It’s official: aside from the dreaded VAR, new technologies are a big win for sports fans. It’s bringing new supporters into stadiums around the world, increasing club revenues and deepening engagement at home too. According to Capgemini, 70% of fans say emerging technologies have enhanced their overall viewing experience, both inside and outside the stadium. And if they enjoy their tech experience, 56% would attend more matches while 92% would spend more on online subscriptions.
Stadiums are gradually transforming to become day-long destinations, offering high-quality retail and shopping experiences worth staying around for before and after the game itself. New possibilities enabled by vastly improved Wi-Fi and data capture means clubs and sports bodies can offer deeper, more personalised experiences. Apps can provide everything from games to stats to tailored offers once inside the ground. And in the future, giant holograms may allow fans to watch live games taking place thousands of miles away at their local stadium.
Here are just some of the innovative ways three football clubs from across the pond and closer to home are using cutting-edge technology to connect with fans and increase stadium visits and revenue.
LAFC go high tech for Banc of California Stadium
Many football clubs and organisations will need to retrofit technology, but some have had the luxury of futureproofing. LAFC, only four years old at the time, opened their new stadium in 2018. This meant they could embed the technology for easy mobile ticketing, digital car park passes and Wi-Fi throughout the stadium from the get-go. Biometric scanning means that fans can, if they choose, scan a fingerprint instead of a physical or digital ticket, having previously provided their passport to authenticate their ID. LAFC hope to expand the use of biometric scanning for buying beers and snacks in the future – the stadium is already cashless to mitigate the lengthy queues that put people off spending time there before and after the game.
Innovation drives ticket sales for Sporting Kansas City
Elsewhere in America, at the LiveStrong Park, home of Sporting Kansas City, fans can use digital technology to meet their friends, tweet to a giant screen, watch personalised replays, play games and more. All the data collected can be used to provide even better, more tailored experiences in the future. An indication of how much impact the enhanced experience created by digital transformation has can be seen in the ticket sales; they’ve gone up from 3,000 to 12,000 per game despite price increases.
But it’s Tottenham Hotspur that score the winner
Perhaps the best example of a state-of-the-art stadium experience opened a year ago and is just a few miles up the road from BIO HQ at Tottenham Hotspur. Tottenham’s aim was twofold: to create a seamless experience, and to make the stadium somewhere worth spending the whole day. Technology is embedded in every stage of the customer journey. Executive Director of Tottenham Donna Cullen commented “We want it to be one of the most technologically advanced in the world.”
Tottenham had the advantage of being able to embed technology in its initial construction, putting in a network that enables everything from ticketing and electric turnstiles to video screens, LED signage, public Wi-Fi and mobile point of sale. The combination of public Wi-Fi and data analytics means fans can receive targeted offers likely to appeal to them.
Christopher Lee, architect with Populous, Tottenham’s stadium designers commented: “Now we all carry a supercomputer in our pockets, so there are opportunities for layering the viewing experience – from seeing different camera angles in your seat, to tracking the heart rate, speed and impact of players wearing smart clothing on the pitch.”
Fans spending more time at the stadium means not only are they likely to spend more per head, but also it makes it easier to manage the flow of people in and around the stadium – no small benefit as anyone who’s ever seen the bottlenecks at a local London tube station on match day will know. Fans can navigate the stadium on the day using the Spurs App, and Beacon technology also helps when crowds build, providing real-time occupancy data, so that staff can better manage bars and toilet queues, sending in extra staff to the former and using intelligent signage to alert fans to toilets elsewhere in the stadium. Even the beer is served quicker, using an innovation bottom-up filling system that gives you a six-second pint and meaning staff can serve more customers.
All this technology has had an incredible impact on the bottom line. Spurs are now generating £800,000 in revenue at each home game from what fans are spending in restaurants, bars, suites and street food, with plenty of fine dining options and even the club’s own microbrewery. Compare that to second in the premiership Manchester City, with £150,000 a game.
All in all, it’s clear that football and new technology is taking teams to the top and giving today’s fans experiences their forbears couldn’t have imagined. At a time when there’s not a lot of good news around, at least we can look forward to new seasons of exciting innovations in the future!