Friday Night Football
30th November 2012
Two weeks ago, our last home match was staged on a Friday night – maybe not for the first time, but certainly the first time in a long time. This had been something the club's directors had been keen to try out for a while, having seen other clubs appear to gain some renewed interest and higher crowds with their experiments. From a commercial perspective, I was stoking the fires, as informal feedback from some early season hospitality guests suggested the financial benefits were there to be had.
Two weeks on, it is an important part of the exercise that I advise you all of how our experiment went, at least from that commercial standpoint. In this way, I hope we can at least 'inform the debate' as far as Airdrie FC is concerned. And, of course, we would invite comment and feedback - you are, after all, our customers!
First, a couple of salient facts:
The crowd was 1,003. Based on earlier home crowds, expectations from Livingston as regards travelling support, and other longer term factors, we reckon this number was 25% higher than might have turned up on the Saturday afternoon.
Total hospitality take-up was 83. Again based on previous experiences, this figure is about double what we might have pulled in the following day.
From these numbers, it can be deduced that additional income for the evening (not including marginal increases in sales of programmes, pies & teas etc) came to between £5,000 and £6,000.
Second, a fairly obvious conclusion:
Although the costs may have been slightly higher (the floodlights on for longer, for example) the profit from this extra income is therefore well worth having.
But then begins the debate…..
That profit is only worth having if the customer is 'on board' with the new plan. We can't afford to alienate our core support, even if its number isn't as high as we'd like, just to chase the Friday night fan or the extra corporate dollar.
I cite the example of Dundee United fans, who are up in arms that they will not have a home match at 3pm on Saturday for a 14-week period. (This is due to a combination of TV fixtures and accommodating the neighbours, since Dundee were promoted late and unexpectedly, causing fixture clashes, resolved bizarrely by two United fixtures moving to Friday nights). Tradition still holds sway for a significant number of fans and so the Saturday afternoon ritual cannot be discarded lightly.
However, there are a number of potentially loyal fans who would attend regularly were we to move from Saturdays to Friday nights more frequently. Those who work on Saturdays, those who play football and other sports themselves on a Saturday and, dare I say, those who support other teams besides Airdrie [other teams that don't play Friday nights…unless they're away to Dundee United, of course] could all swell our crowds.
Similarly, the hospitality market could be stronger with more Friday evening opportunities. Businesses are sometimes challenged to fill their hospitality tables on a Saturday, resulting in dropping numbers and/or cancellations. Two Fridays ago, the opposite happened, with three corporate clients increasing their table size in the 24 hours before the game. And for many hard-working business folks, the full day out on the Saturday is a 'bridge too far' when related to their domestic commitments at the weekend, whereas a Friday night out is far easier to accommodate.
As you will gather, I am hugely in favour of at least repeating the experiment over this winter. Indeed, if it was up to me, I'd go as far as advocating 5 or 6 of our home league matches should go this way.
But of course, it's not up to me – it's up to you. Please let me have your opinion, your comments or observations or, if you'd like to book hospitality, whether for a Saturday afternoon or a Friday night, your contact details!
Thank you all as ever for your support,