Bar Closed at Half Time

Surely we missed a huge money making opportunity today. Why on earth was the social club shut at half time, 602 punters in the ground and the Social Club was shut???

Perhaps someone from the club can explain how this opportunity was missed?

that did surprise me when i heard the bar was closed

Not something I agreed with but having the seating area "segregated" effectivley meant the club was inaccessible for most people during half time. What was probably missed is that very few could also therfore get to the club shop either.

No doubt a few extra quid made on the stand admission but for me - probably more lost in bar revenue and a few unhappy people - even those who just go in to get warm! We have never segregated for a scum game or even the telford games last year so why this one?

Another very poor commercial decision by the club which made many of the fans angry and was completely unnecessary.

A key factor of this season has been the fan’s support. We have had good runs in the cup competitions that in addition to the prize monies has meant more revenue for the club in ticket sales, sponsorship and fund raising… and bar takings!

The money making schemes (all introduced by the fans) such as the Winter Ball, Race Night and the additional fund raising on away days has been immense this season. Fans making weekly payments to the club, contributing ?s for every point/goal, etc has all helped pay the players wages this season. At times when the club has openly admitted to needing more money the fans have responded and chipped in! I am not privee to the exact figures but know that this is thousands of pounds since the start of the season. A cracking example of this is the leaflet drop over the past week or two which helped tremendously in getting over 600 people to the match yesterday, with probably 500 of these being our supporters!

The club reward this commitment and loyalty from the fans by then not letting them into the bar at half time! We had the opportunity to voice this to one of the Directors and asked why the decision was taken. The answer was ‘to make more money’ and therefore this was a commercial decision! By charging an extra ?2 for the seating area, the club would make more money - the ?2 difference meaning that you got a seat and access to the club at half time! It was confirmed that the actual financial benefit was ?300 (150 supporters in the stand).

The decision meant that the fans that use the bar every match (before, during and after) could not get a drink at half-time. These are the same hardcore fans that support the team home and away and as stated early are the ones that make up the players wages. The regular fans stand on the terrace and behind the goal, not wanting to sit in the stand!

Like most bars takings the profits are probably 50% (if not more) on the income. The additional spending at half-time by those that could not get in would have gone a long way to making up the ?300 additional money from the gate receipts.

The club failed commercially on a number of levels;

  1. It did not communicate this decision to the fans in advance (hence they were annoyed).
  2. They did not connsider how this would make the regular supporters feel.
  3. They overlooked the financial contribution from the fans which has been significantly greater than the ?300 they made from this decision.

Given the monies paid into the club this season most fans would have accepted a ?2 charge had they have known about this and had it have been communicated better (or at all)!

Better still, why did the club not look to exploit other commercial opportunities on the day;

Pre-match breakfast and bar (meaning people would have gone to the ground earlier rather than drinking in town)!
Other initiatives to increase the number of supporters at the game (other than the leaflet drop that the fans organised).
Other sponsorhip packages or hospitality packages on the day (pre-match meal, etc)

Witton are dreadful commercially, the programme is poor, there are few local advertisers. It is not uncommon for us to run out of programmes and pies for that matter. We have a very good social club that is closed apart from a few hours every home game and to my knowledge not used for many or any other purposes! When it comes to away travel, it is the fans that organise this and not the club.

Lenny, Jim and Andy have contributed massive effort and along with other fans personal financial contribution - this is not matched by the club who seem happy for fans to take the lead.

It pains me to say this but we could actually learn a lot from our neigbours in this area. Quite simply Witton are commercially naive and this was an example of a very porr management decision that neglected the feelings are their customers.

We had nine family members at the match (9 x ?8 = ?72), using the bar before and after (not during) (?50) and spending money on programmes, golden goal tickets, (?15), etc. Spending the best part of ?140 at Wincham Park yesterday!!!

We need to get this right!

Rant over (although the above may form part of a letter to Mr Worthington)!

Well put!!

Whilst I agree with some of your points (see my post above and without knowing exactly who you are) I’d be careful in critising everything done by the club. Yes certain things leave a lot to be desired, I hope that the bar issue was at least noted yesterday and will not be repeated again but there are a limited number of volunteers/directors to perform every task which may need doing.

As for yesterday an larger size programme with colour photo photos of Wembely at a higher price of ?2 -all sold out prior to kick off I thik (extra were ordered as well) - Surely a success? On the issue of programme numbers - having decided for 3 years how many were ordered the costs of going over rather than having a couple of people who can’t get one - its much better financially to sell out!

As for the pies - disappointing, I’ve missed my dinner a couple of times but again its crowd prediction etc, feel free to have a a go. frozen pies are probably an option but I expect people would whinge about that as well!

Sponsorship - can always do better I’ll admit that however the draw at the start of the season was without doubt a great success, the ground sponsorship and I think we had 1 match sponsor and 2 ball sponsors yesterday? (do correct me if I’m wrong) Thats not that bad.

As for the club - food is always available pre match - many were in there at 1.45 having some, and I did think they had ample bar staff etc to cope - something we have not done in the past. However yes I guess more could have been done.

As for them over the canal - yes they may do things better - they are also 2 league above, have a better pulling attraction in their level of football and I believe some full time staff to committ to it which we most certainly can’t afford! Lets be more grateful for what we have than what we don’t have. On the whole I thought yesterday (bar bit aside) went very well and showed we are capeable of handling a bigger crowd.

Do not take that the wrong way it is not a direct dig at you, but a bit of a defence for the people who do work very hard for the club for no reward but people saying - you could have done better. I know alot of times I have thought I could do better - so I tried, posters and leaflets being 2 examples - which appears to have been a good idea but had the physical support of 9 people.

anyway looking ahead:

There is a coach to Kendal - please support it if you can
We are having a bring a friend day on Saturday 24th February - why not try and get a couple of mates interested now?
Race night 25th January in the club - get your ticket next game from Andy/Lenny
Player of the year Saturday 28th April, 8pm in the club, tickets ?5 more info to follow.

Any other ideas would be most welcome - or if anyone wats to be involved in any of the above - I don’t just mean turning up please drop me a line or see me at any game!
there is a good feeling about the club at the moment - lets not end up arguing amongst ourselves!

Neil, your points are good ones and I 100% agree that we showed how good this club can be on many levels. Your efforts and those of the many other volunteers set a fantastic example, this is by no means critical of that, indeed the opposite. My point is more that the efforts of the fans exceed those of the directors at times, especially when it comes to commercial focus. Without your efforts and those of others the financial position of the club would be very different.

Your comments regarding issues like the pies, programmes, etc are completely valid and I appreciate the difficulties in forecasting numbers (my job demands that I have to do this daily)! The only true outcome of a forecast is that it will be wrong!

The bar decision however, which was the primary reason for the post, was a decision that could have been got right as there was plenty of time to consider the pro’s and con’s of what was decided - plain and simple, I believe this was wrong and the club should learn from it. This is not having a go at anyone volunteering their services or the overall great things that came out of the day, I agree with you that it showed that we can handle bigger crowds and how fantastic it was to see more people filling the terraces.

There is a great feeling about the club this season and we should be capitalising on this. The club has to succeed as a football team and as a business (and managing the two is far easier said than done). The club has many reasons to be proud of their achievements this season, on and off the pitch, and to put it into context the bar issue will be soon forgotten and overcome.

We need to be commercially more creative and ambitious, the neighbours have gone after regional and national advertisers/sponsors and this has left a gap to try and get more local business involved in Witton. The unrest between their directors/owner and fans is equally an example of how not to manage the relationship with supporters - as with the ‘bar’ issue you have to put the customers at the heart of decision making (not least when you rely on their fund raising efforts).

We all care about the future and want to see the club grow, play at a higher level, attract more support and win things. We have fantastic foundations to make this happen but some commercial ambition would (in my opinion) help the process!

Fair comment rabbit, there are also many other jobs which go unnoticed each week as well and I think the club has more volunteers than people see on a match day even which puts us in a very good position to push forward. your points about the predictions are exactly right and why the pies/programmes etc should not be critisised. (without being to funny about it - get there earlier!)

As I said it was not a dig at you but often the general apathy that expects everything to be on a plate for people - a little effort would go a long way. Little and often and all that.

The commercial position is something I don’t know that much about - however a lot of games seem to be sponsored, there have been some new boards up recently and the ground sponsorship and draw have all been boosts - the figures may prove different I don’t know! Que Rob!

For me the main aim has to be more people to games - hence the posters, leaflets and bring a friend day and hope to god we put a good show on - unfortunatley it doesnt happen each week! Any help with the bring a friend day would be appreciated, please see Robbo or myself.

As for the bring a friend day I have already had it agreed to have a happy hour in the bar from around 1.30 - I hope many people will make use of it and more importantly bring a friend!

Onwards and upwards…

Clearly there were sound reasons for the Board to make the decision not to have the bar open at half-time, they and only they know the reasons why this decision was taken.

I do have concern that once again criticism is being directed at a very small bunch of Directors who are extremely hard working and do work for the love of the club. They spend countless hours in meetings and on the phone juggling this and that to ensure that Witton Albion are still in business. Each and everyone of them has a life away from the club, have businesses to run and of course have a family. At the end of my time as a Director the time needed to work for the club could not be committed as I have a business and also like to spend time with my family, therefore I made the decision to stand down. If supporters knock these guys who are working very hard then I can see them walking away.

Just consider how much time some of these people put in, I would estimate a minimum of 10 - 15 hours per week, that doesn’t include attending matches. That’s an awful lot of time.

Commercially I think the club is moving forward, bringing back sponsors who have been lost in the past couple of years. It is the hardest job in the world to compete with the others across the canal, multi nationals will get involved in Nationwide Conference club’s, they get more high profile coverage so for club’s at Unibond level you just have to get on with and make the best of it. This year has been so much better with supporters getting involved again, organising events again that is what the Club has lacked in ther last few years.

I think the Club are moving on, commercially this year should be good, room for more of course, a quality team probably the best in my time at the club, a sound management set up, be positive and I think it will get better.

Mr Rabbit:

The Bar at Half Time: Obviously a very contentious decision not taken by the Board - please ask the Chairman.

The programmes - disappointing you think it was poor. For the first time this season we made a profit on it. If they’re sold out before you get there please get there earlier although I doubt we’ll sell out by 3pm next Saturday.

The pies - yesterday there were 160 supplied (60 to the usual tea hut and 100 to the other one/social club). The usual tea hut sold 58 so don’t know what the issue is. We have some supporters who actually pre-order them at 3pm (or earlier) - feel free to do the same.

Commercial - that’s a minefield. Mark Bailey and Benny Phillips are doing their best. If it’s not good enough - please - come and have a go… NVFC pay their Commercial lady a good salary to get what they get - we don’t have the financial clout to employ someone of that calibre (no disrespect to Messrs Bailey & Phillips).

Yesterday as a whole: Result disappointing. Performance adequate. Referee fussy but at his level he has to caution (that’s what happens in the Conference). Overall: If this ‘big game scenario’ brings so much moaning is it worth it?

Next Saturday versus Lincoln United: A far bigger game than yesterday. It is vital we get 3 points - for me it’s our most crucial game so far.

GE - Told as it is.

I think your interview on the FA website was worded much better… :wink:

I can see it from both sides, i think the supporters do take alot of the initiaitive at the moment in organising fundraisers. However, they do have the backing of the club in this, such as use of the facilities for the race night etc. I think maybe there could sometimes be better communication between board and fans - GE being the only member of the board to post on here for example. The board are probably doing alot more than we know - i’m sure the likes of Len Andy and Jim are in regular dialogue with them.

But on the other side of the argument, we CAN’T afford a full time commercial type person. Well we could, but we’d have to trim the budget in other areas - playing budget? keeping the stadium up to the high standard we have come to expect? I think we’re ok as we are in that respect. The board we have are more responsibile for keeping the club afloat on a day to day basis - i personally do not have a clue how much time goes in to that, but i expect that it is a geat deal. As fans if we want a better team out on the pitch then at this level we do have to take the responsibility for that. It all comes down to how sucessful we want OUR club to be. That’s the difference really. We are football fans, the board are primarily business men. they mke business decisions, we try to do what we can to support the team and assist it in whatever way we can.

I think some of the points made by Mr Rabbit are well worth raising though, and it’s always good to get a bit of debate going on the issues that matter to the fans. I also think it’s great that Rob and Graham have been able to respond so quickly. I think everyone has had a good chance to put their arguments across, and afterall that’s what this forum is for.

Rob - thanks for your reply, you are completely correct in pointing out the hard work undertaken by all involved (especially the Directors) in the running of the club and the business. It is a thankless task and all that happens is someone occasionally pops up and complains about the odd decision! I will retreat to my warren!

GE - you always tell it ‘how it is’ and because of this are respected by all involved for your efforts. This openness and (as Robbo points out) the fact that you replied with a very good response is indicative of your own personal efforts. Your notes regards the programme and pies are taken and my previous ‘moan’ retracted.

Please all do not misinterpret my initial posting. Everyone at Witton has worked hard this season (and before) in creating what is a very good club at this level of football. The fact that people do ‘care’ creates the passion to continue and more importantly make progress.

Over the issue in question; ‘the bar’! I take issue with Rob that there were ‘sound reasons’ for the decision to be taken. It appears to me that this was a decision taken without a great deal of thought and that it did not consider the wider feelings of the supporters. Enough said, subject closed (like the bar at half time) :slight_smile:

It is easy for me to sit here and criticise as it is for others, it is not a case of overlooking the efforts of Benny and Mark, indeed I applaud them. For most involved this is about the love of the club and what they do, critising people so that they stop wanting to do it is not the aim. It is about getting better individually and as a collective.

I do however maintain the points in my original posting regarding the decision regards the bar and also the wider commercial issues. Club’s like Witton walk a tightrope financially and of course it is always ‘chicken and egg’, more money needs spending on the team to get promoted and attract more support/income and at the same time you can’t spend money that you have not got to spend!

If yesterday was the first time we made a profit on the sales of programmes then you have to look at a) should we be doing one at all if it risks losing money or b) how is it made more profitably (lower costs/increased revenue), etc, etc.

I am not suggesting that anyone has all the answers to these issues or can wave a magic wand and generate streams of new cash. This is a tough challenge for the club and a time consuming one at that.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion (even if it is wrong)! My opinion is that we could get a lot better commercially; Website, Programme, Away Travel, Social Club use, Sponsorship and other initiatives. We have been blessed with a great hardcore group of supporters that consistantly support all money making initiatives and continue to make a big difference. Robbo makes very good points about taking responsibility for these initiatives and he is right, however beyond relying on this sole source of revenue other avenues must be explored.

GE, totally agree Lincoln is more important - looking forward to it already.

Thanks again for all your replies.

Will stick to the post (far too many other issues).

The decision was garbage, and a smack in the face to the REGULAR supporters - period.

Commercially the decision was garbage. Anyone who came down to the game at half time only had to walk into the social club and then watch the second half for free! Are the club really that naive to think that people elected to stand yesterday to save ?2.00?

For the record I went out through the gate into the car park at half time and entered the club that way! And I observed that ‘COMMERCIALLY’ we were paying 4 members of the bar staff to serve 30 people- Brilliant!

Just a quick point regarding the programmes - the Unibond League insist we have one for each match or we are fined (more than the weekly loss we make!)



So you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t!

So what’s the solution?

The issue does somewhat support the arguement I was trying to make. If the club has to publish a programme (to whatever standards the league find acceptable and such that it reflects a worthwhile purchase for the supporter), then we have to find a way to make it commercially viable.

Here are some suggestions rather than moans (many of these may have been tried, some may have not, so take them or leave them as appropriate);

  1. Programme Sponsor

Get a specific sponsor for the programme. There are many ‘bookies’ in the town maybe they might be a good target, failing that a shortlist of suitable target companies could be drawn up and approached.

  1. Subscription

One of the problems is that some fans buy it some weeks and not others. Offer subscription to the league programmes (so the number of copies is known and not affected by cup runs). That way supporters get it every week and the club has the guarantee of set income for publishing. I am quite happy to give you payment now for every programme for the rest of the season, sure a few others would be too.

  1. Vouchers

For initiatives like the ‘bring a friend’ campaign publish a voucher for this in the programme, that way it encourages people to buy it for other reasons.

  1. Advertising

OK, blindigly obvious, but at present there is insufficient advertising in the thing and the print quality means that the adverts within do not look that good. With the small number of fans and therefore copies, the return from one off adverts (for the advertiser) will not be great. Therefore if not done so already offer ‘complete season’ advertising at a reduced rate. A concentrated effort to sales blocks of advertising at the start of the season will again help to gather funds at the outset and create a publishing budget for it. Selling one-off ads will yield little for the advertiser and require a large amount of effort for small return. I think many of the exisiting advertisers are regulars, so therefore it is about more regulars.

  1. Costs

When was last time production costs were reviewed - is the current deal the best available for the quality of the production?

  1. Content

Publish articles that and features (like yesterday’s programme) which generate interest and cross promote this on the PA before the game and at half-time. For instance contributors (happy to be one) can publish reviews of away games, stories from the day, etc. People like reading about themselves and those they know. Do player profiles, What is Pritch’s favourite sandwich filling (joking but you get the point)!

You could also publish reprint of a few of the best postings on the message board from the week or supporters letters, etc. It would be worth gathering up recent programmes from away days and comparing the content.

  1. Price

Put the price up, if the content is right then people will pay an extra 50p for it. I don’t honestly believe that people would not buy it because of the increase, plus if it is communicated to fans that the reason is because it loses money then they would be more motivated to buy it and support it.

  1. Programme Sellers

An oldy but a goody! I am sure a few more people would chip in and give 20 minutes of their time before the game to help sell a few more. A few for sale behind the bar or a someone stood outside the turnstiles (when people have their hand in their pocket and are waiting). It sounds daft but simply adding a few more places of sale might help with a few more copies.

In a nutshell, the volume of sales is always going to be directly linked to the size of the crowd and the cover price therefore is unlikely to cover the costs. Like magazine and newspaper publishing it is the advertising within it that will make the difference.

The above might be completely useless and therefore discard as appropriate, however it would be pretty stupid of me to question our commercial approach and then not offer anything by way of suggested solutions. I will be more than happy to send you a cheque for programmes for every remaining match of the season, I’ll contribute to content if appropriate or anything else that may be of use.


Could maybe have an article in there such as a supporters diary of the previous away match, with maybe some photos. Sort of "12pm, leave northwich en route to Ossett. 12.45pm realise we are already lost…"

Just to add a few observations to this trail re. the programme.

Last season, the programme finally broke even without having to take advertising income into consideration. This was only done by cutting print quality and by pairing back freebies into home/away dressing rooms, sponsors & boardroom to the extent that we were officially reprimanded by the league in October for not providing enough copies for visiting directors. At Witton - like almost every club at this level and into the conference - we sell 1 programme for every 3 paying spectators, regardless of who we’re playing.

We try to pitch the print run as accurately as possible to avoid wastage. Ironically, thanks to cutting the print quality last season so that the prog is actually photocopied rather than printed conventionally, we can order very specific quantities. Hence ordering 200 for Saturday’s game based on a predicted gate of 600.

I only offered to take on the editing of the programme 18 months ago as a temporary measure after Chad decided not to continue because of his increasingly frequent visits to Spain. I’d dearly love (and so would Mrs Harris) someone with more time than I have available to take this job on.

Similarly if anyone wants to consistently contribute articles, then just let me know either by e-mail or by seeling me on a matchday. I’d be delighted to hear from you. There’s loads of features we can add, such as player interviews, players’ fantasy XI teams made upof those they’ve played with in their careers; as well as all the excellent ideas posted earlier.

On the issue of the amount of advertising in rhe programme, Albion Review is actually 8pp bigger than last year, and last Saturdays was 56pp long. It does have more advertising in it, thanks to Mark Bailey and Benny’s efforts, but we can always take more. Vics’ position in the National Conference gives them a huge advantage over us in going after national advertisers. Our resources (and I like it as little as you do) largely dictate our strategy to concentrate on local businesses for programme advertising.

The number of errors in the programme reflects the scheduling of production. However far advanced you set deadlines, some contributions do arrive late. For example, the last article for Saturday’s programme arrived at the printers on Friday morning, leaving just 5 hours to slot in, print and bind. We don’t proof read because there simply isn’t anough time to generate a proof. Spell checking is a given, but… Again, not an excuse for mistakes but just wanted to provide an illustration of what actually happens.

I think that ideas such as subscriptions, vouchers and the like are excellent. But ideas need people to make them happen. So to re-iterate, if there any Wittoners who are prepared to help, please e-mail me or see me on a matchday.

I can’t agree with Rabbit’s view that the club is commercially naive. I can show you strategies, plans, lists of fundraising ideas and so on that we’ve considered, and would like to do. Mark and Benny are doing a superb job, but need help. We also have a small board of directors; it’s not for me to say whether the job we do is good, bad or indifferent. Any paying supporters have the absolute right to voice an opinion on that score. However what you can count on is our commitment.

I don’t think there’s too much point in revisiting the bar being closed at half time issue, except to say that there’s no question that communication between club and fans wasn’t good enough. We had 150 paying spectators in the stand who each paid the ?2 supplement, and to recoup that ?300 we would have had to generate ?600 of sales in the bar based on our margins. Whether we would have done so is a moot point, but if we’d communicated better maybe more fans would have paid the ?2 supplement to gain entry into the bar or been able to make an informed decision either way. Whatever the rights and wrongs, we must make sure it doesn’t happen again.

To close, I would like to congratulate Wittoners on their superb support for the team, both on saturday and throughout the season. Secondly I would also like to congratulate Mark Bailey and Benny on the job they are doing. It takes time to build up a vibrant commercial operation, and they need all our help too.

Apologies for not adding my comments to the forum earlier but the weekend post-football is family time; they don’t see much of me otherwise!



Mark and Graham, brilliant replies and hopefully the topic will be noted and acted upon.

As for Rabbit, I’m sure the club would be delighted to hear more of your suggestions at the next supporters meeting. I can also see a role for you within the commercial team. I’m sure they would be delighted for you to take some of the load and broaden the customer base.

Sorry for sneaking into this one :wink: but as something of a programme anorak all I can say is that if the programme isn’t breaking even then something is wrong.
Are the advertising rates at the right level? Are we printing too few? There are real costs to being sold out prior to kick-off, not only do latecomers never get to hand over their money but there’s still a marginal loss on sales (one for the economists out there!) and it also creates a poor impression of the club. Allied to the fact that quality-wise I think the programme is nowhere near as good as it was five or six years ago (for the lucky few who can get one) then I do actually think something is wrong.
Maybe we’re looking at programme production more as an obligation than an opportunity.
Not a criticism as such. Suppose I’m offering to help out on this one, although there’s no point pretending I’ve the spare time for a spot of programme production. :o

Actually I notice that’s a net break even, ie minus the advertising revenue. I’d be inclined to suggest that it’s no wonder we print next to no programmes in that case. I’m certainly not surprised other clubs may have complained and I’d just be concerned about the loss of promotional opportunities by reaching so few people. Do advertisers know how few people will see their ads?