The away day experience varies significantly across the country, from the very good to the very bad. Tom Gorringe, head of marketing at Brighton & Hove Albion FC recently took time out to tell us how they've been looking at the away fans' experience differently at the Amex...
FSF: What approach does Brighton take towards fans of the opposing team visiting the Amex?
Tom Gorringe: For us match day experience here at the Amex is all about making sure, result aside, that everyone who enters the stadium has a great day. The away fans are no different. Here we offer them many of the same privileges as our own fans; access to two internal and one external bar facilities, padded seating, free travel within a set radius and free wifi.
In addition we seek to go that extra mile by branding the concourse in their colours, put posters up thanking them for visiting and have the staff wearing their colours. We also provide guest ales of the visiting teams, hold a Q&A with a legend in the concourse pre-match where possible and donate signed away shirts to children within the stand for each fixture.
FSF: What has changed the most over the last few years?
TG: For us the biggest change is obviously the new stadium which ticks all of the boxes in terms of safety, security and comfort. Perception has also changed, football has come a long way since the 70s and now every club up and down the country have strong family roots.
Clubs are becoming more aware of the various other entertainment offerings available to fans on the weekends and the need to improve service standards has become vital in maintaining and preferably improving attendances.
FSF: We understand there’s been a lot of positive feedback about Brighton’s welcoming approach? What has this achieved?
TG: Commercially it makes sense. The more we can do to remove the barriers for fans in attending games the more people we can get here. Away fans also provide a vital component to the atmosphere within the stadium which is what makes football great. Thanking them for their efforts and making them feel welcome is the least we can do as a club as an investment into the game. If they then spend more money whilst they are here then that is utopia.
FSF: Is there one particularly aspect of a visit to the Amex that you think is particularly strong, or that you’re most proud of?
TG: Our post-match parties this season have really been something special. To have conga lines going through the concourse over 90 minutes after the final whistle made up of a combination of both home and away fans really was a sight to behold. It was also heartwarming to see how our fans embraced Watford’s promotion here at the stadium and joined in their celebrations.
FSF: What do you think football in general can learn from your approach to visiting fans?
TG: As I said previously football has changed a lot but in many cases the approach to away fans has been left behind. Generally away fans are left to their own devises and not taken ownership of. Their club sells them the tickets and then they are left to their own devices.
For us we are keen to interact through our away twitter account. Answer questions and ensure that they not only have all that they need but also stay here for as long as possible because that is not only beneficial to the club but also the city.
FSF: How do you plan on continuing to improve away days at Brighton?
TG: There are a number of plans in the pipeline but we can’t disclose just yet. We will however be looking to improve our engagement with the clubs prior to fixtures and where possible work with the clubs to help get more fans here (and vice versa).
Working in football we all have the responsibility to safeguard the game by ensuring that fans continue to travel, even in a tough economic climate.
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