Often Partisan

Supporter Group Brainstorming Session

On Friday I attended a Supporter Group Brainstorming session held at St Andrews, along with representatives from the Blues Trust, Forza Blues and the Redditch Supporters Group.

The meeting itself was quite low-key; essentially we were told that the various BCFC staff at the meeting meet once a month to discuss matchday issues such as ticketing, catering and pitchside entertainment – essentially the “matchday experience”. The various fans who were in attendance had been invited along to share ideas and to give feedback on the ideas that the club had come up with. Although I was invited because I run the OP website I have to reaffirm I don’t represent anyone’s views bar my own and was careful to stress that they were my personal views.

I think it’s important to stress that nothing to do with the club ownership came up; I’ve been to several supporters forums before and the bald truth is that there is no one here in Birmingham who can do anything about what is happening at board level; the staff at the ground are aware of the antipathy towards the club because of issues at that level but they’re concentrating on doing their jobs as best as they can – as they always have done.

The chief issue is as it has been for so long talk of improving ticket sales and the “atmosphere” at St Andrews. The club have set themselves an objective of winning the “Family Club of the Year” title at the Football League awards and have looked at what they can do to improve coming to the Blues for families. From a personal point of view, as someone who takes their eight-year-old child to every game this is good news, but I can see why the club are doing it. The club have looked at demographics within the supporter base and the average age of fans is in the thirties-forties bracket; most people of that age have children and it’s about encouraging a new generation of supporters into the club, along with giving older fans a good reason to keep coming.

As part of this initiative the club brought in free tickets to u10s around the ground, improving from last season when it was just u8s in the family stand. The club did look at setting the age bracket higher but costs started getting prohibitive as they looked at higher age bandings and thus they settled on ten years old. The club also confirmed that there were family tickets for 2 adults and 2 children in the family stand and that additional children could also be added to them as well.

One bit of immediate feedback was the late date that season tickets went on sale; the club acknowledged this but I think it was felt with the uncertainty of what division we were going to end up in meant that they felt that they couldn’t release ST prices. However, they club agreed that releasing them earlier would be ideal and would give them extra chances to be able to publicise the ST prices etc. It was mentioned that some people felt a bit alienated because of the push to do everything online and whilst acknowledging that, the club did say that they were trying to save costs and had saved £12,000 in postage by going the method that they had. We were also told that in excess of 8,500 season tickets had been sold now; which whilst being slightly down on last year is quite a bit ahead of projected sales and the club were pleased with the takeup.

The club confirmed that they were opening kids for a quid offers to away fans which mean that they wouldn’t come under the “local offers” issue whereby they are only allowed to offer discounted prices for 4 games in a season. The criteria for picking these games was also discussed, and it was confirmed they looked for games in the school holidays which was likely to be police free and where the opponents would likely to also bring lots of kids.

Another big issue that came up was the placing of the away fans in the GML. The club confirmed that they really would like to move the away fans to the paddock but the Safety Advisory Group (which decides on the club’s safety certificate) had stopped it on various grounds. Steve McCarthy from the Trust offered help in trying to achieve that for the club by putting together documentation dismissing each of the objections with facts and stats of what is allowed elsewhere, which was gratefully accepted. Both Paul (of Forza Blues) and Steve were very much for fans getting involved in helping promote the club under the club’s supervision – both for things like the SAG and also for running stalls and the like at events in the city centre.

There is going to be a push for a lot more interaction with younger fans in the family stand; the mascots are to spend time with the kids there and the club are looking to have various initiatives to try to encourage kids to want to come back to the club. The club have looked at ways to improve the connection between fans and the players to help build the bond. I suggested that the open training day in the 2011 preseason had gone down well and with the showpiece pitch now open at the training ground for reserve games a ticketed event whereby fans could go see the team train – particularly during the school holidays would go down well. This was received favourably and I believe the club will look into it.

There was some talk of musical instruments in the ground and whilst Paul, Steve and Lynda from the Redditch group were in favour I have to admit that I wasn’t – again from a personal point of view only. Whilst I can see what Forza are trying to do with instruments and “tifo” (the coloured cards being held up etc) I personally see it as a modern, plasticky invention and that atmosphere has to be generated spontaneously. Of course, a lot of it is connected to on the pitch matters but I think the more the club do to get people in the ground and enjoying themselves, the more likely an atmosphere will occur.

The 1875 bar has been a success and the club are looking at a new fan area with similar access with the idea to get fans into the ground earlier and spending money in the ground rather than at the pubs surrounding it. Steve and Paul floated the idea of a fan-run bar where the Subway outlet used to be (a little like something that the Sheffield Wednesday fans run at Hillsborough) as both a way of bringing in revenue which can be reinvested in the club and also giving a focal point for fan groups to meet at the ground.

I think it’s easy to be cynical about this sort of thing but the truth is that the staff at the club are trying their hardest to make the Birmingham side of things better. They can’t control how the team plays on the pitch and they can’t control what goes on in the boardroom but they can make the matchday as good as possible for Blues fans. The way I see it is that if fans who have drifted away come back and see that there isn’t a golden river running down the middle of the Kop, that the pies are warm and the beer is cold and that it’s an enjoyable day out maybe they’ll want to come back.

Talking Points sponsored by John Hicken Industrial roofing and cladding materials

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88 Responses to “Supporter Group Brainstorming Session”

  • tmsblues says:

    Perhaps more singing from the terraces in support of our team, rather than what we’d like to have done to the Villa might help. Suspect it would get more parents bringing their kids along to see the game and enjoy the atmosphere if they didn’t have to be quite as concerned about the language..

  • Barmy B says:

    How about a fixed price for visiting supporters i.e. £20 for adults less for under sixteen’s and the same compliment passed on to us when we are playing away more fans at home can only improve the atmosphere

  • pc brigade says:

    I’ve been told off many a time for using the term brainstorming, I been told its offensive and not pc!

  • Tony says:

    I’ve never had a doubt about the quality of the staff based in Birmingham, without them the club would have died by now. Ironically I believe that there isn’t much wrong with the club, apart from the obvious issues with the ownership and finance. New owners who are financially sound would, in my opinion, soon be able to turn things round and whilst promotion this coming season would be unrealistic things could be in place for a realistic tilt for promotion the following season. Here’s hoping.

  • Bottychelli says:

    It sounds like we are trying to turn stans into a play school lots of children and musical instruments what’s Wrong with reducing the price for everyone people on low income whom don’t have children who would not need musical instruments but sing shout with passion in their voices.

    • almajir says:

      Economics. The club is skint as it is and you want to lower the income further? The amount of extra takeup just wouldn’t cover the cost of lowering the tickets…

    • chris says:

      they could have charged under tens £3 each and then have taken this off the under 15/16 price so all kids gained something.
      many kids under 12 will wander off to do other things as they get older (as mine did), whereas kids of 13 to 18 will probably keep coming if they can afford it.
      just a thought, all these cheap initiatives for kids under 15 over the last 20 years hasn’t really grown the fan base, has it?

  • philanza says:

    Thank god they’ve got rid of peters pies and was selling decent pies, or were they just filling in for when the season starts pardon the pun.I think until we have a standing section the atmosphere will stay as it is with block 11 trying to raise the atmosphere and the others moaning about it.

  • BhamCityJulian says:

    PC brigade – brainstorming is a standard business term recognised under Prince 2 methodology and others. Use it: DLTBGYD

  • StaffsBlue says:

    All the ideas mention above sound excellent. There’s certainly a lot to think about. I have to say though, that I agree with OP about musical instruments at games etc. We don’t need that kind of thing. There’s nothing worse than having a trumpet or drum in your ear the whole match. What we really need, is something to get the fans cheering, clapping and stomping… and what better, than a successful team playing good football? Gets me up off my seat cheering every time. :)

  • Mickey07 says:

    Musical instruments???no thanks they should be banned from every ground In the country,when I go down the game i want to have a good moan and a bit of piece,I don’t want some idiot hitting a stick against a drum for 90 mins in my lug hole ….

  • Roy Smith says:

    Fully agree with not having musical instruments. The only away fan I have ever wanted to kill was the Pompy fan who rang a bell incessantly.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    Vuvuzelas….. instruments of the Devil!!!

  • thongs says:

    This is all brilliant. I mentioned these initiatives to my 9 yr old. His response was “we sold Redmond, Davies and Butland and we’re getting a mascot to annoy us. Great dad, think I’ll just play Xbox instead.”

    • almajir says:

      That’s some great cynicism from a nine year old, wonder if it runs in the family?

      • StaffsBlue says:

        Nearly spat my tea up the monitor when I saw that lol

      • thongs says:

        In fairness he is nearly 10. He loves football but doesn’t love the Blues so much now. His idols have gone. The players he pretends to be are no longer there. I somehow cant see him spinning away from goal after completing a hatrick for his under 10’s team, mouthing “and that’s Greens third of the game!”

        • StaffsBlue says:

          A little early to be thinkiong like that. Matt Green could be the first Blues striker to score 20+ goals in a season since… Forsell?

          • thongs says:

            lol…I hope you haven’t got work tomorrow if you’re already drinking.

          • StaffsBlue says:


          • chris says:

            as Thong says what you on?
            Though i hope your so right and my doubts are wrong

          • StaffsBlue says:

            I’m a glass half-full kind of bloke. Sorry, I can’t be arsed with the glass half empty-type.

          • jazzzy786 says:

            He’ll be sold for £1m in January if he scores 14-15 goals by then. The only way the crowd will come back is if we’re doing well on the pitch. Despite the apathy if we are playing well and winning football games it will raise the morale of the supporters and put bums on seats.

            A major problem is that St Andrews is slap bang in the middle of a highly populated multicultural area who unlike previous generations do not have the links or affliation with Birmingham or Birmingham City. The vast majority of football crowds are still white. The only way I can think of getting more ethnic minorities into the ground is for BCFC to work more closely with the local communities and encourage more ethnic youngsters to perhaps consider a career in football.

    • chris says:

      mates 13 year old has said something similar so i don’t think he’s renewing his season ticket

  • Simon says:

    I’ve commented before i think, maybe not on here but on various forums, that the Germans do it right in terms of generating atmosphere. (I lve in Germany at present), and yes I know they have safe standing but the atmosphere is ‘generated’ by having one or 2 supporters at the front of the stand, facing the crowd, using tannoys to co-ordinate the starting of songs and chants. Works a treat and is awesome to watch when they synchronise hand clapping, arm waving etc. Don’t think anyone has done anything similar in the UK

    Eg here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=makLoWvLtMQ note the chap in hte the black vest in the front of that singing lot organising it. Only a small group, in seating, making hell of a racket

    • KeepRightcroydOn says:

      How very Germanic! Orchestrated and people doing as they’re told to do. No thank you. Spontaneously is much more preferable.

      • StaffsBlue says:

        Don’t mention the war!!

      • Pete says:

        There is no spontenious support taking place. I also utterly agree with a fan earlier who said that it is a shame the focus of most Blues chants is about out opposite team in the city and with no focus on the players who actually need supporting. I mean how many chants can players think of about one of our players?

        • tmsblues says:

          Pete that’s exactly my point. If its families that are wanted to fill the ground then make the banter , singing and chanting child friendly. It shouldn’t be necessary for parents to try to cover the ears of the youngsters or explain why they shouldn’t join in. Positive rousing Blues support not negative support is what is wanted.

  • tony says:

    What about doing tickets 3 for the price of 2 ? without a decent crowd then the atmosphere will always suffer.I know alot of people who haven’t renewed are cheesed off with the off field carry on but there must be alot that simply find it to expensive.I take it the 8500 tickets sold also include the under 10 free ones as well so sales aren’t that good really.

  • alexjhurley says:

    At these meetings If anyone suggests playing music after we score please let me know and I will personally separate them from thier breath.

  • Jassyblue80 says:

    Sounds an interesting meeting. The club do lots of good things & I think they should blow their own trumpets a little!

    They have given a charity I work with 20 free tickets to the Brighton for a group of children from Belarus (Chernobyl group) I am going to make sure it goes in the news letter etc… I’ve suggested the club run a story too :-)

    The staff I have spoken too etc.. Have always come across as 100% committed to the cause and are very hard working. They are keeping the club going during this tough time !


    • Steve Peacock says:

      We should support he staff as Jassy Blue says. Great thing giving 20 Free tickets to children from Chernobyl. I thought atmosphere was good v Watford Fans must as always stay with it. Yes it’s tough but we are Blues. Keep Right On!!!!

  • AndyP says:

    I’ve been to a games in Germany and it is so different to any thing over here.three hours before ko the bars and restraunts underneath the stands are packed.they are big comfortable no queue for beer or food and priced comparable to local pubs.if you go for a pint under our stand you pay over the odds wait for 10 mins to get served flat beer in a plastic cup.sorry but ill be staying in the pub.

    • chris says:

      Think Andy P has a point try and get people out of the pub and into the ground for a pint.
      GM Upper (oh that’s now closed!!) has room for a chat with a pint and a screen to watch, so you need to treat fans to the same facilities as a pub with a better choice of ale, than was offered last season.

  • bully beef jnr says:

    There are many times when in the pubs round the ground where I think to myself it would be easier to get a beer in the ground. Then I think of the cost and that feeling soon disappears has cost ever come up in these meetings? ?

    • Bluenosesol says:

      You can sup a few pints of real ale in the many Wetherspoons around the city then jump on the bus to the ground. Many pints around the £2 mark and in the winter you stay in the warm rather than freezing your proverbials off in a wind tunnel!!

  • chris says:

    fill up the first five to ten rows all round the ground, it looks awful and makes it feel empty.
    give the tickets away to schools, army, guides, colleges (i know they do sometimes) etc or charge less.
    maybe the pricing should go from front to middle and backrows to middle, not just on which stand your in?

  • Richard Granfield says:

    I applaud the supporters groups and the club for coming up with innovative ideas, but I fear only a winning team will increase attendances significantly.

  • Art Watson says:

    I very much agree with your views.

    It’s great to see these initiives and know doubt they will add some value to the commercial revenue,in the long run. Short term the club needs success on the park .Sadly if this is not the case the supporters will lose interest and the gate receipts and commercial revenue will reduce.

    Good luck to everyone who is working tirelessly to improve the situation -it must be very frustrating being shackled by a the current owners.

  • oldburyblue says:

    How about a 50p draw …winner gets 2 tickets in “hospitality”? Good PR at little cost to the Club and potential for a small profit as well.

  • blue says:

    before the club start thinking about moving the away fans from the gml to the paddocks how about asking the season ticket holders in the paddocks if they want to be moved. I think you would find most are very happy where they are already sitting and dont want to be moved from where they”ve sat for many seasons.

  • Tony says:

    The majority of fans neither trust nor like Pannu and things have no chance of improving whilst he is at the helm. It would be a long haul for new owners, but at least they wouldn’t carry the baggage attached to the current owners.

  • brumbie says:

    Its good the club are looking at ways to increase attendances but I cant see gimmicks making to much difference. A good team might work ! Many young fans are not really interested in the blues anymore my own 8yr old has decided to follow his mates and follow villa despite my best efforts it seems kids today dont care about family tradition and just want to follow the.glamourous clubs I dont mind seeing them supporting other local clubs but is sickening to see so many man u liverpool and chelsea shirts on the streets of birmingham.

    • oldburyblue says:

      Many questions brumble. You say your 8yr old “follows” The Villa. Does he actually go….and if so who takes him? Do you actually go to Blues, and if so don’t you take your son? I was brought up surrounded by WBA and Wolves fans, but my dad made sure me and my 3 brothers didn’t follow “the Dark Side”, by taking us to Blues at early ages. We were proud to be different in the heart of The Black Country.

      • almajir says:

        By all rights I should have been 12 toer myself, but I was shown the right way by a friend of my dad’s who I haven’t seen in 30 years. If I can walk away from that claret and blue mob when they won the European Cup despite family, anyone can do it.

      • brumbie says:

        I am a season ticket holder and would like to take my son but he just does not want to go to st andrews. He has been to the villa with his mates dad a couple of times and likes it kids are influenced by all the hype of the premiership the bigger the club the more kids want to follow them look how many kids call themselves man united fans. Until we become an established premiership club we will continue to lose young potential fans.

  • oldburyblue says:

    Sorry for getting your name wrong brumbie…..fat fingers I’m afraid!!

  • Blooflame says:

    It is imperative that the “Family area” is moved from it’s location in the corner right next to the away fans. My Brother bought the season tickets for his two boys and himself, I met them there for the game against Stoke – the loudest, gobbiest fans of them all….so a short while back. The one Child was clearly intimidated by the singing (Stoke fans were not doing anything wrong), but a young sensitive child can decipher this as aggression,and he did. He wouldn’t go down again. I think it shows how little this was thought through, remember they are the paying fans of tomorrow.

  • blue says:

    If your cool with moving then go ahead and move of your own free will. Me personally and others around me don”t want to be moved, we are happy with our seats thats why we have had them for so long

  • Tony says:

    Music, Warm Pies and cold beer, silly gimicks like kids play areas, all utter rubbish.
    First off atmosphere is generated when a ground is full or very close to being full its the only way and you only do that with a decent side. It doesnt matter a jot about all this nonesense.
    The plain truth of the matter is people are utterly pissed of with Yeung and the fat controller for what they are doing to the club and will not return until they have gone.
    Brainstorming sessions ! well if thats all they produce maybe you should discontinue them. How about making a case to take to the FL to see what can be done about this situation.

  • Tony says:

    To be honest Dan I have not the inclination, time, or ability, but you have

    • almajir says:

      Do I Tony?

      How do you know I have the time? Why should I do something you don’t have “the inclination” to do?

      This isn’t merely directed at you Tony, because I see a lot of this elsewhere. Lots of Blues fans waiting for someone to “do something” when the truth is that they could do it themselves. This is why nothing gets done, and why no one cares.

  • Tony says:

    If I may be blunt Dan my remark was aimed mainly at ability you have the ability, and the contacts I do not. If you want me to word it as a plea then I will do so because someone has to do something and Im sure many people will agree with me that you would be an ideal choice.Not suggesting for a moment that you have any more free time than I do but needs nust.

    • almajir says:

      I get your drift Tony but the same comments apply – I’m not a spokesman for the fans and I don’t want to be. It can’t be just me that organises everything – if people want change then the y have to stand up and help bring it on themselves – and I’m being very serious about this..

  • peakblue says:

    I thought Bolton made a good go at attracting families to the reebok when we went up there on last game of the season once. Goal scoring comps, keepy uppy bloke showing of some skills. They have a difficult time competing in the Greater Manchester area but do alright.

    Can’t see why players who havn’t made the squad on matchdays couldn’t make themselves more visible for the young fans signing programmes and posing for photos etc.

    Also the academy squad players do nowt but walk around in the back of the main stand in bcfc tracksuits giving it “Look at me I’ve made it” They’d be better running coaching classes with the beau brummies a couple of hours before kick off and they might even gain some qualifications too if there chosen vocation doesn’t quite work out.

    The family stand where it is situated is very intimidating

  • Tony says:

    Understood but dissapointing

  • Euston 9.18 says:

    The days of the golden river,cold pies & warm beer,were when PROPER BIRMINGHAM CITY FANS were supporting the team,not prem glory fans.

    Get rid of the Plastic seats like the glory fans & get the terracing back !!

    Dont reply its against the law ,so is the hairdresser owning this club,but are they bothered so lets see what they would do if St ANDREWS went back to terracing .

    The warm newkie brown in the supporters club under the railway end after the game taste better in the mouth than paying a BLUES PLAYER £70 grand a week.

    Getting friends & family standing together will bring the atmosphere back if your mates start singing,you join in knowing you won’t upset people around you,not like with the seats,sat there with strangers either side.

    • almajir says:

      No, Euston – Carson hasn’t done anything wrong yet so it’s not against their rules. Maybe if he is convicted you have a point but until then it’s all clear on the FL’s behalf.

      I think if Blues unilaterally ripped out the seating (and btw, the Kop/Tilton are both too steep for standing terracing in their current incarnation) they would feel the full force of the league’s wrath.

      • Euston 9.18 says:

        Oh thats right the cockney lot sold us to a fit & proper person like they said they would.

        Steepness !!

        Have you sat at Newcastle away ??

        I have mentioned before knock the main stand down replace with a terrace & cheap bar with sky live early kick off,maybe a cheaper ticket pay on the day at the turnstile before 2.00pm.

        • almajir says:

          One problem with that Euston – it would cost money. We don’t have any.

          • Euston 9.18 says:

            Thought we were kosher with the bank regards to the ground ??

            A loan for a up grade & business plan about the profit for having terracing,sorry this lot bought BLUES for £80 MILLION & agreed lankeys wages.

            Maybe the new owners when they have stopped playing hide & seek might have a view on terracing ??

            No profit in seats.

          • almajir says:

            And terracing will not happen until the rules are changed.

            I’m not convinced it would make much difference but until the FL decide to allow safe standing trials it’s a moot point.

        • BhamCityJulian says:

          I thought that Spurs stand was very steep too

        • Spud says:

          That’s not even an argument Euston… you’re talking about terracing & counter the argument with “Have you sat at Newcastle away”…. Sat being the word… Newcastle away isn’t terraced, its seating…. Yes we all stand when we go up there, but that’s just because we’re a defiant bunch.

        • brumbie says:

          The atmosphere in football grounds is not what it used to be but seats are here to stay so all fans are stuck with it. The only way to get people excited and get a ground rocking is to have winning team who play attacking football ! Dull unatractive football makes a low key atmosphere and makes people not want to return which means declining.gates its a viscous circle. It was’nt all great in the old days I can remember standing in the kop in the 80s in crowds of 7-8000 watching total rubbish.

        • brumbie says:

          The atmosphere in football grounds is not what it used to be but seats are here to stay so all fans are stuck with it. The only way to get people excited and get a ground rocking is to have winning team who play attacking football ! Dull unatractive football makes a low key atmosphere and makes people not want to return which means declining.gates its a viscous circle. It was’nt all great in the old days I can remember standing in the kop in the 80s in crowds of 7-8000 watching total rubbish.

  • Euston 9.18 says:

    So health & safety standing is ok in OLD grounds in the UK


  • StaffsBlue says:

    I think they were trialling retractable seats and crush bars. Looked interesting. No idea if anything came of it.

  • tonyd says:

    I was taken to see the Villa when I was 6. My Dad had just died, and some well-meaning neighbours thought it would cheer me up. Double trauma! We’ve just had a baby girl. I sang KRO to her when she was in the womb. Now she could be screaming fit to burst, but the moment I start singing it, she stops crying and smiles! And she’s the happiest girl you could imagine. Mind you, I haven’t taken her to a game yet!

  • sam says:

    How about sorting the tilton corner toilets for a start and moving in. and out openings away from each other! Pisses ( no pun intended) me off queing up just to get out!!! Cheaper and better furnished bar equal more drinking in bar and better atmosphere, big screen showing other scores would help too

  • BhamCityJulian says:

    Personally I don’t think there’s a big enough customer base who would prefer terracing over seats to make the investment worthwhile. The genie is out of the bottle as they say.

    Tell me. When you watch BCFC on the telly at do you stand or sit? I’ll bet you sit but still scream and shout and doesn’t extinguish your passion

    • Gibbsy says:

      My Son and I have for years had seats (ST) on the back row of the Tilton (Block 3) just so we can stand all the way through the game without annoying anyone, everyone on the back row stands for the entire game, so people are already buying tickets in order to be able to stand up, so there probably is a business case for this, if we was allowed to do it.

      At the moment all of the people who want to stand and sing, are all distributed around the ground, if they could all be in one block, it could really help the atmosphere. So how about having a block in the ground somewhere, that isn’t designated as a standing area, but where it is ‘known’ that standing will be tolerated by the stewards, so those who want to stand can buy tickets in that area and those that complain about standing fans can sit somewhere else?

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