Earlier this week, Brentford FC Chief Executive wrote to all Season Ticket Holders, Premium Seat Holders and MyBees Members. With around two weeks until the start of the our first ever Premier League season, Jon wanted to update on a range of issues. We wanted to ensure all fans were brought up to date. See the letter below.......
Dear Fellow Bees fan,
First and foremost, I hope this letter finds you and your family safe and well and looking forward to the exciting season ahead.
By the time we kick off against West Ham United in our pre-season friendly, just over two months will have passed since our historic win at Wembley. Our Play-Off Final victory was the result of hard work, dedication, and total commitment from too many people to mention in this letter (not least the players!), but I must pay tribute to our owner, Matthew Benham whose unwavering belief and support has enabled us to reach the top flight of English football for the first time in 74 years.
Players, staff, fans and Directors should rightly be proud of our recent achievements, but now is the time to look forward and start to write a new chapter in our history. This season we will be competing in the toughest league in the world and the tasks ahead will be challenging both on and off the pitch. Our arrival to the Premier League has been played out during one of the most testing periods for everyone. The Covid pandemic has created numerous challenges which have impacted all areas of the Club, be they the Playing Department, Club Finances, Stadium Operations, Ticketing, Commercial and Retail. By and large we have faced the challenges head on and are in good shape for the season ahead, however we still have some hurdles to overcome and will need your help and understanding as we deal with these.
Togetherness is a core value for us and runs throughout our Club. We want to make sure our new home is welcoming and inclusive for all our supporters and we need everyone to play their part. Our BeeTogether campaign brings together all our efforts in this area and will continue to be a top priority for us as a Club during this historic Premier League season.
Our New Home – Brentford Community Stadium
Our supporters know better than most the frustrations we have all faced as we opened our new home behind closed doors. Due largely to the pandemic, the surrounding residential development is behind the original schedule and remains an active building site on non-match days. Entering and exiting the stadium will be a little more challenging than we had hoped due to the inevitable disruption caused by being so close to their building works. Rest assured, we will make sure there is clear directional signage, a large number of stewards and ‘Here to Help’ staff in place to direct you on your way. However, in addition to our plans to make sure you arrive and depart safely and speedily, we urge you to arrive in plenty of time and follow the guidance of our matchday stewards.
Over the years, we have all fine-tuned our matchday schedule based on our experiences at Griffin Park - our new home is very different! Our concourse areas have numerous bars, food kiosks and toilets, and we will also be showing Bees’ content on the 300+ TV screens throughout the stadium. We hope these facilities will be well received by our supporters and will help encourage everyone to get to the stadium early.
Despite the stadium being operational for all of last season, we still haven’t had the opportunity to host more than 4,300 supporters. Our pre-season matches against West Ham United and Valencia afford us the opportunity to fine tune our stadium operations for the full house we expect for our opening Premier League match against Arsenal, but also give you the opportunity to get familiar with your seat location and nearest bar, food outlet, and toilet facilities. Again, we urge you to attend our pre-season matches if you can and arrive in plenty of time to familiarise yourself with our new home.
Season Ticket Holders, Premium Seat Holders, Away Fans and MyBees Members
With approximately 10,000 Season Ticket Holders, 1,200 Premium Seat Holders and 1,725 Away supporters we have a total of 12,925 seats permanently allocated. These numbers exclude tickets we need to provide the Premier League, players, staff, and commercial partners, therefore match by match tickets will be in high demand from our 10,000 My Bees Members.
We will be operating the Ticket Exchange for Season Ticket Holders who are unable to attend Bees home Premier League matches for whatever reason. Together, we want to create an intense atmosphere and it’s vital every seat allocated to Bees fans is used. If you can’t attend, we want you to make use of the Ticket Exchange so your seat will be occupied by another Bees fan who can roar on our team. Ahead of the Arsenal match we will provide a further update on how you can make best use of the Ticket Exchange and its benefits.
Possible Covid Certification for Ground Entry, Social Distancing and Face Coverings
There continues to be much debate about the possible requirement for Covid certification to be a condition of ground entry. As things currently stand, Covid certification will not be required for the start of this season, however things may well change towards the end of September. We will continue to work closely with our local Safety Advisory Group, Sports Ground Safety Authority, Public Health England, Government representatives and the Premier League and will keep supporters aware of any developments.
Clearly some supporters may be nervous about returning to watch the Bees whilst Covid infections continue throughout society. We will be encouraging our supporters to continue to wear face coverings in the concourses and seating areas, however this will not be mandatory (in line with the current government guidelines). We also encourage all supporters to maintain social distancing where they can and to use the numerous hand sanitiser stations that will be located on the concourses.
Car Parking and Transport Arrangements
The stadium itself is well served by local public transport links (with eight stations within walking distance as well as several bus routes and on-site cycle parking). We have also secured off-site parking near to the stadium for those that need to drive, with spaces available to pre-book here.
Close by, Kew Bridge and Brentford stations will be operational on matchdays along with Gunnersbury station (but please note the District line at Gunnersbury station will be closed for the West Ham United match due to works). Work has taken place at Kew Bridge station to make your arrival and departure as smooth as possible, however we are expecting the station to be extremely busy and ask you to allow plenty of time to arrive and to take your time on leaving the stadium.
Bees Store and Retail
Our promotion to the Premier League has created more demand for Brentford merchandise than ever before. We are still operating from our Braemar Road store, however plans are well underway to open a new and significantly larger shop very close to the stadium. We would have liked the new store to be open for the start of the season, but uncertainty over our promotion and the subsequent financial impact meant we could not push the button until promotion was achieved. We hope to open the new Bees Store in time for the Liverpool match and will keep you updated as things develop. We have invested in increased staffing levels for both the shop and online fulfilment, but please do bear with us whilst we get through this exceptionally busy period. I can assure you we will do everything we can to make sure you are well served both at the Bees Store and online.
We have detected some frustration from our supporters regarding the late launch of our kits, so please let me explain some of the reasons why. To help us compete in the Premier League, it is essential we maximise the value from our front of shirt sponsorship. This meant we could not conclude our partnership with Hollywoodbets until the Championship Play-Off Final was concluded.
As soon as our front of shirt sponsor and the sleeve sponsor were confirmed we had to apply the sponsors’ logos to both home and away shirts, which slowed the process down culminating in a 10 day delay from our scheduled kit launch.
I am pleased to report that over the past week sales of both home and away shirts have gone extremely well, with the home shirt being the most popular of the two, so far!
When we placed our original order with Umbro (back in October 2020) we based the order on staying in the Championship. Taking a chance of ordering shirts based on being a Premier League club was too great a financial risk, therefore over the coming weeks we may reach a point when the availability of shirts in certain sizes become limited. I can confirm that as soon as promotion was gained, we immediately placed a large second order of home and away shirts to cater for the inevitable increased demand. These shirts are due to arrive by the end of September and we are currently working with Umbro to try and bring this timeline forward. If stock does run low please bear with us as more shirts are on their way.
Digital Platforms and Ticketing System
During the last year we have required our ticketing system to do several things we didn’t envisage it having to do and it coped well, but there are also several areas where we need to find improvements. By and large the ticketing system helped deliver the successful migration of Season Tickets Holders from Griffin Park to the new stadium, freezing Season Ticket Holders’ seats and providing refunds to those that requested them. Through the ticketing system we have also been managing games that have had Covid restrictions placed upon them and managed to bring together groups of fans in a socially distanced way allowing friends and family to sit together. We know the current ticketing system is still far from perfect and appreciate that the ticketing system at times can be ‘clunky’ and difficult to use. Our ticketing provider is aware of our concerns and frustrations, and we are working with them to make sure we continually improve and simplify the ticket purchasing process. We have a further meeting with them this week considering recent challenges and have several items that we are working to resolve, this is a top priority for our Technology and Ticketing teams. We apologise for any issues you have faced, and we will do all that we can to improve.
As part of our Technology improvements, we are also on a digital transformation journey and have decided to break away from EFL Digital. This will allow us to manage our website and provide better services to our fans. This will include but not be limited to a much better user experience when purchasing tickets and managing friends and family. Contractually, we must give one year’s notice to exit the EFL arrangements (notice was served soon after promotion), therefore this will take a year to complete. We are committed to working with our fan groups on this digital transformation journey and are looking to make significant improvements ready for the 22/23 season.
Contacting the Club
Whilst everything still feels quite new at our new home, many supporters will naturally have questions they need answering. We have increased our staffing levels in our fan enquiries and venue sales teams, but we are still managing our way out of Covid and many of our full-time staff are still working from home and a number of staff are having to self-isolate. Please help us serve you better by emailing any questions to [email protected] or [email protected] (for ticket-related issues) [email protected] (for retail related issues) [email protected] (for Premium Seat related issues) rather than calling us if you can, as this allows us to respond efficiently and minimise any waiting time for you. Just to reiterate, please email us any questions or concerns and we will respond by email or give you a call.
In summary, we are in good shape but there will inevitably be some bumps in the road ahead (both on and off the pitch). The transition from being a Championship Club to a Premier League Club is significant, combine this with opening a new stadium and working through the impacts of the Covid pandemic means the staff are working flat out to get things ready for the start of the season. Unquestionably not everything will go according to plan, therefore your patience and understanding will be greatly appreciated over the coming weeks. I can promise you the staff, myself, and I am sure the players at Brentford FC will do everything in their power to ensure your matchday experience is an enjoyable and memorable one.
Without doubt your support at Wembley and at the Play Off Semi Final against Bournemouth made a huge difference and helped us get over the line on both occasions. We also remember the great atmosphere you all created at Griffin Park and we now look forward to making our new home a fortress for the future.
It’s been far too long since we’ve all been together, and we look forward to welcoming you to YOUR new home over the coming weeks.
Thank you for your continued support and up the Bees!