Digital Fan Engagement Fan Engagement Stadia Tony Davison Tottenham Hotspur Virtual Reality VR

Continuous investment in stadium infrastructure is not crazy – it is essential

December 4, 2017

“Anyone spending money on stadium infrastructure is crazy, everyone will be using VR Technology to watch live games inside 20 years”.

Given that this was said at a recent conference advocating the use of VR technology in sport, there is a hint of vested interest. But, does the speaker have a point?

Is everyone responsible for the hundreds of stadium developments from Tottenham to Tokyo and LA to Lusail just plain wrong?

It is an interesting viewpoint. Instead of ploughing millions into new stadia and facilities, invest the money in better technology to reach out to the 7.6 billion people all over the world rather than the 60,000 within reach and means of the stadium.

We can all see the attraction of feeling like you are at a match complete with fantastic views, an electric atmosphere and home-cooked pies, all without having to leave the comfort of your own sofa.

The options could be limitless. You would select your viewing location, halfway line, behind the goal, even the dugout perhaps? Taken to its natural conclusion, with no-one at the game, crowds would be virtually generated.

Select your crowd – Mexico ’86, South Africa 2010 (complete with vuvuzelas), or a sea of flatcap wearing fans from the 1920s? You could even ‘enjoy’ an 18-rated glimpse at the horror of the terraces of the 1980s complete with electric fences – press “X” to be surrounded by skinheads.

With no attendees, clubs will need to charge VR-viewers a pretty penny to make up for the loss of revenue from season tickets, catering and hospitality if they are going to pay for top talent. Then again, who needs top talent? I’m sure a virtual Neymar would be cheaper than the real thing. In fact, why risk being disappointed at all, surely I can just select the result in advance?

Herein lies the problem. If the experience is artificial, why not the sport?

Spectator sports are all about authenticity and the opportunity to share a social experience, those “I was there” moments you talk about for years to come (feel free to ask me about Germany 1 England 5 next time you see me and have a spare hour!).

The technical elements of the game are forgotten but the memories of who you were with and – more importantly – how you felt, live with you forever.

I am no Luddite desperately trying to hold back the tides of technology. On the contrary, I have seen at first hand the power of VR technology as part of the commercial sales operation at Spurs. I fully expect virtual season tickets to be just around the corner and I for one embrace this. However, rather than being a competitor to the live event, VR technology is surely a gateway to the real thing?

READ MORE: Umbel’s Mike Malo – Why venue ticketing is going mobile-only

Fans all over the world will long to sit in the actual physical seat they have enjoyed from their living rooms.

The trick is to ensure that once someone has put down the headset and decided to attend a game they aren’t disappointed. Stadium infrastructure should be innovative, modern and well thought out, the overall experience should be seamless, the food excellent and the atmosphere electric.

If we are going to continue to prise people off their sofas to come to games in the face of competition from other entertainment options and an ever-better at-home experience, continuous investment in infrastructure is not crazy, it is essential.

About the contributor

Tony Davison is responsible for sales of the Tottenham Hotspur New Stadium Premium Seats via the Stadium Project Virtual Reality Suite (SPVRS). The views expressed in this article are his own and not attributable to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

Digital Fan Engagement Fan Engagement Stadia Tony Davison Tottenham Hotspur Virtual Reality VR