Keeping Football Fans Engaged (Series) – The Case of the Singapore Premier League


Football started some 2,300 years ago in the People’s Republic of China[1]. An ancient Chinese competitive game called Cùjū is recognized by the world football governing body FIFA as the earliest form of football. Apart from the rounded shaped ball and the footgear, the Chinese have developed a set of etiquette and rules for the football game.

Generally, sports are an integral part of human culture[2], and in particular, football has remained a spectacle for many civilizations. This has materialized into a thought leadership where many sports leaders around the world have comprehend the leverage of atmosphere and excitement in keeping fans engaged.

Fans Engagement:

Fan engagement is central to driving football fans to the game venues and locations. These engagements start from the first game and will strengthen the bond between fans and entities. The entities include football clubs, football teams, companies, corporate sponsors, and other sponsors. The need is similar for all stakeholders: new customers (fans), up-sells from existing customers, and new revenue streams from new markets.

The Singapore Situation (TSS 1): Lion City Sailors Football Club is the first privatized club in the Singapore Premier League (SPL). The privatization marks one of the most significant developments in SPL’s recent history[3]. The rest of the clubs are understandably non-private entities. The State manages sports venues and notable amenities that cater to the function of sports[4].

The engagements also come in forms such as live-streaming and other media streaming. As a whole, these engagements summarizes a fans’ experience.

The Skeletal Proposal (TSP 1): All stakeholders to achieve overlapping goals and objectives but with different strategies and mechanisms. The impetus must start from the State. Rather than playing master in dictating goals, the State should allow stakeholders to take controlling ownership gradually.

There is an apparent hypothesis of the proposal. As such, the Lion City Sailors Football Club (LCSFC) model will have many benchers clamoring for its results. Only time will reveal.

Fans Venue:

Understanding fans’ changing needs and requirements is of paramount importance for developing a venue capable of maximizing fan engagement, the commercial opportunities deriving from a modern stadium, and, consequently, the stakeholders’ return[5].

On 7th December 1966, the late Othman Wok drove the first pile into what will be known as the National Stadium[6]. The S$50-million[7] National Stadium introduced Singaporeans to many recognized events and, among others, the S-League[8]. Fans came up in numbers, but it all came to an end as the National Stadium made way for the spanking Singapore Sports Hub, which cost S$1.33 billion[9] to build.

While the Singapore Sports Hub has grown to be an arena of a brilliant display of lights and entertainment, the basic principles of a fans’ experience – an unblocked view – have persisted since the time of the National Stadium.

There are not many stadiums in Singapore that are facing competition in terms of telecasting improvements. For the most part, home-viewing options, camera angles, multiplatform and multimedia experiences have mainly remained the same across all stadiums.

TSS 2: A 21st February 2020 Press Release[10] from FAS states the following:

  • fans will be able to watch every match LIVE on television, on either SingTel or StarHub[11]

  • fans will also have access to real-time match statistics for every game on the SPL website (, which will be powered by Genius Sports[12]

The Press Release also states:

  • Non-SingTel and StarHub subscribers will still be able to watch all SPL, and Singapore Cup matches LIVE via three digital online platforms: MyCujoo and the Facebook pages of 1Play Sports and the SPL.[13]

  • In addition, Radio Television Brunei (RTB) has also secured exclusive digital rights for the 2020 season[14]

Despite the above alternatives, the monetary cost of stadium attendance in Singapore remains reasonably affordable[15]. This is worth noting because fans venues in other countries are charging a premium compared to prices in Singapore. The above initiatives put forth by FAS are commendable, and there is an expectation it will remain relatively unchanged in the seasons to come. There are though a few improvements that can be considered.

TSP 2: Building stadiums and venues are prerequisites in fan engagement. For fans to engage continuously, they must be made to feel they have an intangible connection with the stadiums and venues. Donning the venues with clubs paraphernalia is an effective method. Dependent on TSP 1, club-sanctioned businesses could also be allowed to operate in these venues.

As is the case, LCSFC home ground is at Bishan Stadium. It will be interesting to observe how the privatization of the club has any positive effects on fan engagement. Notwithstanding these effects, concerned stakeholders will take the gradual route and hope for improvements. Will it be a case of sheer economic endeavor for LCSFC?

Fans Deficit:

Revenues for teams have steadily increased[16], but the trajectory is not synonymous with stadium attendance across many leagues. To bring fans and to have them coming back, stadiums and venues must address the core expectations of fans.

Stadiums and venues need to be investing in continuing to draw new generations of fans. The fans of the future are a diverse breed, but the core remains similar; they seek entertainment, they subscribe to a scheduled escape, they yearn for eustress, they appreciate the aesthetics of football, they learn from players, they long for a sense of achievement, they feel connected to other fans, and they build relationships with other fans[17]. This realization will, in turn, drives business results – increased fan participation.

– to be continued –

[1] [2] [Games and sports are found in early human history and appear to be cultural universals. But types of games and sports are not randomly distributed in the world’s cultures. Cross-cultural research has found that type of games and sports vary in some very predictable ways–they are related to social and political complexity, to how children are raised, and aggressive sports are related to warfare.] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] ibid

[8] ibid [9] ibid [10] [11] ibid [12] ibid [13] ibid [14] ibid [15] [16] [17]

#CyanTongue #KeepingFootballFansEngaged #SingaporePremierLeague #SPL #FansEngagement #FansVenue #FansDeficit

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