Date: Tuesday 1st April 2014
Venue: Loftus Road Stadium
From the club: Ian Taylor & Paul Morrissey
From the fan sites:
Clive Whittingham (LoftForWords – www.loftforwords.co.uk)
Paul Finney (Open All Rs Podcast – http://www.qprpodcast.net)
Steve Sayce (Indy Rs – https://www.indyrs.co.uk)
Ron Norris (QPRnet – http://www.qprnet.com)
Colin Henderson (QPR Report – http://qprreport.com)
Matthew Woolf (WeAreTheRangersBoys.com – http://www.wearetherangersboys.com)
Simon Dorset (QPR not606 – http://www.not606.com/forumdisplay.php/51-Queens-Park-Rangers)
Neil Dejyothin (minutes)
– Social Media
– Owner’s usage
– Vine platform
– Media team’s usage
– Player’s usage
– London Call In
– Malaysia Live Streaming
– Communication around new stadium
– Personnel update
– Former players and staff recognition
– Promoting the youth / other areas of the club
– Ian Taylor thanked everybody for attending and touched upon the previous fan site meetings over the past year, re-iterating their usefulness and that they were part of a wider effort by the club to improve communication with supporters over all areas of the business.
– Ian Taylor stated that the meeting was to discuss items relating to the media department, and that he and Paul Morrissey would not be able to speak on behalf of other departments, but any feedback that did overlap would be passed on where appropriate.
– Ian Taylor confirmed there would be a formal meeting arranged with supporters with QPR Chairman Tony Fernandes.
Owner’s usage – on-going concerns about owner’s social media output / unfulfilled promises, etc
There were several concerns raised regarding the way Tony Fernandes uses Twitter to communicate with fans.
These included the following:
– Statements that promised a lot and then failed to deliver, which raises fans expectations and then disappoints if they don’t come to fruition. The obvious example was the promise of a new club crest and fan consultation by February, which then never materialised and has now been delayed.
– Specific fans being singled out for their positive or negative feedback, where the general view in the room was that some constructive feedback was being portrayed as negative when it wasn’t, and that it causes a divide between supporters.
– Making announcements about deals way ahead of time, such as the likelihood we’d partner with Nike as our new kit suppliers last year, but the formal announcement was only made recently. It is not consistent with the club’s policy on formal announcements.
– Tweets that create tension within the club and its supporters that should be relayed behind closed doors, such as the tweets about Harry Redknapp and the players ahead of the Charlton match, which were not helpful to the club or its supporters.
– Ian Taylor acknowledged all of these issues. The media team provide advice and recommendations to Tony Fernandes and the board on a weekly basis.
– The shareholders own the club and are entitled to voice their opinions and views and hopefully the positives of communicating with fans in this manner outweigh the negatives. They feel it’s good to have a Chairman that wants to communicate, even if it sometimes causes challenges.
– Steve Sayce said that the perception of Tony Fernandes is that he is painted as a media and web savvy person – so it was important the message gets back to him that some of his social media communication are not one hundred percent helpful.
– Steve Sayce touched upon some examples where Tony Fernandes had singled out fans for their negative criticism and that this has created a divide amongst supporters who use that platform, which is something we should be keen to avoid. Steve also felt that recently Fernandes has portrayed a message that he was only keen to engage with supporters who were providing positive feedback.
– Steve Sayce touched on issues with previous Chairman in the past playing supporters against one another – and that was something we certainly don’t want to see repeated again and there was a real worry that some of Tony Fernandes’ exchanges with fans could cause this to happen. Steve felt that some of the tweets have come across as provocative and likened it to somebody throwing stones in a pond and then walking away.
– Steve Sayce said that a previous message about us “winning and losing together” is not true, as we do not appear to lose together very well.
– Ian Taylor said they fully acknowledge that mistakes have been made and it’s something they’re trying to manage.
– They feel there is a fine line and a balance to be struck.
– There was a lengthy discussion about what was and wasn’t constructive feedback, and the general feeling was that the constructive feedback is often being taken as negative when it shouldn’t be.
– There was a general discussion on how Fernandes can sometimes react too emotionally after a result, which often leads to a string of exchanges that can lead to something else, such as his decision to meet with supporters.
– Ian Taylor confirmed the media team were first made aware of Tony Fernandes’ decision to meet with supporters through his post on Twitter. The details of this meeting are not finalised yet, but will be soon and will hopefully take place in April or May. They hope to make this available to a wide spectrum of supporters, such as those with the most loyalty points.
– Neil Dejyothin said that it was a good opportunity to offer other supporters a chance to discuss matters with the Chairman or any future fans forums. There should be some opportunity for a random draw to take place that covers all season ticket holders, and that it’s important that not just the same group of fans turn up for each of these events.
– Some discussion was had about how in touch Tony Fernandes was with the team and its current performances. Ian Taylor confirmed that Fernandes watches most games when he is abroad, either via a stream or is sent DVDs of the games.
– Neil Dejyothin mentioned that the tweet discussing Harry Redknapp and the team was ill-timed and not something for public consumption and felt it was destabilising.
– Ron Norris said that Tony Fernandes must get a huge build up of responses, which if the majority are perceived negative, perhaps causes him to bite back at some undeservedly.
– Ron Norris felt a better approach for Fernandes would be to hold a Q&A every few weeks or so on Twitter for an hour – he could invite questions in and then select a few and answer them. This would provide some structure and allow for more measured responses. Everybody agreed this was a good idea and worth exploring further.
– The general feeling amongst everybody that Fernandes needs to stop singling out supporters, either for positive or negative issues and such a regular Q&A may help address that.
– Matthew Woolf asked whether the Vine platform was an official QPR channel, and mentioned that people are reporting that it slows down their devices. He mentioned the WATRB site could no longer embed QPR clips on their forum.
– Ian Taylor confirmed that vine.co/OfficialQPR is the clubs official Vine channel and can be accessed via the web or by downloading the app.
– The service hasn’t slowed down any platform the club have used and the club embed clips onto its website without any problems at all. These include Wall and Storify. It’s possible that the forum software or content management system that WATRB use could be the source of the problem considering the club haven’t experience any issues. Paul Morrissey provided some suggestions to Matthew to investigate.
– Vine is created primarily for smartphones and isn’t really intended for computers, it’s similar to how Instagram works.
Tweets from the media team criticising other clubs for breaching the Football League highlights publication embargo – was this an appropriate use of social media by club representatives?
– Steve Sayce said he was surprised about how the club used Twitter to lodge a formal complaint against another club in the public domain, which didn’t seem appropriate behaviour or what a fan would expect to see from using the platform.
– Ian Taylor explained that there had been numerous clubs breaking the embargo and they had contacted both The Football League and the club involved about this on more than one occasion.
– QPR respect the terms of their contract and do not want to break the embargo. They feel it’s unfair because when a club breaks the embargo it has a direct impact on any potential income the club can make in terms of losing hits by sticking to the rules.
– They had no joy with contacting those involved to try and settle the issue and in the end they felt going public would help raise awareness. It had the desired effect and since then, only two clubs have broken the embargo since and those who have broken it have been made to remove the content they’d put online.
– Steve Sayce said that we are all very much learning about social media and how to use it, and expects the club to lead by example and how to use this medium. He re-iterated he was surprised to see the club use it to publicly settle a dispute with another club.
– Paul Morrissey said it was a route the club didn’t intend to go down again and that their relationship with the involved club had actually improved as a result.
Player’s and staff usage
– Matthew Woolf raised a recent example where a member of staff tweeted inappropriate comments on Twitter about one of our own players.
– Ian Taylor said the club are aware of the matter and it’s being dealt with internally.
– Ian Taylor said that since these fan site meetings started, the player’s usage of Twitter has improved overall, albeit acknowledged there are still the occasional slip-ups. This was a view generally shared by all in attendance.
– Ian Taylor confirmed that all of the player’s and staff’s Twitter accounts, with the exception of his own, were personal ones, but that the media team review all material published on social media against the FA Guidelines for any content that may bring QPR or football in general into disrepute. If they believe any action is required, they inform senior management immediately.
– Ian Taylor cited an example where a player had recently been involved in an exchange with somebody over Twitter and had posted personal information about that person, which was later taken down as a result of this process.
– Ian Taylor said that since the initial meeting – social media guidelines have now become a part of everybody’s standard contract and that there are serious implications for the players and staff in terms of punishment if they don’t adhere to them.
– Ian Taylor said that as a result of these new guidelines, some of the players have actually removed their accounts.
– Paul Finney said that the official club Twitter accounts often re-tweet messages from the players’ personal accounts. Therefore there is a lack of consistency here, particularly as the club are happy to re-tweet positive messages, but when there are posts that they don’t like, they step away and don’t want to be involved.
– Ron Norris raised that the players use of Twitter, whether it was positive or negative, was interesting because you learn more about their character and personality and what they’re really like. He saw this as a positive overall.
– A general discussion was had about the use of social media and how it can impact on a player or staff, and that for many of them, it goes beyond the club they are presently employed with and can extend to past clubs or rivals. They are constantly under attack on these platforms and some may not have the correct education and training to deal with the constant scrutiny they’re under.
– In general there are not too many positives for the players, albeit, it was agreed that when players like Clint Hill, Jamie Mackie, Bradley Orr and Shaun Derry among others were using it, you could really get a sense and feel of the team spirit and friendships around the club. Joey Barton later joined in, but on the flip-side, when that banter started to die down and the team were struggling – it created a perception where fans could read between the lines and connect stories of a dressing room split or lack of harmony and team spirit back to these things.
– There were discussions about young players, and some examples of players at other clubs who had hundreds of followers, but then having made their senior debut, suddenly saw themselves within minutes gaining thousands and thousands of new followers and becoming known on an international scale. The platform is powerful and needs to be handled well.
– Ian Taylor said that the club are putting plans in place to hold workshops and tutorials for the 16-18s and Under 21s from the summer. This will be focused around improving their understanding of journalism and how to use things like social media, and will be held at a college where the club themselves will attend and deliver the training.
– The workshops will be run with David Baker from the academy education programme.
Everybody agreed this was great news and a really good initiative.
– Neil Dejyothin raised that the official QPR accounts are often re-tweeting other associated accounts, which can lead to a lot of duplication if you happen to follow them all. He suggested that perhaps there is another Twitter account created that’s sole purpose is to do this, so if you only want to follow one and get all the news of all the accounts, you could.
– Paul Morrissey and Ian Taylor acknowledged the idea, but also stated that part of the strategy for some of those accounts, such as the QPR Ladies, is to help raise awareness about them, but they also took on board the potential for a person to be spammed with the same information.
– Clive Whittingham said that in comparison with other clubs, the club’s use of Twitter and social media was one of the best out there.
– Steve Sayce said that the recent improvements to the mobile version of the website were a lot better and that the innovation and other areas the club explore, such as Storify, Google Hangouts, and Vines were really good.
– The general view in the room was that there was excellent and innovative work being done across all social media and there was a great consistency to it as well.
London Call In
– Simon Dorset asked if there was any way London Call In could be freshened up and wanted to know who the show was primarily aimed at, such as the die-hard supporters. He felt that there wasn’t anything in the show for him personally – and that the type of conversations had been ones he’d ordinarily have down the pub (albeit more explicit).
– Ian Taylor said that there would be a review of the format at the end of the season and that they would assess changes with a view to implementing them over the summer. The London Call In will always be compared to the Open All Rs Podcast, which is at the other end of the scale in terms of topics and discussion – and it’s unofficial.
– Paul Morrissey said they are looking at the balance of the show and want to better utilise their access to the players and staff, which is the main reason people want to watch and which is their unique selling point, and they hope to be able to deliver something a bit more spontaneous and reactive, with a more relaxed feel. They feel the current format has reached its natural lifecycle and has hit a ceiling.
– They’re happy to take on board any ideas.
– Simon Dorset suggested London Call In could be used as a vehicle to show some in-depth and informative features on issues that fans have little or no access, such as topics like Financial Fair Play, looking around the treatment room (to name just two possibilities) and backed up by a few questions to someone better informed in the relevant area giving us all a greater insight. The new training ground and stadium were two other obvious topics that could be explored.
– Paul Morrissey said that modern day manager’s like to keep their cards close to their chests and do not want any information revealed about the state of their players. This approach in recent years has been reflected right across football.
– Clive Whittingham said they should focus on that wider access. It was agreed by all in the room that the Behind The Scenes press videos were a fantastic and fascinating addition this season and that the more content produced like that, the better.
– Neil Dejyothin said perhaps they could focus on similar themes for players and staff – and what it’s like and what it takes to become a player or a coach, or what’s it like to be a part of a football club, whatever the role, etc.
– Ian Taylor and Paul Morrissey said that the London Call-In was a platform for fans to air their views and that fans from the group would be welcome to attend on the show.
Malaysia Live Streaming
It was raised whether QPR can stream live matches anywhere outside the UK, or is this restricted to just one country?
– Ian Taylor confirmed that the agreement covers Malaysia only. The Football League will not grant the club rights to extend this into any other territory.
Communication around New Stadium
– There was a request for a general update on the state of play – and questions were asked on why the club made such a big announcement before several property, environmental and legal issues are resolved?
– It was also discussed that the 2018 completion date appears to be ambitious and there is a question mark whether it’s really deliverable in that time, as well as whether QPR would own the stadium themselves.
– It was also asked what fan consultation would be expected.
– Ian Taylor stressed that the whole process is obviously complex and sensitive.
– The Club have taken on board an external property PR company called Forty Shillings, who are helping manage the new stadium and training ground announcements.
– Forty Shillings have been involved with Arsenal’s Emirate Stadium and Wembley Stadium developments.
– All of the PR and communication messages linked to the new stadium are calculated and strategic. The initial announcement was made to create awareness and bring a lot of stakeholders and landowners to the table for discussions. They’re making fantastic early progress on a complex, complicated and huge undertaking project.
– The London location makes the project even more complex than the likes of MK Dons and Coventry City.
– Ian Taylor reminded everybody in the room that the club has never publicly put a timescale for the completion of the project.
– Ian Taylor said there communication with fans would be key to the project and towards the end of the season a wider consultation will take place and that there will be a number of public consultations around the wider project and stadium when the time is right. Those are the next steps and there will be more details in terms of infrastructure and general updates.
– The club has already started liaising with fans with a recent transport survey after the Wigan Athletic fixture. They are mindful that this may be irritating but everybody in the room said they actually enjoyed receiving those surveys.
– Ian Taylor confirmed that QPR would own the stadium.
– Steve Sayce asked in what form the consultation would be in and that questions also need to be asked about how the legacy and history of Loftus Road is handled. Steve mentioned that fans would want reassurances about this, as it will break our hearts to leave what is a very special place to a lot of us.
– Ian Taylor confirmed that various discussions are in place on how best to pay tribute to Loftus Road and that it’s very much part of their thinking and plans.
– Neil Dejyothin said that the PR surrounding the new stadium needed to be handled with care, and that the club have to find the right balance about being excited to move, or talking about all the corporate extras a new stadium could bring – because in reality – fans don’t really care about that and if they suspect the move isn’t to do with football or QPR first, they’re more likely to be upset, especially if they don’t feel the new stadium represents what’s special about their club.
– Clive Whittingham asked who was responsible for overseeing the new stadium project and a discussion was had about the difference between people at the club who live very different lives to fans making key decisions about what is and isn’t good about a stadium.
The owners and senior management’s experience of football is very different to the supporters, they may come to every match, but they sit in a different environment and are from a very different world to most fans and that we come to football for different reasons. Clive said he would be interested to know what senior management would say their best and worst five stadiums would be and is confident they’d be quite different to most fans.
– Ian Taylor re-iterated that fan consultation would be key to all of this – and that we would have the opportunity to share our views and that they needed to be taken on board. Mark Donnelly is currently overseeing the project for both the new stadium and training ground – along with other influential figures within the trade.
– Neil Dejyothin said the QPR1st Supporters Trust were currently researching and putting together information that may be useful for the club and supporters to consider and that more details on this would be announced soon on www.qpr1st.com.
– Clive Whittingham raised an issue whereby the club have announced staff arrivals in the past, only not to mention when they’ve left. This has happened on several occasions with some scouts and more recently with Shaun Hallet, who was leading the Warren Farm project and had a couple of videos dedicated to him on QPR Player when he first arrived.
– This obviously leads to the question of who is running the scouting and training ground projects now? And why does the club not mention when some staff have left?
– Paul Morrissey said that the usual policy was to announce both a person’s arrival and departure, and it was simply a mistake that they hadn’t announced when somebody had left.
– Ian Taylor said that Mark Donnelly, who Shaun Hallet reported in to, is running both the Warren Farm and stadium project. Ian Butterworth is overseeing the scouting set-up following Ian Broomfield’s departure. The scouting structure beneath remains unchanged.
– Neil Dejyothin raised that he would like to see more consistency with the departure messages, and that sometimes they were too short and cold, that you could sense the club were frustrated with whoever was leaving – or in some cases – it gave the illusion that something happened when you may not have realised.
– There were others who disagreed, saying that some who left didn’t deserve it, and it puts the media team in an awkward position. The media team generally took this point of view, albeit they acknowledged Neil’s point of view too.
– Neil Dejyothin understood those concerns, but said that standards and ethics, and the consistency of that should be adhered to whenever possible. There doesn’t need to be a big fuss made (unless they are worth it), but a simple “thank you, we’re disappointed it didn’t work out and good luck in the future”, no matter what, just helps show our class as a club a bit more.
– Neil Dejyothin raised the point about standards and ethics again, and that while it didn’t work out for Jose Bosingwa and that he didn’t help himself, it wasn’t helpful that his personal information was revealed in a press conference and that contributed massively to his downfall in terms of how he was perceived by supporters. The club put itself in an awkward position and that had long lasting effects, which were avoidable.
Former players recognition
– The Alec Stock day was well received, as was Wayne Fereday’s half-time appearance on the pitch, and it was asked what is being done to build on that, especially in light of some recent comments by Ian Gillard on the Open All R’s Podcast where he clearly felt there was more room for improvement.
– Ian Taylor said the media team in particular are passionate about doing a better job of recognising former players and staff and some of the recent initiatives are a step towards achieving this. They were disappointed they didn’t seem to reach the standard Ian Gillard expected, but are determined to put this right.
– Clive Whittingham, Neil Dejyothin, Paul Finney and Steve Sayce spoke about the expectations of some of the former players and staff, and raised that the lack of knowledge and history about QPR at board level may play a part in those peoples perception of treatment. It’s possible they want to be greeted and welcome by the owners and directors, but it’s not clear whether those people in the club know who these people are well enough and what they mean.
– Ian Taylor said that going forward there will be a better focus on particular milestones, such as birthday’s or anniversary’s for former players and staff and the club will be highlighting fixtures next season to build on that.
– Paul Morrissey said they recognise that a lot of the work done is still more reactive than pro-active, and that some of the measures they’re putting in place are to move towards being more pro-active about these matters.
– Ian Taylor accepts there has been a mismanagement on the clubs part in terms of looking after its former players, staff and key figures, but they are now constantly striving to ensure the club makes forward strides in this area.
– Ian Taylor confirmed that Andy Sinton, Phil Parkes and Clive Wilson will all be guests of the club between now and the end of the season and that the Winton Family have been invited to the Nottingham Forest game and the club will be running a programme piece about their involvement over the years and paying tribute to the late Harold Winton.
– Ian Taylor said that the W12 area of the stadium always has a former player as a Guest Speaker and that they hope to involve whoever that is with other activities around the stadium on a match day in future.
– Paul Morrissey said they will be having some discussions about potentially renaming some of the boxes to honour legendary players or staff, and that a Hall of Fame and other initiatives are being discussed and proposed, but obviously with Loftus Road being a small stadium, it may be that some of those things can’t arrive until we move to a new ground.
– Ian Taylor said they hoped to have a legend present at every home match next season, but also stressed that some former players and staff were not actually interested in returning – because their interest in football was not the same since retirement.
– There was a general feeling in the room amongst those who attended, that despite the lack of space, we ought to have an area in the stadium dedicated to former players and staff, and that we lacked this in comparison to a lot of clubs. It’s something the club should consider as a priority and would go a long way to accommodating those key figures and making them feel more welcome.
– Ian Taylor said they were meeting with some other fans to discuss ideas to help with this and were keen to take on board any ideas from all.
– Colin Henderson said that it would be worthwhile for the club to consider doing a Q&A on the website with former players and staff, so that younger fans could learn more about them.
– It was recognised by all in attendance that the club is making progress, but that also that it will take time to get to the level we’d all love it to be. The work being done now is a positive start and a good step in the right direction.
Promoting the Youth
It was asked what more could be done to promote the Youth?
– Ian Taylor said that this area has improved significantly since the appointment of Andy Watkins (Club Journalist) around fifteen months ago. The club do more press and PR on the youth and other set ups than most other clubs, including the QPR Community Trust and QPR Ladies.
– The official QPR website alone has published 81 articles since the start of 2014, which includes 55 articles on the Under 21s and 26 on the Under 18s.
– There is a comprehensive Academy Review in the match day programme, latest match reports from both the Under 21s and Under 18s fixtures and there are both manager and player reactions, squad stats, fixtures, results and tables. There is also a “Getting To Know” features where we focus on a different youth-team player each work and coverage has expanded from one page to four pages.
– They are happy to take on board any further ideas.
– Clive Whittingham said that the piece he did on the youth team that were done as a result of a suggestion that came from within these fan site meetings on LoftForWords was one of the best received features the site has had in the past year, and many around the table would love to do it again. Paul Morrissey and Ian Taylor were more than happy to arrange another one of these in the future.
– Neil Dejyothin said that the coverage of the QPR Ladies was excellent and they now feel like a part of the club from the outside. It’s a huge improvement.
– Ron Norris said that it would be great if they could somehow do a story on following a player from his mid-teens up until the point he wins a professional contract, and have an archive over a period of time that shows what it’s like to go through that process.
– Steve Sayce said that his eyes were really opened when he did the recent Tiger Feet walk and found out about so much amazing work the Community Trust do. He felt he’d only known about fifty percent of what they did before, so any further promotion of their work would be welcome.
– Paul Morrissey said that they obviously had to get the balance right and be careful about how much news they put on the official QPR site, as obviously most supporters are going there for news and information about the team.
– Ian Taylor said they are waiting on confirmation of Tony Fernandes’ diary ahead of his meeting with fans in April or May. The club’s Supporter Liaison Officer, Andy Rees, will be liaising with fans in due course.
– Neil Dejyothin spoke a little bit about the meetings over the past year and that the media team could be proud of what they’ve achieved in that time. It was recognised that it was brave to meet and engage with supporters in the way they did, and they’ve had a fantastic season to date, and hopefully feel, as all of us do, that the relationship they’ve had with supporters is the best it’s been in years.
The Independent R’s would like to thank Ian Taylor and Paul Morrissey at the club for hosting this meeting. Also many thanks to Neil Dejyothin for taking these comprehensive minutes