When you consider that each team in the Premiership football league plays just 38 matches each year, and half of them are played away at competitors’ grounds, it’s easy to see how a sporting stadium stands empty for much of the season, never mind off-season.
Increasingly, stadiums and sporting venues must earn their keep – they must be able to generate both match day and non-match day revenues, drive long term growth in visitor numbers as a self-sustaining business and of course, support a club’s sales, marketing and fan engagement objectives.
In much of Mather & Co’s experience over the years of working closely with sporting venues – visitor attractions, retail facilities and hospitality spaces have helped to achieve the club’s commercial objectives for its stadium or venue. We’ve delivered them right across the sporting spectrum from football and rugby stadiums to the All England Lawn Tennis Association at Wimbledon, Newmarket Racecourse and have just been retained to design and deliver the National Motor Racing Museum at Silverstone.
One key consideration, almost unique to attractions within sporting venues, is that when footfall is at its highest, those visitors have come for reasons other than to view the exhibition, and so providing an experience that complements and does not compromise the main reason for their visit can be a delicate balance to strike. It must be fully aligned with functional requirements whilst delivering a feasible commercial offer in parallel with presenting the heritage legacy of the club or venue.
Chelsea Football Club’s Stamford Bridge stadium provides the perfect example of an international sporting venue. In 2011 the club introduced a world-class stadium tour and interactive museum at the heart of the venue. The new museum was situated alongside the new club shop and the popular stadium tours to enhance the visitor experience. It utilises state-of-the-art interactive gaming and displays to take fans on a journey through more than 100 years of the club’s history immersing them in the game and in Chelsea Football Club. It does this by including photo opportunities and for fans to place themselves on the pitch at Stamford Bridge or lift one of the many trophies and in doing so, it ticks all of the fan’s boxes in terms of delivering an engaging visitor experience. However, for the club it achieves two commercial objectives:
- It creates a destination attraction to increase footfall to the stadium on non-match days
- It integrates closely with the retail products for further secondary spend revenue opportunities
In 2015, Mather & Co designed the Volvo Ocean Race Museum in Alicante – an annual sporting event – and received more than 12,000 visitors in the first 10 days of the race, but still attracted over 50,000 visitors across the year. For sporting venues that hold annual events, for example the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, or the Grand Prix, a visitor attraction achieves further objectives than just revenue generation. These venues are as much about heritage and the collections they house as the sport people come to watch. They provide a way to future-proof a sporting story for future generations.
In the case of Wimbledon, Newmarket Racecourse and the proposed Silverstone Heritage Experience, these venues also appeal to a much broader range of visitor than the ‘fan’. Non-tennis/motorsport/horseracing fans will visit the locations and enjoy the visitor attraction, bringing a totally new audience to the venue. They also house collections for future generations so they are not lost over time and create a destination attraction that encourages visitors to the site all year round.
Sporting venues are increasingly paying their way.
If you’d like to better understand how Mather & Co can help take the seasonality out of a sporting venue or stadium, please contact Sam Withers.