Frank Slevin says English rugby league must improve its match-day experience as it bid to increase its entertainment factor.
Slevin, the inaugural chair of Rugby League Commercial, believes there needs to be a target of entertaining fans and giving them “an experience they want to come back for” moving forward.
Rugby League Commercial has been formed from the realignment of the RFL and Super League and is designed to increase the sport’s revenues and income.
“I think fans quite reasonably want to be entertained – we are an entertainment product,” Slevin, who is also the chairman of British Cycling, said.
“So they want to be entertained, they want to make sure the value for money they’re getting is there.
“And that’s perfectly reasonable in any purchasing decision because of course there’s deep-rooted loyalty, multi-generational loyalty to individual teams and certainly when I see the fan reaction to individual players, even players of yesteryear, that passion again for their teams and for those players is undiminished for decades. It’s quite extraordinary to see.
“So the real thing for us is how do we deliver a spectacle which is, in all its facets, not just the game on the field, is the experience on match-day, the experience in the stadium – whether it’s the food and beverage or the loos, whatever it is.
“But you have to have an experience that people want to come back for.
“So there’s a lot for us to do at just a basic club level getting matchday experiences into the right place.
“On top of that the spectacle from a viewer’s perspective, we need to make it such that people go ‘I want to go and watch a live game’.
“Or ‘I can’t believe I’m sitting here and watching this on TV, why am I not there?’
“And cricket’s done it quite well, cycling does it quite well in track. But if you look at the emerging sports – BMX etc, they are becoming entertainment spectacles.”
Slevin feels there should be a focus on rugby league products that entertain and deeply engage fans, with consideration on potential new events and formats.
“There’s the grassroots, the semi-professional game and the professional game, and that’s fine,” he said.
“But do you reinvent Nines? Do you start thinking about that in a different way?
“Look at cricket with the Hundred. They had the T20, so what was wrong with that and they suddenly decided they needed The Hundred. And they made that leap.
“So similarly we need to think about fan engagement in the same way.
“If fans want a shorter experience, should we give them a shorter experience? Or should we give them a multi-team experience?
“Should we give them double headers? So it’s that constant thinking of, I’m a fan, what do I want? What would make me come back?
“I think the challenge for us is not fan apathy, but let’s entertain. And let’s entertain in a way that compels people to come back for more.
“And that brings new viewers into the sport, because either they’re hearing about it in the pub or the coffee shop, or they’re experiencing it on TV.”
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