Thursday, 27 September 2012

Attracting More Fans: How Do We Do It?

With the Tykes' most recent magnificent display being televised live across the nation, people all over the country got the chance to see the hard work and graft this team puts in and the resulting scoreline was a true reflection of the footballing philosophy Keith Hill and David Flitcroft have tried so desperately hard to imprint on this great club. The ever-declining gates at Oakwell obviously mean that the club will be making less money now, and Saturday's annihilation of Birmingham was the perfect advertisement to any fans who were hesitant over whether or not to part with their hard earned money to come and support the team. This blog post by The View From The Red Zone ponders over a few of the different ways that Barnsley FC could entice its fans to Oakwell.

There is a certain optimism in the air and a buzz of positivity around the club at the moment - this is solely down to HillCroft and is testament to their style of management and how it has impacted the team's performances. Their influence on the players and their methods both on and off the pitch have presented the Barnsley faithful who've stood by them through the tough times with a brand of football so aesthetically pleasing, it has rarely been witnessed since the glory days of Danny Wilson, yet the crowds on a Saturday afternoon seem to be reaching alarmingly low levels in this economic recession - just 8,088 observed the recent 1-0 triumph over Bristol City, a figure that would place us 3rd in the League Two attendance table based on the average crowds per game.

 More empty seats are appearing every week.

How Can It Be Solved?

There are several ways in which the club could try to encourage fans to flood through the turnstiles and occupy the increasing number of empty seats at Oakwell, but it's not entirely in the club's hands...

The first way is identified by a lot of fans themselves whenever the discussion of raking in the fans pops up, and this is cheaper prices. This year sees our glorious club embark on its 125th season as a professional football club and in homage of this, the club decreased ticket prices of the home game against Blackpool - a club also celebrating its 125th year as a club - to an extremely affordable £12.50. This did see an increase in numbers and a party atmosphere was soaked up by over 14,000 spectators - a healthy number compared to past attendances it must be said. However, it's not just the ticket prices that could be lowered. The club has to think of a way to reward its fans' devotion, and something I think could be highly effective is an offering of loyalty bonuses, so to speak; money off season tickets or a programme and pie for a fiver. It's the little things that can make the difference but football is a business now, not a sport and clubs thrive on making as much money as they can to stay afloat, so lowering the prices of tickets, food, merchandise, etc. may prove a hefty risk but could pay off in the long term.

Keeping up with the flow of the modern game is key and could attract supporters, take the scoreboard for example. The club announced last month that it is to be renovated and that the new one will be of a higher quality and will show in-game replays as well as pre-match Sky football. My honest view is that this is a great move by the club. It will inject a revolutionary type feeling into Oakwell and will signal the club's intentions of rejuvenating or improving fans' experiences at the ground, which can only be a good thing. Further ideas of modernising the club may very well be to upgrade the West Stand but it's inevitable that some fans would be censorious of this idea - it's the last remaining stand from the original ground and holds memories aplenty for a lot of senior supporters. Perhaps a new ground is the answer to our problems. Nevertheless, most stadiums in this day and age are now built in the shape of bowls which would invite criticism from sections of the Barnsley faithful as it is thought that these structures take the heart, soul and atmosphere away from matches. All of these require funding though, and this takes me swiftly onto my next point.

The current scoreboard - you can see it's faulty above the 'E'.

Investment could be the answer to all of our wonderful club's problems, yet it could very well be the destruction of it. Portsmouth are a fine and shining example to all those owners willing to put their club's safety into the hands of foreign multi-millionaires who only care for revenue and big names. They also lust success and will not tolerate hesitancy in managers bringing it. Investment can in fact be a way to drive fans away from clubs as Venky's London Ltd at Blackburn will be finding out very soon if they keep the calamitous Steve Kean on as manager any longer. The plus side of colossal investment is that it can provide a stanchion to build upon with reassured funds. It is more than likely that new owners would want to introduce a big name manager and big name players, luring the more hesitant people towards Oakwell whilst also sending the regular match-goers away. The takeover talk at Oakwell this week has excited everyone associated with the club but if one of the two consortiums - supposedly from Italy and Qatar - were to be successful in gaining ownership of the club and would subsequently show Hill and Flicker the door, they would be oblivious to the fact that they were getting rid of the best management duo since Clough and Taylor. This would then see our best football played since the 'Just like watching Brazil' era vanish in an instance. A perfect example of a club under an Italian curse, so to speak, is Watford. Giampaolo Pozzo acquired Watford in the summer and immediately brought in Gianfranco Zola as manager and started recruiting his own players - Watford have jokingly gained the nickname 'Udineford' from football fans as a reference to the ten players they have on loan from Serie A giants Udinese.

I believe they are the three best ways the club can convince people to get down to Oakwell and support the players and team. Of course, it's not club's decision whether or not investors decide to pump their money into Barnsley FC but the others can only be achieved by the club's own initiative, with perhaps a little bit of monetary help.

My Say On The Takeover Talk At Barnsley FC

Undeniably the best way to fill the stadium full to the brim with fans is by getting some rich owners on board who'll make promises they probably won't keep. I'm on the fence though with this here. For a small club like us whose attendance drops every week, investment could be brilliant but the thought that they'd give Hill and Flicker their marching orders is always at the back of my mind. I again allude to Watford when I say it doesn't always go to plan - they are currently hovering dangerously above the relegation zone in 20th position. I'm sure as a lifelong fan, Patrick Cryne will do all he can to insure a deal is in Barnsley FC's best interests. If all negotiations broke down between us and the two consortiums I can safely say I wouldn't lose sleep over it as I'm extremely satisfied with how we're playing and with the job HillCroft are doing.

Long may the good work continue. Up the Reds!

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