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Are large operational groups with multiple stadia and arenas in their portfolios doing enough to address sustainability issues, or should the onus lie with individual venues to reduce their environmental footprint? 

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Vital statistics

Sport+Markt’s Maria Walsh provides an exclusive insight into her Global Stadium OperatorsSurvey


Motivation and methodology
Our aim was to gauge how today’s stadia are set up, covering aspects such as corporate hospitality, usage, infrastructure, and revenue sources. Realising that nobody had ever done this type of analysis before, we were intrigued to find out the results for ourselves which may, in the future, help us to develop a model – a benchmarking tool by which we can advise our stadia clients in the coming years.

We wanted to make it as homogenous as possible, so decided to focus only on football stadia with capacities of 10,000 or more from just the top two divisions. We canvassed 570 stadia in 39 countries, and had 60 managers take part – which at 10.5% is a very good response rate and analytics sample. It took around six months to complete – to source the contacts, send out the questionnaires via a variety of methods, pull in the data and produce the final report. The market is lacking in the kind of analytical capabilities that we are able to provide – many traditional stadia consultants and advisors do not enjoy the in-house research facilities that we have been able to put to use for this study. This has resulted in a unique series of hard facts and an unparalleled quantification of the stadia landscape.

The average stadia
The average capacity of the stadia involved in the survey was 36,612. This represents a broad range across the 60 participants and allows us to build a clear picture of the market without a bias towards the ‘big’ venues. In all, 86% of the stadium managers reported they had corporate areas – with an average of around 2,033 seats – and 73% had boxes, with around 756 seats in 47 boxes, so 14 seats to a box. All this data allows us to benchmark existing stadia to an industry-wide sample. The average ratio of hospitality seats to total capacity was 7.6%. When we compare this to data from our previous studies, this indicates a growing trend towards the integration of more corporate facilities. In England, it’s around 8%, in Germany it’s 5.7%, in Switzerland it’s 4% – some clubs have upwards of 15%.

Features and usage
We wanted to find out about stadia features. We discovered that 61% had a big screen, so obviously regarded as important, 22% had the ability to change the stadium configuration, 17% had moveable stands – and 12% had a chapel! This latter statistic was surprising – the Camp Nou has one – but I suspect it reflects the fact that stadia are diversifying in terms of things like weddings. Overall it highlights the trend towards multifunctionality. It was also surprising that sustainability didn’t feature too highly among the list of priorities – solar energy, for instance, was only installed in 5% of those stadiums that responded. There seems to be a lot of discussion about sustainability and the environment, but what seems clear to us is that it isn’t being put into practice. Maybe this will change. Only 5% of those who responded said they had a retractable roof. Overall, though, we can see managers being increasingly creative and offering different services – a football stadium isn’t just for the club, but for the local community, and integrating other infrastructure. Around 30% of venues are renting out office space for local businesses, as well as hiring out the venue for not just big conferences but also smaller business meetings.A stadium has an emotional link for the fans, obviously, but football itself is an attraction that clubs are now using to their advantage by targeting business sectors.

Of those surveyed, 40% had restaurant/cafe facilities, 27% had a fan shop, 25% a fitness centre, a museum or both and 10% had entertainment facilities. We also found that the stadia host on average 26 matchdays each year, at least two to three music events, two to five other sporting events, up to 102 business events and around 14 social/cultural events.

Sources of revenue
We have been dealing with naming rights for a decade now, on a daily basis, so we were surprised that the usage and consideration of this revenue source wasn’t higher. Of course, matchday operations remain the main source of income, but what our research shows is there’s a lot more potential out there, and not just naming rights but sponsorship and commercialisation opportunities. Only 33% of those who took part have their whole stadium sponsored, and a further 20% are thinking about it. But nearly 50% said they would never do it, didn’t answer the question, or just didn’t know. Equal potential exists in terms of sponsoring a conference/business room, a whole stand or just a specific sector. Some clubs of course do not need the money, yet 61% did say naming rights was an important source of revenue. Only 38% said that they believed all stadia in the future will be ‘named’, while 31% believed the concept broke with tradition.

I’ve had positive feedback – people think it’s a good idea that they can benchmark their stadium against an industry sample. I’ve also had managers say they want to take part next time, so when we do this again in two years, we’ll have a bigger sample and be able to map the trends further.

About the author
Maria Walsh is international sales manager at Sport+Markt. For a full version of her report, please contact her direct by emailing



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