I’ve been watching professional football for over 25 years, and I have no problem in saying that the FC Gifu support is one of, if not the, best I’ve been a part of. Since I started watching Gifu about four years ago it has never ceased to amaze me how fervent the support is. This despite a combination of any of the following:
- small numbers
- uncovered stands + bad weather
- poor on-field performance
- fan un-friendly scheduling
However, the feeling that I always get is that Gifu could, and probably should, attract more people to their Nagaragawa home. To give some context, the Gifu city website lists the current population as 416, 878, and the average attendance this season has been 4,401. Even someone as bad at mathematics as myself can tell that those figures show just over 1% of Gifu city’s population attend matches on a regular basis.
(Of course, that figure is too simplistic. It doesn’t take into account away supporters or people that live outside Gifu coming to games. I use it a general point to start from).
Gifu’s 1% doesn’t seem a lot on the face of it, but when compared to a team like Avispa Fukuoka (roughly 0.3%) it looks ok. In J2, Matsumoto Yamaga (roughly 3.8%) represent the best population/attendance ratio. Still, for a population centre with 400,000+ residents I feel that Gifu should be able get around seven or eight thousand per week. It is not going to be easy, but I think there are ways to improve attendance.
- Improve the team – Of course, people, especially the casual fan, are going to be more attracted to a successful team playing exciting football.
- Marquee player/coach – The rumour is that Rui Ramos will be coming in next year, should Gifu remain in J2. Already that has set tongues wagging with lots of people I know saying they would go to see Gifu if Ramos was in charge. This is the effect “celebrity” can have.
- Engage the fans more – Nowadays it is so easy to interact with fans. Whether through Twitter, Facebook or Youtube there is no excuse not to involve the fans in some ways. I feel the club needs a consolidated Twitter account (there seem to be a couple of them) and they need to promote their Facebook page more. I didn’t even know they had a Facebook page until last week, and as people close to me would no doubt testify I spend far too much time on the internet looking for FC Gifu stuff.
- To continue the engagement, Gifu have their own Youtube channel but it is very sparsely used. You don’t need a lot to create original, team-focused programmes. A chair, a camera and access to the club should be enough to make for some decent shows, and the beauty is you only to focus on the FC Gifu supporters.
- More aggressive marketing – Despite the proximity of Nagoya Grampus & Chunichi Dragons (Nagoya’s baseball team), Gifu is essentially a one club/sport city. There are posters up at each of Gifu’s two main train stations along with FC Gifu branded buses, but the club needs to get out into the community to drum up more support. Put in some face time around the area, actually go into companies, schools, universities to sell tickets on the spot.
No-one is saying is going to be easy, but it something that needs to be seriously looked out going into next season.