Perth Glory Fan Forum; A Report

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Today saw Perth Glory take a very positive step in terms of engaging its supporters when it hosted an open Fans Forum at L&D Litis Stadium in Leederville.

Following a disappointing season, the club is looking to improve both on and off the field and this forum gave a great opportunity for fans to voice their concerns.

The main speakers were Paul Kelly (Chief Executive Officer), Chris Edwards (Social Media and Memberships), and David Hatt who conducted a recent independent review of the club. Representatives from Allia Venue Management who operate on matchdays at NIB Stadium were also in attendance.

It should be noted that despite receiving approximately 300 expressions of interest for attendance at the forum, only 40 or so people showed up. Given the supporters have called for the club to be present in the type of setting it was a poor showing on their behalf.

David Hatt addressed the crowd first and spoke about his concerns for the club prior to his report, some of his findings, and also how things have progressed since. Some of his main issues were the following:

• More positive interaction between the club and Football West (who were present) was needed.

• There were too many short term fixes in place at the club rather than strategic plans for the future. This included signing a lot of older players, a real bone of contention for fans.

• A more coherent method of recruitment was needed with those taken on board needing their presence to be fully justified. You will find more details later in this article.

• The relationship with the FFA needed strengthening as Glory often found themselves being left out of the loop when it came to the big decisions.

• Also with regard to the FFA, more of a push was required to address the issue of fixturing with so much travel required by a West Australian side.

• There was a serious lack of a connection between the first team and youth team setups.

• The coaching hierarchy needed to be clarified. This has been rectified to some extent with other changes still ongoing.

Hatt explained that it was imperative for the club to carve out its own identity within sport without having to rely on the likes of a season push back to avoid clashing with other codes. He also took some questions from the floor specific to the report.

Next up Chris Edwards delivered the results of the Fan Survey, to which there was roughly a 10% response rate. The usual issues such as ticket prices, parking, attitudes of security etc are all still problems for supporters. Pre game and half time entertainment is being looked at in a lot of detail with the Glory Gorilla to make a return for the new season.

Anybody who provided their email address to the club either beforehand or on the day will be emailed the slideshow presentation which contains the exact figures from the findings.

Following a brief interval, Paul Kelly opened up the public forum and allowed those present to have a proper say.

Recruitment:

The first issue on the agenda was player recruitment and this particular segment was to last for about half an hour. Below are the summary points of what came out via the question and answer session:

• There was no defined policy or procedure guide in place prior to the Hatt Report.

• Previously the club relied on DVDs and referrals when sourcing players. Now a potential player must be viewed in the flesh five times, preferably by different people.

• An overseas player, Liam Miller for example, was watched at least twice while Glory had a presence in Europe back in March. He also came with glowing references from Walter Smith and Archie Knox, two of the most respected names in the Scottish game. Four players were looked at during the trip to Europe.

• A particular type of player is now being sought, and they must fit the club’s profile both on and off the field.

• Players will now only be signed on two year contracts totalling no more than $150,000. The one exception is the marquee player.

• The aim is to decrease the average age of the squad from 27 to somewhere between 23 and 25.

• The club would like to integrate three 20 to 25 year olds from the local State League into the first team squad every year. Ideally 70% of the squad would be made up of West Australians in the future.

• The salary cap ($2.4 million per year for 23 players) was previously mismanaged and not utilised to its full capacity.

• The club will be adopting a 4-2-3-1 system for the coming season and for the foreseeable future. While this conflicts with the FFA’s 4-3-3 model, it was stressed that the future of Perth Glory comes first.

The club has a more defined presence in the community with three people assigned to the Community Development Programme, up from zero last year. The likes of Bobby Despotovski and Jason Petkovic have been approached to work with the club alongside some of the other past players who already do so.

Player appearances, charity contributions, and a general improved presence in the community is very much high on the agenda to address a generational change that has been noticed. The aim is to get more kids involved who will become the members of the future.

Ticketing / Merchandise:

Unsurprisingly there was much to say on this topic. One key point made by Kelly was that if Glory were to charge for memberships based on amounts needed to make the club financially stable, they would cost $1600 per person per season. Walk up ticket prices will be increasing, and these changes will be announced next week.

The aim now is to focus on the ‘Fan Experience’ and make the day out worthwhile for supporters. Sadly the new half time entertainment won’t include a return of the cheerleaders after there were jeers from the floor at their mere mention. Very disappointing to say the least.

There is also an issue with Transperth who previously charged the club $1.50 per member for use of public transport. However this has now changed to $2 per person that walks through NIB Stadium on matchday. This could see the contribution made by Glory rise from $3000 per game to anywhere around the $18,000 mark (based on an average attendance of about 9000).

Security costs for each game are about $18,000, while the big screen (which isn’t allowed to show replays) nets the club a bill of $22,000 every time it’s used.

With merchandise, the move from Reebok to Blades has been welcomed by the club.

Kelly revealed that so difficult were Reebok to deal with, Glory at one stage last season had to purchase first team shirts from Jim Kids Sports before a game. He also said that it costs $140,000 per year to kit out the first, women’s and youth teams.

In terms of fan complaints over shirt prices, Kelly explained that the club pays $69 for the shirt and once you factor in GST etc, they are in fact only making $2 or $3 per shirt once sold to fans. The minimum shirt order is 500.

Also, there are FFA restrictions with regard to logos and branding, meaning the club has policies to follow when sourcing its merchandise.

Finally, Kelly stated that in total it costs between $8.5 and $9 million per year to run Perth Glory.

Stadium:

There wasn’t a lot said here that wasn’t already clear from the Fan Survey. Issues mainly surround inconsistencies with security, the manner in which bag checks etc are conducted, and also the adequacy with which situations are dealt with.

To summarise, it was a very worthwhile three hours or so learning more about the running of the club. Paul Kelly spoke as openly and as honestly as possible, giving people facts and figures to take away with them. Hopefully this will help give a greater understanding of what constraints you have placed on you when trying to run a franchise football club.

Again it was disappointing that there were not more people present but hopefully word of the event’s success will travel and the next one will see greater numbers.

Amendments / Clarifications:

• The figure of $184,000 per game for security is incorrect, it is in fact $18,000 (blame a typo).

• While 4-2-3-1 is the formation of choice it can easily be adapted to the preferred 4-3-3 of the FFA.

• The $150,000/two year contract decision came about on the back of the Hatt report.

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Neil Sherwin
Neil has covered the Perth Glory and the Hyundai A-League for five years and is one of Western Australia's most knowledgeable football journalists.

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