It seems that the world of sports revolves nowadays around fan engagement. The developments in technology are being adopted by sports organisations whether it is by clubs, leagues or governing bodies.
The use of technology has become dominant in clubs who aim to breach or already have breached their local borders in a quest of increasing their fan base while exploring new markets possibilities. Augmented reality, but mostly virtual reality has taken its place as the key component to live the match day experience by those who are not able to attend a match.
Manchester City have recently partnered with the tech company Jaunt to create a VR platform that will deliver a unique match day experience. But what will happen when a fan who has never been to the Etihad stadium, yet experienced it through the VR platform, will eventually be able to attend a match, only to encounter a completely different experience in real life.
VR experience is designed to attract new fans, but there is a lot that goes on when you are actually seated in a stadium that VR can’t transform, either due to technological barriers or simply because the owner and the designer of the VR experience doesn’t want to show some of the occurrents.
Imagine being a far away fan interacting with a match day experience through a VR platform. You get an amazing atmosphere of specific moments of the crowd only to find out that in reality the stadium is quite silent with occasional chants and songs. You look sideways and you see that the away fans might be having a much more enjoyable day than yours.
There are weather conditions on VR but they are purely virtual. A new fan may think that the roof of the stadium is enough to keep him dry but rain has different plans and does not always come pouring down in a straight angle.
Does VR transmit the experience of actually sitting in a stand where your knees are stuck in the seat in front of you? What about the people sitting next to you? VR can’t transmit the lovely smell of a fan after a few pints. How about fans who use inappropriate language next to you and you travelled from a different country to watch certain match with your kid?
I tend to believe that VR doesn’t showcase the experience of half time queues for food and drinks, including the stadium “toilet experience”.
The next factor may be the deciding one. The final result of the game has a huge impact on the fan’s total match day experience. In the end, no matter how good the experience of engaging with the stadium and its operations have been, if your team lost, the rest is forgotten. However if your team won, you may go back to your friends and mention that you had the best burger ever and that you sat very close to the action.
From my own match days experience this is reality. I think no VR platform owner will want to deliver that when trying to attract new fans. I am not against VR and the use of technology to interact with fans, it is just that sports organisations needs to be careful not to create a utopic experience only to be faced with a slap in the face of reality.