AFC Bournemouth's supporter liaison officer, Liz Finney, gives a fan update as we approach the final stretch in the Premier League season.
Attendance at the recent Premier League Cup game was really pleasing with 1,850 watching on Sunday 24th February against Liverpool. Such matches give those who are unable to attend Premier League games the opportunity to watch live football at Vitality Stadium and show their support to our players who are playing at that level.
We wanted to mirror some of the feel of a first-team match as this has not been present at previous under-21s games so we had big screen video features and scoreboard, PA announcements, flagbearers and mascots. The clappers and Sweet Caroline were also in evidence and I am sure all who attended will agree that there was a really good atmosphere and I know the players appreciated the great support from the stands on the day.
Our FA Youth Cup also had its highest attendance with nearly 1,200 supporters in the ground on the Tuesday night that followed to lend their support to our young players and the club will continue to work to encourage as many fans as possible to attend these non-first team games. I know it really helps the players to have that level of support and the atmosphere it brings. It is also good for our young supporters especially to identify with the club’s young talent and hopefully grow together as supporters and players.
We have just received the results of the Premier League match attender survey and would like to thank the nearly 1,000 fans who took part. We are pleased to report that our club performed above the Premier League average in all categories bar investment in facilities. We work hard to give supporters the best matchday experience we will use the survey results to focus our efforts.
We have unfortunately had to deal with three reports of discriminatory language over the last two games – one involving a visiting supporter and two separate reports of disability discrimination and racist comments by home fans.
I know the vast majority of our supporters will be as disappointed as we are that such behaviour has occurred in our ground. Please rest assured that we will investigate thoroughly and take firm action against any proven instance of discrimination and I can report that there has been one arrest already in this respect.
We would once again urge fans who witness such language to please let a steward know on the day or, if this is not feasible to text the reported incidents number, which is 07968 980580. This number is also available in the programme, in the concourse area and we include it on the pre-match email that goes out to all ticket purchasers ahead of matchday. Not delaying in contacting us gives our safety team the best possible opportunity to monitor and evidence an incident to better take swift action.
It is hard to believe we only have four Premier League matches at Vitality Stadium before the end of the season. Please take the opportunity to donate to Bournemouth Foodbank at each of these games as your donations of non-perishable foods and sanitary items are much needed. Bournemouth Foodbank is the organisation voted for by Cherries supporters to be their chosen local charity for the 2018/19 season and it would be great if we can really demonstrate our support for this worthwhile local cause by giving as much as we can at the remainder of our games.
Our travelling fans will receive a pre-match email for the remainder of the away fixtures this season as a trial to provide some useful information to those making the trip to support the team on the road. It would be great to get some feedback from supporters if they find the communication useful or if there is some other information we can include. Just email me on [email protected].
For those supporters who do travel to away games we would ask that you have a care for the matchday experience of others. We are one of only two or three clubs that provide the pick a seat option for away games and we do try to encourage the sale of those rows towards the front of a block to be taken by your fellow fans who may have a need to sit throughout, as well as a preference.
We try to encourage supporters who would like a livelier away day experience to book seats towards the back of a block but we still receive a good number of reports of standing in front rows and views being blocked sometimes for the whole game. Everyone who travels does so at their cost and time to see and support their team and hopefully all Cherries supporters will give consideration to their fellow fans’ enjoyment of their day.
Our match ticket policy has been updated and can be viewed here. The ticketing team have tried to set out clearly the club’s rules on all aspects of the purchase, refund and use of your ticket to alleviate any grey areas. It was important to make this update as there is no doubt that there has been a level of misuse of tickets that is not acceptable. The policy does, we hope, make clear that going forward there will be sanctions taken where this is the case.
The re-sale of season tickets has been trialled and Twickets and the ticketing team have worked to iron out any small issues that have arisen. Following feedback from supporters we are planning with effect from our home games in April to open the eligibility for purchase of these seats to away and cup Cherries points holders in addition to the one home Cherries point criteria currently in place. This will be as a trial to the end of the season and we will track the impact of this new measure.
We are in the process of finalising our timings for the sale of season tickets but, as it stands, we expect sales to begin soon after the end of the season and season ticket cards issued in the first part of July. However, we will confirm full details nearer the time.
The club is required as a member of the Premier League to attain the Premier League Equality Standard at preliminary, intermediate and advanced levels. The first two levels have been achieved by the club since promotion and we are now working towards the advanced level.
There have been some great milestones in our equality journey so far such as the swift development of girls’ and women’s football and representation across the club, our disability programmes and developing consultation across the protected characteristic groups as well as our themed matchdays.
We produce, as part of the standard, an annual report to the board video and I shared last year’s film with you via an SLO update. Our board has now viewed this year’s report and once again we feel it makes sense to share with you our work in this important area, so you can view this year's film here.
I hope also you will have some awareness of our fairly new equality campaign Everyone Together. This features a group of 22 supporters who represent a good cross-section of the protected characteristics and imagery has been installed at various locations around the ground. In addition, there have been short features in each of our matchday programmes since the launch of the campaign.
Phase two involves us all getting to know these fans and the challenges they face a little better and we have elected to do this through video. The first video features Louise, a Cherries fan since she was a young girl attending with her Dad. She shares her journey with us from then to now, talking frankly about some of the barriers she has faced along the way. Click here to view.
We recently launched an access card for supporters who may have a hidden disability or other condition and which they are able to show to stewards or other staff on a matchday to gain use of our accessible facilities.
This was developed from discussion with our Equality Focus Group and has been well received by our supporters and has been since taken up by other Premier League clubs as good practice. This means fans carrying the card don’t have to go through an explanation, for instance if they need to use an accessible toilet. We hope to promote the use of these cards for our fans travelling to other Premier League grounds. For more information on this service please click here.
In a similar vein, the popular AFC Bournemouth branded complimentary sensory packs are still available for supporters with sensory requirements and can be requested via this link. I am pleased report that some other clubs have also taken up this idea for their own supporters so that across the board more supporters are able to fully enjoy their matchday experience.
We have now had two Equality Focus Group meetings, both really lively and informative, and from which have come some positive club actions. If you would like to catch up on the notes from the meetings, please read here.
The club has just sent out an equality monitoring survey via email to supporters and it would be very much appreciated if you can take the time to complete the questions. It shouldn’t take up too much of your time and it is really beneficial to the club to assist us in gauging where we can best focus our efforts to improve and to help remove any barriers there may be to engaging positively with all our supporters and in our local community.
You also get the chance to win an amazing training ground experience which includes meeting our players, so please do take some time to complete the form. Please click here to open