With the amateur football season coming around quickly, it’s important for Sydney FC to get out into the community. This means a lot of interacting with their target market, football players and fans, from large parts of Sydney. The club must be willing to go far and wide to gain new supporters for the 2014/15 season but also to keep the existing supporter base. Currently, the perception is that the club doesn’t do enough in the community but is that true?
Having spoken to some long term Sydney FC fans about the issue, one suggested that “The club must reinvigorate the grass roots by getting the players to regularly connect with local Associations.” Another long term fan feels the club must interact with the community more, saying “I would exploit the club a lot more. Push the community aspect. At the moment, it’s nonexistent.” The question is just what do Sydney FC do in the community and is it enough?
Having spoken to Sydney FC’s Community Football Officer, Paul Reid, the club is out in the community for a large number of hours each month and sees it as a very important aspect of the club. Reid stated, “We attend schools (Primary, Secondary and Private Schools) and football clubs (training sessions, registration days, end of season awards, club functions) regularly. The club also visits The Sydney Children’s Hospital at Randwick every month, football Gala Days run by Associations and FNSW and we also attend events organised by our charity partners Football United, UNICEF and Beyondblue.”
Reid stated, “The club did about 220 hours in both June and July [the A-League off-season] in community visits.” Over the past eight months, the club have averaged around 150 hours a month with the community, including June and July. This is something which the club must be commended on.
Sydney FC CEO, Tony Pignata, suggested in a recent Football Central podcast, “We do as much as any other club in the league out there in the community.” Pignata also said, “The players enjoy doing it and it’s something we feel proud of, connecting with the community.”
So the question must be asked, why is it that the club do so much work in the community but the fans don’t seem to know what goes on?
One reason is the fact, which Pignata accepts, is that the club hasn’t communicated well enough with the fans in recent times. The club has realised that this must change, as many fans have become disillusioned with the communication between the club and fans. Hopefully in the near future it will. Fans will then become happier with the more open lines of communication.
Another reason is the perception that the club does the wrong types of community visits. Are school visits the best way to go? Is going out to shopping centres around Sydney a better way to reach out to the community? Should the club focus mostly on football club visits and come to different training sessions of clubs?
There’s no definitive answer on which is the best way to interact with the community. Each person will have their own opinion on this issue. For me, the club should continue to focus on visiting football clubs and gala days around Sydney, along with their regular visits to their charity partners and The Sydney Children’s Hospital. The club must also look at being visible in high traffic areas, such as visits to shopping centres. This is important to do as it allows interaction with families. The club should look at this as the best area of potential growth. Their aim must be to entice families to become short term fans of the club and members in the longer term.
However, it must be said that the club is doing well in the community. This can be seen by the club attracting in excess of 19,000 members (including Junior Blues) in the 2013/14 season, so they must be congratulated on that. Having Alessandro Del Piero on the club’s books has helped massively for that but credit must also go to the community team at Sydney FC. They continue to work hard, as do the players, on attracting fans to the club and helping promote football in Sydney. Long may it continue!