Wolves have reported a remarkable 15 per cent response rate to the biggest fans’ survey they have ever conducted.
More than 6,000 replies were received, although the questionnaire was circulated in July in the wake of a second successive relegation.
Molineux officials are committed to sharing the main findings with all supporters, keen as they are to improve attendances for this season’s push for promotion and to improve the match-day experience.
The workload caused by digesting all the answers delayed disclosure of the fans’ views until members of the club’s Fans Parliament were talked through the main findings last week.
That meeting heard that the respondents to the survey were 88 per cent male. The most common age group of those who chose to take part was 41-50 – a demographic that also replicates a database now numbering some 325,000. It was established that the average age of match-attending fans is 46.
One of the main areas of enquiry for the club was to discover why supporters choose to become regular attendees, so the views of season ticket holders old and new, as well as lapsed ones, were canvassed.
Almost 50 per cent said they chose to become season ticket holders as they came to so many home games that it made financial sense. Just over 20 per cent said it was because they enjoyed being at live football and a similar number put it down to wanting to go along with family or friends. Barely five per cent said the football on offer was the main factor and even fewer said they did so because the price was right.
With an eye on tomorrow’s generation of supporters, the club were delighted to hear that almost 30 per cent brought children to games with them, with just under 15 per cent accompanied by a friend or parent and a little over ten per cent attending alone.
Lapsed holders were asked to specify why they hadn’t renewed and more than 70 per cent said it was because of the football on offer while just over 50 per cent said the cost had been the reason. Not being able to commit to all games was the third highest response in this section, followed by changes in financial circumstances and family or work matters.
Season ticket holders were asked how important various factors were in making them renew and paying a cheaper match-by-match price, sitting in the same guaranteed seat and having priority for cup games and possibly play-off games came out highest.
On the subject of fixing prices, long-term lapsed season ticket holders and W4FF participants expected lower charges than other segments and those in the more expensive stands accepted higher prices more readily. Fans agreed that ticket prices should vary by stand, and by different location in the same stand. Everyone agreed that payment methods should not affect prices.
The most common W4FF participants are children, parents and friends, with extended family members not yet partaking in significant numbers. This segment of the club’s support felt a ticket should cost £40-49 for the Premier League, £30-£39 for a Championship game and £20-£29 for a fixture in Sky Bet League One. They said the quality of football and price were the biggest influences over whether they attended more matches. Convenience, as represented by kick-off times, and the quality of the product (the match-day experience) were more important to this group than to any other sector.
The My Wolves scheme has received excellent feedback, with encouragement from participants that the product is good and value for money. Suggestions for further improvements included rolling the ‘Reward Cash’ over if renewed, allowing members to purchase more than one ticket in the priority window, having priority windows for all games, offering ticket discounts in all stands and offering corporate hospitality.
Switching the focus to catering outlets, fans were asked what would encourage them to use the kiosks more and made the following suggestions: cheaper prices (89.4 per cent), more choice (41.8 per cent), better service (36.3 per cent), meal deals (34 per cent), promotions (31.4 per cent), rewards (14.6 per cent), the chance to pre-purchase (10 per cent) and concourse entertainment (8.5 per cent).
The quality of football was seen as a bigger factor than football success as a means of enhancing the match-day experience, with other points coming in this order of importance: a full stadium, crowd interaction, W4FF giveaways, player interaction, customer service, who fans attended games with, pre-match and goal music, kids’ activities, competitions and pre-match entertainment and outside activities.
Examples were given of the sort of activities that might improve the overall match-day visit to the stadium, with 61.4 per cent citing video screens as a potential welcome addition and 39.6 per cent saying displays by Academy lads would be a good idea. Junior skill classes (37.7), pre-match spectacles (36.2), live music (31.2), cheerleaders (26.6) and competitions also scored fairly high, with 9.6 per cent saying fire-breathers would be an idea worth pursuing. Season ticket holders, in particular, would like to see video screens back. Over 72 per cent referenced them as something that would enhance their day at Molineux – this was referenced especially strongly in the free text section, which also threw up standing areas, a better sound system and a full ground as avenues to explore.
Fans were then quizzed about official merchandise and gave ratings out of five on the following points: quality (3.7), service (3.7), experience (3.6), choice (3.5), online access (3.2), value (2.8) and prices (2.7). Items fans would like to see more of included posters, retro goods, wedding keepsakes, rattles, a Wolfie range and a better variety for youngsters.
One area the club have vowed to look hard at is the question of how they are perceived by supporters. When asked how valued they felt by the club, respondents gave an average value of 4.5 out of 10. Lapsed season ticket holders said they felt the least valued and ‘scored’ 3.4 out of 10. The ‘My Wolves’ fraternity felt the most valued with 5.5 out of 10.
The club followed up by asking what caused the dissatisfaction. A perception from fans that they were treated as customers and not supporters ranked near the top of the list, as did high prices, a belief that they weren’t sufficiently listened to and the thought they were sometimes taken for granted. They suggested that being listened to more was one of several possible solutions. These also included more fan/player/board interaction, free coach travel and/or cup tickets, rewards based on length of tenure, the removal of booking fees and the 0871 number, and more regular communications from the club. There was also a suggestion that The Liquidator be brought back.
When asked, fans said they were least likely to recommend the club to others on the grounds of concourse kiosks and ticket prices but most would still definitely recommend the club as a whole and gave a 10 out of 10 rating, although lapsed season ticket holders gave a rating of only 5 out of 10.
As an over-view, the club acknowledge that the survey confirmed there was a difficulty in re-engaging lapsed season ticket holders and believe they need strategies to address this matter. They also see the importance of groups in the decision to lapse – with some fans giving up season tickets because friends near them have already done so. The club are also mindful of the context – namely successive relegations – behind the revelation that one in two respondents said they don’t feel valued.
Members feel more valued, though, so the importance of membership as an engagement and communications tool is obvious. Organised forums and events which offer more of a personal touch are another possible way forward.
Actions so far, as a result of the Fans Survey, include waiving the booking fee on print-at-home tickets and uploads to smartcards, free official coach travel to the Carlisle away fixture on Bonfire Night, the provision of free upgrades to match hospitality for season ticket holders and the presence of account managers for season ticket holders. There have also been giveaways to young supporters, numerous members’ events and ticket benefits, widened player engagement, including more visits of a better quality, a new Supporter Group package, a Wolves ‘7’s initiative, a My First Match initiative and the setting-up this season of the Youth Parliament, whose members are charged with the responsibility of coming up with ideas to continually improve engagement with younger fans.
Across the age bands, an upgrade to email communications is planned, plus more personalised communications on bigger campaigns and a pledge to further investigate the rewarding of long-term attendance. There may also be more Academy and Wolves Community Trust displays at half-time on match days.
The message from Wolves is loud and clear: We need your support!