Man City’s Etihad Stadium (Getty)

(WFI) Manchester City are the first club to win both the VisitFootball Club of the Year and Warmest Welcome awards.

Cardiff City received the Extra Mile Award for being “pioneers in looking after away fans”.

The fourth award, Unsung Hero, went to Everton’s stadium manager Alan Bowen, for having “the supporter at the heart of his thinking and ideas”.

VisitFootball, a joint venture between the Premier League and the national tourism board VisitEngland, gives out annual awards for those who deliver outstanding customer service.

“The awards encourage best practice as Premier League clubs work harder to make more fans feel welcome,” VisitFootball said.

Last season was a record-breaker for the Premier League in terms of supporter numbers. More seats sold were sold than ever before with 95.9% utilisation, a 3% increase in season ticket sales to 491,263, and a 2.8% rise in average away attendance.

VisitFootball judged all 20 EPL clubs across eight areas of the supporter matchday experience for
the 13.9 million fans that came through Premier League turnstiles during
the 2013/14 season. The assessment included ticketing, stewarding, catering, toilets and the club shop.

For the awards the panel brought together the marks and comments of the assessors to determine which clubs and personnel offered the highest quality for Premier League football fans.

The award winners and judges comments for the 2013/14 season are:

Verdict on Man City

“What we look for in a VisitFootball assessment are people skills and outstanding levels of customer service. Put simply, Manchester City are the gold standard in providing fans with the best matchday experience.

“Manchester City has created a strong sense of identity around the Etihad, they make it a destination that both home and away fans enjoy visiting. The vibrant stadium hub, CitySquare, with its excellent pre-match entertainment for supporters of all ages, is now established as a focal point for fans.

“Service in the club shop was exceptional, with helpful, friendly staff. Catering facilities were very good, with an interesting range of quality food, including ‘Fan Fare’ kiosks by Jamie Oliver, Grab and Go kiosks, new hot dog carts and beer buggies. The club has invested in new catering equipment, fan facilities and digital menu boards throughout the stadium concourses.

“What we like about Manchester City is that they demonstrate a strong fan centric ethos. Staff are committed to providing a warm welcome and consistently deliver an exceptional service. The City Playmakers at Joe Mercer Way are pro-active, friendly and enthusiastic – they offer a great welcome from the club. All stewards had a warm approach, but at the same time there was a very good sense of safety and security around the stadium. From start to finish Manchester City get it right.”

Cardiff City: VisitFootball Extra Mile Award

“Cardiff City are pioneers in looking after away fans. They don’t just wait for supporters to come to them, they instead take ownership before visiting fans come to the Welsh capital and go the extra mile to ensure that they have an enjoyable day.

“We were impressed by two of their innovations, an official Twitter account for away fans, and the fact that they distributed over 27,000 ‘Away Fan Packs’ so that fans had all the information they needed before venturing to Cardiff.
“More importantly Cardiff give away fans a great day out at their stadium, from catering staff wearing the shirt of visiting teams to specifics like having a male voice choir sing ‘Blaydon Races’ to the Newcastle United fans. Cardiff City changed perceptions on customer service, provided the best experience on the road last season and are inspiring other clubs to take their lead.”

Alan Bowen, Everton: VisitFootball Unsung Hero

“Clubs can’t control what happens on the pitch, but a lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes to make sure that fans can enjoy their day in a safe and comfortable environment. One man who stood out last season was Alan Bowen, Everton FC’s stadium manager.

“Alan has undoubtedly made a difference in improving the experience at Goodison Park. His commitment and determination to improve one of the older stadiums in the Premier League stands out a mile. He is always looking at how he can improve the experience and has the supporter at the heart of his thinking and ideas.

“Alan has built up an excellent team of stewards. He is always willing to listen to feedback as well as having his own thoughts on how he can make improvements for the fans. Alan is a great ambassador for the club.”

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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