Stadium Adventures

Fan Engagement Friday: News from around the grounds 27/05/2022

A weekly recap of some of the interesting stories and developments from the educational to the random in the world of fan engagement/experience, stadium/venue news, fan behaviour and psychology and customer service plus much more. Enjoy

AFL, Reddit announce world’s first sports partnership for Reddit Avatars

NHL mixed reality event

Football fans, rejoice: Stadium internet speeds are set for a significant boost

NFL Fan Rankings: Washington Worst?!

The Best Customer Service Software of 2022 Has Been Revealed by End Users

Sports Business Journal names Climate Pledge Arena sports facility of the year

Ordr Keeps Fans in the Seats, All by Making Food and Merch Only a Tap of an App Away

Fans Can Now Win the Stanley Cupple by Playing the NHL’s Version of Wordle

Football fans convicted of taking cocaine at matches could face five-year stadium bans

NTT reveals new data boost to improve IndyCar fan experience

‘The end goal is to turn fan engagement into fan monetisation’: Sportradar’s data-led approach to capitalising on the US$270bn sports betting market

Arsenal corner flag: Using data to reach club’s 750m fans

Populous Projects Win Facility of the Year, Event of the Year at 2022 Sports Business Awards

WNBA Fans Criticize Coinbase Sponsorship Amid Market Crash

FA investigating pitch invasions, condemns ‘anti-social behaviour’ from fans

Nine Techniques To Keep Customer Support Conversations Productive And Positive

Tottenham’s Todd Kline talks stadium naming rights, NFTs, and thinking like a “content creation machine”

Virtual stadium developer plays in $3.2 million to up the game of e-sports in metaverse

Sports venues create quiet refuge for fans with sensory needs

Sensory rooms becoming more commonplace in sports venues

Building Long-term Loyalty Through Incentives

NBA Top Shot Reaches $1B in Sales Amid NFT Market Downturn

The Crypto Market’s Impact on Sports Sponsorships

Adam Silver Says NBA Fan Aggression Not Caused by Sports Betting

LaLiga to build official metaverse for fans and partners with TVM

Top 5 Customer Service Skills To Encourage In Your Staff

Customer Experience Trumps Even the Best Technologies

F1 trials paddock robots to help fans in hospital meet drivers

Qatar’s ‘Dr Cool’ keeps World Cup stadiums chilly with solar-powered AC

Manchester City FC Partners with Quidd to Launch New NFT Collection

Blockchain, crypto set to take sports industry beyond NFT collectibles

Drama and atmosphere should be the only metrics in Australia’s stadium wars

Japan’s pro sports teams find use for empty stadiums

Yokohama BayStars baseball team offers home stadium’s private boxes to teleworkers

In first year with fans at Allegiant Stadium, the no-show rate was 14.3 percent

Proceeds from recycling at Mercedes-Benz Stadium builds new homes on Atlanta’s Westside through new program

Is Customer Loyalty Dead?

World Cup host, Qatar with air-conditioned stadiums to serve as a model

Dazzling But Empty Stadiums a Symbol of China’s Fading Football Dream

Prices are surging, but fans are still paying top dollar to watch live sports

Placemaking, legacy and the 2032 Games

A 2022 blueprint for customer service excellence

How to Identify the Pain Points That Make Customers Decide What They’re Going to Buy

At Your Service: How To Wow Your Customers By Creating New Revenue Streams

Case Study: Real-Time Fan Engagement Explodes With Live, Local Access to NFL Draft

USGA Announces Fan Offerings for Women’s Open

Major League soccer club Columbus Crew gains the Edge

UofL announces WiFi, gate entry upgrades to Cardinal Stadium driven by fan feedback from 2021

Manchester City on taking the ‘City DNA’ global

Eagles become 1st team to expand fan outreach efforts to Africa

‘Way cooler than standing in line’: Mariners fans get first crack at Amazon tech in new ballpark market

5G to Transform Fan Experience at Indy 500

Cavaliers on Top 25 Most Innovative Teams in Sports List

The rise of the always-on mobile user and implications for customer service and retention 

The Verdict Is In: Customer Service Isn’t Human Enough

A Golf Fan Just Got A Deal With Michelob

Deloitte 2022 Sports Industry Outlook

Avoid these common mistakes to create real customer loyalty

FC Barcelona, the world’s most innovative team according to Sports Innovation Lab

Old Trafford will have ‘fans, not corporates’ at its heart, promises architect tasked with redevelopment

NRL MAGIC ROUND 2022 Fan Experience Review, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane 13-15 May 2022

The annual NRL Magic Round event was back at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium for 2022 and despite a week when the rain across Queensland caused persistent widespread flooding the event still drew over 100,000 fans through the turnstiles across the three event days.

With the rain falling heavily across the Friday and Saturday but easing on the third day, fans made their way into the stadium precinct decked out with ponchos and umbrellas but still managed to bring all their colour and atmosphere from the thousands of retro to modern rugby league jerseys on display from fans of all ages. This is a true celebration of rugby league and league fans with supporters rocking Gold Coast Chargers and Seagulls kits to South Queensland Crushers and Western Reds jerseys amongst the smorgasbord of the current 16 NRL teams. It’s this colour, fan passion and atmosphere that is a magical component of this event off the field.

The downloadable stadium map and event guide were handy additions to kick start the planning of the fan journey at Magic Round with the map coming in handy to locate all of the activations both inside and outside the venue. The 32-page event guide had information on merchandise, activations, match-ups, key timings and more valuable information to ensure fans knew everything they needed to know to capitalise on a massive fun weekend of rugby league.

After reminiscing over some old footy cards and beers we decided to head in for the matches on Saturday at 1PM. We made our way into the stadium precinct on the train from Dutton Park station into Roma Street station in the city with the train being packed with rugby league fans in a positive vibe for the three matches being played today for day two. It was a sea of league fans of all ages walking through The Barracks centre in Milton down to Suncorp Stadium and despite the rain that lingered for most of the day and night the fans were still in a very upbeat mood with the bars along Caxton Street pumping with conversations, beers and footy food as thousands of fans commandeered the road heading down to the venue. It was also nice to see the new artwork ‘Welcome’ which featured 25 laser-cut steel hunting boomerangs with welcome greetings in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language dialects.

What’s On at the Stadium: Precinct

Making my way around the Suncorp Stadium precinct from the Caxton Street end to the Roma Street end the event offered an outstanding first impression of the event presentation that included plenty of activations for fans of all ages such as:

1. Bundy Pop Up Bar

Fans were able to grab a drink from the Bundy Pop Up Bar with the first fans to purchase a Bundy from the Bundaberg Pop Up Bar each day of NRL Magic Round receiving a double pass upgrade for a specific match into the Bundy Backyard Deck inside the stadium. This bar shed was at an entrance point of the NRL Fan Zone area and it was good to see security guards helping people by warning them to be careful entering the space as the ground was slippery and getting slightly muddy.

2. Chemist Warehouse Chill Out Zone

This was a relaxing spot for fans to kick back and chill with deck chairs and beanbags to watch the big screen during and between matches. I believe the deck chairs may have been packed up due to the rain at some point as it would not have been the best setting for them with the rain falling nonstop. Fans also received free gift bags that included chemist items like moisturiser and sunscreen along with a gym towel which for many fans, myself included is stuff I will actually use.  Mascot Wally the Chemist Warehouse Mascot (how did they come up with a mascot name for CW?) surprised fans with upgrades into the Chemist Warehouse Deck inside the venue while there was a fun reaction wall game to play. I finished on 29 which wasn’t too bad considering the top score was 37. I’ll put that down to my good skills in quick thinking and reaction time to putting out arguments amongst grade 4 students that made me go fairly well in this fun game.

3. CUB Great Northern Bar

The CUB beer garden was open between matches where fans could enjoy a drink from the Great Northern bar. The first 50 people to purchase a drink also received a stubby cooler. This was a nice set up that faced away from the venue and towards Caxton street with a live stage below featuring artists playing tunes.

4. Ampol Magic Carpet

Fans were able to experience walking down the red carpet by taking their best Ampol Magic Carpet photo. By sharing it across socials they had the chance to be upgraded into the Ampol Deck inside the stadium. We had a go of this and I even used the fuel bowser emoji in my witty caption all to no avail….must of been the Illawarra Steelers jersey I was wearing. Still a lot of fun for my friends and I to take home a few photos.

5. YOUI Magic Kick

Fans could come down to the Youi Magic Kick in the Precinct to have a go at kicking a footy through the posts!

6. Harvey Norman Photo Station

If fans visited the Harvey Norman station they could collect their FREE magic round photo as well as purchase limited edition Magic Round personalised NRL products. This was a fun activation with my mates and I getting snapped for an event pic that was free to take home. The personalised merch also looked really colourful too.

7. Letter Lights

Fans could grab a photo in front of the Giant Magic Round Letter lights to then share it on channels to #NRLMagic.

8. Swyftx Giant Human Claw

The Swyftx Giant Human Claw was giving away thousands of dollars in prizes over NRL Magic Round weekend, including $5,000 in Bitcoin every day.  Fans could come down and participate in the human-sized version of the traditional arcade game to win these prizes. I watched this for a few participants to have their go and it was actually pretty entertaining. There were obviously a lot of OWHS things to consider with this activation and the weather did not make it any easier. Watching a fan dive down to get an NRL ball and then that ball revealing a prize was quite entertaining and there was certainly enough interest from the fans who had lined up to have a go.

9. Food Trucks

There were plenty of food truck options with gourmet offerings including Eat Fresh kebabs, Chipstars, Brat Haus, Dinky D’d Doughnuts and more. $7 for a dagwood dog and $13 kebabs were affordable for a snack in this fan precinct even if you weren’t intending to go into the venue as this was a fun spot to sit, watch the games and drink and eat.

10. EISS Super Ball

Get your photo taken in front of the giant EISS Super and Steeden Inflatable football.

11. Kids Zone

Magic Round brings the festival vibes for the whole family! Kids were able to get a photo with their favourite team’s mascot, get geared up with face painting, & show off their skills with the magic pass the Ball. With the rain falling all around some fan activities were slow to get going as fans didn’t want to wait in the lines with the rain however it didn’t stop many families and kids from still participating in these free fun activities to take home some memories.

12. NRL Merchandise

Fans could grab their Magic Round mementos exclusively at the venue at the six or so merchandise outlets around the stadium! All 16 teams’ merchandise was also available for purchase like retro jerseys. I was able to pre-plan the purchase of some merch for my daughter like a football and a bucket hat for my work at school by looking through the event guide before heading in, however due to the popularity of many items, these sold out quick smart which was unfortunate but shows the popularity of fans who want to support the NRL, love rugby league and want to rep all 16 teams. Plus the designs were pretty neat too.

What’s On at the Stadium: In-Ground

1. Telstra Live Stage

The Telstra Live Stage hosted music entertainment, DJ’s and performances throughout the NRL Magic Round weekend and was located in the corner of the venue.

2. KFC Fry/No Fry Banners

Fans could give their viewer’s verdict with the KFC Fry/No Fry banners. KFC brand ambassadors inside the stadium handed out Fry/No Fry banners to fans. KFC was also surprising and delighting lucky fans across the weekend with KFC vouchers to redeem KFC.

3. Steeden Magic Ball

Players were throwing Steeden NRL Magic Round footies into the crowd after each match for fans to keep as well as using the tee shirt gun to fire off what I presume were jerseys or shirts from various teams.

4. KFC Bucket Catch

Two lucky fans picked from the crowd matched up against each other on the field during half-time at selected matches across NRL Magic Round weekend. Each fan had to catch as many footies as possible in their KFC bucket to WIN KFC vouchers and merchandise!

5. Telstra Fan Cam

Fans could get involved with the Telstra Fan Cam to win a signed jersey from their favourite NRL team.

6. Ampol Pump It Up Cam

Fans could show their support for their team with the Ampol Pump It Up Cam for their chance to win a $100 fuel voucher. The big screens featured hilarious kiss cams, ‘make some noise’ call outs as well as oblivious cam and a few other funny moments that got a good reception from the crowd. 

7. Telstra Tracker LED Race

Lucky fans across NRL Magic Round weekend got the chance to race against some of the fastest players in the game. The one we saw was able to beat the Telstra Tracker and was quite fast.

8. Ampol Deck

The Ampol ‘Australia’s Own’ Deck was Australian-themed and included a full food & beverage package for guests.  Fans could take their best red-carpet photo at the Ampol Magic Carpet activation in the stadium precinct and share it across socials for the chance to be upgraded into the Ampol Deck. This was a brightly blue coloured event space at the Caxton Street end inside one of the stadium corners and stood out amongst the other social spaces.

9. Bundy Backyard Deck

The Bundy Backyard Deck was the ideal spot to kick back with mates for the best seats in the house at NRL Magic Round.  Guests received full food and beverage offering and the opportunity to meet and greet with NRL legends.  Fans who were one of the first to purchase a Bundy from the Bundy Pop Up Bar in the stadium precinct each day of NRL Magic Round were lucky to receive a double pass upgrade for a specific match into the Bundy Backyard Deck inside the stadium for the best seats in the house. This was another themed social space that looked really impressive for the presentation in one of the corners of the venue.

10. Chemist Warehouse Deck

Guests to the Chemist Warehouse deck received full food and beverage offering, the opportunity to meet and greet with NRL legends and an exclusive product gift bag upon arrival. A relaxing spot in the corner of the venue.

11. Free flags for supporter bay fans

Fans who purchased a supporter bay ticket were able to collect a free supporter flag that featured all 16 club logos on a colourful flag design. They were handing these out to fans everywhere and I was lucky enough to get one for my daughter which will go nicely in her room. A really nice simple touch for a physical item that fans could take home.

12. Lighting

The light shows and themed LED lighting was vibrant and looked good both inside the stadium and on TV. The ability to switch between themes either teams or colourful light shows added to the atmosphere and created a positive vibe to make this a big-time event. The fireworks and flames at the end of the try lines also pumped up the crowd either when the teams were running out or when tries were scored.

Fan Experience Elements

While thousands of fans made for a busy stadium precinct both inside and out it was clear that venue did a very good job of keeping fans safe and ensuring the fan experience was quality. With the rain falling constantly and fans getting wet it was good to see the concourses being managed well to allow the safe and efficient flow of fans despite fans crowding along the bays to try to stay dry and still watch the game. Security and ushers were managing this as best they could under the circumstances.

The staff were really efficient and attentive as I made three enquiries and had interactions with different staff members over the course of the night for some things that I thought needed to be addressed such as glass in the concourse area, catering staff inadvertently blocking a stairwell and an aggressive fan who was throwing items onto the field and agitating other fans. In every situation, the venue and security staff were very helpful and switched on to ensure fans were having an enjoyable event experience.

Food and beverage options were plentiful and inclusive with the frozen cocktails proving to be very popular amongst fans along with Pirate Life craft beer for beverages. It was good to see the dedicated vegan stand in action along with vegan and gluten-free options available in the concession outlets while there were combo deals available as well. From pies, pizza slices and chicken wings and chips to American BBQ, fish and chips and hot dogs, there really was something here to tempt all tastebuds with many prices being affordable and expected for major event days. Beers ranged from $9-11 with most food around the $6-16 mark. I had a fairly decent salad sandwich and 600ml Coke Zero which came in at $11 and which I thought was pretty good value for a footy feed.

Toilets were clean and lines, even for female fans seemed to be moving fast. Staff were abundant around the venue and were seen cleaning constantly throughout the night. I said to one staffer that he was doing a good job and he said no one has ever said that before. It’s something I make a point of doing, especially for cleaning staff and young folks on the concession registers. They do a good job and deserve to be told they’re going well so if you’re at a venue then make sure you give them a little shout out.

The exit at the end of the night was efficient and seamless with buses, trains and taxis all flowing from the venue and making it easy for fans to get home safely. Way-finding signs as well as helpful staff directing fans also just made the exit swift and simple after a long day at the venue. 

NRL Magic Round is an event like no other. The fans are equal to the athletes in terms of the atmosphere and colourful vibe that the event brings and it’s certainly a major sporting event that I reccomend any rugby league or sports fan to go and check out.

Gold Coast Suns AFL Fan Experience at Metricon Stadium, Gold Coast, Australia 24/4/22

On a wet and chilly Sunday afternoon I hit the highway from Brisbane to head down the M1 to the Gold Coast to take in the Gold Coast Suns AFL fan experience at Metricon Stadium in Nerang.

Today’s match was to be the Suns versus the Brisbane Lions in the annual QCLASH derby as well as representing an ANZAC Day ceremony to honour our servicemen and women.

I prepped for the match day by getting my daughter Ramona all dressed up in a Gold Coast Suns dress that I bought for her to show her support for another Queensland team (her first ever dress- which she hated, the dress that is!) while I pulled out my Brisbane Bears wool guernsey, grabbed my Sherrin footy, new Lions cord cap from the Lions shop and some fresh ANZAC biscuits to share with mates and laminated my printed out match day ticket to save as my ticket memento to go into my box of 1000+ tickets from 30 years of live events – anything to keep the physical part of the event day ticking on in my opinion.

The fan journey started at 1pm with a quick 50 minute car journey via tolls from Brisbane to Nerang Railway Station. Nerang Station has ample parking and a lockable bicycle station as well as open bike racks. I made sure to park via the exits under security cameras for better safety and to get away faster at the end of the night however by 2pm the car park was filling up with Lions and Suns fans meaning that this is a safe and secure place to leave your car and head to the match due to the number of people coming through here on match days.

Once parked I made my way through the station to the bus terminal area where the game day buses were starting up at 2pm to ferry fans to Metricon Stadium. The buses were free for fans with the transport included within the ticket, as was the train from Brisbane if fans had chosen to catch the train from Brisbane to Nerang Station. However with track work today on the Gold Coast line, driving to the station and then catching this free bus seemed like the best option.

The bus driver was cheerful as Suns and Lions fans hoped on the bus and I was impressed with security greeting everyone that was getting on and asking us who would win while the bus driver was equally impressive ensuring that fans were safely picked up along the way despite there only being the one designated stop at the venue which was a helpful thing to do for those fans who were walking to the ground. The bus arrived directly outside the stadium after a short five minute journey which made it a seamless entry into the ground. It was also important to note that since my last visit here a couple of years ago, parking restrictions have gone up similar to around The Gabba and Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane meaning restrictions apply on match days and it is not advisable to try to park as you risk a fine.

Parking is also available within the stadium for only $20 via the Ticketmaster site however this does seem to sell out quickly in the week leading up to match day. Metricon also has a ride share and public pick up and drop off zone near the venue too with accessible entry and exit to the stadium.

Making our way into the stadium was seamless and we were greeted by a ‘hello’ and ‘thanks for coming’ by the venue staff. I then made my way over to the AFL Record stand and picked up a copy of the ANZAC round AFL Record which is still a bargain at $5 and a game day tradition I never miss.

This is one of my favourite AFL venues in Australia for a number of reasons. The views are great wherever you sit while the ease of access to get in and out to get food and drinks or to go to the toilets is also not a hassle. I love a venue you can walk the full distance around and here at Metricon Stadium you can walk both the inside and outside concourses to take in the full sights and smells of the match day as well as accessing all the types of food on offer and not being cut off by security or ushers.

On the food and beverage front while there were food trucks and permanent food stalls in abundance I found the food offering we sampled to be below par and quite disappointing however this was no doubt not the opinion of every fan who purchased food items at the event. The hot chips we purchased for $6.50 were flavourless (my friend had a delicious peppery salt on his while mine had nothing which was odd) and undercooked while the hot dog looked quite sad presentation wise for $6.50 and the pie for $5.75 had hard pastry like a rock. There was an assortment of options from Chipsters offering dagwood dogs and loaded fries to a Kebab stand meaning there truly was something for every fan to get around. There were also wings and chips and Hawaiian burger combos along with churros and even popcorn boxes to satisfy fans tastes and preferences for both young and old with the more substantial offerings costly $15-$17.

Prices seemed quite high compared to other venues for items such as hot dogs and chips while the beer was fresh and on par with Australian venues with a Carlton Mid tinnie (served into a plastic cup) at $8.95 while Great Northern schooners were $9.80 and craft beer from Pirate Life Brewing Co (CUB/South Australian) was $11.20 for their mid-strength or $8.50 for their 0.9% light beer which all in all represented normal pricing and a good variety for beer drinkers. Furthermore some bars did not have electronic boards displaying prices or price lists so you weren’t sure how much you were paying until it was round up at the til.

The venue has an impressive outside concourse as as well as an inside open concourse which offers plenty of space to roam, order food and drinks as well as find a space to sit and take in the event away from your actual seats. It’s one of my favourite grounds because of the open space and the flexibility you have to walk around the venue on a game day. There are multiple member’s bars (one with a live band called The Fifth Quarter) as well as a Carlton Draught bar for Suns members and fans while there are chairs and tables and plenty of green space including a massive oval only 50 metres from the stands where you can kick footies on all throughout the match day. This is a big incentive for families and young fans who who come along as they can bring in their footballs to the match and head out for a pre, mid or post game kick as we did with our own Sherrin that was a lot of fun.

The sponsor activation social spaces were impressive and included the Carlton Draught bar and a comfy couch seating area overlooking the field of play (could not see sponsor, perhaps Metricon). There were two sponsor activation set ups that really caught my eye though and these included the Metricon Homes ‘Terrace’ that was a fully fledged house within the stadium that included a balcony overlooking the field while the Plungie Pool area was also eye-catching with its pool, lifeguard and blue astroturf seating.

The toilets here were clean and spacious with no lines seen throughout the night for either the women’s or men’s with the men’s having a lot of space to walk in and out quickly with soap and tap all working fine. Hand sanitisers were available around the ground and after checking three which had sanitiser in them on my travels around the venue it was good to see them filled up unlike on recent stadium visits where they have been on show but not filled up.

The views are simply breathtaking here with views on the ground level or up in the stands affording fans a cracking close up view of the action no matter the seating rake. Behind the goals at the scoreboard is also a place worth sitting and while not undercover affords fans a close up view of the action. Sitting high up in section 216 we did still get slightly wet as the rain permeated through the worn roof tarps with the roof, rails and shades all looking like they need a thorough clean. The way-finding in the stadium was not too difficult to see where to go for food, seating sections or toilets but I thought it could be made a bit more clearer and in larger text to make it more visible. I saw a few ushers on the night cheerfully helping fans however there was not one in our stand or the one adjacent, however it seemed that fans made their way to their seats easily with the night running very smoothly as well for stadium staff. Accessible seating is clearly marked and available for those fans needing it while outside the concourses there are merchandise stands offering both Suns and away fans the option of securing a piece of merch.

The Suns fan engagement really stands out and is underrated in my opinion both for AFL teams and in other Australian sporting teams. The Suns really cater well for families and kids with a big feature being their Suns ‘Little Legends’ train that runs around the venue picking up young fans and families and taking them on a fun casual train ride around the outside of the stadium concourse. The Suns do a lot for their members with the social spaces previously listed however they also have a member raise their Suns flag up the flagpole each game while they also have a junior reporter, Suns photo wall, face painting, a kids zone out the back and a member’s guard of honour. Screen activations like Air Guitar and the on-field kick the footy into the Plungie Pool were also fun to watch – I reckon I could have nailed the kick into the footy easily (It’s all about wearing the right shoes for on field fan engagement if you’re ever selected to participate!).

It was also good to see the way the Suns acknowledge their members with big plaques inside the venue honouring those fans who have shown their dedication as members along with history charts across the seating bowl that highlight the Suns formation and history on the Gold Coast over the past decade.

The Suns ANZAC Day ceremony was handled respectfully and included a marching band, the last post and the national anthems and it was good to see everyone take their hats off and stand in silence to appreciate the ANZACs and what this day means to so many Australian and New Zealander’s.

While it was an entertaining game in the rain, the Lions ended up running away with the win 132-80 before the final siren sounded and fans made their exits. I found it easy to leave the venue and the signage for the buses back to Nerang Station or to Broadbeach were easily identifiable with bus staff also speaking to fans to ensure they were headed in the right direction. Within five minutes of lining up we were on a bus and on our way back to the train station which again only took five minutes journey before heading back to the cars and home within an hour to Brisbane.

A Gold Coast Suns AFL game day at Metricon Stadium is a very worthy event day visit in my opinion, either as a Suns fan or as in my case travelling for an away day as a Lions fan. From the views and the big oval for a kick to the Suns fan engagement andd the ease of the fan journey both in and out, it really represents an enjoyable AFL match day for Aussie Rules fans. There is so much on here for families and fans with the Suns clearly going the extra mile to create lasting memories for their members and fans and I could not more highly rate the Suns fan experience as an event worth checking out.

Hawthorn Hawks Vs St Kilda Saints AFL Fan Experience at MCG, Melbourne, Australia 10/4/22

On Sunday 10th April I finally had the chance to do something I have been looking forward to for such a long time.

I finally got to be back in Melbourne after three years away and I got to take my daughter Ramona Josie along to her first ever AFL match and her first ever visit to the hallowed Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

Ramona and I started our fan journey on a gorgeous blue sky day by walking (well she got an easy ride in the stroller!) the short distance from the city along the back inner suburban Melbourne streets of the MCG.

We had a fun little play in the grassy area outside the G where we kicked the football and had cuddles under this amazing stadium that is in my opinion one of the best to visit in the world for any event. That event today turned out to be a classic old school Aussie Rules battle between Hawthorn Hawks and St Kilda Saints which the Saints would eventually run away with in the end 142-73.

After a play we picked up a copy of the AFL Record which is always a must on an AFL game day and a bargain still at $5.

It was great to see a few things by looking up at the MCG and these included the solar panels out the front of gate 3 and the water station and solar powered CCTV and lights which all together has made the MCG run on 100% renewable energy which is spectacular to see from a major Australian venue. The ‘G-TRAIN’ was also a good sight to see for inclusion and accessibility as it carried less mobile fans around the G to their gates.

Today thanks to a friend we were lucky enough to sit in the MCC area which I had never been in to before. We were greeted and welcomed in by friendly MCG staff who waved and made RJ feel safe and welcome. I was even so surprised at how much Ramona enjoyed the atmosphere of a pumping MCG crowd from the people to the sirens, she was beaming ear to ear which made the day all the more memorable.

After walking in we did a big lap of the area taking in the F&B outlets, getting some photos, looking at the facilities and also going on a nice walk along the concourse. We had a look in the MCG shop which is stocked full of AFL and cricket items to buy with the retro range standing out as some very cool merch items. We walked out to then come back into another section and got a special Member’s Reserve pass which felt like something from the old days. The COVID check in process was also seamless and easy with security and gate staff helpful and efficient.

There were many new F&B stands with the addition of Royal Stacks burgers a welcome surprise and the prices were ok too from $12.50-$15.50. I remember when these guys had just opened in Brunswick when we lived here in 2015 so to see them in the stadium was pretty cool for fans, especially with their bright concession stand. There was also a brisket/BBQ outlet selling brisket rolls for $15.50, sweet crepes for $11 and southern fried chicken at the Cleaver and Coop outlet for $12.

Prices for some items were very affordable with water ($3.40) and coke varieties ($4.70) probably the cheapest in an Australian venue while the WAIT TIMES boards were helpful in showing fans which outlets had shortest lines and the distance to each outlet. Beer was priced at $9.50 for Carlton Draught while $11 for Mountain Goat craft beer which did absolutely taste that little bit nicer in flavour.

Power banks, water refill stations and plenty of helpful staff were also present inside the stadium on this event day. I found that the baby change and toilet facilities were also top notch here. I also had a check of some hand sanitisers and they all worked and had been filled prior to the event.

Ramona and I had an absolutely outstanding day at the MCG for her first visit and first AFL game with staff, affordable F&B and the views of the ground being the highlights of visiting this historic venue.

North Melbourne/Western Bulldogs AFL Fan Experience at Marvel Stadium, Melbourne, Australia 15/4/22

On a mild April day in Melbourne I set out for two games in the city with the first one taking place at Marvel Stadium in Docklands at 4pm before heading across town to AAMI Park later in the night.

I started my fan journey to Marvel Stadium in the city by catching the free 96 tram from our accommodation to within a 5 minute walk of the stadium gates. I first walked around the ground taking in the Kangaroos fan zone and members tent area with spin to win games, free GOAL cards and photo opportunities for fans young and old. I checked out the basketball court and the mural as well as some of the Marvel world entertainment like the pillar wraps and the rock climbing Spiderman wall that was not in use today. The walk from Southern Cross Station along the top concourse is always a special moment in Melbourne as thousands of fans make the pilgrimage in to the venue dressed in their guernseys and scarves.

I picked up my copy of the AFL Record and spoke to the seller who said that it’s still selling very well on game days as fans love the physical memento to take home. It’s sad in a way with QR coded digital tickets that we don’t have as many physical items to take from the game anymore like ticket stubs.

The match today was an AFL game between North Melbourne Kangaroos and Western Bulldogs that was scheduled for a 4.20pm bounce as part of the annual Good Friday Appeal match which both teams had worked well on for press all week in the city and thus resulted in a very good crowd. Tickets were well priced with myself being able to pick up a $15 Western Bulldogs ticket via a targeted Facebook post that had no extra booking fees added on as part of the deal.

The COVID check in process was seamless and easy with multiple friendly staff on hand to assist fans. I received a hello and welcome to the venue on entry and found it impressive to see the back of the staff shirts saying ‘Can we help you?’ as well as the IPTV screens displaying similar information about talking to staff if you need anything. I went around to the Customer Service Centre to ask some questions about the game day and found that the staffer here was very well educated on the game day and venue facilities. The hand sanitisers around the ground were mostly filled with one either not working properly or out of sanitiser. The toilets were clean and staff were seen to be doing a really good job of cleaning the venue as the game went on and of ensuring patrons were kept safe especially with the cordoned off roped area when the coaches were making their way back to the stands.

The joint banner and legends kick to kick were clever fan engagement ideas to bring people together for a laugh and a positive moment at the game and there was no doubt that a lot of funds were raised for the Good Friday Appeal.

The F&B options were plentiful with the standard fare of chips ($4.50), pie ($4.50) and hot dog ($6) however the best feature here is the free sauce! Not 30c, not 50c, not even a $1 for sauce but FREE! This might seem small but these things, these little things go a long way for the fan experience not least family budgets when it comes to things like buying food and drinks at a game. I really liked how the IPTV screens displayed the time til bounce and also how you can just pull up and drink a beer or have a bite on the concourse benches that run along the venue facing the field without being ushered on my staff.

There are many quality options to choose from and the pricing is quite affordable too including Smoke and Smouler BBQ, GAMI Chicken and Sweeter Life which was a hit with kids selling lolly bags and popcorn. It was good to see vegan options in burgers as well as gluten free pies making Marvel quite an inclusive venue when it comes to food options.

It was good to see the work the stadium does for accessibility and inclusion with their kids Stadium Sensory Room with sensory bags for kids including noise cancelling headphones, fidget tools, visual cue cards.

I loved the KEG Room I passed which when I ventured further around I thought could be a decent fan social space if you knocked out a window from the inside of it as it had an epic view of the field from up here. On the topic of beers, Great Northern’s were $10.50 while 4 Pines craft beer was $12.50.

Crews were collecting for the appeal while they were also giving out free hot cross buns to fans which was a welcome surprise.

I found it interesting that the inside of the venue had so much Marvel theming around the venue from life size statues to wall wraps and even height charts and photo ops yet they were branded with Marvel characters and not AFL players/themes. Maybe all kids like Marvel characters but I’d love to see an AFL all team character compare your height chart or an AFL footy photo opp booth. I know that the venues name has a lot to do with this but even the fan engagement on field was ‘pose like a superhero’ and not really AFL related.

The atmosphere was really pumping for this Good Friday Appeal AFL match and I was really impressed by the quality F&B on offer, fan engagement from North Melbourne, the team work from both teams media and marketing teams in the lead up to the game, the focus on inclusion and the venues focus on helping fans have the best fan experience they possibly can.

Melbourne Victory A-League Fan Experience at AAMI Park, Melbourne, Australia 12/4/22

On a chilly Melbourne night I hit the ground and ventured out to Melbourne Victory’s mid week Tuesday night A-League match against the Brisbane Roar at AAMI Park.

While the game finished in a 0-0 draw, it was still a very entertaining match.

It’s always a nice quick walk or tram ride to the ground here and takes about 15-20 minutes from the top end of the city by foot or about 10-15 minutes on the tram from Flinders Street Station. It is just outside the free tram network so it’s advisable to walk or cycle if you can. There is motorcycle and cycle parking around however while be careful, while walking into the stadium outside concourses, a motorcycle mounted the kerb and nearly crashed into me while trying to park without looking and without any stadium management of these motorcycles. I asked a staffer about this and they said that the bikes just come up and park at will. I had not seen them park like this before so will keep my eyes peeled next time while walking along the outside concourse.

I had a really nice chat with a stadium staffer called Catherine/Katherine outside the ground who was so jovial and had superb customer service skills as she helped fans with information on the match one on one and also over her loudspeaker. I mentioned I was down from Brisbane and she said that they had multiple QR vaccination and check in posters who those who needed them so that sounded like they had prepared well for all events.

The check in and vaccination process was easy and seamless and the staff were also kind, helpful and respectful and it appeared that fans were also being respectful back to them. I checked the hand sanitiser stations around the ground and every one I tried worked and had sanitiser in them as well. The toilets were also spotless and well maintained throughout the night.

Many F&B outlets were closed however since last visiting it did seem that there had been some good improvements with craft beer from 4 Pines (CUB non IBA) and a fish and chip stand that looked like it was offering really decent sized portions of quality items. The usual other items were also on sale with items including hot chips ($6), pie ($5) and hot dogs ($5.50) while beers were priced from $8.20 (light beer 375ml Cascade Light poured into a schooner 425ml) to $9.80 Great Northern and $11.80 for a Balter Captain Sensible (mid strength) or a 4 Pines Pacific Ale (full strength – unsure or if mid version of this SKU). I did the maths and it does appear that it is cheaper to buy mid/full strength beers than it is to buy the light beer by only a few cents and I did think that it was slightly cheeky that the light beer was only 375ml and not a schooner 425ml.

Lines were moving fast and staff were helpful and working fast for fans while there was also a coffee cart selling snacks like hot jam doughnuts. There was a point of difference in the quality of the food servings as well with buttermilk chicken tenders and chicken schnitzel burgers as well as fresh sandwiches on offer all ranging from $9.50- $17.

The entrance into the ground through the gates with my QR code ticket was seamless and I was greeted with a hello and welcome which always gets the night off to a good start. Now with 2-3-4 waves of entry with security screening, wanding, vax and check-in checks plus ticket entry its so important that staff are trained in not only their role but also in offering superb customer service. They are often the first point of contact for game day on the fans journey to the event so a nice welcome goes a long way for fans to get the night off to a positive start.

The concourses were clean and staff were friendly and helpful when I asked questions about the venue on my way around taking in the game day vibes. The Melbourne Victory fans really built up the atmosphere with their songs, chants and enthusiasm and it was a credit to them for the atmosphere and noise they created on the night. The players also made sure to come round to the fans after the 0-0 result to thank them which was good to see.

I thought that the community partnership with the TAC was a good idea and offered fans some fan engagement through a good community message around avoiding drink driving and planning their exit from the game. They had these cards that you could scratch off to win prizes and were giving them out to families plus merchandise to young fans.

The high police presence was very off putting and confronting. I asked Police and stadium reps why the large presence, especially on a Tuesday night during school holidays and while staff were friendly and positive about it being due to previous incidents, VIC Police were rude and came across as unhelpful and agitated, which in terms of first impressions for a fan is really not the best look.

Overall, for a Tuesday night mid week match it was really good to get back to AAMI Park and take in a Victory game. I highly recommend coming down here to check it out.

Brisbane Roar A-League Fan Experience, Moreton Daily Stadium, Redcliffe, 3/4/22

On a gorgeous blue sky sunny day in Brisbane I headed out to Redcliffe to take in the Brisbane Roar A-League match versus Newcastle Jets at the boutique and impressive Moreton Daily Stadium.

Driving from Brisbane today as public transport can be tricky with the closest train station to the stadium 2km away, it was very nice to be able to get free parking and walk 50m to the venue gates.

Before the match I went on the Moreton Daily Stadium website to plan my visit and while the website has had a good refresh especially with the hype reel video, it was disappointing to see that the events page had not been updated since February with no mention or information whatsoever on the match today. Some suggestions I have made to the venue include:

  • Security/COVID measures
  • Is there an ASB line/information on what fans can do if needing help
  • Parking options around venue
  • Information on F&B offerings/menu
  • Ride share options? pick up/drop off?
  • Map could be better instead of a small rectangular image that is difficult to navigate
  • FAQ section
  • Seating maps for various events

First impressions were not the best at the gate as they opened at 3pm with the ticketing line being divided into two lines however then diverting back into one. Everyone in the right lane who had signed into the venue and showed their vaccination pass then had to divert back in to the two people scanning tickets rather than those two gate staffers separating into scanning one line of fans each. Security were welcoming and said hello while gate staff also were helpful and while annoying this ticketing process still moved fans in quickly and the line kept moving. There was a map at the start of the venue along with the standard check in’s required by fans however it did not appear that the ticket scanners knew how to work the scanner as we were not scanned in and just allowed to walk in and witnessed other fans doing the same or just walking through without being scanned due to the crowd build up at the gates. Ticket scanners were doing a good job in the sun and these scanners can be tricky to pick up the QR codes so they did a good job to scan people in under the pressure of fans all coming in at the same time.

I said hello to the ticket scanner and they were kind and helpful and wished us a good day which was a positive start on entry to the venue. As I mentioned security here were really positive and I had some good chats to staff as I made my way around the ground. Good communication and positive staff make for a positive visit and from the F&B catering staff to the security you could see that the staff here were very hard working, attentive and offered good customer service skills.

There is so much to like about this venue with some of the cheapest food and beverages in an Australian venue and includes $6 beers, $4.70 chips and $2.50 lolly bags for kids and families which was a nice touch. They even have potato scallops while the meals are of a substantial serving and lines moved quickly from what I observed. The sauce is even free and while a small thing to some people, is the type of little touch that goes a long way especially when some venues charge $1.50 for sauce.

There are no bad views in this venue with each stand affording spectacular views of the field of play. The tall trees that stand behind the Eastern Grandstand just add a gorgeous touch to the charming styling of this boutique venue. Today I was in the Western Grandstand area which for $65 represented outstanding value with a full roast and ice-cream plus cash bar (with $6 beers and $3.50 soft drinks) and amazing views of the field. The best thing about the views in this venue are that you can watch the game from down on the sidelines and be right up close to the corners and nets and when I mean close, I mean close. The players are literally 5 metres away from you or less which just represents such an incredible experience. Accessible seating views are also impressive while on that front there are now lifts in the venue which means access and inclusion is even more at the forefront of what this great venue can provide to fans on event days.

It was great to see both the male and female Brisbane Roar mascots out and about as well as the merch stand in full swing. The Roar did a great job on the fan engagement front with kids games, cross bar challenges and their local community partner on the day doing a fantastic service for fans.

While no doubt that OWHS standards are high here I did witness a couple of incidents that made me question if it could be better. On my walk around the ground I saw a fan taking photographs of the players. As she bent down to lean on the fence she fell through it as this particular gate part was not locked or did not have the pin through it meaning she fell through and this could have been a lot worse for her falling on the LED boards or the pitch. Fans must also watch out for balls flying past the net as you make your way from side to side. I was surprised that there was not safety netting or security guards and signs at ether side of the nets warning fans to be aware of flying balls potentially hitting them pre-game as the players practiced their shots. You’d hate to lose your beer or hot chips here when walking past and I don’t think it’s fair that fans would know to be aware of this as they are pre-occupied on walking through to their seating area as well as the fact that the game has not started so they are not paying close attention to the field.

The way-finding signage is good here after some venue upgrades with clear signage and information displayed however the hand sanitiser stations scattered around the venue were empty which seemed like just one of those small things that was forgotten about from time to time on event days. When entering the Western Grandstand corporate area for our seating we had to get a wristband and as the staffer ripped the piece of paper off to stick the wristband on my arm he let the scrap paper just fly away. I said ‘someone needs to get you a bag for the rubbish’ and he said ‘nah fuck it, its just rubbish’. To some who litter or don’t care about the environment that’s fine but for someone like myself who is conscious of and cares about sustainability this was not good optics, especially in the corporate area with people watching. However, for sustainability it was good to see all the standard recycling bins but also a dedicated can and bottle bin for recycling.

Overall this was a fantastic fan experience with the views, affordable food and beverage and accessibility being the major highlights not to mention the last two goals from Brisbane Roar to seal a stunning 2-0 victory. Every fan should add Moreton Daily Stadium to their game day bucket list as it’s well worth the visit.

Brisbane Broncos NRL Fan Experience, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia, 27/03/2022

On Sunday 27th March 2022 I headed out to Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane for the Brisbane Broncos NRL match against the North Queensland Cowboys. The Broncos went down to the Cowboys 38-12.

Along with the men’s games there were also two NRL Women’s matches with the Broncos winning convincingly here in their game.

It was good to see a new F&B outlet in section 305 selling vegan food options which is a new inclusive option for fans on game days.

I checked out the impressive Paddock Club pre-game where there was a kids carnival with rides, food trucks with big sized gourmet food options and live screens with comfy furniture to relax pre-game. Drinks of XXXX Gold were $8.80 per can which was cheaper than inside and quite affordable but this space did run out of beer 90 minutes out from the game which was not the best look for XXXX. The prices for F&B here were also quite high ($18 loaded chips) but is to be expected. It was one of the biggest Broncos crowds in recent memory yet lines and staffing were very good. It took me less than a minute to get a beer at half time within the stadium and even less in the Paddock Club. I never like getting a beer that’s been poured minutes before the rush and like to take a fresh one and these were plentiful and fresh at the bars in section 711 when I quickly got some beers (3 Golds were $27.45).

Fans were able to get free posters which had both the mens and women’s team images on them and was a simple and inclusive giveaway while it was also good to see the return of the old Broncos font and logo on merchandise like caps.

Beers inside ranged from $9.15-$11.65 with food also seeing an increase on previous seasons but once again is to be expected in these times. The F&B options have increased as well so that is also a positive.

I was impressed with the positive greeting at the gate by the attendant saying ‘hello, have a good day and thanks for coming’. Simple gesture that goes a long way for fans.

Free hand sanitisers were handed out pre game as well as TRY cards for kids.

All in all a brilliant day out at one of Australia’s top venues.

Day 1, First ASHES Test Match, The Gabba Cricket Ground, Brisbane, Australia 8/12/21

On Wednesday 8th December 2021 I ventured down to Woolloongabba in Brisbane to the Brisbane Cricket Ground (The GABBA) for day one of the first ASHES test cricket match.

From the journey in to the merchandise stand, from the food and beverage offerings to the views and from the sun to the rain and rain and rain, here is my recap from a very memorable first day ASHES test in Brisbane.

Enjoy.

NRL Preliminary Final South Sydney Vs Manly Sea Eagles, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane 24th September 2021

Images from the South Sydney Rabbitohs 36-16 win over Manly at Suncorp Stadium on Friday 24th September 2021.

  • Vaccinations at the game
  • Beer prices rise by 60c since last Broncos match 
  • VB fan zone area
  • Good to get 4 Pines but $11.80 is steep but it does taste better!
  • New LED sport lighting

BBC Radio London Live Interview 28/11/2020

After the conclusion of the third and final deciding State of Origin match on 28th November 2020 I did a live cross interview to BBC London to talk about the COVID restrictions at the game and how the event was managed. I did one call while still at the game as the siren had just sounded on another Queensland series win while I did another quick cross on the walk back to my house at 11pm 

I was recently sent the audio to both add to my site here but also for my own personal record as it will be something interesting to look back on down the track especially considering when you think about where Australia was at this point in time compared to the rest of the world (this match was the biggest crowd since the pandemic began) and then subsequently what played out only a few months later in Australia due to the total incompetence and poor leadership of our pathetic Liberal Government. Well it’s true….

Link to blog post from the match: https://mrblairhughes.com/state-of-origin-iii-queensland-vs-nsw-suncorp-stadium-brisbane-18-11-2020/ 

AFL Game Day Brisbane Lions Vs West Coast Eagles, The Gabba, Brisbane, Australia, 21/8/21

The view from the AFL Brisbane Lions Vs West Coast Eagles match day at the Gabba on Saturday 21/8/21.

Score was 19.11.125 to 13.9.87.

 

Brisbane Broncos Vs Wests Tigers NRL Game Day, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia 18/07/2021

A special moment in my life as I take my baby Ramona Josie along to her first ever rugby league and Brisbane Broncos match day at Suncorp Stadium. And what a fabulous first game day it was for her and I.

 

Brisbane Lions vs Gold Coast Suns AFL Game Day, The Gabba, Brisbane, Australia 24/07/2021

The Brisbane Lions AFL match day from the Gabba in Brisbane on 24/07/21.

The Lions 17.18.120 defeated Gold Coast 10.11.71

Cricket Australia 4th Test Match. Australia V India, The Gabba, Brisbane, 15th January 2021

Outstanding fan experience at the The Gabba for the Cricket Australia test match on day 1 and 5. 

I took my daughter Ramona Josie along for her first ever game day on day 5 as it was free with a donation to the Movember charity. A moment I will cherish forever!

A fantastic day and a highlight of my sports calendar to head along to the test, especially on day 1 as I never miss this day.

Grateful to be able to attend and impressed by all the covid safety messaging and notices as well as the ushers and staff being helpful and well trained around these tricky new event day experiences for fans.

Well done to the stadium, staff, Stadiums Queensland, teams, Queensland Government and fans for all doing the right thing with masks and covid safety👏☀️🏏

 

STATE OF ORIGIN III QUEENSLAND VS NSW, SUNCORP STADIUM, BRISBANE, 18/11/2020

49,155!

Biggest crowd ANYWHERE in the world since the COVID pandemic lockdowns began. What an achievement for Queensland and Australia.

What an absolutely incredible night at Suncorp Stadium for the National Rugby League State of Origin game 3 match between Queensland Rugby League and NSWRL. One of the best events I’ve had the chance to go to. Proud to be a Queenslander. Well done to everyone involved from the players to the venue and the staff to the fans.

📻 Quick chat with BBC London after the game too: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172x2t408fvv6q

2020 AFL GRND FINAL, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 24/10/20

Went for an early morning walk around the The Gabba this morning to check out the set up ahead of the AFL – Australian Football League Grand Final tonight in Brisbane.

Had a couple of good chats with security and fans who are here already at 7am. It’s sure to be a memorable event in Australian sporting history. Have fun to anyone heading along.

Well done to all the staff at the AFL and clubs this year who kept the game running for fans (especially all the staff unfortunately let go – you all did a great job, be proud!)

Gold Coast Titans NRL Fan Experience, CBUS Stadium, Gold Coast, Queensland, 12/09/20

Checked out the impressive Gold Coast Titans Cbus Super Stadium game day against the Brisbane Broncos tonight on the Goldie. 

Here are some quick snaps from what was a quality match at this great game day out. It’s one I encourage any sports fan to get along to as well. 

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