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Tuesday 16 October 2012

Four clubs receive inaugural VisitFootball awards

Arsenal, Fulham, Liverpool and Manchester City first clubs to scoop VisitFootball Awards

  • Arsenal have been praised for their "simply outstanding service"

  • Tommy Guthrie has been rewarded for his work at Fulham

Four Barclays Premier League clubs are to receive awards for the quality of their customer care as part of a national scheme that is improving standards of fan experience at football stadia.

VisitFootball, a joint venture between the Premier League and the national tourism board VisitEngland, has been assessing the care that customers receive at football grounds since August 2010 and for the first time handed out awards, with this year's beneficiaries being Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Fulham.

A panel of industry experts from the tourism, football and customer service industries voted Arsenal the VisitFootball Club of the Year for their "simply outstanding service".

City received the Best Fan Innovation for their City Square and Family Stand projects, while Liverpool’s stewards won the club the Warmest Welcome award. The fourth award, Unsung Hero, went to Fulham’s Supporter Liaison Officer Tommy Guthrie for his detailed dedication to supporters.

"VisitFootball shows that the Premier League is taking customer care very seriously"
Richard Scudamore

VisitFootball has adapted VisitEngland's 'Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme', which is used to assess other tourist attractions such as theatres and museums, specifically for football stadia.

All 20 clubs in the Barclays Premier League were judged by a professional tourism assessor across eight areas of the supporter match experience, such as ticketing, stewarding, catering, toilets and the club shop.

Visit England commended the improvement in customer care since the scheme started two years ago, hailing the Premier League for taking the care of supporters visiting its stadia so seriously.

The success of the scheme in addressing standards of customer care in the Barclays Premier League is such that it is to be expanded this season to include the assessment of facilities for away support, accessibility and hospitality.

For the Awards the panel brought together the marks and comments of the assessors from Live Tourism to determine which clubs and personnel offered the highest quality for Premier League football fans. The award winners and judges comments for the 2011/12 season are:

Arsenal: VisitFootball Club of the Year

"Arsenal was simply outstanding in every area of customer service. From the moment the assessors booked their tickets to when they left the ground Arsenal were on their A game.

"Their staff at every level from stewards to catering and cleaners to retail were very impressive. They clearly have a culture of high standards at Emirates Stadium and their professionalism shines through."

Manchester City: VisitFootball Best Fan Innovation - City Square and Family Stand

"Manchester City has set the benchmark for football clubs with their City Square and Family Stand. The all-weather food and drink outlets, giant TV screens and post-match player and legend appearances in City Square are clearly a hit with the fans. This is how to look after people so they will want to come again.

"In the Family Stand it's the little things that matter: the catering where the kiosk is at child height, the age- appropriate food portions, the entertainers who keep young fans engaged, the breast-feeding facilities for mothers. This is thinking about their fans as customers at the highest level."

Liverpool: VisitFootball Warmest Welcome

"First impressions count and there is no reason why that should be any different for football clubs from any other attraction. It costs nothing to be friendly but it can be very rewarding for all parties.

"We loved the stewarding at Liverpool because they clearly enjoy their job. There is a great rapport with the people they know but also an engagement for those who it might be their one and only Liverpool game of the season. Without doubt the warmest welcome we found in the Premier League was at Anfield."

Tommy Guthrie, Fulham: VisitFootball Unsung Hero

"Every Premier League club has a Supporter Liaison Officer but Fulham supporters should be proud to have Tommy Guthrie. All customers want to feel looked after and Tommy does that.

"Going to visit people on matchday who have contacted him through the week to see if they are enjoying the game; taking foreign supporters clubs to a local pub in Fulham when they visit; organising fan forums in motorway service stations and city sight-seeing visits for fans at away games. He may see it as his job but the level of detail from Tommy is something that should be singled out and applauded."

Richard Scudamore, Premier League Chief Executive said: "The one thing that you cannot guarantee at a Premier League match is the result but one thing we should be striving for is that every fan who comes into our grounds is receiving a high standard of experience. As the VisitFootball Awards show, not only are clubs like Arsenal, Fulham, Liverpool and Manchester City providing that, but they are going above and beyond.

"A lot of effort has been put into making Premier League grounds more safe and welcoming over the last 20 years, which is why we have seen traditional fans being joined by more sections of society. Nearly a quarter of attending fans are women now, 13% of season ticket holders are children and overall 63% of supporters coming to a match do so with a family member.

"There are increased expectations among this more diverse audience and VisitFootball shows that the Premier League is taking customer care very seriously."

"They should be congratulated for taking this so seriously and the progress made so far"
James Berresford

James Berresford, VisitEngland Chief Executive said: "We have had a magnificent summer of sport in England. The London 2012 Olympics & Paralympic Games highlighted the importance of a warm and friendly welcome.

"The volunteers at The Games will be an important part of the legacy and showcased to the world that we are nation which loves our sport, gets behind the teams and knows how to welcome visitors whether they are local or international.

"The Premier League has already been playing its part over the last two years to improve its football welcome and I'm delighted that our Quality Assured Stadium programme has had such an impact.

"They should be congratulated for taking this so seriously and the progress made so far. But it's also important that football clubs continue to build on these improvements.

"If we want to show the commitment both the sporting and tourism industries have to providing fans with a high quality, highly memorable experience, then the Premier League expanding its VisitFootball scheme with us is exactly the right signal."

The VisitFootball scheme covers eight areas of the match experience for the 13 million plus fans that come through Premier League turnstiles every season.

New assessments

Pre-arrival: telephone and email enquiries, website content and ticket purchasing
Arrival: signage, approach to stadium, parking, stadium appearance
Pre-match experience: stadium layout, stewarding, pre-match entertainment, programme content
Match experience: quality of seating, information, stewarding, atmosphere, half-time entertainment
Catering: appearance, food quality, service, food range, cleanliness
Toilets: layout and numbers, maintenance, fixtures and fittings, ventilation, cleanliness
Post-match: ease of exit, signage, crowd control
Club shop: layout, range of merchandise, presentation, cleanliness.

During the first two seasons every club got one visit as part of the VisitFootball initiative but for the 2012/13 season every club is going to receive two visits.

Additionally the scheme has been expanded to look at even more aspects of customer care and there are three new assessments being done at every Premier League ground:

Away supporters: VisitFootball will look at the experience of those loyal fans that travel away from home.
Accessibility: VisitFootball will look at the experience for disabled supporters examining every aspect of their experience.
Hospitality: Given the importance of service in this area, VisitFootball will closely examine the quality of catering and staff efficiency.

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Key Points

  • Four Barclays Premier League clubs given VisitFootball Awards
  • Arsenal receive Club of the Year, Fulham for Unsung Hero
  • Man City win for Best Fan Innovation and Liverpool's stewards for Warmest Welcome