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TECHNOLOGY


Tom Walker • managing ediTor • sporTs managemenT


he trend is clear: professional sports leagues – and the clubs within them – are securing increasingly lucrative deals to


have games broadcast live on TV. In the UK, it is expected that BSkyB – which owns the Sky Sports channels – could be forced to pay an extra £1.2bn to secure the next set of Premier League broadcast rights, as it goes to battle with rival BT Sport. In North America, the National Football League (NFL) signed a nine-year TV rights deal package with Fox, NBC and CBS which has a combined value of around US$28bn (£17bn, €20bn). But while the global sports industry


is benefitting from increased revenue from rights deals, there has been a conspicuous stagnation – and in some cases even falls – in the number of people actually attending games. In the first six months of the 2013 Major League Baseball (MLB) season, total attendances were down 808,000 on 2012 figures, with 15 of the 30 teams experiencing falls in attendance. The NFL has similar issues, while in Europe, the German Bundesliga has failed to translate the success of its clubs on the pitch to more fans in seats. In Italy, the situation is even more dire. Since 2000, the average attendance at Serie A games has declined from 31,000 to below 22,500 in 2011-12. Last season, 17 of the league’s 20 clubs had grounds less than 70 per cent full on average.


RULES OF ENGAGEMENT T


The technological revolution and the emergence of “digital natives” has created a challenge for professional sports; how to engage and impress increasingly tech-savvy spectators and improve the fan experience, while also using technology to increase revenue


BRINGING THEM BACK The decline in attendance can, in some part, be blamed on the wall-to-wall coverage which is available to sports enthusiasts in their own living rooms. By opting to stay at home for the


game, fans can check stats and fantasy league scores on their mobile device, grab a refreshment without queuing, have a toilet break without missing any of the action (by using “live pause”) and even switch from one game (or sport) to another if the first choice match or event fails to live up to expectations. The option of staying at home is par-


ticularly alluring for “casual” fans – the non-season ticket holders who are pre- cisely the type that clubs would want to bring to their stadia more often. So how can clubs and venues stem the tide and attract these casual fans? Fight fire with fire – offer them tech and enable them to bring their comforts with them. Connectivity is key and a number of


clubs have begun to install high capacity WiFi at their venues, which will allow fans to check stats and stay connected


to their favourite social media platforms throughout the match. Offering internet access will not only make fans feel more at home, it also creates endless possibilities for fan engagement as well as marketing opportunities. German Bundesliga club Borussia


Dortmund (BVB) is one of the clubs to invest in connectivity and plans to install a complete WLAN infrastructure at its Signal Iduna Park. BVB has worked in partnership with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei on the project, which will have the technical capability to deliver stable wireless data services to a capacity crowd of 80,000 – equal to the population of a small town. “We’re a dynamic club that’s always


open to new ideas,” says Joachim Watzke, general manager of BVB. “The new WiFi network will enable spectators to use social networks, post pictures from inside the stadium, send messages, discuss goals, plays and player performance and locate their friends in the stadium. We’ll also work with Huawei to create the possibility for us to deliver


Lord’s Cricket Ground in London was first opened in the 1890s but has stood the test of time – partly due to investment in new technologies 38 Read Sports Management online sportsmanagement.co.uk/digital Issue 4 2013 © cybertrek 2013


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