St. James’ Park stadium, a true landmark in Newcastle upon Tyne, is home to Newcastle United Football Club. The team were recently crowned Champions having secured a promotion to the Premier League after their 4-1 win against Preston North End this April.
The Club’s history has undoubtedly had its highs and lows. This will be the Club’s second return to the top flight in seven years; having previously been relegated back in 2009 and bouncing straight back to the Premiership in the summer of 2010. Six years in the Premier League were then abruptly halted with relegation in 2016. However the club, headed by Rafa Benitez, returned back to the top at the first opportunity, proving that they are well and truly a top flight team in every sense.
Sodexo has provided catering at the stadium for the last seven years and shared this promotion-journey with them. We caught up with Frankie Angus, General Manager, who talked about what the promotion means for the club and the catering team moving forward.
What has the journey been like to secure promotion?
An emotional rollercoaster to say the least! The Championship brings so many more matches to the table. We have provided hospitality at 27 home games this season including league, competition and friendly matches – far more than previous years in the Premier League. After a disappointing start, we picked up the pace and by mid-October we remained in 1st and 2nd position in the league table until the end of the season. Our hospitality has always been of Premiership standard and therefore as a catering-provider our service has always remained top flight quality. Following our match against Preston North End which secured promotion, we were then challenged with the chance of being hailed Champions, approaching the last two games with a 7 point deficit against Brighton. We were crowned Champions on the last game of the season and the celebration roar from the crowd could be heard for miles around.
How has your journey to the Premier League affected day to day operations?
We’ve always thought and operated like a Premier League club so we’ve not really seen a huge difference. From the start of the season, our crowds have always remained high, due to the immense passion in the city for the football club. Crowd numbers haven’t faltered all season and averaged 51,000 at home games. Our hospitality numbers have also remained strong all season, however, following our promotion we were completely sold out in all hospitality areas, with over 2,500 hospitality guests attending the last game of the season. We have a very close working relationship with the club and we also have nine years’ worth of intelligence to make sure we forecast and stock up accordingly.
What does being promoted to the Premier league mean to you all?
It’s a big operation here at St. James’ Park. We have a team of 65 and on match day we can have 1000 staff. We all feel extremely proud of the promotion and privileged to have been part of it. When Rafa, our First Team Manager decided to stay at St James’ Park at the end of the 2015/16 season we all knew that we were in safe hands and confident he could get us back to top flight football. His passion and desire to succeed is emulated throughout our whole business and we all strive to be the best. Now that we are back in the Premier League we can prove that’s where we should always be. We are United in every sense and the forthcoming season is going to be very exciting.
Looking forward to next season, what can we expect to see?
Our Stadium Manager is constantly refurbishing the stadium both on the concourses and in the hospitality areas, so this year is no exception. Plans are in place to refurbish 3 of our hospitality suites and also to improve our onsite car parking areas surrounding the stadium. Less matches in the Premier League doesn’t mean we will be any less busy. Plans are continuing to expand on menu offerings on matchdays while ensuring our hospitality remains second to none.
For more information about St. James’ Park visit www.nufc.co.uk