It was my first time in a Championship match. Last Friday, as part of one of my university courses my classmates and I attended the London derby between Brentford and Fulham. While it was my first time of watching Brentford, it is actually the fourth time I’ve seen Fulham, twice away with Liverpool and once to see them host Wigan when they were in the Premier League.
Though I had my history with Fulham, I believe that Brentford came to my footballing attention during my teenage days playing Football Manager. Funny enough, while I was living in Israel last year, a tv show aired and Brentford was at the heart of it. It shows the story of a superstar in domestic level securing a huge move to Chelsea only to find out he will be loaned to Brentford.
To be honest, I was excited to go to a league match other than the Premier League. Being used to that prestige and level of football, and of course by supporting a top club, you get used to a certain type of football experience.
The game had all the makings of what a person would have in mind when English football is mentioned. A cold and wet Friday night, although a cold and wet 15:00 PM Saturday kickoff is the classic image, fans popping out of their houses which their neighbor is the stadium, singing, drinking it was all there.
The purpose of this visit was to examine marketing and fan engagement techniques used by Brentford F.C. and to be fair, while there were a few, it was nice for change not to be bombarded with flashing logos, advertisement in every corner, and other efforts by sponsors to catch your attention as modern football does.
Prior to that, a friend that was visiting London contacted me and said that he’s thinking of attending the game, However when he tried to buy a ticket online he couldn’t and there was no information whether there are still tickets left at the box office.
When I entered the stand the first thing that immediately caught my eye was the standing only home fans stand behind the goal, which made me think, well if Brentford will make it into the Premier League this is gone, unless safe standing is issued. By the way, I’m fully supportive of safe standing. In all the matches I attended in Israel as a kid, standing is the default option and you sit during half time, and in my opinion, it generates a much better atmosphere as the Brentford faithful proved.
In some premier league grounds, the scoreboard has evolved to an American version, big, interactive and engaging. At Brentford, you could hardly spot it and the interface resembled the old MS-DOS operating system computers used to have.
While it seems that by my description the modern football features has skipped Brentford it’s not entirely the case. Social media engagement is encouraged, at least where I sat in the family stand, there was a booth which resembles a dressing room and opposite of that a place to take a photo with the media board behind you. They encourage the use of Social media platforms by using their own hashtag and by re-sharing the best ones. There even was a group of fans with a selfie stick, but I’ll leave my opinion on that subject somewhere else.
Eventually, the general experience was good and different, different in a way that deepened my inner conflict of what kind of a football environment I would rather be surrounded by.