It all started with the kind of phone call somebody at Brentford FC makes most days to a Bees fan: ‘How Are You?’ ‘How are you coping with lockdown?’
What the Brentford caller didn’t expect was what would happen next. The fan who got the call told his wife, Hollie, about this and she told the world. Hollie Taylor posted on the global business social network LinkedIn.
What Hollie wrote was shared by other LinkedIn users around the world creating more than 100,000 views, 23,790 positive responses and over 700 comments. As word spread on social media other EFL clubs got in contact to hear more about Brentford’s calls to fans.
The origin of this form of communication with fans lies in the calls Chairman Cliff Crown and Director Nity Raj made every year to supporters who hadn’t yet renewed their season ticket. Cliff says “We wanted to remind them to renew or to find out why they chose not to renew. We found that many had moved away from the area or gone to Uni. We then decided to call those over 70 to see how they were coping in the first lockdown and it was suggested we also do it for those with special birthdays. We’ve continued because the calls have been so well received.
“I did nine calls on 11 March and five on 15 March, with an age range from 21 to 90. Some you leave messages for but many you get to speak to directly. Most are delighted and surprised to be getting a call from the Chairman.
“It is always great to find out how long they’ve been supporting The Bees. I’ve had many who first saw us in 1946. We can find out how they have celebrated their birthday, not easy in these difficult times. It is actually thoroughly enjoyable to take the time to chat to our fans and to thank them for their support. They are all very complimentary about the quality of football and as Chairman I am privileged to get the opportunity to do so. I always set aside time at the end of my working day to make those calls and really enjoy doing so.”
Among the other callers Brentford CEO Jon Varney remembers talking to three brothers, all over 80, and BU Chairman and Club Director Stewart Purvis was excited to call Brentford Hall of Fame centre-half, Peter Gelson, on his 80th birthday last October. Some calls are to fans over 90.
Mike Sullivan, who in normal times is the Legends Liaison Manager at Brentford, has joined the team of callers. He has given special attention to those fans who indicated to the Club they wouldn’t feel comfortable to attend games this season because of the pandemic.
“There were a lot of elderly people out there who were sheltering and who wouldn’t see anybody. For them to get a call out of the blue from the football club really lifted their spirits. One man I spoke to was really down because he was waiting to hear whether he had got prostate cancer. I asked if he would take a call from Cliff Crown and Peter Gilham. He agreed and Cliff and Peter called him. It meant the world to him.
“I reassure people I’m not trying to sell them double-glazing. When it is clear you are from Brentford the link means you become a friend very quickly. It is as if we are one big family. Within a few minutes one fan was telling me his whole life story. Another who was 85 said ‘I’m on my own, you don’t know what this call means to me.’”
Mike has also brought new ideas to the process: “I always take notes when I am making a call and later in the day I follow up with a personalised text. I often then get a text back which is heart-warming for me.”
Mike says: “From the texts I’ve got back I know these calls are being very well received by the fans. Even in these adverse times it shows that Brentford are still thinking of them.”
To read more features by Bees United, click here.