Welcome to Dr. Lou’s View. I’m Dr. Lou Marciani, the director and co-founder of the Innovation Institute for Fan Experience. In this newsletter feature, I share my thoughts with our subscribers on a key issue facing the sports and entertainment industry. Today, we’ll continue to discuss disruptive fan behavior and consequences that can arise from these unnecessary situations.
I just returned from London where I had the opportunity to attend two Premier League Football (Soccer) matches and to watch the National Football League game in Wembley Stadium. Each of these events remind me why I am such a sports fan. It also offered me a chance to see how supporters and fans enjoy their sports and some of the behaviors associated with that enjoyment. Just like sports events in the United States, most fans are well-behaved and enjoy supporting their team. A few, often inebriated, find ways to dim the glow of the event through disruptive and vulgar behavior.
As I shared in our last newsletter, watching what you say and do while attending a game is important; everything you do can affect the experience of other fans around you. Whether here in the United States or abroad, there are thousands of spirited fans in attendance at college and professional sports games, and most of those people do not want to be involved in any violence, disruptive behavior, or the use of hateful or hurtful words.
Harmful antisocial behavior is part of the world of sports; where one fan does something disrespectful, others will follow suit.
What Bad Fan Behavior Has Happened Recently?
While I witnessed some fans disrupt matches by running onto the pitch (field) and listened to chants and songs that would make any parent or grandparent uncomfortable, I saw nothing that came close to what happened in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. When I stepped off the plane in Atlanta, all of the buzz throughout the sports world was the disrespectful behavior caused by The University of Tennessee-Knoxville students during the 4th quarter of the team’s match against The University of Mississippi-Ole Miss.
This dangerous and disrespectful behavior began after a ruling by the referee that was detrimental to Tennessee. We all enjoy second-guessing calls made by officials. Booing a “bad call” is all part of the fan experience, but attacking people with anything you can throw from the stands crosses the line. We witnessed in real-time on national television university students throwing anything they could get their hands on towards the field. Their first targets were the opposing team’s players, then it developed into cheerleaders and dancers getting pelted with these missiles (as they are known in European football) as well.
I watched the video after I returned from London and I was stunned by how many objects were thrown. Fans threw everything from empty cups, cans, food, a bottle of mustard, and even a golf ball at head coach Lane Kiffin.
Items such as a golf ball can be lethal if they are thrown at someone with speed and force, especially from the short distance between the seating bowl and the team, coaches, and staff.
Coach Kiffin had a lot to say on twitter:
Passionate fans can sometimes do crazy things, but acts such as these are dangerous, and can cause the game to be halted. In this case, the game was delayed because of the actions of fans.
What are Some Results of This Behavior?
The events in Knoxville prompted two arrests. Of those involved, Brian Britton Buchanan and Logan Spell were both arrested for their actions amid the chaos of the game. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) levied a $250,000 fine against The University of Tennessee.
The SEC Commissioner issued this statement:
Is This New to the World?
Prior to the start of the 2020 Euros Championship final match in July, 5,000 ticketless England fans stormed five gates at Wembley Stadium causing a riot. The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) levied a $116,000 fine and two-match stadium ban as well as a one game suspension. Fans were banned from attending the first two home matches at Wembley stadium.
Fan behavior can be costly, in this case a loss of $2.8 million in game revenue.
In a different situation in the United Kingdom, West Ham and Tottenham fans brawled and threw trash and empty cups around the stadium.
The normal practice in European Football matches is to separate fan groups by having them use specific team entrances, arriving and departing at different times, and even using physical barriers in the stadium to separate groups. West Ham and Tottenham fans were separated by a barrier with a door in it. The door was either not locked or the lock could not withstand the pressure applied to it. The door opened and punches and taunting chants began to fly.
Though these competitors are fierce rivals, nothing makes vulgar or violent fan behavior okay anywhere in the world.
In my view, these boorish fans in the United States and the UK and the vulgar, horrible behavior exhibited by them imposed undue burdens on those trying to enjoy the game and spoiled what might have been a great fan experience for all. We must do better!
Thanks for reading,
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