The Club experienced a number of challenges in the run up to Saturday’s game and we are aware that service fell well short of expectations, both on and off the field.
We have had some complaints and it’s right that you should pick us up on any failings, for which we can only apologise. To add perspective, I have produced a timeline of last week’s countdown to the match so supporters are aware of the issues we were having behind the scenes.
Monday – After weeks of chasing, our new team kit finally arrived, only for us to discover that the manufacturer had not put the Club badges on the garments and the sponsor logo on the front of the shirt was too small. This was particularly disappointing because we wanted supporters to be able to purchase the new strip, ahead of our opening match of the season. The immediate priority though was to get the playing kit ready and appease our sponsors.
Tuesday – At our usual Tuesday pre-match briefing, it was apparent that our biggest challenge was going to be staffing levels and a particular concern was the stewarding numbers for the game.
The problems with staff shortages have been well reported and this is particularly acute in London and in the hospitality trade. Matchdays rely on casual labour and many staff, who had only just returned from furlough, have taken lengthy holidays which they accumulated during their time off work, so preparation during July and August has been patchy, at best. Problems were also reported with staffing the Bars, Hospitality and Ticketing meaning we were going to be stretched in all areas. The issue of the kit was also raised as we did not have the staff available to badge all the replica shirts before Saturday.
Wednesday – Efforts to get staff to badge the shirts proved fruitless so we took the decision to shut the Club Shop but still go ahead with the kit launch. We are still trying to resolve the kit problem but hope to have the shop open again from Monday.
Given the impacts on footfall due to Covid restrictions for most of the past year, our caterers were unfortunately unable to continue but we did manage to find a new company to run the Tea Huts, although this was their first matchday experience and it will be a learning curve for them. After weeks of searching, we had finally found a new chef for The Hive Bar and for hospitality, so we were hoping, at least, that this area had now been resolved.
Our media team now consisted of only one new staff member who was also helping with ticketing, so despite efforts, we were unable to arrange any commentary for the match and decided to cancel this. We also announced a ‘free drink promotion’ as a goodwill gesture to season ticket holders.
Thursday – Our usual beer delivery didn’t arrive and then the bombshell dropped, Heineken are on strike! Our supporters can forgive most things, but NO beer is a big, big problem. I spoke with their legal department who said they would allow us to purchase products elsewhere, but it would have to be a Heineken Brand so we rang around trying to get some beer, but most pubs were not selling stock as they were in a similar position to us.
In the meantime, I was personally in discussions with the National League as we had still not received any match balls, bench kit or shirt numbers from New Balance, who themselves had all sorts of supply issues. We started to badge and number the team kit with what we had available and dispatched someone to Hemel Hempstead FC to get some extra transfers they had in stock. We would like to thank them for their support.
Friday – We finally got the team kit badged and ready to go. We also dusted off last season’s bench wear as it was clear New Balance were not going to send the allocation in time. We also managed to locate 2,000 cans of Fosters, so immediately dispatched someone to load these into a van and get them back and into a cold store overnight, for use in Legends and the Away Bars.
Unfortunately, the new chef was not up to standard, so we decided to close The Hive Bar and notify Notts County that we were unable to provide our usual hospitality. They were very understanding and interestingly told us they had similar problems, with 85% of their staff having not returned to work for this season. Closing the Hive Bar meant we could focus our bar staff on Legends and also reduce any risk of home fans and away fans mingling in this area.
The biggest concern at this point was stewarding, so we arranged as many staff as we could from two different sources to ensure our Safety Officer was comfortable. Preparing for the worst, I called the Chairman of the National League to explain the problems and ask what the likely penalties were if the Club was unable to stage the game. The situation was critical.
At this point we had to deal with;
no Club Shop
no badged replica kit,
no bench wear,
no shirt numbers, and
no match balls.
This note is intended to communicate effectively to all supporters and is for transparency and not an excuse or to pass blame. I am not going to go into all the problems we had on Saturday because you already know, having experienced them yourselves.
On the day, we had Stewards and Staff that failed to turn up, system IT failures, player injuries and some very angry people to deal with. However, despite all of this, we got the match on as best we could expect given the circumstances. The team result was poor as was our service in certain areas but all in all, everyone went home safely.
We are confident that as people return from holiday and new staff gain more experience, the service will improve as we hope will results.
Lastly, we would like to thank you all for your patience and understanding during this time.