WFC Enables Members Meeting - Tuesday 7th September 2021

Held in the Horizon Lounge, Vicarage Road Stadium


WFC Enables Officers

David Butler Chairman Phil Nightingale Vice Chairman

Philip Linnegar Secretary Iain Lamb Treasurer

WFC Officers

Dave Messenger WFC EDI & Disability Access Officer

and WFC members both present in person and also on Zoom.

1. Welcome from the Chair

Firstly may I welcome you all to our delayed AGM and secondly to thank Dave Messenger and WFC for hosting our AGM

And a special warm welcome to our guest this evening - Watford Legend -Luther Blissett.

Great pleasure to welcome our new Supporter Liaison Officer, Meg Clarkson and our Supporter Liaison Assistant, Simona Rakovic-Irish.

Meg has joined us from West Ham, where she worked as the SLO for four years. Meg also worked at Wembley Stadium as part of the guest services team, so she has a wealth of experience in supporter facing roles.

Simona has taken on her first role in football, having worked for Hillingdon Libraries for five years.

Meg & Simona - May I offer a very warm Watford welcome to you and look forward to bothering you with all Enables problems in the future!

Luther with Liam and Gary

Supporter Liaison Officer, Meg Clarkson (Right) and our Supporter Liaison Assistant, Simona Rakovic-Irish.

I really must say Watford FC really do step up to the mark when it comes to disability support. With my PLDAG Chair hat on, I currently have problems with two large PL clubs each of which only have one very part time DLO!

I’ll introduce the current officers when we come to the election later.

Apologies received - Trevor & Shirley Moult, Margaret Rainbow, Brian York, Michael Polnik, Steven Hanwell, Richard Long, Gary Armstrong, Georgina Halls.

2. Minutes of the last meeting

The minutes of the last meeting were agreed.

3. Matters arising

The TV monitors have been installed in the Lower Graham Taylor Stand.

The additional "P" rail installations have taken place.

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

4. Chairman's Report

I can’t believe it is nearly two years since we had an Enables meeting without using Zoom!

And what a two years - Premier League – Championship – Premier League - wow! Let us all hope for a prolonged Premier League spell.

Let me cover my current topics and issues -


I am pleased to say that our membership – 193 - 13 more than 2 years ago 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 anyone with a slight limp get them to join!

I have to be realistic with our membership numbers, in that WFC and Dave have done such a good job of meeting the needs of the disabled supporters that we will have to strive harder to maintain that level of support.

However the average age of fans is increasing which gives us a marketing opportunity. (Man Utd's average age is now above 55)

As a club we need to keep attracting young fans understanding that nowadays they have many other distractions!

Stadium Parking - Chater School parking

The amount of parking at the rear of the stadium will reduce over the next few months as construction to develop the hospital site takes place. In anticipation of this problem I have worked with our very supportive WFC Facilities Manager, Ian Pope, and negotiated a 5 year agreement with Chater School for exclusive use of their 70 car parking spaces for match day use. WFC Disabled supporters are a priority and tickets can be purchased through the Ticket Office.

Away end safety and accessibility – both home and away

I am appreciative of the efforts of Ian Pope and Andy Jenkins for the changes they have made to improve the safety of the away disabled supporters at the Vicarage Road end but I am equally concerned for the safety of Enables members when they visit other stadiums.

Almost all incidents involving physical injuries occur in the away end often through lack of barriers to prevent crowd surge at exciting moments in the game.

My Premier League Disability Advisory Group agreed to continue the Premier League Away Reporting System on problems encountered and I thank all the Watford disabled supporters who have taken part and continue to do so – I would like to particularly thank Gary Armstrong for his comments and photos from the away games he has attended.

Also views from away end pitch side positions are often obscured by stewards or police who are there for safety reasons but also spoil the enjoyment of the match. Under the Accessible Stadia Guidelines’s 75% should be elevated! Many away end areas have no elevation!

Those reports together with police inputs on safety, have enabled us to force substantial physical changes to 4 stadiums to date with other discussions ongoing on with a number of other Premier League clubs.

We really can make a difference to safety and accessibility.

My Premier League Disability Advisory Group continues to unanimously support the reintroduction of safe standing, particularly in the away ends on the basis that the standing barriers would actually provide additional obstacles to crowd surge which endanger the pitch side disabled supporters.

Recently the Government have agreed that Licenced areas for standing can be applied for and be operational by January 2022. I do hope Watford will apply.

We will keep pushing and improvements will occur. Thank you.

5. Secretary's report Philip did not have a formal report, but stated how proud he was of the Club, experiencing the excellent arrangements made between Club and the Watford General Hospital to provide Covid-19 jabs, and the other support the Club had quietly provided to support hospital staff during the pandemic.

6. Treasurer's report, Iain reported that the WFCE bank balance remained unchanged at £624.00 in the main account, and £53.40 in the second account, making a total of £677.40. WFC had undertaken to attend to independent examination of the accounts. This was accepted for information.

7. Election of Officers

David explained the WFCE Constitution stated that 'All Officers shall be elected/re-elected annually at the AGM. He had no new offers from Members for any positions and all of the current incumbants are willing to continue to serve, he suggested that vote was taken for Committee as a whole.

Current holders, :-

David Butler Chair

Phil Nightingale Vice Chair

Iain Lamb Treasurer

Phillip Linnegar Secretary

Gary Armstrong Social Secretary

The meeting voted to confirm their election for a further year.

Representatives from Watford FC and Watford FC Supporters Trust are nominated and Dave Messenger WFC EDI & Disability Access Officer will continue to represent the club.

8. Election of Independent Examiner The Members agreed to invite the Finance Director of Watford Football Club to act as Independent Examiner for the WFCE accounts.

9. Watford FC Report Dave Messenger gave a Watford FC Report

Digital ticketing. Dave explained that it was vital for any supporters to let the Club know of any problems so they can be rectified. More turnstiles would be opened in EJ stand, which eases access problems on Occupation Road, and this would in place for the Wolves game.

Dave said that stewards had mastercards to help ease problems, a situation that will continue as the Club are working through the bugs. Digital ticketing helps the Club combat ticket touts, and protects the Club and supporters from any increase in Covid-19 cases in the autumn if the government then make changes the guidance for stadiums.

Phil N: If a steward uses mastercard, it does not register the attendance of a supporter. Dave said Supporters are asked to keep in touch, if they did attend. The most important thing is to get them into the stadium. The Floor was opened.

From the Floor 1: Big thanks to Dave for sorting out a problem with tickets at Villa game. Dave appreciated the thanks.

From the Floor 2: The teenaged Vicarage Roadies were excellent helping with IT problems. Dave explained that the Roadies are fans first and foremost

From the Floor 3: Feedback on the TVs has been really good. Dave explained that the screens would in time, carry 'big screen' output.

From the Floor 4: Members present also wanted to record their pride at the practical support offered by Watford Football Club for the NHS and hospital next door.

From the Floor 5: Club mascots: Could some of WFCE funds held be used to support a disabled child in a mascot? Dave explained mascot funds are donations and go to help the WFC Supporters Trust.

10. Notified Business items -

10.1 LGT TVs, Extra P Rails - dealt with above.

10.2 Utilisation of WFC Disabled facilities

David explained that overall usage was 66%, and 59% for wheelchair users.

10.3 Away Facility Survey

David thanked Gary Armstrong for his reports of facilities and difficulties encountered at away fixtures. David is asking his Premier League Disability Action Group to do the same, so areas of improvement can be identified.

10.4 Digital Ticketing

Physical cards are available for those without smart phones

Disabled Parking Tickets are now all obtained via the ticket office including tickets for Chater School.

11. Guest Speaker, Luther Blissett

The Chairman David Butler welcomed Luther Blissett to the WFCE AGM.

David led an interesting, interview style conversation, with periodic questions from the floor. Luther started by explaining how Graham Taylor had been keen on keeping the Watford players fitter than other teams. Luther re-collected meeting the Royal Ballet, noting how the dancers are really fit, with strength, power and control.

A wide-ranging and free flowing discussion around the importance of family values then, from when he was growing up, and now reflecting on the pressures children face these days.

With plenty of opportunity to ask questions, and great answers in response, the Members gave Luther a fullsome round of applause in appreciation.

12. Thanks and Close

Meeting closed by David at 9.00pm