We all know what it feels like to be a fan on fixture release day. That renewed sense of optimism emanating through us, the mistakes and losses of the previous season momentarily forgotten. Every football fan resets and feels confident that the new season will be the best one yet.
But what’s it like to be a Club on fixture release day?
Our Head of Venue Sales – Michelle Tricker, has given us some behind the scenes insight.
What is all the fuss about fixture release day?
This is the first time in 16 years that I’m not working in a football club on fixture release day but still right in the middle of it at SmarterVENUES, only this time I’m looking at the fixtures for over 50 clubs, instead of just one!
I can only talk from my experience in commercial departments at Ipswich Town and Colchester United but I think I know enough people in football to say that it’s pretty similar everywhere.
My standard fixture release day always started early, although the fixtures are embargoed until a certain time it’s an exciting day and a limited number of people within the clubs do get these slightly earlier than the official release. That being said, I do remember the year when the contact details hadn’t been updated properly. Myself and The General Manager were sitting in the office twiddling our thumbs for over an hour, waiting for the club secretary to get in and forward the email. We were not happy, seriously, who doesn’t want to get into work early on such a big day?
So what happens in the offices of a football club on fixture release day and what impact does it really have?
Once the email lands in our inbox all eyes are on the first game of the season. Then it’s quickly all about Christmas, are we home on Boxing Day? New Years Eve? New Years Day? How will this impact me and of course the dream Boxing Day fixture (this is always well attended and an opportunity to get out of the house after Christmas Day)? What about any local derby games? Which big teams are in our league and when are we playing them? What about last game of the season – are we home or away? Will it come down to the last game for promotion/play offs or will we have already done it (everyone is filled with optimism today, this has often gone by Christmas!)?
Once the initial scan is done and any panic has subsided, it’s time to really take the whole schedule in; starting with checking what home games there are from the start of the season until mid-September. These tend to be the lowest attended due to school holidays. What you really don’t want in those first 4-5 weeks of the season is a local derby or a game against the biggest team in your league as ticket and hospitality sales will take a hit.
Working at Colchester United we also had a very busy non-matchday side to the business. So I would then need to take a look at the fixtures in December to see which dates would be super long for all of the staff working match day and right through into a 2am finish for a Christmas party. Then it’s time to cross check against bookings already in the diary as football comes first and unfortunately this means that I need to have some uncomfortable conversations with customers about moving their pre-existing booking (good T&C’s are essential!), you can understand why I was always reluctant to take a wedding booking before we know the fixtures.
One of my favourite things to do on fixture release day was updating the good old fashioned white board in the office. All the fixtures would be listed and sections added to start filling in the match sponsors, match ball sponsors, box bookings and basically setting up our visual sales board. Yes, of course we had a CRM system and everything was booked and logged on this but I’d like to bet that most commercial offices still have a white board as it’s good to see exactly what’s available. I even have a white board in my home office where I’m working right now – old habits die hard!
By the time the rest of the team get into the office (again, why are they not as excited and keen as me?!) then we are set up and ready to go. The EFL automatically release the fixtures across all club websites and I always had the commercial email ready to press send. I’ll be honest I think this is where my vision and reality just didn’t quite match up. I’d get myself super excited about this moment, expecting the phone to ring and bookings to fly in; but, well, they don’t. So it’s back to picking up the phone and securing those bookings as the new season begins.
With just one day to go it’s time for me to experience a slightly different approach to fixture release day!