OPINION: Making the Stadium Pay Its Way

07 Dec 2016

The English Premier League may be one of the richest in the world, but that doesn’t mean professional football in the UK is awash with cash. Stadia Solutions’ James Cook explains how teams can make the most of an often underused asset, the stadium…

Many clubs urgently need to think of how they can drive new sources of revenue, making them less reliant on the unreliable fortunes of league position, relegation and promotion.  

For most teams, and smaller clubs in general, off-pitch income needs to be the larger share of the overall business to balance on-pitch costs. This means looking for income outside of match days.

Our view is that their stadium holds the key to more business opportunities than they think. With teams playing an average of 38 matches a season, half of which will be away games, the home ground may be empty for more than 300 days a year – all days when it could be generating revenue. But with many of the smaller teams focused on the day-to-day business, these wider possibilities are often missed. Clubs should be thinking how they can make their stadium pay – not just on match days, but 365 days a year – a connected stadium.

This requires a new mindset – with clubs thinking of their stadium as a venue, not only for football, but also for other events, including music or corporate. As such, they need to compete with other venues for the business. To do this, they need to make sure they can offer the same facilities and equipment that clients require, including AV technology, connectivity, competitive food and beverage packages and the interior configurations to appeal to a wide variety of event opportunities.

Football clubs have a lot going for them when it comes to attracting business – regardless of their league position. A typical lower-league club with a ground in the middle of a town or city, has a prime location, highly visible in the local community – most likely surrounded by passing traffic and often close to shops and public transport.

No venue in such a prime location should shut its doors and go quiet for weeks and months on end. The ground should be seen as a venue which needs to attract customers and business. To achieve this, it helps to have some attractive inventory and assets to offer.

Forward-thinking investment will help to bring the business in, and some of the investments required – like WIFI, food and beverage and AV – are all things that can be used to enhance the experience for match-day fans and non-sports visitors. Also, many clubs can make the most of their location – in the city centre, or next to a busy road, to offer themselves as an advertising medium. Many clubs are now doing this, using large screens on their exterior for high-impact outdoor advertising.

Whilst there is a need for clubs to work towards a connected stadium we understand that this comes at a cost. Quite often the bulk of budget is allocated to the playing staff. We understand this and as such create solutions that are either self-funding or will offer a very efficient ROI. Offering such solutions that can provide commercial value without a financial outlay for the club is vital.

Nearly all new stadia being built around the country are already factoring this multi-purpose mindset into their plans. Most new projects now include other revenue-generating assets – a hotel, shops, cinemas and restaurants. The modern stadium has become a more rounded venue that has football at its core, but plays a larger role as a focal point in the community, attracting business day after day, throughout the year.

None of this is easy, and every club’s situation is different. But many are so focused on the day-to-day struggles of football, that these wider possibilities are missed. The beauty of this strategy is that it can be disconnected from success or failure on the pitch and become a way to sustain the club through the highs and lows of league football.

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