In August 2017, the inauguration of a football museum by Spanish club Athletic Club Bilbao in its newly-renovated San Mamés stadium reflected a growing trend in European football. Shortly afterwards, another historic European club, Olympique de Marseille, confirmed its plans to develop a club museum as part of the planned refurbishment of the Velodrome. Beyond the irrefutable argument of cementing club legacy, an increasingly higher number of football clubs are adapting their stadium in various ways, including the creation of museums, in order to attract visitors during non-match days.
In this article, the KPMG Football Benchmark team reviews how, in their quest for revenue stream diversification, football clubs are venturing into the opening of football-themed attractions (e.g. museums, stadium tours) within or around their home grounds.
Football attractions are no different from other visitor attractions. Therefore, their performance is largely impacted by three factors: the overall tourism trends and local economy of the city in which they are based, their location within the city and the quality of the experience itself.
Unlike on matchdays, it is rare for fans to travel long distances away from the fixture list with the unique intention of visiting a club’s stadium. Therefore, clubs based in major tourist destinations are in a more favourable position to seize on this opportunity and capture a significant percentage of tourists to both their stadium and their centrally-based club stores.
This is by no means a given and, in this regard, some clubs, such as Manchester United, have a competitive disadvantage compared to their European peers. Despite being one of the world’s powerhouses, the number of visitors to their museum and stadium tour is well below that of Real Madrid or FC Barcelona. Another interesting case is Vfl Wolfsburg’s VfL-FußballWelt attraction. Understanding the limitations of their brand and location, the club decided to create an attraction that has a recreational focus with the ability to generate repeat visits from local residents.
The distances between attraction, downtown and other prominent entertainment alternatives are important factors for an attraction’s commercial success. Therefore, a stadium’s location, assuming the attractions are based in it, should also be taken into consideration when projecting visitor numbers. FC Barcelona and rival Real Madrid CF are telling examples of how both clubs’ attractions have capitalized, not only on their globally renowned brands and their respective cities’ high numbers of tourists, but also on the relatively central locations of their stadiums, to become the two most visited football attractions in the world, with 2016 traffic reaching 1.7m and 1.2m respectively.
Finally, the ability to offer an entertaining and high quality experience to the visitors becomes even more crucial for the overall success of the attraction. In case of the stronger brands, visitor expectations might be fulfilled by a tour of a legendary stadium. However, in most cases, in order to stay relevant in very busy destinations or to become a go-to attraction in less tourist-friendly urban areas, clubs need to create unique visitor experiences beyond the traditional stadium tour and museum.
One such example of this approach is Paris Saint-Germain’s ‘escape game’, which is due to open its doors very shortly. Competing with the untold attractions of the French capital, the club opted to combine its growing brand with the proven concept of escape rooms, an interactive game in which visitors are required to solve a series of puzzles, a phenomenon that has rapidly expanded in major tourist destinations in recent years. The club reportedly expects to surpass 90,000 participants in the first two months, a trend that, if continued, would make the latest football-themed attraction among the most visited of its kind.
With clubs increasingly enjoying modern facilities, visitor attractions can provide another opportunity in the commercial space. However, developing successful visitor attractions is a complex process that requires significant capital investment and, as such, the market and financial feasibility of the attraction is the most important step in the initial planning phase.
The KPMG Football Benchmark team can support the development of football-themed attractions from the assessment of the attraction’s potential demand to its conceptualization, as well as undertake further investigation into this and related topics.