Month: October 2018

Melbourne Victory (Melbourne Derby) Fan Experience, Marvel Stadium, Melbourne, Australia, 2018

On a chilly and wet Saturday afternoon in Melbourne I headed out to the newly rebranded Marvel Stadium (formerly Etihad Stadium) in the docklands precinct of Melbourne’s CBD for the A-League’s first game back in town for the Melbourne Derby between Victory and City.

The match attracted a near sell out crowd of 40,500 who were entertained in another classic Melbourne derby clash between the two teams that ended in a controversial but entertaining 2-1 win to City.

Prior to the match starting I took a few walks around the inside and outside of the ground to see what had been updated with the venue and what Melbourne Victory were doing for fans in terms of fan engagement. It was good to see and be able to use the new FanCam photo filters in the refreshed stadium app as well. 

The bright new Marvel Stadium signs lit up the precinct as football fans made their way into the area with lines quite busy with fans heeding advice to get to the ground early to both avoid long waits for security checks and to take in the pre-game match day atmosphere and entertainment.

The Victory Village fan zone included:
– Augmented reality fun for young fans
– Free player stickers and sticker album for fans to collect. A great idea for collectors and to get fans into the fan zone and game earlier on game days and continue coming back.
– Face painting
– Live DJ spinning tunes outside along with the Victory Playlist #MVTunes fan generated playlist highlighting the teams approach to listening to fans
– Inflatable pitch and a football cage for kids to play on and in before the game
– #MVFC and other photo opportunities for fans to get a nice souvenir of the game.

Before the game started there was a brilliant rendition of Ben E. King’s ‘Stand By Me’ which is played ahead of kick off at every Victory home game. This was a fantastic way to get fans pumped and created a spectacular atmosphere before the whistle blew with fans standing up and singing in full voice with flags and scarves up and on show. I also ducked into the Victory social space to catch some of the game after half time and this was a nice setting to get a beer quicker and sit in some comfy chairs while watching the game on a big screen however it didn’t compare to the live action and I soon made my way back to my seat.

It was good to see the new Marvel Stadium uniforms on the staff which beamed ‘Here To Help’ while the Garden Gate bar which is located by gate 5 and leads directly into the venue was also a great place to have a pre-game Melbourne craft beer in an ice cold glass in a nice social space with fellow football fans. A quality game day from the venue and Victory.

A-League 2018/19 Fan Engagement Initiatives

The goal posts are up, the members are pumped and the excitement is building for football fans in Australia with the 2018/9 A-League season getting underway tonight in Adelaide.

Therefore with the season starting in less than 12 hours I thought I’d put a quick run down together this morning to shine a light on what the A-League teams across the country are looking to do this season to engage their fans. 

This is by no means the definitive list of ideas, activations and initiatives but it does highlight some of the little touches that teams and the league have worked on to improve over the off-season for fans. I believe that they’re listening to fans and trying hard to improve the football fan experience across both the A-League and W-League and this small snapshot provides a glimpse into what fans can expect this year with there no doubt also being bigger things to come.

Have you seen something else from your team? Let me know and I’ll include it.

Let’s get started…

Adelaide United

Adelaide have created a new fan village and are also offering fans cheap $4 parking options for members who show their card at the Entertainment Centre which is sure to address a common pain point for families and fans around starting and ending the fan journey seamlessly.

AUFC have revamped the match day experience for supporters coming to Coopers Stadium. The area for fans will be surrounded by white picket fencing, accompanied by music and lit up with festoon lighting to enhance the festival of football atmosphere. Three food trucks will be within the vicinity of the village along with a PIMM’s bar marquee and Coopers Bar, accompanied with barrels and umbrellas scattered around the precinct for fans to congregate while talking about the upcoming game. Sounds like a nice set up for fans to mingle pre-game.

For fans young and old there are free wallpapers on their site too and a highlight thats impressed many families has been their personalised members packs.


Brisbane Roar

Brisbane Roar are doing a lot of good things right at the moment and their junior pathways program, Roar Rascals is no exception. The program see’s Brisbane Roar FC offer all QLD FFA registered junior footballers aged 11 years or younger the opportunity to experience a Hyundai A-League game from some of the best seats in the house.

As a Roar Rascals Member in 2018 these fans receive:

  • A family pass (2A+2J) to the Hyundai A-League Round 2 clash against Wellington Phoenix at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday, 28 October.
  • Exclusive junior offers and discounts across the club

The Roar are taking a whole of club photo next weekend and have also offered ticketing incentives like offering free upgrades from Orange to Silver seats for Sunday’s clash against the Mariners.

Central Coast Mariners

Central Coast Mariners have so far held a Family Day, set up an away day venue for fans and are also offering inspiring people from the community to be chosen as the game day coin tosser. The CCM along with sponsor Newcastle Permanent Building Society have also established a schools program focused on getting more kids in the area active.

Melbourne City

Melbourne City are offering all members the chance to try out their new craft beer collaboration with official craft beer sponsor of the team, Stomping Ground Brewery with a special launch where all members will receive one free tinnie of the new ‘City Pale Ale‘.

One membership option from City also gives fans a free can of this beer before some games as well this season.

City held a massive family day for fans, are offering fans free family passes through McDonalds meals, included coffee cups in their members packs (how iconically Melbourne!) and are bringing back their impressive City Square fan zone for game days that will feature live music, food trucks, giveaways, football clinics, competitions, and interviews with players and special guests.

The team has also partnered with Sports Hosts which connects international visitors with passionate local hosts to take these people to experience a City match day. Well done to Darren and the team at Sports Hosts on establishing another partnership.

Melbourne Victory

Melbourne Victory have a strong social game for fans, created this doco on their finals run last season, utilised their fan base for a new campaign for #ThisGirlCanVIC, have put the call out to fans to contribute for the game day playlist and through one sponsor are offering fans $10 off their electricity bill for every game they go to.

On game days Victory are running the ‘Fantastic Four’ competition which is their way of recognising and rewarding member attendance throughout the season. The competition will run every three months with participation based on attendance throughout the season.

Victory Village will also be up and running on game days with plenty of entertainment for the whole family pre-match and as an example of whats to come this season will feature the following at tomorrow’s Melbourne Derby:

  • Championship trophy
  • DJ
  • TAC: At the TAC Locker Room fans can get a different player sticker each game with tomorrow featuring Georg Niedermeier.
  • Face Painting
  • Inflatable pitch

Along with all the other teams and the FFA, Victory also have these fantastic teacher resources for schools and teachers to utilise. As a former school teacher I’m a huge fan of these resources. If any of my colleagues at A-League club land can shoot me over some of these worksheets I’d love to have a look and promote to my teacher friends across Australia.

Newcastle Jets

Newcastle are listening to their fans by running a fan forum looking at active support and what they can do to get even more fans out to McDonald Jones Stadium on A-League game days. Go along if you’re in Newcastle.

The team made this brilliant brand campaign video too.

The Jets have also enlisted the support of a fan to provide match day stats along with running a fan day and some quality kids clinics in the lead up to the season.

The Jets:CONNECT program is also worth a look to see how the Jets engage the local community through football and especially young fans through primary school visits and coaching clinics.

Perth Glory

The Glory are engaging with participants of all ages and abilities while assisting in the progression of football in Australia through the ‘2&5 – Primary School Programs where their staff run many quality programs throughout the school term for children at metropolitan and regional primary schools.

Working with WA start up QuizJam the Glory also offer their fans the chance to play a host of fun quizzes to keep them engaged. A start-up worth checking out for other teams too.

Perth have revamped their huge fan zone that for the 2018/9 season will feature:

· Small Sided Games

· QBE Inflatable pitch

· Inflatable Bungee Run

· Hit! 92.9 DJ and Hit! Squad

· Face Painters

· Bubble Artist

· Inflatable Dartboard

· Jungle Sports junior football

· Merchandise

· Player signings

There are also a heap of quality ticketing incentives for Glory fans such as family tickets and free entry for registered female footballers.

Sydney FC

Sydney have a huge opening game planned with Aussie band The Ruben’s set to perform live in a pre-match gig ahead of the Sydney Derby. A fitting band considering members are also Sydney FC fans themselves.

Sydney FC were one of only a couple of clubs to feature an A-Z and stadium map info on their site and I’d highly encourage the other teams to make this information readily available along with making email sign up’s more prominent on their respective websites to enable fans to be able to better plan the fan journey. 

Sydney also have an exclusive away day bar venue available for fans at The Star while they’re also calling on fans to decide what goes on the game day playlist.

Teacher’s, school kids and fans should also take note as the Sky Blues also have a Teacher Ambassador Program that will resource and recognise teachers who actively promote Sydney FC at their school and with as many students as possible. Can’t wait to pass this on to my teacher buddies in NSW.

I’ll be coming along to the Sydney FC double header game on Sunday November 25 at Jubilee Oval to take in the Sydney FC fan experience and I’ll be looking to chat to some Blues fans about the team as well. Hit me up if you’re going along that game day.

Wellington Phoenix

The Phoenix have a couple of fun activations planned for game day for Welly fans with the ‘Cash The Gate‘ comp that sees the Nix pay out the crowd number in cash to one lucky fan in the crowd, should the crowd exceed 10,000.

Probably one of the most exciting hospitality fan engagement packages any A-League fan can do is the Garage Project Fan Zone which is the perfect spot to view the game at pitch level, while sampling the best craft beers, wine and food Wellington has to offer. I can’t wait to get back to Wellington and Westpac Stadium soon to try this. Garage Project’s craft beers are some of the best in the world and a visit to Wellington for a game day at Westpac Stadium should be on your venue bucket list.

The Phoenix have me free wallpapers and posters available for fans too.

However probably the most impressive piece of fan engagement from Wellington is the inclusive initiative they have with regards to their free memberships for recently settled refugees. 

The Football Diversity and Inclusion Programme (FDIP) is an initiative between Wellington Phoenix, the Human Rights Commission, Red Cross, ChangeMakers, Multicultural NZ and the region’s City Councils and will see Wellington Phoenix offer 2018/19 season tickets for recently resettled refugees and people from low socioeconomic communities in the Wellington region serving as a recognition of the important role sport plays in building bridges between individuals and across communities.

Taking it one step further in 2018/19 the club also told me that they’ll be providing free packed lunches and transport as well to ensure fans can have the best fan experience and become life long fans. Brave to the Phoenix for this inclusive initiative. 

I think this is a very inclusive and respectful thing to do from a sporting club and other stakeholders as well as being a prime example of how communities and people can be brought closer together through sport. Well done to the Phoenix.

Western Sydney Wanderers

To round things out and to ensure the growth of football across Australia it’s great to see that the Wanderers are taking a game to the bush and visiting Mudgee in November. Now that’s an away day game not to be missed.

I’ll be heading along to the Wanderers A/W-League games in Sydney on November 23/24 and as always keen to chat to fans. Let me know if you’re attending and up for a chat.

Thus concludes a quick recap of the fan engagement initiatives from across the A-League clubs as we get underway with the 2018/19 season tonight.

I believe that the passion from the fans is the strongest in Australian sport and needs to be harnessed even more from FFA and the teams however I think they’re doing that well with this list showcasing some key tenets of what fan engagement should be about such as inclusion, authenticity and actively listening to fans. 

The positivity around football in Australia continues to build so regardless of what team you support lets all continue to bring the atmosphere to game days and get out there and pack the venues.

Bring on another fantastic season of football in Australia with the A-League and W-League seasons! 

2018 England Fan Experience Trip Recap

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.


– 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. 


The latest edition of my monthly fan engagement journal, FANS HQ is now live.

In this month’s edition for FANS HQ #9 we take a look at the following fan experiences:

  • NZ All Blacks at Westpac Stadium
  • AFL Grand Final Footy Festival at the MCG
  • NRL Grand Final at ANZ Stadium
  • Newtown Jets at Henson Park

Along with this there is a recap of the month that was in fan engagement and an interview with Matt Hudson from Colchester United.


Scroll to top