Comment: What about the fans?

Sport Business News

Mickey Charles, president and CEO of real–time sports wire service The Sports Network (TSN), based in Philadelphia, US, urges sports event organisers to think more about the event–day experiences of fans.

" I ask, What about the fans? No, not those that you seek out sports for relief during the summer months. I am speaking of the many whose regular destinations are the ground, pitch, arena, stadium, ballpark, gridiron, field, court, course, track, natatorium or river to cheer on their heroes. The faithful whose fidelity knows no bounds, the folks that live and die by the highs and lows of their favourite teams and athletes. The people that pay the bills, TV and radio rights these days. The devoted and dedicated that show up for every match, cheer, agonise, border on the precipice of broken marriages, sit through the rain, wind, snow and blistering heat of the sun. For a fan sporting the colours of his or her heroes, the zealot who paints his or her body in the team colours, the fanatic who is near–naked when the mercury drops below freezing, the uncompromising and ardent who will not settle for less than victory this day, the passionate and frenetic that will follow the team into the fires of Hades if necessary, what is their reward? A win, of course. Maybe. But, like the song: 'Is that all there is? 'Do event owners really care if the fans view the event from the comfortable confines of a private box or seating area and have whatever they fancy as a repast respite of sorts delivered to them? Do they spare a thought for the masses waiting on endless lines, paying too much for drinks and food that is not that great and then have to wend their way back to their seats where there is no place to deposit their trash when done? Furthermore, do they care about how overpriced the team's merchandise now is? A shirt that would cost $5 or 5 Euros or Pounds is now $45–50 dollars, Euros or pounds thanks to a logo emblazoned upon it. The sad, and mounting part of this, is that the fan has come to expect what he/she encounters. Considering the lines at the rest rooms, you have to consider whether event owners put much thought into adequate facilities–either in terms of numbers or locations. A tree on the golf course is not usually an option for a spectator, nor stopping alongside the Turnpike or M4 to dash off into the woods or behind some construction materials for a moment. The lines at the Ladies are usually longer than those waiting to board a train at one of the main train stations in London at Marylebone, Liverpool, Euston or Charing Cross. . . or even Tokyo at day's end, located in the Marunouchi business district of Chiyoda. Here's an idea. How about more toilet stalls and more folks cleaning up before, during and after a sports event? It's not rocket science that larger trash cans make sense instead of papers on the floor everywhere. These are all factors that can make the 'going to the game experience' begin to dim, to fade and the plasma screen at home begin to look better and better, as does one's own kitchen, bathroom and den. There is a reason or two why children are not brought out to the game(s). Parking one's vehicle when public transportation is not available as a viable and easier, less costly alternative is a challenge unto itself. Depositing your car for a few hours has to be more than doing so where attendants simply wave one in with a 'good luck finding a space' attitude, evolving into winding up in an area that is a marathon distance from the venue's entrance. Getting in, as they say, is the easy part. Leaving the parking area is something else again. And they do not have any landing areas for your helicopter. The game took two to three hours and getting home about the same time. A fan's loyalty by this stage is starting to display some very evident cracks in its pristine veneer. The spectator's outlook and lack of fulfilment by the venue is clouded by the frenzy in which he or she is caught up on arrival. He/she is inclined to be very benevolent at that particular time. To forgive and then forget. The teams and owners benefit from that without an office at the Vatican. Nice. Are there exceptions? Of course. And, they are to be found in the US, UK, Netherlands, Japan, South Africa and a host of other countries. But there is still room for improvement. What venues should be offering is warm food, cold drinks, hot coffee, greater variety, eliminating lines longer than they have to be, restroom facilities that are a 'step up', parking that is much more coordinated coming in and going out, first class venue appearance and some reduction in prices of merchandise. This would make it more of a day out, one that can either be a family affair or an occasion where guys or couples get together and have a grand time watching and rooting for their stalwarts. These are the paladins who have come to do battle this day and send all home with memories of a glorious and victorious outing. But, it has to have been as enjoyable as it was heartening and rewarding. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Sound familiar? That ought to be the credo for providing a great day to the spectator, the fan, punter or player. Sadly, it is not in many cases and, sadder yet, those lacking have come to accept what is provided, have set their sights and expectancies lower and the team/venue owners and operators have advantaged that. 'Let them eat cake' is one approach, but the revolution in waiting will be one of fewer seats being filled one day. Now is the time to prepare and amend to avoid that. So, in closing, I have to ask event organisers and venues...What about the fan? "About Mickey CharlesWhilst an attorney by training, Mickey Charles' background includes a wide range of interests among which are newspaper syndication, hosting a national sports talk show, being a feature editor on a myriad of topics running the gamut from telecommunications to travel, responding to requests as panelist, moderator and chair–person at seminars, conventions, trade shows and conferences. . . and still being president and CEO of Computer Information Network, Inc. , known within the industry and worldwide as The Sports Network. He has guested on, and worked with, such shows and networks as "The Sally Jessy Raphael Show" (radio), " The Today Show, " " News Center Four, " " PRISM, " " Morning, " " EveryDay, " " Gary Collins Show, " " Maury Povich Show, " " Newsweek, " " NewsInc, " "Live Pizza" (ESPN) and others. . . as well as co–hosting a sports talk show on ESPN and delivering commentary on the NFL for both Mutual Broadcasting and Westinghouse in recent years. In 1996 he was asked to broadcast weekly sports reports to Tokyo for FM FUJI (network) and " Inter Act QZ. " Also, he is the author of numerous articles and features that extend to the communications industry, gaming, travel, radio and television, cartoons and humor. Some of the publications to which he contributes editorially are iGaming Business Magazine, Gaming Industry News, Gaming Law Review (member of Editorial Board), New York Nightlife, New York Sportscene, Gambling Times and Gambling Online. Others for whom he has written over the years include Boardwalker Magazine, Communicator, Sporting Times, Update, Atlantic City Magazine, and Talkers. Charles is a frequent speaker for a variety of organisations (panelist and/or moderator) and is a consultant to major corporations domestically and internationally and was also asked to speak and present before the Presidential appointed National Gambling Impact Study Commission due to his expertise in this area. Charles is a pioneer in the audiotex industry since pre–divestiture, when he formed Communications Team, Inc. , a sports telecommunications group focused on telephonic delivered information that eventually evolved into The Sports Network, an international realtime sports wire service with customers throughout North America, Asia and Europe. It is a qualitative and quantitative source for sports news, data, scores, features, statistics and other sports information in the world. Subscribers include, but are not limited to, online services, newspapers, radio stations, TV stations, networks, pager/ beeper companies, hotels, race and sports book establishments, sports bars, interactive television, telephone companies, audiotex services, cable organisations, lotteries . . . and more. Turning to one of his recreational favourites, Charles has been president of the Middle Atlantic Blind Golfers Association and assisted annually for many years with golf tournaments for the benefit of United Way and St. Jude's. He is a graduate of Kalamazoo College (BA) and Brooklyn Law School (LLB). For further information, contact: The Sports Network +1 215/441–8444 Fax: +1 215/441–5767; e–mail: Maureen@sportsnetwork. com

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