Yesterday was a frustrating day both on and off the pitch. The performance was well below par, but off it, things were even worse, with many fans angry about a whole host of issues.
Pomlett must refocus he attentions
Until Jamie Fullarton came in, Leigh Pomlett was dealing with a lot of the football related side of the business, as well as everything else. Since appointing the Technical Director, it has allowed Pomlett, in his own words, to allow Fullarton to be the footballing brain. This leaves Pomlett able to refocus his efforts on everything else related to Walsall, and the match-day experience must be high on his priority list, as at present, many fans feel it is a shambles.
Pomlett won’t want to be turning fans away by not getting the basics of a matchday right. Fully stocked bars, a clean stadium, and ease getting in and out of the ground should be so simple, but Walsall are not currently doing it, and with the team still settling on the pitch, the reasons to not come outweigh those to buy a ticket.
This is the next big challenge for Pomlett. Eyes will be on him to act quickly to rectify all of the issues. His remit has always been to attract as many fans as possible to come and support Walsall, however the club are not doing enough to make a matchday enjoyable.
Getting in to the stadium
There were several issues regarding fans even being able to get into the stadium itself. Season tickets not scanning meant many fans were let with added stress to get through the gates. This issue was not an isolated incident. It is something that should not be difficult for the club to sort out, however Tuesday will be another test of this.
Elsewhere, many experienced long queue’s when trying to purchase tickets pre-match. This was also the case on Tuesday in the cup. Cash turnstiles would be a solution for this, especially in cup matches. A group of fans missed kick-off because of this, however they were not the only ones to miss kick-off.
In the lower tier, only one set of turnstiles were open, meaning that there were large queues to get into the ground. The large number of fans trying to get in were left angry and frustrated, especially as the club decided to open another set of turnstiles at 3pm. This is something that is extremely basic, and should have been open as soon as the ground was open to fans. Limiting turnstiles and increasing queue times will put fans off, as getting to their seats becomes an ordeal.
The concerns that fans struggle to even get to their seats is something that won’t help new fans, or those returning after a long while, want to come back.
Was it better once you got in?
Simple answer, no. There are many areas that annoyed the fans, right down to the basics of the seats being dirty, despite the stadium apparently having a deep clean before the season started. This cleanliness also seemed lacking in the toilets, that were dirty, and seemed in a state where they had been left for 18 months. As a whole, the stadium looked tired, and in desperate need of some cleaning and some much needed TLC.
The club have made efforts, with the newly built Community Hub for those seated in the lower tier, however despite the newly built area, the bar ran out of draught beer, which is something that many fans were angry about, especially given the ample preparation time for a fixture that was not even half sold.
Running out of refreshments also annoyed supporters who were unable to purchase hot food beyond half-time, and those that were able to, were left bitterly disappointed with what they received. A lot of fans ended up with burnt, dry, underwhelming food that left a bitter taste as they had spent money on it.
Once again, there were long queue’s all over the stadium to get a drink or some food. Many gave up, or did not go back for seconds due to the slow service. This is a big loss of income for Walsall, especially as for future games, people will simply not bother trying to purchase refreshments.
Emergency meeting needed, but why has it come to this?
Fans coming back to the stadium has been long awaited by both parties involved, however with no improvement in the 16 months, the fans are already deciding not to try and spend their money in the stadium, as it is simply not with the time or effort. This will be a big worry for the club, as they will see the anger across social media, and realise that it will be playing a huge part of the matchday income that they have missed.
Because of this, an debrief meeting with Supporter Liason Officier Graham Whittaker has been called. The hope is that Graham can communicate the anger and frustration at the lack of improvement despite having 16 months of planning to this weekend. Another disappointment is that this meeting has only been mentioned by Graham, and not by the club, who have seemingly stayed quiet about all of the concerns.
It is a huge disappointment that after over 16 months away, many fans had a poor experience upon returning to the ground. Leigh Pomlett has Jamie Fullarton to focus on issues on the pitch, it is now up to Pomlett to make big changes off of it, or risk losing fans who don’t feel like they are getting any value for money.