FAN REPRESENTATIVE GROUP MEETING
The Imperial Hotel – 11 March 2015
With a particular sense of buzz and anticipation ahead of the Round 10 (rescheduled) away kick off with WSW, Melbourne City FC’s Fan Representative Group came together at The Imperial Hotel – the first time the regular meetings have been scheduled at this venue – to openly discuss the culture of the Club which has instilled and developed throughout the duration of the season.
One of the first noteworthy comments was the keyword ‘transition’ which sums up the branding change from Melbourne Heart to Melbourne City FC and the feeling of the supporter base. Key to the discussion was the debate on the importance of winning now that the club has a new ownership, and the expectation that comes with the new resources at the club’s disposal.
Further to this transition phase, fans are still trying to understand the new City brand. Questions such as ‘Who are we?’ and ‘What do we stand for?’ are surprisingly still being raised by the representative group at the back-end of Season 1 for Melbourne City FC, prompting greater efforts of Melbourne City to be rolled out in engaging members and new fans with the shared values and pillars of City Football Group (CFG). Members, supporters and prospects hence require clear visibility of the Club’s stance, intended brand of football, community strategy and suggested ‘brand book’ in order to ensure culture of City is engrained leading forward.
The topic of CFG also raised further enquiry into the benefits globally. What opportunities are being shared to members such as tickets to Manchester matches and Etihad flight discounts just to name a few? One attendee proposed that Melbourne City uses this selling point to drive differentiation from other HAL clubs as to date the Club had not been doing anything significantly better in comparison.
In light of the CFG relationship and football in particular, the consensus of those in attendance at the FRG meeting is the perceived status of Melbourne City as a feeder club for MCFC & NYCFC merely being an option far down the ladder to play in Australia, or keep players fit (Villa / Lampard) prior to overseas seasons. It was agreed that the drive for Hyundai A-League success for Melbourne City FC was integral and needed to be transparent. Fans generally sense that the results to date for Melbourne City under the CFG influence have not translated with the increased resources available and one particular comment noted that ‘the inconsistency of play is demoralising’ in relation to player fitness, squad selection and standard of football on display.
JVS as coach was also openly discussed in regards to his media presence and how his statements reflect on the culture of Melbourne City as a Club and the underlying messages which are relayed to the general public. Fans recognised that JVS has only recently begun to accept responsibility for the team performance and average lack of results. Discussion further evolved to fans request for clearer visibility on HAL finals position objectives from the Club and whether the ethos of mediocracy into top 6 was enough to continue the drive forward. Should the club be communicating a stronger message and intention for a top 4 finish in future?
Positive feedback was shared on the Brian Marwood article published however, fans bought to attention the mention of a Manchester City player, James Horsfield, currently training with the Melbourne City squad and would prefer articles of interest be announced via the Club EDM.
On the topic of Club generated communication, fans also questioned the absence of a targeted marketing campaign. Previous Heart taglines including Believe were rolled out in various engaging concepts across interactions encouraging supporters of the Club to interpret and remain involved throughout the entire season. General understanding from the fan base is that #together was used unenthusiastically and inconsistently in City messaging and leading forward, an aligned campaign should continue digitally and physically in a stronger engagement capacity both online and on match-day.
Fan engagement initiatives and partner activations were further highlighted as more involving and present at AAMI Park for participants which the Club can credit as a positive step towards satisfaction of the match-day experience. Continuing to improve these aspects will no doubt increase the average crowd attendance which fans identify has recently been significantly lower than the beginning of season and in reflection can be attributed to team performance.
Interactions with juniors of the Club brand and match-day experience as a concentration for the Club to focus on in growing our member and supporter base was furthermore noteworthy as was maximising the value of a football specific home stadium.
Conversation at this point switched to the Asian Cup and accrued inventory of the player benches. Premium reserved members in the western stand have offered uplifting feedback on the aesthetics of the benches and thankfully not felt that their view of the match has been obscured since inception of the structures. The question was also raised as to whether it was the Asian Cup break in the middle of the HAL season which altered attendances and affected the momentum related to overall fan allegiances?