NFL Introduces Stadium WiFi Policy – Should Australian Leagues Follow Suit?

Watching AFL football on a phone or iphone.There’s nothing worse than being at a football game and not being able to text your friends, check social media sites or even browse other scores. Well that’s about to change in the US.

The NFL has recently introduced a policy that will see an end to bad signals and lost connections once and for all. By the end of 2014 all NFL stadiums must meet minimum requirements for WiFi and cellular coverage. Just what the ‘minimum requirements’ actually are is still in question, but many believe that it would be along the lines of the level of coverage a fan would receive at their home. At the moment 20 of the 31 stadiums have WiFi.

NFL’s Chief Information Officer Michelle McKenna-Doyle has this to say on the matter:

“We put minimum standards and metrics in place so not only do clubs know how our Wi-Fi is performing and to hold carriers accountable, but also [sic] analytics for what our fans are doing, which leads us to more marketing,”

Obviously those involved in the NFL have an idea of the importance of coverage at stadiums. With some teams seeing their attendances down it is wise to look at enhancing the fan’s experience.

This leads me to Australian stadiums. It is no secret that nearly every venue is severely lacking when it comes to coverage. At Etihad Stadium, it is virtually impossible to connect to data once a game as started, as the coverage cannot cope with a crowd beyond 20,000 people. When these stadiums were built, mobile internet, let alone WiFi wasn’t invented yet. Racecourses are the first ones to come to party, with all 3 metropolitan tracks now having free on-course WiFi. The cellular coverage is suspect on big race days, but nevertheless they are ahead of the curve.

The implementation of a WiFi network to these stadiums is costly, potentially running over a million dollars. However, the upside is there. A fan’s ability to use social media from inside the stadium would create more conversation about the team. Not only would the fan’s experience be enhanced, but the benefit would flow to the teams. With the ever increasing advancement of the at-home experience, fans are deciding to choose this option over seeing the game live. They can stay connected to the world. In some stadiums, attendees have a blackout from coverage the entire game. At many games, fans are encouraged to check in and follow the conversation on Twitter. This is virtually impossible in Australia as the coverage is so poor, leaving only those experiencing the game on TV, sans live atmosphere, the only people connecting.

While the NFL won’t have an official punishment for breaching the policy, McKenna-Doyle stated that the consequences will run greater than a fine that they could impose. “If they don’t do this, there will be poor-performing ticket sales. They will suffer enough consequences not doing it.”

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