Supporters' questions answered: Q and A with Sean Dobson

Following on from recent requests from the club’s fans, Brisbane Roar Managing Director Sean Dobson answers questions compiled by members of the Den supporter group.

Following on from recent requests from the club-s fans, Brisbane Roar Managing Director Sean Dobson answers questions compiled by members of the Den supporter group.

Does the club plan on having another fan forum, similar to the one held two years ago?

Yes, we are planning on holding one once this season is over. Details of this will be published in due time. It-s also worth noting that we have an open meeting each week with leaders of the Den and RCC for them to raise any concerns about things from security to players and what-s happening off field. While it-s not a large public forum, it-s a point of contact that we have.

Is any consideration being put into a clubhouse similar to those run by the Brisbane Broncos and Brisbane Lions?

Yes, but the priority is for a facility that caters for training and development. Our biggest challenge is to put the Football Club into Brisbane Roar FC. This is no small task and one we-re developing with football and player development as the top two priorities.

A clubhouse would fit into the expansion plans for the site we are currently looking at.

What is the club-s plan to achieve their target of ten thousand members for next season and how do you expect to fill the bottom tier of Suncorp Stadium consistently?

As we have made a point of several times, we are on sale with our memberships much earlier than in previous years and well before any other Hyundai A-League club.

The reason for this is because we want to engage with the local clubs right through their season which has just kicked off. There are 80,000 registered players in South East Queensland which is a large group to engage with. These registered players know our game, know our rules and don-t need to be educated or ‘converted- to our game.

Our ONE GOAL seating area has been specifically designed for these players and people who just love football. We can-t keep up with the advertising spend that clubs like the Broncos and Reds have, but we do have an advantage on them with our grassroots player numbers.

Filling the bottom tier will come with time. The past three seasons have seen consistent incremental growth in our average crowds. Again, working closer with our local clubs and strengthening these connections will continue to see growth in the stands. To attract the ‘non-football- people the new TV rights, the AFC Asian Cup Australia in 2015 and FIFA World Cup in 2014, will go a long way in continuing to grow the interest of football through Australia.

Is the club planning to use proper dugouts at Suncorp Stadium? If not, why not?

We can-t have proper dugouts (excavated into the ground)- we-ve seen the covered benches used for FIFA and AFC accredited internationals and I think it would be a positive addition to the coach and player comfort levels.

Before making any changes we would need to give serious consideration to the enjoyment of our members and the long-term supporters that have been in the same seats since our first match against the Knights.

Realistically, can we expect our own facilities, both training and stadium, any time in the next 10 years? There was much talk of this when the Bakries came in, yet there hasn't been much of it since.

Training most definitely.

A stadium development within Australia is a significant local, state and federal government issue with the structure of Stadiums Queensland and the ongoing need by the government to see a positive return on their assets impacting any development plans.

Our first priority at the close of last year was and still is our training facility. The goal of this facility is to provide a football oriented space not just for BRFC but a home for local football and its administration body.

What are the Bakries' 10 year plans for this club, what can we expect to see in regards to vision to make Brisbane the "Top Club In Asia" as has been mentioned by club officials?

I could spend a week on this question. Some of the points are addressed in other questions but for this I-d like to raise it as a discussion at our next fan forum and talk about where we take the club together, with input from all stakeholders.

The Bakries recognize that the club is made up of not just employees, coaches, players and volunteers but the fans, supporters and members that stand in the rain singing our teams home week in week out. Our vision and 10 year plan for the club will in part be shaped from the feedback and discussion that arises from planned ongoing fan forums the club will facilitate.

On home match days, is there any chance that we can tarp out upper tiers that aren't in use and turn the lights in the stands off/dim the lights in the stands whilst the game is being played?

Lights no, we need full lux for broadcast.

We-re actually exploring the opportunities within the stadium to keep the noise and bring the atmosphere closer. Personally (can-t stress that enough - my personal interest) I believe a custom design from something like this would be interesting on the north/south to redirect noise down and in but we are not the sole stakeholder in match day setups and there would be a risk component to any inflatable structure that would be out of our hands.

The tarp concept is good from a reduction in empty space but if we are going to put resources into something it would be good to consider all options in terms of making the entire environment more intimate for our lads and intimidating for the opposition.

Do the Roar have the power to lower ticket prices? Or is this an FFA governed area? Not sure if they do or not, but why not give free tickets away to local clubs to bring them along and get them hooked on football? There are so many empty seats each week, Brisbane Roar should fill them with young footballers from the area to support their local team.

Prices for Brisbane Roar regular season home games are set by the club. The FFA is responsible for games in the finals series.

To establish our prices, we do research with independent companies about the public-s perception of prices and comparisons with other codes in our market to establish our prices. Following that, the prices we set are largely dictated by the costs of using Suncorp Stadium. While it-s an expensive stadium, Suncorp is a world class venue and using a cheaper stadium would reduce the quality of match day we provide to our fans and would also result in a drop of the perceived quality of our game, hurting the chances of attracting new fans.

The idea of giving away tickets to fill the stadium is not new and something that the club has done extensively in the past. We found that many people became used to getting free tickets and always had a way of getting their hands on them and were therefore not purchasing. Every ticket scanned at the gate costs the club money (free, corporate, member, purchased etc). While a ticket might be given away for free, the fees back to Suncorp Stadium and Ticketek remain.

At its simplest, every person that attends the match triggers a hard costs the club. This includes children, members, stadium members, concession and complementary tickets. Another interesting element from the historical complimentary ticket campaigns was that the percentage actually used on game day was below 40%. This method is a more of a blunt stick promotion and historically has not worked.

As a way of reducing our free tickets but still giving back to the local clubs we introduced the ONE GOAL program. The idea is that clubs sign up, have their members purchase tickets and then we reward them with items they need/want. Eg, Balls, training equipment etc.

Do the Bakrie Group understand the history of football in this city and is it prepared to address the issues which have resulted in many older football supporters turning their backs on the Brisbane team?

The history of football in Queensland is both rich and diverse. If this is in reference to issues surrounding the club-s origins and the links to Queensland Lions, we are mindful of these.

Regardless of our origins, the Lions have had no part to play in the club for four seasons, we believe we are developing our own distinct identity.

We are always looking for ways to be inclusive of the entirety of the Queensland football community and are open to suggestions anyone may want to pass on.

If this refers to the colour orange, this colour is now synonymous with Brisbane Roar in the Hyundai A-League. The orange we wear is both striking and distinctive. We are working on some initiatives around second and third kits which we believe will help break down some of these barriers.

What are our five key priorities for the next five years, and what steps are you taking now to achieve these priorities?

The five key priorities, in no particular order, are to establish a training and admin base, develop an academy system, drive the club towards sustainability off the field, open and sustain communication channels with all stakeholders and integrate women-s football into the operation of this club.

There are a great many steps required to achieve each of those targets, however we are in various stages of advancement to ensure each happens.

Why did our AFC Champions League qualifier home match get moved to Thailand? What processes will be put in place to ensure that something similar to this doesn-t happen again in the future?

When the AFC set the draw for the Champions League they dictated that we had to play on February 9 at Suncorp Stadium. Any changes to the details after this point have to be signed off by the AFC, the hosting club (us), the opposition (Buriram United), their association (Thai FA) the host association (FFA).

Suncorp Stadium was booked for the NRL All Stars game and was therefore unavailable for our game. We explored the option of moving to another venue like Skilled Park or QSAC, however AFC regulations dictate that hosting teams must play at their regular domestic league venue. This left us with no option but to play in Thailand. To change the date to one that Suncorp was available on meant that all parties needed to sign off on the changes - which the opposition saw as an opportunity to grab hosting rights. Any club would do the same in their situation.

It is also worth noting that the FFA was not willing or able to change our Sunday match against Sydney FC. This lack of support from both our governing and domestic competition regulator further compounded a frustrating situation.

Because of this, we took the opportunity to change the date to one that it was better suited for us to be competitive and work with our Hyundai A-League schedule given the zero support out of FFA house. The AFC regulations about home stadiums are publically available here . The document is called "AFC Champions League 2013 Regulations", Page 24, Section 13. Item C

What was the thinking behind the timing of Mike Mulvey-s appointment to full time coach coming off the back of a disappointing display and result in the ACL playoff? Also do you consider that the hastily arranged press conference in the arrivals at Brisbane Airport was poorly conceived and handled?

After a full review of his time at the club, the board of directors was satisfied Mike was the right man to take the club forward on the pitch. The decision was based on everything we had seen, both on and off the park, across the time Mike had been in charge. We are very comfortable in this decision.

The choice to make the announcement at that point was about providing stability for the players and the coaching staff, both immediately and for the long term.

Domestically we still had, and still do have, plenty to play for. There had been much media speculation and many articles published which had the potential to cause a destabilising effect on the playing group.

Given the decision had been made to offer Mike a contract we saw no point in waiting to make the announcement and allowing further speculation to derail the task at hand, defending our Championship.

We believe the results of this decision have been demonstrated by the weekly progress being displayed by the team on the pitch.

In hindsight, the media opportunity may have been better served at another venue and this is something I have addressed with our Media Manager. However, the turnout and exposure for the announcement reached the target audience.

Will the club be reassessing its use of foreign player positions after their failed experiments with Do Dong-Hyun and Yuji Takahashi? Has the club identified a set of qualities it looks for when choosing a foreign player? What are those qualities?

In a nutshell, yes. Every foreign player should offer something that we don-t have locally.

A big push through the next 12-24 and 48 months will be developing our pathways and player systems to help build the style of player Brisbane Roar desires. We place a huge onus on tactical and technical ability when scouting young players at a stage where most of their development has been about the physical, ie. running faster, jumping higher and being stronger than the rest.

For now, foreign players should ideally bring something to the squad that we don-t have and desire. This will predominately be based on football experience and on the park ability but the effect of someone who has played at a top level overseas and understands the commitment, dedication and sacrifice that go hand in hand with achieving success can not be underestimated.

Why has the security at Suncorp been instructed to remove banners from the fans?

Every game we put together a register of all banners that can be expected on that day and circulate to all parties. Security check everything against this register and remove anything that isn-t on it - regardless of content. The register was created in conjunction with leaders of both The Den and RCC after a couple of incidents in the last two seasons. It was created to remove any ‘grey- areas and give everyone time to evaluate any borderline messages to see if they were against the spectator code of behaviour - instead of in the heat of running a game day.

At the start of the season, both The Den and RCC approached us with concerns that security may take a banner. The solution was to give them coverage by having a Hirer (BRFC) approved register that removes any doubt about a banner being shown or not. We don-t vet content for positive messages only, if it-s not offensive or break the code of conduct we fully support our fans and members sharing their voice and opinion.

If you have a banner that you would like added to the register, please send a photo or sketch through to admin@brisbaneroar.com.au and we will add it. The list of conditions it has to meet can be found on the here.

Has the club talked to, or plan to talk to, other start up clubs that have successfully engaged the local community and thrived for a long period of time (I.e. Seattle Sounders)?

The short answer to this is, yes.

The long answer is we-re always looking at how other club and even codes go about engaging with fans and seeing how we can adapt this to work with the resources we have at our disposal.

During the off-season staff will be taking a close look at ways we can improve the fan experience and engaging in discussions with anyone who may be able to assist with this.

Our Media Manager has a keen interest in the Major League Soccer in particular and has brought several initiatives to our attention for future development.

We also welcome fan submissions on anything they have seen which they believe may work here. Are there any plans to re-brand or change colours in the strip, Cardiff-style?

Honestly, no. Our history is short as a league and it is important that we build the culture, style and philosophy of the club into association with our colours to reflect who we are to those that wear our orange with pride. To change it would, in my opinion, be disrespectful to everyone who has supported Brisbane Roar in achieving what it has to date.

We-d explore the option of updating the logo to modernise it slightly but certainly no major changes, certainly not to the extent of change that Cardiff went through. The fan reaction there was strong and demonstrates how passionate people are about the colours and emblems of a club. Any changes we make would be done with member and fan consultation and have a clear purpose and reason to making the changes.

Is it possible to enforce aisles 331 and 333 to be standing room only? These are clearly ticketed as The Den which is an active support area.

The standing/sitting thing ultimately comes down to an individual-s choice; we can-t force them to do either. If someone wants to sit in the middle of 332, they can. The Den is a designated area where people can stand without having to worry about being told to sit down. If you-re told to sit down by someone you are fine to point out the signs at the top of the bays which say “Stand, Sing, Support” and keep standing - please do so respectfully though.

We would love to see all three bays of the Den up on their feet every game. We are constantly in contact with stadium management about how to make things better in different areas. The problem with the Den area is that one bay is too small, and three bays are too big. Until we have 100% occupancy for every game we will have both standers and sitters in there.

One of the changes that we are looking to implement next season is creating more ‘zones- within the Den area that are known as 100% standing areas, like 332. This would involve sectioning 331 and 333 into standing and standing/siting areas. The finer details of how this would work are still being put together and we will share soon. We-ve been working with several members on this but we-d also be interested to hear any other suggestions that members might have about how to get everyone up.

What is the club doing to ensure the Suncorp Stadium surface is actually fit for a football game?

This is a key concern of ours at the moment. We are reviewing the situation and working with the stadium to ensure the pitch is up to the quality we expect. As an example on what we are aiming to achieve: the goal for us would be to have a regeneration period leading into October, a new pitch put in place after a concert and a balanced load through to the end of April each year.