Dunfermline Athletic

Supporters’ Council – 21 September 2017

Chairman: John Russell
Secretary: Donald Adamson

Chairman’s Welcome
The Chairman welcomed rather more than 60 Pars Supporters to the Purvis suite for the Supporters’ Council meeting, and our speakers Ross McArthur, Gary McColl, Drew Main and Willie Conquer. Lorna Morton was doing a real-time account of the meeting for the benefit of Pars supporters unable to attend, and especially those members of the Pars family abroad.

The Chairman noted the good start to the season, and hoped that this could be maintained.

View from the Boardroom – Ross McArthur
Ross began by reviewing the previous season 2016/17.

It had been a positive return to the Championship with the team finishing 5th, and only 4 points from a play-off spot. This was achieved in a very competitive league, and despite a disappointing start. The form of the team from October to May had been excellent. The only real disappointment was the loss of the opportunity to obtain a cash windfall by the unfortunate circumstances which led to DAFC being knocked out of the Cup by Hamilton over two games.

We are about to announce a small profit for the year to 31 May 2017. This will be the second consecutive profit after 20 years of losses. It is really very difficult to survive as a provincial, full time football team. In addition, the cash reserves have also been increased. However, it is important to note the critical importance of donations (over £300k) and also voluntary work for the club (saving a six-figure sum).

The supporters have been tremendous in their contribution of their time, skill and enthusiasm on match days and throughout every week. Dunfermline’s support – both home and away is of great importance. In 2016/17, the number of season tickets and the average gates increased, although the numbers of walk-up fans and income per head was below budget. After taking account of concessions and VAT, the average income per head is around £9 per head. We were the 8th best supported team in Scotland. This season we are changing our method of calculating the home gates to fall in line with the vast majority of Clubs, by counting all season tickets each game.
In Season 2017/18, the primary aim was to improve the quality of the playing squad. deal with a six-figure loss of income from the departure of Hibs and Raith Rovers from the Championship. use the anniversary of the 1968 cup win as an inspiration -- “Lap of Honour”. and enhance the professionalism within the Club whilst living within our means.

£40k was spent on the pitch in the close season and arguably this is already reaping dividends. £35k (plus a further £35k from the SPFL Trust) was spent on the turnstiles and the access control systems. This was provided by Interstadia and has not been operating satisfactorily as yet (more about this later from Billy Braisby). They also provide the systems for Partick Thistle, Morton and St Mirren. New emergency lighting has been provided both within the Main Stand and also on the seating deck. The pitch irrigation system has been serviced and repaired. The lighting at the rear of the east stand, and the gutters in the Norrie have been repaired. The PA system has been serviced and repaired. However, the undersoil heating system requires further remedial work. The Safety Certificate was granted by Fife Council in early July.

The Club enters the final year of the SRJ sponsorship deal, with an increased sum. Two corporate sponsors withdrew but four further corporate sponsors came forward and DAFC are grateful to Kingsgate, McDonalds, VW Specialist Cars and Thorntons Law. All advertising boards within the ground have been sold.

Ladbrokes SPFL prize money has been slightly increased, whilst the Betfred League Cup and William Hill Scottish Cup income has been realigned. The SFA Club Licence is now at Silver Level and this will mean a slight increase in monies received.

The Club has appointed a Child Wellbeing and Protection Officer, and training has been undertaken, and all documentation and checks are in place. A Supporters’ Liaison Officer has been appointed (see Drew Main talk later). Also, a Disability Access officer is in place.

Allan and all of his backroom staff continue to do a tremendous professional job, which is hallmarked by honesty and realism. There is a culture of constant improvement. The season will be very competitive with most Clubs being closely matched financially. The intention is to have a slightly smaller pool of players but with a rise in quality. With the Reserve League coming in 2018-19, DAFC decided not to run an under 20 team this year, but we continue to develop some outstanding young talent with loans and one-off games, as well as close involvement with the first-team squad. The SFA’s Project Brave creates uncertainty with regard to FEFA, and this remains work in progress at present. Closer working with the Pars Foundation is being assessed from a youth system perspective. The Club had 13 players under contract at the start of the season, and six players re-signed for the Pars. Sean Murdoch has extended his contract to 31 May 2019. A further six players have been signed. The Manager has a budget for further signings, should players who can enhance the squad become available, or if emergency cover is needed. In addition, we have not yet used any of our loan signing capacity this season.

The new Strength and Conditioning gym is now open (see Gary McColl’s talk later). A further £12k of physio equipment has been provided to Kenny Murray, including a Game Ready Machine, and new multi-player ice baths are arriving from Australia. We have appointed a psychologist, masseur and a nutritionist and intend to add a part-time physiotherapist too. Away Days are now organised for the playing staff, and a successful day was held at Knockhill recently.

Challenges remain which include on-going contract negotiations. Many players prefer one-year contracts at our level. Thus, there was a perception in the Support that we did not offer two-year contracts but this is not true. When even League 2 clubs in England get much more money because of TV cash, then it is not easy to recruit and retain the sort of talent that we are interested in. Scouting and recruitment is therefore a priority and we are devoting more time and resource to this, by putting in a new structure. There is also a need for more good quality grass training facilities.

Season 2017/18 has started well for DAFC. The Club qualified first from the League Cup group, and achieved a welcome cash windfall by drawing a match with Rangers at Ibrox. This enabled the purchase of Andy Ryan for a small undisclosed transfer fee. The League will be close and competitive, but so far has gone well, despite the absence at times of key players. Callum Morris is a captain who leads by example. Callum Smith and Scott Lochhead have emerged – which is also a real bonus. However, there can be no sense of complacency. The new kit has proved very popular (and is selling well). Season ticket numbers are now 3248, and up on last year.

The Board appreciate very deeply the tremendous support of the fans.

Q: How secure is AJ for the future?
A: The Manager’s contract runs to 31 May 2018. Discussions are ongoing but nothing is yet agreed. The Club value Allan and Allan likes the Club, the team and the people with whom he works, but probably better to say no more at this stage.

Turnstiles – Billy Braisby
Billy Braisby addressed the meeting with regards to turnstiles, and the new access control system. Discussions with various parties concerning a new turnstile system had begun as far back as 23 November 2016.

On 30 May, a contract was awarded to Interstadia, an English specialist company with much experience and who acted for a number of other Championship and Premiership clubs in Scotland, as well as having an English client base. DAFC had worked with them previously. The basis of the contract was that the system would be ready for the first home game of the new league season (i.e. Inverness game). In summary, we have been let down, and this came to a head at the St Mirren game. The IT problems were compounded by St Mirren informing us that they expected 600 to travel, when in fact 1400 came. It was certainly a mistake not to have sent them tickets to sell in advance, and tickets have been sent in advance to Tannadice for pre-sales for the Dundee United game. The system has a number of hand-held readers, and this should have been able to cope with the larger than expected St Mirren numbers, with us opening more turnstiles at short notice. However, these hand-held readers failed to work. We have a meeting with Interstadia on Tuesday 26th, and this is one of a long list of meetings and phone calls to rectify problems with the system.

Certainly we have got to get used to the new system, but the entry was at 87 per minute on Saturday, when St Mirren’s flow is around 150 per minute.

The system provides a wide range of management information at the touch of a button. On Saturday, we know that there were 34 rejects, and of these 2 related to faulty cards, and the bulk of the rest were caused by people re-presenting season tickets or match-day tickets to the scanner a number of times.

St Mirren and Partick were happy with the system.

We will be putting more stewards on each turnstile for the Dundee United game, and have the hand-held scanners operative.

In answer to a question, each turnstile will have posters around it as to how to use the scanner, in addition to the video which was issued on social media (and will be re-issued in advance of the next home game), and can be consulted in advance.

Sports Science – Gary McColl
1. Player availability for training and games.
This was tracked for all players on a daily basis and recorded on a traffic light basis driven by % availability.
2. Reducing the risk of injury.

i. Players complete a short wellness questionnaire before they come in. This records for example things like strains, amount of sleep, fatigue etc. This then dictates the training for each day on an individual basis so as to minimise training injuries.
ii. Pre-training activation is important. This is almost a warm up for a warm up.
iii. A pitch side warm up is undertaken carefully.
iv. Strength training is undertaken on a Tuesday and is carefully geared to individuals
v. Monitoring and analysis of training data for each player which drives future work
3, Improving physical attributes

This has a number of aspects. It includes fitness and anthropometrical testing, power training (Thursdays) and nutrition.

Q: Is there such a thing as an injury prone player?
A: If a player is constantly breaking down, then there will be an underlying problem. This needs to be identified and rectified.
Q: What is a reasonable percentage of body fat?
A: This is a complex area, and there is no simple answer. For example, there are 8 different measurement points. However, in broad terms a professional footballer would be under 12%.
Q: Have you noticed a difference in your time at DAFC?
A: I have noticed that this year players came back to pre-season this year with a very good standard of fitness. I think this indicates that the squad are buying into a culture of exercise and fitness.
Q: How different are players fitness types?
A: They can vary quite a lot. For example, Nat is naturally very strong, and that was without a lot of gym work until he came here. Hoppy on the other hand has always spent a lot of time in the gym, and has an explosive type of fitness.
Q: Is data recorded when the players are actually playing in a match?
A: Yes. Players wear ‘Polar’ under-shirts which record data which is downloaded and analysed.

Role of Supporters’ Liaison Officer (SLO) – Drew Main
As of January 2017, it is now a requirement for Gold and Silver level Scottish clubs to have a SLO. This follows from Article 35 of UEFA Licensing requirements. The SLO is to be the key contact person for supporters, and must meet regularly with club personnel on all related matters.

Article 35 was introduced in season 2012/13, and now over 1,000 clubs in Europe have SLOs. Supporters Direct were tasked in 2016 with helping Scottish clubs to develop the role of an SLO, and also to create a Scottish network to liaise with stake-holders inside and outside football.

The SLO is the main contact for supporters – and contact is andrew@dafc.co.uk.
The SLO manages the dialogue between fans and the Club
The SLO builds relationships with a range of people and bodies, including supporter groups, other SLOs, SFA, SFPL, police etc, etc.

Important to be in contact with all supporter groups and networks within the Club.
At Dunfermline, there is actually a SLO team which is three people: Steven Walker, Drew Main and Dave Blackburn.

It should be noted that SLOs work for the Club and are not supporter representatives in any sense. SLOs do not have to be full-time, and are often part-time / volunteers (as at Dunfermline). SLO work on behalf of all fans and not just groups. They are not ‘firefighters’, act in a preventative manner, and they are dependent on a flow of information from supporters and the Club.
In Germany, Bundesliga Clubs have two full-time SLOs each. In France, SLOs are mandatory, since 2016, for football, rugby, handball, volleyball and basketball clubs. 95 football clubs in Italy have an SLO.

At Dunfermline, SLOs have been involved in a range of issues. This includes seating issues in the North-West stand, Colt Teams and the League system, the Rangers EBT case, supporter parking, turnstiles and ticketing, behaviour of stewards, fire exits in the Main Stand, stadium maintenance issues and enquiries from supporters of other teams.

There was recently a 2017 survey of the attitudes of Scottish football supporters. 244 Pars fans responded. For DAFC fans, the most important thing in deciding whether to attend was ticket cost, relationship with Club and the kick-off times. Interestingly the relationship with Club was higher for Dunfermline fans than the average. 59% Dunfermline fans thought prices were reasonable (44% national average). 67% will attend a game even though it is televised (75% nationally). 66% say they like the new Bet-Fred League Cup format. 58% like the Irn-Bru Cup format. Of the 244 respondents for Dunfermline, 200 got their information from the Club website, 143 from Facebook, 102 from Twitter and 81 from an emailed message.

Q: How did the DAFC response rate compare on the survey with 244 respondents.
A: This was outside the top 10 response numbers for a Scottish club.
One supporter noted that the Rangers SLO had been particularly helpful over a particular issue.
Q: Should the email address not refer to SLO?
A: The format was a standard one for DAFC staff.
Q: Can away supporters not attend Legends?
A: This is decided under advice from the police on a case by case basis, and rests on police knowledge of possible problems. It varies from visiting club to club. DAFC would like this to be possible ideally, but unfortunately police advice is that this would not always be sensible.

Guest Speaker - Willie Conquer: Assistant Referee
Willie gave an entertaining account of his life as an assistant football referee. This was well received.

Willie had officiated in 660 SPFL matches. including 12 seasons in the Premiership with a total of 185 games. 8 years with FIFA (2008-2015) and 54 international matches.

Highlights included UEFA Europa League Final between Lyon and Juventus (2014), Champions League games, Scottish Cup Final 2013 Hibs Vs Celtic, 4 Old Firm games, 9 Edinburgh derbies and 3 Pars games.

Conclusion – John Russell
John thanked the speakers, those who had helped to organise the evening, and particularly the Supporters who were present. Working together for a common goal was becoming the hallmark of the Dunfermline support.

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