Campaign launched to create World Cup fanzones across Wales
A Welsh football fan has launched a campaign to ensure that there are free fanzones across Wales by the time the World Cup comes around in November.
Given that many fans will not be travelling to Qatar in large numbers, Mark Jones, from Blackwood, is determined to ensure Wales supporters have the opportunity to watch Rob Page’s men compete in their first World Cup in 64 years together in free, organised fanzones.
Having had success with a similar campaign launched just a month ahead of Euro 2016, when he helped create multiple fanzones in locations including Swansea, Merthyr, Penarth, Pontypridd, Newport and Cardiff, having a bigger lead in time to the World Cup he hopes for even greater success this time around.
“We had huge success in persuading councils through our media presence, petition and social media support to create fanzones to allow more fans to support the team,” said Mark.
The campaign organiser added that as far as he is concerned Welsh football is still an afterthought by some – despite all the success of recent years.
“Welsh football fans seem to be an afterthought, despite football now being the number one sport in the country and Wales being at their first World Cup in 60 years and interest being at an all time high.”
He points to the World Cup playoff final game against Ukraine as evidence why another campaign is needed.
“The fact we didn’t have a fanzone for the Ukraine game for example was a reminder you have to push harder for Welsh football support than you do rugby,” he said.
Tickets for a couple of organised fanzones in the north and south of Wales have recently gone on sale, but Mark believes there will be even more interest in watching Wales at a World Cup than there was during the Euros.
“There are a few small or pay to enter ones popping up – The Turf pub in Wrexham and the Vale Arena in Cardiff – but we need mass, free, open events to maximise support and to sell the national brand on the biggest stage.”
Mark’s latest campaign is only a week old but is already gathering momentum.
“So far I have been focusing mostly on social media pages and making sure the website I made this time around is a central hub linked to all our different tools,” he said. “As we have months this time rather than weeks compared to when I campaigned in 2016, I want to build a much deeper platform for support.
“I know the public and the fanbase will be supportive once the message starts reaching out further because the pics and coverage and videos and memories of the 2016 zone are so great, so there’s no logic in opposing it given everything that has gone before.
“This week I will be moving from social media support building to Twitter and email campaigning and really lobbying the political and media side of things to add pressure.”
Back in 2016, Mark had substantial coverage on TV, radio and online – and he’s hoping for a similar reaction this time.
“In 2016 I embarked on a month-long email, Twitter, media, petition blitz to try to help establish fanzone’s across the country for Wales first major international football competition in 58 years,” he recalled. “What followed was a whirlwind of grassroots support from fellow fans, media, politics, television, radio and print media.”
This included appearances on BBC Radio Wales, ITV Wales News. BBC One Wales, Sky Sports as well as vast online and print coverage throughout the Welsh and UK media including The Daily Mirror, The Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Sun, The Independent, The Irish Mirror, and Wales Online – as well as Italian sports media.
“We helped encourage multiple zones in multiple locations, including Swansea, Merthyr, Penarth, Pontypridd, Newport and Cardiff,” said Mark. “They all had huge success with over 70,000+ attendees over the course of the tournament across all venues – including the 20,000 semi final crowd at the Principality Stadium, which was staged due to the enormous demand.”
As for the issue of fanzones in November being dictated by the weather, Mark said: “Ideally they’d be outdoors regardless of the weather – and I say that, because we played both the England and Belgium games at EURO 2016 in inclement weather and both had the best atmospheres of any of the events
“But if indoors are available at the correct size, i.e Millennium with roof closed, Motorpoint or something along those lines that would be fine.
“A bit of wind is no excuse for curtailing a gathering of fans for he biggest event in Welsh football history for 60 years. People go to festivals, football games or outdoor concerts in wind rain or sun, this is no obstacle for me.”
Now he’s encouraging Welsh fans to get involved in the campaign and help build momentum ahead of November by visiting the campaign website, which details what fans can do to help.
“The reason I built the website, rather than going on a one man campaign, like I did last time around, is because with so much distance between now and the World Cup we can build a real movement,” said Mark. “Welsh football is in one of its golden periods. The fanbase is amazing and unique and powerful.
“If we can harness all these groups, we can do anything, but it’s getting the information and the campaign out to the masses that is important.
“Given the success of 2016, the issues with Qatar and fans deciding not to travel, fanzones have never made more sense. So I’m just trying to play my part.”
At the heart of the website is a petition, but also social media links, and template emails to send to councillors and MPs.
Find out more and sign the petition HERE
Use the hashtag #walesfanzonecampaign
THE WORLD CUP FANZONE CAMPAIGN MESSAGE
We believe that with a number of financial, logistical and moral issues affecting the majority of Welsh football fans regarding attending this year’s World Cup, the first in 60+ years, a national plan of action should be put in place for fanzones.
Lack of match tickets
Cost of travel/accommodation
Cost of living crisis
Huge interest/support for Welsh football
No clash with welsh rugby internationals
Economic value to host areas
Advertises wales on the world cups global stage
Success of 2016 fanzones with national media and public
We believe large, open, free to access, large capacity fanzones should be set up in multiple locations to allow the nation to come together to support this achievement en-masse and help to sell and advertise the brand of Wales across the globe on the biggest stage of them all, the world cup.
We had huge success with our 2016 campaign that was heralded across national media, with 70,000+ attendees across multiple locations.
Let’s rise again. Yma o Hyd.
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Given that November/December is not the best time for outdoor events, where would these fanzones be located.