They may have narrowly missed the play-offs this year – but Exeter City have still won a prestigious award.
For the club has been awarded the EFL’s 'Best Away Fan Experience' in Sky Bet League Two.
The EFL Away Fan Experience Campaign measures the experiences of genuine away fans, gathered from visits spanning across all 72 EFL Clubs, in order to recognise the top performers in each division.
Fans are asked to report back on a number of touchpoints ranging from information and first impressions; to quality of refreshments and the inside the stadium experience. The feedback assists clubs in their ongoing efforts to enhance the matchday experience and levels of engagement for visiting fans across the EFL.
Julian Tagg, chairman at Exeter City, said:
"This is a tremendous accolade which really reflects our culture, as a supporter owned club, in the heart of our city. Our ethos is to be truly inclusive and provide a safe stadium by purposefully encouraging everyone to mix freely in a welcoming atmosphere.
"Over the last year we have also invested in a covered away end terrace at St James Park. We felt that the previous away end was not welcoming for fans and was not giving the right impression of our club, so we are particularly pleased that, despite the disruption a development like that creates, we have achieved this award."
Assessors described the welcome they received as 'one of the best they had experienced at an away ground'. They said a family-friendly atmosphere was created with the use of excellent facilities for supporters of all ages, with their fan liaison staff highly praised for collectively demonstrating great passion and enthusiasm for the club.
Mr Tagg added: "We have consciously developed the culture and the staff to deliver a customer-focused approach – to both home and away fans. Over the years our club has made a sustained effort to ensure away fans see our club at its best. This has been a transformation programme which began in 2012 and has continued into regular customer-focused activities. The culture is now in our DNA. We aim to extend a genuine welcome at every touchpoint leading up to and on the match day.’
He added: "This success is a reflection on the hard work of our team of volunteers, led by Richard Knight, who at every home game welcome fans from the opposing teams. We are very grateful to our staff and volunteers who made such a great impression on the visiting supporters. This includes our club ambassadors, stewards, turnstile staff, our away ticket booth and our refreshment teams."
Just some of the activities which helped Exeter City win its award are:
- Deploying volunteer ambassadors to welcome fans as they arrive at the ground.
- Personalised welcome messages posted on the away turnstiles
- Young families arriving early in the visiting section are taken to the away dug out for a family picture.
- Delivering programmes and team sheets direct to coaches.
- Visiting supporters are welcome to mix and use our facilities before or after the game and in particular Centre Spot bar and the open air patio bar in “Red Square.”
- Early arrivals are welcome to go on the free Exeter City Supporters’ Trust stadium and museum tour.
Ipswich Town fan Rebecca Cole, from Stowmarket, attended a match at St James Park with her son Jacob last August. It was a first away match for Jacob, who was 10 years old when he visited Exeter.
Rebecca said: "It was my 10-year-old son’s first away game. I cannot praise the Exeter City ambassadors enough, nor the friendliness of the fans. The result for us may have been wrong, but I couldn’t have asked for a better experience for my son. It really was an excellent experience going to Exeter and I'm so glad it was Jacob's first time. He still has his Exeter City keyring on his Ipswich Town bag."
Jacob at his visit to St James Park in August
Preston North End were the EFL Away Fan Experience award Championship winners and Doncaster Rovers took the title for League One.
In recognising the awards, Shaun Harvey, EFL Chief Executive, said: "The atmosphere and friendly rivalries created by those fans travelling up and down the country to support their Club undoubtedly enhances the matchday experience for all supporters.
"It’s that passion, tribalism and wanting to play a tangible part in the outcome that really sets football apart from other sports and we are proud that the away fan experience continues to grow from strength to strength across the whole of the EFL."
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