Match of the day


The way we experience sports has evolved dramatically over the last decade.

Attending a sporting event is now much more than simply watching a contest. Modern venues are exploring new and innovative ways to drive revenues, with enhancements to the end-to-end matchday experience being delivered by both event organisers and stadium operators.

The matchday experience starts well before a fan takes their seat to watch the game. Fanzones outside stadia now provide pre-match entertainment including live music, food, big screen TVs and coaching sessions for children. This encourages fans to arrive much earlier to soak up the atmosphere and provides incremental revenue opportunities through food and drink sales and sponsorship of the zone from commercial partners. An EY report commissioned by the organisers of the Rugby World Cup hosted in England in 2015 estimated that sales of food and drink in the Fanzones during the tournament exceeded £13m.

Digital platforms are being introduced in stadia to further enhance matchday experience and provide commercial partners with increased opportunities to engage with fans. Rangers’ Ibrox Stadium partnered with Eleven Sports last year to install a series of large format displays in concourse and hospitality areas throughout the stadium. The screens form part of the Stadium TV network, creating a social platform to engage and inform fans, and ultimately drive the matchday conversation.

Getting closer to fans has become a priority of venue operators, as it leads to increased commercial and marketing opportunities. Borussia Dortmund partnered with Huawei to provide stadium Wi-Fi to supporters, in addition to adding a ‘matchday mode’ to their mobile app. Fans selecting the matchday mode receive information about weather and traffic updates, as well as exclusive content and offers that can only be accessed when connected to the stadium Wi-Fi.

The revenue uplifts from installing stadium Wi-Fi have been evidenced by Sporting Kansas City. Following installation of WiFi at the stadium, an app was introduced which allows fans to order food and drink and upgrade their seats. As a result, matchday revenues rose by 40%. The opportunity for similar gains to be realised in the UK is clear: football fans here spend on average less than £3 per match whilst inside the ground, whereas US sports fans spend around £13. In a survey Pragma undertook with Londoners, over a third of stadium visitors said stadium Wi-Fi was highly important in creating a great matchday experience.

However, a careful balance must be struck. Some sports fans are sensitive to change and put off by commercialisation. When PSV Eindhoven rolled out Wi-Fi in their stadium in 2014, fans protested due to fears it would damage the match atmosphere. Therefore, the success of any initiative must also be measured by the level of fan satisfaction.

The increasingly global reach of fanbases means that this is about more than just spectating. Matchday is now a social experience, competing with the increasingly sophisticated at-home TV experience. Venues need to recreate themselves as ‘entertainment destinations’ for before, during and after the game to benefit from opportunities to build stronger relationships with fans and increase revenues.

Naveed Javaid