Boro: Let fans enjoy the match “their way”

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Anthony Emmerson is Head of Supporter Services/Supporter Liaison Officer at Middlesbrough. Here he explains how the club have given fans the chance to enjoy the match “their way” by catering to different needs, in different areas of the ground...

The reconfiguration of the Riverside Stadium was a key movement from Middlesbrough FC for 2013-14. The aim was to create a different offering across various concourses, areas and stands allowing supporters of different ages and interests to enjoy the match “their way”.

We had already announced the introduction of a free drink for every adult season card holder at each league game and free Under-11 Season Cards, but we wanted to go even further. Here's how we did it:

North Stand

Our North Stand is our Kop-style area and home to a predominantly middle-aged, core supporter. It also houses our supporters’ group the Twe12th Man. We consulted with the Twel12th Man and other supporters in the area around ideas for enhancing matchdays.

The result was the creation of a post-match concourse space named the Twe12th Man Fans’ Bar, which has food and drink offers, DJ and disco, live games on screen and prize giveaways. Fans from other stadium areas can come around after the game to get involved and the place has been packed out after each and every game. It’s a space that is very much “for the fans, by the fans” and it's an absolute winner.

Generation Red Family Zone

Free under-11 season cards and heavily discounted matchday tickets in a wonderful, colourful space in our East Stand, with dedicated MFC staff on hand to ensure everything goes smoothly. Child-friendly food, toilets and activities support one of the most welcoming family stands in football. The feedback has been incredibly positive and match tickets and season cards continue to be purchased at a rate exceeding sales for any other stadium area.

South Stand (Red Faction)

Our South Stand is now home to our Red Faction supporters’ group. They are a youthful, energetic and positive bunch of fans who we work with to harness ideas for innovative, colourful and proud backing of the team. We had faced occasional challenges in the past as club staff members tried to fit the group’s ideas within the regulated framework to which we must adhere, but we have established a successful, open and honest relationship in recent months.

Regular face-to-face meets are key, with senior staff members from the club (Safety Officer included) spending many hours working with the group to bring their ideas to life. We have developed a growing respect and the majority of the group’s actions are trusted to be self-managed and self-policed.

This year we have worked together on large scale flag and banner activity, drumming, and confetti displays. Our partnership is perhaps best explained through the fact that Red Faction members are invited to use our concourse with little supervision on non-matchdays to paint banners and the group also sweeps up every bit of confetti post-match following their impressive matchday displays.

The future

Our consultation is, of course, ongoing, and as we take feedback game-by-game we continue to give supporters more of what they are asking for. In recent weeks we have introduced rosé wine, green tea and gluten-free meals to the club's menu board - all as result of supporters’ requests!

Thanks to Action Images for the image used in this blog.

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