Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Giving credit where it's due - how to make things right the right way

Back: Danny Ward, Alex Smithies & Alan Lee.
Front: Jordan Rhodes & two new signings
A while back, I experienced what it was like when the reaction to a blog post goes almost viral. Everyone reads it, it gets talked about,  passed around and causes a bit of a stir. That post was my review of the family facilities at Huddersfield Town. The home fans very quickly picked up on it and soon, thanks to Twitter, it had come to the attention of their commercial director Sean Jarvis, who promptly invited me to a meeting to discuss my experiences. In the meantime, the local paper even published a story about it!

I met with Sean about 10 days later and talked through everything that had happened. Some of the things I raised he has no control over (like prices in the stadium), but others he does, although he may not be able to change some very quickly. I appreciated that he took time to listen me and at the end of the meeting, he invited me to come back later in the season, and gave me a bag of goodies to take away for the children.

We had hoped to make the trip before Christmas but then we went to Germany. I avoided going in January and when I looked at the fixture list, I worked out we could definitely only make one Saturday before the end of season, against Charlton, the league leaders. I emailed Sean to let him know that we were planning to come and when he replied, he said he'd like to put us in the White Rose Club for the day as well as arrange for us to go on a tour and introduced me to his commercial manager Mark who would make all the arrangements. What I didn't expect was, when our tickets arrived, was our seats were actually in the director's box! Dumbstruck. Husband had to dig out his tie as they have a strict dress code in there.

Foodie shot - banoffee pie!
Having left sunshine in Lancashire, it was a cloudy day in  Huddersfield. We had a car park pass so we were yards from the ground this time, parking behind the away end. No sooner had we got to the White Rose Club, Mark appeared with a goody bag for the children and took us on a quick tour. He first took us down to the directors box to show us where our seats were and then down to the home and away dugouts where there were a few people on tours. The children sat on the bench to have a photo taken, and then some of the players joined them. I realised that one of them was Jordan Rhodes but the children didn't. Even so, they went very shy and wouldn't say a word. I was also briefly introduced to Andy Booth, their former player who is now a club ambassador who was looking after some guests being shown around like us.

We were then taken back through the tunnel and up to the White Rose Club, where we had lunch and the grown ups had a spectacular banoffee pie, which I had to photograph! After a little musical entertainment, we went to our seats in the directors box - padded and comfortable, not the sort you usually get in grounds. The children both had bingo cards to tick off different events (eg red card, offsides, dog on pitch) and we found this a great distraction as Missy Woo didn't once get her book out because she was bored of the football.

My only shot of the match - my phone died
 after I took this of the teams coming out
Of course, since I had decided on this match, both teams had had a dip in form and this was borne out in the quality of the match. Both teams struggled and it was not a classic; in fact, it was quite scrappy. We did however see Huddersfield - well, Jordan Rhodes actually - score a penalty, which was the highlight of the first half and after tea, coffee and biscuits, the second half got a bit lively when one of the Charlton players got sent off for kicking out at a Huddersfield player. It turned out that the same player had been at fault for the penalty and on further investigation, it became apparent that he is on loan from my team Preston North End.

After the match, we heard one of their former players speak and saw the Man of the Match be presented with his award. Mark reappeared with a couple more gifts for the children - one of which was a car flag which Monkey insisted on putting on the car for the journey home. We said our goodbyes to Mark and to Sean and left, passing the Charlton manager Chris Powell signing autographs before getting on the team coach.

It was a really fabulous experience and most importantly, the children had a ball. It couldn't have been more different to our previous experience. I know that not every family could experience what we did last week but I hope that it is somewhere between the two. To give due credit to Huddersfield, especially Sean and Mark, they have taken what I said in good spirit, and took it on board. They want to be seen as family friendly - any football club that wants to survive in the long term knows that it is critical to get families in and kids becoming fans at a young age. The staff at Huddersfield were lovely to us and do a lot to promote a family feeling around the club. What I didn't know before I went was that they had previously been voted Family Club of the Year and won this award for League One this season and are rightly proud of this. I can see why my review came as a shock but they did handle it really well.

In terms of our family, it has worked after a fashion. Monkey always looks for Huddersfield's result and says he wants to go again. I'm assured we're welcome back any time - after all, we've been to two home matches and seen two home wins, so we have a 100% record! Thanks go to Sean, Mark and the whole of Huddersfield Town for a fantastic day. I'm just not ready to convert to being a Town fan. Yet.

And the one thing I learned about blogging from this experience? It's that if you are asked to write a review and it's not a positive experience, don't be afraid to publish it if you can be constructive, honest and fair in your post. If it's your genuinely held opinion, no-one can really argue with that. And remember, the customer is always right!

(Huddersfield Town invited us to attend a match at their expense, and kindly provided lunch and a car park pass. I was not obliged or even asked to blog about my experience but I have chosen to do so. All words and opinions are my own. I was however paid a fee by Netmums for the original review that caused all the fuss Please see the disclaimer on that post for further details.) 
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