Sport: Crowds are down … time to look at the customer experience?

I have read much in the press of late lamenting the reduction in crowd numbers, particularly at NRL games, at live sporting events around the country at the moment.

Isn’t the problem blindingly obvious? It simply costs too much money go to too much live sport at the moment. The times we live in are tough and that has lead to a reduction in discretionary spending. Attending sports events are a discretionary spend that are a road to far for many.

Therefore: is the answer simply to reduce the price of the ticket into the ground?

I think that the ticket into the ground needs to be pitched at a level that is reasonable rather than exorbitant. Equally, as a member of the Reds, I know that I am fairly comfortable with the fees I have paid for two tickets for the season.

What I can imagine creates more stress for those on a budget is the cost of food and beverage in the stadiums. Surely that is a key area that those running the game, or is it those running the stadiums, need to look at. When the food in the stadium costs, on my rough numbers, at least double what it would outside of the stadium it is nothing short of a rip off.

Now some will say here: take your own bag of food into the ground. Frankly, I can not think of anything worse than lugging a back pack of tucker into the ground and then home again.

Even if the prices were reasonable, I still think the experience of the punter at the game also needs to be looked. Customer service is a lost art but getting service staff that know how to actually pour a beer or who are not surly (my sample size in the last 12 months consists of at least 20 live sports events and I have never struck a happy food and beverage server) would help that experience. Reducing the number of advertisements and senseless gimmicks, which do nothing other than irritate the fans (and if anything make one less likely to buy a product) would also enhance this experience.

I love sport and love watching it live. That being the case I am oft prepared to look past a rubbish customer experience to watch the sports that I love. I wonder though if a part of the reason for the reduction in crowd numbers has something to do with the codes failure to garner repeat business? Is the customer experience at a weekend sporting event costing the codes the return of new fans the next time a game is to be staged?

Take Saturday night’s Reds fixture: would you be rushing back next week if the game against the Stormers was your first experience of a rugby game? The game was exciting sure but if you had spend $35 for the privilege to get in the ground, $60 on food and beverage (a couple of beers, a pie, a bottle of water and a magnum), faced ordinary service staff and had to listen to the banality of the “on field compare” go through his tired routine would you come back or simply tune your TV to Foxsports 2 next Saturday night?

All of the codes need to look at the customer experiences they offer and improve them. Price, service and entertainment all need to be considered. The diehards are not leaving the games that they love, they will always attend the games: it is the repeat business from newcomers that is going to change the tide of negative crowd numbers.

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