College football: Alex Ferguson on how to keep stadiums full
skysports.com blogger has 10 ideas that will keep fans in their seats
By Alex Ferguson
Last Updated: 29/07/14 4:12pm
College football teams around the country are having a problem: how to keep the stadiums full all the way through the game.
Clubs in football love to have their Kops, South Terrace (Dortmund), Stretford End. College football stadiums aren’t any different with student sections. They create a lot of the noise. And make their experience better.
People are sick of seeing wide, open spaces at games and a lack of attendance.
Anyway, a news article revealed that College Football teams are going to the Major League Soccer marketing men to try and work out how they manage to keep fans IN the stadia.
Alex Ferguson, Sky Sports’ resident college football fanatic, has 10 suggestions of his own….
In July The Wall Street Journal - click here to read - revealed that some college football teams were going to their MLS counterparts to try and find out how they can get their students to come early and stay late. Well, here’s 10 suggestions for you. Some of these you might like, others you might not!
1) College Football stadia change their 'no alcohol rule' in college games
In college football, there’s a tradition of having an adult beverage before a game, it’s the ‘tailgate’. From personal experience, it’s a lot of fun. People come from miles around to attend the party, bringing along high-screen TVs, good food, and good company. Some schools have even become more famous for the party than the strength of the team itself.
Anyway, the ‘party’ continues in NFL stadia, where fans can buy a drink. Why can’t you do that in college football stadia, where a majority of fans are over the 21-year age limit? According to a USA Today report, the NCAA – the rulers of the sport – haven’t exactly put a ban on beers at an event, but they are hardly ecstatic about it, either.
The only conference that bans it league-wide is the SEC. The conference says: “No alcoholic beverages shall be sold or dispensed for public consumption anywhere in the facility and the possession and/or consumption of alcoholic beverages in the public areas of the facility shall be prohibited. These prohibitions shall not apply to private, leased areas in the facility or other areas designated by the SEC. There shall be no advertising displays mentioning or promoting alcoholic beverages in the facility."
If schools want to get their grounds filled and for fans to stay there, start supplying beer. Students won’t have to run off and find it then. It might not increase revenue all that substantially, but it might keep the fans in the park and reduce trouble outside stadiums, too.
2) Sort out the schedule!
At the moment, a lot of the best college football games outside of normal conference games are being played at NFL stadia or at other 'neutral-site venues' like baseball stadiums, or even a NASCAR racetrack. Or even in Ireland (Penn State play Central Florida at Croke Park at end-August). While this is great for tourists and the marketing people to help increase the school’s ‘footprint’, having a schedule where teams play each other twice (both teams play at home once on consecutive years) will generate more revenues for schools, create better atmospheres (the excitement of a new team in town), and fans will fill the home stadiums to see teams they don't regularly see. Not only that, but season ticket holders will get to see the big fixtures at home instead of Texas or Atlanta. They can do that during bowl season for crying out loud!
3) Fierce promotion in the school and marketing.
Seniors normally get priority when it comes to season tickets at colleges, meaning that attendance at games gives fans more pride. Why not do more games ‘first come, first serve’, meaning that the students will be more pushed to go to games earlier rather have a ‘laissez faire’ attitude about attendance?
4) Play more games at night
No-one really likes a 3.30pm game, while everyone loves a night game. In my experiences, the best atmospheres at stadiums are at night – particularly in the SEC. Crowds get really 'up' for a night game, but afternoon sun and heat can lose people their souls. More games at night = better atmosphere, folks.
5) Let the players celebrate how they want
Let there be NO celebration penalty. If a player wants to celebrate and he wants to do 'The Worm', let him do it. That's what the fans want and they want some fun. Please, let's not be boring and give players a ‘celebration penalty’. Sports are fun, for crying out loud. If a player isn’t ‘over the top’ (we’ll let you use your imagination for this), then let a player be.
6) Sort out the tackling
Fans generally generate the most noise when their defence is on the field. Well, it's a little bit soul-destroying when players can't tackle. A lot of this 'bad tackling' business is to do with the powers-that-be wanting less contact in practice because of the concussion issue. OK, we get that. But can't players be taught more about tackling like rugby players? Or given more time to focus on tackling technique? Or should schools start putting in ‘tackling technology’ so players can simulate tackling without the full contact (Wow – we’re off to the inventors’ lab….)
7) Make it more inexpensive
College football games and NFL games are becoming prohibitively expensive - despite schools making a killing from TV rights. One way schools make money is charging fans for one ticket ( say $80) and then charging a further $80 as a 'donation' to the school athletic fund. Fans can't pay that, and increasingly see that sort of pricing as daylight robbery... Especially in a year of a 'weaker' schedule or when they don't get to see the big non-conference match-up because it's in Charlotte, fans feel like they are getting ‘screwed’ by the colleges, and simply refuse to go or are happy to watch it in a bar. In a world where there’s no ‘TV black-outs’ like there is the NFL, fans can choose simply not to turn up.
8) Market the players positively
Not a day goes by that a player isn’t arrested for everything from drink driving to drug possession to fighting. Schools and players are getting a worse and worse reputation. Schools need to learn how to market the ‘good guys’ better and push out the positive better than they have been. Sure, the cynics might think they are just covering up the bad, but there you go. Good stories are a good thing.
9) Learn from the Bundesliga, Premier League, and MLS
Clubs in football love to have their Kops, South Terrace (Dortmund), Stretford End. College football stadiums aren’t any different with student sections. They create a lot of the noise. And make their experience better. If that means fireworks at the end of the game (the University of Michigan recently decided AGAINST having a fireworks party at the end of two of their games because they felt the fireworks should be ON the field (and they are currently trying to sell season tickets)), then so be it. If it means flags, or T-Shirts, or a special ‘zone’ set up in the stadium for the world to see, then so be it. Make the passionate fans feel special.
10) Sort out the seating
In college football, 90% of fans sit on metal benches with no backing. In a world with an ageing population, fans need more comfort. A lot of fans don’t like the idea of sitting for 3 hours in uncomfortable circumstances. Give proper seats, people. The schools can afford it with the money they are making from TV deals.