America Saves Scottish Football
Last Edited:Friday, 6th July 2017 at 11:53am
Can an American pastime be beneficial to the Scottish Football Association and can create a competitive advantage? Don’t worry… Donald Trump has nothing to do with this.
The SFA website literally states: “The Scottish FA exists to promote, foster, and develop the game at all levels in this country” (Scottish Football Association, 2016). They are currently focused on creating a competitive advantage by ‘fostering’ youth ‘development’ by heavily investing resources into the future of Scottish football (PA Sport, 2016). That leaves one thing the SFA is not currently doing… ‘promoting’. Hands down the most successfully marketed league in the world is the NFL. So, what can Scottish football copy from this league and take back home to create a competitive advantage?
An introduction to tailgating…
(SHOWTIME Sports, 2011)
Competitive advantage currently operates on the idea of universality. While there are many negatives surrounding that idea (especially in the Olympic movement) it is a great concept that the SFA should be looking to make better. It is beautifully integrated into the culture of tailgating. Everybody should be able to participate regardless of whether you have tickets to the game.
Generally, there are activities set up that allow fan interaction and participation. Football stadiums have large field goal posts set up for people to practice kicking a ball through, sometimes there are simple combine tests such as the 40-yard dash or vertical jump set up to test people’s athleticism. Here are some of the basic rules for a successful tailgate party!
“A competitive advantage is an advantage over competitors gained by offering consumers greater value” (Riley, 2016).
By using a Differentiation Strategy, the SFA will be able to create a competitive advantage and offer customers a unique experience. Tailgating is something that no other league in Europe currently offers and it has proven successful in other countries around the world. For further proof the SFA can study the well received tailgating experience outside the NFL in London series.
An NFL goer spends $196 USD per game on tailgating food, drinks, and other supplies (Wolff-Mann, 2015). There is a huge opportunity to provide these services to fans at the stadium and see them spend money at the game instead of at the pub where it is already expensive. The value added from a unique experience like tailgating allows for premium prices to be charged (Michail, 2011). Additional long term benefits for clubs include increased tickets sales and alumni support (Drenten, Peters, Leigh & Hollenbeck, 2009).
(De Bosscher, De Knop, Van Bottenburg & Shibli, 2006 )
We can look at the SPLISS model for direction on how successful sports organizations and countries create a competitive advantage. The SFA should be focusing its resources and shaping its structure to achieve competitive advantage based on the pillars outlined.
As stated before, Scotland wants to invest heavily in youth player development. I believe the SFA are to some extent following this model. Their focus is on youth development which requires better training facilities, coaching development, talent development, talent identification, etc. The first pillar in De Bosscher et al (2006) graph is ‘Financial Support’. What tailgating will do is allow Scotland to create a stronger bottom pillar from which the SFA can balance on. How can you climb a ladder without the bottom rung? Increased revenue and fan involvement will allow them to have a larger pool of resources of which to work with.
Can tailgating be considered a useful resource for the SFA in creating a competitive advantage?
Resources are the key to an organisation creating a sustainable competitive advantage (Anderson, Birrer 2011). The VRIO framework helps to distinguish the difference between temporary and sustainable.
Valuable – An experience not seen before in this country which generates further interest in the sport as well as more opportunities for the SFA to profit.
Rare – American style tailgating has not been done before in football across the United Kingdom and Scotland would be the first to market; was done with success for the recent NFL games in London.
Imitability – It is… if you want to fly 5000 miles to America. You could argue that a substitute is the current tradition of pub culture in the UK but the concept of tailgating is a very different experience so I would argue it is not.
Organisationally Appropriate – Tailgating is accessible for everybody that can come down to the stadium. You don’t need a ticket to the match to participate, the limit literally comes down to the size of the car park.
What does the SFA currently have to work with?
Scottish football has an incredibly loyal fan base who spend a lot of money on supporting their team. Supporters are far more likely to attend home matches than they are to travel for away games with 52% of respondents attending 11+ home matches a year (Scottish Football Association, 2013). 64% of those people travel to the stadium by car and 51% attend the match with a group of their male friends (Scottish Football Association, 2013). Just under a quarter of respondents (23%) go to the games with family or their spouse or children (Scottish Football Association, 2013). Tailgating will help to change these statistics and bring more families to the game.
Their current spending habits are outlined below:
(Scottish Football Association, 2013)
These are all areas where the NFL tailgating experience takes advantage. The money goes straight into the team’s pockets and increases their resources with which that can use to improve their team by building better facilities, hiring better coaches, and paying for better players. A successful tailgate experience directly creates a successful on field product.
Further interest in the report can be found here.
Steps the SFA needs to undertake to implement this:
To start the SFA should look to implement this concept at national team matches only; control and monitor how well this phenomenon translates to Scotland. First with the women’s team as traditionally their environment is tamer and easer to see how fans react before rolling it out for the men’s side.
Start by charging food truck vendors to use the space to sell to customers outside the stadium fan zone (Belson, 2013). It would not be hard to construct a few tents with additional food and drink options. Set up a beer garden for additional sales before the match starts and intrigue some of the people out of neighbouring bars. Have a general store that sells a few essential items that tailgaters might need (i.e. weather ponchos, ice for coolers) (Kaplan, 2015). Finally, maximize on merchandising opportunities by bringing kit and scarf sales outside to official team store kiosks on the car park plaza (Belson, 2013). Steph made a great comment to me, tailgating isn’t something that requires a lot of time to implement. This can be tested by the SFA as early as next year.
Why it might not work:
The first thing that pops into everyone’s mind is the weather. It rains too much in the UK for people to stand out in the cold car park for hours socializing. Although that doesn’t stop fans in the United States when winter gets to be -25 Celsius and the snow mounds are ten feet tall…
There is history of rival fans being violent. This separation is already happening in pubs where fans of one team will go to their bar and fans of the other go to a different one. Some obvious major differences between pubs and car parks but the general concept isn’t too far off. In America the crowds at NFL games can get rowdy but not to the same level that they do here in the UK. A more in depth look at whether or not Scottish football fans can support this idea without violence is required.
Are the car parks large enough to host people outside the stadium (Chula, 2010)? I haven’t been to very many stadiums across the UK but I feel like Hampden park has a large enough area to trial run some national team games.
The SFA can toy with wearing highlighter pink jerseys all it wants but these small attempts at differentiation have not been effective. It is time for Scottish football to use Porter’s Differential Strategy and go a different direction in trying to fund their projects. Tailgating can create a unique experience and generate increased fan support as well as provide additional revenue boosts which in turn will create a larger resource pool for the SFA to execute its master plan of exceptional youth development. These funds are used to create better training facilities and coaching development, boosting the Scottish national program for the long term. That is how the SFA is going to create a successful, sustainable competitive advantage. Maybe they can also pay for a different jersey while they’re at it… there must have been a discount on these in the store.
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