Doncaster Rovers and Exeter City have received official recognition for offering the best away-day in the bottom two tiers of the EFL.
Run in Collaboration with the Football Supporters Federation, the EFL Away Fan Experience Campaign measures the experiences of genuine away fans, gathered from visits across all seventy-two EFL clubs, to recognise the top performers in each division.
In League One, Doncaster Rovers came out on top and were significantly praised for their away supporters’ family zone. The EFL campaign also applauded Rovers for having a genuine understanding of travelling fans and staff for being accommodating and engaging throughout the matchday experience.
Exeter City won the League Two award with away assessors describing the welcome they received at St James Park as ‘one of the best they had experienced at an away ground’. The Club’s creation of a family-friendly atmosphere and the provision of excellent facilities for supporters of all ages also received a commendation. The campaign also highlighted the enthusiasm and passion the Grecians’ supporter liaison staff showed for their Club.
In the announcement on the EFL’s official website, outgoing chief executive Shaun Harvey said: ‘The atmosphere and friendly rivalries created by those fans travelling up and down the country to support their Club undoubtedly enhances the matchday experience for all supporters.’
‘It’s that passion, tribalism and wanting to play a tangible part in the outcome that really sets football apart from other sports and we are proud that the away fan experience continues to grow from strength to strength across the whole of the EFL.’
Deputy Chief Executive of the FSF, David Rose, was keen to pay tribute to those supporters who passionately follow their Club week-in-week-out, but also the clubs for continually providing a positive matchday experience.
He said: ‘The FSF welcome anything that encourages clubs to focus on how they treat away fans and are delighted the EFL have once again recognised the efforts of those clubs that go the extra mile.’
‘We hope that by shining a light on these great examples that more clubs will be inspired to provide a welcoming experience for some of football’s most committed supporters.’
Over 1.5million away fans attended matches across the 2018/19 EFL season making it the third consecutive campaign away attendances have exceeded that figure.
Preston North End won the award for the Championship.
While the EFL rightly comes in for criticism for many issues, it does deserve praise for the efforts it encourages its member clubs to make to welcome supporters.
There was a time when away supporters received hostile welcomes and seen as a threatening inconvenience to be given the worst part of the ground with the worst facilities.
This initiative is just one welcome campaign by the EFL to highlight the provision of a warm welcome and adequate facilities for away supporters.
Some fans might still nostalgically hark back to the ‘good old days’ and scoff at such terms as ‘matchday experience’ but times have changed, and people just do not accept watching football in squalor anymore.
Many fans mourn the perceived loss of atmosphere, but a warm welcome does not mean fans cannot ramp up the volume during the game.
They should, however, be able to do so in decent conditions and without fear.
Congratulations to Exeter City and Doncaster Rovers.