It feels like it is only days after the Euros finished and the new football season is back. Never mind that in between we had Wimbledon and the Olympics: what a feast of sport for those of us who love it. To be honest, I always feel that the football season starts too early. I could do with another couple of weeks to get mentally prepared before being launched back into it, but I am probably alone in this.
As a Scottish man of a certain age, it was always fashionable to have two teams. For me, my hometown team was Airdrieonians and my “English” team (because you had to have one) was Liverpool FC as my hero, King Kenny Dalglish, played there. Fast forward 40-odd years and Airdrieonians have sadly disappeared, and I have acquired two new teams, based on house moves, in Bristol City and Crewe Alexandra. It’s a lot to keep across but what else would I do otherwise?
Why now is the time to engage supporters
For the clubs themselves there is always a lot to keep across. And coming into this season there is probably more than ever before. Last season was one like no other. For most of it there were no fans in the stadiums, no merchandise sales from the shops and very little chance to engage with supporters face-to-face. This meant that income levels were down, and, at the same time, staff were furloughed and a lot of the essential work that would normally go on behind the scenes probably suffered as a result.
I mentioned three teams that I support earlier. For each of these clubs I have bought tickets – in fact, season tickets for two of them – and yet I have only had emails from one of them (Liverpool) about games coming up.
Realistically, teams like Liverpool don’t need to spend time filling the stadium: that will happen for every game regardless. But they do need to share information on new strips, their TV channel and all the other ways I can follow my team. For Bristol City and Crewe Alex it is more basic: get bums on seats. And yet neither of them have sent me an email, or a bit of mail even, to remind me I can come back and support them with all my mighty singing. I think clubs are missing a trick, to be frank – think how many shops opened and we got emails and mailings to tell us about it. How much better response would there be for something that we like doing?!
Why data is key
Another area that I am obviously interested in is around the data that the clubs hold on their supporters and what has happened to that over the last 18 months. We know that data quality degrades; people move house, change email address, pass away and most of this isn’t shared with their football club. A really great way to start engaging with your fans is to make sure you hold the right data on them. And that is easy to do!
So, the fans are back but are the clubs making the most of their excitement? Are they getting in touch and telling us how we can do more for our club? Are they inviting us back to the ground and into the club shop? And are they sorting the data they hold on us so that they can do that? For me, as a multi-club man, it doesn’t feel like it. As well as getting ready for kick-off on the pitch, they should give some thought to kicking off supporter engagement off it too: it will serve them well.