A hundred years since the inception of professional football sees growth far beyond sporting entertainment alone

Football is one of the most significant sports worldwide, with surveys showing that the majority of people can agree on its expected growth in social and economic importance by 2022. As football continues to develop and grow in popularity, several elements are changing as revenue streams become outdated and replaced with more modern solutions.

Economically, we have always seen football providing income opportunities to cities and countries in which the events are held, stimulating the tourism sector, creating jobs, investing in existing facilities and hospitality, and so on. Alongside these benefits, there are newer and expanding areas requiring investment to develop, such as e-sports, gambling and media industries, which could in time, invite further lucrative monetisation.

Equally important are the social aspects and effects they have on communities and people within them; with sport, in general, sending a positive message to keep people fit and active, encouraging young people to get involved with the world of sport and similarly, providing older generations with activities to enrich their lifestyle. Investment in community sports facilities provides a place for activities that assist in the improvement of society around it through participation, community programmes and teaching skills and values.

Another important aspect is that respondents consider that by 2022, football will still be among the favourite sports for Millennials and digital ‘natives’ as it has considerable potential in appealing to these generations. For instance, clubs will be able to offer extremely valuable content to them by improving their viewing experience through POV videos and augmented reality (AR) offerings, such as with player statistics, or supplying them with new experiences such as apps that allow fans to compare their performance with those of their favourite players and learn from them.

A survey shows that football tops the charts in terms of people’s interest in sports and is expected to continue to dominate the global sports market. What’s more, the football fan-base is growing and becoming more international with USA, Mexico, Russia, China and India representing some of the most interesting growth markets. This may also be related to the fact that by 2025, a super European League might become a reality.

Every club in modern football is a business. There are people responsible for ensuring stable profit margins which alongside the success of the club is a top priority. In fact, for the most part, those two things go hand in hand, and you will find that most clubs who find success on the pitch will usually also find it commercially.

Many factors can affect this formula, and it is becoming more prominent to find a more business-oriented structure with focus on long-term profits and success beyond the sport. This structure has been seen for years and is commonplace in the football world; however, it is intensifying based on the evident growth potential over the years to come.

There are a variety of new sources of income for clubs as football and the technology around it grows. However, we still see the most significant percentage coming from the traditional competition prize money. Television broadcasting remains one of the core incomes, although it is showing signs of losing ground due to the declining appeal of live TV, particularly among millennials.

As can be expected in the modern-day, we see a rise in the popularity of alternative audiovisual sources such as social media, apps and OTT, which are far more optimistic revenue ventures for clubs and sponsors looking to reach a more targeted audience. Utilising these methods allows tailored delivery of content and therefore has a much greater appeal than traditional means.

But what can be said about the matchday? Is there still money to be made from visiting fans on the day? One key thing to consider is that at the core of all business aspects sits the game itself and its supporters. The religious following that football yields may be its strongest commodity when compared to other sports with a lesser reach.

New technologies are being implemented and utilised across stadia to enhance the matchday experience and keep up with the latest trends. Loyalty schemes are one method that clubs are using to sustain healthy attendances and provide fans with rewards based on their consistent presence. Mobile apps offer the perfect platform for this, increasing engagement and offering monetisation opportunity through the collection of data and advertisements.

We see further innovation with entertainment and games on offer on a matchday, usually as part of a fanzone, to engage fans of all ages. Advancement in technology plays a huge role in such facilities, with games like ‘football walls’ putting fans’ skills to the test with targets shown on screen for them to shoot at with a real football. They can then take home a scorecard showing their accuracy, speed and other statistics, providing some friendly competition between friends and families.

Although perhaps not as technologically advanced, merchandising, ticketing and food & beverage sales still make up a substantial chunk of matchday income. Technology has been implemented over the last decade to increase efficiency and ease of all matchday sales, for example, a variety of EPOS systems can now be found at the majority of stadia, with some now advertising a ‘cashless’ matchday, where all payments are made via contactless and traditional card payments.

Queueing has always been an annoyance for fans and for some time it was deemed unavoidable. Clubs are now catching on to the lost sales caused by long waits and have taken steps to reduce the hassle and offer fans easy access to both merchandise and refreshments. Preoday, for example, is a pioneering online and mobile app used to pre-order food, beverages and merchandise for collection from an outlet. Apps like this are becoming more and more common across stadia and events to increase sales and revenue opportunity.

Utilising such technologies partnered with a suitable selection of retail outlets provides the perfect synergy for efficient matchday purchases. Portable retail solutions have been used across stadia for years, but what advancements have been, or can be made to improve upon the formula?

Loyalty schemes and pre-order systems as noted above work perfectly alongside these retail outlets. However, these elements do not directly improve upon the physical stores and their accessibility. An obvious solution to boost sales would be to maximise footprint coverage with a multitude of shops, which reduced queue times as customers are spread across various stores rather than a single large-scale shop. This also entices impulse purchases as fans pass by and aren’t put off by excessive queue times.

The term ‘kiosk’ is defined differently depending on whom you ask. Digital kiosk solutions are an element that can enhance and build upon the traditional retail shop to improve accessibility and offer a user-friendly experience to boost efficiency and interest. When implemented, shoppers have the freedom to browse the full range of stock and select their desired product without the need for lengthy browsing. Customers have the option to search for what they want and make payment via cashless technology. There will always be a desire for some, particularly the older generations, to shop with the assistance of a human, rather than decipher the technology that may seem foreign to them. Although these systems do allow for reduced staff expenses at the club’s end, there will always be a requirement for a real person to assist and take payments via traditional methods.

Technology will continue to enhance and alter the formula for capturing revenue through matchdays and behind the scenes, with no signs of slowing down over the next few years. The only way is up for those managing such advancements and keeping up with the latest will be crucial.