21st November 2019 - Annual General Meeting Minutes

WFC Enables Members Meeting

Thursday  7.30pm  KO       21st November 2019

Meeting Room, Vicarage Road Stadium

Present:

WFCE Officers

David Butler         Chairman

Philip Linnegar     Secretary

Iain Lamb             Treasurer

Gary Armstrong    Social Secretary

And WFC Enables Members

WFC Officers

Dave Messenger    WFC

Andy Jenkins        WFC 

1. Welcome

David welcomed everyone to the meeting, and thanked Dave Messenger and WFC for hosting the meeting.  David also thanked Andy Jenkins for joining the meeting.

Attendees were noted as per the attendance list.  Apologies were received from Clive and Susie Walters.                                   

2.  Minutes of the last meeting

The previous minutes had been published and appeared on the WFCE website.  The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed.

3.  Matters arising

Changes to the WFCE Constitution were agreed and published on the WFCE website.

Gary and Gavin had helped update the surveying of Away Grounds.

No other matters arose that were not going to be dealt with on the agenda.

4.  Chairman's Report

Thank goodness we have started winning on the pitch at last!

We are definitely winners with regard to the Accessible Stadia Guidelines –WFC has met and exceeded the guidelines and we have a stable and comfortable situation for Watford’s disabled supporters.  Our thanks must go to Scott and his team for bringing this about.

The new facilities are being appreciate and used with a new record set at the Arsenal home game with 102 wheelchairs present and we now regularly have well over 100 ambulant supporters at most games.

I am pleased to say that our membership – 180  - couple more than last year plus if you count in carers and assistants Enables now represents the majority of Watford disabled supporters.

As ever there is a continual need to promote Enables Membership as we strive to represent ALL WFC disabled supporters.   Please promote us at every opportunity.

If you see a slight limp give them an application form!

Majority of concerns reported from our members centred around stewarding issues and again Andy Jenkins has made major improvements this season. 

Stewarding for our home fans has improved preventing encroachment into the disabled areas in the LGT and overall the continuity of stewards in these areas has made a significant difference – from a safety stand point it makes sense that the stewards understand the capabilities of their disabled fans particularly if there is an emergency or a rapid evacuation is needed.     

The away end still concerns me for the safety of the disabled fans in wheelchairs at pitch side and also the obstruction of their sightlines at vital times in the match.  I will continue to work with WFC to find the most suitable solution.

This is not just a Watford problem  - a major problem exists at Norwich with wheelchair fans knocked over and, supported by a report from West Midlands Police, at my request SGSA have allocated an inspector to investigate the situation with the Local safety authority who issue the stadiums safety certificate.

I know it is a constant problem that when visiting other stadiums for an away game you often lack detail of where to enter, where your seat is, is there a lift?, are there steps? etc.  We are trying to remedy that at PL level – WFC have been complimented many times on providing a detailed Away end graphic with every ticket plus it is on both the Enables website and WFCs- it is not rocket science to fix this problem!

AccessAble have again complimented WFC as the best club for away communications.

At the end of my second year as Chair of the Premier League Disability Advisory Group (DAG) we held our fourth meeting here in the Players Lounge on the 14th November. 

We agreed to continue the Away Survey on the DAG website (www.pldag.co.uk) and I thank all the Watford disabled supporters who have taken part – particularly thank Gary Armstrong for his comments and photos from the away games he has attended.

With regard to issue of safe standing my Disability Advisory Group unanimously agreed to support the reintroduction on the basis that the standing barriers would actually provide additional obstacles to crowd surge into the pitch side disabled areas. Regrettably the decision has been postponed for 2 years despite the reality that persistent standing already occurs in the away end at every game.

Off the pitch then a satisfactory year for Enables, thanks in large measure to the incredible support we get from Dave Messenger  - very much appreciated - and I would like to thank him on behalf of Enables.

5.  Secretary's Report

There was no report needed from the Secretary.

6.  Treasurer's Report

Iain reported that WFCE accounts had a balance of £677.40.  This was split between the Treasurers account £624.00 and £53.40 instant access account.

The Annual Accounts had been independently examined, and signed off by WFC Financial Director, Emiliano Fussi.  These were accepted by the Members..

7.  WFC Report including update on WFC Accessible Stadia Project

24 additional seats will qualify with P rails once installed in the Rookery Stand.  At season ticket renewal time season ticket holders may be asked to move from these seats if they do not need the additional access.  Ambulant demand will be the consideration for this action.

Sensory room.  More children are transitioning from the sensory room to general access areas.  Ten ear defender sets have been issued which means the seats count as ‘Ease of Access’ seats, similar to ‘Soccer Sight headset’ seats.

The wheelchairs positions count is currently 153 each with an assistant space. 

WFC are trialling a voluntary Hidden Disability card scheme, at the stadium, for ambulant and seated supporters – useful if challenged or help is needed from a steward or officer.  This may be launched before Christmas.  It is hoped that all 20 PL Clubs will eventually have a similar scheme,

The majority of ambulant supporters chose to be seated in general access areas of the stadium, rather than the accessible seated areas.

8.  Election of Officers :-

Current incumbents all stood down and were all re-elected en bloc –

Chair -                                     David Butler (DB)

Vice Chair                                Phil Nightingale

Treasurer                                  Iain Lamb

Secretary                                  Phil Linnegar

Social Secretary                        Gary Armstrong

Representatives from Watford Football Club are nominated.  WFCE Officers were confirmed as :-

Dave Messenger, Supporter Liaison and Disability Access Officer  (DM)

Disability Liaison Officer Shelley Newman.

9.  Election of Independent Examiner

The Hon Treasurer proposed WFC Financial Director, Emiliano Fussi, who had agreed to undertake this role.  The Members approved the proposal 

10. Feedback from the CAFÉ Disability Access Officers meeting in Germany

Disability Access Officers had been invited to a meeting of the Centre for Access Equality, part of UEFA, encouraging all at Leipzig to work together for Access across Europe. 

Enables were proud that Dave Messenger had been invited to represent the PL.  He said that it was great to feed into the CAFÉ network.  He explained that there is no lack of desire from Clubs or Supporters to make the stadia accessible but there is no legislation similar to that in the UK to force action therefore very little has actually been achieved.       

It highlighted to Dave how advanced the Premier League in this respect.

11. Agenda items

11.1 Accessible stadium project update – See Chairman’s report

11.2  Additional concourse and VR loop systems

DM reported that induction loop systems had been installed throughout VR clubs shops and kiosks.  Loop systems were regularly tested with equipment donated by Hertfordshire Hearing Advisory Service. 

DM to check if hospitality have induction loop systems.  Action: DM

DM asked affected WFCE members to check that the loops are working and report any problems.

Stickers at looped counters are still to be done.  Action by DM.

11.3  Utilisation of WFC disabled facilities

66% usage. Ambulant.

59% of wheelchair usage.

11.4  Ponchos

There are approx. 300 ponchos left, but the sponsors have changed!  DB suggested turning them inside out  - stewards to have access to stocks, add a stock on the coaches and also give them to the away fans!  Shame to waste them , they do work.

11.5  Away facility survey

See Chairmans Report.  Access to input to the questionnaire – www.pldag.co.uk  see link at the bottom of the home page.

11.6  Encroachment into disabled areas

Andy Jenkins said that Stewards were being briefed regarding encroachment into disabled areas.  Complaints need to ideally made on the day so that the problems are seen and fixed. Difficult after the event to follow up. 

Encroachment usually happens in the 10 minutes before the end of the halves where able bodied fans get ready for a drink or the exit but want to watch the end of the match.  Also the stewards are often diverted to pitch duty at this time leaving the area unprotected.. 

Andy knows that there is a problem, and it continues to be highlighted and discussed.  Since the start of the new season WFC has recruited and trained 30 in-house stewards.

DB asked WFCE members to take photographs of people encroaching the disabled area.

Stewards were complimented by members for using their good sense in recent matches, when the unexpected happens, such as sound issues.

The meeting discussed Safe Standing, and the issues of disabled area safety and preservation of sightlines.

David had continued concerns about away disabled fan safety at the Away End.  Andy explained some physical changes have been made in the way stewards are positioned.  Future developments and workable improvements continue to be discussed between David and WFC.

David thanked Andy for the actions he has taken and the support he has given to our Group, he then left the meeting.

11.7  Identification of Cash / Card tills

DM noted that Liverpool, Wolves, and two others in PL do not take cash, card only.

However, at Watford, card and cash still possible with at least one till at each concourse kiosk.  Which type of settlement by till could be better marked

FTF   Some clubs have disability signage on the floor, which can work well. 

DM WFC will work with our caterers to develop solutions when problems identified.

WFC is developing a match day food app similar to that introduced by Chelsea and Liverpool 

Any other business from the floor

Blind Supporters    A member noted that there was an ageing blind population and this is set to increase and their needs will have to be catered for in the future.

LGT TV screens.  DM would update affected fans once plans have been finalised.  However, there is a lot of technical work and cabling to be undertaken to allow TV screens to be operational.

Suggestion from the floor - Can we turn the referees TV VAR around as he doesn’t seem to be using it?

4G doesn’t work inside the stadium.  Only phone that might work is Trevor’s which has a little winding handle on the side of it…

Policy of keep the stadium full.  Accessible seats will only be resold if another accessible user can make use of it.  Marked on system as ‘ambulant user only’.

David closed the meeting at 20.50pm after thanking everyone for coming along, showing their support and taking part.

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