In his latest article for the Fancast, @NickStroudley discusses the club’s approach to global supporters.
And I mean it. If you’re a fellow CFC fan, I couldn’t give a damn if you’re from America or Amersham; I love that we have fans in every corner of the globe… it’s representative of us being a massive club. Globalisation doesn’t have to be a dirty word.
However, what really gets my goat (and that of many fellow ‘match going fools’) is the reluctant acceptance that the Club obviously doesn’t care too much about us. A recent quote from Chelsea’s Marketing Director about another new initiative in China really sums it all up… “Chelsea Football Club enjoys a very strong following in China, and we are always looking for ways to engage with our loyal and passionate supporters in the country”. Er… Hi, remember me? I’m the one that spends over £2,000 every year following my club (loyally and passionately) around the country and beyond. Forgive me for sounding like a grumpy old man (I’m only 35), but what about growing our fanbase in the UK? What are we doing to create the next generation of Chelsea fan closer to home?
I’ve got a crazy idea, what about engaging with me?!
As I’ve mentioned before, I get it, I work in sport (cricket if you’re interested…) and I know how much pressure there is to grow a fan base and start commercialising global digital audiences. Cricket has a huge following in the sub-continent, and the digital audience of many clubs is primarily made up of these supporters. It’s easy to assume there’s money to be made. But where it differs to football is that at a club/venue level, there’s a large dependence on ticket revenue, and therefore the retention of loyal fans. It’s the lifeblood of every club, and much effort is made to ensure that people feel valued as ‘customers’, providing their experience is good enough to make them want to return.
But as we all know, football is a whole different ball game…
On Facebook alone, Chelsea have 47 million fans, which is second in England only to Manchester United (73 million). That number dwarfs our match going numbers and is undoubtedly the figure that commercial departments will be wooing potential sponsors with. This is where the club’s revenue opportunity lies. Sadly, they are a far more attractive proposition than us, which is why the volume of fans will always be given more emphasis than their level of affinity.
As I said at the beginning, this is in no way a ‘dig’ at overseas supporters; locality is not a badge of honour – sponsors don’t care how ‘much’ somebody supports Chelsea, they are just interested in their pledge of allegiance via social media. But, when a financial investment is made by the club to ‘engage with loyal and passionate’ supporters overseas (when so much needs fixing closer to home), it’s hard not to be a little bit p**ssed off.
Whether it’s a new ticket website that can handle more than four people logging in simultaneously, local youngsters being able to access affordable tickets, a shop selling products that supporters actually want or not having to miss five minutes of a half just to be able to buy a pint – the snagging list could go on and on.
Of course, us, the match going fools, aren’t going anywhere, which just compounds the problem. The club knows that most matches will sell out with little effort, all of which breeds complacency and their focus to be diverted to where the next opportunity for growth may be.
As the chaps on the FanCast said on Monday, football is a game that is changing rapidly. I have no idea what the sport will look like in another ten years, but here’s hoping we’ll still all be carefree and following Chelsea over land and sea.
KTBFFH. Written by Nick Stroudley – @NickStroudley
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