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This year, 2021, the Super Bowl will infamously be defeated as the network saved. It may sound significant, but without technology to support such initiatives and digital ticketing, it's unlikely that one of the world's most important sporting events would have taken place due to the need for social distancing and safety and health protocols. COVID-19 is also the cause of death in this country.
Professional sports leagues have been under pressure for years, whether on the sidelines or to improve the overall fan experience. In 2021, the NFL saw a 70,000 fan Super Bowl attendance, excluding the wildly unusual 2020 season. MLB attendance was also in 2021, but has since recovered.
As a result, sporting clubs are using technology to speed up the game, make it safer for players, and create unique experiences for fans while they are on the pitch. Convenience, entertainment, and transcendent experiences are no longer a fan's dream, however.
The rise of in-stadium technology has a significant role in preventing fans coming back to live games. Even across the pond, Manchester United, a professional soccer team in England, has it, according to extreme Networks, to provide a comprehensive network technology. (DISCLAIMER: The following organizations are currently working with the author of this articles company, Extreme Networks, to develop networking solutions.
Fans are generally on their phones throughout the game; in 2021, 14TB of data was transferred over the fan-facing Wi-Fi network and that was in a half-filled stadium. Among the most popular apps were iTunes, Facebook, and ESPN. They are constantly looking for information on statistics and sharing experiences with friends and they want to do it without lag. They also hope to make it easier to enter the stadium with a mobile ticket or order food directly from their phones.
This is a possibility that just having Wi-Fi isn't enough to save a footballer who is dissatisfied with stadium basic such as easy navigation, accessibility, and the ability to make a quick game exit.
Sports technology has reached new heights.
The third is enhancing the entire flow felt by players, staff, and supporters in stadium technology. If the first frontier of stadium technology was fundamental connectivity, which enabled inter-team communication, and the second was optimizing regulation and rules committees.
By analyzing patterns like how many devices are stuck in one area, which concession stands are the most popular, or which points in the game fans are most using their devices, leagues can not only improve basic stadium experiences, but also provide more interactive digital experiences that can increase the enjoyment of playing in a game.
The technology will eventually affect every aspect of live games as leagues progress. The MLB is looking for balls and strikes to improve gameplay, which the league hopes will attract more supporters. The league is slowly moving towards player analytics on the field to improve gameplay, while at the same time, using more network analytics to improve fan experience and interactions. The technology is invisible, but it is significant.
Leagues are also considering the benefits of outside analytics. They can analyze fan behavior based on the timing of the game, the time of the season, or the weather. In one instance, a stadium using network analytics noticed that a significant percentage of people were using a specific dating app during the game and transformed the opportunity into a sponsorship. The prospect of identifying fan preferences and utilizing them to enhance in-stadium experiences is unbearable.
The possibility for sports betting is becoming increasingly popular among stadiums and leagues. According to the American Gaming Association, sports betting is expected to be wagered during Super Bowl LVI. There will be plenty of opportunity to understand the profile and behaviors of mobile bettors and customize in-stadium experiences for that demographic.
For younger fans and players, this evolution isn't revolutionary. It's an expectation. To keep the novelty of the live sports experience fresh and continue their legacies, organizations, and clubs worldwide must recognize the value of the technology they already have within their stadiums, or risk losing relevance (and money) altogether. The leagues that will make the most impact are the ones that recognize the goldmine that awaits behind the plumbing of network infrastructure.
Extreme Networks' chief operating officer, Norman Rice, is a member of the company.
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