Over the weekend a message from Portsmouth FC went viral on social media, promoting their season tickets. It’s been re-tweeted thousands of times (by fans of different clubs) and discussed at length on messageboards. For fans sick of modern football – and let’s face it, if you watched any of the FA Cup Final on Saturday the slick, corporate machine that now runs the game is enough to make you vomit – the message behind the image is the perfect antidote to the poison ruining the game. If Grimsby’s relegation to the Conference has done anything it’s actually made me enjoy football again. I like going to games, I like the atmosphere and I like the fact the players and the club have become more approachable.
But with the lure of glamorous football force fed to kids across the country – and with Hull now in the Premier League it’s even on our doorstep – do we need to work harder as a community to push the 2013/14 season at Blundell Park? It’s not solely the responsibility of the club when it comes to getting people through the turnstiles, I think we all have a part to play. The Mariners’ marketing presence was the best it has ever been in 2012/13 with regular updates on Twitter and on Facebook. Matches were promoted using Facebook’s header image and competitions were run via social media platforms and the club website to raise awareness. This is great for people who already have an interest in the club, but it’s becoming even more difficult to pull people away from the bright lights of the Premier League – you only have to visit Blundell Park on a matchday to see an assortment of shirts that aren’t in Grimsby Town colours. We can all encourage fairweather fans once or twice a season and, to be fair, the club has always put together some good offers for free kids or discounted friends. But if we’re going to have a club to support in the future we need to encourage a new generation of fans to ditch their Rooneys and Van Persies and instead worship the Hannahs, Hearns and Cooks of this world.
In 2011 Scunthorpe United came up with an excellent idea. They put flyers through every single letterbox in the Brigg area encouraging floating fans to see a game for a discount – the idea being that hopefully those who went to the game would enjoy it and go again. I think it would be a great idea if Town could try something similar. There are lots of towns and villages in the area that have their pick of football – Brigg, Barton, Barrow etc have a choice of Hull, Grimsby and Scunthorpe, for instance. Perhaps a ‘family ticket’ for £20 would be enough to entice new fans. Even if it’s just putting together some posters that fans can print off and put up in shops, clubs, cafes etc Maybe this is something the Mariners Trust could help with in terms of mobilising foot soldiers to pound the streets?
Over 87,000 fans passed through the turnstiles at Blundell Park last season, surpassed only by Luton. The Lincoln game on New Year’s Day saw the single biggest crowd across the whole league. Around 18,000 made the trip to Wembley. The fanbase is certainly there, it’s just encouraging them to come on a more regular basis. The more people who come, the more money in the coffers for the club to be run on a more stable footing and the more attractive the club becomes to new players, sponsors etc.
And the more likely it is that we’ll have a football club to support in years to come.