This year we've recognised the work going on at Non-League level to make away fans' lives better - here Andy Walsh tells us about the winners of our first Non-league Away Day Experience Awards...
This week we were delighted to name Kings Langley FC as the inaugural winners of the best Away Day Experience in Non-League, a new award run in conjunction with the Non-League Paper.
As an extension of the Football Supporters Federation Away Fans Matter Campaign we this year sought nominations for the best away day experience in the top four levels of the non-league game.
The winners at each level were:
- Step 1 - Tranmere Rovers FC
- Step 2 – Bognor Regis Town FC
- Step 3 – Kings Langley FC
- Step 4 – Bamber Bridge FC
Recognising that facilities and resources vary at the different levels of the game we sought nominations at each of Steps 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the National League System for consideration. A judging panel decided the winning club at each level from which Kings Langley FC were the unanimous choice of the judges as overall winners.
Club chairman Jeremy Wilkins was delighted to receive the award and thanked supporters for nominating his club.
“I am absolutely buzzing," he said. "We are only a small club and always try to make everybody feel welcome.”
A number of Hereford FC fans nominated Kings Langley. “Our first game of the season was against Hereford FC and a large number of supporters were expected," Wilkins added. "We decided to push the boat out and really make sure that Hereford fans were made to feel welcome."
Kings Langley were presented with their award at the National Game Awards held this week at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium. Each of the winners at the different steps will be receiving an award from the FSF at the start of the new season.
The FSF believes that all clubs should welcome away fans and we want to acknowledge those clubs who go that extra mile.
Traveling supporters are vital to the atmosphere at matches and away fans bring additional revenue, improving the financial viability of our football clubs.
Without away fans, grounds are far quieter, less vibrant places. A noisy and colourful away following will often spark home supporters into generating the kind of atmosphere that makes even a mediocre game more of an event.
A good atmosphere at a ground can also attract additional revenue from sponsors who want to be associated with the spectacle of the match and be part of the celebration of our game.
The cost of travel and tickets can be barriers to supporters, but so can poor stewarding and a lack of consideration from the host club.
The evidence from feedback in the FSF annual Away Fans Survey shows that those clubs who make away fans feel welcome attract more supporters and reap a financial benefit from both home and away fans alike.
Our award acknowledges best practice and we hope that it encourages all clubs to look at how the match day experience for away fans at their own club can be improved - congratulations to the winners!