Live sport is responsible for many of our most unforgettable memories, with its jeopardy providing unbeatable experiences that keep us both financially and emotionally invested. As these ever-increasing investments yield incrementally diminishing returns, crippling lethargy is rife within the sports administration merry-go-round. Here are where the problems lie:
Outsourcing the core
Major events are comparatively easy to host because there are far fewer stakeholders, resulting in faster consensus to accommodate much greater flexibility. As a supplier, when dealing with clubs on an individual basis, responsibility for the service you’re providing often already lies somewhere between them and a third party (whether it be talent acquisition, sponsorship, ticketing, CRM, safety, security or catering).
Two things happen when accountability is shared – the feedback channel becomes blurred and each party expects the other to provide resolutions (often resulting in no change). Like any business, directly hiring/seconding the required skills or licensing the right technology is the best way to ensure ownership of these challenges and therefore overcome them. Clubs have a duty to their fans not to outsource the key elements of their business.
Cancel out the tightening grip of broadcast rights on professionalism, with the broadly proportional effect they’ve had on player wages and all that’s left of the sports industry is tiny businesses, behind massive brands.
The biggest fallacy of people working in the business of sport is deriving success from what they do in the office, by what happens on the pitch. It needs engraining within club culture that, unless you’re an actual coach, your only contribution to the playing department is the effect your work has on fans. Better work: happier fans, happier fans: more fans, more happy fans: better atmosphere, better atmosphere: bigger reaction from players. This is the only link and making fans happy is an infinite game, even if (especially) problems are masked by constantly selling out – which merely gives the impression of a job well done.
The best clubs have entirely independent, fan-centric business models because they know you cannot win the league every year.
The long grass
As venues evolve into 365-day assets, their requirement to be hubs for conferencing and community events demand a flexible approach and a variety of new technologies. Rights holders simply do not open themselves up to relevant suppliers in the way other industries do, preferring instead to learn only from each other’s experiences.
This stifles innovation, at best perpetuating the adoption of obsolete technologies, long since taken for granted elsewhere. Junior members of staff (who’s enthusiasm is often inversely reflected in their remuneration) are recruited as potential agents of change, end up so under resourced and unempowered, they quickly conform to “how things are done”. Fans deserve much better but should also demand more from their clubs, who in turn need to recognise that one-size-fits-all solutions are rarely the answer.
Only by integrating individual, best-in-class innovations can they hope to prevail.
Patrick McMeekin is the UK Licensee for a platform that enables fans to order food, drinks and merchandise from their smartphone and have it efficiently delivered to their seats. His experiences of dealing with rights holders over the past three years, leaves a lot to be desired…