Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of! Football Finance

On clubs and club shops

Posted by John Beech on June 30, 2009

An unexpected rescheduling of my diary found me in Bournemouth yesterday with several hours free before I was due in Portsmouth, which gave me an opportunity to visit three grounds in quick succession – Bournemouth, Southampton and Portsmouth. Perhaps not a random sample, but interestingly three clubs with serious ownership issues currently or in the immediate past.

Not surprisingly there was a distinct sameness in all three club shops, in particular in respect with what was on sale to supporters. It was what constituted the sameness that struck me – I could have been in any High Street leisureware shop if I had been logo-blind. Yes, to be fair, it wasn’t all replica kits; there was the usual selection of mugs, glasses, key chains and so on. But I wonder if supporters wouldn’t actually appreciate more diversity in the offer, and be willing to spend even more in supporting their impoverished club if there was a more imaginative range of products on sale. To me at least, noticeably missing were any books about the clubs – their halcyon days, their heroes, their histories. The offer in this respect was entirely in the DVD format, which may well be better in many respects, but not for the detail fans appreciate in studying their club history.

All three shops were not especially busy with customers, but after all it was a very hot day in the closed season. All three were busy with stock, again an indicator of the time of year, but staff had time to engage in conversation with me.

There were some differences between the three however:

  • Bournemouth had the only shop with any sense of serving fans rather customers, but this derived only from a large selection of club programmes on sale, some up to twenty years old. It was the only one of the three where a queue formed, albeit briefly, for tickets. There was an air of activity to the stadium, perhaps reflecting the arrival of incoming Chairman Eddie Mitchell, and it was the only one of the three where there was a strong sense of involvement with the local community.
  • Happenchance had brought me to Southampton on a day which the Southern Daily Echo was billing as a possible ‘D Day’ given the ongoing problems with Administration, the Pinnacle Group proposed takeover and the appearance of foreign consortia (1). I had half expected to find Matt Le Tissier addressing a rabble of reporters [the following sequence contains flash photography] and an angry but caring mob of protesting supporters. The stadium was all but deserted, which was rather eerie in such a modern and spacious stadium (easily the most desirable of the three, were it not for the industrial landscape in which it sits). Staff here were particularly helpful, prompting me to visit Waterstones where specific books on the club were known to be available. A missed opportunity though to sell me something I would have readily purchased.
  • Finally on to dear old Fratton Park with its boyhood memories of Gentleman Jim no longer quite in his pomp. The approach up Frogmore Road with its presentation of the club as something mock Tudor was both reassuring, but also faintly ludicrous for a Premier League club. With a perversity that will be familiar to Pompey fans, the club shop was not actually in the stadium; it was several hundred yards away in a mix of retail and light industrial operations. As befitted a Premier League club it had the largest range of branded miscellaneous items, but none that had me leaping for my wallet in spite of the fact that I was ‘easy meat’. Staff tried to be helpful, but left me utterly confused as to the apparently significant differences between what was on sale on the website and what was on sale in the shop.

All in all, it was an odd afternoon. It left me feeling that clubs are driven by what manufacturers offer them in branded form rather than finding out what fans actually want and would be prepared to buy. I was left with impression that market research had not really been attempted.


3 Responses to “On clubs and club shops”

  1. […] Having visited Dean Court midweek last summer, I was taken by the enthusiasm of the fans I saw and commented “There was an air of activity to the stadium, perhaps reflecting the arrival of incoming Chairman Eddie Mitchell, and it was the only one of the three [I visited Southampton and Portsmouth on the same day] where there was a strong sense of involvement with the local community” (4). […]

  2. […] you find new goods or services to sell to your existing fans.  I’ve blogged before (see On clubs and club shops) on what I see as an unimaginitive range of merchandising that club shops offer, and clubs could do […]

  3. Richard Dooley said

    This reminds me of the shop at my beloved Port Vale… It can’t be a coincidence that the clubs who struggle with their finances are the very same clubs who lack imagination, or even a bit of common sense, in the marketing department.

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