Tomorrow we travel to Halifax Town for our return game having beaten them on Boxing Day 3-2. Overall, Monday was a fantastic day for our club on and off the pitch. We picked up our first win in eight, but more importantly we made our return to our own town after four and a half long years at Blackwell Meadows.
I for one enjoyed every minute of it, I was lucky enough to get into the ground about an hour before kick-off so was able to have a look around before picking a spot at the front of the tin shed on the opposite side to the entrance. In general for myself my day could not have gone any better.
However, many have raised concerns who were not fortunate to have such a smooth afternoon as myself.
The main problems which have been brought up are
- Views from standing and seating
- Catering Facilities
- Car Park
For me, it was a concern before we moved in, but it was one with no easy or obvious solution. Heritage Park at full capacity sometimes left fans without a great view and that was with the bank that wasn’t included in the capacity. If the bank wasn’t there, every single game would have seen people stood a few deep around the edge of the fence. Move onto Blackwell Meadows and the capacity is more with probably worse places to view the game from. We arrived shortly after 2pm last week and down the side of the pitch there was basically no room against the barriers by half two. There also seems to have been an issue for those on the club house side of the pitch with fans in the middle being heavily obstructed by the new dugouts that have been put in.
The problem with all of the issues in terms of fans views of the game is there are not easily or cheaply resolved. Crowd’s will come down, but in the short term it is going to be something that we will just have to deal with. The open end behind the tin shed would appear to be the best bet, for expansion I don’t know if the issue regarding the water pipe was ever resolved?
More seats can be added to seating section if funds are raised, but if anything this will lower the capacity, even though going forward for ground regulations more seats would be needed.
The people I most feel for in regards to views are those who have children, without getting a spot on the barrier or at the front of the tin shed it will be a struggle and then once you are there you can’t really move to get a drink or take them to the toilet without losing your spot.
Fundraising I’m sure will start up again to try and raise further funds to improve on the current stadium, but in the short term it’s hard to find a solution.
When segregation is not in place many issues will be lessened, but segregation is in place toilets look set to be a topic of conversation. Not taking cost into consideration I think this is something which needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. While not necessarily something that would put people off coming it is more of an inconvenience which people would not expect when going to a game. I presume those that were in place for the Halifax fans will also be available to our supporters going forward, but we will see next week. Ideally some could be placed on the far side of the ground near the seats, just to stop congestion in one corner of the stadium especially before kick-off and at HT. How much would it cost? I don’t know, but if we are hoping for 2500+ crowds more are needed than five for men and three for women.
Despite the fans views being what I would consider to be the most pressing issue in keeping people coming back and getting numbers in the ground, the issue which has been most talked about across social media this week has been the catering facilities and the ongoing debate of bar area. I never been to a rugby match at the ground, but numerous people have stated we are being charged more than they normally do on match days. Before the move from what we were told and the normal rumour mill, it sounded very much that a deal on catering was one of the sticking points in the agreement. The initial arrangement that we now have in place is obviously not one that will work and hopefully the two clubs’ will be able to discuss this going forward, as it not good for either side. I don’t know the ins and outs of the catering deal, but if possible the call for a burger van on the far side of the ground seems a reasonable one. Even if isn’t for profit, but to keep those in the ground happy and able to get food reasonably quickly especially for families, it would help. As for the Quaker club, when it was announced concerns were raised by others and already by FT it was announced that anybody would be welcome. Again it is something that needs to be discussed, no matter how much of the money the rugby club are taking per drink sold, it is surely better for both club’s to have as many people as allowed per capacity in the bar pre game.
The car park is one area I can’t really comment on. We parked in Blackwell and walked down to ground 10/15 min walk and had no problems. The car park in the ground itself was blocked off, as we left the ground until the majority of the crowd had left. Not many but a few grumbles have been heard about having to wait to get out, but I can’t see this being seen as a pressing issue the club will look to change anytime soon. If you look back, especially on the early days of parking at the Arena I remember waiting 30min plus at times to get out. As well once the crowds get smaller, people will be out the ground quicker and it will lessen the hold up for those in the car park. As for long term solutions, I can’t see any myself without building a whole new road, or considerably widening the current road/foot path, neither of which I can see happening.
For me the key thing to take away from Monday is the process of moving to Blackwell Meadows was always going to be a learning curve and there was always going to be problems. The only way things can be improved is through feedback and going forward over the coming weeks and months I’m sure this will be considered.
Next up at home is Nuneaton Town a week today and hopefully the majority of those who came on Boxing Day return. However, first we have another huge game against Halifax as we travel to the best ground in non-league football ……