For those of you who may have missed it, following the disappointing home attendances at City Calling Stadium of late, the team here at ‘Between the Stripes’ decided to publish an online survey in an attempt to seek the reasons why people are staying away from the fine facilities on the Strokestown Road, and more importantly what can be done or changed to make the experience of home match-days more enjoyable for everyone. Having received 72 individual responses to our online form, this is one of the most comprehensive surveys ever carried out on Longford Town FC and we will now break down the results for you and offer some of the solutions that were both put forward by those who filled in the survey and by our good selves here at “BTS”. There were 16 individual questions put forward in our online survey and we will now break down the results and responses to each of those questions and then give our and fans suggested solutions to any issues that have been raised. We want to thank everyone who took part and shared our survey and it is our hope that these results and subsequent suggestions and comments, as well as those of life long supporters who took part, will be taken on board by the relevant parties, who we will be forwarding this article to. Below are the results of our survey and the subsequent suggestions/comments put forward by those who took part in the survey and the team here at ‘Between the Stripes’:
QUESTION 1 – Are you a regular attendee of Longford Town FC home games? (72 responses)
- No, I do not attend home games – 7%
- 1-5 home games per season – 18.3%
- 5-10 home games per season – 28.2%
- 10+ home games per season – 46.5%
The results of this opening question show that almost half of the 72 participants in our survey are extremely regular visitors to City Calling Stadium as they attend 10 or more home ties per season.
QUESTION 2 – If you aren’t a regular match goer, why is this? (24 responses)
Of the twenty-four individual responses received on this question, summer football and the fact it clashes with other sports such as GAA was top of the bill, alongside the price of attending. Unfortunately both of these issues fall outside the remit of the club, who already work closely with the County board to ensure matches do not clash with county games for example, while the adult admission price of €15 is set by the FAI.
However, the cost of bringing children/families to home matches was raised a number of times in the comments section under this question and perhaps this is an area the club can look to target in terms of attracting new followers. With Longford, like most counties, holding a massive GAA background, it is the norm in that sport for under-16’s to attend league matches free of charge. When you look around City Calling Stadium, there does seem to be a lack of young kids at games compared to clubs like Wexford Youths and Galway, who in recent times have let kids go free. With attendances already desperately low, some may argue the club can not afford to let kids go free but if such a promotion was to get fresh faces in the gate (with a paying adult), it could return long term dividends for Longford Town FC and this is why it should be explored at least.
Elsewhere, the lack of atmosphere at home games was mentioned a couple of times as a reason for staying away and this will be discussed in depth later on in the article.
QUESTION 3- Do you feel welcome when you enter City Calling Stadium? If not give reason. (72 responses)
- YES (I feel welcome) – 73.1%
- NO (I don’t feel welcome) – 26.9%
While over two thirds over those surveyed said they felt welcome on arrival at City Calling Stadium, it is still worrying that almost 30% said the opposite. Not wanting to speak on behalf of others, below we have simply taken some of the quotes given from those who said they did not feel welcome at City Calling Stadium:
- “No, board members look down on you.”
- “Not really just a normal walk to my seat.”
- “Most of the time the welcome is good. However some of my fellow supporters have had terrible welcomes from certain people at the club. These fans are the clubs die hard supporters and should be treated with respect!”
- “Some members of the committee aren’t too welcoming and some stewards have a chip on their shoulder.”
- “Most are great, some are tolerable.”
- “Its a bit drab as you enter.”
- “A few of the members are very aloof!”
- “Members are friendly but programmes need to be better.”
- “Nothing done to make a welcoming atmosphere present in the stadium.”
- “I feel awkward going into the ground cos of the attitude of certain club members.”
Again, we must stress that over 70% of the people surveyed said they felt welcome upon arrival at the ground, however, it is important concerns such as the ones quoted above are listened to. Sometimes as we all know, personalities simply clash and there’s not a lot that can be done about that. However, it is very worrying to see so many supporters list board members as a reason for not feeling welcome at home games. Board members of course work extremely hard to keep the show on the road at League of Ireland clubs, but on match day business matters are the last thing on supporters minds as they just want to enjoy a game of football in the company of family and friends. As a result, maybe board members should take steps to reduce their presence around the entrance of the ground on match days and leave it clear to essential staff such as gate staff, ticket and programme sellers etc. After that there is very little that can be done to change the opinions of the 26.9% other than making sure everyone gets a smile. Ending that question on a positive note, well done to the club staff and volunteers who helped earn such a high score of 73.1%, keep up the good work.
QUESTION 4 – On a scale of 1-10 (low to high), how do you rate the facilities at City Calling Stadium? (72 responses)
As you can see from the above graph, just shy of 30% rated the facilities at “CCS” an extremely impressive 8/10. With only a handful of the 72 participants giving the facilities a score below 6/10, this rubbishes the notion some people put out there that poor facilities are a reason to stay away from Longford Town FC home games. However, we went on to ask in our next question what was the one area in particular to the “CCS” facilities you would like to see most improved and at the top of the list was better toilet and club shop facilities. Below are some quotes taken from survey participants on this subject:
- ” Club shop could do with a face-lift.”
- “Toilets need upgrading.”
- “The club shop is cat.”
- “There should be a chip van at every home game, not just here and there through the season. I couldn’t believe it or understand why St.Pats fans had their own chip van separated from home fans at the first home game of the season!”
- “Club shop and beverage food areas.”
- “Yes the shop , I have on many occasion tried to purchase items ie. jerseys to training top only to be told they are not available or there are only a few. I find it ridiculous that club merchandise isn’t available at each home game.”
- “there should be a walk-in club shop.”
There are dozens more comment similar to the above, while a couple also made reference to the lack of cover over the rest of the ground and Section O. However, given the low attendance numbers at present and the fine main stand already in place, it would be silly to expect the club to look to extend a ground which is more than half empty most weeks. In regards to the toilets, again this would be a costly upgrade for the club and instead of building work, maybe top up jobs and regular upkeep would be a more realistic goal at present. As for the club shop and lack of merchandise, this is a major issue for the club and not only is the lack of a walk in club shop, similar to the ones in Finn Park and Inchicore, costing the club much needed income, the lack of desire to set up an online store is mind boggling given the expertise some of the clubs volunteers have in this area. We are currently one of the few clubs in the Airtricity League without this online facility and given the spread of exiled Town fans across the club, this lack of vision and ambition is potentially costing the club a small fortune. Again, ending on a positive note we must acknowledge those responsible for the fine facilities at City Calling Stadium and how lucky we are to play in a ground like it.
QUESTION 5 –As a supporter, do you feel your opinion is valued by the clubs committee? (71 responses)
Perhaps the most worrying statistic to come out of our survey was the fact that 53.5% of 71 participants feel their opinion is not valued by the club they support! The solution to this issue is quite simple, regular open public meetings between the clubs board and supporters. Further more, a return of an open club AGM is needed as soon as possible as the gap between the last recorded public AGM until now is frightening and it’s an issue at the core of supporters not feeling valued by those running the club. The supporters club has done a marvelous job raising funds for both “De Town” and for ground improvements in recent years and members should be entitled to regular monthly meetings with at least one member of the board to answer and queries or comments of the clubs most loyal supporters.
QUESTION 6 – Have you ever volunteered in any capacity at the club? Eg. Selling lotto tickets, working in clubhouse, etc. (72 responses)
Many people within the club have commented of late in regard to the lack of volunteers and manpower at home games of late. With over 70% of those surveyed stating they have never volunteered for the club it is easy to see why there is such a shortage of help on offer and that’s why it was important for us to find out why so many have never offered a helping hand in our next question:
QUESTION 7 – If you have never volunteered, what are the main reasons for this? (35 responses)
Out of the 35 responses received on this question, there was a very mixed pool of responses. The most received feedback was simply down to lack of time and already being involved with other commitments so there is nothing that can be done about that. However, below are some of the replies that stood out:
- “The people who volunteer are a close group so I might feel out of place to join.”
- “Never had a chance to do so.”
- “There’s a clique running things. They don’t welcome outsiders.
- “Don’t know who to contact.”
- “Attempted too many times; club not interested in outside help and do not accommodate willing hands.”
- “I could probably make more of an effort but I have never been approached to do so by an official committee member face to face.”
From the above responses, it is clear to see a lack of organisation is holding back a lot of people from helping out at the club. As a member of the media, I know how difficult it can be to get in contact with someone from inside the club with even the most simple of inquires and this is why a media officer is needed immediately. The same can be said for a supporter liaison officer, this person would act as a go between from average fan to the clubs board and would be able to put people interested in volunteering in contact with the right people. Not only are media officers and supporter liaison officers already in place at the vast majority of League of Ireland clubs, it would help bridge the gap between supporter and board and in return make peoples opinions feel more valued as discussed earlier on in this article.
QUESTION 8 – Do you feel enough is being done to attract younger fans to home matches? (72 responses)
The most one sided result of the entire survey came when we asked supporters if they felt enough was being done to encourage younger fans to games. A damming 90.3% of you said NO and if the club are serious about improving attendances, not only this year but in the coming years, then immediate attention is needed in this area.
Solutions? Well, as we all know, social media is the main advertising hub for young people in the modern day and at present not enough is being done to use this totally free service to the best of it’s abilities. In fact, on the next question in our survey, we asked supporters to rate the clubs online efforts on a scale of 1-10 (low to high) and the results showed well over 50% scored the clubs efforts just five or below from ten. Following on from that question we asked if you felt the clubs players were promoted enough through interviews and other PR ventures, the answer was a resounding NO from 81.9% of you. This only endorses the argument that services such as Youtube are not being exploited by a club in desperate need of media coverage as the bigger Irish clubs continue to dominate the main stream outlets. One comment from a participant in the survey was “press releases longer than one line would be great.” This again shows the need for a press officer at the club with even die-hard fans finding it hard to get the latest news and updates from official club sources.
QUESTION 11 – On a scale of 1-10 (low-high), how would you rate the atmosphere at home games? (72 responses)
As you can see from the graph above, roughly three quarters of those asked voted on the lower end of the scale for rating the atmosphere at home games. It is very difficult to make any suggestions on how to improve this and why the atmosphere is the way it is. Maybe it is down to the lack of younger supporters at home games and if more could be attracted to “CCS” the atmosphere would be more lively but really the task of creating an electric atmosphere on match-day lies with the supporters themselves. Our next question fell into a similar category as we asked should the clubs ban on drums in the main stand be lifted and the result was as follows:
Given the landslide result of this question, surely the club should lift what is an extremely strange ban, especially when you consider just two seasons ago Tony Cousins was appealing for Section O to move over to the main stand in a bid to increase the noise levels at “CCS”.
QUESTION 14 -Do you feel a later kick-off time on Saturday’s would benefit the clubs attendances? Eg. 7-45PM/8:00PM instead of 7:30PM.
Slightly shading the result with 51.4% of supporters asked in favor of a later kick-off time for home games, perhaps this is an area the club should conduct further research into. While 7-30PM has traditionally been “De Town’s” start time over the years, it is not the norm within the league as a whole and as a result other kick-off times should at least be considered.
QUESTION 15 – Would you take a shuttle bus from the Town centre to home games if provided by the club? (72 responses)
Obviously with the location of the ground outside of walking distance for most, those who do attend regularly rely on their own transport as seen above. However, with a combined 43% stating they would be interested in a shuttle bus of some form to bring them to home games from Longford Town centre, this is another venture the club could attempt. A good advertising campaign on social media would be required to drum up enough interest to make it worthwhile, but if a venture like this could get off the ground and sustain itself, it could lead to a whole new group of local people being exposed more regularly to Longford Town FC, which can only be a good thing for the club.
FINAL QUESTION – Do you have any other suggestions as to how the club can improve the match day experience at CCS and in turn increase attendances? (45 responses).
Due to the vast number of responses received, we have decided to highlight what we feel are the most important and eye-catching comments made.
- ” Regular public meetings between fans and board.”
- “There are never any special offers to bring fans in the gates. Lack of promotion of games around the town. Lack of advertising on local radio.”
- “Get the club to work with local schools…free tickets for kids if they are accompanied by adult etc.”
- “Get the players out and about on match days hours before kick off, be good PR for the club.”
- “Competitions for free entry, try to entice a crowd through media campaigns.”
- “More player supporters interaction promotions ie. meet and greets, post match photo opportunities, more presence around the town on match day etc.”
- “Better promotion in local community, clubs & schools with better links being created. Free entry for Under 12’s with a paying adult. More online videos highlights, interviews, behind the scenes, 19’s /17’s etc.”
- “Free for children(with paying adult) and better advertising.”
- “Club Announcer on Pitch, Club Mascot, Halftime matches by underage players, just make it more of a spectacle.”
- “Open a bar near/in the clubhouse.. Alternatively create a link with a local bar serving pints to town fans for offers and provide €2 minibuses to and from the games.”
- “Encourage the Eastern European/asylum population to get involved with the club.”
- “Don’t charge under 16’s ! More parents would bring them and would fill the stadium better while parents would still be paying ! All GAA games do this and atmosphere always great.”
- “Get into schools with leaflets for kids for match days, give discount or offer kid free with every adult…x1 kid per adult only.
- Free tickets to local schools. Local schools for ballboys/girls. Half time get local teams playing five a side game.
- “The club need more PR with fans like maybe a openday at CCS to show the grounds off and get photos taken with all the squad not just a few u19’s (no offence to under age squad) but young kids want to meet senior players.”
- “If the players came out and took a training session at one of the many underage teams around the county it would encourage people to come to matches. It would create a solid connection between kids/parents and the team.”
- “More promotion of the club and games. Use target market of kids through schools/clubs to try increase attendances. Sligo Rovers have done it well for years. Hand out free tickets for kids and with them comes and paying adult. Make it more family day out with mascot. So many thing other club do yet Longford don’t! Lazy attitude at the top yet they wonder why the crowds and local community don’t get behind club. Need to be more proactive in selling and marketing the club.”
- “Stop being negative on social media as people who are thinking of going to matches see the negativity on Foot.ie etc and shy away..Promote the good bits about the club/Matches..Remember where the club was.”
- “Advertise games more. Sell hats scarves etc, it’s another form of advertising.”
- “More players should be interviewed on local media. Also opening of new businesses if they are Longford Town fans the players should come down to open it. I remember Stephen Kenny opened up Milos all of those years ago!”
As you can see there is quite a mix of answers thrown in there but I think it’s clear to see from this survey, the perceived lack of effort going into getting kids out to games and involved with the club seems to be a pressing issue. First of all, it’s important to say to all of you that are calling out for half-time children’s matches and local ball-boys that this issue has been tackled by the club and you should see the start of that at the next home league game against Dundalk. However, it is clear to see parents would like to see links created between the club and local schools/schoolboy teams and a simple idea like sending out players on a rotated basis to coach schoolkids as well as handing out invitations to home matches, as the GAA successfully did locally back in 2003, would be a huge PR gain for the club. One of the more interesting suggestions above, was to target the local asylum/Eastern European population as a possible base for new supporters and again this could be achieved by having match posters in other languages such as Polish or even having a one of event where anyone producing a Polish passport at the turnstiles would be entitled to free admission. This is something Dublin clubs have done around international games in an attempt to draw in visiting supporters and again it would be wonderful PR for the club. Cabinteely have shown what outside of the box thinking can do to promote a League of Ireland club and perhaps with some fresh blood on the clubs board, this sort of thinking could be achieved.
That brings us to the conclusion of our survey analysis and all we have left to say now is thank you to everyone who took part. We hope the publishing of these results will be well received as it is our goal to help improve the club and we hope this is not viewed as a ‘pop’ at the clubs committee as they do fantastic work behind the scenes to keep the club running. Given the small fan base and population of Longford, it is important everyone is rowing in the one direction in an attempt to help and promote the club and we feel by publishing this survey it can only help highlight areas of frustration loyal supporters are feeling and steps that can possibly be taken to fix this. It should be noted the results of this survey also show immense positives for Longford Town FC such as the fine facilities on offer, the loyal volunteers we currently do have to call upon and most of all the passion and desire of the clubs fans to improve the club and help it prosper over the coming years. Signing off, C’MON DE TOWN.
If anyone would like to contact us in regards to the survey and it’s results, or has any other suggestions we might like to hear, you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org while we are available on Facebook by searching Between the Stripes and on the Twitter handle of @betweenstripes.