Technology has touched virtually all aspects of modern life, including, now more than ever, the world of professional sports and fandom. There have been some instances where technology has been infused into the actual gameplay itself, which hasn’t necessarily gone down well (yes, the ongoing debate around VAR in the Premier League), but there’s been one area where the rise of technology has been welcome: the fan experience.
Today, fans can engage with the sports they love in ways that were previously not possible. In this article, we’ll take a look at how technology is increasingly adopted by fans to enhance their enjoyment of their passion.
Interaction With Clubs
In the olden days — even ten years ago — football clubs would have to channel their messages through media organisations, such as Sky Sports and the daily newspapers. There was a direct line between clubs and fans, but this was usually just through emails and actual written letters. Today, that’s changed: fans, even casual fans, have access to the behind the scenes goings-on of their club. The clubs have benefited, too. Rather than depending on traditional medium outlets to do the engagement thing for them, they can cut out the middleman and go straight to the source.
The rise of the internet has also allowed individuals to follow sports that they were previously unable to engage with. While some sports — such as football — are relatively easy to understand, some, such as horse racing or boxing, require that the viewer has a more nuanced understanding if they will get the most from the event.
The internet, and the rapid access to information it provides, has made this a realistic option for anyone with a smartphone in their pocket. There are websites that provide expert horse racing tips, videos that offer a technical analysis of boxing fights, and podcasts that take listeners behind the scenes of sports’ most defining moments. Thanks to these things, the mystery that can shroud some sports and thus compromise the fan experience is eliminated, or at least reduced.
Fantasy football has certainly been around a long time, but it took off in a big way following the formation of the Premier League. And then it really took off with the arrival of the smartphone. Today, a staggering 8.5 million people play fantasy football in the UK. What intrigues about this fact is that while most tech developments aim to foster an interest in a sport or further the connection between fan and club, fantasy football functions to put fans’ existing knowledge to the test.
It’s also not brand-loyal. Players can dismiss a player from their own real-life club from their line-up and trade them for a player from a real-life rival team. To the players of fantasy football, it’s points that are the most important thing: that means they could accept — even cheer on — a rival goal if it meant that they grabbed more points. In this sense, the individualism that technology encourages has influenced arenas historically built on solidarity (supporting the club above all else).
Staying On Top Of the Action
Finally, perhaps the way that we feel the impact of tech most is with the ability to stay up to date with the action, not just for your own club, but for all clubs, all over the world. Instantaneous results and analysis are things that were available in only limited forms in years past, but which today are accessible to everyone, thanks to the apps, websites, and podcasts contained on the smartphone they have in their pocket.