Posted on December 19, 2018 by staff

‘Don’t let tech kill football as a spectator sport’ – CEO


The man in charge of Blackburn Rovers has warned that the growth in digital technology could kill football as a spectator sport if it goes unchecked.

Steve Waggott was appointed CEO of the Championship team 12 months ago and has overseen the adoption of technology across all aspects of club.

The ambitious club has invested heavily in technology to improve player recruitment and performance, fan engagement and the matchday experience.

Under Waggott’s tenure average attendances have increased to more than 14,000 and turnover has grown to £17 million following last season’s promotion but he said his priority remains getting fans to the game.

“Digital technology could kill football as a spectator viewing sport,” he told BusinessCloud.

“The biggest challenge for football, in my opinion, is people coming to live games because all the digital technology – which is great and very positive most of the time – could actually kill the game as a spectator viewing sport.

“That’s got to be something we keep talking about – and that’s why we’re trying to incorporate digital technology into fan experience of coming to the game. That’s the trick. That is how we go forward.”

In the US Amazon already shows 11 NFL ‘Thursday Night Football’ matches on Prime while Twitter streams Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer games.

Tech giants Facebook, Google and Netflix are all rumoured to be looking to getting into live sport.

Currently 25 per cent of Blackburn’s revenue comes from attendance income but in the Premier League it’s closer to 8 per cent, meaning the biggest clubs aren’t as dependent on the income from fans on match day.

Waggott said he welcomed the opportunities that technology created but said there was no substitute for seeing football live.

“The challenge is does it just eventually eat the game if you can watch the goal playback in five or 10 seconds (through technology)?” he asked.

“Everything’s instant now, there’s nothing deferred in life, it’s how you make sure you don’t kill the game off.”

Waggott was appointed CEO of Blackburn Rovers on December 22, 2018 and has previously held a number of senior executive positions within football over the last 14 years, including at Southend United, Gillingham, Coventry City and Charlton Athletic.

He highlighted the arrival of Tony Mowbray (pictured above) as manager in 2017 as one of the reasons for the stability the club is currently enjoying on and off the pitch.

  • A special report into Blackburn Rovers’ use of technology will be appearing in the next edition of BusinessCloud. To subscribe for free email [email protected]