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A club detached from its supporters


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I know that this has been touched on before, but the huge issue coming out of all of this for me at the moment is the way that large numbers of our supporters feel completely disconnected from the club. Whilst we might not invest our money beyond attending matches/watching Robins TV and buying City-related stuff (often at way over the odds!) the emotional investment seems to have been completely overlooked by those running the club. You could say well what else would you expect from an owner who made himself rich through financial services (a “bean counter” for want of a better term) but actually Steve Lansdown coming on to Radio Bristol last Monday was almost an admission that the club hasn’t been communicating well with its own supporters. However by trying to become “more professional” (more corporate is closer to the truth) the impression given by Bristol Sport is that we are nothing more than customers. That irks in itself. Being sent an email offering 40% off the cost of replica shirts the day after being beaten 6-0 also hardly smacks of good communication, and again is only likely to lead to irritation. 
 

Whatever happens in the next few months, a lot of work is going to be needed to repair bridges with supporters. We are not just another advertising target group. We are not just there for the financial benefit of the club. It’s something far deeper than that, and if anyone at the club doesn’t realise that then they know nothing about any serious sports supporter, let alone the passions invoked by football above most other sports.

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3 minutes ago, Bristol Rob said:

It's when they started calling us customers that it all started to go wrong.

You could argue that a customer is something you value and you have to offer a quality product to keep them returning

Whereas a fan can be taken from granted because they offer there allegiance what ever you provide 

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2 minutes ago, sh1t_ref_again said:

You could argue that a customer is something you value and you have to offer a quality product to keep them returning

Whereas a fan can be taken from granted because they offer there allegiance what ever you provide 

And that’s the classic way of misreading the situation. Customers will go elsewhere if they think that they can afford something better. Whereas fans have an attachment and allegiance that shouldn’t be abused.

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2 minutes ago, Dr Balls said:

And that’s the classic way of misreading the situation. Customers will go elsewhere if they think that they can afford something better. Whereas fans have an attachment and allegiance that shouldn’t be abused.

I was not advocating we are called customers and the truth is both statements are correct, but either way we want to be valued

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Agreed.

The owners and senior management have become completely disconnected from the fans (we are not customers). I have not really missed the football this season and quite frankly won’t be bothering until serious change happens at Mark “shit pot” Ashton level.

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Without repeating myself (too much), I'm hopeful that a lesson has been learnt from Covid and lockdown, and that is no matter what revenue streams are in place, the club cannot operate long term without the fans, and Steve Lansdown has blatantly said that he cannot write off the income shortcomings indefinitely.

How do you keep the fans on board? Well you start off by communicating with them (which SL is now doing), and secondly, you have a product that people want to buy, or in our case, fast attacking, entertaining football with plenty of chances and goal or goal attempts.

Personally, I think the last time we saw that consistently was under Steve Cotterell, and we saw snippets of it under Lee Johnson.

A lot of people go on about the good times under Gary Johnson, but I think that was due to the feel good factor he built around the club because the football wasn't that entertaining. Yes there were exciting moments, but largely the football was negative i'e. Get a goal and hold on for dear life.

 

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Let's be honest, because we are doing so badly on the pitch now, it just highlights all the little things people have an issue with at all times but are now only brave enough to bring them up, hence the majority of the threads being raised right now.

There's not much perspective from a lot of people on here as it's very passionate/angry/reactionary/etc. If people took a breath, a step back and then reviewed the situation we are in (which is still not a good one!) people would not really care if an email was sent out offering 40% off first team shirts after a 6-0 win as it's not relevent to our on-pitch plight.

Releasing all first team players now was my favourite over-reaction I've seen so far.

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Being ‘detached from supporters’ always seems a bit of a vague notion that’s easy to accuse clubs of but means lots of different things to different people. Communication - in itself something that covers a whole range of different things and is almost universally something organisations get accused of being poor at. Pricing - but fans want clubs to go out and buy the best, whilst not having to pay the ticket prices or the rip off shirt prices that make it possible. Ownership by rich, foreign, distant people and players who earn amounts fans can only dream about - but again at the same time expecting that level of investment. 
I’m not disagreeing with the proposition but just not sure how any club can get it right. Probably the time I felt most connected to the club as an individual was the Des Williams/Terry Cooper era - but in no small part that was helped by the fact that there were only a few thousand of us fans so much easier to feel part of it. It kind of went with life in the fourth tier and I wouldn’t necessarily want to go back there.

Finally, I’m just not sure that now is the best time to judge how connected clubs and fans are, a year into a pandemic and a year since fans have been allowed anywhere near a ground or a live match. 

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4 minutes ago, italian dave said:

Being ‘detached from supporters’ always seems a bit of a vague notion that’s easy to accuse clubs of but means lots of different things to different people. Communication - in itself something that covers a whole range of different things and is almost universally something organisations get accused of being poor at. Pricing - but fans want clubs to go out and buy the best, whilst not having to pay the ticket prices or the rip off shirt prices that make it possible. Ownership by rich, foreign, distant people and players who earn amounts fans can only dream about - but again at the same time expecting that level of investment. 
I’m not disagreeing with the proposition but just not sure how any club can get it right. Probably the time I felt most connected to the club as an individual was the Des Williams/Terry Cooper era - but in no small part that was helped by the fact that there were only a few thousand of us fans so much easier to feel part of it. It kind of went with life in the fourth tier and I wouldn’t necessarily want to go back there.

Finally, I’m just not sure that now is the best time to judge how connected clubs and fans are, a year into a pandemic and a year since fans have been allowed anywhere near a ground or a live match. 

But isn’t that the point? It’s nearly a year since we were last at Ashton Gate and able to support our team in person, so surely it’s more important than ever to keep the supporters onside and feel connected.

I agree that if we were winning and being successful, it would be far less of an issue, but we haven’t been and many supporters have been aware of the problems with the playing side of things for a long time, hence the frustration now being vented.

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6 minutes ago, grifty said:

Let's be honest, because we are doing so badly on the pitch now, it just highlights all the little things people have an issue with at all times but are now only brave enough to bring them up, hence the majority of the threads being raised right now.

There's not much perspective from a lot of people on here as it's very passionate/angry/reactionary/etc. If people took a breath, a step back and then reviewed the situation we are in (which is still not a good one!) people would not really care if an email was sent out offering 40% off first team shirts after a 6-0 win as it's not relevent to our on-pitch plight.

Releasing all first team players now was my favourite over-reaction I've seen so far.

You're completely right.

Things have been narking fans off for quite a while, whether it's things like not being able to carry over reward points, or being able to get our hands on the new kit, or having to pay a fiver for club shop delivery, but all these little things just chip away.

All this time, fans put up with the smaller things because the football overrode most of the issues.

But now the football is rubbish it's the final straw, the atmosphere is rubbish amongst fans, and things like leaving the lights on inside the stadium during night matches, the poor service delivery, and the other bug bears all start to come back to the top, and fans are starting to have enough.

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53 minutes ago, Dr Balls said:

I know that this has been touched on before, but the huge issue coming out of all of this for me at the moment is the way that large numbers of our supporters feel completely disconnected from the club. Whilst we might not invest our money beyond attending matches/watching Robins TV and buying City-related stuff (often at way over the odds!) the emotional investment seems to have been completely overlooked by those running the club. You could say well what else would you expect from an owner who made himself rich through financial services (a “bean counter” for want of a better term) but actually Steve Lansdown coming on to Radio Bristol last Monday was almost an admission that the club hasn’t been communicating well with its own supporters. However by trying to become “more professional” (more corporate is closer to the truth) the impression given by Bristol Sport is that we are nothing more than customers. That irks in itself. Being sent an email offering 40% off the cost of replica shirts the day after being beaten 6-0 also hardly smacks of good communication, and again is only likely to lead to irritation. 
 

Whatever happens in the next few months, a lot of work is going to be needed to repair bridges with supporters. We are not just another advertising target group. We are not just there for the financial benefit of the club. It’s something far deeper than that, and if anyone at the club doesn’t realise that then they know nothing about any serious sports supporter, let alone the passions invoked by football above most other sports.

It's bound to happen though as the club gets bigger. I'm sure Man Utd fans feel more disconnected from their club than we do. At least our owner communicates with us, there are other Championship clubs with foreign owners who hardly communicate at all. If you want to be more involved with a club then go to non-league football, eg Bath City. 

I'm not sure we're any worse than in the past, when I started watching City Harry Dolman was chairman and everyone used to moan about him although he did a lot of good for the club, fans were never part of the decision making process though and media interviews with him were rare. The only time I remember any 'community spirit' was after the club nearly went bust in '82 and TC took over, but we were in Div 4 then and a much smaller business than now. 

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26 minutes ago, Dr Balls said:

I agree. The communication sounds pretty chaotic throughout the club tbh. In which case shouldn’t the buck stop with Mark Ashton as CEO?

I’m quite happy to bash Mark Ashton, but I need to know how Dave Barton, City Comms reports into Ashton before I can do that, because his true reporting line is into Lisa Knights (Group Head of Comms) as I understand it.  But I suspect although it’s dotted line into MA, it’s his most active relationship.

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2 minutes ago, ashton_fan said:

It's bound to happen though as the club gets bigger. I'm sure Man Utd fans feel more disconnected from their club than we do. At least our owner communicates with us, there are other Championship clubs with foreign owners who hardly communicate at all. If you want to be more involved with a club then go to non-league football, eg Bath City. 

I'm not sure we're any worse than in the past, when I started watching City Harry Dolman was chairman and everyone used to moan about him although he did a lot of good for the club, fans were never part of the decision making process though and media interviews with him were rare. The only time I remember any 'community spirit' was after the club nearly went bust in '82 and TC took over, but we were in Div 4 then and a much smaller business than now. 

Accepting that things might be better for us than the average Man Utd doesn't mean we should be grateful.

The club have previously had SLOs who tried to represent both the clubs and the fans (and this isn't a dig at Jerry), but now the role appears to be that of a senior customer service rep who can be contacted by Twitter.

The Fan's Parliament and SCAT voices seem to have been diluted and whilst they continue to try and do good work, you can't help but think the club view them as a hindrance rather than a positive link between decisions and fans.

Seems as if the corridors of power have raised the drawbridge and rather than trying to see things from a fans perspective we are treated as one of those necessary evils that they have to put up with. 

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1 hour ago, Bristol Rob said:

It's when they started calling us customers that it all started to go wrong.

Actually thinking about the fans as customers makes perfect sense. Genuine fans will follow the club through thick and thin paying their money whatever. How many of these type of fans are there? Not enough to sustain a professional clubs I think. 

Customers need to be rewarded to ensure their loyalty. As a club we're lucky the Others are not on a strong position. If they were we'd bnot be as well off for 'support'.

 

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As a supporter I feel detached from the players . We seem to specialise in off the shelf generic footballers who come and go at alarming regularity ,know nothing about the club and care even less.

Most teams have a fans favourite who may not be the most gifted but would always put in a shift and obviously cared, step forward Bradley Orr.

The current bunch just appear to be going through the motions .

Out of interest do we have a fans favourite

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Covid has given football clubs a great opportunity to communicate, keep close to their fans/customers. 
They could bombard us with comms. Engagement. Online webinars, video, interviews, opinion pieces, meet the players stuff... but no, communication is no better, if not worse, than before. A crisis video from the owner smacked of desperation and even then, he talked to us customers with a business-focused message as if he was a CEO in another industry addressing a shareholder meeting. 

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1 hour ago, Monkeh said:

I don't mind being called a customer if I wasn't taken for granted or treated with such contempt

Unfortunately that's inevitably how you get treated as a customer, eventually anyway.

 

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1 minute ago, Abraham Romanovich said:

As a supporter I feel detached from the pl,ayers . We seem to specialise in off the shelf generic footballers who come and go at alarming regularity ,know nothing about the club and care even less.

Most teams have a fans favourite who may not be the most gifted but would always put in a shift and obviously cared, step forward Bradley Orr.

The current bunch just appear to be going through thr motions .

Out of interst do we have a fans favourite

Me too, and I think Covid is playing a part in that.

Different sport, and as many of you know, I am also a Flyers SC holder too.  Joe and I sit courtside, we get great interaction with the players, even as much as when I went to Oz, I went and watched one of them play and met up with him and his girlfriend.  I accept basketball is much smaller scale, but as a fan we had built bonds with the players.

We haven’t been able to do that this season.  I feel massively distanced as a result.

With City, although access to players is very different, being at the game gives you a bond, abd we haven’t had that either.

In both sports I think the players are missing the fans too....albeit to different extents.  I accept some of our fickle fans would’ve destroyed some players, but I think they might’ve pulled them through too.  

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It’s a slow creep but happened over the last few years. Seems to have coincided with the modernisation of the club.

Some things are really good - the stadium is good for a new redevelopment. Could be a bit more ‘traditional’ aesthetically but that’s just me being picky. 

All the pre-March stuff food and drink is good in the concourses too and it’s great it’s added more revenue streams through all the corporate hire.

I think other things have been clumsy - our in house kits were a nice idea but turned out to be a bit disappointing in practice hence reverting to a manufacturer.

In addition to the discussion above, in my view the factors I think contribute to the detachment are often smaller secondary ones..

I think we do social media quite badly, but I appreciate that’s subjective. I totally disagree with how we market ourselves on there. 

I think things like having Downsy as match day announcer aren't great. I appreciate he tries but it still isn’t quite right several seasons on.

Some good and some bad. Obviously when results aren’t good the smaller annoyances are amplified.

 

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I appreciate that a football club is not like most other businesses, but given how much every other business that I seem to have any form of customer relationship with, however small, seems to want my feedback, I do find it amazing how little the club engages in getting opinions from supporters. And supporters to take the analogy further are customers with the ultimate in “brand loyalty”.

Now I understand that many of the comments might not be very constructive, but if there were rules about keeping it clean and non-personal, that would be less of an issue. Admittedly I don’t necessarily tell Sainsbury’s how to run their logistics, but I might tell them that running out of stock on certain items is pretty hopeless. Likewise the delivery company that leaves an expensive item in plain view outside my house if I’m not in, is not going to get a glowing review, and zi can give suggestions about where to leave the parcel without resorting to suggesting they “stick it where the sun don’t shine”.

Remember the days when SL used to do a fans forum, usually before an away match? Admittedly COVID has done for those in the past year, but there hadn’t been anything similar for some time before that. In many ways, it was a brave thing to do, but it also gave supporters immediate access to the man at the top, and likewise he had very clear idea of the supporters views first hand, which I am sure was very valuable.

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1 minute ago, Dr Balls said:

I appreciate that a football club is not like most other businesses, but given how much every other business that I seem to have any form of customer relationship with, however small, seems to want my feedback, I do find it amazing how little the club engages in getting opinions from supporters. And supporters to take the analogy further are customers with the ultimate in “brand loyalty”.

Now I understand that many of the comments might not be very constructive, but if there were rules about keeping it clean and non-personal, that would be less of an issue. Admittedly I don’t necessarily tell Sainsbury’s how to run their logistics, but I might tell them that running out of stock on certain items is pretty hopeless. Likewise the delivery company that leaves an expensive item in plain view outside my house if I’m not in, is not going to get a glowing review, and zi can give suggestions about where to leave the parcel without resorting to suggesting they “stick it where the sun don’t shine”.

Remember the days when SL used to do a fans forum, usually before an away match? Admittedly COVID has done for those in the past year, but there hadn’t been anything similar for some time before that. In many ways, it was a brave thing to do, but it also gave supporters immediate access to the man at the top, and likewise he had very clear idea of the supporters views first hand, which I am sure was very valuable.

Can you imagine a MA hosted Zoom call with his 'customers'... it would be the biggest waste of bandwidth ever.

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50 minutes ago, Bristol Rob said:

Can you imagine a MA hosted Zoom call with his 'customers'... it would be the biggest waste of bandwidth ever.

You know his zoom name is bound to be “Marky-Mark” too.

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