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Engaging fans can mean more cash

Operators of sports stadiums have to be prepared to invest in fan engagement. That was the message from the fan engagement panel at yesterday’s Sports Venue and Fan Engagement Summit (produced by SVG Europe and PanStadia & Arena Management magazine).

The expert panel said venues of all sizes need to be totally flexible in how they operate their sites; and as well as making the football fan feel completely at home in the build-up as well as during and after a game, the venue had to place the same degree of emphasis on supplying a boardroom, or exploiting some of its real estate for a major business event which might have 5,000 attendees.

Jeroen van Iersel, marketing manger at Amsterdam ArenA, said it wasn’t just that his venue had to switch from football to a giant music event; it has also been expanding, to provide much greater flexibility and adaptability.

“This means handing 70-80 large conferences annually, each with break-out rooms for anywhere from 20 to 5,000 people. But we want to make every visitor, for whatever reason they’re here, feel welcome – and then convert that single visit to multiple extra visits.”

David Lowry, technical advisor at Belfast’s SSE Arena, said the venue was moving towards push-button changeovers with moveable seating, lighting and the other back-office flexibility, in order to boost appeal.

Paul Lipscombe, head of technology at Bristol’s Ashton Gate Stadium, explained that he and his colleagues were installing very high-capacity WiFi with 40Gbps trunking to ensure that the were ready for market demands and 4K coverage.

They had also successfully hosted the AGMs for PwC and NatWest, with all the challenges they entailed.

“Currently we are handling 30-40 such events a year, and it is growing,” he said.

Lowry added that it was also important to remember that guests could range from toddlers to elderly folk, and the amenities had to be fully flexible. “Visitors need a great experience every time, so that the parents or grandparents also have fun and enjoy the visit.”