Community club feeling in Swansea impresses students

Swansea University will continue to sponsor the West Stand until May 2018: Michael Cleghorn

Swansea University students have been left impressed with the impact Swansea City AFC have had on their community.

The Welsh University of the Year moved to establish a greater relationship with the Premier league side by sponsoring the West Stand for three years until the end of next season, which has led to increased advertising of the university, as seen in EA Sports’ FIFA 15 and more recent editions of the popular franchise.

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Global advertising of the university in FIFA 17: Michael Cleghorn

Both organisations are an important part of the city, and the university’s students have experienced the positive influence the club has on it.

“It seems that the whole community is behind the club,” said 21 year old English student Mark from Bournemouth.

Liverpool fan and economics student Joe, 20, cited the positive impact the club has on local restaurants and retailers, adding, “I think it brings a sense of community… it is something any person can get behind and support and then find others who are the same.”

Arsenal fan and English student Tom, 21, from Peterborough, further agreed, stating that the team brings “a sense of togetherness to the city,” and that “even those who aren’t local may support them as a second team.”

For students, living in Swansea has changed their attitudes towards the club. “In my first year they became a quasi-second team, so I took notice of their results and rooted for them, but the novelty wore off,” admitted Tom.

Mark and Joe’s attitudes towards the team have changed permanently since moving to Swansea in September 2014 and 2015 respectively.

“Before I hadn’t really noticed them but now I would say I am a fan,” declared Mark, who said he follows the transfer rumours and news surrounding the club. Joe suggested that they are now akin to a second club for him. “I now have a level of empathy for the club and the supporters. It is kind of similar to at home in that my main supported club is Liverpool but I also support Plymouth Argyle as they are my local club and I feel like I can support them also as I see no real threat from them towards Liverpool.”

Mark and Tom heaped praise on the atmosphere generated by the Jack Army on their trips to the Liberty Stadium, but Joe is yet to watch a game there as he has “no real desire to go unless it was against Liverpool.”

Despite the university’s relationship with the club, Swansea City have not influenced these student’s academic studies in any way, except for acting as “a way of relaxing and escaping from university work for a day, or even just an afternoon,” according to Mark. This is unsurprising given the non-sporting nature of their courses, but the impact the club has had on the city-wide community has endeared these student’s hearts and many more.


Swansea staff surviving despite relegation fears

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Hospitality HQ- All is well behind these windows despite relegation concerns: Michael Cleghorn

Staff morale has not been affected at relegation-threatened Swansea City AFC following a reported loss of £14.6m for the past 14 month period.

Chairman Huw Jenkins moved to clarify the reasons behind this, stating that the sales of key players Ashley Williams and Andre Ayew to Everton and West Ham respectively were not included in this report.

It is not just losses on the pitch that Swansea have had to report: Michael Cleghorn

The Swans are generally in a healthy financial position, but those connected to the club are wary of the affect relegation could have, with Premier League broadcasting deals a key source to many clubs and 81% of Swansea City’s income comes from television broadcasting.

Relegation could lead to structural changes at the club. Aston Villa were relegated last season and approximately 500 staff members were told they were going to be made redundant in the final third of the season. Sunderland AFC are likely to join them in the second tier of English football next season, which shall trigger redundancies staff members were warned of in February. The atmosphere has been described as “toxic”  by staff since plans for redundancies up north were communicated.

Swansea staff members are not concerned over the financial or atmospheric effects of relegation. Michael, a hospitality and match day staff member at the Liberty Stadium, suggested in an interview that the mood was different but dismissed financial concerns.

“In terms of financial perspective, the staff still get paid the same amount and at the right time they get a pay rise, so the loss didn’t really affect us. But in terms of the tension because every time the club believes they should be doing better in the table means many fans don’t renew their season tickets. So I think it affects the fan’s perspectives, I think it affected them the most, but staff? No, it didn’t really affect us at all.”

Despite initially suggesting that on-pitch performances did not affect his working atmosphere as regardless of the result, “the fans still come to buy drinks,” Michael later claimed there was “friction” at the club which altered the atmosphere.

“There was a little bit of a difference, most fans didn’t come to expect a win, just to chill out with friends. They wanted to go and watch the game but the club wasn’t there anymore.”

“The club wasn’t there anymore.” For those associated with Swansea City AFC, they will be hoping this doesn’t apply to the Premier League next season.

An extended version of the interview is available to listen to above.

Swansea City fail to lift locals

The result left the fans with a glass half-empty perspective: Michael Cleghorn

There was a feeling on the way to the Wig and Pen that this would be no ordinary trip to watch Swansea City. It was Six Nations day and Wales had just lost to France in dramatic style. The Swans were scheduled to play Bournemouth away in the Premier League half an hour later, with hopes they would cheer up the deflated locals after some promising results since Paul Clement took over as manager.

Entering the pub was reminiscent of the London tubes during rush hour, with many pushing each other around and the smell of body odour an assault on all senses; the only difference was that people spoke to each other. The mixture of white Swansea shirts with the red of Wales created an oddly satisfying sea of pink, which moved in waves as people bought their drinks.

The game kicked off and everyone except a small pocket of rugby fanatics turned their attention to the nearest TV and breathed in collectively, hoping for some form of positive result on the back of a good run. It was proving hard to find a position where you wouldn’t be blocking someone’s view.

“Move over, get out of the way!” yelled an exasperated elderly man above the commotion, waving his hands vigorously as if he was swatting a fly.

It was fortunate he spoke up otherwise he would have missed Bournemouth’s opening goal on the half hour mark, which surprisingly received minimal reaction. Many of the fans soon after showed signs of belief that the Swans could turn this around, appealing for handballs and reacting to near misses as enthusiastically as before.

Although the atmosphere was deafening as the locals vented away their work and sporting-life troubles, the half time whistle drew no negative reaction from the Jack Army. They remained calm in a storm of atmospheric ambience.

The Wig and Pen hosted disgruntled fans on Saturday: Michael Cleghorn

The second half kicked off and the fans became more animated. Sighing at every misplaced, shot or touch, patience was running out for some.

“Wake up for f*** sake!” barked a middle-aged man next to me, chugging the remains of his drink in frustration, with his breath somehow over-powering the general sweaty smell fused with alcohol.

With fifteen minutes to go, the inevitable happened and Bournemouth scored their second to put some breathing space between them and the sub-standard Swans. A resigned groan reverberated around the pub, bouncing off the walls and shaking the glasses on the tables. The fans were frustrated with Bournemouth’s unrelenting attacks, turning the pub into a pink sea of despair.

The old man who had earlier vented his frustration got up and left on 86 minutes, with a deadly look in his eye. He wasn’t the only one as the majority of fans flooded out, with all their passion and faith wasted on a game their heroes could have won. The atmosphere seeped out and the pub became its traditional place of sorrow-drinking and sadness.

The boys are back in town!

Paul Clement Piece
Paul Clement (left) with Carlo Ancelotti (right) back in his Chelsea days: Adam Davy, EMPICS

Swansea City Head Coach Paul Clement told the media of his excitement of returning to former employers Chelsea on Saturday as he aims to orchestrate another big away win.

Clement, who also worked at Chelsea in his early coaching days, spent four seasons as a first team coach at Stamford Bridge from 2007-2011, winning the Premier League and FA Cup in his first season as Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant.

“I am really looking forward to going back in a coaching capacity,” Clement told the press, “I still keep in touch with some of the people who work at the club.”

Chelsea fan and Swansea University student Noah believes that Chelsea fans will show just as much affection towards Clement as he still holds for Chelsea.

“Although he will be an opponent when the two clubs meet, I think the fans will be quite relaxed with him,” he predicted, due to his success both at Chelsea and in Europe with Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.

Despite Clement’s excitement, he reiterated his desire to win on Saturday. “Whoever we’re playing this weekend it’s a game that I want to win. We’re all very excited by this challenge and we’re not daunted by it either.”

Claude Makelele followed Clement to South Wales and he too is looking forward to a return to West London. “They gave me a lot for my career. But I do my job (at Swansea). I think the fans at Chelsea understand that too,” he told Swans TV.

Noah hailed the Frenchman and believes that he will receive a good reception from the fans due to his contribution to the successful Chelsea team that “allowed former players like Lampard, Robben and Drogba to really venture forward and allow Chelsea be the threat that they were.

“Makelele must take some credit (for Swansea’s upturn in form). With his experience, he would have definitely had some words of wisdom for the Swansea players,” he added.

The final former Blues player to return to the club this weekend is current Swans captain Jack Cork, who left the club he had been at since the age of nine for Southampton having not made a single appearance for the first team.

“It would have been nice to have given him the chance at least to show how good he is but he wasn’t given that chance,” said Noah, with English players at Chelsea rare nowadays.

Promising performances away at Liverpool and Manchester City have impressed many and show significant signs of progress since Clement’s arrival. “Probably no one is expecting us to win, that takes the pressure off to a certain degree, but we put our own pressure on us,” he insisted. A win orchestrated by three of the Swans’ most influential members at their old club would do the South Wales side’s survival bid wonders.