A Step In The Right Direction
This Wednesday, having been invited by Celtic Football Club following the results of our catering survey, I met with Celtic’s head of catering, and a representative from The Lindley Group (the company who supply the food on match days at Celtic Park).
The meeting itself was positive in it’s nature, and the Club committed to both increased and improved consultation with it’s supporters regarding the issues raised. Whilst the meeting was very friendly, I did ensure the Club understood that the “status quo” could not be allowed to continue in the long term, as a high percentage of supporters were becoming (if they were not already) fed up with what is on offer at present.
I must admit that, having taken part in this meeting, I do now have more faith that there is a determination to improve what is available to “average” supporters. Within three days of the survey reaching Mr Lawwell, meetings were being called in the catering department, and they have since drawn up an “action plan” in an attempt to address the aforementioned issues.
With this in mind, Celtic have asked me to assemble a group of around fifteen supporters to attend a larger meeting sometime in January. This session will include chances for these individuals to discuss their concerns with both Celtic and Lindley, as well as tasting potential new products.
Whilst I already have several people in mind who I plan to ask to accompany me to this meeting, I plan to choose several people who I have never met before, and I am therefore asking for volunteers from the support. Of course, if hundreds of people put their names forward, I will not be able to accept everyone’s generous offer, but I certainly aim to accept a few.
The meeting will take place on a week night in January (exact date still to be confirmed), and I will be looking for people from all demographics within the Celtic support; young, old, male, female, people with children, vegetarians etc. If you would be interested in helping us out and putting your name forward, you can do so by leaving a comment at the bottom of the article, by emailing us using the “contact” tab at the top of the page, or by contacting us via Twitter.
Depending on what time the meeting finishes, I may even suggest a little trip to the pub afterwards.
Going into the meeting, I knew there was a few main areas with which the support felt unhappy, namely product quality, pricing, and choice.
Firstly, with regards to quality, the representative from Lindley defended the quality of several products, partly blaming the issues with them on errors during preparation (items being burnt, left sitting for extended periods of time etc). In this regard, he may well be right. Having had countless reports of cremated food, this is certainly part of it.
Next; pricing. This is something which I would love to see lowered in the future, but cannot foresee any immediate decrease in.
Lastly, product choice spawned a rather lengthy discussion which was of some interest in my mind. Both Celtic and Lindley cited several examples of times when they had trialled new types of food, as well as new manners of delivery. This included trials of products such as pasta, as well as hot dog carts separate from the usual queues. On every occasion, they claimed these trials failed miserably. However, as I pointed out, if trials such as these are not well publicised within the fan base before hand, very few people will be aware of the fact they are ongoing, and thus it is impossible to achieve a representative opinion from supporters. For this reason, if and when future trials are to be carried out, I asked for us to be informed sometime prior to the event, so that we could do our best to publicise it.
Returning to our meeting yesterday, I had the Club officially clarify a few points which had been raised by some of you through our survey and your comments.
Firstly, they claim that free tap water is currently available at each and every kiosk at Celtic Park. If you ask for it, and are told it’s not available, please take a note of where the kiosk is located, notify myself and I will pass it onto the appropriate people at the Club. Improving this availability is something I am determined to push for.
Secondly, providing it is not housed in a sealed container, you are, at least officially, allowed to take any food you like into Celtic Park, whether it is sandwiches, or whatever else. If you have any issues with stewards or police officers taking anything like this off of you upon entering the stadium, take a note of their number (or which turnstile it was outside) and again, if you contact me regarding it, I will pass it on.
Finally, the Club maintain that all complaints, regardless of whether they concern the catering, toilets, or anything else, receive a unique response from the Club. So, once again, if you have any future complaints, you are more than welcome to contact myself and we’ll do our best to represent your views to the Club.
In summary, when catering for tens of thousands of people, it is difficult to make radical changes overnight. However, I do feel that this has been an important first step in the right direction. A dialogue has been opened, and proverbially, we now have our foot in the door.
With regards to people suggesting the introduction of franchising (whether it was Greggs, one of several other high profile outlets mentioned, or local businesses) this will not be a viable option for at least a couple of seasons due to contracts currently in place. However, I am more than hopeful we will be able to work together with Lindley in order to improve the current situation.
I must take this opportunity to thank the Club and the Lindley Group for taking a considerable amount of their time (over an hour and a half) to speak to myself.
By working together, I am hopeful that we will begin to see improvements. Rest assured, we won’t be giving up on this any time soon.