This year's Annual General Meeting was held on Thursday 20th October 2022 in the WFC Players Lounge at the Vicarage Road Stadium - Kicked Off at 7.00pm.
1. Welcome and introductions
David thanked everyone for joining the meeting this evening and thanked Watford FC for hosting our meeting in the Players Lounge.
A special warm welcome to our guest speaker this evening Derek Payne, a former midfield player for Watford who many of you will have heard but perhaps not seen before as he is Watford’s voice at BBC Three Counties radio. Thank you for joining us.
As you can see from the agenda, we now have a vacancy for an Enables Secretary as Phillip Linnegar has resigned due to work pressure. Phil was an integral part of Enables Group way before I came on the scene and held it all together through many iterations in the past, so we owe Phil a huge vote of gratitude. I will certainly miss him and wish him the best in his new ventures.
David welcomed WFC representatives Richard walker, Ian Pope and Dave Messenger and thanked them for joining us.
2. Matters arising from the minutes of the last meeting
Accessible toilet usage: WFC Supporter noted toilets had been occupied by people who did not appear to be disabled. Action - Dave List, disabled liaison steward in this area on matchdays, will keep an eye out for the people identified by the supporter.
Gary Murphy confirme that these toilets were now being well stewarded.
Dave Messenger's Watford FC update
Parking Issues were discussed due to so many disabled parking places being lost to adjacent development so trials were taking place with the use of shuttle buses
WFC decided to move the disabled parking from Chater School to Laurance Haines School to shorten the journey made by the new shuttle bus service.
The service will run from two hours before kick-off on each of the matchdays.
The club asked to please ensure you are parked no later than one hour before kick-off to ensure WFC have enough time to bring you to the stadium.
The club will also be running an accessible shuttle service between the school and the stadium. This change appeared to be working effectively.
Recent home match. A Watford Supporter's car had a flat tyre and flat spare tyre. Who would be available to assist after the match? Dave replied that CSP Stewards would always check public areas at the end of each match so no one would be left stranded.
Staff changes. Dave is taking up a new role for the Club, EDI Lead. Simona will take over as Disability Access Officer.
Social Media: David asked for a volunteer to coordinate and edit the WFCE social media. Gary Armstrong has taken on the role. Thanks Gary
Travel on coaches. WFC Supporter reported comments made and questioned why supporters now had to take an allocated seat, rather than chose their own. Simona responded that following some incidents on board the coaches, an assigned seat allows for an investigation to take place later. This answer was accepted.
Any Other Business
There was no other business and no matters arising.
4. Chairman's report
I am going to start with Membership.
I have to be realistic with our membership numbers, in that WFC have done such a good job of meeting the needs of the disabled supporters over the years that we will have to strive harder to maintain that level of support of the fans because we are satisfying our disabled football community. There is no need for a pressure group.
However, I am pleased to say that our membership is stable – 195 – 2 less than last year but if you count in carers and assistants Enables 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.
The average age of fans is increasing which gives us a marketing opportunity particularly with ambulant supporters who are the fastest growing disabled group due to the countries aging population.
You know my annual mantra - If you see anyone with a slight limp get them to join!
According to my equivalents in other disabled supporter’s associations, large meeting attendances usually mean lots of gripes and lists of problems. Not so at Watford FC, who continued to support and offer consideration for our disabled members which is much valued.
I feel a responsibility for away end safety of visiting disabled fans at Vicarage Rd.
Given that we will be hosting three Championship clubs that have recorded the overall highest number of arrests – Luton, Millwall and Birmingham – WFC have, in our away end, netted off the front two rows to protect crowd surge which would endanger the away wheelchair supporters in the front row. I personally think that deteriorating away fan behaviour will deter disabled supporters from attending certain matches. Great shame.
Also I have always felt that my responsibilities are not just for Enables members while they are inside Vicarage Road but also for their safety and accessibility when they visit other stadiums.
So, as we did when in the Premier League, we will record our experiences in the Championship stadiums and Gary has agreed provide a report from his travels and identify improvements needed. Any other input would be much appreciated.
Safe Standing Licencing has regrettably given a green light to standing generally causing sight line problems for disabled supporters. Watford have not applied for a licence given the reasonableness of our fans. It is also expensive to install these railed systems.
LPF’s latest survey identified an astonishing 55% of disabled respondents reported poor views or actually no view of the match due to standing supporters in front and around them.
At the request of the Premier League I set up and chaired the Premier League Disability Advisory Group and have done for the last 6 years ago but have now retired as the PL are restructuring their organisation along more Equality Diversity and Inclusion lines which will absorb DAG.
The renewed emphasis on EDI I fully understand and support, but I fear that it will dilute the focus on physically disabled football supporters - both wheelchair and ambulant - who need structural changes to stadiums for accessibility, safety and comfort. The lack of such changes leads to exclusion not inclusion.
As you know I have been trying to update the Accessible Stadia Guidelines and the Premier League have continued my involvement as a consultant on the draft of Version 2. I am looking for two particular updates for clarification which will make a real difference to disabled supporters:- the definition of “elevated” and the measurement of “extra legroom” for ambulant fans.
Level Playing Field is creating this revision but the draft is already a year late but I’ll let you know the outcome.
5. Secretary's report - no report needed.
6. Treasurer's report, Annual Accounts, Year to September 2021
Unfortunately Iain Lamb our Treasurer, was unable to attend so David presented the accounts which were accepted as was the continuation of the current Independent Examiner (8.)
Monetary assets remained unchanged at £677.40.
7. Election of Officers
All Officers shall be elected/re-elected annually at the AGM. All the current incumbants were willing to stand and continue and were duly elected.
Chair David Butler
Vice Chair Philip Nightingale
Treasurer Iain Lamb
Social Secretary Gary Armstrong
Membership Officer Vacant
It was considered that the roles of Secretary and Membership Officer should be combined and David asked for candidates to contact him to take on this role.
Representatives from Watford FC and Watford FC Supporters Trust are nominated.
9. Watford FC Report - Dave covered the variuos items on the agenda reported above.
10. Any other business
It was noted that the behaviour of sections of the crowd, prticularly in the away area had deteriorated since the pandemic and continuity of stewarding in the disabled areas was more important than ever to protect these particularly vulnerable fans.
Exemption cards - (similar to the Hidden Disabilities cards) will be introduced shortly by Simona and are aimed at disabled supporters who need to bring into the stadium medical equipment e.g. special drinks, oxygen cylinders etc so that although they will still be searched, the stewards will be more aware and understanding.
GiveVision headsets - Stephen Anderson demonstrated this unique technology which he has been trialing, explaining the significant improvement for people with vision deficiencies, in enjoyment of the match while wearing the equipment.
It was agreed that Stephen would supply details of the company and Ian Pope would offer to trial the system at Vicarage Road.
Promotion of Enables - It was suggested that we reproduce the Enables leaflet. David to discuss with the club and also look to have an article for the match day programme.
Gina was offered a solution to not being able to see over tall fans standing in front of her - Ian Pope offered a riser be fitted to her seat.
David suggested that to encourage more attendance we offered assitance with accessible taxis. Agreed.
A meeting place - The Hornet’s Nest Bar is a matchday bar for home supporters located in the concourse opposite Turnstiles 1-11 at the corner of the Graham Taylor and Ann Swanson Family Stands. This is an accessible enclosed room and offers supporters a pre-match option during colder weather.
Plastic season ticket cards are available but ONLY for real geniune reasons which justify their issuance. For such cases please refer your requests to Simona.
Watford FC Women matches - Watford FC Women are now playing their home matches at Grosvenor Vale, home of Wealdstone FC. - David has added a new page to the Enables website. More details regarding accessibility at this new venue will be added shortly.
Our guest Derek Payne entertained the meeting with stories about his professional football career and his time at Watford and answered questions from the floor.
11. David thanked everyone for attending and closed the meeting at 8.30pm.