As Rovers’ launches it’s fifth In Rovers We Trust Supporter Experience Survey, Mark Bradley reviews the progress being made ‘off the pitch’ at the Keepmoat.
18 months is clearly a long time in football.
Back in March 2012, Rovers faced relegation from the Championship, there was supporter disquiet over the ‘Willie McKay Experiment’ but also a more deep-lying sense of disconnection with the Club, laid bare in Rovers’ first ever Fan Experience Survey of April 2012.
Fast forward 18 months and Rovers are back in the second tier of English football; the playing squad is rejuvenated and the club’s In Rovers We Trust supporter engagement programme is continuing to bear fruits.
The scheme attempted to establish a genuine dialogue with supporters, which not only aimed to re-discover the club’s identity but also to make supporters feel more valued, to improve their stadium experiences and, importantly, to maintain and increase attendances.
The fourth In Rovers We Trust survey (April 2013) showed compelling evidence of a hugely positive shift in sentiment around the Club. The results showed that supporters valued the opportunity to have an authentic ‘voice’ in matters that affect them, showed clear appreciation of the numerous improvements made (from a new convenient post-match bus service, via the re-naming of the Belle Vue Bar to the introduction of cash turnstiles) and when their ideas were adopted by the club (such as the Open Day on 25th July) Rovers fans supported the event in huge numbers.
It’s clear that supporters also welcome the Club’s attempts to act in ways that reinforce their identity of Doncaster Rovers, with 8 year old Mac Wilson’s formal interview for the vacant manager’s post, Groundsman Andy Thompson being awarded Man of the Match for his snow clearing efforts in February, fans designing the 2013/14 kits and a certain youngster from a pop combo called One Direction ‘signing’ for the club.
But it’s not just Rovers fans who have paid tribute to the changes made at the Keepmoat. Several letters have been received from delighted away fans, some of whom have been invited to sit in the away dug out and watch their team warm up.
The media have also paid particular attention to Rovers’ convention-defying activities with the Guardian newspaper featuring the Club (whose family area is regularly sold out) as one of the country’s most family friendly clubs while FC Business Magazine ran a ‘cover story’ on this new wave of fan engagement in South Yorkshire.
So back to the present and the 2013/14 season sees the start of a new partnership with Lindley Catering which not only aims to improve fans’ refreshments experiences, but also aims to lift them to the next level with the objective of making the Club the ‘benchmark’ for concourse food and drink, while a range of new supporter-driven ideas will further enhance the family experience, continue to delight visiting supporters and make sure that those loyal Rovers fanatics, whose idea In Rovers We Trust was, continue to feel valued and to feel part of their Club.
The club now embarks on its fifth Fan Experience survey and as this is a key element of the dialogue between the club and its fans, it’s vitally important you take the opportunity to give us your honest views and opinions.
Please click on the link below and make your contribution to Rovers’ future.