‘Customer experience’ goes a long way to making youth football interesting

One of the biggest complaints about youth football is that parents shell out a lot of money, but don’t feel like they’re getting a good return on their investment.

In any other business, if you flash the dollars, you expect quality service. Football clubs are more than a business, but need to start seeing families as more than just trees of money – they need to be given the right ‘customer experience’.

Although parents should not be seen as mere customers, it should not be forgotten that they spend their hard-earned money to get the children to play football.

The cost of football isn’t going to come down any time soon, it’s a source of income for those on top and unless funds from other sources (eg sponsors) come in, no one is going to give it up .

Ensuring that parents and children get more for their money is the only solution.

“Parents don’t mind spending money as long as we and our children get something back,” said Andy Soliman, whose son plays junior football at Western Sydney. “Personally, my wife and I like to watch our children play, have coffee with other parents. It’s a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning.

“Would we like more? Sure, but I don’t know what it is.

“My brother’s daughter is playing Aussie Rules for a local club and I have to say what they are doing is pretty cool. I think it’s cheaper than football but they have a lot of bells and whistles, which makes it even better.

An Australian Under-12 Rules Community Game between Ingleburn Magpies and Campbelltown Swans that I attended a few years ago underscored this notion. It was a fun way to spend a Friday night.

Everyone and everything was so organized. It ran like clockwork and the attention to detail was brilliant. It was a wonderful experience for the children and their parents, all run by volunteers as well.

The coach had an appropriate bib, showing that he was the coach. It had a magnetic board and there were appropriate chairs for children on the bench. There were runners, medical personnel, water carriers all with properly colored bibs.

The children ran towards their club’s song playing in the background. They had banners – and have banners that mark when kids play 50 or 100 games. Scattered on the fences were junior premier flags that the club had won.

It was a taste of what AFL stars can experience. Kids delight in getting a glimpse of what their heroes are going through when they play at the big time.

The ground manager kept everyone in line and made sure everything was running smoothly. There was a real dashboard. There was even music playing over the speakers. The grounds were well maintained and looked great under the lights. The referees were a mix of young and old. The canteen was well maintained.

It was a great evening of entertainment. And – again – it was a community game for under 12s.

“It sounds like a lot of fun,” Soliman says. “Thanks to the AFL, they have really grown in Sydney.

“I know GWS Giants and Sydney Swans do a lot of clinics and come to schools. Kids can then connect with players and then want to watch them on TV and go to games.”

The Ingleburn parents loved spending time at their club. They talked about how going to soccer with their kids was great fun, not a chore. They explained how organized it was which meant they could sit down and just enjoy.

What was also good to hear was how closely these junior clubs were tied to the Giants, who run academies and offer courses. The Giants also hold sessions for junior coaches who can meet with the club’s senior coaches and get advice and suggestions.

The Giants also have gala weekends and give kids the chance to play in the little league on AFL game days. Everything is well organized!

Leon Cameron (Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

To show how the AFL pays close attention to the details of experiences for children, the AFL Players Union ensures players receive proper training on how to coach children as part of their collective bargaining agreement. . This ensures players know what they are doing and kids get full benefit and better experiences from clinics.

A number of A-League clubs have been criticized for their lack of community ties. Many insist that they attend local schools and clubs, but that is not enough. COVID has made this space harder to be fair, but even before March 2020 it was a problem.

APL CEO Danny Townsend intends to work on this as part of his strategy to re-engage football fans in the A-League. Although the A-Leagues are independent, the FFA must work closely with them to connect grassroots football at our highest level.

The AFL, along with their volunteers, deserve immense credit. The league has spent a lot of money to ensure that all the right resources, infrastructure and supports are in place for volunteers, clubs and parents to benefit from their experience. A smart business approach.

There are many football clubs across the country working hard to match this. Many want their juniors and parents to feel part of the fabric of their club. Many club committees go out of their way to make sure parents get what they pay for. However, the lack of volunteers complicates the task.

The FA and member state federations are not investing close to the resources they should. Throwing money at the problem won’t solve it, but it certainly helps. Investing in good coaches, infrastructure, courses, good experiences, etc. keeps people attracted to the sport.

By building better relationships between clubs, parents and the game of football itself, you are likely to have more volunteers and more ‘skilled’ volunteers – people who know what they are doing and can play their role so that the “customers” (i.e. the parents) are satisfied and therefore have no problem paying their fees.

Far too many parents of footballers see themselves as a train of money. They clearly don’t get the customer experience.

The AFL’s broadcast deal in 2015 generated $2.5bn, plus an extension of $946m in 2020. The APL and FFA have a $300m deal which was signed l ‘last year. This is where the difference lies.

There’s only one way for football to catch up: improve the customer experience. And it starts at the local level.

Sports Grp2

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