On Thursday we get our 2nd fans forum featuring both Darrell Clarke and Leigh Pomlett. As fans we will be there in numbers, with each of wanting to hear different questions about a whole host of different topics. Here a few issues I would like to see raised, and more importantly addressed.
Stadium Improvements –
The stadium is looking tired. There are no two ways about it. The whole place needs a facelift, a lick of paint here and there, and some renovating in other areas. I can only comment on what I see in the lower tier, and my brief appearances in the upper, but all you get in the stadium is a grey and dull vibe.
When you walk in, you enter through an underpass looking walkway, met by old battered looking turnstiles and grey walls. The lower tier bar has been closed for a few games now, and I am hoping that this is due to much needed improvements being made. There are leaks in certain areas, and it feels cold and uninviting. There is only so much that can be done during the season, and I would be happy with the promise of improvements in the close season. The other big thing is the toilets. They aren’t great. They need renovating massively. It is even the basics of certain female loos reportedly not even having seats on them.
I also feel the refreshment areas could be improved. The kiosks in the corners of the lower are small, and never properly stocked (I will get to that later). I feel that the corner between the Main and Lower tier could be changed to make one larger refreshment area, rather than two separate kiosks, one of which doesn’t get used. There is a lot of wasted space and long queues, which doesn’t encourage people to buy refreshments.
The Stadium suite could also do with a bit of an improvement. I must admit, I have always used the lower tier bar for a bit of light refreshment. So this season was a first actually using the Stadium suite. Its ok. There is plenty of seating, however the queues on busier matchdays can make it difficult to get more than one drink. But nothing about it is inviting.
The fact that the stadium looks plain and tired, with some much needed TLC too, it is no wonder fans don’t feel that a matchday ticket is value for money.
I understand that a lot of these probably cannot be fixed in one summer, with investment needed to do it properly. But I think some money thrown at improving the stadium would see fans happier, and maybe increase the odds of those occasional fans coming back more often. I would like to hear about how the club are going to address the issues, whether there is a plan in place, and what we can look forward to. Like I said, I don’t expect every issue sorting at once, but a promise, or a reason why they can’t at the moment would be nice.
Matchday Experience –
I covered elements of this earlier on, but along with the stadium, I feel the matchday experience could be improved too.
I’ll start off by saying that the Family Fanzone has been a great improvement. I don’t have kids and haven’t used it, but I think its a great for kids to have an area, and something pre game that is ‘theirs’. I also think that giving these kids a chance to write to the players is great at building fans for life.
My matchday experience doesn’t really vary. I get to the ground about an hour before kick off, go for a drink, watch the match then go home. It doesn’t vary. Pre-match there is nothing that I get excited about. The queues at the bar, whether it be the lower tier bar, or the Stadium suite, are always quite long, and means that myself or the people I am with go for a second. I know that it is something specific to me, but surely I am not alone.
Refreshment queues and stock is something else that deters from matchday experience too. Again, I am talking for the lower tier as that is where I sit. But the half time queues mean that often people miss the start or the second half, or leave early at the end of the first to make sure they aren’t waiting for ages. The stock levels are also something that need addressing. I hear a lot of fans complain that hot food has run out by half time. For me this is unacceptable, and made worse by the fact that the lower tier has a kiosk that is unused.
Post-match, there isn’t anything. Fans get in their cars, make their way to the station, and go home. I feel the Stadium suite could be opened post match to allow fans to after the match, watch the late kick off and have a drink with fans, talk about the game, celebrate a win (drown sorrows).
Again, all of these things cannot be addressed straight away, nor would I expect them to be. However it would be nice for the club to shed some light on how they will make improvements to the whole matchday experience.
We are all getting anxious that we have not made a signing. The likelihood is that there will be someone coming in before the meeting. I would like to hear about how Leigh and DC have been working together, and whether anything has changed from their recruitment policy since the summer. It would also be nice (and very unlikely) to hear DC open up a little about players, and the type of mould he is looking for.
I also would like to hear about those players who’s contracts expire in the summer. It would be refreshing to hear that contracts have been put on the table, to try and secure players for the future, or whether decisions about who will stay and who won’t are being made.
It would be nice to hear about the scouting network and how DC conducts his research on players, however I won’t be angry if I don’t hear.
More of the same transparency –
I couldn’t make the last fans forum (Croatia away in pre season if you were wondering), but it was a breath of fresh air to hear how open and honest they spoke with the fans. I hope for more of the same. At the first of these forums, fans were buoyant at the fact we had a new chairman, and an exciting prospect for a manager. This time, the novelty may have worn off. I hope that both are as open, and don’t keep their cards close to their chest. We have been so used to these nights consisting of the same answers, the same promises etc etc. However with this new era we have had an honest manager who speaks his mind, and a chairman who regularly updates the fans with his feelings.
These are just some of the key things I want from Thursday. Obviously there are others, I’d like to know about youth investment, plans for any extra incentives to get fans back, and the aims for the rest of the season, and next, however at the midway point of a season that has been about consolidation, and building, the stadium and matchday experience are key for me.
We will all have different questions, (and no doubt someone will ask about chips in the lower). My advice to all, is to take advantage of this night, get there in numbers, make use of this chance we have to speak to the hierarchy, because it is something we wanted for years before.