Supporters are the lifeblood of every club

Being innovative in football is something you have to constantly be. Finding new ways to promote yourself, your club, your brand has to be done in order to avoid stagnation unless that’s something you’re happy with.

Since the interruption of non-league football over the past two seasons there is a clear eagerness from top to bottom inside clubs to play, to enjoy things a bit more and just as importantly to attract not just the loyal supporters from before but new blood as so to speak to ensure clubs keep on surviving.

There are many ways depending on the size of the club that you can attract new supporters but at times also rewarding those who’ve been coming for a long time, it’s not just about getting new support, retaining what you have is just as important.

I’m picking up on this with a range of different things I’ve seen, witnessed myself and heard from supporters of other clubs over the opening couple of months of the season.

A quick start at National League level and back to the summer, Bromley trying to over-extend their season ticket prices and after much disgruntlement quite rightly amongst their fanbase given the huge rise, they backed down and not surprisingly the price went to a point supporters were comfortable with.

I take my club Barnet charging £22 to sit down, no terrace option, it’s that price or nothing. Personally I believe £20 is more than enough, throw in the £8 parking as well and that’s me seeing almost three Isthmian League matches for that price only two levels lower.

Whilst the club might argue it’s reasonable for the level etc, lack of communication meant no reasons were delivered and quite understandably supporters start to shun and vote with their feet, it’s so easy now to find something else to do which no doubt some people did over the course of the last 16 months.

Effective communication is the bottom line, so many channels available these days there is almost no excuse. Clubs raising beer prices which can be understandable if the brewery has done so, but not finding out until you buy that first pint of a new season is likely to come as a shock, again look after your regulars via a membership scheme or something similar, if new supporters want to come more often and save money they’ll join it trust me!

Just over a week ago I saw National League South Hungerford Town come up with a fantastic offer. £20 got you match entry, a programme, a meal deal of either chicken, sausage or pie with chips and a pint, now it’s impossible to follow every single football club on Twitter, but please tell me if you can find a better deal than that, it’s superb!

Now, not content with rolling it out last weekend which then prompted me to mention it on our Premier Non-League Podcast (available to listen to on all the usual listening platforms twice a month) they’ve gone for it again this weekend in the FA Cup and during next week I will try and catch up the Town chairman Patrick Chambers to find out how much of an impact it’s had on attendances.

I’m not implying here every club has to do the same nor bankrupt themselves whilst doing so, it’s not something you can repeat every single game but surely offers are worth a try throughout the season are they not?

Simple things like a free hot drink as the weather begins to turn, kids for a quid over half term week or the Xmas holidays, small but effective if marketed well.

 I did see as well during the past week Dorking Wanderers in the same division offering a family of four (2 adults, 2 kids) FA Cup football for £20 which was available all week until midnight on Friday, again great value to try and get a few more in through the door.

Going back to Barnet once again I would like to see a £2 reduction if you buy a match ticket before matchday, with £22 being the price being bought on the day, Hungerford have this option at least for their FA Cup match thankfully not at that price to begin with. That way you’re committed to going and it might only be a couple of quid but the next time it might encourage you to buy earlier.

Another one I’ve seen is Wealdstone offering match tickets for £5 for their BT Sport live game against Solihull Moors next Tuesday if you buy online with Under 14’s free with a paying adult; a great idea to see a packed stadium while the nation’s camera’s are watching instead of 200 sitting at home on the sofa seeing the game. You can almost guarantee it will attract some floating fans and pretty sure they’ll spend more once inside the ground too.

The key is looking after the newbies whilst not getting the backs up of those who regularly attend, but it’s easy to do and if marketed right then you’re onto a winner and hopefully some bigger attendances going forward.

As I’ve noticed since the season began crowd figures have been very impressive and have continued to maintain themselves at most clubs which is fantastic to see, but why not go that one step further and gain a few extra, that should keep the club treasurer with a smile on their face………..

Hard fought pre-season win for East Preston

A balmy Tuesday evening this week took me to East Preston once again where they took on a Dorking Wanderers XI, expected to form their reserve side who this season will appear in the Southern Combination League Division One.

After a good start to pre-season for the home side, they were sluggish out the blocks for the first twenty minutes as the visitors got the ball down and played across the park stretching East Preston as much as they could.

Slightly against the run of play, the home side took the lead. Matt Storm gambled and won a 50-50 ball against the visiting keeper, coming off best to score and EP were in front.

With both sides getting into their stride, there was plenty of attacking intent but with very little in the way of clear cut chances during the remainder of the first half and the home side went into the break one goal to the good.

The second half was of a similar pattern although there was no slow start from EP this half and with a half time change of the once again impressive Storm replaced by Lew Broughton, there was no let up with attacking intent although while moving the ball around the pitch well Dorking were this time well marshalled by the EP back three of Charlie Robinson, Dan Howick and Ben Hack.

It was Howick who provided the hosts with their second goal, a superbly flighted free kick from Broughton found the head of the tall centre half and the ball nestled in the back of the net.

Substitute Dan Geal stung the palms of the visiting keeper in the final few minutes of the game, unleashing a rasping drive from fully 20 yards that was destined for the third goal of the game.

EP finished the stronger of the two sides and besides Geal’s effort could have added another goal or two, some stand out performances for EP in the shape of the previously mentioned back three whilst keeper Sam Marsden looked assured when danger did come his way.

A fine 45 from Storm and the same from his replacement Broughton who once fit will be a big asset to manager Simon Hull while Geal’s cameo in the centre of midfield showed class and composure in what is still a very young team but one that could excite and has the potential to upset the apple cart a few times this season.

Wanderers progress to take on Barnet

There appears to be a thinning out of midweek games across these two weeks before Xmas despite the fact a lot of teams are not that far in front for games and with the threat of more lockdowns in the new year you just wonder if a few more could have been slotted in.

One club I wanted to get to this season was Dorking Wanderers, for a number of reasons as there have been for most clubs I’ve tasked myself with visiting. The rise for the Surrey club has been nothing less than extremely impressive, I remember them coming to Wick on a Friday night around 10-12 years ago in the Sussex League Division Two as it was then and winning 2-0 under the club owner and manager Marc White.

Rising through the County League, Ryman League and now well ensconced in the National League South Wanderers are looking well set for another tilt at promotion to the top level. Playing now at Meadowbank, home of the Surrey FA they have a tidy very nice ground for the level with a selection of seating and standing areas for all.

Wanderers were the club who really got behind the #LetFansIn campaign which I promoted through this blog and along with others who also joined, in the end it did bear fruit in getting people back inside stadiums from Steps 3-6, but at their own level they’ve had to wait until this month to have their own supporters back inside the stadium.

As I’ve stated in the past this season I’ve wanted to go to clubs who have helped me achieve the success this blog is becoming, be it through interviews with their managers, players, or chairman. My thought with Dorking for really getting this campaign to work, I’m going to head there and put a few quid in the coffers, least I can do to help out.

And with the FA Trophy putting games into quick succession the visit of Hungerford Town was the opportunity to make it happen. With both sides residing at the same level we were in for a good game, as it transpired we got one but not quite in the way I expected.

Right from the first whistle the intent from the hosts was very impressive, zipping the ball around with an option to pass for every player who was in possession, Hungerford really struggled to get a hold of the ball with the Dorking midfield pairing of Kane Wills and Wes Fogden controlling things in the middle of the park.

The first effort went to the visitors in the opening minute, a blocked shot which resulted in a break downfield and skipper Jason Prior having a header saved by keeper Luke Cairney. Wanderers then dominated the ball throughout the first half, chances created from Nicky Wheeler and Callum Kennedy giving Prior more opportunities, but a combination of good defending and the experienced striker unable to hit the target kept the scoreline level.

It certainly wasn’t looking like Prior’s night as two further chances went begging, another good save from Cairney and a header that hit the crossbar.

The deadlock was finally broken a couple of minutes before half time by Dorking, just when it looked as if they would be going in frustrated at half time, Luke Moore controlling Wills’ pass inside the area and sliding it across for James McShane to slam home and give the home side a deserved lead.

No sooner had the teams emerged for the second half than Dorking were two goals to the good, the impressive McShane finishing off Fodgen’s touch across goal to slide in at the far post.

The goal seemed to inspire the visitors to have their best spell of the game, Slav Huk having to save from both Mike Jones and Ryan Seager in quick succession as Wanderers allowed their guard to slip slightly and it certainly would have been game on had one effort found its way into the net despite the fact Dorking should have been out of sight had the chances been put away in the first half.

Ten minutes later Jake Evans beat Huk, but the Hungerford substitute’s effort clipped the top of the bar. Chances came in the final fifteen minutes for Wanderers to extend their lead, Prior having a second effort cleared off the line having rounded the keeper, while McShane was denied by the post for a hat-trick.

One final chance arrived for Prior in the final minute but headed over the bar capping what must have been a frustrating night for the skipper who on another day could easily had four or five goals to his name.

McShane was quite rightly named man of the match, not just for the two goals but also popping up in the gaps and space all over the final third to make it harder for Hungerford to pick him up.

The visitors definitely found it hard to keep the ball against a side who moved it around superbly and Barnet will certainly find it tough this coming Saturday, especially with the Bees being bang out of form. Even I wouldn’t bet against Wanderers progressing this weekend although of course I’m firmly on the opposite side…………….

NB This article was written before the Government placed Dorking and Surrey into tier 3 from Saturday and once again unable to admit fans.