How to create a premier sporting atmosphere on and off the pitch

by Jason Thomas, CEO of Tappit

The Premier League is upon us again and this season promises to be one of the most exciting and
technologically advanced to date. Beyond the rocketing transfer fees, rising wages and lucrative
sponsorship deals, the league has experienced some big changes over the last few years, most
notably, with the introduction of technological innovations such as Video Assistant Referee (VAR)
and goal-line technology.

The action on the pitch is evolving rapidly, making the 90 minutes of play more exciting than ever
before, but how can stadiums and organisers keep up? The number one priority for sport event
organisers should now be to extend the winning atmosphere throughout the wider stadium site.
Increased onsite entertainment, as well as dedicated fan zones featuring musicians, comedians and
guest speakers are just some ways to achieve this. Tactics such as these have been adopted
effectively at The Etihad, proving to be the ideal solution to engage fans and prolong their
engagement, whilst increasing stadium revenue at the same time.

Extending the entertainment value

Gone are the days where football fans would congregate for 90 minutes, only to swiftly vacate the
stadium upon the blow of the final whistle. Sporting venues and stadia should now be viewed as a
central hub where fans feel united over a shared passion for the sport, and the atmosphere is as
memorable as the end result of the game they came to watch. One way to encourage fans to extend
the time they spend at a venue is to offer loyalty incentives and entertainment before and after the
game itself.

Introducing new forms of entertainment such as live bands (a recent post-match addition to the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium), guest music playlists from celebrity fans as featured at The Etihad and screens showing other games occurring at the same time, will persuade football fans to arrive early and stay late, prolonging the winning atmosphere and, ultimately, increasing stadium revenue. Well-designed concourses, with hospitality lounges and premium food halls are becoming increasingly common throughout the league, extending and improving the overall match-day experience.

Putting the power in the fans’ hands

With more widespread, accessible match-day broadcasting than ever before, stadiums are in tough
competition when it comes to encouraging fans to attend the game in person. As a result, they must provide punters with a more immersive, exciting experience than they would get watching the game from the comfort of their living rooms or in their local pub.

Home to “America’s Team”, the AT&T Stadium in Dallas have set themselves up as pioneers in live sports entertainment, by harnessing technology and introducing an all-inclusive in-stadium
experience. This engaging app not only guides fans to seats, relevant food stalls and toilets, but also allows fans to share their personal photos to the 130-foot display screen.

Stadiums must follow suit, and strive to give fans watching from inside the stadium the opportunity to participate in the game in a way that is not possible outside of the venue, for example, giving them a say in the man-of-the-match vote or encouraging them to get involved in social media conversations from within the stadium, through high speed Wi-Fi. The key is to deliver the best aspects of ‘couch viewing’, along with the added excitement of watching and participating in the live action.

Limiting fan irritations

According to our research, one of the most commonly cited gripes at sporting events is queueing.
How many times have you missed the opening of the game due to the never-ending queues for the
bar, or sacrificed your half time burger, in order to catch every minute of the last half?

62% of football fans said that queuing is the worst thing about attending a match, so stadiums must adopt ways to enhance their payment options and provide a more seamless, stress-free experience. For most, carrying cash is fast becoming a thing of the past, and fans are overwhelming in support of faster alternatives such as card and mobile payments. Implementing cashless solutions is becoming a modern-day necessity, not only minimising queue time but also in providing efficient and actionable insights for organisers, all contributing to an improved fan experience and ensuring that fans catch every moment of the game.

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is pioneering this move towards a cash free system, becoming the first in the country to not accept cash, with almost 900 payment points around the stadium.
Championship sides such as Birmingham City have also adopted this time saving solution, following reports that only 34% of payments in the UK are made using cash.

With increased fan engagement, comes a higher demand from consumers for immersive, inclusive and captivating match day experience off the pitch. While the game has, and always will be, the most essential aspect of the day, it is no longer the only aspect for organisers to consider. The game-day experience no longer starts and ends after 90 minutes. Thankfully, for clubs who are looking to make this leap in improving the match-day experience, technology is the great equaliser and will help them in creating the most engaging atmosphere possible.

The next Digital Sport London event will take place at Lord’s Cricket Ground on September 9th. We’ll be talking about the future of cricket with Owen Hughes, Nissan; Chris Hurst, ex-BBC and ICC; and Andy Muggleton, MCC.

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