Sweet FA or Why the FA Leave a Sour Taste

I recently was invited to take part in one of a number of focus groups organised on behalf of the FA. The focus groups were to look at how the FA interacts with football fans. I thought this would be a good chance to let them know what I think, so I volunteered to attend the London based focus group.

clip_image002Dear XXXXX,

The Football Association have asked us to contact you as they are conducting research into understanding how to better help their customers participate in and enjoy football in England.

We are running a number of group discussions in London (FA Head offices, Wembley Stadium), Manchester, Birmingham and Derby that should last no longer than 90 minutes. These discussions will cover how you currently engage with and participate in football, and your thoughts on how The FA could improve its communication and services to you.

The discussions will be held in the evening between the 24th April and the 3rd May (we will ask for you to attend just one discussion).

As a thank you for your time and contribution to the research a cash incentive will be provided at the end of the discussion – this will be discussed further following registration (refreshments will also be provided during the discussion).

Please be assured that this is legitimate market research study and nobody will try and sell you anything in relation to or as a result of this research. We abide by the data Protection Act 1998 and Market Research Society Code of Conduct, so all views and opinions given during the discussion will be kept anonymous and completely confidential.

If you feel you could provide feedback to this valuable research then please register your details using the following link:


If you would like to further clarify this research please do not hesitate to contact me on: 01273 681074
Thank you for taking the time to read this email and I hope to hear from you shortly.
With best wishes,


Andrew Folkes

Roots Research



Working on Behalf of:

Research Agency: Iris Concise

Client: Football Association

I was telephone by Andrew Folkes from Roots Research who were conducting this on behalf of the FA who confirmed the Focus Group was to be held at…….a central London venue, convenient for people in London and the South East? No, it was to be held on a work night 10 miles from Central London at Wembley Stadium. Why there when it is not convenient for most people to get to or from? I don’t know but I suspect the FA were too tight to pay to hire a room in a London hotel for a couple of hours.

Well, I was going to be free that night and I thought I’d go to let the FA know my views despite the location in North West London and my living in Essex.

So on 19th April, I received an email from Andrew Folkes confirming my invitation.

From: “Andrew Folkes” <andrew@rootsresearch.co.uk>

Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2012 12:06:02 +0100

To: <andrew@rootsresearch.co.uk>

Subject: Football Association Research – Discussion Confirmation

Description: Description: Description: C:\Users\ANDY@ROOTS\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.Outlook\8YJCIY6D\1014_FA_Group_SI (2).JPGI am writing to confirm your participation in the Football Association discussion group. As discussed, the group is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 25th April at 7:45pm. The discussion will last no longer than 90 minutes and, as a thank you for your time and opinions we are offering you an incentive of �15 (which will be given to you at the group). As well as providing us with some valuable insight, it’s our hope that you will find the discussion helpful, engaging and enjoyable.

On arrival please head to the main entrance. Someone will meet you there and take you to the research. Please aim to arrive 10 minutes prior to the start time stated above.

As discussed, the research is taking place at the:

Wembley Stadium,


London HA9 0WS

(Map & Directions attached)

Parking will be available if you are planning on driving to the research, please provide us with your registration number no less than 24 hours before the research in order to book a space.

I have also attached a short exercise that we would like you to print off, complete and bring with you to the research – please just let me know if you have any questions regarding this.

****** Please be aware that there are scheduled underground strikes throughout next week, therefore please organise your journey carefully and in advance. ******

We assure you that this is a genuine study and that the data will not be used for any other purpose than the research itself. You will not receive any follow-up marketing calls and your details will not be passed on to any third parties.

Roots Research are bound by the Market Research Society ethical guidelines and will treat any information you disclose as confidential. When reporting, the findings will not be attributed to you and will only be reported in summary as being representative of the opinions of a group of participants.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me on: 01273 681 074.

Thanks & Best regards,


Andrew Folkes

Roots Research

Now, as many of you know, I cycle to or from work. I thought I could cycle to Wembley from work and then after the meeting cycle home or get the tube to central London and cycle home from there. The problem was that there was no mention of cycle parking facilities, so I emailed Andrew Folkes as follows


Thank you for this information.

There are details re car parking & tubes, but no mention of secure cycle parking facilities. As I will be cycling I will require somewhere secure to leave my bike

Can you advise me of the arrangements for cycle parking please?


Peter Bennett
Twitter: @spen_666

It is clear is it not that I am asking about the provision of SECURE cycle parking.

It took a while for Roots Research to get back to me. When they did the reply was as follows

Hell Peter,

Just to confirm, there is secure parking for bikes opposite B2 security.

Hope this helps,


Firstly, what he means by “Hell Peter” I have no idea. However, the email is clear that there is secure parking for bikes opposite B2 security. Great, I will cycle to Wembley to take part in this focus group. Today however the weather was forecast to be awful and indeed it was. Heavy rain and strong winds, but nevertheless, I cycled the 10 miles from work to Wembley via various very busy and poorly maintained roads. I ensured I arrived at Wembley in good time and got to the B2 entrance and asked where the secure bike storage was. I was told to walk further round the ground and it was at the next entrance. When I got to the next entrance, signposted Security, I was told there was no secure cycle storage and all there was were some Sheffield steel stands in a dark dingy corner some 30 yards from the security office.

I went back to the B2 entrance and was told that was the bike parking. I pointed out that it was not secure and I would not leave my bike there. The security guard volunteered there was a storage area INSIDE the stadium for staff. He did telephone to ask if I could leave my bike there, but was told no.

I spoke to Andrew Folkes who tried to tell me the bike parking was secure. I pointed out that a Sheffield steel stand in a dark isolated corner was not secure and I would not leave a valuable bike there. I was told the area was patrolled by security staff and was covered by CCTV. None of this would be much use when it only takes seconds to steal a bike .

The end result was they lied that there was secure bike parking and as a result of that I relied on that representation and cycled to Wembley and was refused the chance to take part in the focus group.

I left and went to the bike storage area and spent some 15-20 minutes there talking on the phone and paying close attention to the one other bike that was there. No one challenged me and not one security guard was seen during this time.

CCTV? well, it does not exist in this location despite the lies I was told.

I took a number of pictures of the area. Please tell me what is secure about this bike parking area?



Bike Racks on the left on dark corner of concourse – not absence of any security. The yellow fence is part of a builders compound


Bike Racks on the left. Can you see any CCTV? No? well not surprising as there isn’t any?



Looking from bike racks to the entrance. Can you see the entrance? No? neither can I.


Looking from bike racks to security office. Note the pillars would obviously not provide any obstruction to view from security office, if anyone bothered to try to look out at the bike racks.



So much for CCTV on the bike storage area – the sign next to the bike storage makes it clear there is CCTV within the ground, but no mention of it outside!



The view from outside the barriers outside the security office. To get this view, the security guard would have to get through 3 doors from his desk. Hardly likely to be able to stop a thief!



Am I surprised at the incompetence of the FA?  Did I say incompetence, I meant to say complete disregard for their customers?  The answer is sadly no I am not. This is the same FA that in recent weeks made Liverpool & Everton fans travel all the way to Wembley for a game on a Saturday lunchtime on a weekend when there were no trains between Liverpool and Everton. A game that could easily have been played at Old Trafford Manchester, some 40 miles from Liverpool instead of 200 miles. Imagine the carbon footprint of 80,000 travelling a 400 mile round trip instead of an 80 mile round trip.

The same FA that switch games at short notice with complete disregard for those people who have bought non refundable train tickets or taken time off work, booked hotels etc.

It is ironic that the focus group was said to be “into understanding how to better help their customers participate in and enjoy football in England. “ Well a good start would to be to tell the truth and to accommodate those customers who come to help you out with focus groups.