2 days after our Derby day victory on Saturday, it is time to look back on the start of the #ReclaimTheCampaign initiative and the joint work that has started with Chester FC.
#ReclaimTheGame has 3 key aims:
a) To change the recent culture of derby games
b) To increase attendance
c) To work towards normalising the fixture, and the designated away travel arrangements.
In terms of the derby culture, the three week campaign of joint work between the Clubs made some very important links, and the work will continue long after the cheers of derby day have subsided. There will be a lasting legacy of co-operation that we will continue to build.
The clubs came together and a number of staff and colleagues met together to plan the work. Wrexham’s Disabled Supporters Association and Chester’s Inclusive Blues groups have met and made links, and are sharing work on upgrading stadium facilities for some of our most disadvantaged fans. Colleagues from Wrexham’s Memories project joined a Senior Blues meeting recently to discuss further joint work for older fans. There is a repeat fans’ match planned soon, and despite a couple of hiccups we are planning a kids match as well. Wrexham followed Chester’s lead on Saturday by committing on the pitch before the game to become Dementia Friendly.
The joint publicity work was very well received. The coverage of #ReclaimTheGame in local and national press, radio, TV and social media has been very positive – and the focus has switched away from the behaviour of a tiny minority of people, back towards the long history of co-operation and healthy passionate rivalry between the clubs. The series of 5 articles illustrating families with fans of both clubs, former players, work colleagues, the Gresford disaster and the help the clubs gave each other when battling unscrupulous owners, was excellent. The video and social media content to support the campaign was also very impressive and has been commended widely.
The message that there is far more that unites the two proud clubs than divides them was heard loud and clear.
Both clubs called on their fans to #ReclaimTheGame and turn out in large numbers. Chester sold out their full allocation in a few days. Wrexham fans rallied to the cause too – and the Racecourse gate was more than 300 higher than last season. Around 800 fans signed the online pledge to act as ambassadors for their clubs. Perhaps most pleasing was the fact that more than a third of the tickets sold to home supporters were for children and those under 16.
To create an atmosphere where families wanted to bring their children in large numbers to see the team they love, was a real success we believe. We set out to reclaim the game for them – and we are pleased to have made such progress. There is more to do, but this is a great start.
The atmosphere in the ground on match day was fantastic – helped no doubt by the bumper crowd and the lovely sunny weather. Both sets of fans did their teams proud – singing loudly and passionately. So loud, in fact, we were told the singing could be heard from the golf course! In many ways it was exactly the type of derby atmosphere most fans hoped for.
Of course it was disappointing that a very small number of people attending damaged some seats. However, 99% of fans of both teams came to watch and enjoy the football – and we are determined that the focus will not be stolen back by the mindless few. They are very small in number – and we will continue our work to marginalise them and make them unwelcome until they either stop coming or behave like true fans like the rest of us. Those few who did misbehave can expect the knock on the door in the future, and both clubs will continue to support the police by extending the strongest sanctions possible. We said it before the game, and we say it again now – “You are not welcome in our fan-owned clubs. Do not come. You are not supporters”. This message has been echoed very loudly by fans of both clubs in the past two days.
Our third aim was to normalise the game. One third of supporters being kids is part of a normal game – they are the future of both great clubs. Our neighbours, residents and local business were able to go about their normal activities on Saturday and we must respect that. However, the inconvenience to fans, especially away fans and disabled fans continues to concern us.
#ReclaimTheGame was designed to show that the overwhelming majority of football fans are decent, law-abiding people who love their team and simply want to enjoy the healthy banter of a passionate local football derby.
Both clubs will continue to work with the local police forces, safety authorities and fans groups to normalise the game – including discussing kick-off times, travel arrangements, stadium exit arrangements and preparations inside the grounds. We will involve fans in these discussions – via members meetings.
Overall, #ReclaimTheGame has made some good progress, helped to restore a healthy derby atmosphere and show the two Clubs in a much more positive light.