So you have decided that you are going to organise an event and after a scan of the WatG Toolkit, you realise that you need to pick a meeting point – so where should you choose?
In an ideal world, there would be a large, friendly cafe, with disabled access, just outside the entrance to the family enclosure of your club. It never gets busy on a match day and offers the most delicious scones in the Northern hemisphere. Problem solved.
Back in the real world, this venue most probably doesn’t exist, so you might have to get creative when finding the ‘perfect’ meeting space for your group.
This article attempts to give some food for thought when choosing your meet up venue.
Forearmed is forewarned
There are several basic questions to ask before you begin your venue search. Key questions to ask should be:
- How many women will be attending?
- Who will be attending?
- When do you want them to join you (at the meeting point or at the ground)?
- If there is nowhere close to the ground, how are you going to get there?
- Are there any people within the group whose requirements will need to be considered e.g. religious groups or the elderly?
- Are there any accessibility issues to be considered?
- Is your event open to children?
When you invite attendees, ask them to register their interest with you and collect useful information to help you to prepare for the event and travel.
There is often no perfect answer to choosing a meeting place, you are not likely to satisfy all the people all the time and so often the selection of venue is a compromise, but the more you know about your attendees, the better prepared you can be.
The reason for meeting up before going to the match is for the group to get to know each other, meet up in a relaxed and friendly environment and for the organisers to be able to know who and how many people they have to guide.
The key tenet of a Women at the Game event is to take women to a football match in a supportive environment. For many women in attendance, this may well be their first ever game, and so a venue which is packed to the brim with loud football fans (however well-meaning) is often going to be too daunting for a get together.
The meeting venue will, in most cases, be the first face to face contact between you and the women coming to the match. Irrespective of where it is, the organisers / guides need to be easily identifiable and approachable. You need to be able to hold a conversation without shouting to be heard and be able to sit everyone together. The availability of tea and cake is a bonus!
Location, location, location
This is key to making your job, as event organiser, easier. Wherever you meet, after a suitable time of bonding, you will need to get to the ground. In the case of premiership matches, that could be you and 60,000 other people!!
It is likely that the choice of venue will in part be dictated by the size of the crowds at your football club. If there are large crowds, then the local facilities are likely to be busy and getting the owner to allocate you some space for your group might be difficult. For non-league matches, crowding around the ground isn’t an issue and so a tea room within walking distance of the ground is often a good option.
If you do need to meet away from the stadium, and take public transport to the match, make sure you have enough volunteers to guide small groups of women to a designated meeting point outside the stadium. Trying to get 25 women onto the same tram, along with all the other fans is not an easy task (herding cats comes to mind), but if you only have a few women to look after, it is much easier. If you are going to use public transport to get to the ground, think about how you will get tickets. At the first Manchester City event, the party split up, when women with tickets got on the first tram, whilst others were still queuing for tickets.
To beer or not to beer
The official guidance in the WatG toolkit suggests that you should avoid meeting in a pub if possible. There are several reasons for this. If you meet in a pub, you may deter some women from attending. This could be on religious grounds, difficulty in bringing children into the pub, or just a reluctance to walk into a pub on their own. There is a practical issue as well, pubs close to the ground are likely to be meeting points for regular supporters, and so will be crowded and this will make it more difficult for your women to find you.
A location which offers alcohol (including the football club’s function room) could deter some women.
The presence of a beer festival at the ground on the same day as a Women at the Game event was considered to be a barrier preventing some Muslim women attending a recent AFC Wimbledon friendly.
On the other hand, many women are comfortable with meeting in a pub – it works for Manchester City, who meet in a city centre pub for a drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) and pizza, and then take the tram to the ground.
So you need to know your audience, but try to keep the venue as neutral as possible.
Make sure all attendees know who their key contact is, so they can get in touch with any worries or questions ahead of the day.
If you are concerned that a group of people, such as Muslim women or mums for example, might be put off by the venue chosen, then open dialogue with them beforehand to ask if they would have any issues. Feel free to consult with local groups ahead of time who are more often than not happy to help answer any questions you might have.
- Ask for help! Your club, supporters trust or even regular fans, might have the perfect venue in mind if you just ask them
- If the only available venues are pubs, see if they have a private room which can be booked, and put a Women at the Game volunteer at the door to escort women to the group if needed.
- A function room or hospitality suite at the ground would be ideal for a meeting, particularly if the start time of your get together is timed to ensure women get to the ground before the big crowds arrive. This will generally need support from the Club or might require some payment. You might want to get sponsorship / support from a local business to help to cover any costs or consider talking to regular holders of hospitality boxes and see if they would like to donate their box for a match.
- Communication is key, the venue chosen might not be perfect but as long as you are open about the reasons for choosing it, and are happy to answer any questions people have, you are unlikely to run into problems
For more information, or for help organising a Women at the Game event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org