CAMPAIGNS: Clivedon puts club move on local agenda - Community Relations

Client: Clivedon Estates PR Team: SmithGrundon Partners Campaign: Dulwich Hamlet FC's ground move Timescale: Ongoing from December 2002 Budget: Between £10,000 and £15,000

Dulwich Hamlet FC is 110 years old and has amassed a wealth of non-league honours, the last coming in 1999, and the club remains an integral part of the community.

The ground was redeveloped in 1992 and is situated next to a Sainsbury's supermarket. However, its design has led to excessive business rates and running costs, while its location makes it vulnerable to repeated vandalism.

Property developer Clivedon Estates has proposed moving the ground onto land behind Sainsbury's. The original proposals were presented in 1999, and the club's fans have become disillusioned with the pace of events, while local community support has wavered.

SmithGrundon was brought in to manage the information flow between developers and supporters and increase backing for the project.

Objectives

To obtain support for the ground move from both fans and the local community.

Strategy and Plan

A series of supporters forums was initiated. Club manager and chairman Martin Eede, Clivedon Estates director Ron Williamson and planning consultant Malcolm Judd faced fans' questions and provided a public and continuing source of information.

A letter-writing programme to the Planning Inspectorate was also encouraged.

SmithGrundon drafted a briefing paper setting out the pros and cons of the move and distributed this to fans at home games.

A similar leaflet was delivered via the supporters club throughout Dulwich and the surrounding areas. This aimed to garner support and boost attendance figures at games.

Briefings with local journalists and editors were undertaken and the celebrity angle was maximised. Specifically, Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand who, as a schoolboy in nearby Peckham, would regularly watch the club, wrote a supportive letter.

Measurement and Evaluation

Local press coverage included articles in the Southwark News, South London Press, Dulwich Guardian, Sutton Comet, Wandsworth Borough News and the Evening Standard.

The national press also picked up on the story, including The Independent, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. In addition, BBC Radio London and BBC London News ran news pieces.

Results

The campaign raised the club's profile among local supporters.

South London Press sports reporter Chris Fidler believes the PR team handled the community relations well: 'It improved communication, and encouraged local support.'

SmithGrundon claims a 20 per cent increase in home game attendance, although Streatham Guardian sports reporter Mike Simmonds feels this may be more to do with the team's good run. The club was unable to confirm or deny the increase.

The leaflet drop reached 90 per cent of the local population, however there is no way of knowing their responses.

Whether or not the move goes through will be known in six weeks.

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