Sustain The Game: fan engagement proves its value at Stanley
Posted on 2nd September 2020
Every week we’ll be looking in more detail at one of our Sustain The Game! key principles and this week it’s supporter engagement. We believe fans are the lifeblood of the game, they need a voice in their clubs and on all issues that affect them and their communities.
Chair of Accrington Stanley Supporters’ Trust Peter Leatham explains how supporter engagement is vital to the health of the Lancashire club and why more clubs should follow their example…
We find ourselves in a very privileged position at Accrington Stanley whereby we have an owner who places the supporters’ needs, both home and away, at the forefront of the decision-making process.
He has a very simple view that all fans should have the best experience possible, aside from what happens during those 90 minutes on the pitch.
To this end we have worked very closely with the club, increasing influence as time has passed and we are now viewed as an integral part of the fabric of the club.
We signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ (MoU) with Accrington Stanley back in February and whilst face-to-face meetings have been difficult we have managed either via Zoom or socially distanced meetings to keep sensible dialogue underway.
To keep this in context we are a small club, with only six or seven full time administration staff and that includes media and commercial, so we rely on both matchday staff and our volunteers to fill the gaps.
This generally works extremely well and certainly helps prove our value to the club.
This is repaid as we have regular supporter trust evenings with special guests – our August meeting featured a couple of the players, October sees owner Andy Holt and first teamer David Burgess in the chair, whilst manager John Coleman and his assistant Jimmy Bell are our December guests.
We also feature our academy and community trust to give everyone a full, rounded view of the club and the activities.
Given this background it was no surprise when we were included in the current “return meetings” firstly with the Safety Advisory Groups and then more recently with the owner, managing director and supporter liaison officer to discuss the options around getting fans safely back into the stadium.
Again we are fortunate, we have a capacity of only 5,400 and just over 1,200 season ticket holders in various categories.
Our COVID-reduced capacity is 1,535 which means potentially we can serve our current demand and hopefully sell the remaining season tickets to fill the stadium.
The concourses will be open, probably from 1pm, with social distancing in place and we still plan our standard £1 per pint winners hour, albeit outdoors in our fanzone, with the accompanying live music.
As tickets go on sale next week, we will be present to offer supporters the opportunity to renew their £5 annual trust memberships, join our new ‘Junior Redz’ section or sign up for our brand new Club1968 monthly draw, all of which help us generate funds to support agreed projects with the club.
In recent times we have funded a new large screen in the stadium, our new fanzone area, televisions for the zone, a set of graphics commemorating famous goals and hall of famers, new pitch covers, new canopies to increase the cover on the fanzone and we are just completing our new memorial garden at the Crown Ground.
It bears the mantra “One Town, One Club, One Community” which is very apt in our case and what the club is all about.
On Friday we launched our Sustain The Game! campaign and since then it has been endorsed by supporters and high-profile figures across the game – here Portsmouth chief executive Mark Catlin argues that regulation must be strengthened but there are no easy answers or “one size fits all” solutions…
Every week we’ll be looking in more detail at one of our Sustain The Game! key principles and this week it’s transparency. We believe everyone has a right to know who owns their club, and how clubs and the authorities operate. Owners are custodians of clubs on behalf of all of us.
Sustain The Game! is the FSA’s campaign to persuade the football authorities to take measures to protect the existence of our clubs – and it’s more important than ever with so many under threat because of the financial strains caused by COVID-19.