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Challenges and Digital Competencies Essential for the Future of Live Sports

Ryan Hall Manager, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 2 Jul 2020

Live sporting events have changed. Here’s what sports teams and their venues need to consider and be prepared for to successfully and safely welcome fans back.

The New Normal

Industries around the world are facing a ‘new normal’ as they welcome customers back into their business environments, and each industry is faced with unique challenges and deliverables to do so in a safe, practical, and convenient way.  Organizations need strategies and solutions to meet heightened operational demands and support shifting customer expectations – live sports events chief among them.

New Normal for Sports Venues: Ongoing Dynamics and Challenges

Elevated Challenges for Live Sports Venues

Given the inherent nature of sports venues and how they’re used, these environments have an especially intimidating and arduous task ahead of them to successfully reopen to the public.

  • Physical Characteristics: sports venues are large spaces with an abundance of public surfaces to keep adequately sanitized, physical touch points, and a limited number of entry and exit points for visitors.  For some venues, there’s also a lack of open airflow (like enclosed arenas, training facilities, etc.)  
  • Volume of People: sports venues typically host tens of thousands of fans in a crowded, high-density setting; this is in addition to the large number of supporting staff (concessions, security, team personnel) and related businesses (press, retail, etc.)   
  • Enabling Essential Systems and Devices: digital transformation was already underway to streamline and enhance the in-venue experience, but in today’s current climate the enablement and uptime of these business systems and devices will be more important than ever before.     
  • Use of Space: sports venues are also often used as multi-use event centers, hosting concerts, entertainment shows, conferences and more.  The diversity and frequency of these activities only adds to the complexity of preparing the space from event to event.

With these characteristics in mind, sports venues have a new set of criteria they need to be mindful of in the industry’s ‘new normal.’   

New Challenges and Demands

Sports teams and their venues were already challenged with increasing, continuously evolving demands – driven by both fan expectations and operational/business requirements – but recent events have only escalated these demands and introduced new complexities for venue environments.    

  • Health and Safety: sports venues must not only work to ensure fan safety, they must consider the safety of all supporting staff and gameday personnel (as outlined above).  Doing so requires keeping public surfaces clean, reducing physical touchpoints, and maintaining social distancing protocols.   
  • Reducing Contact: a fundamental method for maintaining health and safety is reducing physical contact in-venue across the game day experience, from entry into the stadium, transactions and purchases, and the general management of fan/staff movement throughout the event.
  • Crowd Management: understanding of movements in and around the venue while effectively managing the foot traffic flow of fans/supporting staff during an event and proactively preventing situations of overcrowding.

Essential Digital Competencies for the ‘New Norm’ of Live Sports

How do sports venues deliver upon these goals? What are the critical business and operational use cases every sports organization should consider in their venue moving forward?

  • In-Seat Ordering: an extension of contactless payments, in-seat ordering adds another layer of convenience and safety to the in-venue experience, whether it means fans can order and pay for food/beverage in their seats to be picked up at concessions, or if a member of the in-venue staff personally delivers the purchased items to the seated fan.
  • Mobile and Application Analytics: data analytics that helps sports better understand the mobile and application engagements, usage, behaviors of their fans is invaluable information for sports teams and their venues; these insights helps teams better tailor the experience to fans’ preferences, determine the adoption of digital/mobile investments, and empower targeted campaigns.     
  • Location-Based Insights: analytics surrounding in-venue engagements throughout a venue is critical; for people, it delivers intelligence on how guests move throughout the environment to prevent overcrowding, then collecting and modeling this data to predict the requirements of future events (‘x’ number of devices over ‘y’ amount of time and ‘z’ amount of space), ultimately creating greater operational efficiencies.

As with many industries, digital transformation in sports venues is only going to accelerate as teams look to safely host guests in their environments.  To achieve any of these use cases, or any new concepts that will inevitably emerge, sports teams will need a purpose-built solution that delivers connectivity, centralized management, analytics, and converged networking to align with the go-forward application, operational, and digital ecosystem demands. 

For more information on how Wi-Fi 6 ‘connectivity kits’ can enable key operational use cases for venues, check out Extreme’s latest solution offering here.

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