In early October I embarked on another of my regular global fan engagement professional development treks by heading back to England for a series of meetings, workshops, facilitating a meet-up event as well as plenty of sports matches at previously unvisited venues.

The trip proved to be another outstanding venture to capture new ideas, network with some new people and to continue learning about what colleagues are doing in England to improve the fan experience and fan journey for their own unique sets of fans. It was also a fantastic opportunity for me to highlight the great fan engagement initiatives and fan experience trends and insights that are taking place for fans in our own part of the world in Australia.

As a former school teacher who always instilled in his students the importance of being curious life long learners, I highly encourage everyone in the sports business no matter your level of experience to continually get out there and keep learning, networking and researching what is happening within this fan experience space to educate and share your experience and ideas from other fan experiences with the wider industry. It will only be a positive through education that we make the fan journey better for fans everywhere if we continually share and educate one another on best practice initiatives. 

Here’s a run down on the recent trip’s findings and key points which I thought were interesting, inspiring and creatively added to the fan experience from that venue or team. More information will also be included in the next edition of FANS HQ.

I attended these matches across the week in England to assess the fan experience and fan journey, meet with venue and club reps and see what the latest fan engagement developments were within the UK.

Tuesday 2/10/18: AFC Wimbledon at Kingsmeadow or Cherry Red Records Stadium

I headed out to Kingsmeadow otherwise known as Cherry Red Records Stadium in Norbiton, London for game one on my latest fan engagement journey to take in the AFC Wimbledon fan experience in their home game against Bradford City.

Following the tube to Wimbledon station and 131 bus directly to the ground I was greeted by a staffer offering match day badges and programs. It was then good to see that away fans at the ground could mix with AFCW fans in the bars for pre-game beers and that these included an array of local Wimbledon Brewery ales available on pump. They even brew their own lager for a merch item which was a unique merchandising line that could only be purchased post match.

The Dons Trust Kiosk was open for members and fans to ask board members questions about the club, sign up to the Dons Draw lottery or donate to their fundraising arm, AFCbay while during the match the ‘Panini Hit Squad’ roamed the ground selling piping hot match day panini’s for £4.

An authentic football and enjoyable match day experience out here from family-oriented club. 

Wednesday 3/10/18: Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium

I went along to Wembley Stadium for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club‘s UEFA Champions League game against Barcelona and was very impressed with a few parts of the fan experience here on what was another stunning night in London.

Highlights:

– Spurs mascot cards for kids (female mascot as well 👏) being given out by the Spurs fan engagement crew

– Diverse selection of quality F&B inside and out including real ale, fish and chips, cornish pasties, ale pies

– Possibly one of the most well presented merchandise pop up’s I’ve seen around the grounds with prices clearly marked and visible for fans to see

– Young Visitor Wristbands to assist parents and guardians in the event their children become separated from them

– Spurs fan chosen playlist

Extremely high security presence here (more so than when I did the Super Bowl last year) with a very thorough TSA worthy pat down. Security tag your bags as well here so that they can see its been previously checked.

Wembley illustrated for me tonight the sheer effort from venue and team crews that goes into putting on these major events with tonight’s match thrilling 85,000 fans in a 4-2 win for Barcelona that showcased a seamless fan experience.

Thanks also to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and Jonathan Waite for the hospitality.

All doing good things for fans, especially evident amongst the junior fans.

Friday 5/10/18: Brighton and Hove Albion FC at Amex Stadium

Fantastic fan experience here for an away day West Ham United FC fan’s trip to Brighton & Hove Albion FC‘s Amex Stadium.

Brighton is a stunning city to visit any day of the week but it turned it on with some hot sunny weather as I caught the one hour train ride from central London to visit for the Hammers match (which they promptly lost 1-0).

I was impressed with a few things here for fans in what was a pleasant day out watching Premier League football with highlights including:

– Focus on quality local F&B including Sussex bitters and the best stadium grub I have ever eaten. These chips with mushy peas and curry sauce were ample in flavour and size for £6

– Fan first pricing deals on F&B including early bird offers and meal deal combo’s

– Live music with local bands performing out the front of The Amex

– Friendly staff and rival fans all mixing with each other

– Free integrated transport with your ticket

– Memory Lane feature complete with passionate fan stories was an effective visual display and made good use of space

– Outstanding to see the team showcase ALL of their players including a wheelchair player on this billboard at The Amex.

A visit to the seaside in Brighton is always nice but you’d also do well to stop by The Amex for a Brighton match and soak up the atmosphere in and outside the ground on game day.

Saturday 6/10/18: Watford FC at Vicarage Road, Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road and Harlequins FC at Twickenham Stoop

A super Saturday running around a wet and cold London between Watford Football Club, QPR FC and Harlequin FC yielded a wealth of new ideas and learnings from colleagues and these fan experiences.

Here’s a bit of a recap:

Watford Football Club (Vicarage Road)

– A growing trend from venues and teams in recent times has been to create inclusive ‘sensory rooms’ for young fans on the autism spectrum to enjoy match days in a calm environment with their families.

– The Hornets have embraced this but also have soccer sight headsets for visually impaired fans as well as a seat side F&B ordering service for disabled fans too highlighting that football is for everyone

QPR FC (Loftus Road)

Thanks to QPR for having me back and for letting me pick a young Derby fan to sit on the away bench before the game got underway.

At every match QPR get a young away fan (amongst a host of other fan engagement for home fans) to sit on the bench, get photos and meet the captain/coach of the away team

– ‘Mascot Bingo’ is a great idea for young fans

– ‘My Match Report’ cards are also a simple and effective way to give young fans something extra to do at the game and a nice memento to take home or be promoted by the club on social after the game.

Harlequin FC (The Stoop)

– ‘The Quins Cup’ Re-useable souvenir cup effort to reduce plastic in the venue was a smart idea currently being used by a few music festivals as well

– Effective colourful way-finding signs

– Festival food truck atmosphere including a gin bar!

Good to meet a host of new people around the grounds and learn about the latest developments for fans across the day in London.

 

Sunday 7/10/18: Bristol City FC at Ashton Gate Stadium

Made an early morning trip out from London to Bristol via coach for the Bristol City Football Club vs Sheffield Wednesday Football Club match at the impressive Ashton Gate Stadium.

Thanks to Mike Bohndiek for an outstanding tour of the facilities here. Very much a space and city to watch with the massive entertainment precinct plans they have here for the community.

Some highlights from today included:

– ‘Appy hour beers’. Members receive notifications via the app for 241 drink offers

AR app feature lets the venue features come alive

– Local F&B options with the best pastie I’ve had since Glastonbury Festival 2007 (it was that good!) and local brewers – Concourse artworks livening up the space

– Live local bands

– Fan Zone with a big focus on kids entertainment

– Family Stand with fun creative and simple fan engagement like ‘guess the score/attendance’ boards.

Monday 8/10/18: Sports Business Meet Up Night in Kings Cross

On Monday night without a game on across the country I planned a meet up event night in central London for sports business executives keen to hear about Australian fan engagement initiatives, insights and trends.

It was a fantastic sports business meet up event at a pub at Kings Cross station that was sell out featuring close to 50 sports business executives across UK clubs, venues, agencies, governing bodies and sports marketing students from across 11 different countries.

Thank you again to everyone who came along on the night to talk fan engagement and network with other colleagues and have a chat with me about the latest developments into the Australian sports fan experience.

It was really nice to get some feedback such as this too:

“This was just outstanding. I have learned so much tonight”.

“I have wanted a networking event like this for so long in London. Thanks for putting it on”.

“I’m so happy to have learned about all the amazing things Australian teams and venues are doing for fans on match day. I need to visit!”.

Tuesday 9/10/18: Danish Superliga Fan Engagement Workshop

On Tuesday I was invited along by Fan Experience Co to present to the Danish Superliga and club CEO’s about the latest trends and insights into fan engagement as well as taking them through the fan experience from an Australian perspective which touched on F&B, inclusion and accessibility, seating, fan engagement activations, the Aussie fan journey and much more in what was an entertaining presentation. 

I’ve previously conducted these fan engagement audit, ideation and strategy workshops for clients including the NRL, Sydney Cricket Ground Trust, AFL and FFA and can do these virtually as well for global clients so please reach out if my assistance, knowledge and experience can be useful to your organisation. I don’t just do sport too having an extensive career and knowledge across small business, the music industry and craft beer world which I have also assisted.

Tuesday 9/10/18: England Lioness at Craven Cottage

The final game on this trip was a pleasant visit back to Fulham FC’s Craven Cottage for the international women’s friendly match between the England Lioness and Australian Matilda’s on a cool night in London.

It was my fifth visit here to the Cottage after previously attending a host of Fulham games over the years and even though the venue is extremely old and lacks ample facilities especially for female fans as was evidenced by the longest lines for the women’s toilets that I’ve ever seen on a match day, it is still one of the best game days you can have in London with it being right on The Thames.

The focus on quality F&B like their famous pies and cheeseburgers is always a good reason to get back here however these are on the higher price point for London sport venues. 

Starting the fan journey with a few pints at the nearby local Eight Bells pub we met with England and Aussie fans for a few laughs and jibes before making the short 15 minute walk to the ground along The Thames as the sun was setting over London.

The match day program featured a fantastic fan guide for young England supporters while the mascots entertained young fans throughout the pre-game. It was good to see all stands ended up being open as well while thousands of fans were given free England flags to wave about which greatly added to the atmosphere.

At the end of the night on the walk back to Putney Bridge tube I captured some footage of the passion in these young English fans that highlighted how exciting it is right now and for this generation of young female fans especially that finally women’s sport is gaining so much momentum.  

Another fun yet exhausting trek full of ideas, networking and new learnings. More to follow in the next FANS HQ. 

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