Jun 01, 2017
Celebrating the Saracens Pioneers
To celebrate National Volunteers Week, here at Saracens we would like to extend our thanks to our Pioneers, who represent a small number of the 21million people in the UK who volunteer at least once a year.
Four and a half years ago, on 1st December 2012, a cold, frosty morning, an eclectic mix of people from various parts of London and the South East made their way to Wembley Stadium for the first gathering of the team that was to become the Saracens’ Pioneers. The group, comprised mainly of London 2012 volunteers, assembled in one of the hospitality suites in the Stadium, and were subjected to a day of ‘ice-breakers’ and presentations to define their forthcoming role as Saracens’ Pioneers. With Allianz Park, the new home of Saracens Rugby Club, due to open early in the new year, the Pioneer programme set out to offer a unique experience for supporters coming to the stadium. Some weeks later, the group paid their first visit to Allianz Park – another bitterly cold day – to get to know the stadium layout, as well as spending time, shivering in blue T-shirts on the new playing surface, for a photo shoot. A few weeks later, on 27th January, the first senior game kicked off, an Anglo-Welsh cup game against Cardiff Blues, with a restricted crowd size, but the Pioneers got their first taste of action. Three weeks later, February 16th 2013 was ‘Opening Day’, the first Aviva Premiership game to be played at Allianz Park, when Saracens hosted Exeter Chiefs. The Pioneers were out in force, the start of a remarkable journey that has become an integral part of the match day experience at Allianz Park, and which has won the appreciation of the home supporters, as well as countless visitors to the stadium.
Four years on, the Pioneers are the blue-jacketed, smiling face of Allianz Park, offering a unique approach to match day services, all delivered by volunteers, not professional staff. The programme has become fully established and is now an integral part of match days at Allianz Park. There are over 170 Pioneers on our books, and typically about 100 on duty at every game. Every Pioneer on the programme holds an NVQ level 2 qualification in Spectator Safety. Their primary responsibility is, of course, the many safety considerations around the stadium, but it is part of the deal that this responsibility is delivered with a friendly, welcoming face.
Match Day duties include working with the children’s community festivals, Meeting and Greeting at Edgware, Mill Hill Broadway and Mill Hill East stations, as well as the Pursely Road bus stops and footpaths. At the stadium, the ticketing Pioneers are on duty at the three gates. There is another team helping to look after the hospitality suites in the East Stand, and a small team working with visiting journalists in the Media Centre. The biggest team is ‘Spectator Services’, working in and around the four stands. Behind the scenes there is a Volunteer Management Team which is engaged in Pioneer match day planning and logistics.
The Pioneers themselves come from far and wide, many travelling extensive distances to be part of the match day experience at Allianz Park. Since that first day at Wembley Stadium, when it seemed everyone was a stranger, many close and enduring friendships have evolved through the duration of the programme, and an ever-increasing amount of socialising has been one of the unanticipated outcomes. In addition, there’s a good number of Pioneers who have become Saracens supporters, are members of the Supporters Association and attend away games. Away from the rugby season, it’s not unusual to find Pioneers taking on other volunteering roles at major sporting events anywhere in the world.
There is a modest turnover of volunteers within the programme, and we continually recruit to keep numbers at the right level. With plans underway for the further development of Allianz Park, we anticipate the need to extend the Pioneer programme, and so if you are interested, want to know more, or you know anybody who might be interested in joining the Pioneer team, please email email@example.com
Make a difference: join the 21 million volunteers in the UK.