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Derby County tackle fan engagement

Championship football club Derby County is pushing the boundaries of fan engagement both inside the stadium and through broadcasting and social media.

The club has upgraded its audio system to improve the match day experience for fans, while it is also reaching out to its wider fanbase through its own TV channel and other social media outlets.

Stuart Fisher, Derby County’s Chief Technical Officer, told delegates at the Sports Venue Technology Summit at the ISE conference in Amsterdam that while it is key to keep fans in the 38,000 seater Pride Park Stadium engaged on match day, there are another 250,000 fans who watch on social media each week. He said:

The larger fan base is not the guys who come to the stadium, although we want to make sure their fan engagement is as good as possible. We need to try and broaden our horizons so the people who are watching on different means – our larger fan base – really do get that engagement.

One of the biggest driving forces for us at the moment is broadcasting. It is no longer down to big broadcasters. We create our own content and are the owners of our own content.

He explained how the BBC had put a camera in the dressing room for the FA cup game v Leicester City, so viewers could see the manager’s pre-match talk, and that the response on social media had been huge. Fisher added:

The amount of coverage and engagement with the fan we got was absolutely huge.

In the stadium world, it’s all about fan engagement. It’s all about how do we make the fan believe he is part of the club and how do we make the fan that’s part of the social media feel that he’s also part of the club.

Traditionally what happened was that broadcasters would broadcast our games, but we are the ones that create our content and if you look across the leagues now, all the clubs have different technical abilities. I would put Derby as being one of the more technical clubs out there.

Derby County manager, Steve McClaren, has also bought into the fan engagement concept. He said:

I think gone are the days when you just pay your money at the turnstile and go in and you’re there from 3pm to 5pm. That has gone. Supporters want to be entertained. They can get things straight from their phone now and we have to think of different ways we can attract the public.

We are the football club at Derby. Let’s get our message across and our face out there. There’s no better way to do that than through your own television company.

Why be secretive, this is what we are and we want the supporters to know what we are. We want them to know we’re working hard here. This is what we do. This is what the players have to put up with during the week. The more in depth we go in opening the doors up to the changing rooms, our training pitch, the better. I have spoken to a lot of fans who want to know more about the game tactically, about what happened, why did we draw or win a game.

On social media there are a lot of people out there analysing games and giving supporters and football fans a more in depth look into the game. Getting the news out there for the fans is the most important thing. To have your own TV station where you can broadcast what you want and really go in depth, I think that is something the supporters want to know. It’s certainly something the supporters will watch.

Derby also recently installed a d&b audiotechnik sound system at Pride Park to help boost fan engagement. Fisher added:

We want fans to be totally immersed in the audio experience that they get in the stadium. It may have opened the door to bring more shows and bands to the ground, but that wasn’t really the requirement, the requirement was to completely immerse the fan into that experience. The fans notice the difference and are totally immersed in what they hear.

Image courtesy of Chris J Dixon