TIY Documents continued...
2. Improving attendances.
Improving attendances at the club is, of course, essential for any progress. We agree with the statement by the club at our meeting in November that a successful team playing attractive football is the first and most important priority. However, that has been achieved this season and yet attendances in general have been disappointing. Partly this is no doubt due to the economic climate and partly to the increased competition from football on television and the pricing at local Premier League clubs which, in some cases can be on a level with the prices at Haig Avenue. But also, rightly or wrongly, there is a perception of a lack of ambition at the club and that we are content with the level we are playing at. That perception needs to be addressed by the club but there are other ways in which we believe attendances can be improved.
‘Match day experience’.
If we are winning 5 v 0 against our nearest league rivals most people will be very pleased with the experience. But of course we cannot always guarantee that! It was also noticeable that the attendance for the following home match fell by over a thousand
What other things make the visit enjoyable? Some have been mentioned previously including the Club shop and the Grandstand Bar. Other things would include half time entertainment, refreshments, toilets, cover, condition of stand and terracing, public address system etc; Some of these obviously require significant investment that won’t be available at present but others just require a will.
The half time entertainment by the Junior teams now hopefully will return to the more regular event it was in previous seasons and following TIY’s discussions with Southport Juniors we hope there will also be opportunities for local schools to be involved in the programme. There is no doubt that the playing of these matches and the increased attendance by those involved improves the atmosphere at matches and if there is an involvement of new teams to play Southport Juniors these can attract first time attendees at matches, a proportion (even if only small) of who will hopefully return
The number of season tickets actually sold each season remains something of a mystery although we were informed that 30 under 16s were sold this season.
Word is that sales were significantly down this year. What efforts are made to encourage the sale of tickets besides the discounts? At the last match of the season should leaflets be handed out with details of tickets? Would it be possible for them to be on sale then (Obviously depending on which league we might be in)? Do we have details of the current season ticket holders so reminders can be sent out to them (a relatively easy job by email)? In particular the sale of the reduced price tickets to under 16s could be publicised better to the 11 year olds who have been getting in free. Also details could be sent to local youth clubs and schools. If the free attendance was conditional on filling in a ‘membership form’ (perhaps of ‘Trust In Yellow’?) and obtaining a card this would be a way of obtaining details which would enable the club not only to publicise the cheap season ticket offers but also future matches etc;
At our last meeting the Trust made the point that we feel the cost of entry at Haig Avenue for the 11-16 group in particular is far too high. With the club we are willing to research the attendance at present by this age group and explore ways of improving publicity at schools, youth clubs, etc. What has happened to the scheme that was run last season to give out free tickets? How was this sponsored? Can it be repeated?
There is no doubt that at a time when many families have less spare money and when local Premier League clubs can offer reduced price admission that the cost of taking a family to Haig Avenue is prohibitive to some people.
Just how much attendances are down because of lack of publicity is debateable. On the other hand there is no doubt that the more publicity and the better advertised the matches the more likely that there will be an increase in attendance. The local newspapers give the club good coverage, there are mentions on local radio and there are advertising boards at certain places in the town. Perhaps we need to look at more direct advertising to organisations and individuals. It is even more important to build up a data base of supporters who can then be contacted directly and cheaply by email. Then there is the use that can be made of Social networking like ‘Facebook’. This is done on an unofficial basis already; perhaps a more official, managed approach could be taken using volunteers.
The club might think it unfair, but as we mentioned previously, there is a perception amongst many in the town that Southport is a small club with limited ambition happy to play its football in the Conference North. This in itself has a negative effect on attendances. We emphasise again that we are not in favour of setting unrealistic targets for the club and of spending large sums of other people’s money trying to achieve them. However, we would like to see the club put forward a detailed plan for how it would like the club to progress in the next 3-5 years. Not just that we would like to be in the Conference or Football League but how we would achieve that. We believe that such a statement in itself would help create a climate in which attendances could improve.
We all would like improved facilities in terms of floodlighting, covered accommodation, refreshment, improved toilets, improved and other facilities. A statement as to how we might plan to achieve these and an explanation of the constraints would again create a more positive atmosphere. Again the importance of improving communications with supporters cannot be overestimated.
a) Youth schemes.
As mentioned at November’s meeting with the Club, the Trust believes the Youth schemes have been a great success story for the club and congratulate all involved. We only hope that Haydn’s discussions enable the SSES scheme to continue into the future. If not then we would hope the PASE scheme can be integrated further into the club and alternative schemes being run at other clubs (e.g. Telford, Hyde), might be investigated.
b) Football in the Community
Football in the Community programmes are an excellent way of building up a club’s role within a community and have been successful at many clubs. Obviously the majority of these are larger Premier League or Football League clubs even if some of those like Morecambe we would have considered ourselves on a par with in the past. However, successful programmes are also run by non-league clubs like Altrincham, Salisbury and Bromley which confirms that such a scheme should be possible in a town like Southport. Attached is a detailed programme drawn up to show how a scheme might be run at Southport. The costings included are for illustration but we believe form the basis for serious consideration. Included is also the job description provided for the post at Morecambe.
c) Southport Juniors FC and local schools organisations.
Whilst we believe that a Football in the Community programme is an achievable goal, in the meantime we have started discussions with officers of Southport Juniors as to how we can be involved in mutually beneficial programmes. To this end we have also begun discussions with the Co-operative movement to see what funding might be available. We would hope success in this could also be used to benefit local schools.
Are the SSES and PASE programmes being maximised as a potential source of coaching in the primary schools?
d) Publicity for Southport /Relations with the Council.
Although there is a general perception in Southport that Sefton Council has only limited interest in the town we feel that in fact there is a great deal of scope to work with the Council. For example, one of our members has put forward some innovative ideas as to how the club and Council might put forward package schemes for visiting supporters to stay in the town. We are also sure that the visit of Southport to towns outside the area does give Sefton Tourism a chance for advertising in cooperation with the club.
In general we believe that increased cooperation with the Council, whether in the examples above or in offering use of facilities at Haig Avenue to the Council, etc; can only be for the long term benefit of the club. There are Councillors who are supporters of Southport who could no doubt give further advice.
4 . Structure and management of the club.
The first essential for the long term success and development of the club and to ensure its long term stability is by building a structure in which the club board operates in a way that is open to and can be understood by supporters. If the board of directors met regularly and published minutes to keep the supporters in the picture as to the reasons for decision making there would be far greater understanding of the club’s decisions and thus support for the board. We realise that there will be issues that are confidential and cannot be publicised but greater openness as to the decision making process and clarity of the role of directors would be a first step to creating a more productive relationship with supporters. In a situation of such openness, regular meetings and involvement of directors in decision making, then the Trust would be happy to take a place on the board and help with its work.
The involvement of the Trust and others on the board would also be another way of ensuring a smooth transition in the running of the club in such an event as the present Chairman and Vice-Chairman relinquishing their positions. We feel that at such a point the skills, understanding and experiences of the running of a club would be invaluable in ensuring the club has a smooth transition to other ownership
The Trust appreciates the stability that has been brought to the club over many years by the investment of both time and money of the Chairman and Vice Chairman and we note their positive commitment at the November meeting that they have no plans to leave the club in the immediate future.
There are many members of the Trust, however, who are familiar with the use of succession planning in the context of their job or profession to address questions of the ‘what if you were to leave’ type. This is a common practice in organisations and we believe is a fair question to ask of the club in a completely non critical way.
Cooperation between the Trust and Club.
We hope that over coming months and years the Trust can further build on its relations with the club and that good communications between the two are essential to that. We believe, for example, that misunderstandings over the Reserve team and Heart Monitors were perhaps due to us not talking directly to the board. This is not meant as a criticism of individuals as, in a similar position, individuals in the Trust could give a false impression that they were talking for the whole Trust rather than themselves as individuals. We hope, therefore, to avoid this by having regular prearranged meetings with the club board during the course of the year.
It became apparent from the initial meeting in November how much the club is dependent on voluntary helpers. This makes it all the more appropriate and essential that we work together sharing information, ideas and solutions to achieve common goals. To get the maximum support and involvement from supporters they need to feel appreciated and their opinions listened to and valued.