Engage fans and make local football great again

Singaporean fans at Jalan Besar stadium to support the Young Lions at the 28th SEA Games against the Philippines in June 2015.
Singaporean fans at Jalan Besar stadium to support the Young Lions at the 28th SEA Games against the Philippines in June 2015.PHOTO: ST FILE

Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim's latest pet project, Salford City Football Club, and its phenomenal success, climaxing with its recent promotion to the professional National Football League, could hold some lessons for the local football scene (Lim eyes bigger things with Salford, May 13).

Salford City's co-owner Gary Neville said it well when he noted that the club's fan base had grown from 180 people to a few thousand over a span of five years.

Therein lies the secret - engaging the fans.

According to Canadian customer relationship intelligence software company Vision Critical, sports teams are not doing enough to engage their fans.

For instance, it found that only a third of fans agree that the team they support actually engages them by listening to their opinions.

And yet, engaging fans is so important.

It is what enables sports teams to measure and increase their brand value to develop a brand image that resonates with fans, and is the penultimate driver behind ticket and merchandise sales.

International consultancy outfit Gensler also found that sports teams have to viscerally connect with the fans beyond just a great match-day experience.

Some ways this can be done is through apps and other forms of round-the-clock online engagement, giving fans something to be proud of, such as a stadium with great vibes, and by giving back to the local community.

There is also sports management research suggesting that fans desire to be engaged by their sports teams at deeper decision-making levels, in that they can potentially influence decisions on team-and game-related matters.

For local football, the fans have long said that they want more engagement (Fans want to see more engagement, Nov 6, 2018).

Like Salford City, local football, too, can become great again with the unequivocal support of delighted and fully engaged fans.

Woon Wee Min

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2019, with the headline 'Engage fans and make local football great again'. Print Edition | Subscribe