Three weeks ago, Cambridge United sent out a survey to supporters to gauge the fan-bases views on returning to the Abbey Stadium in the new season, in a post-Coronavirus pandemic world…
The exercise proved to be extremely useful, with a wide range of supporters responding to the survey and offering their views, which will be considered as the Club plans ahead for the 2021/22 League One season.
1,196 fans took the survey, with over 50% of the respondents aged over 45 years old. The highest percentage of respondents were aged 45-54 (21%), followed by 55-64 (20%) and 35-44 (18%). Just 4% were aged under 18 and 18-24 year olds made up 10% of the respondents.
The Club Website is the most popular source of news for Cambridge United supporters, with 78% of respondents saying that they regularly visit the site. Social Media platforms Twitter and Facebook received an almost equal share of the vote, with 52% and 50% of supporters saying they use the platforms on a regular basis to get their U’s news.
With regards to external media, Local Radio was selected by 35% of supporters, whilst only 20% of respondents use Newspapers to stay up-to-date.
During the course of the past 15 months, the pandemic has largely stopped fans from being able to show their support of Cambridge United in the conventional manner of attending matches at the Abbey Stadium.
The Survey shows that this has done little to discourage support towards the Club, as 39% said that the pandemic has impacted their support in a positive way, whilst 47% said that COVID-19 caused no change in the way they feel. Just 13% said that they feel that the pandemic has meant that they feel their support has been impacted in a negative manner.
The Club is encouraged to see that 34% of respondents feel 'Very Valued' by the Club, with a sliding downward scale then reflecting that the majority of supporters feel valued to some degree. Just 6% say that they don’t feel valued at all.
The data shows that the age group which feels the most valued is the Under 18s - 59% say that they feel 'Very Valued' - followed by those aged 65 or over - 48% say the same.
65% of all respondents chose either 'Very Valued' or 'Valued', including at least 60% of all individual age groups.
An overwhelming majority of supporters (94%) say that once allowed, they will want to attending matches again at the Abbey Stadium. Most of the remaining 6% who said that they either wouldn’t want to or aren’t sure, said so due to either location, their personal health or anxiety surrounding COVID-19.
There was a varied split of responses to ‘How do you feel about COVID Vaccine passports/proof of Vaccine as a prerequisite for entry into the stadium?’. The most selected option was straight down the middle (32%), followed by 'Very Negative' (23%) and then 'Very Positive' (19%).
Unsurprisingly, those that are most likely to already have been vaccinated feel most positive about the suggestion.
30% of respondents aged 65+ say they feel 'Very Positive', whilst 30% of 18-24 year olds and 41% of Under 18s feel 'Very Negative' about Vaccine Passports as a prerequisite for entry into the stadium.
The trend over the coming sets of questions show that many supporters wish to get back to as much of a fully-normal matchday routine as possible.
57% say they don’t expect to have controlled, staggered entry times into the stadium, and 29% say that they feel 'Very Negative' about having to wear Face Coverings whilst inside the stadium.
However, these results are mixed, as 30% of respondents feel either ‘Very Positive’ or ‘Positive’, about wearing Face Masks whilst 25% feel indifferent.
A deeper look into the data shows that age plays a big factor in people's feelings about Face Masks. 46% of the 65+ age group stated that they are ‘Very Important’ or ‘Important’ and the second most positive age group with regards to wearing face masks is 55-64 year olds, with 34% stating the same.
With regards to less invasive precautions surrounding COVID-19, supporters have shown to generally be in favour of one-way systems and the use of hand sanitizing stations.
62% say that they expect to have to follow one way systems, whilst 77% say they expect hand sanitizing stations to be available around the Abbey Stadium.
There was a large variance when it came to supporters registering how they view the level of importance of sitting in their usual Main Stand seat. The results show that there was a clear age-split in the responses, as 45% of 65+ year olds said it was "Very Important" whilst the same percentage of 18-24 year olds claimed it to be "Not Important at all".
Ultimately, the decision on this will rest with Government guidelines but if possible, the Club will do everything it can to allow existing Season Ticket Holders to retain their usual seat/s.
With regards to retail, 90% say that they expect the Club Shop to reopen, whilst 80% say they would use a click-and-collect service. The Club does expect the Club Shop to reopen during the Summer - including on Matchdays - and once it does the click-and-collect service will be available for supporters to use again.
Respondents have shown a strong willingness to embrace a cashless system at the Abbey Stadium on Matchdays. 51% say they don’t expect to use cash on Matchdays, whilst 47% say they feel ‘Very Positively’ about a cashless system being in operation – the overwhelmingly most popular selection by supporters.
57% of Survey respondents were Season Ticket Holders last season, whilst 65% say that they plan to purchase a 2021/22 Season Ticket over the coming months.
Positively for the Club, 98% of existing Season Ticket Holders plan to renew, whilst 41% of respondents who weren’t Season Ticket Holders last season, plan to become one in 2021/22.
Supporters have shown that catering outlets are a key part of their Matchday experience, with 50% stating that it is either ‘Very Important’ or ‘Important’ for them to be open inside the Stadium.
The data is far from conclusive though, as 23% say the opposite, whilst the most popular selection showing indifference towards the need for catering options on a Matchday.
The level of interest in the Matchday Programme appears to have fallen, as 27% say that it is ‘Not Important at all’ to them. Just 15% say that it is ‘Very Important’ and 13% say ‘Important’.
Interestingly, the age group who most values the Matchday Programme is the Under 18s, with 58% selecting ‘Very Important’, compared to the second highest age group (65+) at just 19%.
However, it must be added that Under 18s made up just 4% of the entire survey respondents, so the sample size is much smaller.
When asked how they feel about the Digital Matchday Programme, the results show a broadly positive, yet largely indifference response. 39% voted right down the middle, whilst the more positive options picked up a much larger vote share than those who voted negatively.
The Survey results also appear to show that the past season of using a Digital Matchday Programme for the first time has meant that supporters are now less likely to feel the need for a Hard Copy. 35% say that purchasing a Hard Copy is ‘Not Important at all’, the most popular selection.
It can’t be ignored though that 27% said that they still see a Hard Copy as either “Very Important’ or ‘Important’, although this is considerably lower than the 50% who think the opposite.
Speaking about the results, CEO Ian Mather said, “We missed fans at the Abbey for most of last season and we wanted to get feedback on how our supporters were feeling about the club as we start our planning for next season.
“We were delighted to see so many took the time to respond. It was really encouraging to see that over 65% of respondents feel 'Valued or Very Valued' by the Club. This ties in with the recent Fan Engagement Index, which ranked us third for fan engagement across the Premier League and EFL. Our aim is to build on this as we look forward to starting our League One campaign.”
Cambridge United SLO Dave Matthew-Jones added, "Fan Engagement has many different strands. It is about listening to and communicating with supporters at all times. On this occasion it was about seeking and listening to your views and the number of supporters responding to the survey was excellent.
“It will now help us plan for your return to the Abbey Stadium while recognising there are some supporters who are still cautious about coming back.
The Club would like to thank everyone who engaged with the survey and for their continued support of Cambridge United.