As we wind down summer and anxiously await the start of another football season, across the Atlantic Ocean, this past Saturday kicked off the 2015-16 English Premier League season with fans packing stadiums as hope lives for all 20 of the top league soccer teams.
One aspect that keeps staff members and executives for professional sports teams around the world and college athletics departments in the U.S. busy is constantly seeking how to make the in-venue experience better than what the fan can get from the comfort of their couch in front of a large high definition TV.
Many stadiums around the U.S. are aggressively ramping up the wireless connections available to fans and college athletic departments across the country are pondering whether or not to add beer sales to stadium concession stands.
According to a recent study by the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators (NACMA) in conjunction with the University of Oregon Warsaw Sports Marketing Center showed that the most important factors for students attending games were interest in the sport, game time, price of tickets, opponent and team record/ranking.
Which is to suggest that the same things that have kept fans coming to games for decades are some of the key factors that still keep fans coming.
This past February, I had the awesome opportunity to attend a home Chelsea F.C. English Premier League game at the club’s West London Stamford Bridge stadium. What hit me following the game was the simplicity of the in-stadium experience and how enjoyable, how awesome the experience was.
There were a couple things that stood out. Alcohol was only sold up until kickoff and again at halftime, but fans are not allowed to take drinks to their seats, all alcohol must be consumed in the concourse. There were only two small video boards that basically showed only live action. And everyone was engaged in the game happening on the pitch in front of them.
Sure, the mobile connection seemed strong as I was able to post pictures but I found myself rarely reaching for my phone. Granted, soccer is very different from American football in that there are no real breaks in action that need to be filled with sponsor messages or music, but there were plenty of organic cheers and chants filling the stadium cheering on the home team.
In the end, it was the simplicity of the in-game experience that made attending a game at Stamford Bridge so enjoyable and so memorable.
Maybe its time for us stateside to wonder if all the extras that are a part of the game are actually what takes away from providing a great experience for the fans. In the end, we need to make the experience itself matter.
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