheme

Examples of what we are considering to be included in our Membership Benefit Scheme are, a membership card and reductions from local retail shops, bars, cafés and restaurants. The cost to join such a scheme would be £5, and Patrons who already regularly fund us financially would automatically be rolled into the scheme.


Attracting new Members

Items such as pens, key fobs, badges and travel mugs are all desirable things to give to members when they join. In addition, stocking up on promotional items to sell such as badges, scarves and mugs to be made available is something that can attract new members and sustain older ones.


Sponsorship

Your Supporters Trust has always made an effort to sponsor players and Managers, as well as the Bradford City Women’s team and other good causes. Last season, we sponsored Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars, The Women’s team and invested in Trust Banner to cover the seated areas while the team were playing their season behind closed doors, and we have been willing to donate extra for when the Club has need it.


In order for this to continue, and be financially viable to be in a position to invest in membership benefits that will benefit the Trust and grow our membership, we need to raise money.


Whilst membership is free, our income comes from you as Patrons – Members who regularly contribute to support us.


How you can help

You can financially support us in a number of ways. You can be a Patron of the Trust and make a regular contribution to us. There are four categories of being a Patron: Bronze (£5), Silver (£10), Gold (£20) and Platinum (£50). You can set this up here.


You can also make a one off donation here.


You can also support us by buying a retro City shirt with the Trust logo as well as the logo for Bradford Central Foodbank that is on the shirtsleeves. Buying our shirts will also benefit Bradford Central Foodbank. They cost no more than £35 including delivery. And a shirt name and number is free of charge. Check out our range of shirts here.


We will regularly update you on how we are reaching our fundraising target.


Thank you for your support.


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By Bradford City Supporters Trust, Jul 16 2021 11:21AM

Now that the Fan-Led Review Panel has had its meetings with all the FSA Networks, the DCMS has now given all fans the opportunity to have their say on the Fan-led Review through a survey. Trust Members and Supporters generally have until the 22nd of July to complete the survey. You can do this here.


A link to an FSA article that has more information about how it, and various supporters Trusts and groups have been submitting evidence through May and June and explains how the Fan-led Review works, can be found, here.


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By Bradford City Supporters Trust, Jul 13 2021 04:15PM

The FSA is conducting a short survey on fans' views about the return to stadiums in 2021/22, the results of which will be shared with the EFL.


Complete the Survey Here.


Bantams Supporters Trust is an affiliated member organization of the Football Supporter Association.


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By Bradford City Supporters Trust, Jul 8 2021 08:48AM

The new season is fast approaching, and you can return to the Valley Parade, in fashionable retro style (with the release of Covid restrictions permitting) with our classic City designs of the past and our logo on them.


Yes, our classic range of City shirts are still available after teaming up with Chablais Sport last year, who do a range of retro shirts for other supporters Trust’s as well.


The shirts also have Bradford Central Foodbank (who we’ve worked to support) logo on the shirtsleeves.


Proceeds of the shirts go to supporting us as well as the Foodbank.


A name and /or number can be added free of charge, and each shirt costs £35 including delivery. A bargain!


You can order your retro shirt here.


You can get in touch with them at this email address: [email protected]


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By Bradford City Supporters Trust, Jul 5 2021 09:04AM

Our Survey put out in mid-March provided us with some interesting findings as to how you have been following City throughout the pandemic, and your post-pandemic concerns.


We would like to thank all of you who took the time to fill out this survey. There were 112 who filled it in which the Trust Board is very happy about as it is up from our previous online survey of last season (19/20).


We have already presented our figures to the Club and the Trust Board, who both agree, generally speaking, that they reflect a trend that is in line with how the Club has seen supporters’ issues and concerns.


Most of you that have participated in this survey are season-ticket holders, who have continued to watch City home and away via the EFL’s iFollow streaming network. Although you report some technical issues, you still see it as good value for money at £10 for away matches.


Most of you were happy with the Club’s ‘Claret’ and ‘Amber’ way of dealing with ground restrictions on a ‘first come first served’ basis. This is something the Club knew about already, and once restrictions are lifted, most of you are happy to return to see the start of the new season as soon as possible.


The price of the season ticket at the time the survey took place was £150, and most of you were happy to pay a bit more. This is reflected in the Club’s more recent survey, but the difference between the Club’s and our survey is that we asked for reasons why. A significant number were happy to pay more to cover losses due to Covid (59.70%), or to improve stadium facilities (58.21%), and a significant number also said that they would pay more to help secure the ground as a community-owned stadium (49.25%).


Financially, with regards to who should bear the brunt of the Covid costs on Clubs, we were surprised that the EFL came out on top. We were expecting the Premier League (PL) and/or Government to score even higher than they did, because these had the wealth to alleviate the Covid costs borne by EFL Clubs.


The ground lease payments to Gordon Gibb’s Pension Fund are currently higher than we previously thought, now at £450,000. Most of you thought this was an issue for the Club. This response is in line with what members thought last season, which is why we want to pursue registering Valley Parade as an ACV.


In terms of match day prices for the post-Covid return to the stadium, most of you felt that £25 for a ticket was too high, which we agree with.


Finally, we had proposed the idea of a lottery based on the format of the existing one but used instead to raise money for improving facilities within the Club. While most were in favour, a significant number were opposed, with a large dose of ‘don’t knows’.


To sum up, we found these findings useful because there is a significant number who would pay more for improvements in the Clubs’ facilities within the stadium if the Club needs to lean on its fan base in the coming years. These surveys go hand in hand with our role in facilitating fan engagement with both the Club directly and through the Supporters Board.


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