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Stadia / Venue | Oct 4, 2016 | 3 min read

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should – and three more lessons from the Leaders Future Stadium Summit

James.Emmett@leadersinsport.com'
JamesEmmett

It’s hot take time, live from the Leaders Future Stadium Summit at Stamford Bridge, where around 200 sports executives have joined us to learn about technology, ticketing and the rest. Our thanks to Andrew Serio and SportBusiness Group’s Kevin McCullagh for their insights.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

The San Francisco 49ers had to put an emphasis on technology when they moved into their spanking new Levi’s Stadium. Silicon Valley is on their doorstep; it would be remiss not to. Sean Kundu, VP of New Ventures at the NFL team, was fluent on the franchise’s use of VenueNext technology, a suite of in-venue mobile applications that have got Kundu thinking that, actually, what the 49ers are is a systems integration company. Wisdom, the real-time audience data tool the franchise uses, is saving $600,000 a year on staffing. Through it, Kundu was able to glean that the stadium doesn’t fill up until at least 30 minutes into the game. No need to have staff in place four hours before kick off then. In total, the 49ers are making $2 million in realised savings from their apps every year. But some things aren’t getting as much pick-up as anticipated. In-seat concession delivery, for example, is only getting around 800 hits a game. And that is exactly why a club like the Green Bay Packers, so says the franchise’s VP of marketing and fan engagement Gabrielle Dow, won’t be a first mover like the tech-centric 49ers. The average age of a Packers fan is mid-50s. You’ve got to cater for the audience you’ve got, not the one you want.

 

All buildings – this building – are not always easy to navigate

You can say that again, Sean. We’re very grateful to our venue partners at Chelsea FC, but it’s fair to say that wayfinding in this grand old stadium isn’t exactly what the tech generation would call ‘intuitive’. No such problem for Kundu and the 49ers. As you’d expect, they’ve got an app for that. “It’s like Google Maps for the venue.” We believe him.

 

You are what you run

Henk Markerink, who, like the Amsterdam ArenA, is tall, sharp, and well-coiffed (remember, the ArenA has a retractable roof!) took participants through a whistle-stop tour of Amsterdam’s leading stadium, discussing the ground’s structure, strategy, and future vision. The 20-year-old stadium has served its purpose well – hosting Ajax (the ground’s main tenant) as well as other UEFA competitions alongside the world’s leading entertainment artists. In fact, business is split roughly 50/50 across sport and entertainment, demonstrating the importance in a diversity of events for any large-scale venue. The main objectives for the organisation won’t surprise anyone: “safety and security is the number one priority,” “connecting and sharing is everything,” but additional features such as a 100% carbon-neutral footprint and hosting the FIFA 2017 video game world championships (a topic of great interest to us at Leaders!) mean that the ground is continuing to innovate to remain relevant in today’s fast-moving world – an additional €75m of investment is planned until 2020.

 

The Americans are ahead of the Europeans, on and off the golf course

At least some would reach that conclusion. An observation in session making a convincing case for the use of RFID wristband technology on golf courses: the Americans are much more manipulative in the way they create atmosphere in professional golf. The latest Ryder Cup saw them turn the first tee into an entertainment extravaganza with live music, hired chanters that were strategically placed in the crowd to start chants, cheerleaders, and more.

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