As everyone knows, when it comes to flogging raffle tickets, our 50-50 girls are the best. This scheme, in my opinion, is one of the SA’s true success stories. It allows us to raise funds for the Club, and allows us to raise our profile by the twice-yearly presentation of “the big cheque”.
So far this season, an incredible £10,000 has been donated to the Club.
My Promise: Our girls will keep up the good work, in all weathers and conditions, if you keep buying the renowned 50-50 tickets. Thank you.
The FA Cup
When I was younger, the FA Cup was sacrosanct. The semi-finals were played at Hillsborough and Villa Park, and it seemed like the whole world ground to a halt on cup final day as the entire focus of the planet was on the two teams competing at Wembley.
How times have changed.
Now, The FA have decreed (in their wisdom) that both semi-finals will be played at Wembley, as well as the final itself.
I realise that the building of the new Wembley stadium cost almost a billion pounds, and that the FA needs to recoup that money. However, for the average fan whose club does get to the final, then you’ve now got to stump up twice to go to London HA9.
For me, the magic of the FA cup final is substantially diluted in comparison to what it used to be.
At the time of writing, we now have four teams from the north of England having to bring their legions of supporters all the way to Wembley in order to compete in the semi-finals of the oldest football competition in the world.
Where is the FA’s concern regarding Co2 emissions? What is the FA’s Environmental Policy? Well, I don’t think it has one – certainly not readily available on its web-site anyway.
Having the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley sends out a clear statement that all the FA is really concerned about – is its finances…
Now get this, I note that the Premier League have decided to allocate seven fixtures on May 14th, – the very same day as the FA Cup Final ! Why?
My personal view is that this is an act of contempt by the Premier League. I echo the views of Radio 5’s Alan Green – my inspiration for this article.
Do the higher authorities which control our national game ever stop to consider the average fan? Do they take individual supporters views into account when they impose such unpalatable decisions upon us?
There is much to be said for the relationships between clubs and their supporters at the lower ends of the football league. Generally there is respect from both sides. However, in the Premiership, it is my volition that there are no fans, – only customers.
Football Supporters Federation
On Sunday February 27th, I went down to Kingsmeadow in Kingston for a meeting of the Football Supporters Federation (FSF). I was responding to a personal invitation from Nina Donkin, the FSF’s Administration Officer, and attended in my capacity as Chairman of the Stevenage SA.
Here I met a number of like-minded colleagues representing clubs such as QPR, Crystal Palace, Fulham, AFC Wimbledon, Watford, Gillingham, Norwich, Sunderland, Stoke, Brighton, Norwich, Reading, Doncaster, Hartlepool, Portsmouth, and Leyton Orient.
Not knowing what to expect, I was warmly received and found the proceedings very amicable. A report was received from Pam Wilkins (Southern Division Chair – and Portsmouth’s rep), followed by various officers reports.
Brief discussions took place, including:
• Karen Murphy, a landlady being challenged by Sky TV for showing Premier League games transmitted via a Greek supplier
• Parliamentary Select Committee looking at various aspect of the state of the game and its finances
• AFC Wimbledon’s recent survey findings re: trust members, season ticket holders, and regular/casual fans
Later, the meeting was addressed by a delegate representing the concerns of the supporters of Leyton Orient, and the impact that West Ham United will have on them if it does move into the Olympic Stadium at Stratford.
Each delegate offered a brief report concerning the state of his/her club and its relationship with its supporters. When my turn came, I was delighted to be able to state that Stevenage FC had a good rapport with its supporters, especially having been to Wembley three times in four years, having been promoted to the Football League as Champions of the Football Conference, and comfortably holding our own in League 2.
The support at The Lamex
I was engaged in an interesting conversation with Keith Berners the other day. It was about the attendances at Stevenage, and what we could do, as an organisation, to make them bigger.
Last season, Luton’s average attendance was 6,900.
So far this season, ours is 2,700 which is 42% of the capacity of the Lamex.
There are more “chimney pots” in Luton, and they are an older club. However, when you consider that the “average” for a Football League 2 club is 3,700, then we’ve some way to go.
We have an enormous catchment. Within a 25 minute drive of Broadhall Way there live over a million people.
Have we picked up any ex-Luton supporters, whose passion is League football? Very unlikely.
Have we seduced any ex-Cambridge supporters to venture to Stevenage? Well, we’ve no evidence if they have..
What I can tell you is that only just over half of the SA’s membership come from Stevenage itself. The Club has a big fan-base in surrounding towns like Hertford, Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City, Letchworth, Baldock, and Royston. So, why doesn’t our own town provide more support?
Well, I have a theory.
As we all know, Stevenage was the very first of the eight original “New Towns” in the UK. From a population of just 5,000 in the 1950’s, we’ve grown to almost 90,000 today. The “New Town” concept was to accommodate the overspill from London after World War II. Consequently most of the people who came here did so from north and east London. Naturally enough, they brought with them their deep-set loyalties to clubs like West Ham Utd, Arsenal, and Spurs.
That pioneering generation have, for all intents and purposes, unwittingly passed down their club allegiance to their children, and possibly grand-children.
Question: How do you get home grown kids to stop supporting the glamorous Premier League clubs like Spurs, Arsenal, and West Ham and support their very own football league club?
I think that this might yet take another generation. I think that Stevenage is an experiment in national demographics, and we’ve yet to experience the eventual outcome.
You could challenge my view by citing the new city of Milton Keynes. The MK Dons average home gate this season is 8,000. However, Milton Keynes population is almost 200,000, and their circumstance is hardly comparable to that of Stevenage!
I think that my theory might be vindicated if Crawley get promoted into the Football League this season.
Stevenage are the very first club from a designated “New Town” to gain promotion into the League. Crawley, like Stevenage, was one of the original eight “New Towns”. Crawley’s circumstances are very similar to ours. Population 100,000. Average home attendance 2,250, which is 45% of the capacity of Broadfield.
The similarities of the towns of Stevenage and Crawley, and their football clubs, is striking.
I would contest that the challenges of increasing our respective fan-bases are directly linked to a socially engineered theorem that occurred over sixty years ago.