SW19 note : I got a bit of legitimate stick from WFC (especially Sharon Sillitoe) over this. From what I remember, I didn’t give her much of a chance to reply, and it was more or less out of her hands, supposedly. To this day, I still blame the ineptness of WFC’s marketing as part of the reason why Franchise existed.
Last year was an embarrasment for a great deal of reasons. Primarily, of course, was the way our season collapsed from possible outsider for Europe into a bunch of disinterested ponces who couldn’t have given a fuck towards the end of last season. There was of course the hangover of Dublin, which led many to believe that the club as a whole wasn’t totally committed to getting us back to Merton.
And there was the appauling stewarding, which seems to think that the Holmesdale Road is for away fans and away fans only. But probably the most embarrasing thing that happened last season was the introduction of razzamatazz into WFC watching. Well, I don’t think razz, more like wazz. In other words, the introduction of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” at corners. Yup, the club really thought that we weren’t making enough noise, and so it decided to insult our intelligence further by introducing something to laugh, dance and clap along to like morons.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like Queen’s music, especially their early stuff (and Innuendo). But the last place I want to hear it is at a football match, especially one played at a place which I am expected to call “home”. To me it’s an indicement of a) what WFC really think of us as a whole and b) the way WFC presents itself.
The first bit is rather obvious, and it seems like a problem that is affecting many clubs, especially in the Premiership. You’ve heard the stories about how “loyal” fans are being shunted out in favour of corporate moneygrabbers and witless trendies like Chris Evans who think that football (or “footy”) is the New Religion (if soccer is the new religion I’m joining the Church of Satan), and it’s true that it has affected us to a little extent. However, I don’t really think it’s affected us that much, which is where I come onto my second point, and moreover the main point of this article : Wimbledon FC Marketing
Back when we were at Plough Lane (for those who followed WFC since 1991, Plough Lane was a 15,000 capacity stadium based on the corner of Durnsford Road and Plough Lane in London SW19, where Wimbledon used to play) we used to have a club shop and a ticket office. Granted, the ticket office was merely a shed, and the club shop – called Don’s Shop, yes that is where the appostrophie really was – was no bigger than my local kebab shop. It wasn’t badly stocked, true not by todays standards, but this was the era where marketing was something you did round the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre on weekdays with an Y reg Ford Transit, and it was more than adequate. Not only that but if Chris Tugwell was in you could also book the coach or train to such delightful places like Derby.
Nowadays, of course, it’s different, and you can buy almost anything anywhere with a well marketed product, and the days where you were made to feel lucky just by getting a piece of merchandise are long gone. Except at Wimbledon Football Club, that is
It’s a bit of a secret, although most of us know it, but Wimbledon FC marketing is shite. Totally shite. It seems to run on non-league principles whereby “too little is enough”. It’s particularly disturbing when you consider that the team itself (when it can be arsed) can compete with any club in the country and yet even the local newsagent makes a better job of selling its wares. Want proof? OK, here goes. Where do most people buy their replica shirts etc? In the Club Shop of course.
And so where do you go and get a Wimbledon one? In the Crystal Palace club shop, of course. Yes, you read that right – Crystal Palace club shop. Basically, we don’t have a club shop, all right we groundshare with Palace, but that’s simply not good enough. It’s sort of OK if you want to buy something on matchday, but if you want to go over in the week, you can’t walk down Wimbledon High Street and buy your shirt in there. No, you have to make a mountanous treck through the wilds of South London just to get a shirt. It’s become so bad that a neighbour opposite who supports WFC – who doesn’t get involved in anything like Dublin protests etc – complained to the club about not being able to buy his grand-daughter a WFC top in Wimbledon.
This shouldn’t really worry us of course? Actually it does, because a simple presence in your home area can make all the difference when it comes to supporting a club. Say you are somebody living in Wimbledon, and you’re just getting into football, or even better your kid is. How would you go about choosing your (son’s) team? Well, in your vicinity there is Celsi, Fulham and QPR. Oh yeah, a team with the town’s name on it plays in South East London doesn’t it (again, yet another reason why Selhurst Park has failed Wimbledon – brand recognition).
Anyway, sneers aside, you decide that you’re going to buy a shirt of the team who you like the look of, because the simplest bit of merchandise can get you hooked onto a team (don’t believe me? Ask any genuine football fan how they supported their team and count the amount of them who said that their aunt (or whoever) gave them a shirt for their birthday. You’ll be surprised). You walk into one of the sports shops in Wimbledon, and you go to the football shirts section. Well, there’s loads of Celsi, some Arsenil, some Yiddo Cunts, some Man U, the odd QPR or Fulham one but no Wimbledon. Yes, no Wimbledon. Ask for a WFC one and you’ll a sort of “erm, we don’t stock them” reply. Try anywhere else in Wimbledon (or Morden, or Mitcham, or Sutton, or Kingston etc etc) and you’ll get similar response.
“But hold on” you say “aren’t these other teams more established?”. You could also say that the major sports chains don’t really want to stock WFC stuff because nobody will buy them. Well if that’s the case, MAKE people want to buy them. This is what marketing is all about – you get a product, you bring it to either the mass market or a niche market, and you sell it. And that is what WFC marketing – led by the Marketing (Mis)Manager Sharon Sillitoe (go on, sue me) – is totally incapable of doing.
If you want people to know that you’re around, and if you want to make your presence felt, plug your wares. Open a club shop in Wimbledon, make people know that you’re alive and kicking – hell, you may even remind people that we’re still stuck in SE25. Open up a ticket office as well whilst you’re at it – no wonder people aren’t going to away games quite as much, especially if half of them can’t get over to the ticket office to buy stuff. (Can you really believe the club when they say that they can’t do a network link from premises in Wimbledon to SP? For fucks sake, we have been sponsored by Elonex, a computer company, and are now sponsored by Tiny, another computer company who are bigger than IBM, at least in the UK).
Actually, I may be being a little bit unfair, because WFC did open a club shop a couple of years ago in Elys, and it was opened to a big fanfare, but it shut down a year later. Why? Well, I went in there before it closed, and this “shop” was really about 3 shelves, painted in yellow, with 3 year old stock in it. No staff (it was part of the toy department, no irony here), no moorish factor about it, nothing. And you wonder why it closed? So the club can’t turn round and blame us for not frequenting it, when it was their own bad operation in the first place that made it close. All it requires is a bit of effort, although sometimes I wonder if Sharon is remotely interested in it.
What annoys me is the fact that if effort is put in by the club, it really does work: witness the success of the Football In The Community scheme. The club puts a lot of effort in and it succeeds to the point that it’s been voted the best one in the country. Is this where all the club’s effort goes? Well if so then think again, because once you leave the FITC scheme, and you pass “Crazy Gangster” stage, WFC does fuck all for you. No open days (unlike other clubs), no opportunity to buy merchandise (unlike other clubs), the list goes on.
Oh yeah, there is the Wimbledon FC Website, which admittedly was a massive fuck up not caused (for once) by Sharron but by the fact that they got stitched up by a load of dodgy spivs called Planet Internet (although Sharron should have ripped up the contract there and then after everyone complained about it). But hold on – go to the WFC Marketing bit on the Official Site and what are you greeted with? “Wimbledon used to play in a small, basic stadium”. Plough Lane, for the unititiated. Is there no shame? Is that what our REAL home is? A small, basic stadium? No mythical presence, just a shithole? And I suppose Selhurst Park is “a wonderful field of dreams”, although a yard of manure would be more accurate……
So, what else are we “treated” to from WFC marketing? Well, there’s the C—y G–g logo on the shirts. I absolutely DETEST that image, remember Only Fools and Horses with the “Groovy Gang”? Yeah, you see what I mean. Look, unless you’re under 12, the CG thing is a walking embarrasment and it’s no laughing matter when you see Slimline Johnny Hartson wandering around in it. Likewise, our new sponsors, Tiny (I’ve said enough on Tiny). And did you know that we had the offer of Umbro making our shirts this year? Guess they didn’t want CG on their shirts, that’s why they got turned down.
Oh, and one more thing – guess who decreed that We Will Rock You (and the current incarnation of a bugle) got played at corners? Give you a clue, her name begins with “S”……