London Irish RFC is looking to grow fan engagement with the development of a new supporter village.
Speaking to Fan Experience Forum during the weekend’s Aviva Premiership game against Leicester, the club’s Ticketing & Supporter Experience Manager Dan Clarke explained his hopes for the village at Reading FC’s Madejski Stadium.
“We are looking to introduce a supporter village or fan zone outside of the East Stand,” he said. “There needs to be something for every type of fan.”
Fan engagement has been a big focus for the club ever since it moved to its current home in 2000, a move which created some teething problems.
“We play in green but Reading FC’s colour is blue,” said Clarke. “So, unfortunately we play in a stadium with blue seats.
“It’s also not easy playing in a 24,000 seater stadium when you attract crowds of 8,000 for a good game. We realise this and have made real movements to ensure the fan experience is the best it can be. We’ve trialled putting flags out, placing drummers in sections of the crowd and all of this is helping.”
As well as creating the supporters zone, the club looks to make a day at the rugby a family affair and cultivate fans of the future.
“We offer free tickets to under 16’s with any paying adult,” said Clarke. “This is all part of our family-friendly ethos. We want to encourage this more and more. After all, the youngsters are our next generation of fans – so we need to make sure we look after them.”
To help keep the family entertained, the club provides music at the bars at the Madejski Stadium and activities for the kids including a bouncy castle and giant Connect 4 game.
He believes families are looking to spend quality time together as well as have a fun day out and “if you can combine the two, then you’re onto a winner”.
To help grow the club’s popularity, Clarke also takes part in a bi-monthly fan meeting, which gives fans the chance to air their opinions and keep them engaged.
“This is an important part of what we do, and it cannot be understated,” he said. “If we can engage with them through the supporter feedback group, we can eliminate the problem of them becoming disenfranchised.”
Clarke will be on hand to represent London Irish RFC at Fan Experience Forum 2015.
“I’m really excited to be a part of Fan Experience Forum 2015 in June,” he said. “I’m interested to see success stories from the leaders in the sports industry.”
“Looking at the people who are involved already, and those who have been involved in the past, they really are the people you want to learn from.”
“There’s always more to learn about the supporter experience. If you look at now, compared to even five years ago – the changes are quite dramatic. Each year you have to keep abreast of what’s going on and Fan Experience Forum 2015 is the perfect place to do this.”
You can join Dan Clarke and other leaders in fan engagement across all sports at Fan Experience Forum 2015 in Barcelona on 9 June.
The Fan Experience Forum 2015 forms part of TheStadiumBusiness Summit in Barcelona on 9-11 June. – the world’s best gathering of stadium business owners, operators and leaders.