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The Fan XP report

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 14: Brentford fans celebrate after their team scored the equalising goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Fulham and Brentford at Craven Cottage on April 14, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Leigh Dawney/Getty Images)

It has become a well-worn truism that live sporting events are no longer just competing with each other for a potential audience member’s time and attention, but with myriad other forms of entertainment.

With almost every match and fixture available on television, and with the internet’s vast array of streaming platforms serving up a whole world of content, the incentive to stay at home on the sofa instead of fighting through the crowds to take up a cramped seat in a cold stadium has never been higher.

The “fan experience” has become an increasingly important factor in sporting rights-holders’ and teams’ thinking. It is now viewed as imperative that a major event provides a full experience for every fan, beginning well before and extending until long after the sporting action. As we will see over the course of this report, every element, from concession stand queues to stewarding, is micro-managed and fine-tuned by stadium operators who are investing heavily in improving the match day for supporters. Many of the figures featured in these articles occupy roles that are singularly focused upon the fan experience, roles that would barely have existed anywhere in the sports industry in the not too distant past.

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It is not just the minutiae of the stadium experience that is changing. In the name of the fan experience and drawing increasing numbers of fans to events, Chase Carey, chief executive of Formula One owner Liberty Media, spoke last year of the need to make each race in the motorsport series “it’s own Super Bowl”. The statement was reflective of both the current view that every sporting contest needs to a major event in its own right, and also of the way in which the sport itself has become just one concern among many.

The Super Bowl itself, of course, ceased to be simply a sporting event in the popular consciousness many years earlier, with its overblown half-time shows and week-long festivities in the host city as crucial a part of the extravaganza as the football. Some of the biggest rights-holders in the world, including Uefa with its new model for the Champions League, have turned to the Super Bowl for guidance on building mega events that create a holistic fan experience.

The next few years, then, will surely see even greater convergence of sport and entertainment events. This report also looks toward that future, and to some of the interesting and often surprising ways rights-holders have sought to better engage with and provide for the most important figure in sport: the fan.

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