The rate at which fanzones across UK stadia are developing is phenomenal, with fan experience proving to be one of the most critical aspects of high-attendance match-days for clubs and venues.

Investing in the development of these fanzones and fan experiences can be a daunting prospect for clubs and venues where space and finances may be at a premium. What are the essential features? How can we maximise space? What costs are involved? Both this document and our free downloadable guide will provide all the information and inspiration you need to start planning and enhancing your fan experience.

No matter what stage you’re at in the development of your fan experience, there will always be venues that are ahead of the game and similarly, those that aren’t quite up to scratch. Several elements can make or break a fanzone, but the most important factor will always be the reception of the fans.

Why invest in a fanzone?

The clue is in the name! As a sports club or venue, your fans and visitors and their experience during their visit will always be the top priority. Your fans are what bring life to a match-day; providing fans with a place to gather before and after the game creates a real community feel that they may not find elsewhere. This, in turn, creates a reason to come back and do it all again next time.

Of course, there is always the business aspect to take into account. These two factors tie in together as if no one attends your fan experience, then there’s no money to be made from merchandise, food & beverage, activation and more. With significant expenditure involved with creating the perfect space for fans and visitors, there is a need to capture some of this cost through various trading outlets and activations. Striking the right balance between investment and return can be very hit and miss. Here are some examples of great fanzones and the elements that make them so:

Fanzones done right

– Crystal Palace FC

At Selhurst Park, you can find what we believe to be one of the most complete and all-encompassing fanzones in the UK, with a wide variety of offerings for fans to enjoy during their visit.

‘Inside the Fanzone fans can enjoy drinks (soft and alcoholic) and food, including an open-air BBQ as well as a large seating area in front of the main stage and big screen. Each week, there will be feature performances in addition to our regulars Pete and Alice the mascots. There are also sections with various video games, activities and other ways to win prizes.’ – [from Crystal Palace’s website]

The amalgamation of activities, food & beverage, entertainment and merchandising provides the full package for visiting fans seeking somewhere to gather pre/post-match. A key factor to Crystal Palace’s successful setup is the uniformity of the branding across all aspects of the area. Utilising a series of Rapid Retail shop units, Palace had full creative control of the fluid branding throughout. These customised units in the club’s signature red naturally blend effortlessly with the club’s branding across the fan area and beyond, providing true consistency and aesthetic appeal.

– Liverpool FC

When creating a fanzone, one choice that many clubs must make is whether to target the family audience or your average supporter. Alcohol sales are one element that can change the keynote of the area and will undoubtedly affect the crowd that it attracts.

Liverpool has taken this factor in their stride, creating two separate areas for their fans to congregate on match-days – one for the family crowd and one for the more adult crowd. This solid implementation creates a true all-encompassing fan experience, with something for everyone to enjoy before and after the match.

‘Liverpool FC’s Fan Zones open four hours before kick-off on a matchday and are a great place for both home and visiting supporters to meet before the game and soak up the atmosphere of Anfield.

We have two Fan Zones every matchday, Fan Zone Paisley Square, off Walton Breck Road, and the Family Park which is located on Anfield Road. They are a place for families and friends to congregate before the game to enjoy live entertainment and activities, exclusive content on our big screens as well as food and drinks and retail stalls selling a variety of tasty treats and merchandise to set you up for the match.’

– Rangers FC

The key factor that puts Rangers in this list stems from a visit to their website. Looking through their latest news stories, you’re likely to find a pre-match update which offers information about the fanzone and what’s taking place on the upcoming match-day. From live acts, special guests, Q&As, giveaways and much more, Rangers offer a great deal of variety in terms of engaging activities for all ages to enjoy. An example of this from their recent fixture against Motherwell is as follows:

‘The free to enter Rangers Fan Zone opens at 1 pm and is packed with features including football activities, a European Cup Winner’s Cup trophy appearance, fun giveaways and a visit from Broxi, Roxi and Boris!

We will also have a live performance from Damien Hendry who will be performing a selection of well-known and original Rangers music plus covers of popular songs.’

Reasons to expand/develop your fanzone

We have already discussed many factors that support the development of fanzones. The reasoning behind such improvements can sometimes be skewed, so here are some real examples of clubs that made the right changes and the reasoning behind those changes.

– Northampton Saints RFC

Listening to your fans. With the community atmosphere created between sports clubs and their supporters, the relationship between the two entities should always remain positive and mutually beneficial. Northampton Saints have open ears and have proven this to their fans by implementing various changes to their fanzone based on supporter feedback.

‘You spoke, we listened… And, as a result, this season the Supporter Village at Franklin’s Gardens will be better than ever before on matchday.

Improvements to the Supporter Village have been undertaken over the summer to provide more shelter from the elements, more places to sit and to reduce queuing time following feedback heard within the Club’s end-of-season survey.’

– Middlesbrough United FC

The Riverside Fanzone. For the vast majority of clubs and venues creating fanzones, you’ll find that for the most part, these areas are located within the premises of the stadium. Middlesbrough’s unique approach sees a fan experience spilling out onto the nearby riverside, where attendance is not restricted to only those watching the match.

One advantage of this, especially with a club with strong local support, is the boosted atmosphere that comes with this area being open to all. Fans who may have been unable to attend the game can still come along and get involved with the pre and post-match entertainment, providing a great addition to the community.

‘We’re opening due to popular demand after a busy day on Thursday, which saw a mix of students visiting Teesside University’s enrollment day and nearby office workers.

Whether it’s a different destination for your coffee or lunch break, a change of scenery for your afternoon meeting or just a spot to meet friends on an early-finish Friday, why not give it a go?’

– Ipswich Town FC

Enhancing retail offering. As we’ve covered briefly, the revenue opportunity is one of the most critical factors for a successful fanzone. Substantial investment in fan experience must be justified financially by recouping the cost through merchandising, activation and food & beverage sales. If done correctly, over time, the additional revenue captured will begin to outweigh the capital expenditure.

One advantage that Ipswich has taken advantage of is the ability to rent merchandising solutions from Rapid Retail, with no upfront cost required. This allows for a consistent revenue stream that does not harm the clubs budget, as revenue is captured at the same rate that payments are required.

Lee Hyde, Director of Retail for Ipswich Town shared his excitement for the new retail units via LinkedIn:

‘A video tour of our new Rapid Retail Ltd Fanzone pop-up store.

✅ Better location

✅ Easier access for fans

✅ 3x more product space

✅ Card payments

✅ WiFi Touchretail ePOS’

As you can see from the various examples, several factors must be taken into account when creating or developing a fanzone. Many features and facilities can make or break the experience for your fans. Hopefully, through this article, you will have found some inspiration and will be more confident when planning aspects of your fan area. But that’s not all we can offer, check out the link below to download our free guide, answering all the big questions offering a step-by-step plan to building your fanzone.

Download your free guide below:

Rapid Retail is the UK’s leading stadium and sports venue retail supplier. We offer a range of fanzone packages providing every element from merchandising to activation.
If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you, contact us on +44 (0)1386 555044 or email sales@rapidretail.co.uk