A. As there were a number of points raised that DST wished to respond to in full, rather than being selective, it meant the response would be too lengthy to post on the forum itself. As we also thought that DST members might find the response helpful, we considered it beneficial to provide the full response on the DST website.
Feedback, good and bad, is always welcomed by DST, mainly through our website, and so “hewasplummin” if you want to drop us an e-mail to explain why you believe DST, the group, is self-indulgent that would be appreciated, so that we can consider steps we can take to change that perception.
“Arctic Flunky” – you make very good points and it is something we are very aware of as it is a fine line to tread to try to manage best the differing interests of all parties we are involved with though “odins_left_peg” have no fear as there is very little chance that any DST board members would take up a role in AFC. At least, not for the reasons as suggested, in that I’m sure like many fans, the thought of being able to work for the club that we love, has been appealing at one time or another. I don’t know if you are thinking of the Chris Gavin type role previously in place but, if so, that is a different scenario and DST does not seek board representation as that did not work before. We would, however, welcome an invitation to Board meetings as observers.
We certainly do appreciate the access that the club and George Yule, in particular, give us as we are unaware of any other group that gets such access. Most of the board members have many years of business related experience and so are certainly not overwhelmed by meeting the “Pittodrie big-guns”. However, getting access to the key decision makers is invaluable as it prevents a lot of wasted time and effort for all parties.
For clarity, this access amounts to 1-1.5 hours, every 2 months, with the MFTM meeting being an extra meeting last month. So, we are far from having our feet under the table, or in any inner sanctum, but the meetings are appreciated and, from our end, have the intent of sharing opinions and finding solutions to problems and feedback as raised to us by members.
The agenda for the meeting is provided by DST, being the points we wish to raise and debate on behalf of members. In most instances, we have had to trim the agenda as the time available would not be enough to allow meaningful discussion of every point, and so the meeting focuses on the main points. A separate thread has suggested the meetings be videoed and made available to interested parties thereafter. DST would have no objection to this but it would be for AFC to agree if they wanted to in that we recognise that this would be a very unusual thing for a PLC to do, apart from perhaps the annual AGM.
The minutes of the meeting are prepared by DST, and published a week or so later after confirming with AFC that they are a true and fair record of what was said. It is important that these steps occur as being a PLC, AFC is regulated by Company law. In some instances the minutes may be what are called “discoverable” documents that the regulators may ask to see. As a result, they are not a word for word transcript and will only be a short summary of the key points of a 1.5 hours meeting. As such they will not detail every argument and discussion point raised.
We understand that the minutes will only give members a flavour of the meeting. To date, all the meetings have been conducted in a professional manner as we would wish, in that, if they were not, they would soon cease to happen. Underlying the discussion is the fact that both parties essentially want the same thing – a highly successful AFC. The means to achieve this might be different, though. Naturally, we can’t prove this but would ask you to take our word that there is good debate, argument, counter argument and dissention at times as we certainly don’t agree on everything. However, both parties understand that if there was no dissention and debate it would be a complete waste of time to have any meeting. The detail of such dissention is unlikely to appear in the minutes beyond a sentence that item X was discussed as, in practice, it has generally been agreed to have further discussion at the next meeting.
We do appreciate the fine line and our aim is to positively influence AFC’s communications and to help AFC hear the views of some (we cannot speak for all) of their fans. As a result, our preference is for positive things to come out of the meeting rather than the negativity that has surrounded the club for so long. At the same time, we recognise the need to be realistic and have no desire to dress things up for the sake of it and to curry favour with the club. This was partly why I included “positive news” in the thread’s title in that the detail of the meeting did indeed include a lot of positive points that will come to pass as GY implements his changes. For the avoidance of any doubt, though, the club’s response on MFTM is not seen as a positive.
Given that a lot of the good work and changes made/to be made will not be visible to everyone, DST is keen to help get the messages out to fans, where appropriate. The views expressed about fighting the club and fighting for change are noted. However, the only person that an individual, or a body, can change is that person or body i.e. no-one can change someone else. Accordingly, DST has no power to change the club. No-one but the club and its decision makers can do that. DST, or any other group, can only try to influence change.
There are not many AFC fans who do not seek changes at the club. This is not being the club’s “patsy” or having our chain yanked but we have seen first-hand that George Yule is absolutely determined to make big changes as he shakes up the club. He has spent time reviewing the club and found it to be “tired” and no longer a big club. It needs re-awoken and re-energised and the feedback we have seen since he said this a few weeks ago has been in total agreement.
We have noted the mixed feedback on this forum about George and what he has, or more so, hasn’t done, since taking up his role. However, from our dealings with George, we know him to be very driven to turn things around at the club. He has done a huge amount of things already but most are not yet visible and he really does care about AFC as he is probably even more gutted than most of us when we don’t win matches. At the same time, though, it would be fair to say that George under-estimated just how much needed to be done when he took on the role and now knows that it will take longer to achieve than he had thought or hoped for.
DST is not trying to effect change at AFC in that we don’t have the power to do that. However, we do want change and so are very keen to see George bring about the massive changes he has intimated he wishes to make. DST’s intent is therefore to have a strong working relationship with the club, on behalf of our members, such that we can help to make the changes happen. We believe that the best way to bring about change is to co-operate to make it happen at some stage. Working in any other will only bring “success” once at most.
We do agree that actions speak louder than words when it comes to convincing fans that things are changing for the better. We know that we’ll never get every change our members would like, to happen, and that, no doubt, even if a change is agreed we may have to wait whilst other higher priority changes are completed first. To the best we can, given the limitations of membership size and the extent of varying views from fans on many or most issues, we highlight what the supporters say to us are priorities and, if our views differ from those of George Yule, Duncan Fraser or other AFC board members/management we explain our views constructively in an effort to change minds! DST will continue to encourage change which will benefit supporters but reserve the right to criticise and argue against individual issues as they arise if it is felt that they are not in the best interests of the members/fans.
The question was asked as how we select our priorities to support/take to AFC. The above covers that a bit. We get written and verbal feedback from members and between us we note many comments on social media and the like, including chat forums such as this one. However, these comments are to help get a feel of what is important and the differing views, and as we do not know if the commenter is a DST member or not, then they carry less weight for us than member feedback. The comment about each member’s view being equal is exactly our approach.
This can be a difficult balancing act and the MFTM is a perfect example. Clearly it is important to many fans given the amount of comment and discussion that there has been. Having its own section on these boards is a strong indicator. Equally, fans that attend home games have been vocal, and almost unanimous, on the need for a better atmosphere and so on. What is less unanimous is the way to achieve this and what changes should be made and in what location etc. For the DST board the extent of the coverage tells us it has to be an issue to take forward with AFC. We then have to weigh up all the feedback we have to verify how we want to take it forward. On many issues the DST board does not have a unanimous view but we wish to be the democratic and responsible voice of AFC fans which means that personal opinion and differences are set aside to reflect the democratic view of DST members as best we can.
It is, of course, absolutely correct, to say this view is only from the membership and not all of the Red Army. DST has never portrayed it as anything other than such. How AFC choose to use that info is entirely up to the club but I am sure they will agree that what DST brings forward is presented in a professional, constructive and responsible way, on behalf of our members.
Sticking with the MFTM campaign, DST remains supportive as we believe it remains the democratic view of those members who have expressed an opinion to us, albeit we have not received any comment directly following AFC’s rejection of the proposals other than the question asked that appears in this thread. DST firmly believes that the morgue-like atmosphere at Pittodrie must change and efforts must be made to increase attendances for a whole variety of reasons. We have, in fact, been taking many of the separate suggestions within MFTM to the club in our meetings since last June and hoped that the campaign would have been the catalyst for implementation.
Sadly, this was not to be, at least not yet. We are disappointed the club rejected the proposals but we respect their right to do so. We understand some of the reasons given but not others and have expressed that opinion to the club directly. We do not believe having a public slanging match about all of this will do anyone any good, nor bring the result that many fans wish for. We also fully recognise that, as fans, we see AFC as a football club and so we are the most important customers, but for AFC as a business they do have many other customers and they have to balance the interests of all these customer groups.
We also believe that the rejection letter could and should have been more detailed on the full rationale for rejection in that, as RicoS321 says, this is now appearing a “lose/lose” situation for AFC. This gives us concerns but leads us to believe that the club does indeed have alternatives proposals that they have yet to communicate. These proposals are most likely to be within the club’s Match day Experience proposals that we are very keen to see and debate. It is therefore, only right and professional, to wait to see and understand these proposals before commenting publicly as we hope they will be meaningful and appropriate and will be welcomed and can be successful but logic says that some sets of fans will be unhappy regardless.
So, in summary, the club has made an initial decision on the MFTM issue that is not the one members wished for but that does not mean it is dead in the water. DST will continue to have discussions with AFC on this as long as it remains the democratic desire of DST members. It is hoped that the club’s proposals will in fact provide a solution that everyone can at least try and see how it goes with a view to refining and enhancing it in the future.
In terms of clout DST actually disagrees with the comment that we “do not have as much clout as we think we have” as, on a formal basis, and for the reasons mentioned earlier, we do not have any clout, and we have never ever claimed to have any. What we can have, though, is an informal element of this in that a collective view of members carries more weight than individual views. However, how much credence is given to the collective view of its customers is down to the receiver of that summarised viewpoint, in this case AFC, and we don’t know the answer to that. What we do know, though, is that successful organisations do not ignore its customers. To be fair, though, nor can they do everything asked of it by its customers. The only group that has any clout is the shareholders as only they can hold the company’s officials to account, though given the major shareholders; this is unlikely in AFC’s case.
We therefore, completely agree with the comment that DST cannot, and never will, say that it speaks for all Dons fans, even in the extremely unlikely event, judging by many of the threads on this forum, that there was unanimity of opinion on issues amongst AFC fans. What we do aim to do, though, is be the democratic voice for the members that we have and to try to ensure the club hears that voice since we are all the club’s customers.
This is why we want to grow our membership as much as we can in that the more members we have, the more opinions we can represent and the easier it is for these member views to be heard by the club, albeit the club always has the right to have a different opinion. This is why we made it free to be a member of DST and removed any potential barriers to joining. There are no obligations upon members to do anything after they have joined, unless they want to, in that DST exists to give AFC fans the chance to contribute their views and be heard, on a collective and democratic basis, rather than as one individual, if they wish to do so.
Membership of DST has grown from 100+ to around 1400. Crisis situations are renowned for being the best way to increase membership of Trust bodies and the like but we do not want AFC to be in crisis again ( we would, however, like the club to be in a much better position than it is now). We’d certainly like to raise membership to 5K and then 10,000 like Swansea has done and be the biggest supporter group in Scotland as that would be good recognition for AFC fans collectively. As a minimum, though, we’d like to get above 3K so that we are bigger than the combined numbers of the 3 “Sevco” supporters groups!!!!!
One post in the thread asks DST to call out what it has achieved. I am not ducking the question but feel that this post is already very lengthy plus DST does intend to issue an end of season summary report that will include the activities and success, or lack, of DST in its first 12 months or so. Likewise, there is a comment that all we do is hand out bits of paper to ex-players. This is the D.O.N.S. awards that stand for Distinction of Notable Service to Aberdeen Football Club. We introduced this as a way for DST members (fans) to recognise anyone who has given exceptional service to AFC in whatever way as we felt that this had not been catered for in the past. To date there have been 7 recipients with 5 of them having been selected from member nominations (the first 2 were selected by the DST board as part of launch activities) and we would be surprised if any non-member AFC fans wanted to take issue with the recipients. Of the 7, 4 (plus Teddy Scott if being fully accurate) are ex-players i.e. Willie Miller; Joe Harper, Neil Simpson and Ally Shewan with each having very good cause to be nominated ahead of many other players, with the others being to Teddy; Sir Alex and Norman Goldie (legendary supporter).
There will be another award next month – no prizes for guessing why – but beyond that, nominations have slowed and so, we’d like members to make further nominations via the web-site link or directly to us by e-mail. If you are not a member, but would like to make a nomination, then why not join DST and do just that?
In the meantime, I have listed the aims and objectives of DST as that might help understand its purpose and role, and is also what we need to be measured against. Please note, these are aims to attain, and does not mean that they are complete or met and, as always, DST encourages feedback and opinion from our members, including on how we are doing, via our website, www.donssupporterstogether.com :-
- DST aims to maintain and build its constructive working relationship with the AFC Board and management;
- DST aims to continue to positively assist and influence AFC’s communications with all fans and stakeholders of the club;
- DST aims to develop and strengthen AFC’s youth development and community work through introducing and administering fund raising schemes for the benefit of AFC and local communities e.g. Reds Direct;
- DST aims to act as the democratic and representative voice of AFC supporters;
- DST aims to continue to increase its membership to have the strongest, collective voice possible;
- DST aims to strengthen its links with national Scottish Football Supporters organisations to enable effective dialogue between AFC fans, AFC and other Scottish clubs, authorities and government.
Q: What’s the latest with the new stadium?
A: As you may know our planned recent meeting with George Yule was postponed as we did not think that the time allocated to us would have have allowed the full agenda to be discussed. At the recent Fan’s Forum George was very open about the current stalemate on the new stadium development and confirmed that several alternative sites were being considered. Youth development is close to his heart and discussions were taking place with both Universities on possible joint ventures to make use of their facilities. We are currently in contact with Pittodrie to set up a further meeting with adequate time to cover all the issues of concern to fans and will update members on these issues and the answers as soon as possible.
Q: From the St Mirren game on the 1st of Sep to the Motherwell game on the 1st of Dec there has been 1 home game, Dundee, with a 3 o’clock kick off.
This is a ludicrous state of affairs, why is AFC not up in arms over this nonsense from the SPL?
A: This issue has been high on our agenda for some time. Last year we raised this with Duncan Fraser and with Willie Miller at different times. At that time we were trying to establish the net position between increased revenue from TV and loss of income from gate receipts. Also how many additional spectators would be required to replace tv income.Unfortunately the information we requested was not then available but it was encouraging to hear George Yule at the recent Fans Forum at Pittodrie confirm that the issues we raised are being addressed and that the club is now actively seeking to establish the impact of tv on the attendances at matches.
Q: What is DST’s stance regarding season tickets? Should we hold off or threaten a boycott?
A: DST believes this is an individual decision and not something that should be unilaterally applied for all fans. The recent article in the Glasgow press saying we had advocated a boycott was not correct. What we have said is that our view is that sporting integrity must prevail and it will be for each individual to make their own assessment on what tranpsires over the next 2-3 weeks. As you may have heard on Sportsound recently, we have had discussions with the AFC board members and highlighted the depth of opinion that supporters share with us.
If there is to be a vote on a Newco for RFC then the board need to consider many aspects but its clear that a small number of disaffected supporters not renewing their season ticket will cost our club more than any “lost” income obtained via Rangers. Equally, a strong stance and some creative marketing would have the opposite effect of being to create significantly more income for AFC over the season than that gained from 1 or 2 homes games v Rangers each season i.e. there is more than one way to look at this and more than one way for AFC to achieve a beneficial outcome – then back it up with a successful team and the fans will continue to return to attend games, increasing our revenues further.
Q: How can you claim only 300 season ticket holders is the equivalent to the income generated from Rangers?
A: The figure of the 300 season ticket holders is based on replacing the (ex) Rangers travelling support. It did not specifically include the impact of Sky pulling out and it was pleasing to read today from a Sky spokesman that they have no intention of doing so.
However, in a worst case scenario that they did in fact withdraw totally, we calculated AFC would need to increase its average gate of last season by around 1,000 Dons fans per game to recoup the loss of the around £500,000 we generally receive from Sky TV.
Enticing back 1000 or so fans might sound fanciful but maybe not when you bear in mind that we have lost 3 or 4 times that figure in recent years through disillusionment so there is still lots of scope for enticing back lost fans.
We also did not factor in other benefits and/or savings such as reduced policing costs were Rangers to not visit Pittodrie (Aberdeen were the first club in the SPL to pilot hosting games without any police) and a better chance of income from extended cup runs/European football.
Similarly, our figures are based on two home games against Rangers in the SPL but sadly, we have not finished in the top 6 in the past three years which means every second season we only have 1 home game against Rangers which halves the figures we advised.
The 300 season ticket holders figure is based on these figures:
Over the last 10 years Rangers have averaged 3500 fans per visit to Pittodrie bringing in around £175,000 in revenue from two visits. Were Rangers replacement to be Dundee they would bring (as shown historically) close to 1000 fans per visit = £50000, making a difference of £125,000.
A Main Stand season ticket at Pittodrie costs £415 and 300 x £415 a season = £124,500. Even if Dundee only visit once, bringing 1000 fans in total, that would increase the figure to just over 350 season ticket holders.
The argument that more Aberdeen fans turn up for games vs Rangers on a pay at the gate basis can also be overcome. Around 2000 extra Aberdeen fans, v non OF games, attend (although this number is reducing significantly) bringing in around £100K over two games in extra revenue. This extra income is the equivalent of just 240 season ticket holders meaning a total of around 550 new/returning season ticket holders (300+240) for Aberdeen FC would wipe out the loss of revenue from Ranger’s demise.
This of course can have the opposite effect in that were Aberdeen to allow Rangers back in to the SPL to protect this income, then the loss of 300 disillusioned or unhappy season ticket holders would wipe out all the extra revenue generated through a Newco Rangers FC being in the SPL.