Hawks help to keep seats clean for Oxford United fans

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After the pigeon population exploded at Oxford United Football Club the management knew they had to take action.

Fans were being affected with some having to move seats due to pigeon mess, despite the seats being cleaned a few hours earlier. The problem came to a head during ‘sell out’ matches when there were no spare seats to move supporters to.

The solution is flying Harris hawks to scare and unsettle the pigeons and it’s proving a huge success.

The structure of the Oxford United stadium offers perfect roosting and nesting opportunities for the pigeons. The worst mess was in the corners of the stadium where the seats offer some of the best views.

Andrew Taylor, senior safeguarding and matchday operations manager, said: “The pigeon problem had never really been addressed as all the solutions we were presented with were unaffordable with the club’s budgets being so tight.

“Fortunately, I met Mark Pretty from Cleankill Pest Control and he came up with an affordable plan to help us get on top of the problem. It includes a combination of using Harris hawks as a deterrent, bird proofing to make it harder for the birds to nest and a cleaning regime.”

The strategy is proving a success with good feedback from the club’s supporter group. After an initial burst of 10 sessions with the hawks, the visits were carried out three times a week and are now once a week.

“Getting the pigeon situation under control gives us one less thing to worry about especially on match days as we’ve recently had the stadium at full capacity,” Mr Taylor said.

Paul Bates, managing director of Cleankill Pest Control, said: “We are delighted to be working with Oxford United FC especially at such at such an exciting time for the club. We have many staff who are passionate about football and it’s great to be involved with the sport in this way.

“With Oxford United’s recent promotion to the EFL Championship for the first time in 25 years following their 2-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers at Wembley it will be especially important that the problem is kept under control.”

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With more than 25 years' experience in business-to-business publishing, Simon is editor of LBM titles Pest and OvertheCounter. Big fan of Manchester United.