On Wednesday 6 March, BIAS attended the eighth Focus Group for the new stadium at Lionel Road. This meeting focused on New Stadium Events.
Alongside BIAS, there were invited supporters and several representatives from the Club, including the Commercial Director and Transition and Projects Director.
As with all aspects of the move to Lionel Road, the Club’s ability to provide will be determined by its budget and other resources that will be made available.
Many facets therefore were still to be determined and this meeting would help the Club decide on its policy going forward.
Generally, the following framework was likely in the build up to the opening:-
- A series of at least three “test events” to be determined and confirmed with the Safety Advisory Group and building up to full capacity, initially involving – a) 2-5,000 fans, b) 8-10,000 fans and c) 12-15,000 (Some, or indeed all, of the test events might not be Brentford FC events);
- A “friendly” (hopefully against a high profile team), perhaps a week before the commencement of the 2020-21 season proper; and
- The first competitive game in early August 2020. Whilst it was inevitable that there would be a “buzz” around this game, it was also noted that too many off field distractions could affect the performance of the players.
What events do fans want as we go into the new stadium?
The following came up in discussion: (the Club will provide a full set of minutes in due course):
- Ideas generated at the Heritage and Legacy Focus Group (e.g. the last ball kicked at Griffin Park) and at the forthcoming Farewell to Griffin Park focus group would need to dovetail.
- Films of old players, key goals and crucial moments, interwoven with footage of the last season at Griffin Park could be linked with shots of the new stadium and be displayed on the large number of new screens within the ground.
- There was support for a walk from Griffin Park to Lionel Road, particularly for children, that could be sponsored (e.g. to raise money for CRY). The timing would need to fit around the last game at Griffin Park and when Lionel Road was ready for testing use (the likely window being late April-late May 2020).
Rather than be prescriptive, it was felt that this idea should be shared with the fans to determine more precise details, including timing. If there was support, then the logistics of road closure, informing the police etc would need to be determined.
- Would supporters want the chance to be the first to sit in the completed stadium, before any testing began, if possible? A competition perhaps?
How do we build up to the opening?
Points made in discussion:-
- The Club explained that under legislation, principally the Safety of Sports Ground Act, it would be necessary to hold at least three test events in the build up to the opening of the new ground. The test period would commence in April 2020, before the end of the 2019-20 season, all being well.
Each test event would involve more persons than the previous: the first would cover 2-5,000 supporters, the second is likely to be 8-10,000 and the third is likely to be 12-15,000. The test events will be confirmed with the Safety Advisory Group.
One of the test events would most probably be a fan familiarisation event. (Tottenham had just held one for around 5-6,000 supporters at their new White Hart Lane ground). This might cover:-
- Getting to and from seats;
- Where to purchase food and drink;
- Location of toilets;
- Spotting potential bottlenecks both within the ground and in the surrounding areas during access and egress.
- Following the test events, current plans were to hold a “prestige” friendly around a week before the start of the official 2010-21 season.
- The start of the 2020-21 season is likely to be around 8 August 2020. There was no guarantee of course that the first home game would fall on that date; this might be complicated still further, if the club were drawn at home in the League Cup, the first round of which would be played in the week beginning 9 August.
What does the opening look like ?
There was discussion around the “right team” that should be the Club’s first opponents in a prestige friendly.
Whilst a Premiership club might be the choice, their season may start at the same time as the Championship’s around 8 August, which might preclude approaches.
It was noted that in recent seasons the Club had played a number of pre-season friendlies against reasonable foreign opposition (e.g. Celta Vigo). Given that the Spanish and Italian leagues tended to start later, this might be a better option.
With the Owner’s links with FC Midtjyland, this might be an option too, especially if a “one off” cup could be given to the winner, but the season dates in Denmark may make this an issue.
A suggestion was made that the friendly could be marked by a game against “a Bees’ Legends side.” Although not ruling such a game out, which could be a prequel to the main event, most thought that there would be many present who would not identify with those players and it should not therefore be the “main event”.
Pre-match of Half Time entertainment
The following came up in discussion:-
- The laying of a portion of turf (perhaps the centre circle) that had come from Griffin Park.
- The cutting of a ribbon to signify the opening of the stadium, in the presence of a visiting dignitary(ies).
- The presentation of a time capsule, to be retained by the Club thereafter.
- An assembly of local schools’ choirs to sing a specially commissioned song about Brentford, or a football anthem such as “Abide with Me” or “Hey Jude.”
- There was little support for a repeat performance from an “oompah” (sic) band.
- Appearances by Bees’ supporters with pop music backgrounds, particularly Richard Archer of Hard-Fi, Rhino Edwards of Status Quo and possibly Nick Lowe, a sometime resident of Brentford.
(Note however that the ability to host concerts in the new stadium is prohibited by the planning consent granted).
- If there were pitch side or on pitch presentations, then it would be necessary to have a PA system that could reach all those present. The Club recognised that the system itself was not necessarily the problem, but how it was set up, and would engage audio technicians accordingly.
- Commemorative clothing, particularly t-shirts and scarves, for the opening would be considered.
- There was lukewarm support for flags and complete opposition to “clackers”.
- However a large banner to be handed down by fans across the terraces was something to consider.
- A commemorative beer.
What events would engineer excitement and new fans to BFC?
It was recognised that the new stadium gave opportunities to establish new ground and to break the long standing habits of attendance at Griffin Park. It was important to recognise that heritage, but equally important to establish a new culture.
- It was suggested that loyal supporters (e.g. season ticket holders) might be rewarded with free tickets for the pre-season friendly/opening ceremony.
- The growth in numbers of overseas fans attending games, (noting perhaps that the uniqueness of Griffin Park was a major factor) needed to be fostered going into the new stadium. The Club to consider ways of targeting the overseas markets, particularly given the proximity of the Club to Heathrow Airport.
- The need to foster growth amongst young supporters, particularly:-
- with schools football competitions;
- watching the players in their work outs before the game;
- interviews by young persons with the manager, players and youth team players.
- Experiment with new video techniques at the start of the Lionel Road era to establish which ones work e.g.
- Facebook live
- Recordings of players engaging in “Soccer A.M.” type challenges.
6 March 2019