In March this year Aston Villa announced that L7 and L8 of the Holte End would become, for want of a better term, a ‘singing section’. Essentially a dedicated section at Villa Park where fans could really get behind the team with flags, banners, drums etc, and not impede those who just wanted sit and watch the game.
When the new season started many supporters were excited about this common sense idea, and having bought their season tickets in L7, were looking forward to roaring on their team and hopefully lifting them out of the worst period of home form in the club’s history. But come the first home game of the season against Manchester United, it seems that the club had a change of heart without telling anyone.
The reason for heavy-handed stewarding this season and the club’s U-turn on the ‘singing section’ concept is totally understandable though, when you realise that there is much more money for the club to be made in the L7 & L8 sections of the Holte by offering a better ‘match day experience’ to the fans who just wanted to sit and watch a football match.
Comfy Living Room Seats
Taking their cue from the luxury sofa seats increasingly found in more upmarket cinemas, football clubs have been working on the concept of bringing in the living room sofa experience to their stadiums. With TV coverage the most important factor in the modern game now, club’s are increasingly looking to merge the experience of watching football at home with going to a game.
Last week, Sky Bet sponsored the first living room lounge experience in the away end at Turf Moor for Brighton’s trip to Burnley, and now this weekend Aston Villa is set to become the first Premier League club to offer the same service.
Villa have been keen to set up such a lounge in the Holte End this season, but to find the space needed to house such a set up, they had to first ban some season ticket holders in L7 to clear the necessary space. This was finally successfully done at the Swansea City home game (when 12 or so fans were banned and can only return to Villa Park on the back row of the Upper Holte).
My Old Man Said, frustrated with most of the home performances witnessed in recent seasons, jumped at the opportunity to trial the new L7 Lounge at the forthcoming Watford game, after IKEA offered to fund MOMS’ sponsorship of it and supply the sofa and furniture.
MOMS editor David Michael announced: “We are very excited to take advantage of IKEA’s generosity for this full-on modern game match experience. The sofa they are supplying is very comfy and long enough to have a kip on, if the game becomes too boring. IKEA could only supply a white one at short notice, but they’ve promised to have a claret & blue one ready for the Arsenal home game.”
There have been concerns that the same supporters who complained to the club about supporters standing in L7 during previous games, may also kick up a fuss about the L7 lounge, which is guaranteed to block the views of at least several rows behind it. The club though have stated that any such grievances won’t get in the way of the new initiative.
“If they have a problem with their view being blocked they can relocate to another part of the ground,” said a Villa spokeswoman, unapologetically. “The sponsorship money IKEA have paid the club, makes MOMS’ L7 Lounge match day experience our priority for the Watford game’.
The L7 Lounge concept is certainly another feather in the cap of the club maximising the marketing and commercial opportunities of Villa Park. It’s an area that Villa have been Premier League pioneers in, with the Lynx deodorant astronauts of a couple of seasons ago, a shining example.
With the real threat of relegation for the club this season, which would lead to a loss of massive TV rights revenue and also falling attendances next season, it’s good to see that what’s left of the club’s marketing department has a plan in place to potentially make up lost revenue from the empty seats at Villa Park.
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