A very familiar face to those who attend Oakwell on a regular basis is Beth Sefton, and she's next up in our feature shining the spotlight on those working behind the scenes here at the club!
How did you end up working at Barnsley FC?
I was born and raised a Barnsley fan. I remember being in the West Lower from a very early age with my dad and older sister. As a teenager I always used to catch the last half hour of the games as I used to sneak into the Ponty End with my mates!
I’ve worked in a number of positions before joining BFC. I was sales and purchase ledger clerk at AFG Nissan before the dealership closed. Then I moved to the service reception of Halfords which I left due to having my eldest son. Immediately before joining the club I’d had a year off on extended maternity leave with my second son from my position as restaurant supervisor at Pinocchio’s in the town centre where I’d been for over 10 years. Split restaurant shifts aren’t much fun with a young baby so when the position at Barnsley FC's Box Office was advertised it was ideal. I live in the Oakwell area so that was an added bonus. Almost 14 years and another son later, the rest as they say, is history.
What’s your current role at Oakwell?
I’ve seen a number of changes over the last 14 years with personnel coming and going and most significantly for me the Box Office merging with the Reds Superstore. I’ve never had much interest in the retail sector (well not in working in it, but I spend a lot in it) so there was a lot to learn. I’ve got to admit I never really took to it and thankfully most of my time was still taken up with ticketing duties. I eventually escaped back into the main office in November of 2017 where I took over the Oakwell Centenary Society and Main Reception duties. I still do all the ‘back office’ ticket work like setting up the games, getting them online and making sure any sales restrictions are in place. I also have an active role in all fan engagement events and work alongside our Supporter Liaison Officers.
In terms of a working day for you, what can that entail? And is it different on matchdays?
On matchdays it’s all change. Karen from accounts takes over reception duties and I become Matchday Finance Officer (how very posh) which is basically all turnstile and car park operations as well as the 50/50 half time draw. I work closely with the Safety Officer and SYP to ensure the correct number of turnstiles are open for both pre-paid tickets and cash on entry. It’s all very boring and connected to flow rates so I’ll leave it there. The car parks pose the biggest problem as there’s no easy solution. We have parking for up to 1,200 vehicles on our footprint and they all want to leave at the same time onto the same road. Unfortunately you cannot get out of Oakwell without hitting Pontefract Road which is a busy main road at the best of times due to the close proximity to the town centre. We work hand in hand with BMBC, SYP and an independent traffic management company to comply with the restrictions we have had put in place. Again it’s all down to flow rates, this time onto Pontefract Road. The main focus is safety, of both pedestrians and motorists. It’s not too bad if we’ve won but can be terrible when we’ve lost as nobody wants to wait 30 minutes then.
Do you have any sort of relationship with the players/coaches?
I don’t see too much of the players or coaches, only when they want something doing or they’re collecting their post. I never venture around to the North Stand as I’m far too lazy but we do cross paths when they come round to the South Stand. I’d say we all have a great relationship, we’re all on the same team after all. The camaraderie within the club extends to all areas even if we work in different areas with very different roles. It’s a cliché, but we are one BFC family. I enjoy teaching our overseas staff and coaches a little bit of Barnsley speak. We all look out for each other and I’m sure if there was a fly-on-the-wall documentary everyone would think we’d lost the plot; banter and laughter rules when you’re BFC staff.
What’s the best part of the job that you do?
For me the best part of my job(s) is fan engagement. We all worship those on the pitch but the fans are the lifeblood of the club, if they’re happy I’m happy. Whilst I can’t influence results I can influence, in a small way, someone’s involvement and perception of the club. I love the fact that I can take a problem and fix it for someone or take a suggestion and implement it.
What part of the job gets to you, or gets you down?
Oooh what part of the job gets me down? That’s an easy one - the abuse of staff about results on the pitch! My car park team really are worth their weight in gold (don’t tell them I said that though) for holding their cool in the face of some truly atrocious post-match behaviour. To me it’s like water off a duck’s back, and in a small way I can relate to fan’s frustrations, I’ll just never understand why some feel it’s appropriate to abuse staff members because we lost a match. Fortunately it’s a small minority and hopefully we’ll never lose a home game again so it won’t happen...
How have you been coping without being at Oakwell during this lockdown?
Lockdown is easy, because I’ve got my family right here with me safe. I’m looking out for my mum and dad and my in-laws by way of shopping and bill payments etc so I know they’re safe too. I do feel like I’m running an in-house canteen as having a husband and two sons means I’m constantly cooking and washing up. Teenage boys are never full it seems. I’ve surprised myself with ‘exercise hour’ if I’m honest. I’ve never in my life actively sought out exercise, in fact I normally avoid it as much as possible. However, I’ve enjoyed taking the dog for a walk as a family. We’re lucky to have some lovely walks in the area and it’s precious time where we can chat and laugh. I hope we keep it up after lockdown, although perhaps not everyday! I’ve also taken the time off work to cut down on smoking with a view to stopping completely. Again this is totally out of character for me. I think most fans have seen me having a crafty fag at some point. With the threat of deadly virus aside, I’m fairly de-stressed so I thought this would be the ideal chance to give quitting a try. I’m doing ok so far and keeping busy around the house to take my mind off it. It’s a shame we aren’t allowed visitors as my home has never been as clean and tidy! I may also have had the odd, very small, glass of wine in the garden.
Have your colleagues been supportive and what’s the mood like?
The bond between staff really is amazing and we’re all good friends as well as colleagues. We’re in constant contact with each other via text, whats app and social media. We’re all there to check up on each other and the office banter is still going strong.
What’s your best memory whilst working in the job?
Best memory has got to be the whole of January to May of 2016. The run up to the JPT final and Play-Offs then of course Oakwell South again was mad but you can handle the workload when you’re absolutely buzzing as a fan. We’re a very small team and had to work ridiculous hours sometimes getting in at 7am and still there at midnight but it was 100% worth it. All the memories of the JPT final are popping up on my Facebook now and soon the Play-Off Final memories will be. Great times.
And finally, do you have a message for our fans during this Pandemic?
My message for the fans is stay home, stay safe. Nobody is immune from this virus. Anyone can catch it and anyone can pass it on. I don’t want any of you missing from Oakwell when we get back underway. Take care, see you soon! #COYR