It is a known thing all clubs in the Premier Soccer League are doing everything in their power to play well, score great goals and this alone seems to be the only reason why football lovers come to the stadiums. One thing for sure looking at the number of spectators that come to the games, there is a lot more that should be happening and a lot of work that still needs to be done by Public relations Officers (PROs) if they are still part of the modern game. Attendance incentives are no more part of the game. Pre=Kick Off and Half Time competitions should enhance the fun and pleasure of attending the games.
Clubs like Mamelodi Sundowns, BidVest Wits, Mpumalanga Black Aces, Chippa United, Platinum Stars and others are considerably doing very well on the field of play but hardly pack up stadiums to full capacity. Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates don’t command the huge crowds they used to do unless they play each other in a Soweto Derby match. The growth noticed with Sundowns and Chippa games should be commended through and all of this can be attributed to good results, without much done by marketing personnel. In order to see consistency in fans flocking stadiums you have to have a long term plan in action. Supporter involvement in club affairs is the best way to go, and anything less than this can be considered as prostituting fans only to make money for home games. Supporters want to be part of daily and weekly updates and they wish that they have a voice in the structures of the club. Although the advent of social media plays a great part in servicing supporters, one needs to be very careful that it is not perceived to be replacing PRO visibility and interaction with supporters structures. Fan clubs are a must and nothing replaces this aspect of club operations, more so in South Africa. It is a model that I have experience of and it works. Let me share a bit of my experiences at Kaizer Chiefs......when I joined Amakhosi I took over after a hard-working and energetic Louis Tshakoane who was known as “Sprinter” for the amount of entertainment and hospitality he showed supporters at stadiums at every game, home or away. He was the longest serving PRO at Naturena.
When I joined I had to build a strong foundation with supporters structures first, ensure their buy-in, as I was filling in big shoes. The first thing I did was to plan and stage an IMBIZO where Supporters Branch Executives came to Naturena, for a “Meet and Greet” with their new PRO. Kaizer Motaung, the Chairman who I affectionately nicknamed “Captain Chincha” also used that gathering to introduce me to this SECOND BOARD of the club, the Supporters Branch Chairpersons. In that meeting I tabled my vision to them with a “5-Point Plan” of how together we were going to build the supporters club beyond any measurable means. The “5-Point Plan” was the Mercedes Benz of the re-building of the mighty Amakhosi supporters.
It simply said, we consider you a true and official supporter of the club if:
You were registered with a supporters club and had a card, that card had benefits and discounts negotiated with various retailers including club sponsors, offering real tangible benefits.
You attended all club home games, more so those within the 200 km radius of the stadiums where we played. Soweto derby games and Cup Finals did not have any conditions and were a must, all branched had to attend, with their branch flags nogal.
You had legitimate club merchandise, the jerseys, tracksuits, scarves, etc – no one was allowed to buy fong kong, as it deprives club revenue generated from selling supporter regalia. Supporters were taught all these business dynamics.
You were involved in club’s social responsibility or charity programmes through the nearest supporter branch, including promotional activities of club’ sponsors.
You attended branch meetings on the first Sunday of every month as it was on those days that newsletters from Naturena, from the desk of the PRO were read and shared. Those discussed and updated supporters on a wide range of club matters from players, to sponsors and the team in general.
To make this gospel spread fast every year- I had a PRO’s Itinerary of travelling around the country every week or fortnight opening new supporters branches and launching some of the old branches. This ensured the brand visibility in all townships and towns in South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, etc. With this amount of work I was almost certain every home game would have a great crowd of supporters.
The last part was the most fulfilling one, seeing supporters packing up stadiums and with a microphone in my hand, welcome them and mentioning their branches present at the stadium through the stadium public speaking facility, and this resulted in supporters branches being part of the Club’s End of the Season Awards Ceremony as a “category” of the awards wherein the club would award those branches that attended home games most and had recruited the most supporters. You see, we kept records of every branch that attended home games. With Cup Finals and The Soweto Derby games, I encouraged that supporters should come to Naturena first so players could see they (players) are loved and respected. This was a lot of work to do but it paid dividends and we had fun with some kwasa kwasa as well dancing and entertaining supporters.
No amount of internet-only would do this kind of work but being a PRO to me was typical salesmanship work- selling the brand of Kaizer Chiefs. After those glorious years at Chiefs I still consulted with neighbouring countries conducting workshops in this subject with their leagues.
The question stands today, Where are the PROs and who told them to stop doing such a great job. I don’t believe technology should be made a scape goat but that it should complement the work we as PROs are supposed to do.