Albion's CEO discusses the loan window, a price limit on away tickets and e-cash.
Last Thursday evening, Brighton & Hove Albion chief executive Paul Barber faced questions from members of three supporters' groups at the Amex.
The North West Sussex Seagulls, Seagulls Over Burwash and Mid Sussex Seagulls were our guests at the stadium, and here is part two of a round up of the questions asked and topics discussed.
Click here to read part one, which discusses topics concerning ticket upgrades, being Premier League ready and TV coverage.
Would we increase the capacity of the Amex?
No, not dramatically. The cost of trying to expand the stadium, even if it were possible to do so, would likely far outweigh the benefit. But there might be one or two small areas around the ground where we might be able to plug in a few more seats.
Have you any plans to improve the junction into Village Way?
Although we always monitor the traffic flows, we have no plans. We currently clear the main car parks in an average of around 28-30 minutes. The best thing we have done is to introduce the hold-backs to Bennett’s Field to allow the park and ride and other buses to go first. Once they are gone the car parks clear pretty quickly.
Will there be a limit for away ticket prices in the Championship?
As a Football League, we will probably be asked to look at it, but we will only do it at the Amex if it is an initiative that is undertaken across the board – and that means Albion fans get the same benefit elsewhere. I think the average away ticket price in the Championship is around £25 at the moment, so we’re not under massive pressure to make a change in the way that some Premier League clubs were. We also have to keep in mind that Championship clubs do not benefit from anything like the same revenues as Premier League clubs so any reduction in ticket prices will more than likely increase the losses of Championship clubs. This makes ticket price reductions a very difficult subject for club owners and chief executives.
What can we do about the south stand being empty when there are few away fans?
When we moved the away fans around to the east stand, we got lots of complaints from the home fans in that area. At that time, Gus Poyet wanted away fans away from behind the goal. We gave it a try but it wasn’t successful. We’re also still earning our stripes in terms of a safety record. The longer we operate a safe stadium and prove to the safety authorities that we know what we’re doing, the more flexibility we will have, and the easier it becomes to change things. For example, we might one day be able to reduce the size of our segregation lines or, reduce the cost of our stewarding in certain areas.
Will loyalty points be in operation for Charlton away?
We have asked Charlton for as many tickets as possible to minimise the effect of having to use loyalty points and to ensure we can get as many Albion fans to one of their favourite away games of the season as possible.
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Is it possible to have toilets outside near the fanzone?
It will be something we review in the summer.
Betting in the stadium
Our contract with Amex precludes us from any betting on site. However, fans can still bet online.
Will we use the loan window before next week?
If we do anything it will be because Chris wants to; if we don’t, it will be because Chris doesn’t want to. At critical times of the season, you need to be careful you don’t add to the group but end up subtracting from the group in a different way. We have a fantastic group of players; they like each other, they work well together, and we have a terrific manager and staff that maintain a great spirit across all areas of the club. The players we have now a huge part of that.
Can we improve speed of service for beers at half-time?
We’ve looked at multi-pourers, but they have extra gas in them and the beers go flat quickly. When we’ve tried pre-pouring pints, people don’t want flat drinks and we then have to pour another fresh one, so it actually takes longer. The best way for Sodexo to make money is to serve fans as quickly as possible, and that is what they work really hard to do. We absolutely impress on them how important it is, and it is certainly in their interests to serve you as quickly as possible.
Will E-Cash return?
No. It speeded things up in some ways, but actually it slowed things down more in others. The only way e-cash systems really work is if it is the ONLY way to pay for things in the stadium, such is often the process in, for example, stadia in Germany. With our Amex contract, that is obviously not an option.
Is the hotel going to happen now?
We will see if it is viable to change the design. If we can’t, then I’m afraid the local authority is responsible for stopping us creating a few hundred new jobs. We think the hotel development would have been a valuable addition to our non-matchday revenue which, in turn, helps us to build a more sustainable football club for our community. The hotel development would also have seen the development of a much-needed cancer unit, a further – and very different – benefit for our community. We were trying to do things for people in our city, but unfortunately – and quite bizarrely – it appears that the city's planning committee couldn’t see beyond the external appearance of the hotel to the much wider economic and health benefits for our community – and so, for now at least, we have hit a wall.
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