Cambridge United and Cambridge United Supporters' Panel met Tuesday evening at the Abbey Stadium for the latest quarterly meeting, allowing CUSP to bring forward the topics raised by the wider fanbase.
2nd Meeting of CUSP (Cambridge United Supporters’ Panel) and CUFC.
7.00 Tuesday 30 October at the Abbey Stadium
CUFC - Dave Matthews Jones (Chair), Graham Daniels, Godric Smith, Ian Mather, Tom Stewart, Gareth Daniels, Ben Phillips
CUSP – Nigel Browne (Chair), Andy Fox, Paul Moffat, David Burkett, Philip Saich, Mark Mumford, Chris Nield
There was a discussion around Paul Barry’s recent acquisition of the Club. The following points were made
CUSP said that they were fully supportive and they believed that the fans were behind the move. The CFU vote had been conclusive and there was now the chance to look forward. The CUSP Chair asked for it to be recorded that contrary to some personal criticism directed at some members they had never had any contact with anyone to try to influence share sale decisions. Such accusations were groundless
The Club stressed the value it attached to Fans’ Groups, such as CFU and CUSP, and remained committed to holding regular meetings. In addition the Club was very happy to reassure CUSP and fans that it was committed to holding an Open Meeting for all fans at the end of the season where it could talk about the season gone and plans for the future. Financial information would be one part of this but we would want to make it wider. The Club was keen for CUSP to help manage the agenda for this so it could best reflect the interests of the whole fanbase.
Fans were encouraged to listen to Paul Barry’s 15 minute interview on Radio Cambridge last week where he had directly addressed some of the issues raised during the sale process.
2) Playing Side
There was a discussion around injuries and a perception among some fans that we were experiencing more than usual. The Director of Football reassured CUSP that we had a full compliment of back room medical staff and that our injury record was not particularly acute, although obviously any injury was always a challenge. He reassured CUSP that virtually no injury had been soft tissue rather the vast majority had been impact - Kyle Knoyle - shoulder; Dan Jones - foot; Harvey Knibbs - heel; George Maris - ankle. Harrison Dunk and Liam O’Neil were both managing longer term issues. Samir Carruthers had obviously been out for much of last season and was now having treatment for a hamstring issue. Greg Taylor was recovering from a bout of illness. Jabo Ibehre had lacerated his knee in an Under 23 game with Southend in a collision with their goalkeeper when he had scored a goal. It was healing and he would be doing some early strength work shortly. He was targeting a return in the New Year. Gary Deegan had had a serious issue with a blood infection. He would likely start doing some initial running in the next couple of weeks. We expected him to be available before the end of the season.
There was a discussion about set pieces and conceding from them. The Director of Football said that we had conceded 3 goals from corners - 2 in the first 2 home games and only 1 since - and 3 goals from crosses from open play (2 aerial). With 16 goals conceded from 16 games we had the seventh best defensive record in the league. It went without saying that we wanted to continue improve every area of the team’s play.
3) Customer Service
Phone answering continued to be an issue raised by fans. CUSP recognised that there was a balance between staff and the ability to answer every phonemail at all times. The Club would look at how it could better utilise answer phones so people could both receive more information and leave details for a call back. With new RDC staff now in place following some staff turnover there would be more people to take calls. CUSP did give some examples of excellent customer service where phones had been answered almost immediately and issues addressed. This area would continue to be kept under review.
There were infrequent issues of QR codes on printed tickets not working and fans having to get new tickets from the Club shop on match days. It was agreed that more information would be given to turnstile operators to show how to manually enter the QR codes. Software for the readers was in the process of being updated so this would be done shortly
Some less frequent visitors to the Abbey sometimes ended up queuing to get into the wrong part of the ground. There was a discussion about whether volunteer Abbey Helpers could be reintroduced to help give people some guidance on match days. CUSP agreed to look at this.
CUSP said that the student free ticket idea had worked well and had been an initiative well worth trying.
4) 50th Anniversary Kit
Next season would mark the Club’s 50th Anniversary of election to the Football League. CUSP had been working with the Club on a shirt to mark this. This had been very positive and an announcement would be made shortly.
5) ‘Support Us’ - Mental Health for Fans
The Club was proud of its leadership role within football more widely on mental health. The Club and CUSP had been discussing over recent weeks how its agenda as a ‘Mentally Healthy Club’ could be extended directly to Fans. The Club would be announcing more details of a ‘Support Us’ initiative shortly which would aim to provide confidential fan to fan support to anyone who feels they might need it as well as introducing mental health football sessions through the Community Trust.
There was a desire from fans to hear more about the youth, academy and women’s teams. The Club made it clear there was no lack of will rather it was a question of resource. One of the benefits of the student ticket initiative had been the rekindled relationship between the Club and local colleges. The Club will be seeking to recruit of a small number of volunteer students, keen to do match reports outside the first team. We hoped that this would prove successful. The Club underlined that it was very committed to Women’s Football and wanted to grow it as much as possible. Over £6k had been raised for it from donations through the shareholder sale process and the Club was very grateful for fans’ generosity.
A new fans’ tab had been included on the website in response to fans requests. We would continue to try to generate as much coverage for the Club on Radio Cambridgeshire although editorial decisions were obviously for the BBC. We were routinely providing player interviews every week and obviously pre and post match interviews with the Head Coach. Both the CEO and Paul Barry had done lengthy interviews with the station in the last few weeks.
7) United in Endeavor Fund
£2k had been provided by a sponsor for CUSP to spend at their discretion. There was a discussion on possible things that could be included with this from entertainment in the fans’ one through to fan voting for man of the match in a window during and after the game. CUSP agreed to reflect further and to consider how best to open this up to the fanbase to garner other ideas.
8) Fans’ Zone
Both CUSP and the Club agreed that this was a long term project to which everyone remained fully committed. There were clearly learnings from games to date and a recognition that each game had been different for different reasons - size of travelling fanbase, traffic problems etc. We would continue to refine it and improve it as best we could over the rest of the season. New initiatives such as ex players attending had worked well. The issue of beer being served at the NRE was raised and it was agreed that the Safety Advisory Group should look at this again given league rules on drinking alcohol and pitch sightlines.
There was agreement that we should look again at how best we involve grassroots clubs in ballboy/girl recruitment and train them accordingly.
Away Travel was much better this season and there had been positive feedback. Discounts for season tickets had not applied when all coach travel had been discounted earlier in the season but do apply now. If there was demand for a full coach or Carlisle then we would of course take one but only if it was economic to do so.
Advertising games outside the ground remained an issue. The company running the screen had gone bust and we were in discussion with the intermediary company. The graphic design meant it was not possible to have a permanent ticker at the bottom but we were looking to see what we could do regarding more slots subject to cost implications
A discussion was had on CUFC supporters purchasing tickets for home and away games. It had been noted that some supporters were purchasing the incorrect concession categories at a cheaper rate, in particular for away games. CUFC clarified that the club loses out on money through commission on away ticket sales as a result of this. CUFC & CUSP to discuss further as how best to prevent this in the future.
10) Actions from last meeting
Listed below are the agenda points raised in the previous meeting between CUSP and CUFC in July. In italics are the actions being taken by the Club to address each of the points. Some items discussed at the first meeting are inevitably ongoing agenda items.
The Club undertook to promote the Cambridge United Lottery more over the course of the season recognising the good work that had come from it over the years.
Ongoing action. Content was filmed with first team players to help promote the lottery. It is having to be re-filmed due to a slight technical issue and we aim to release in the coming weeks. In the meantime the Club have begun to promote weekly jackpot on the Club website as well as usual piece in the match programme. Once player videos complete, Club will construct permanent section of club website to promote. Activity to be kept under review.
The Club already benefits from a massive amount of volunteer good will - in ground maintenance and on match days in the shop in particular. More volunteer support should be encouraged.
Ongoing action. Since the first meeting further volunteer support has been increased such as Ben Payne (CUSP Member) helping in hospitality among other areas on a match day, and additional media support through Ben Phillips and Oli Kane helping to produce good quality content for club channels, alongside returning Simon Lankester. Also working to bring volunteer students in for increase in U18s coverage.
There was a discussion about how the programme could be improved. The Club was obviously keen that there was as much content as possible that fans wanted to read and was there for fans by fans. There was an open invitation for any fan who wanted to help to contact CUSP or Tom Stewart at the Club.
Ongoing Action - Increased number of contributors for 2019/20 has improved both the quality of the content and the ease of production. Now ten regular contributors for every programme, which has increased the amount of original content within the programme for supporters to read on match day. Programme has also been renamed "The Amber Rambler" following a CUSP recommendation. Open invitation from Tom Stewart for more supporters to get involved if they wish.
Concerns were raised regarding the audibility of the PA system at the Abbey
Actioned - This had been looked at and improvements made, with thank to the help of Ben Payne (CUSP) and CUFC Lottery funds. The Club will continue to keep under review.