A Summary Of Events At Our Second Supporters’ Meeting
Date: 26th February, 2013
In Attendance: David Stothers (Celtic F.C.), Billie O’Neill (The Lindley Group), Alistair Anderson (The Lindley Group), Myself, and a small group of supporters, many of whom you may well know from Twitter.
For the sake of both simplicity and relative brevity, I’ll just cover the points discussed last night in a bullet-point style.
– Meeting begins with welcomes, before representatives from The Lindley Group delivered an update on the changes they have already implemented, which include but are not limited to: a specially priced meal deal for Kano Foundation groups, the trialling of macaroni pies as another vegetarian option, the re-training of staff with regards to customer service, and pre-match meetings with team leaders/stand managers to discuss issues such as customer service and queue management.
– The proverbial baton was then passed to myself for an opening statement and a few points of order, before the meeting was opened to a general question and answer session.
– My opening statement included a welcome to all present, as well as thanks to everybody for taking the time to attend.
– My first point of order related to the ongoing horse DNA scandal, further spurred on by the news yesterday that Aberdeen would not be serving beef products at Pittodrie until they had been subjected to DNA testing. I proceeded to ask whether all of the meat products on offer at Celtic Park had been, or would be, subject to similar testing.
– Representatives from Lindley acknowledged these concerns, and highlighted that they do not use the same food suppliers as Aberdeen. They then said that all of the relevant meat products on sale at Celtic Park had already been, or were currently being, subjected to the aforementioned DNA testing. Mr Stothers, of Celtic, then highlighted that the Club were receiving copies of all of these test results along with Lindley, and therefore in the unlikely event that there was an issue, the Club would inform the support immediately, and take any appropriate action. It is predicted that all of this testing should be complete prior to our next home match, against (ironically) Aberdeen, on the 16th March, 2013.
– The second point of order for myself related to what happens to unsold food on match days at Celtic Park. Several individuals have contacted me regarding this, since we started this dialogue with the Club and their caterers.
– Upon asking the question, Lindley responded by saying that they were bound by health and safety/food regulations which meant that any leftover food had to be disposed of.
– Without going into too much detail, food at Celtic Park is pre-cooked and frozen, before being heated on a match day. Once this products goes beyond 83C, it is ready for sale. Said products are then stored in heated cupboards/drawers, and provided that they do not drop below 63C, they can be sold anywhere up to an hour and a half after they first hit 83C.
– Critically, as Lindley pointed out, as soon as that product falls below 63C, it cannot be sold and must go into their wastage for the day. The potential logistics involving transport of this leftover food to, for example, a local homeless charity were then discussed, but the situation was described as “non-negotiable” by a representative from Lindley, as any liability would lie with them. In this sense, whilst this is disappointing, it is perhaps not surprising as they are subject to fairly stringent rules and regulations.
– Lindley then went on to discuss their attempts to improve their green credentials, highlighting examples such as an increase in biodegradable packaging. There is a member of the group whose sole responsibility is to consider and implement ways to improve this not just at Celtic Park, but throughout the United Kingdom as a whole.
– My third, and final, point of order regarded one of the main concerns held by supporters, that of pricing. Since our initial supporters’ meeting, I have attempted to contacted the other one hundred and forty one Clubs in the upper leagues in Scotland (Third Division upwards) and England (League Two upwards).
– Whilst the current prices at Celtic Park would be largely considered as fairly cheap in the English Premier League, and somewhat mid-table in the Championship, they are rather high when compared to any other Scottish side, or a significant number of teams in England.
– For example, whilst Chelsea will ask £5.30 for a burger, Celtic “only” ask £3.40. However, at Old Trafford, if you take advantage of a meal deal, you can get a pie, a pint, and a piece of confectionery for only £5. Contrast and compare this with Celtic Park, where a similar deal (replacing a significantly more expensive beverage like alcohol with fizzy juice) would cost you at least £5.70.
– Whilst I put forward a view that a decrease in pricing inside Celtic Park would lead to increased sales, representatives from the Lindley Group stated that they were unable to change prices mid-season. With only four home games left, this is understandable to some degree, but whether or not anything will be different at the start of 2013/14 remains to be seen.
– The meeting was then opened to questions and answers from the small group of supporters in attendance. Whilst some of the discussion revolved around the issues I have already mentioned, other topics, such as promotional deals, opening times, closed kiosks, different menus, product specific kiosks, waiting times, and numerous other matters were discussed.
– Running through these quickly, Lindley are keen to potentially introduce new promotional products, such as speciality pies, next season. Whilst this received some positive feedback from some of those in attendance, I felt I had to highlight that, judging by the comments so many people regularly to myself, the answer to our problems may not lie on the inside of a pie case.
– Next, opening times and closed kiosks. Kiosks open over an hour before the match, and at present close not long after half time, when the remainder of the queues formed at half time are all served. Regardless of this, rules and regulations dictate that fifteen minutes before the full time whistle (75 mins), all kiosks must close. This is not a decision taken by Lindley, it is a regulation they must adhere to. If they ever wish to keep kiosks open longer (e.g. at the last game of the 2011/12 season v Hearts, where the SPL trophy would be presented after the match), they must apply for special permission to do so.
– Regarding closed kiosks, Lindley say that they attempt to gauge how many people will be in attendance at any particular match, before deciding how many kiosks are to be opened, citing examples such as the Arbroath match earlier in the season, when little more than 10,000 spectators were in attendance. I proceeded to state that, from a supporters’ point of view, many of us would like to see as many kiosks open on match days as possible.
– Product specific kiosks (such as kiosks that only serve pies and drinks at half time) were then discussed as a potential way in which to reduce waiting times in queues. This is something which may be considered in the future.
– Returning to differing menu’s and potential new products, Lindley have said that they are considering introducing small calzone style pizzas for next season, some of which could potentially be filled with bolognese or carbonara fillings.
– With regards to drinks, both Celtic and Lindley are aware of the fact that the supporters would like to see an end to carbonated drinks machines. Both entities share this desire, and wish to see a system in the future whereby plastic bottles can be sold. Whilst this is currently prevented by law, the Club have contacted the relevant authorities in writing, seeking clarification as to what is, and what is not, allowed inside the stadium. Lindley highlighted that special plastic bottles could be used, which are designed to empty dramatically quickly upon someone throwing them, reducing the risk of any serious injury should one be thrown as a missile.
– I have requested a meeting with the Football Club and a representative from the relevant authority to discuss this matter further, as well as to seek clarification myself as to what supporters are allowed to bring into Celtic Park, and other Scottish Football stadia.
– Moving on, individual experiences were discussed by the supporters in attendance. Largely, they agreed that, from their point of view at least, they had seen some improvements at Celtic Park since our first meeting. However, as the only supporter there representing a larger set of opinions than my own, I felt I had to highlight the fact that I was still receiving more comments of a negative nature than those of a positive or neutral nature from the Celtic support.
– Upon hearing this, Lindley queried the extent of which changes could be implemented with regards to the sometimes vague complaints brought to them by myself. I then suggested that both themselves and the Football Club could look to implement a system whereby someone can, easily and simply, make a comment (for example) on Celtic’s website, through the use of an online form. These forms would ask for your section number and the date of the match in question, as well asking you to describe your comment/issue. This would mean that, when someone sends any feedback, whether it is positive or negative my way, I or anyone else could direct them to the page, solely devoted to allowing supporters their chance to comment on their experience. Both parties have agreed that this is something they are willing to look at, and I will meet individually with the Football Club in the next few weeks to discuss this possibility.
– As the meeting drew to a close, I reiterated once again that I felt, judging by the feedback presented to myself by all of you, that there is still a long way to go. It has been somewhat encouraging to see some progress from those at the Lindley Group, but this is only the start of a rather lengthy journey. I’m sure everyone involved would agree that, when dealing with an operation on this scale, it would be naive to expect everything to change overnight. However, until further improvements are reported to ourselves from the majority of you, we will not be able to support any continuation of the current contract with The Lindley Group. This remains our clear position, and we will continue to convey it to both Peter Lawwell and Celtic Football Club until a majority of the support say otherwise.
– It was agreed that there would be another supporters’ meeting before the end of the season. Thank you’s were exchanged, and the meeting was closed.
All in all, I must thank you for your continuing support. It is critical that the word regarding these issues continues to spread throughout the support, and that if people have any comments, whether they are positive, neutral or negative, they contact either myself, the Football Club, the Lindley Group, or one of the supporters’ bodies in this regard. I will, of course, report back the results of any further meetings with the Club when they happen.
I must also thank Celtic Football Club, and the Lindley Group, for taking the time to speak to us. This is, and continues to be, much appreciated.