The Coventry City Family Zone has been running for over 10 years and continues to go from strength to strength.
Run by a team of dedicated volunteers with the support of Sky Blues staff, Coventry City’s groundshare at St Andrew’s has not stopped the team providing pre-match activities and memorable moments for young supporters.
Activities take place on Saturday matchdays from 1:30pm to 2:30pm in the Kiosk 13 area of the Kop Stand - this is accessed externally via Entrance Gates 7/8 to the left hand side of the Stand as you look at it externally. Fans then exit the area and use the Kop Stand turnstiles to access their seats for the game.
There are a range of activities to keep supporters busy in the build-up to the match - arts & crafts for fans to get creative, Tuck Shop, table games including Subbuteo, Connect Four, Jenga and Pool – plus Sky Blue Sam’s Post Box.
Sky Blue Sam also visits, as does members of the Sky Blues squad and former players too, with the support of the Former Players Association.
The team of volunteers is ably led by lifelong Sky Blues fan Pat Raybould who as well as running the Family Zone, also follows the team home and away.
“The Family Zone began as a very small area with just 4 tables, for Crafts, Face Painting and players signing,” said Pat.
“I worked in a Primary School when ‘Tickets for Schools’ was first introduced and was asked if I could help to distribute the tickets to parents on match days.
“After a while we talked about creating pre-match activities for the young fans. The system for distributing tickets changed and they were delivered directly to schools so it was felt that this would be a good time to move activities to another level.”
Running for over 10 years now, the Family Zone has grown year-on-year and is a highlight for many fans, playing a key role in the Sky Blues earning the EFL Family Excellence Award on a number of occasions.
Despite difficult circumstances at times, the Family Zone has remained a consistent and vital part of matchdays – taking place at the Ricoh Arena then Sixfields Stadium, before a return to the Ricoh Arena and now at St Andrew’s.
“It was a challenge getting used to the new area and deciding the best way to utilise it,” says Pat of the new Family Zone at St Andrew’s.
“So far, we have enjoyed the space we have been given by Birmingham City FC. However I am sure when the Winter weather arrives we will have to reconsider what we can do when the outdoor area cannot be used.
“We haven’t been able to bring everything over yet, maybe we will in the future, but we are building it up at each game. The families we speak to have been very supportive of the changes. I would also like to thank the staff at CCFC and BCFC for all of their help in enabling us to continue with the Family Zone.”
The Family Zone volunteers have also been key in enabling the activities to continue, giving up their time for free before each Saturday game before taking their seats to cheer on the team.
Pat said: “Without the volunteers, there would be no Family Zone. The Team is made up of all ages from 16 – 72. We have helped team members with the volunteering side of their Duke of Edinburgh Awards, college courses and scouts and guides.
“They are an amazing group who would do anything asked. They give up their time to make sure they can give the young fans the best pre-match experience ever.”
From four tables in the early days to 15 (or more!) now, the activities provided by the Family Zone has continued to broaden.
“The Dugout Draw (where fans get to watch the warm-up from Mark Robins’ seat) arts and crafts, Sky Blue Sam and, of course, player visits are our most popular activities,” Pat explained. “Raffles are very popular especially when CCFC prizes are on offer! Raffles, of course, also help us to raise funds to keep the Family Zone going.”
Young fans are the future of Coventry City and through highs and lows over the past 10 years, the Family Zone and its dedicated team of volunteers has continued to provide excellent pre-match experiences for young fans.
“The Family Zone is vital to encourage the youngsters to come to the matches and enjoy the whole Match Day Experience,” said Pat.
“These young fans are the club’s future. There is nothing more pleasing for the volunteers than to see happy faces. We have made so many friends and met so many families over the years who have really made our ‘job’ easy.
“We are very grateful to have been given the opportunity to carry on providing pre-match activities at Birmingham City FC and feel that this provides the club with a very good option for encouraging the next generation of CCFC fans.”
Coventry City Chief Executive Dave Boddy said: “I would like to place on record our thanks to Pat and the team of dedicated volunteers to help run the Family Zone week-in, week-out, and I’m sure also the thanks of all Coventry City supporters.
“Regardless of where we are playing, it is a vital part of the matchday experience that we provide to young supporters and their families, and the activities they provide and the engagement it offers is fantastic.
“We were determined to provide a space for these activities to happen at St Andrew’s, and seeing it full of Sky Blues supporters enjoying their matchdays is great.
“We have no doubt it will continue to flourish over the next 10 years, and look forward to working with Pat and her volunteers to support them in delivering more amazing matchday experiences for youngsters.”
For any supporter wishing to donate to support the Family Zone, please email Pat on firstname.lastname@example.org
Coventry City would like to thank all of the supporters who have volunteered in the Family Zone so far this season…
- Pat Raybould
- Mark Collins
- Lynn Hills
- Laura Smith
- Ben Lole
- Richard Gregory
- Heather Robinson
- Andi Robinson
- Hayley Jackson
- Omran Karamat
- Tahira Karamat
- Simon Smith
- Bob Duckworth