Premier League clubs will consolidate their position as the richest in the world thanks to new broadcast deals set to activate at the start of the upcoming season. Despite the increase in total revenues for many clubs, match-day earnings are falling.
Average Premier League attendances in 2012/13 hit around 36,000 with capacity exceeding 95 per cent for the first time, according to Deloitte. However, with limited stadium developments and a tough marketplace for corporate hospitality, match-day revenue remains around its 2006/07 level.
To soften the blow, clubs are set to offer Wi-Fi access to all their fans in an effort to identify new ecommerce opportunities and accrue more data. Manchester City, Liverpool FC, Celtic and Rangers are the first to implement working systems in the UK, but it is understood around 15 Premier League clubs are in talks to follow in their footsteps.
Josh Robinson, director of creative and integrated solutions at Sports Revolution, which has partnered with Cisco to deliver the service to Celtic Park, says it has the potential to open up a “slew of monetisation opportunities” during live events. The business has created an app for the club and its sponsors to serve branded targeted content to fans over the network. Additionally, sponsors are able to develop their own initiatives including loyalty-based schemes, contactless payment services and real-time promotions.
For Celtic and Glasgow rival Rangers, which was plunged into administration and banished to Scottish football’s fourth tier last year, the Wi-FI push represents a chance to offset the limited size of their domestic broadcast market. Both are said to be prioritising betting services with partners Paddy Power and Bet Butler respectively before introducing further opportunities.
Robinson says: “If you think about flagship stores, where you have highly promotional environments, which are absolutely soaked in atmosphere, that’s what stadiums are. Clubs and their partners will need to be cognisant of the fact that fans are at stadiums to watch the match not buy products when creating campaigns over the Wi-Fi network.”
Elsewhere, Manchester City and Liverpool, which are working with Cisco and Xitrus respectively to support their networks, hope it will pave the way for mobile data applications and services. It is part of a wider strategy to insulate their business models from the performances on the pitch by enhancing the overall match-day experience.
Clubs, sponsors and legal experts have been drawing up a raft of new agreements on who owns the customer data. But, sports marketing experts say more clarity will be needed to convince sponsorship chiefs to pay more when renegotiating deals.
Adam Bull, senior consultant for the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, says: “It’s a contentious issue and one that clubs have to be particularly careful about who owns or has access to that customer data. If the clubs themselves can own that data then it becomes very powerful for them when negotiating sponsorship contracts.”
Celtic are using a marketing model built and created by Sports Revolution and so do not hold the rights to the data. It is similar situation with City who are working with network provider O2 to manage the delivery of services over the network. Liverpool, however, is running its own data network.
By offering Wi-Fi access to fans, football clubs are set to overcome an inherent problem on match-days: connectivity. If they can overcome the early teething problems and put robust commercial models in place then it could prove invaluable for driving growth.