A First Step
Yesterday evening, myself and a group of fourteen other supporters attended a meeting at Celtic Park regarding the catering available to fans on match days.
In attendance were:
David Stothers (General Manager, Celtic Football Club)
Alistair Anderson (General Manager of Lindley Catering at Celtic Park, The Lindley Group)
Steven McDade (Regional Director For Northern England And Scotland, The Lindley Group)
Billie O’Neill (Regional Manager Scotland, The Lindley Group)
Myself (Administrator, Maley’s Bhoys)
Gillian Lindsay (Co-Founder, The Kano Foundation)
Thirteen other members of the Celtic support, many of whom you will probably know from the online world
Our guests were specially invited in an attempt to cover as many demographics of the vast Celtic fan base as possible. Individuals of different ages and backgrounds were involved, as well as people with significant experience in the catering trade, and a couple who are vegetarian. Several parents who bring their children to the football were also in attendance, and Miss Lindsay spoke excellently with regards to the children whom the Kano Foundation bring along to Celtic Park on a match by match basis (all of whom currently have to pay fully for any food/drinks they buy inside the stadium).
At the outset of the meeting, it was revealed that this was the first supporters group of it’s type to consult with the Club in this manner since The Lindley Group took over kiosk operations nine years ago. Whilst I am pleased that we were able to have such a meeting, it was highlighted that consultations with the Celtic support should occur on a much more regular basis than once a decade, and this was agreed by all parties present.
Billie O’Neill, who formerly worked at Celtic Park with The Lindley Group, then made a short presentation about who their company are, and proceeded to discuss the new products they have introduced in sections of the ground this season. Once Ms O’Neill was finished, I made a relatively lengthy statement outlining why we were here, before the meeting was opened up to questions from guests.
As discussion progressed, it became clear that most supporters felt that there were several issues they would like to see addressed at Celtic Park. Whilst there were differences of opinion regarding which was the biggest problem, these issues centred predominantly around product quality, pricing, lack of choice, waiting times, and staffing issues. Several individual experiences of poor service (in whatever form) were soon highlighted, and both the Club and The Lindley Group have now officially committed their willingness to listen to to any concerns and ideas members of the support may have, and work with them, through ourselves and other supporters’ bodies, in order to improve the service available to us all. In the coming months, this consultation is set to notably step up a gear.
Over the next set of home matches, I have been asked to gather as much feedback as possible from you all with regards to all aspects of the service you receive (product quality, waiting times etc) so problem areas can be highlighted and addressed. For this reason, I would ask you all to tell your friends and colleagues about this, as well as relaying this message on the almost endless list of other unofficial Celtic websites out there. When registering a comment, whether it is positive, neutral or negative in it’s nature, please remember to include your section number (if not the stall number itself) inside the ground.
For this reason, we have now set up a Twitter account solely dedicated to the match day experience at Celtic Park. Obviously, this will predominantly focus on the catering side of things in the immediate future, but in time I hope it will give all of you somewhere to pass comment on your experiences, regardless of whether they are positive or negative in their natures. This account can be found at @MBCelticPark.
Continuing on with the events of meeting, one member of the support asked whether the Club (or The Lindley Group) currently sample their own food that is being served from their stalls on match days. Whilst they highlighted the fact that an employee of the Scottish Premier League does so at all top flight grounds four times a season, it became clear that no more than this was in place at this moment in time. In light of this, it was agreed that, from now on, a member of staff will be tasked with randomly checking and tasting the food being served to supporters around the stadium on match days, in order to help ensure that a high level of quality is all that is acceptable.
Towards the end of the meeting, I summarised our current position, which is as follows:
“As the unofficial representatives of around two thousand people, both those who completed our survey and the hundreds more who have taken the time to send in their individual comments, we cannot support any renewal of the current catering contract (due to expire in 2014) until significant and tangible improvements are being reported to ourselves by members of the Celtic support.”
On a personal level, I am hopeful that we will be able to work with The Lindley Group and Celtic Football Club in the coming months and years. The openness to consultation and discussions we have seen over the past few months from both parties has been encouraging in this regard. However, until improvements begin to be made on the ground the statement outlined above will, sadly, have to remain our official position on this matter.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Celtic Football Club and The Lindley Group and their representatives for taking the time to meet with our supporters’ group. I would also like to thank the Club for hosting the event and being kind enough to provide some tea, coffee and sandwiches for our guests, many of whom had come straight from their workplace.
Finally, I would like to thank the group of supporters who were willing to give up their Monday night in order to attend our meeting, particularly those who had travelled some distance in the process. This sort of show of support and interest will be critical going forward, and your attendance was massively appreciated by myself.
All in all, last night was a small step in the right direction. However, there is still some distance yet to travel.