15th July 2016
United Counties/ Peterborough & District League Hop 29th-31st July
It’s just about to get busy…. as one half of GroundhopUK- the organisers of this year’s event I don’t think there’s ever been an organised groundhop this early, not that that’s a bad thing, long days, and hopefully warm weather are things to be enjoyed and taken advantage of. This will be the third event the two leagues have done, so now is good time to step back for a minute and look at how it all works.
On its most basic level the groundhop works on the basis that if you stagger a set of kickoffs you attract more people. The groundhopper is a varied beast (and I speak as one!) from the follower of a club who will dip into other club’s games to the hardcore hopper who never revisits a ground. You get a set of kick-offs staggered over a day and the masses turn up, and clubs profit right? Er, not quite….
I can think of one Step 5 league who thought that all they had to do was stagger a few games and their event now averages an attendance of around 135 a game. The last UCL/PDFL hop averaged 304 so what do we do that is different?
Timing helps, a lot of groundhoppers hate friendlies so hosting the first competitive fixtures of the season was a great help. This year there will be some other leagues starting early, but by no means all, and the sheer volume of games will still be a big draw for us.
But the biggest issue in organising a groundhop is balancing three sets of needs. The first is the clubs. They want to make money, raise their profile, and look for new sponsors, and in these straightened times not waste funds in staging their game. They will invariably ask the same question, “How many people are going to turn up?” so successful events will always have an advance ticket for sale so an informed answer can be given. In fact so important is getting the correct steer on numbers that the advance ticket offers a discount on “On the day” prices, and is available for any combination of games, not just as an “All event” ticket.
Sponsorship is often the lifeblood of a league too. They’ll want to be able to say to the firms backing them that “… people saw our games and your advert this season,” and a good event offers good PR too.
Finally the hoppers themselves must be understood. It is a hobby based on individualism, but there are some hard and fast rules. I can’t see a successful hop based in UK without a programme being produced by each host club, it’s not an integral part of the hobby as I pursue it, but it is for many others, perhaps even the majority. That’s why we opt to include a pack of the event’s programmes in with the advance ticket.
Each hopper will pick the event or events that suit their individual needs, and that’s why we at GroundhopUK run events in a wide variety of leagues to suit all tastes. It still amuses me how I get criticised for organising in a specific league, and I will almost invariably get someone comment that “Everyone’s done them all” which normally means he has, or that “It’s all fields” which can usually be translated as “It’s a level below I’m comfortable watching!”
It isn’t an easy task squaring that circle. Clubs know how to run football matches, and do so week after week, GroundhopUK’s role is helping them plan and prepare for a huge one-off game, perhaps even treating their groundhop game in a similar vein to a small club drawing a huge club in a cup. You have to allow the club to be themselves, but whilst allowing them to make the most of this one-off opportunity. We guide them on catering, drinks, and merchandise, and when it comes off the rewards to the clubs are huge.
Just as important as attracting groundhoppers is getting the community involved. The innate nature of the hopper is that he seldom revisits, but a local will, and if you can get your local area enthused then that is a legacy to be proud of. In the history of the UCL/PDFL hop no one has done better than Peterborough Northern Star with their bouncy castle.
In the end as organisers you end up layering your offering. You know that some will want no more than staggered kick-offs, others will want programmes, badges, transport, and accommodation. The more you can offer, the more people you attract to the games.
It’s an involved business but a rewarding one, and the impact for me has been huge over the various hops I’ve helped to organise, even being down to being completely unable to not glance across to Oundle Town FC every time I drive past!
So what does this year’s event look like?
Friday 29th July
19.45 Long Buckby v Whittlesey Athletic
10.30 Crowland Town v AFC Stanground Sports (PDFL Premier)
13.30 Eye United v FC Peterborough (PDFL Three)
16.30 Thorney v Leverington Sports (PDFL Premier)
19.45 Rushden and Higham United v Oakham United (UCL One)
10.30 Bugbrooke St Michael v Bourne Town (UCL One)
14.00 Sawtry v Stilton United (PDFL Premier)
17.30 Wittering v Long Sutton (PDFL One)
So have I whetted your appetite? Hopefully yes, and I should point out that with around a week left for bookings we’re very close to selling out the coach, so I’d book quickly if that’s of interest to you!!!
Here’s the all-important link for further information and a booking form, and look to forward to seeing you all!