‘Incredible’ offer Hawks boss Doswell believes can boost attendances to 2,000 mark at Westleigh Park

Paul Doswell is convinced Hawks are capable of attracting regular crowds around the 2,000 mark.

By Simon Carter
Friday, 12th November 2021, 8:37 am
Hawks took almost 900 supporters to last weekend's FA Cup tie at Charlton Athletic. Picture: Martyn White
Hawks took almost 900 supporters to last weekend's FA Cup tie at Charlton Athletic. Picture: Martyn White

The Westleigh Park boss believes parallels can be drawn between his current club and Sutton United, where he spent over a decade in charge.

A host of fan-friendly initiatives are all based around hopefully swelling the attendance levels Hawks have been reaching since Doswell arrived in May 2019.

Hawks recently launched their Flexleigh’ initiative - 1,000 discounted tickets available on a first-come-first served basis. To date, around 670 people have taken up the offer which gives cut-price admission for up to four spectators.

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Anyone with a ‘Flexleigh’ ticket can admit two adults (paying £6 each) and two under-16s (for free) for any National League South game.

‘That’s an incredible offer,’ said Doswell. ‘Nobody else is doing that. A family of four can come and watch us play for just £12 - that’s cheaper than one adult ticket normally.’

It is indeed. Any adult wanting to watch this weekend’s home league game with Maidstone, for example, must pay £15. Under-16s are £6 each.

While £15 is not cheap to watch sixth tier football, £6 for an adult certainly is. And it compares exceptionally well to other local clubs and their prices.

Gosport Borough are charging adults £10 for this weekend’s Southern League Premier South home game against Merthyr, while Moneyfields’ adult admission for their midweek Wessex League Cup tie with Hamworthy United was £7.

AFC Portchester’s adult ticket prices for this weekend’s Wessex Premier game with Amesbury are also £7, while Baffins Milton Rovers are charging £6 for adults at their home matches.

Hawks have also given children’s season tickets away to local schools, and plan to give free tickets to youngsters who play in the Mid-Solent Youth League on a Saturday morning and the Portsmouth Youth League on a Sunday morning.

‘I firmly believe we could get crowds of 2,000 plus,’ Doswell told The News.

‘When I was at Sutton we started with crowds of around 400, 500 and took them up to around 1,800.

‘I genuinely think that could happen here.’

Hawks attracted an average crowd of around 1,400 during Doswell’s first season in charge, 2019/20 - up on the previous season’s attendances in the National League.

This season, Hawks started with crowds of 867 (v Welling) and 922 (v Oxford City) on days blessed with lovely sunny weather.

On a day when all adults were admitted for £6, the crowd was boosted to 1,382 for the 5-2 win over Concord Rangers. And there were again lots of youngsters present for Hawks’ last home league game on October 23, against Slough, in a crowd of 1,210.

Doswell revealed how Hawks now have a database of over 1,000 supporters, and how a large number of them come from the Waterlooville area.

‘We want to get more people coming from the West Leigh area,’ he said. ‘At the moment they haven’t been, but we want to attract the people on our doorstep.’

Doswell is big on community spirit. This week he spoke to a young fan who went to his first away game at Charlton last weekend and had been scared by someone letting off a flare near to his seat.

His mother contacted the club and Doswell responded by phoning up the youngster and inviting him to be a mascot for this weekend’s game. ‘He was gobsmacked,’ the boss reported.

‘But that’s the club I want us to be - the club that phones up a young fan like that.

‘He’d been to a home game and loved it so much he’d begged his mother to go to Charlton.’

Doswell said he himself was ‘gobsmacked’ by the size of the away following at The Valley last Saturday. ‘When I was at Sutton we only took 300/400 to away cup games,’ he recalled. ‘To take nearly 900 … that was more than we were getting at home at the start of the season.’

Hawks’ new office block, meanwhile, is being officially opened by local MP Alan Mak prior to the Maidstone match.

It is, said Doswell, another huge step for the club. ‘It’s a massive building for us,’ he stated. ‘Rather than going in via the pub, you will be able to go to a reception and be greeted by someone.

‘There’s hospitality rooms, offices, a kitchen - it will enable us to sell alcohol on a matchday inside (part of) the ground.

‘Some of the rooms which will be used as classrooms by the academy.’

Hawks skipper Joe Oastler and ex-Gosport Borough chairman Tony Stares are in charge of the club’s Pro:Direct Academy. At present, they cater for 38 16-18 year-olds but Doswell said the plan is to have around 100 students.

To apply for a ‘Flexleigh’ ticket, email [email protected]