Fan experience – consulting with the Australian Rugby Union (ARU)

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Sporting teams are often in the unique position of being the draw card for a venue, however often having little influence or input into the experience that is provided for their fans on the day.  This occurs as venues are owned and operated by governments or other organisations who are also responsible for the hospitality which is available on a game day.  Leasing arrangements with venue operators often result in the need of third part hospitality providers to understaff outlets and charge exorbonant prices.

To better understand the fan experience offered to fans of Australians national rugby union team, the Wallabies, myself and Keith Parry undertook research with Wallabies Gold members.  the executive summary of our report is provided below

This study explored the various elements that influence fan participation in the game day experience. In particular the elements of stadium design and use from a fan perspective, as well as factors that inhibit or facilitate the fan experience were examined. Unlike previous research, the current study examined both tangible and intangible factors that influenced spectator satisfaction with sports matches, through eight scales; getting to and around the stadium, stadium aesthetics, entertainment, screens and scoreboards, seating, food and beverage, stadium atmosphere, and stadium management. 293 supporters of the Australian Rugby Union team on the ARU’s Wallabies 1st Gold membership database completed a primarily quantitative online survey.

The study found that attending rugby matches is a social experience with survey respondents typically attending with family and friends. Responses indicate that Wallabies 1st members are satisfied by the current game day experience and the stadiums that the Wallabies team play in. Fans particularly valued the seating at venues, being able to view the playing area, having an unobstructed view, and being close to the playing field. The atmosphere at games was also a crucial motivator for match day attendance, with a full stadium seen as a key factor in generating a good atmosphere.

However the entertainment at venues and the food and beverage offerings were identified as being areas of dissatisfaction. Entertainment may not be seen as important to the participants in this study as, given their high value membership, they are likely to be highly identified with the Wallabies and therefore less interested in consumer-based entertainment offerings. The food and beverage on offer at stadiums was identified as being overpriced and of poor quality. In addition it was found that participants were frustrated with the time taken to queue for these offerings.

It is recommended that the ARU consider experientialising the journey to and from the stadium, work to create a feeling of topophilia by decorating venues in Wallabies’ colours, and address the food and beverage offerings and service at venues.

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