Clinton van der Berg.
Almost 30 years ago, Old Trafford’s former marketing manager Danny McGregor remarked that the average football fan’s hospitality needs stretched no further than what he described as the “three Ps: a pint, a pie and a * *ssy.”

How times have changed.

No-one would get out of bed for that trifecta nowadays, not with so much else on offer in these hyper-busy times.

The power in sport has shifted fast from administrators and blazers to those who pay at the gate. Spectators now vote with their feet and speak through social media, often loudly.

Last week was a case in point. A paltry 3500 fans rocked up at Loftus Versfeld for a Currie Cup match. It’s a pattern we’ve seen played out elsewhere, which reflects the value proposition to fans.

As former player Bandise Maku, who has moved into the Bulls boardroom, remarked, people wake up on the day and decide what they want to do. Rugby must offer a compelling reason to attend, especially with so much else going on.

Interestingly, one of the conversations that played out on social media was how the entertainment at Loftus was geared towards just one sector of the community; the die-hards rather than curious black fans whom rugby ought to embrace.

Getting the entertainment mix right is crucial and it’s encouraging that Loftus has become the first venue to offer an app where fans can order food, and have it delivered to their seats. Much of what passes for catering at our major venues can make you weep, so this is a welcome initiative.

I had a marvellous time in Pretoria when I attended the recent Super Rugby match against the Lions. Too bad I was robbed inside the stadium on my way out, within 20m of security staffers.

I won’t be rushing back, not until the space is made safer.

Time and again people talk of the need for an “experience”, something that goes beyond skydivers, lousy parking and greasy burgers.

Unexpectedly, it was the Free State that pioneered a cool experiment in April when the city stadium hosted an athletics Grand Prix and a PRO14 rugby match back-to-back.

With a good deal on tickets and a natural draw on offer for even occasional sports fans, it was a creative way to excite locals. This is the sort of thing that should abound.

Last weekend in Berlin, 56 000 fans rocked up for the German athletic championship that doubled as a multi-sport event. Tickets were affordable, marketing rampant and the best athletes competed, ensuring a golden glow over German sport.

For whatever reasons, SA sport teams seem reluctant to step into this brave new world.

There is a revolution under way and in the emergence of mixed martial arts, eSport, T20 and extreme sport, we’re seeing visionaries pave a fresh and exciting way to consume and host sport. Fans who might have switched off traditional sport are sniffing around, curious to see what might be new and invigorating. The innovators are winning.

With the economy in freefall and a world of choice available, the big three (rugby, soccer and cricket) must up their game and give us all a reason to stay curious and energised by what they offer.

It may yet be the biggest challenge of all.

@ClintonV


Sunday Tribune

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter