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What is the Future of Football Stadia?

Football stadia are more than just a place where games are played. stadia host events that create lifelong memories. As far back as ancient Rome, stadia were created as a way to bring people together, and watch events in the company of others. Stadia were viewed as a place of excitement, and still are to this day. While as a society we have evolved beyond the infamous gladiator games of 2,000 years ago, we are still as attracted to displays of athleticism and prowess. As football continues to be the most globally popular and celebrated sport, it’s no wonder that those interested in the industry are keen to understand the future of football stadia.

Mar 15, 2022
What is the Future of Football Stadia?

Investing in stadia

As more fans clamor for a seat in front of the action, more football clubs are beginning to realize the necessity of investing in their stadia. In the United States, sports teams are investing over $10 billion dollars in upgrading stadia. In addition to investing in their stadia to attract more spectators, “Sports clubs can attract lucrative naming rights and sponsorship deals with new buildings.” Corporations or even private companies can vie for the opportunity to put their name on a stadium.

These investments aren’t limited to just the United States. Abroad, Wembley Stadium recently received $1.5 billion in investments for improvements, while the Singapore National Stadium saw a $1.31 billion investment. Stadia are expected to be not only well made, but also aesthetically pleasing. For example, the Guangzhou Evergrande Stadium, also known as the Lotus Flower Stadium, is set to “become the world's largest football-specific stadium with a capacity of 100,000.” Not only will it host the largest number of spectators, it’s a beautiful building designed to be pleasing to the eye as well.

More technology

As technology advances in just about all other aspects of life, it will also be showing increases in football stadia. Fans expect only the best when it comes to technology, and stadia will be built to meet these demands. Some features expected to be added to stadia include drone technology for capturing all aspects of the game, Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enhance the audience’s experience, robots, sensor technology, 4D cameras, and even holographic technology.

Suiting fans’ needs

Even though football remains wildly popular, it’s expected that many stadia of the future will actually be designed to hold smaller capacities of spectators. With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting the amount of people who can be together in one space, as well as various ways for fans to access sports, the need for vast structures is changing. Stadia developers are “focusing on what is the optimal capacity for venues and in some cases actually creating more boutique stadia. Bringing the capacity down rather than working on the premise that, ‘OK, great. Well, I've got more seats, I can sell more tickets and make more money.’... It doesn't really work like that anymore,” according to Samin Macdonald, Professor of Stadium Business Operations at The Football Business Academy and Project Director at Legends International, with over eighteen years experience in the industry.

Stadium design is changing. The focus in now not just on selling tickets, but on creating destinations where spectators can have an amazing experience before, during and after the match. Venues are looking at ways to increase revenue through the provision of great customer experience, food & beverage, merchandise, and technology experiences. “There has been a huge construction of soccer-specific venues, as they call them now, in the USA,” Samin adds. “These are around 20,000 to 25,000 in capacity. The MLS is not going to achieve the 60,000+ capacities of an NFL team, but they have taken all of the amazing elements of what happens in American stadia, using a huge amount of space in and around the stadium to create incredible fan experiences.”

Convenience will be paramount, with stadia doing everything possible to make a fan’s experience top tier from start to finish. Finally, many stadia are going to be designed with the idea of being a multi-purpose event space. Not only will this allow spaces to increase revenue, it will also make it worthwhile to invest in much-needed improvements for the stadium.

Security

While watching a match between their favorite teams, fans don’t want to worry about anything, much less security risks. Therefore, future stadia will be bulking up their security features. Fans who feel safe are more likely to remain at the stadium for a longer period of time, which means more interaction with the sport, and increased revenue for the stadium itself. Therefore, spectators can expect to see more security features in upcoming stadia, and are more likely to feel more comfortable while watching the game.

Sustainability

Not only will stadia of the future be designed to enhance user experience, be convenient, and more secure, they will also be more sustainable. Serbia’s national stadium takes its design inspiration from Forest Green Rovers in the UK. Its nature-inspired look makes use of wood and other natural materials to better match the environment. Eco-conscious fans expect only the best when it comes to green technology, and keeping a low carbon footprint. These expectations spill over onto their favorite football teams, and stadia are increasingly designed with that in mind. Fans can expect to see buildings designed in accordance with the environment, more sustainable options from concessions, and improved recycling measures in the future.

While a lot of these green goals are still ambitious future dreams, some stadia have already heeded the call for more eco-friendly arenas. According to Sustainability Report, Ajax’s Johan Cruyff Arena has famously transformed second life Nissan car batteries into an efficient energy storage and distribution system. Additionally, “FC Barcelona, one of the most recognisable brands in sport, has its own innovation hub that brings together scientists, entrepreneurs, students, athletes, investors and academics to find innovative solutions in seven main areas. Three of those topics are health and wellness, smart facilities, and social impact.”

The Football Business Academy and future of football stadia

With all of these new and exciting changes on the horizon for football, it’s hardly a surprise students wonder what they can do to get their foot in the door. Fortunately, there are several schools out there tailored to preparing students to enter the fast-paced world of working in football, such as The Football Business Academy (FBA).

Students who participate in The FBA’s Professional Master in Football Business receive a world-class education that puts them in the position to step into a multitude of football and football-related careers upon graduation.

As described, there are many sectors one can get jobs in specifically related to working in or with sports stadia as they continue to push forward into the future. Students who attend The Football Business Academy work with industry professionals and professors from around the world, meaning they get immediate exposure to the industry from those who know it best. Additionally, connecting with these professionals offers a wide network of support for students looking to further their professional goals.

Students learn from and work with industry professionals such as Samin Macdonald. He says, “If you look at the list of professors, it is all people who have lived and breathed the subjects we are teaching for years and are still doing it. I think that it’s great it's not just theoretical; this what actually happens.

One of the things I hope the students like in my classes is when I talk about actual stories and practical examples. I find it's hugely enjoyable for me because it’s a recollection of 18 years experience. I can let them know about what my day-to-day work is like. So, at the start of every class, I can say to them, ‘OK, this is what I have been doing this week.”

FBA graduate Hugo Chaillou says, “The first segment of the program is an all-round and complete experience and classes around football. So if you don’t really know what you want to do in the football industry, this program might just help you realize the sector you want to work in. The other important point is you’re not going to be left out, and this strong bond that the class has is really important.”

FBA students graduate with a Professional Master in Football Business. The 12-month long program is divided into four modules, the first two of which are online courses. According to instructor Samin Macdonald, these online courses are a fantastic way for students to get involved. He says, “The online classes are recorded and allow the students flexibility if they have day jobs. The commitment is flexible. I know some of my students have time zone restrictions or working restrictions and cannot be at all of the online classes. So, they can watch the recordings and catch up in their own time.”

Students will also leave the FBA prepared with invaluable skills necessary to find success in the field. Of these skills, Samin says, “analytical skills are highly valued now, having excellent ability in excel and other tools is definitely a plus. Sales and negotiation skills are also a great asset for any role. I would advise students at the beginning to just build your skill set, build your knowledge, build your network and in time you will find the areas of the industry that are more suited towards you. The football industry is very small and building your network is key. This is one of the main benefits of the FBA, providing you with a fantastic platform to start your career in the industry.”

The online modules allow for students anywhere in the world to participate in the courses, while still maintaining employment or managing other commitments. Despite the difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, FBA graduate Ricardo Teixeira found he still received a top-notch education. Ricardo says, “By 2019, having online live classes during a period would sound strange. But I was surprised by how dynamic and “normal” everything was. I could not imagine that by 2020 this methodology would be the reality of the majority of students across the world. This reinforces that the Academy's method is always prepared for the future.”

The third module is a guaranteed internship provided by The FBA, designed to give candidates the necessary hands-on experience to develop real-world skills.

According to Macdonald, the internship is an invaluable component of the program. He stays connected with his students throughout their education, and is available for assistance when they join The FBA’s strong and active alumni network. Finally, students round out the course by finishing classes in-person in beautiful Lisbon, Portugal, while attending football related field trips and completing a business related project.

The Student Business Project is critically important for preparing students to enter the workforce, according to Ricardo. He says, “I could also mention the Student Business Project, the final job at the Academy. A broader study where you work for a “client” (an FBA partner) and bring a solution or different views for a demand. At this stage, it’s necessary to use your professional experience (if you have), knowledge acquired throughout the course and analyze data to support the strategy.”

Hugo says, “If you are interested in football and passionate, trust the process and give everything to this course, because it’s the best way to understand, get better at what you do, discover your field, and make friends.”

Graduates of the FBA will leave school prepared to take on whatever the future of football stadia holds. From working in customer service, to helping anticipate the wants and needs of the clubs themselves, or participating in the construction of new stadia, FBA students will be ready to meet whatever challenges lie ahead!

Article written in association with The Football Business Academy.

Chelsea Castonguay

Author

Chelsea is a Student Affairs expatriate, who now works as a freelance writer and editor. She homesteads in a small town in rural Maine, USA. She enjoys hiking, fishing, cooking, reading, all things Laura Ingalls Wilder, spending time with her family, and chasing her black lab puppy, Cash.