When You're Smiling ...

Friday 17th October 2014 at 7:29AM

You'd understand a child queuing for an autograph from a player that's plastered all over an Xbox game or in the national media, but you wouldn't understand it if they'd never even seen or heard of the player before would you? Well you might I guess, if you really understood what a young fan wants from a matchday.

I'm pestered most weeks by my boys to watch those Xbox front cover players, you know the ones with 1,000 bodyguards that are paraded down a red carpet without the knowledge of any reason of why they are there, and that never reply to a tweet.

But we can’t always go. Busy lives and cost are amongst the reasons we give for not going week in week out. But we aren't mean, we do go occasionally, we love it, but there's a whole new world of fun developing out there that we want to be part of. One that values you. One that encourages you to get involved rather than making no special effort “because we’ve always done it this way”…

Loads of clubs across a number of sports have started to do their bit to make fans feel more valued as part of the match day from the initial ticket transaction to the games themselves and from the music before the game to the "thank you" email afterwards. But how many get it right? And how many even know why they are doing it or have even questioned the fans as to what they want and then planned a strategy?

Recently we went as a family to watch a game at a level of football we’d never experienced before. We bought our tickets online (£18 all told), we then received an email thanking us and then, a few days later, we had an email telling us what there was to do at the game.

When we arrived at the game we were greeted by friendly faces that made us feel at ease, made us feel welcome and made our youngest boy smile like I’ve never seen before at an event. He was rushed off by one member of staff to meet the mascot and to have his face painted. He was given a puzzle book and a free gift and then came running back to us to show us. That smile, THAT smile, well, we’ll never forget it. That smile is 100% what the club wanted us to see. That’s the beauty of this.

The game started, we cheered, we chatted to other people in our little community for 90 minutes and then it was time to go.

Oh, but remember those players that our boy had never heard of? He now wanted to get their autographs and pictures so we waited as he politely asked (in a way that we’d never heard him ask before), “excuse me, can I please have your autograph?” They obliged, he turned to us and guess what? We saw that smile again!

Now, was he smiling because of the media hype behind the player forcing us to think he was a god? Was he smiling because the player cost 20 million pounds? Was he smiling because the player had a Ferrari? No, he was smiling because he felt valued, he felt part of the matchday and he was intoxicated by it. For a parent it was perfect.

Would we come back? Absolutely 100% yes because they made us feel special. They made our boy smile like we’d never seen before on day out. Why wouldn’t we go back?  And the players he'd never heard of two hours earlier? They're now his NEW heroes!

This is the FA Women's Super League experience (FAWSL). You don’t need a Ronaldo or a Messi, a 7 goal thriller or even just a decent price deal to make a family smile and come back. You just need to think about what really matters to a new family - and design the day to make those dreams come true.

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