Off the field improvements continue at Sincil Bank

On Friday there was a raft of announcements made surrounding the fan experience at Sincil Bank, and whilst the focus of many was the upcoming Mansfield match, now is time to reflect on the positivity happening off the pitch to.

Firstly, a season ticket buy-back scheme has been trialled. I suspect if this had been functioning before they went on sale, we could have sold many more. I know of fans that didn’t buy an ST because they’d miss seven or eight games a season. That in turn leaves them ‘out of the loop’ when it comes to priority away tickets, and it can mean even home matches are tough to attend. However, with a proper buy back scheme those people could now monetize their ticket when not using it, thus making buying one more attractive.

Of course you don’t get the full price back, there is a small kick back for the club too. Should your ticket be resold Adults will be paid back £7, Concessions £5, Student £2.50 and Juniors will receive £1.50, with all proceeds of additional sales going to the Academy. Having worked closely with Roger Bates on a couple of Academy projects I have to confess it is something close to my heart, and anything that helps good young players emerge has to be a good thing.

I’m a big fan of the buy back scheme, and later on this morning I’m going to be chatting to Liam Scully about the trial, and how it went.

The next news item is a contentious one, and something I’m sure was met with a mixed reception by fans. Double M, the purveyors of below-standard match day food for far too long, are upping their game. Now, before I look at what is happening, let me make a point clear. Many of you were hoping that they would be kicked out and replaced by somebody wo could sell something more edible and I suspect there were a few groans when the news broke they were staying. What you have to understand is Lincoln City are a community club, and it would be unethical and unfair to simply stop working with a partner without trying to sort the issues out. Liam has only just joined the club, and having spoken to him a couple of times I can tell you he is a man of integrity that understands the business needs of the club and its partners. Double M’s are a partner of the club and as such they have to be given an opportunity to alter their offering.

The changes include upgrading the burger to offer a higher meat content (90%) along with a mature cheddar cheese slice and freshly fried sweet onions, all served in a locally baked bread bun. It sounds okay I guess, having been subjected to some awful food over the years I’m afraid it is going to take more than that to win fans over. I’m a little concerned at the fact 90% is a higher meat content, what percentage was it before? What have we been paying for all these years, quarter of a pound of bums and eyelids? I respect that the club are working with Double M’s, and I’m delighted the issue is being addressed, but if feedback from Saturday is anything to go by, there’s a long way to go before the offering is acceptable.

I’m a little concerned at the fact 90% is a higher meat content, what percentage was it before? What have we been paying for all these years, quarter of a pound of bums and eyelids?

There has also been a change to menus with the introduction chicken goujons, and chips available in three corners of the ground. This is a step forward too, I’ve long argued that chips should be available and it is nice to see some variety being brought to the menu. Hopefully the goujons will be at least 90% chicken, eh? In an ideal world, the food offered by Ian McCallum and the team in the TP suite would be available throughout the ground, but that isn’t possible. The point here is that something is being done, and while the club attempt to solve the issue we, as fans, should acknowledge that we’ve been listened too. The food inside the ground on a match day has been below par and now the club are working to find a solution.

There will also be a ‘pie and pint’ trial in the Red Imp Bar and improved queuing systems in all catering areas, as well as the introduction of a “pre-paid pint” option which will run before the game with drinks available to pick up at half time. These are all positive steps looking to solve issues that have arisen over the last twelve months, and whilst not all of them will work, it is heartening to see that something is being done. The club is being incredibly proactive in looking to improve our experience as fans.

Ian McCallum said on the official website: “These changes are only possible with the support of our fans and the important feedback that is given. We understand it is an ongoing process but with the club working methodically with Double Ms, I am sure we can continue to improve the match day experience for all.”

One thing I think is very important is the feedback being given to the club. For want of a better phrase to just say ‘the food is still shit’ isn’t helpful to anyone, but the club do need to know if the offering is not improving. Is getting a drink easier? What is the level of service like under the stand? Remember, we’re not just fans, we are customers as well and we all have brass in our pockets that the club would like to relocate to their own. They’re not happy if we’re not happy, and therefore honest but constructive feedback will help all parties. I will urge you to at least give Double M’s another chance, if only to show willingness for the club’s sake. I suspect if things do not improve then the club will move to rectify the situation.

The TP Suite has gotten busier and busier throughout the last eighteen months. This was the FA Cup draw prior to the Ipswich game.

The best announcement I’ve saved until last, because it is one I’m really excited about. The club is launching a fan zone for the match against Barnet, but I imagine it will be something ongoing throughout the season. We’ve seen them a couple of times recently, I really enjoyed the experience at Wycombe, as well as the in ground one at Burnley. The fan zone is a newish idea, certainly for Lincoln City, but again it is a really positive step towards becoming much more fan friendly.

It will be situated outside the Travis Perkins Suite, and will include free entry to all home fans with a season ticket or match ticket. This is a fledgling idea so again we must give it time to succeed and ensure we feedback anything we can, in a constructive manner. This will take time to develop and suit the needs of the Imps fans, but it has to be said it is a superb idea, one that I discussed at the end of last season. Over time the club claim to be looking to have a wide variety of entertainment and opportunity to meet current and past Imps players.

Again, this is a great idea. I know the Trust are working on an ex-players club too, which is how I got to meet Trevor Swinburne on Saturday, and having them floating around amongst fans before a game would be really good. The key will be how the bar issue is dealt with, and what food will be available. The TP suite has always had great food on offer, to make that widely available in a fan zone would be another big plus point. At present it is bottled drinks only outside, which is understandable given we’re starting from scratch here. You can’t just suddenly have pumps or an outside bar appear, not when the idea is only just launching, but again it will be interesting to see how this develops.

Against Macclesfield at the end of last season I was so doubtful of getting a drink I brought four cans in my back pack so I’d remain lubricated pre-match. The club missed out on my money, and I suspect many others who were fed up with excessive queuing. That isn’t to the detriment of the club, the TP’s suite was never set up to accommodate the footfall we’re experiencing right now. The staff work tirelessly in there, pushing themselves as square pegs into the round hole of the bar area. Anything that alleviates pressure on them as well as improves our experience as fans has to be applauded.

I’ve never known our club to be in such a strong position in all areas. On the pitch we’re competitive and organised, off it we’re changing so quickly but in the right places. As fans we’re being listened to, and the numbers exceed anything I’ve known since 1986

Again, remember to feedback constructively too. As I understand it there will soon be a supporters board formed that can coordinate the feedback and work with Liam and the club in a constructive manner to continue to build the fan experience. These changes are not exhaustive, nor are they final. I get the feeling the changes to our match day will be fluid and organic, they will develop and change according to our needs and our feedback. That is why it is important to think before we speak, and to try to add something to a discussion, not just say ‘this is shit’ and walk away. The initial implementation of some of these changes will be spot on, others will take time to formulate properly for maximum benefit, but the pertinent point is that the club are listening and working incredibly hard to make things better for us.

Wycombe fan zone

I’ve never known our club to be in such a strong position in all areas. On the pitch we’re competitive and organised, off it we’re changing so quickly but in the right places. As fans we’re being listened to, and the numbers exceed anything I’ve known since 1986. We must be patient, and now the club are working with us we must endeavour to work with them too. I believe Liam Scully understands football fans and their needs, and I’ll tell you why. It’s not because of these changes, not solely. It’s because he isn’t mooching around VIP areas mixing with sponsors and the money men. He isn’t stood with the other suits munching on seafood sarnies and sipping a fine wine. He’s out in the stands each game, watching and observing. I’ve seen him in the TV gantry, I’ve seen him in the bar under the stand and I’ve seen him around the TP suite too. He’s doing what I’ve always claimed the Red Imps Trust board members should do, he’s out there with the paying fans, the rank and file Imp, experiencing what we experience and listening to what we have to say. He might wear a tie and a nice jacket, but he won’t be taking the perks of his role and staying out of the way of the every day fan, not one bit. I respect that, and so should everyone, because as CEO he should be working to better our experience, and early indications are that he is doing just that.

Later on today I’ll hopefully be chatting to Liam to ask a few questions about Friday’s announcements, and get a clearer idea of what the Fan Zone might entail. If you have any question, sensible ones only, then do add them in the comments and I’ll endeavour to ask what I can. I can’t keep him all day mind, so please don’t be offended if I miss yours out!

Also, I’m interested to hear your experiences of Double M from Saturday, and your thoughts on what a fan zone might entail. Drop me an email,, and I’ll do an article on your current feedback and ideas moving forward.

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  1. Gary…could you explain what exactly is a fan zone ? Is it a separate outside area set up with perhaps a drinks tent ? I have given up trying to buy a pint in the bar .many thanks.Pete Burnett.

    • Hello Pete,

      The fan zone is likely to be a covered area outside the TP Suite which has accessible bars and food outlets for people to access much easier. They’re ambiguous in their content but the standard form is a large tent to offer protection from the rain, some have TV screens others have different entertainment. They’re designed to attract fans to the ground earlier and have something to offer that adds to the match day experience.

  2. Appreciate many fans are interested in the alcohol side of things being more easily accessible but as someone who drives in it would be good to have decent coffee in all areas of the ground. Is there any scope to having coffee pods somewhere so we can buy a fresh coffee either before or during the game? I bring my own at present but more than happy to pay for one and give the club money. Would also be good to be able to pay for these things contactless as I rarely carry cash. (Appreciate this all makes me sound awfully middle class!)

    • It could have been my partner writing this!

      I’ll see you in the aisle of Waitrose for a chat about Orla Kiely’s latest kitchen lines and the best places to have tapas when one is in London.

      Good points though Kerry, thank you

  3. First the negative. I had a burger on Saturday and I’m afraid it was awful. I threw half of it away…..and I was starving! Given the nature of the food I’d rather it was overcooked than undercooked. Sorry, but that’s the way it was. A long way from the pork baps, but I understand why. This kind of food at most grounds is legendarily grim….the food at Stevenage was shockingly bad.
    Fan zone is an exciting development. At its best this ought to be a great place to meet up with folk, get a beer and a bite and relax before the game.Well done to Liam and the club for getting this started so soon.

  4. On arrival on Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised to find a table outside the TP Suite, serving an admittedly limited range of beverages and naturally bought a couple for my son, down from his home in Aberdeen for the weekend, and me to drink before passing through the turnstiles. Presumably this is the nascent Fan Zone. On previous occasions I had looked through the door of the TP and having seen the queues, decided to go without so this has to be an improvement.
    As I wanted to sit with him and the seats adjacent to my usual one in the Senility are all taken, I bought a couple in the Bridge McFarland (South Park in old money) and was therefore again pleasantly surprised to read of the ST buy back scheme. I do not yet know whether my seat was taken up and frankly the £5 is neither here nor there. However, I appreciated the gesture, even if on this occasion, it was a little late in the day.
    We had a pie each at half time. From previous experience I knew better than to order a burger. It was much the same as on previous occasions and assuming it was a Pukka pie it was perfectly acceptable and I would not have expected it to be any different from previous occasions.
    In conclusion all these developments can only be regarded as positive and very welcome. I trust you will ensure the club gets to learn of all the feedback you are receiving.

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