In recent years, the concept of Fan Engagement in football has emerged as a way for federations, associations, leagues and clubs to strengthen supporter relationships and, as a consequence, to more sustainably grow attendances.
Globally, in the majority of leagues, attendances are falling. This is due to many factors, including the primacy of digital services (including eSports, gaming, the streaming / broadcast of matches and fantasy leagues); the impact of broadcasting deals on changes to kick off times and match days; ticket pricing; the evolution of different working patterns; the emergence of many other leisure and sporting options (including start-up and expansion sports) and negative external perceptions of football, with anti-social behaviour, violence, racism and homophobia, all cited as barriers to attendance and engagement.
The concept of Fan Engagement (reflecting the wider service industry concept of Customer Engagement) proposes to address and / or mitigate these factors by re-defining what has been a historically ‘arms-length’ relationship with fans. Instead, it aims to create a ‘stakeholder’ relationship, where the football organisation is designed around the needs of its community and acts according to the values and principles that define it in the eyes of its fans. Fan Engagement therefore relies on a much deeper understanding of the fan: who they are; the nature of their relationship with the game, club or national association and their individual behaviours, motivations, expectations and experiences.
Although elite leagues and clubs generate far more revenue from commercial partnerships that they do from ticket revenue, Fan Engagement is an absolutely necessary tool to allow them to strengthen existing fan relationships and to open up new supporter markets through a distinct and compelling offer. For non-elite leagues and clubs, the need to sustain or increase local ticket revenue is vital to financial viability. Graduates with an in-depth knowledge of Fan Engagement will therefore be able to offer potential employers a proven, effective and measurable path to sustainability and growth.