Towards the end of last season, along with several club directors, staff members and many other Brentford supporters I was interviewed so that I could express my own feelings and sentiments regarding the football club.
What did it mean to me? What made it stand out? Why did I continue to support the club and return week after week to the shrine that is Griffin Park? What was special and unique about Brentford?
There was also a lot of discussion about the Brentford brand and what it stood for. As the fan base continues to grow and more and more people begin to take an interest in Brentford, was the club being introduced and presented to supporters, both new and old, in the right way? What values best personified the club looking pack to the past as well as now, in the present, and most importantly,to what extent would these remain the same in the future?
How could the club retain its traditional positive character traits and not alienate long term supporters yet still remain relevant and contemporary to the younger fans now being attracted to the club by virtue of its recent success and growing reputation for playing vibrant attacking football?
A lot of work was conducted by the club who then drilled down even further through a series of online questionnaires to season ticket holders and members and finally a working party was established with a group of fans of all ages and backgrounds who analysed and reviewed the initial findings and acted as one last sounding board.
The salient points and learnings from this research project will, I am sure, become evident over the coming months by virtue of changes and ideally improvements in how the club presents its public face through communication channels such as its website and all areas of social media and, on Tuesday, as a first step the club released a brand new video which allowed fans of all ages to tell their own stories about Brentford, what it means to them, their mood regarding the current state of the club and how they felt about the immediate future.
It can be found on the Brentford website and I commend it to you all as it is three minutes and forty-five seconds of pure gold dust which made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, and I have to say it also gave me goosebumps. It is a truly excellent piece of work which is evocative, pulls at the heart strings but is also confident and forward thinking and it has accurately portrayed what the Brentford brand represents, retrospectively, in the present, and ideally, moving forward.
Through a series of short sharp vox pops it clearly communicates the values of the club and helps to explain what makes us different and unique.
Brentford surely means different things to every supporter but each and every interview had one thing in common that clearly shone through – a feeling of unity and belonging. We are all in this together as one extended family and there is not the dissonance and void that exists in many bigger clubs where there is a clear separation and divide and a feeling of them and us.
Brentford is part of and serves a vibrant local community and must never lose sight of that fact and however high we rise in the football food chain, we cannot fall into the trap of becoming a soulless, amorphous and clinical conglomerate. The intimacy, charm and, frankly, ramshackle nature of Griffin Park is the glue that binds us all together and Lionel Road must, and surely will, replicate that sense of warmth and togetherness.
Many of the comments, viewpoints, memories and assertions expressed by supporters in the video will strike a chord with all Brentford supporters and here are some of my favourites:
- The walk to the ground through streets of terraced houses
- The only ground with a pub on all four corners
- It feels like being at home
- Brentford is at the heart of its community
- There is a closeness – a real community spirit
- We have a close-knit bunch of fans
- I see people I have known for fifty years
- It is what you call a friendly club
- There is a community spirit and sense of togetherness that other London clubs do not possess
- It is my spiritual home
- Wherever you go on a match day you are always going to bump into a friendly face
- Brentford is part of my family, it is part of me
- Saturday would not really be the same without going to Griffin Park
- Coming through the gates at Griffin Park just makes you buzz
- The people here are all in it together
- The atmosphere is electric
- I love the fact that it is an old-style stadium
- It is one of the few remaining ones with terracing
- The fans are close to the pitch and it is very, very intimidating for the opposition
- I get an adrenalin rush when I go there
- The quality of the football over the past couple of seasons has been second to none
- What I am seeing is a football team that is evolving and progressing
- We have grown together almost out of adversity and from being an underdog
- The owner is very forward thinking
- The investment that the owner and staff have put in is all about making this club fit for the future
- These are really exciting times
- Who knows what the next ten years can bring
- This is a club that is going places
- We have always been a bit innovative
- It’s been a roller coaster ride but finally people can believe that this club will be successful for years to come
- You can have contact with Brentford, you feel like you are a part of the club
- We are a London club, but we are also a local club, it is the best of both worlds
- I am prouder than I have ever been in my life to walk around West London wearing red and white
- We are traditional but progressive
I am sure that all these words will make you feel just as proud and emotional as they did me when I first watched the video. The club is to be commended and has done an excellent job in capturing the mood and spirit of its supporters and I feel proud of our past, delighted about the present and confident about the future.