The events of the Huddersfield game will naturally go down in Reds’ folklore and stay in the minds of Barnsley fans for years to come thanks to the achievement of what seemed a mammoth task at Christmas.

The events of the Huddersfield game will naturally go down in Reds’ folklore and stay in the minds of Barnsley fans for years to come thanks to the achievement of what seemed a mammoth task at Christmas. Flitcroft and the players produced unprecedented promotion form, whilst uniting a fan base and a dressing room. However the hard work has just begun, and if the Reds are to build, and learn from this year, the board needs to make simple but effective changes, whilst creating a long term plan for this club. 

It is well known that Patrick Cryne intends to sell the club, however the board needs to continue to plan as if they’ll be here for the next five or ten years. Be it through financial crisis or not, the club has lost numerous fans and struggled to adapt to their consumers’ new climate - seeing some of the lowest attendances this season since returning to the Championship. Games that once had 20,000 spectators now have 15,000, and regular matchday crowds which used to push 11,000 sometimes fail to push 9000. As the board, being experienced businessmen have stated, a price drop simply isn’t the answer, and it is a risk the club are not willing to take - though when the club did answer the calls in January, spectator numbers barely increased.

Naturally, in the uncertainty surrounding the close to this season, prices for next season’s season ticket were released late, however the board have once again failed to try something innovative, and market it to death. Hartepool United for example have sold out season tickets due to deposit guarantee schemes, which is perhaps tricky to implement, but something that would have been opportunity for the board to do something positive in the community. Barnsley FC naturally doesn’t have a huge marketing budget ton encapsulate this community, however the steps it could take don’t need to break the bank - they just require a change of tact.

David Flitcroft, in his four months in charge united the fans in a manner that is unheard of in modern times (other than perhaps in the case of the departing Sir Alex) - with ninety-nine, if not one hundred percent of the fans behind him. His inspirational team talks and team huddles have become YouTube hits - showing that his values and messages can truly resonate within football fans. Flitcroft  along with the team that performed this season’s heroics should take to the town for a day and truly try to re-align with the community that the football club represents. Abandon Facebook and Twitter - for the day, and sing the club’s praises from the rooftops. 

It might be argued that if the club are to progress though, and if any of the measures suggested should be heard, or should have been heard by the board, then the fans need to answer the club’s rallying call. It’s essentially about balance, the club needs to offer a financial package that appeals to fans, and wash away it’s “£30 a game” stigma that has grown attached to it by spreading it’s message beyond social networks and trying something new to bring in the punters. Flitcroft, Mellon and Scott’s team have largely spoke for themselves this season, and that’s a trick the club really ought not to miss. If the club awarded the fans with an accessible price on match days or for the season, then the fans would need to get off the club’s back and support it on to bigger and better things next season.

Barnsley will never be the richest club in the Championship, but now is the prime opportunity for the club to build a positive image around David Flitcroft’s work. Fans need to hear positivity from the club, as does the club from the fans. Now is the time to let past events be forgotten, and build next season as if it were our first in this league. Barnsley supporters are realistic; they know that the finances needed to progress in this league are beyond what the current budget can produce - however if the club becomes pro-active in promoting itself to the fan base, and aims higher, then this can help to maintain the buzz created around Oakwell in remaining in the division and hopefully generate the extra income needed to create a situation where 21st place isn’t ‘lucky’ or an achievement ‘beyond belief’. It is possible to become a force in the Championship, but as this season has shown, this comes from adapting to the supporters rather than trying to adapt too highly to the division. Barnsley fans want a total product experience which is perceivably good value for money - decent ales, decent atmosphere and decent food at a decent price. All are achievable by extending ‘Flitcroft’s Barnsley Brand’ to the people by creating real value for money rather than just following other championship clubs’ trends. Naturally there is risk in reviewing prices, food and bar experiences, but a value for money and creative Barnsley Brand experience at a football match, as opposed to mass produced commercialised football could rejuvenate this club in the same way that local and craft ales have rejuvenated local pubs. 

I believe that this club could have gone, and could still go in part from to strength to strength by taking steps towards the fan base this summer, which will unite the fans and club like never before, both on the pitch by developing the academy and a side of hard-working players, and off the pitch by creating a good old fashioned Yorkshire match day atmosphere. By no means is this a simple task, but one that could bring the supporters back to Oakwell, and spur the team on to become a continued force in the Championship, with the occasional play-off push - in other words, no more great escapes! I just fear that the season ticket prices announced look set to undermine Flitcroft’s hard work.

This has been my first post for a while due to various commitments, so please let me know your thoughts in the comments below and by tweeting myself @MichaelRoach55 and @OnThePontyEnd on Twitter - hopefully I'll be able to contribute more next season!

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Kenny said...

Excellent post Michael, I'm so proud of you :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael having spoke to a few fans from the Wakefield area who used to go to games say they love to see the club doing well and it is not always a case of how much it costs.In years gone it was the lack of atmosphere not from the fans but from the stewards and the club ie sit down shut up no swearing.Take the Huddersfield game we all stood all the game it was brill that's how the Ponty end should be any one who don't like it should sit in west and east stands the cop should be bouncing i don't mean take the seats out its the law.

Unknown said...

Atmosphere, costs and results of course all contribute to attendance, however I feel the club is shooting itself in the foot badly.

The club wants fans, the fans want competitive championship football, the club can't afford this without the fans, so the results suffer and therefore fan numbers - therefore the business model should be about building a 'result-proof' day out if you like; i,e still enjoying it even if we lose; not an easy task but one the marketing department and board should be responsible for, and are failing in!