By Andrew Brown Stand Up For Southport
The new owners of Southport Football Club are delighted with the positive response from fans since their takeover – as they revealed ambitions to significantly grow attendances.
They are launching a ‘Target 2,000’ initiative with the aim of attracting an average Home gate of 2,000 fans.
October saw Big Help Group announce the acquisition of Southport FC through the purchase of former owner Ian Kyle’s shares.
Big Help Group has been associated with Southport FC for some months already as stadium sponsor and is delighted to now be the majority shareholder. The process has been ratified by the National League.
This week I met with Big Help Group Executive Chair, and now new Southport FC Chair, Peter Mitchell, who said he was drawn to Southport FC by the huge passion the fans had for their hometown club.
Last week he led a well-attended Fans’ Forum, and wants to build more engagement with supporters.
He wants to invest into the playing squad and the stadium to make the matchday experience more appealing.
Yesterday he signed popular new Manager Jim Bentley to a long-term deal until June 2026.
Cash gates have returned, while the ban on under-16s attending on their own will soon be overturned.
He wants to see the Sandgrounders play in front of regular gates of 2,000 and over as fast as possible.
Southport FC fans have shown they can turn out in force.
The highest attendance so far this season was 1,835 against Chester City on 24th October – a Tuesday night.
The Big Help Stadium has also hosted 1,633 fans against Chorley on Bank Holiday Monday 28th August and 1,522 in the opening League game of the season against Warrington Town on Saturday, 5th August. There is scope to grow.
Big Help Group Executive Chair and Southport FC Chair Peter Mitchell said:
“We are really excited to have acquired Southport Football Club!
“We have already made a positive start, and we have much more that we want to do.
“We enjoyed having a Fans’ Forum last week which was really well attended! There were around 120 supporters in the room, with another 150 watching live on YouTube.
“We have had a very positive response from Southport FC fans groups’, from fans, from other individuals since we took over.
“It has been really heartening to see people who say they had become disillusioned with the club in recent years, coming back to watch them again.
“We are doing a lot of work to re-engage with Southport FC supporters.
“We have reopened cash gates at the ground.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for people to go and watch their local football team!
“We want to do all we can to create a positive atmosphere at the ground.
“People should be able to come and support their team and enjoy their matchday experience as much as possible.
“There are around 100,000 people living in Southport! We’d love to see more and more of them coming to watch the games here.
“We are looking at the potential of giving away 100 tickets every week in order to encourage younger people, and older people, everyone, to come and watch a game.
“We want more people to come along when the team plays.
“We have a ‘Target 2,000’, to try and build up to an average attendance of 2,000 supporters each home game.
“I believe that we can do that if we put certain things in place, such as investing in the playing squad, achieving more success on the pitch, making it easier for people to come to the games, ensuring it’s an enjoyable match experience.
“I want to be accessible to the fans, I want to be able to hear people’s views.
“We might not always agree, and there will be times when we don’t, but we need to have that transparency and we need to have that dialogue. It can’t be a ‘them’ and ‘us’.
“I want to go and watch some of the matches in the Jack Carr Stand rather than sitting in the directors’ box.
“We are looking to break down barriers between the fans and the club.
“I was speaking with some of the supporters the other day, and they said to me ‘we have got our club back’.
“That was really great to hear.
“We have got an awful lot of work to do both on and off the pitch. But we are really enjoying getting stuck in.
“We want to engage a lot more with fans. We want to bring back AGMs. We aim to have Fans’ Forums three times a season.
“We won’t hide from people’s questions.
“We all need to work together as a club and as a community.”
- Southport FC next play at Home at the Big Help Stadium against South Shields in the FA Trophy this Saturday (18th November 2023). For more details and tickets visit: southportfc.net or pay on the gate