Madejski Stadium, Behind East Stand

FIRST STRUCTURED DIALOGUE MEETING

We have just had the first of our ‘higher level’ Structured Dialogue meetings with the Club and here is our report back to members and supporters. These meetings will happen on an approximately six monthly basis. If you would like STAR to raise any major issues in these meetings please get in touch with STAR.

Please see notes from the meeting:

Comments (4)

Has the club given any consideration to making an area of the ground safe standing?

Can the evening KO be brought forward to 7:45pm?

Swindon have over the past few seasons introduced a card at the latter part of the season. Where supporters are able to watch 6 games for the price of 4. The games to be attended can be selected as and when. Have the club considered anything similar?

Q. Has the club given any consideration to making an area of the ground safe standing?

Yes, the club are consistently looking at ways of improving the atmosphere as seen by the backing of Club 1871. When the Madstad was designed in the mid-1990s the idea of ‘safe standing’ was completely off the table so there was no provision for easily adapting parts of the stadium to accommodate this. In theory we believe it can be done but it requires a) changes what safety authorities will allow b) working out which area of the stadium can best be adapted c) financing that and considering the impact it will have on adjacent seated areas.

A. ‘Safe standing’ from STAR’s perspective is nothing like pre 1990s terracing and may offer little difference to the current practice of ‘standing in seated areas’ which seems to be increasingly unchallenged.

Q. Can the evening KO be brought forward to 7:45pm?

A. This has been asked several times before. The club view is that 8pm helps more people than it hinders in terms of getting to the game on time. Reading / M4 apparently is subject to two waves of heavy traffic in the evening and the 7.45pm start would catch more people in the second. We know we have lost supporters from the Isle of Wight because of later midweek KOs.

Q. Swindon have over the past few seasons introduced a card at the latter part of the season. Where supporters are able to watch 6 games for the price of 4. The games to be attended can be selected as and when. Have the club considered anything similar?

A. We’ll ask the club about this specific mechanic. The club has tried many types of offer from half season tickets, bring a mate, packages of games to straight price promotions (eg Burton £5). There’s also a need to preserve the value of the season ticket which is very much the bedrock of turnstile income.

Reading have played 18 home league games and 19 away games this season. 11 of those away games had higher attendances than the highest home league attendance, and one away game had a lower attendance than their lowest league attendance. I think this is related to Reading’s style of play. I have not been to evening games (apart from the Sheffield United game) this season, because I do not feel safe walking (I live a mile away) with the much worse, new street lights. We used to have football buses, but both the Woodley and Shinfield Park routes were re-routed away from Whitley Wood.
London Irish are also having worse home attendances than in the past.
The reduced space for away fans in the South stand has also had a bad effect on attendances for games against well-supported away teams.
Safe standing discriminates against short people.
Despite the announcements on the screen and in the programme, the stewards take no action against either continued standing or offensive language. They are not doing their job, and should be disciplined.

Thanks for your comments. Here are some thoughts from STAR.

Attendances: like you, we are concerned about home attendances. They are drifting downwards and it is a reflection of performances on the pitch, the last three seasons in particular. We’re also particularly concerned with midweek attendances. You’re just one of many choosing not to attend in midweek. The proportion of matches played in midweek has risen as a consequence of TV scheduling and international breaks to the point where it’s about one third of matches. At the same access to TV coverage through iFollow and Sky red button has provided a convenient alternative.

We think RFC has done a good job on ticket prices and bus transport – but we will take up your Whitley Wood issue with the club. We worry how sustainable the bus service will be if attendances drop further. We hope that the EFL are seriously reviewing the mass TV coverage of midweek matches and if it has led to a decline in live attendances then they should consider curtailing it.

We’re supportive of the original intentions behind Club 1871. We believe the benefits in atmosphere and support outweigh the loss of revenue from away clubs with big followings. Given our poor home form in recent seasons we really don’t want to give any advantage to away clubs if we can help it.

Standing in seated areas does discriminate against short people. However we see this as a specific away fan problem and clubs are taking measures to separate away fans who prefer to sit from those who prefer to stand. At the Madejski Stadium, apart from Y26 and the South Stand, there is no problem with people standing in seated areas. The Safety Officer insists gangways are clear and this is now industry standard approach. The authorities (and therefore stewards) now have a degree of tolerance on this issue and the Government is actively researching ‘safe standing’ and the effect of a more relaxed policy on ‘standing in seated areas’. We support this. If ‘safe standing’ comes in it will only be for some areas of the stadium. The great majority will continue to sit.

Bad language: there are mechanisms to report this even when the game is going on – and stewards will observe and act if necessary. At the Cardiff home cup-tie there was perhaps an over-zealous response to bad / hateful language which caused some controversy. The authorities are clearly taking a harder line as evidenced by loudspeaker announcement at three of Reading’s games since the New Year. There is of course the delicate issue of what is bad / hateful language today which, it has to be said, is something of a moveable ‘feast’. However it’s certain there is more done to combat this than ever before.

London Irish have also performed poorly in recent seasons and their focus is probably now on a London-based revival when they move to Brentford next season. We understand there is no plan to have another rugby tenant at the MadStad.

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