I’ve attended Carrick Rangers matches since 1983. A real die-hard, with a sufficient swathe of grey hair to demonstrate the toll it has taken on me. Far more downs, than ups.
However, the last seven years have more than compensated for the previous two decades of nothingness. A double (Championship1 and Intermediate Cup), a relegation, a treble (add in the Steel & Sons Cup to the ‘double’), retaining Premier League status courtesy of an injury time overhead scissors kick (in my top three footballing moments), and a League Cup Final. Whew!
You would think that this excitement and silverware would see some corresponding growth in the Amber Army that cheers on the team from the terraces. Unfortunately, not. At best, I would describe the rise in support as ‘moderate’, though it’s probably a smidgen above ‘stagnant’.
The club, like most of in local football, has looked at various ways to bring more punters in through the turnstiles. These mainly involve a tinkering with the pricing structure. Typically, clubs have knocked a few quid off the entry fee for the occasional fixture, tried ‘bring a kid for a quid’, or ‘2for1’ deals.
I’ve long thought that this is quite a crude method. Almost like saying the product is so poor we have to drop the price. It’s not like Tesco (other supermarkets are available) who can lure you in with these sorts of offers, but know that these loss-leaders may result in a compulsive purchase that will make up the discount.
Its all about New
Recently, Carrick Rangers have decided to try something different, launching a guide for newbies.
I wrote a piece last month about a ‘buddy ‘ who could help promote the club, prepare the unconvinced potential fan that there was good reason to turn up on a match day, and offer to meet the new supporter on arrival at the ground and take them through the ‘rituals’ of a matchday experience. What the football club has done, is digitised the ‘buddy’ into a First Time Visitor Guide.
Everything you need to know about your first time at the ground is there: club history, how you find the ground, car parking, turnstiles locations, catering facilities, toilets, merchandising and the role of the Spirit of ’76 Supporters Club for example. Well composed, colourful and easy to read. The club has realised that repeat business comes from getting an early connection between the supporter and the club. This is a bold attempt at making that connection process start before the turnstile clicks.
There are three sets of fans: the aul hands are the history of the club, die-hards the present, but the future is determined by the newbies.
Here’s hoping that the guide helps towards bringing in the new blood that is vital.
Equally, I trust that the team does enough this season, and in those ahead, to reduce the sales of Grecian 2000 and Just for Men in the Carrickfergus area (not sure if other similar hair treatment products are available).