Steve Fletcher: A remarkable 12 months for AFC Bournemouth and the local impact of Premier League football

Steve Fletcher

Steve Fletcher - Credit: Archant

In his new exclusive column for Dorset Magazine, AFC Bournemouth legend Steve Fletcher talks about life at the Vitality Stadium and their first season in the Barclays Premier League

With AFC Bournemouth’s first season in the Barclays Premier League behind us, we can all reflect on what a remarkable 12 months it has been for everyone connected with the club, not to mention the town of Bournemouth and the county of Dorset.

When we achieved promotion to the top flight last May, I was as ecstatic as any supporter. Bournemouth is my team… I’ve been here for nearly 24 years now and, in all honesty, it was an achievement I never thought would happen in my lifetime. Now manager, Eddie Howe and the boys have pulled off another unbelievable achievement by surviving in this division, meaning we will be welcoming the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool to the Vitality Stadium again in 2016-17.

The AFC Bournemouth ‘brand’ has gone global, it’s a different world from what I was used to as a player. I’ve done interviews about the club in New Zealand, South Africa and the United States and they all known the Bournemouth name. The Cherries have certainly put Bournemouth and Dorset firmly on the map!

The impact of hosting Barclays Premier League at the Vitality Stadium has had a far-reaching affect that extends far beyond the club itself. Our promotion was said to be worth some £50m a season to the local tourist economy and you can definitely feel that there is more of a buzz around the town since we got promoted.

We’re in regular touch with Bournemouth Borough Council and they have told us of the positive impact the club’s Premier League status has had on the town, both financially and in terms of raising its profile. I’m sure that extends across Dorset too. Individual businesses, like local hotels and restaurants, are obviously benefiting. Even Bournemouth airport has seen more passengers as they make the trip to the South Coast to watch Premier League football.

Lots of visiting fans make a weekend of it and why not. There can’t be a better away venue in the division in terms of the whole package of the visit… the vibrant town, the golden beaches, the surrounding countryside, the nightlife, the amazing range of restaurants. There’s also a relaxed laid back vibe to life down here, which people really take to. The supporters who have their team visiting us between April and September are particularly lucky!

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We’re a club that a lot of supporters of other teams have taken to their hearts. They’ve seen where we’ve come from and where we are now and they love the story. It’s also the way we play football… fans appreciate good football, even if it’s played by their opponents. Lots of supporters of other teams have said to me ‘Bournemouth are now my second team’.

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About Steve Fletcher

Affectionately known as ‘Fletch’, Steve joined Bournemouth in 1992 and played for the club for 15 years, during which time he scored 100 goals and holds the club record for the most league appearances. After hanging up his boots he subsequently became a scout for AFC Bournemouth and Club Ambassador working with the local community on a regular basis he is also First-Team Co-ordinator. In 2014 he became the first recipient of the Sir Tom Finney Award for his contribution to the game. He lives in Dorset with his wife and two daughters.

More AFCB…

10 reasons to fall in love with AFC Bournemouth - Andy Greeves talks to AFC Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, club legend Steve Fletcher and ex-Bloc Party drummer and Cherries superfan Matt Tong about why we should love their local team

How AFC Bournemouth’s promotion could benefit local business - Des Simmons, Chairman of the Bournemouth Tourism Management Board and Managing Director of Bournecoast Property Agents, reflects on how AFC Bournemouth’s promotion to the Premier League could benefit local business

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