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7 awesome examples of fans calling the shots

Fans increasingly want to be involved in the decision making of their club, a trend which is unstoppable. Sports organisations should start thinking on how to adjust their business models in order to facilitate for this trend. Below you will find 7 great examples of fans calling the shots

The average fan wants involvement

Fans calling the shots

I am sure you know this particular guy! I call him the armchair critic, the guy who always knows best. He is standing at the sideline and is telling everybody what a coach should do and how it can be done better. He wants to be involved, doesn’t he? Meet your average fan!

I am also sure you know this kid, this young adult who beats you in every sports video game you can think of. This kid knows what he is doing. He has been brought up with it. He not only chooses which players are on his team, but is also calling the shots! This fan decides which players he wants, whether he is participating in a fantasy league or whether he is just playing FIFA 20. He is tech savvy and wants to be the best, just like the armchair critic knows best.

Both of these guys have something in common. They are participating in something they are passionate about. They are fans!

Declining number of fans attending games…….

However, there is a problem! In many sports, there seems to be a declining trend in the number of fans attending a game or people associating themselves with a team. This seems logical as fans feel less involved. It is much more fun to just play a game at home, where you can have an impact on the game and where you are involved. Passively watching a game is out of the question for many, except of course for the aforementioned armchair critic, who increasingly watches the game at home . Times have changed and tech is the main reason for it.

Give fans a say!

It order to stop this trend and to be successful as a club, fan engagement (see my blog on the future of fan engagement) will be crucial. The new generations Z and Alpha do want to have a say in the game. Preferably they want to call the shots. If not they will be out. As said, tech has been the main reason behind this trend, but it also may come to the rescue! At least if sports organizations are willing to change! Teams and sports have to involve fans when making decisions, whether it will be directly (such as tactics, substitutions, players or line-up) or indirectly (team jersey, logo, players to be bought and sold etc).

I can recall an interesting article that described how fans were already involved in direct decisions in the early 50’s as well as in the nineties. Fans in the stands were equipped with large cards with ‘yes’ and ‘no’ printed on them. During the game they had to answer questions that had a direct impact on the match, for example, “do we have to bring in this player?” The audience had to put up there cardboards with the answer, yes or no. Fans loved the idea, but somehow this never materialized on a sustainable basis.

Fan involvement not that difficult today!

Today, with the right technology in place, fan involvement should be much easier. What to think for example of sensors? However, it remains the question if sports directors and managers are willing to change. Some clubs are experimenting with fans deciding on issues that do not have a direct impact on the game. For example Everton fans were consulted in the team colors of the new jersey or Manchester City fans could decide which team badge was most appropriate.

Barca fans were asked whether Quatar Sports should be a shirt sponsor or not. The app socios.com is going a step further. It is a blockchain fan engagement platform that believes fans should have a voice. It offers fans the possibility to vote on certain matters and earn rewards. The app has already signed strong brand names like Juventus and Paris Saint Germain. Or what about the fans of the Seattle Sounders? They could decide whether the General Manager could keep his job or not. These are examples of indirect involvement, but what about direct involvement in the game or in an event? Here are 7 examples where this is actually the case.

7 great examples of fans calling the shots

1. The Volvo Ocean Race

During the edition of 2009 the virtual gaming community was steering one of the boats (Green Dragon) during the last few legs of the race. Every night they could vote for 4 alternative scenarios. Green Dragon had to follow the scenario with the most votes. This was and is a true example of how the virtual and the real world are converging. Moreover Green Dragon managed to realise its best result when steered by the gaming community. This proves the phenomenons of “virtual wisdom of the crowd” and is also fanengagement taken to the extreme. See article.

2. My Football Club/Caen

MFC originated in 2007 and used to be a football club owned by its members. These members decided on-line on matters such as team jerseys, price of ticketing, team manager, line-up, player transfers etc. Initially this initiative was a great success. The club gathered a huge number of fans from all over the world and saw the number of supporters in the strands increase rapidly. However, the results were not that great and in the end the team even relegated.

l’Avant-Garde Caennaise is an even better example. It is a 6th division team in France, and it seems to be very successful so far. Its cooperation with United Managers appears to have turnaround the club into a Football Manager game. With the assistance of an app, fans can decide on basically everything; from players to tactics, from substitutes to decisions made during the game. The majority decides, the ultimate democracy! It seems to work well as the club immediately gained promotion during the first year of this experiment.

This year they also seem to do well. The French Football Federation is the only problem now. It considers a team that is steered by its fans, as a threat. Future will tell, but no doubt fan decision making will become more important, also advocated by people like Arsene Wenger.

3. Formula E Fanboost

In Fanboost fans play an active role in influencing the outcome of a Formula E race. The five drivers which receive the most votes are awarded with a significant burst of engine power, which they can use during the race. Clearly driver popularity and connection with the fans are of major importance here.

4. Schaumburg Flyers

In 2006 the Schaumburg Flyers, a minor league baseball team, decided to let fans vote on which pitcher had to be used, the batting order and positions in the field. Fans could decide on this on-line. It did have a 15% positive impact on the number of fans attending the game

5. Nascar

Nascar always is very innovative as far as fan engagement is concerned. It has experimented with fans deciding on the grid order, which they could decide on based on for example number of career poles, championship points or maximum speeds.

6. Chess

In 1999 Garry Kasparov played against the world through the internet. Team The World decided by majority vote which move it wanted to make. Kasparov won the match but admitted it had been an incredibly hard one. I would say, wake up World Chess Federation! Why not let a world team participate in certain tournaments? I would bet, such a move would attract lots of interest for the sport. Moreover, it is relatively easy to implement.

7. The Fan Controlled Football League

Yes, it’s there and it does what its name suggests. Via an interactive video overlay on Twitch or in the FCFL app, fans will call all of the plays in real time for the 8 teams in this new league. The outcome of each fan vote is relayed to the quarterback and executed on the field. Besides, fans can also step into the manager’s role to determine items such as name, logo, colors, players etc. As the league states itself, it’s a video game coming to life. Obviously the judge is still out, but keep a close eye, I am sure it will raise some eyebrows and it might become very popular to the Gen Z and Gen Alpha generations

Also interesting to read: 9 powerful reasons why gamification of sports matters a lot

Innovation is key!

Anyway, to finish this all, I believe that in order to keep sports interesting for the fans, sports organizations and clubs need to be innovative and involve their fans in decision-making. In my opinion this is an unstoppable trend. I am wondering what you think. Please leave your opinion below.

Jan Kees Mons

Published by Jan Kees Mons

I am Jan Kees Mons. Just call me JK, that’s easier I guess. I am a Dutchman living in the heart of the city of Amsterdam. Right now I am living on my own. However, not for much longer, as I plan to live together with my lovely girlfriend.