Mad For The Merkland

Aberdeen FC is polling the fans on how to improve the match-day atmosphere. Well done to the club for launching the survey and engaging with the support.

Many of the answers will be clear long before the first Red has filled in the survey. Ticket prices have cut numbers and limited the amount of games the average fan can manage over a season. Over-zealous stewarding and policing has also put many regulars off, while clearly performances on the pitch in the past few seasons hasn't helped.

One main bugbear is the lack of a dedicated section for the more vocal Dons supporters to congregate. With the away section right on top of the action, any "singing section" for want of a better word has to be at pitchside too. For that, the Richard Donald Stand Upper deck is too far away, the middle section of the South Stand is given over to Old Firm fans on their visits so it can never be a permanent, and Section Y is open to the unforgiving North-east elements.

We're confident the survey will show that there are a large amount of fans who back a move to the Merkland Stand. It ticks many boxes - it's right on top of the action, the acoustics work well for creating an atmosphere, the capacity is about right for getting a good crowd in there, and there are plenty of room for bands, flag displays and many of the things supporters have tried this season and in the past to create an atmosphere.

It is also a stand that is being criminally underused at the moment.

Young kids are of course the future of the support, and the club's dedication to encouraging children and their families along are to be commended.

The use of the Merkland stand though has, arguable, been detrimental to the atmosphere and a stand that was full and bursting with noise and colour on famous European night like Bayern Munich and Torino has all too often been half empty.

In a survey carried out by The Away End on behalf of the Aberdeen support a few years ago, over 900 fans made their feelings clear. Of the fans who now attend less regularly, 20% said they would return if there was an improvement in the atmosphere or a designated singing section.

A large amount, 87%, called for a singing section, with the most popular option being the Merkland Stand.

This clearly creates a problem for the club, as they may feel a family section is more important than a singing section. Many, and the club survey will no doubt show that, would argue that as long as ticket prices throughout the ground remain affordable for families, there will be little impact on this section of our support attending, and indeed only 6% polled in The Away End survey indicated they would attend less if they were uprooted from the current family stand.

There are also other alternatives. There is a lack of match-day experience for young kids. Indeed, many mothers and fathers will experience the problem of encouraging their son or daughter along when the idea is they wrap up for the cold weather, sit on a plastic seat, watch a game of football and shuffle home confused as to why their parents thought that was a more enjoyable day out than sitting on the playstation they bought them at Christmas.

There could be so much more done outside of the 90 minutes. On the Richard Donald Stand concourse there is plenty of room for pre-match games and competitions, face painting, getting autographs from players young and old, and maybe even videos playing of past games detailing the history of the club.

Kids could be involved in skills programmes,penalty shootouts with Dons youth coaches,or take penalties against former players.The latter visit corporate guests in the executive boxes so theres no reason why they cant meet with our future fans.

A real carnival atmosphere can be created at every home game to make families' visits to Pittodrie more enjoyable. And by relocating, it also allows a stand to be given over to an older generation wishing to increase the noise during the 90 minutes.

Clearly, the club wish to gauge the interest of the support in their own survey before making changes, and that is the sensible thing to do.

However, we would like the club to hand over the Merkland stand for one game, so that we can show the impact having a vocal section in that stand can make to the atmosphere.

We urge fans to back a move - both temporarily and permanent - to the Merkland stand in order for us to not only recreate the atmosphere from the past, but also recent days out on the red army's travels to the likes of Dundee where Dens Park and Tannadice have become almost like home games to the Dons.

We have a unique situation where our team travels away from home and sees a stand packed out behind the goal singing for 90 minutes, yet returns to Pittodrie and sees a similar sized stand half empty and quiet.

We appreciate the difficulty in uprooting season ticket holders for one game, but hope a compromise could be met.

Our first choice for any sort of move would be the Friday night game with Dundee. If we could encourage fans along that night, and into the Merkland behind the goal, the team will be lifted by its 12th man that night.

If this is not possible due to the problem of relocating fans at short notice, then we ask that the club consider designating the Merkland as a singing section for any cup replay with Hibernian, or any potential home Scottish Cup quarter final.

Obviously these two events may not even transpire, in which case we would like to look towards a game after the split.

If you back a move to the Merkland, then we need to make that clear in the club's survey. We also need you to give the Merkland a chance should it be given over for a game or a season. You may be comfortable in your own seat that you have had for years, but come join us for one game, and let's be the team's extra man.

Andrew Southwick
www.theawayend.net

We would like all fans who would relocate to the Merkland stand to send their names in to: madforthemerkie@hotmail.com

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