Connected Stadiums-The Fans Point of View

We’ve just picked up a timely post about stadium WiFi published on an Arsenal FC fan blog and it makes for interesting reading as it comes directly from a die-hard football fan.

First of all, a bit of background on the site, Le-Grove: was set up in late 2007 by Geoff and Pedro. They set out to create a place where Arsenal fans could talk about whatever they liked football-wise without the fear of aggressive recriminations. The site has posted over 1,600 times and has over 1,000,000 comments approved and published.

I am always amazed by the diligence and passion that football club fan sites engender and Le-Grove is no exception. Whatever you might think of The Gunners – I think that fans in the mould of Geoff and Pedro are worth their weight in gold. What’s more, their opinions count.

Anyway, Pedro wrote a post where, apart from opening up a debate about Arsenal’s inability to deal effectively with teams coming to defend and try to steal a point, reflected on the need for WiFi at football grounds.

Pedro writes: “As there’s not much going on, I thought I’d open up a debate around in game WIFI at sports clubs. Liverpool have installed access to 12,000 fans, Manchester City are starting to work on the problem and my client, Saracens, had it up in the stadium yesterday so fans could interact with the brand before, during and after the game.

Then comes the important bit: “The big issue lots of Arsenal fans have with the concept is that it might drain the atmosphere with people looking at their phones all game.”

This is a point of view that we have heard many times in discussions with sports fans and indeed many commentators also have this atavistic and fearful response to the introduction of “new technologies” such as stadium WiFi.

To set the record straight: WiFi is a very mature technology and has been in use for around 20 years. It’s stable, secure and has the ability to provide exceptionally fast connectivity.

So it was very welcome to read Pedro’s reaction to the availability of WiFi at the Saracens rugby ground. He writes that he saw no evidence that WiFi drained the atmosphere.

“Well, it certainly didn’t affect the rugby that way yesterday. I find the idea of being able to get access to streams of in game data an exciting one. The main difference between being at the game and being able to watch it on TV is the wealth of information you get with TV. If you could get the stats as the game went on it’d be an enhancement of the match day experience.

“If you could get access to replays or even the little snippets you don’t get… like on Saturday, I didn’t see what the penalty was given for. Quite often, if I don’t get home after a game, I get little parts of my match report wrong because I don’t have eyes good enough to pick out the bits you do on TV.

Pedro also understands that “from a purist’s point of view” fans should 100% focus on the game but he says: “Let’s step into reality for a moment here. People chat amongst themselves, look at their phones, call people to find out what’s going on elsewhere… switch off. Not to mention the amount of down time that happens through a game. I know online, everyone is the greatest fan that ever did live, but in reality, looking around the ground, that’s not true 100% of the time.”

And Pedro concludes with our mantra at JSP & Connected Everywhere, and just to be clear, he has no association whatsoever with us.

He writes: “You can’t fight the future… if they can web up the Underground, they’ll crack stadiums. Then they’ll start driving revenue from fans with food & beer offers, betting deals and score related merchandise offers. “

We’ll keep an eye on the debate and report back as it develops but let us know what you think about free, fast and secure fan WiFi at football grounds.

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