Here are the minutes from a meeting I attended on behalf of IndyRs. Many thanks to Ian Taylor of QPR for the invitation and to Jamie Sallows of Qprdot.Org for co-ordinating the minutes.
Date:Wednesday 24th September 2014
Venue:Loftus Road Stadium
-QPR Player / You Tube
-New Matchday App
-Former Player Recognition
-Players Social Media Conduct
-New Stadium PR
– Ian Taylor (Head of Media & Communications) 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, Paul Morrissey (Press Manager) and David Scriven (Webmaster) would not be able to speak on behalf of other departments, but any feedback that did overlap would be passed on where appropriate.
– Recent issues such as the Lower Loft and New Stadium PR were added to the initial agenda very late on, but Ian Taylor thought it was essential they were discussed from a communications perspective.
(NB: In what follows, QPR – QPR Media / FS – Fans Sites)
QPR Player / You Tube
Why have there been so many changes recently in terms of what is available through each platform? Why don’t we get extended highlights for free on You Tube this season?
QPR – The service offered through Player has changed recently. This is owing to pressure that has been applied through other clubs offering much of their interview content free via their YouTube channels. It has been a difficult decision for us, but ultimately we have decided to follow a similar path.
QPR – The prime benefits of the Player service are the live audio commentary from every first-team fixture, and extended match highlights which are not available anywhere else. In the Championship, we were able to show some highlights on our YouTube channel and London Call-In, but PL broadcasting rights prevent this, so this is a major driver for the Player service.
FS – We felt this was not clear to fans (that it’s a restriction placed on the club, not a decision by the club) and should maybe be explained.
QPR – Player video does not work on some mobile devices and this is something the 3rd party developers have been promising to resolve but we have not yet seen any progress on this problem.
FS – This was raised as probably the biggest issue as all YT content is freely available on mobiles – thus driving people away from player, in addition to the free content available elsewhere.
FS – There are fan complaints about the standard of video in the ‘paid for’ player offer – especially compared to the free video available via youtube.
QPR – The club explained video quality of QPR player cannot be at the level of YouTube simply due to the scale of the Youtube infrastructure and the encoding we require to get the video into player.
QPR – We can only put 30 seconds of Premier League highlights on YouTube / Facebook 14 days after the match. Therefore, we can no longer provide regular highlights the day after a game on these platforms, which is why Player is the default platform for highlights in the Premier League.
QPR – Embargo times: Saturday game (Sunday midnight), Sunday game (Sunday midnight), Midweek game (midnight that night). We will continue our highlights on Player as normal. Please note, these have moved from midday to midnight (Premier League rules).
QPR – Other media outlets (Mail / The Sun / BT Sport / Sky etc) publish our pre and post-match press conferences for free. Previously in the Championship, we were the only people filming the pre and post-match press conferences. We are forced to put out more content for free so we are not charging fans for a service which is free elsewhere.
QPR – Fans may have noticed we now use our YouTube channel to raise the profile of our academy with highlights and post-match interviews every week. We also use the channel, as well as the Ladies Facebook page, to raise the profile of our Ladies team.
FS – The coverage on the academy and ladies team was welcomed and seen as a positive step.
FS – It was recognised that the site has significantly improved over the past months, although still within the very out-dated site design and structure we are using. It is very likely the club will move away from the centralised templates shared with other clubs when the contract comes up for renewal in 2017.
New Matchday App
What is the latest with the App? How successful has it been etc?
QPR – We are one of six clubs currently piloting this app. Brighton & Hove Albion worked with Sussex University 12 months ago to come up with a solution to improve mobile connectivity inside their stadium. The app works by sharing internet connectivity between users running the app who can get online to access basic matchday information.
QPR – It also works away from the stadium in the week and serves as an app to access latest QPR news. We’ve some ideas about what we’d like to do next with it like integrate QPR Player in it and also ticketing, shopping etc however we must first decide if we are going to continue with it as whilst the trial has been free, we’re looking at costs of 5-10k for the app and 5k a year running costs.
FS – General feedback from those in the group who had used the app was positive, although one member reported issues accessing the app during the last home game – something the club will look at.
FS – It was raised that the “sharing” element of the app should be made a little more transparent to the end user.
FS – The other benefits of the app (greater connectivity on match day) should probably be pushed more visibly, as this is a frequent complaint of fans at the game.
FS – There were also questions raised about the need to download 2 apps on android devices which is something the club will look into with the developers to try and align with iTunes and a single-app approach.
QPR – Concerning in-stadium Wi-Fi, the club have yet to find a solution that is effective; this includes having tested the services proposed at several other grounds around the country.
Former player recognition
What is being done now? How receptive have former players been to the club’s new ideas?
QPR – Continued effort being made to improve this aspect of the club – IT & PM met with R’s fans Martin Percival and Chris Guy.
QPR – Ray Wilkins, Richard Langley, Wayne Fereday, Andy Sinton, Kevin Gallen, Rob Steiner, amongst former players already in attendance at fixtures this season , A small number of tickets are set aside for every home game for former players and partners.
QPR – Some former players wish not to attend. Others happy to do so, but not interested in the on-pitch interview so it is not always visible to the fans in the stadium when we are inviting former players back to the club.
FS – This was discussed by the group as there was a lot of surprise that players we all remembered fondly may have reservations about putting themselves in front of the fans on the pitch. It was suggested that we should think about other ways of reassuring the players in order for them to receive the recognition they deserve on the pitch.
FS – It was mentioned that the continued effort the club is making in this area is welcomed and, along the same lines, asked if there were any plans to also approach any players from our legendary 1975-76 squad, particularly in light of the memorable Paul Morrissey interview with Ian Gillard. The likes of Webb, McLintock, Hollins, Masson, Givens and Thomas would be hugely popular.
QPR – Trevor Sinclair, Clive Wilson, Rufus Brevett all confirmed for upcoming fixtures.
A discussion about the handling of the @QPR twitter handle with QPR Report
QPR – Admit we could have handled the situation better, and IT & AH apologised to Mike / QPR Report.
QPR – Contact at Twitter on @QPR: “It is a great benefit to football clubs to have short, easily identifiable @handles, so that fans understand at a glance how to interact with their club before, during and after matches. It is not enough for QPR to just continue with the excellent, on-Twitter conversations they have. In order to reach more fans, they need to promote the @handle and relevant hashtags in and around Loftus Road. Those calls to action – on the dugout, for example – will be all the stronger if they point to @QPR, which is the identity fans would expect the club to own on Twitter.”
QPR – The @QPR account has only tweeted four times since July 29th 2014.
QPR – Disappointed that we couldn’t work together as the point of these meetings is to work together.
QPR – Understand now that we could have retrieved the situation after initial fall-out, but didn’t feel like that at the time. If we could have been tipped off that it was still retrievable, it would have been useful to know. Surprised conversations were taking place between members of the group, and no-one actually let us know. If we didn’t do enough in the end to satisfy him, why couldn’t one of the guys say to us on the quiet, it would have been good to have been told by others involved ‘Listen, he’s not happy but if you do X, Y and Z, you might be able to sort this out amicably’?
FS – It was raised that the vast majority of people have never heard Mike’s side of the story, which seems unfortunate in terms of getting a more overall and balanced understanding of the issue. Fans will inevitably jump to their own conclusions otherwise. It is noted however that he did offer to share his correspondence with the club to our group, but in the end it was decided against doing so because this wouldn’t have allowed enough time for other matters on the agenda.
FS – QPR Report’s representative stated that he and others from the forum encouraged Mike to hand over the handle to the club.
Players social media conduct
On-going concerns about the players tweeting their views on non-footballing matters that don’t necessarily portray the club in the best light
FS – There was a discussion around the unease created by some players’ comments, especially Joey Barton, when he strays into politics and/or religion. It was felt that the club needed to be able to distance themselves from personal comments that may have offended some of our fans. Our fanbase is extremely diverse and we must be mindful of comments that may upset any fans, as they will inevitably be linked to the club. However, the group also accepted the upside of the access to players on twitter is that we actually learn far more about the individuals playing for our club than ever before (for good or for bad).
QPR – As discussed previously, new code of conduct in place for all staff.
QPR – Working towards integrating ‘all views are my own’ into bios of players.
QPR – Individuals reminded of twitter behaviour as and where relevant.
What is being done this season and going-forward to improve the show?
QPR – New studio setting.
QPR – Intention to have regular on-sofa guests.
QPR – Plans to move to Harlington restricted by internet limitations when players are in building.
QPR – Club looked into dedicated internet connection, and cost was substantial.
How successful was the campaign and what was the feedback like from the club?
FS – This campaign was welcomed as extremely successful and positive by all – the timing of it, and the introduction of Steve Black, were seen as key factors in uniting both the team and the fanbase.
FS – The mosaic at Loftus Road in the semi-final, and the flags at Wembley, were both seen as high-impact initiatives that helped created the atmosphere. It was also mentioned that the Derby fans were frustrated that their teams hadn’t done anything similar.
QPR – 382,000 views to #weRtogether related content.
QPR – Joey Barton, QPR Player: “The campaign really helped the fans to relate to where we, as a club, were coming from, and the mind-set that was within the training camp and the group of players. For us to be able to see that playing out in social media space amongst the supporters was very powerful. We certainly felt galvanised by it and anybody who turned up at Wembley saw first-hand how together our football club became. From the volunteers who put out 40,000 flags for the fans – which was a Sisyphean task in itself – to the people who supported us, to the players on the pitch, it was a powerful occasion. For what it’s worth, I don’t think we would have made it to the Play-Off Final without the unity that existed between the players, staff and supporters. It’s amazing the impact that campaigns like the #weRtogether one can have. It may seem relatively simple or futile to the outside eye, but when you see how powerful it was during the most vital games of our season, it’s a huge credit to everyone that was involved in it.”
QPR – The campaign has been shortlisted in the Football Business Awards on November 6th, as well entering into this season’s Digital Football Awards.
What happened at the recent home fixture against Stoke City? Why did it happen? What is being done?
FS – The level of negative feedback in the forums over the activities against Stoke City, where multiple fans complained about being refused entry or being treated badly by stewards at the entrance to the Lower Loft was raised. This has created a significant amount of negativity and it is generally felt that this was handled very badly.
FS – The question as to whether the Lower Loft is the right place for the family stand was considered a separate issue to the apparent abuse of the current system in place. The Club received complaints from other family season ticket holders about adults attending without juniors and using bad language.
QPR – Club received complaints from other family season ticket holders about adults attending without juniors and using bad language. As a result we opted to monitor those attending to discover the extent of non-compliance to the requirement to have an Under 16 year old in the family group.
QPR – To be clear, no one was refused entry, despite a few delays.
QPR – Some of the stewarding was inappropriate on the day and Operations have taken responsibility for this and replied to all emails from fans voicing their concerns.
FS – It was raised that over-zealous stewarding has often been the root of problems at the ground, not the way to solve them.
QPR – Next steps – the club has written to every adult Season Ticket holder in the Family Stand.
QPR – A group of families will be invited into Loftus Road for a meeting with club staff to discuss any outstanding issues This meeting will take place before the next home match (Liverpool) and Customer Services, Box Office, Marketing and Operations will all be represented.
QPR – There is no intention of preventing anyone following the official guidelines on seating in the family stand from attending the Liverpool match.
QPR – The guidelines around the family stand are that any ticket holder who should normally attend with a child but finds themselves in the situation that the child is unable to attend the game must get in touch with the club at the earliest possible opportunity. This should be done either by phone to the box office in advance of the game or in person at the box office on the day of the game.
QPR – In the meantime, we welcome any further feedback. Please email email@example.com
New Stadium PR
The fact that we now find ourselves in a situation whereby the matter is being played out in the media, with what appears to be two opposing sides
FS – We are very disappointed with the image that this apparent ‘dispute’ with a former sponsor is happening in the public eye and were keen to know if this could have been avoided by the club.
FS – It is unfortunate that only negative stories are appearing in the press.
QPR – Owing to the current and sensitive nature of this subject, we aren’t in a position to discuss at length.
QPR – All PR is controlled and decided by Forty Shillings, whose area of expertise is in the PR of such projects.
QPR – Consultation with fans sites / fans groups will continue over the coming weeks and months.