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Setting the Standard: Improving the Match-Day Experience


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After Big_Spliff�s fantastic article yesterday, I felt it was important to write this report while his general point of improving the match-day experience was still fresh in people�s minds.

 

http://www.gersnetonline.co.uk/newsite/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=735&Itemid=2

 

I doubt any Rangers fan would disagree with me in saying that in recent years the overall experience of attending a home match has steadily worsened. Not just from an atmospheric point of view but the overall quality of the service. Poor quality catering, aggressive stewarding/policing, lack of atmosphere, aging stadium, poor facilities outwith the stadium, awful shop, lack of security in the locus, terrible sound system, broken jumbotrons ââ?¬â?? we could be here all day, so Iââ?¬â?¢ll stop there.

 

OK, criticisms made; how can we improve; how can we set the standard?

 

Letââ?¬â?¢s start at the beginning and go through a typical match-day. Personally, like thousands of other fans, I go to most games along with a few mates. We live well outside of Glasgow so we leave early to ensure we miss any traffic problems and get through early enough to enjoy the afternoon. We have a few hours to spare and money to spend so whatââ?¬â?¢s on offer once we arrive? An official Rangers restaurant/cafÃ?© selling reasonably priced food ââ?¬â?? no. An official Rangers pub selling quality beer with organised entertainment ââ?¬â?? no. A museum where we can take our children, learn more about the club and educate away/foreign supporters ââ?¬â?? no. A few spacious shops with a range of different products relevant to the club ââ?¬â?? no. Entertainment and comfortable facilities inside the ground to get fans in early and build up the atmosphere ââ?¬â?? no.

 

What do we have at our disposal then? A couple of burger/pizza bars and vans with no association to the club. A few local pubs ââ?¬â?? full to capacity - with only one or two accepting children. No museum to find out more about the club. One medium-sized, over-full shop with no space and a minimal effort at providing merchandise. A dirty, aging stadium with over-priced tepid food and minimal effort to entice you in early. Is it any wonder we have thousands of people milling around the place looking lost and bored? Welcome to Ibrox indeed!

 

Now, I do think it would be unfair to suggest the club don�t recognise some of these issues. Recent improvements have been made: the stadium has been cleaned and painted in parts; Bar72 seems to be popular (if unaffordable for most bears); reports have been made into further extensions; corporate hospitality is adequate; and the club have tried to mimic singing section displays on the odd occasion. Unfortunately, this is as far as the budget seems to reach. But finance alone surely isn�t the only problem here?

 

After all the stadium catering is already outsourced for what I assume is an acceptable fee. Why not do the same with other services? Iâ��d be surprised if certain pub/restaurant chains wouldnâ��t be interested in a development outside Ibrox. Argyle House already seems to do good business so imagine a larger version of that open most days which incorporates a museum. Iâ��m told the Hampden football museum cost less than �£2million to build and recouped the money within 18months. For a wee bit more, surely we can put together the kind of finance to offer something similar and better?

 

I also know the current administration views the stadium (e.g. the blue room//trophy room/changing rooms etc) as a museum in itself. Of course a tour should be part of any package but surely it can be based in a stand-alone building to maximise revenue? Attach a good value restaurant/pub then we have a museum that caters for all and would be an excellent daily tourist attraction ââ?¬â?? never mind a suitable supporter hub on match-days. The refurbished ââ?¬Ë?Wee Rangers Clubââ?¬â?¢ has shown what can be done on an affordable budget. Rangers should be able to do even better. The stadium corporate hospitality generally seems well thought of but a lower-price, more accessible alterative is undoubtedly required. To coin a phrase:ââ?¬â?¢ build it and they will comeââ?¬â?¢.

 

Moving onto inside the stadium, again communication with the fans should be paramount. We pay upwards of �£400 a season; �£23+ a game for our tickets so surely our opinion counts? Yet, when are we ever asked to contribute - other than surveys to see if weâ��d pay double the price for a leather seat with small screen to bet? Martin Bain is often at pains to describe us as customers; so more chance to offer feedback would be nice.

 

Related to this point is the one of security. All too often now overzealous stewards and police appear desperate to confront fans for the smallest of things. Harmless banners, gesturing to opposition supporters, swearing or singing the latest non-politically correct chant amongst other stuff. Fair enough, football isn�t just about tribalism and stressed working class men but neither should it be sanitised to the point where people are being driven away. There is a fine line so why not ensure it isn�t crossed via dialogue, regular meetings and assisting the general public with information on the alleged crimes they are supposedly committing? Not to mention actually ensuring our property is safe while we do watch the game. Just how far is Helen Street police station from Ibrox again?

 

First point of contact in this situation should be the singing sections and fan groups. From the Blue Order to the Club Deck Loyal to the Union Bears and the East Enclosure sections; there are a range of fans ready and willing to work with the club security (and each other) to find common ground. Yet, we have them dotted around the stadium minimising the effect they have. Surely, one large singing section would be more agreeable. Obviously it might not be easy to find a suitable location given many fans wouldnââ?¬â?¢t want to move but it could be investigated surely? As should a standing section ala teams in the German league. Make the singing section a focal point ââ?¬â?? not a dot at the back of a stand suggesting they are an inconvenience or an embarrassment.

 

All the above isnââ?¬â?¢t rocket science. It is just a general outline of where improvement could readily be found on an affordable, exciting level. Iââ?¬â?¢m sure we all have our own ideas which could be put forward. I also appreciate some of the difficulties within these suggestions ââ?¬â?? cash flow; space; staffing; time etc etc. However, these obstacles are far from insurmountable and we should challenge ourselves to face these challenges and improve.

 

Rangers FC led the way in stadium development last century and Ibrox Stadium is still a place we can be proud of. But it�s not perfect and, coupled with the overall drab experience, the club are testing the patience and loyalty of fans by offering a product that, with every passing season, seems poor value for money. As we enter a worldwide two year recession, attempting to retain over 40,000 season ticket holders will take more than a lukewarm burger, a wet seat and a policeman desperate to arrest you for the temerity to back your team.

 

In conclusion, the club should commission and facilitate a review of the match-day experience based on research and best practice elsewhere in the UK and beyond. Of course, supporters groups could lead this and, as we�re doing via this project, provide initial feedback to the club, leading to prioritisation and feasibility studies etc.

 

The standard must be set. Improvement must be sought. It�s time to welcome the supporters back to their home.

 

:rfc:

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Excellent points, Frankie.

 

I know that the point was made that the stewarding issues etc only affect a small proportion of the fans but I think it's got a knock-on effect as it's these guys who are making the innovative banners and are relatively making moe noise, so if that is restricted then the atmosphere for everyone is lessened.

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Excellent points, Frankie.

 

I know that the point was made that the stewarding issues etc only affect a small proportion of the fans but I think it's got a knock-on effect as it's these guys who are making the innovative banners and are relatively making moe noise, so if that is restricted then the atmosphere for everyone is lessened.

 

That's a good point BD. I saw the original arguement and thought it was a bit of a selfish view point for other fans to have, though is probably quite prevalent. But if they share your thoughts they'll realise the negative impact on the team and their own enjoyment of football lessened.

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Yeah I take the point guys - I was maybe getting a bit muddled between big-picture visions and little details which affect the big picture. Maybe I also under-estimate the number of people affected by OTT stewarding - I read about it on forums but I just dont see any issues in GF4 and never really have - I suppose that influenced me earlier. Banners I completely agree with, Dublin Loyal, offended bus etc, the club's handling of these is totally unneccessary.

 

Note made to self.

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I really find it hard to believe that there is no communication between RFC and supporters groups to improve the atmosphere inside Ibrox. It would seem to me that the best way to lead Rangers away from the so called sectarian ways would be by leadership and communication. I know that many Dutch teams have meetings with the Ultra supporters to organise banner raising and card displays etc. At FC Twente the club has fitted a pulley system that huge banners can be raised to wind the opposition up or indeed tributes to club and players. Working with the supporters would surely give a certain amount of control that would make policing a lot easier and friendlier.

 

The Museum idea is a fantastic idea Frankie but i would think it would have to be linked with a Pub\restaurant to cover running costs in less busy days.

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