The Stirling Sports Premiership. Ten teams. Better scheduling. Longer season.
More games where NZFC teams, and their winter clubs, play is much more likely to get people into the grounds. Canterbury play all of their home games at English Park, Hawkes Bay play all but one at Bluewater. Auckland City are back at Kiwitea, Tasman United installed at Trafalgar Park, Eastern Suburbs at Bill McKinlay. Waitakere are back in the west, no trips to Mt Smart or Albany for them in regular season matches, divided between the Trusts Arena and Fred Taylor Park.
Hamilton Wanderers have games split between Porrit Park, Waikato Stadium and Tauranga. Team Wellington play at David Farrington, the Weenix play at Newtown (and the Cake Tin and QBE and, er, David Farrington). And then there’s Southern United, switching between the Forsyth Barr and Peter Johnstone Park in Dunedin and Invercargill’s Rugby Park.
With the yawning distance of Aotearoa making it tricky for supporters to follow their team away, having a fixed home ground for the nine home fixtures is pretty important for building a support base. The newer clubs to the competition are already heavily promoting their games, establishing Hamilton Wanderers’ Blue Army, the Tasman United Supporters Group and Eastern Suburbs’ recruitment of local club representatives to build their matchday experience.
The regional leagues don’t suffer this as much, although Napier City Rovers might have something to say about the distances involved in their away days. As would Miramar after this year’s Chatham Cup.
If you’re active on Football Twitter, which isn’t a thing but sort of is, you’ll have noticed that the UK celebrated Non-League Day this past weekend. It’s the sixth year, scheduled during the International Break when Premier League and Championship teams rarely play, of encouraging people to check out their local, grassroots clubs. They also raise money for various charities along the way.
They even have a list of suggestions for ways clubs can promote their matches. I had a look through them and made them New Zealand football friendly.
- Offer free entry or ‘pay what you want’ for all supporters. There have been some phenomenal crowds recorded using these incentives with reciprocal revenue generated through increased purchases of food, drink and merchandise.
- Offer discounts for season ticket holders of Super Rugby and NRL teams.
Discuss moving KO times with leagues and/or nearby clubs, to maximise potential attendance. This is particularly relevant in areas with a high concentration of non-League clubs.The Stirling Sports Prem has already done this after last season.
- Offer discounts or free entry to armed forces and emergency services
- Speak to youth teams about being mascots. Twenty two mascots leading both teams out will encourage parents to attend and build relationships
- Organise a “community day” with free coaching, penalty shootout competitions, inflatables and raffles etc. (Eastern Suburbs did this last weekend I think!)
- Run a Twitter/Facebook campaign to promote your match. For example, #Target500 if you are trying to attract 500 supporters.
- Try and contact any local celebrities or special guests (Mayor, MP etc) who live in the area who may like to be a guest for the day.
- Incorporate a fund raising initiative. There may be a local cause or charity for which you would like to raise money, thus galvanising community interest.
- Ensure the local press are kept abreast of plans and get them to run articles in advance.
- Organise a supporter’s match before the game, or run a half time penalty shootout competition. (I would love to see Tom’s face at Kiwitea as we charged about his precious turf, sorry Tom!)
- Advertise the event in your local area through posters and fliers.
- Run special offers in the bar (e.g. discount drink offers)
- Enter a NZ Football Day note on the fixtures in your programme / website to make it look more official.
Use contacts at Premier League and Championship clubs to promote your match through their media channels.Well, there’s always the Phoenix.
- Issue a commemorative match day programme. This could include submissions from supporters and staff, and is a perfect opportunity to showcase the history of the club and what it has to offer.
- Offer a pickup service on the day for elderly or infirm supporters. Concord Rangers of the Conference South implemented a , to much national acclaim.
Even if your team isn’t at home on Non-League Day, there are still offers you can put in place to embrace the occasion. For example, you might be able to offer free or subsidised travel if your club is playing away. Part of the supporter experience is watching a club play home and away, so these factors could be taken into consideration.Maybe not for the National League, but certainly possible for the Regional Leagues.
Food for thought, perhaps, as the season approaches. Maybe there should be a New Zealand League day, or perhaps two of them – given our split season. A day, somewhere at the start of the season for both National and Regional Leagues, mens and womens, where clubs go a bit further with their promotion.
What do you think?
Categories: NZ Men's National League
John Palethorpe lives in South Auckland which is very far away from Fratton Park and Champion Hill. Having been told there was no football in New Zealand, he was delighted to find that there is.