Last Saturday, as the full-time whistle blew on an excellent 3-1 win against Hayes & Yeading United in the FA Trophy, it marked a 10-match unbeaten home streak (including pre-season), dating back to Folkestone Invicta on 22nd April 2023. For anyone who has witnessed our recent performances at the MKM Arena, the message is clear – visiting clubs will always receive a warm welcome from the Rocks but, rest assured, there will never be an easy day ahead when turning onto Nyewood Lane.
During my short time with the club, I’ve had the privilege of supporting the Rocks at several away fixtures. In summary, each ground has its own charm and an invaluable team of supportive volunteers working tirelessly to maximise, in some cases, limited infrastructure resources. I give particular credit to Potters Bar Town who, despite performing in front of a crowd of just 157, did their utmost to deliver an enjoyable supporter experience.
But, if playing away has taught me anything, there is no place like home, Bognor Regis Town is a special football club in so many ways. The MKM Arena, including Seasons, is a jewel in the non-league crown, a footballing residence we can be proud of and should never take for granted. Can improvements be made? Undoubtedly, but we can build from a foundation of already being one of the best facilities in Step 3 football.
HOME ATTENDANCES AT THE MKM ARENA
Keen-eyed Rocks regulars will have noticed that the MKM Arena has been a busier place this season – 1223 busier, to be precise. Whilst the club has played host to only 5 league/cup home fixtures, the small data sample presents early signs of a positive increase in attendance trends, particularly when compared to the recent 2022/2023 season:
Overall attendance from first 5 home fixtures 2022/2023 season = 2639. Overall attendance from first 5 home fixtures 2023/2024 season = 3862 (38% increase).
15 Aug, Carshalton Athletic
This fixture recorded an attendance of 666, a 44% increase compared to our first Tuesday evening home match in the 2022/2023 season, coincidentally, also Carshalton Athletic (13 Sep) – 452.
19 Aug, Hashtag United
This fixture recorded an attendance of 913, a 27% increase on our second home fixture played last season (27 Aug, Potters Bar Town – 697).
28 Aug, Lewes
This fixture recorded a season’s best attendance at 991, 288 more (25% increase) than our highest home attendance at the MKM Arena during the 2022/2023 season (15 Oct 22, Herne Bay – 703) and 313 more than when we last played The Rooks at home (10 April – 678).
23 Sep, Kingstonian
This fixture recorded an attendance of 779. With Pompey playing at Fratton Park, commonly, enticing a few away, we were delighted with the turnout. Last season, this would have been our highest home attendance.
7 Oct, Hayes & Yeading
This fixture recorded an attendance of 513. Typically, lower attendances are evidenced for cup fixtures, as opposed to league matches. However, 513 marked a 17% increase when compared to our FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round fixture played during the 2022/2023 season (8 Oct, Bowers & Pitsea – 432).
It would be remiss of me not to mention the developments being made by our fledging women’s structure. Who, having experienced both league and cup success last year, now ply their trade in the London and South East Regional Football League (first team) and Sussex County Football League (development team), respectively. The first team continue to build on a solid base of supporters, and introducing an admission ticket charge this season reflects giant strides for part of the club only formed 18 months ago. Our overall female representation now consists of 11 teams, ranging from U10s to adults. This is a highly respectable achievement. Further progression of our women and girls’ provision is something to embrace and adopt as part of our long-term strategy.
There are many reasons we are witnessing positive trends – credit must go to Robbie and his coaching staff for pulling in additional punters with the progress being made on-field. 13th in the table, yet just 4 points from the play-off positions having taken points from three of the top 7 sides. I have witnessed many fixtures this season, I strongly believe that we have the potential to be ‘in the mix’ come April.
Off-field, we are reaping the rewards of coordinating a talented group of media and marketing personnel. High-resolution photography, the outstanding quality of Rocks Radio matchday coverage, regular online content across multiple platforms, a new website, improved scoreboard advertising and graphics – the list goes on. This fine work increases engagement, grows our audience, and enhances the professionalism of our activities – presenting our Commercial Director, Russ Chandler, and our board with a foundation to monetise and showcase the Rocks with greater commercial attraction to prospective partners.
On 11th July, over 2000 people witnessed our annual pre-season fixture against Portsmouth FC. Whilst this is an event always enjoyed in healthy numbers, I recall looking around the MKM Arena, taking in the atmosphere and thinking “Why can’t it be like this every week?” Quite some thought. It is my belief that, for the size of our town, the passion in our support base and with the enthusiasm behind our momentum as a club, soon, the MKM Arena will begin welcoming attendances heading north of 1000 people. I’ve labelled this ambition Project 1000; no awards for originality, but I do challenge this to be delivered in two phases
Step 1 = Evidence another home league/cup fixture with an attendance of 1000+ (last seen 28 Dec 2021, Worthing FC – 2239). Step 2 = Seek to secure 1000+ as an average for attendances at the MKM Arena.
As management committee members, we must develop a strategy which directs how this will be attained, but, just as importantly, every supporter associated with the club can play their part in achieving this. Tell your family, tell your friends, tell your work colleagues, Bognor Regis Town Football Club is the place to be – get them in!
To every fan who has visited the MKM Arena this season – thank you for your support. If you were a first-timer, I hope you came again! If you know someone who hasn’t returned, please encourage them to reach out and explain why, we’d welcome the opportunity to understand how we can bring them back again.
We want this club to be the biggest community asset in Bognor Regis, we should be proud every time a man, woman and child wears a green and white jersey. This football club is a place which local people can get behind, somewhere it can provide a metaphorical home, to recall a popular phrase amongst our supporters – let’s be the talk of the town!