Saints Looking To Open Fan Park
Friday, 25th Jan 2019 09:44
They are all the rage at some of the other Premier League grounds around the country and now Saints are set to jump on the bandwagon by opening their own Fan Park as well as some other developments.
For those who are now giving a puzzled look about just what a fan park is, it is basically an area set aside next to the ground with various attractions to supporters.
These can include anything from themed activities for children, fairground type stalls, food outlets, music, video screens to bars selling alcohol.
Liverpool and Manchester City are two clubs who have embraced this and they prove very popular amongst their supporters, whilst they won't be to every supporters tastes, there is no doubt they are popular and from that angle there is nothing to complain about that Saints are aiming to open one of their own.
It is set to be in the South Car park which for those of you with no sense of direction is the one behind the Chapel Stand..
Saints Managing Director Toby Steele confirmed that discussions are underway with Southampton City Council regarding the prospect of creating an area for supporters to meet before a match.
Speaking at the club’s fans’ forum, Steele said:
“We are working with the council on a fan zone in the south car park.
“We hope to get approval for that within the next month or two depending on any other conditions we have to go through to launch that.
“We may launch that in the spring, we wouldn’t launch it now when the weather is like it is, or we could launch it at the beginning of next season.
“But we have plans to do that.
“We already have our outlined plans of what it would look like and we hope to be able to do that.”
Another topic that Steele covered at the event concerned the possibility of opening a community centre outside St Mary’s.
Saints’ aim is to attract supporters to the area on non-match days as well as when the team are playing.
However, the gas site where this could be built, is currently owned by a developer.
The bonus for Saints regarding this is that Southampton City Council believe whatever is built on the location must benefit the club.
“Longer term, I often get asked about the gas site adjacent to St Mary’s,” Steele continued.
“At the moment, there is a developer who has the option to buy and develop that site, but the council recognise that that site has to be for the benefit of the football club as well given its close location.
As I said earlier in the article this will not be of interest to some supporters and some may be negative about it seeing it as yet another step in the club embracing the "Sky Sports" generation etc.
Personally I see it as a good thing, anything that aims to encourage supporters to engage with the club and connect with it on a more personal level than just turning up 1/2 an hour before a game and stand in a concrete concourse has to be a positive move.
Modern football clubs have to be more than just clubs, some will say that these days we are just customers, to a degree there is some truth in that, but compared to 30 years ago Saints and indeed most football clubs are recognising that you only keep customers if you build loyalty and you have to do that with more than just football.
You have to increase your fan base, but more than that you have to make it a fanbase that attends games week in week out whatever the results on the pitch, at the moment as we can see by the empty seats at St Mary's that is not the case.
Recent visitors Everton are a good case, for the best part of the last decade, certainly the last five years or so their seasons have been no better than ours, for their supporters that is hard to take especially when you take into account that they are in the shadow of Liverpool.
But despite that they have retained full grounds for every Premier League game even when they were watching dire football under Martinez and Allardyce.
They have built that loyalty and engaged with the fans, re invented themselves as the People's Club and built a pride in their club that makes giving up your season ticket something to be ashamed of not as a badge of pride to be boasted of on social media.
Part of this is things like fan zones, perhaps only a small part but small parts all add up to the full picture.
We need to do this at Saints, we need to develop our pride in our City indeed region and a pride in our football club, that means more than just a few renditions of "Oh when the Saints" Everton fans for instance will protest against the manager or the board, but for them the club is sacrosant, owners may be rotten but the club is not.
Saints have a long way to go to get this pride built up, they are at least making an effort and a start and hopefully the supporters will respond.
I'm not having a got at Saints fans here, I want us to be the best in the country, I want full houses at St Mary's to be the norm whether it's Manchester United the visitors or Huddersfield, I want 3,000 at every away game, we mocked 3,000 of them on Saturday, earlier in the season we barely had half that number up at Goodison.
Yes money will be a factor, but a factor for some and not all and if clubs like Everton whose fans "sign on" as the chant goes and are from an area much poorer than most of our fans can turn out in numbers then so can we.
Hopefully this will be part of the catalyst that sparks that pride in Southampton Football Club, Ralph Hasenhuttl has that pride, yes he might not be here for very long, but he will take us forward with pride when he is here, hopefully we will all have that pride long after he is gone.
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