Although the Premier League is set to kick off again this week, there is still a strong possibility that stadiums will be empty for a large part, if not all, of next season. This creates a new challenge for football clubs. How do they engage fans without fans being in the stadiums and how do they replace the lost revenues from match-day and season tickets?
Furthermore, how have the effects of Covid-19 impacted fans' mental health and have clubs consulted with fans throughout this turbulent journey of the past 3 months?
We asked football fans from across the country and indeed the world, on their views.
Of those surveyed, over 72% believe all players should have agreed to a wage deduction during the lockdown period to help save their own or other clubs.
Only 5% of fans were consulted on football returning to empty stadiums with many feeling they have simply been ignored.
A worrying 28.5% of fans agreed or strongly agreed that the loss of football had affected their mental health. Also, only 26.3% believe football, as an industry, does enough to tackle mental health issues. With nearly 59% wanting clubs to do more in providing mental health services.
One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. In England, around 1 in 8 men have a common mental health problem. However, men may be reluctant to seek support for their mental health or disclose mental health problems to loved ones. Overall men account for 3 quarters of suicides in the UK and this is the largest cause of death for men under 50.
How Do We Engage Football Fans?
We have learnt from this survey that fans want to be engaged by their clubs.
With empty stadiums here for at least the medium term, clubs must develop new engagement strategies to ensure the loyalty, they have built remains. There’s also an opportunity to create a positive impact on their supporters' mental health too.
So this is a time to not shut up shop and wait to see what happens but a chance to be proactive, take the initiative, work with the community and develop new engagement strategies for the new normal in football. Any newly co-designed initiative can also act as a revenue driver, helping to replace some of the lost ticketing income.
At thinkpublic we help organisations engage with their audiences, users and fans by gathering insights, co-designing new initiatives, building prototypes and launching new services.