On Tuesday, members of the Supporters’ Trust board met senior officials from the club to discuss a wide range of issues. As ever, the dialogue was open, positive and constructive and we were able to share feedback and views from supporters who had contacted us ahead of the meeting.
The 20/21 season and the return of fans
The upcoming season, and in particular season cards, was of course top of the agenda. Obviously, all fans are eager for news whether they have renewed, or are considering whether to renew their season cards. The club are currently working through a number of key issues – many on league-wide basis – and are planning to issue a comprehensive update once various complex details are resolved.
The club talked through some of the commercial, technological, administrative and television rights issues which are being discussed and resolved on a daily basis. The meeting with the Trust was an important part of that process.
The club is very aware of the need for clarity in 20/21 season cards, that is absolutely clear from our conversations to date. However, it is absolutely essential that accurate information is communicated at the right time, rather than speculation.
The return of fans to the City Ground
The key takeaway is that the club is doing all it can to ensure as many fans can safely attend matches as possible. A huge amount of work is ongoing to bring the fans back to the City Ground, albeit at a reduced capacity for now, with season card holders the initial focus.
As with many issues, the club is operating within Government guidance. If you haven’t yet read the Sports Ground Safety Authority’s social distancing at stadiums guidelines, we’d encourage you to have a read. The club believes the health and safety of supporters is of paramount importance.
At this point we don’t know how many fans will be able to return and exactly when, but ground assessments are ongoing in earnest. A number of topics were discussed including how fans could obtain seats for games, sit within social bubbles and some of the health and safety measures that could be required.
In short, there is a lot to resolve and various pilot events will inform the outcome. We’ll share any news as we receive it.
Streaming of games
Next season is going to be unique, and at times frustrating. While the priority is getting fans safely back in the stadium, in some cases supporters may only be able to see some matches via a stream.
The key takeaway here is that television and streaming rights are agreed on a league-wide basis, not a club-by-club basis. This is important to remember as offerings, pricing and access to matches is communicated in the coming weeks. Sky TV are, of course, the rights holder for televising the EFL. Negotiations between the clubs, the EFL and Sky have been ongoing to allow supporters to stream games throughout the season while restrictions on attendances remain. This agreement will remain flexible as the situation evolves.
Details of those negotiations are starting to emerge and we’d encourage you to read the recent report on the FSA website for the latest news. The progress of these negotiations is encouraging, given that no agreement has been reached with the Premier League so far.
We discussed supporter feedback on the iFollow platform. Statistics show that the vast majority of supporters were able to view the matches but we are aware of some difficulties, particularly with Apple devices. The technology is being upgraded for the new season and the Trust will continue to do all it can to help and advise fans to access the stream, as it did last season. Again, we’ll share any news on the platform as it becomes available.
Obviously, there may be supporters who wish to obtain a refund on their season ticket and an open and honest discussion was had around various scenarios – encouraging the club to handle all situations as fairly and sympathetically as possible during this difficult time.
Moving forward into the season
So, in summary, the club is dealing with a vastly complex, unprecedented situation with a wide range of challenges and stakeholders to consider. As ever, the club was keen to hear the views of members and supporters as we navigate a way forward.
This season is going to be different, but the intention is to work collaboratively with the club to slowly, and safely, restore football and Forest to our lives. We will continue to engage with the club in the coming weeks, and as ever, if you have questions, we’ll endeavour to answer them.