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ESSMA Stadium Tour Manchester and Liverpool: When tradition and innovation meet

On 9 and 10 October, ESSMA embarked on a 2-day journey with over 30 European stadium managers to learn from some of Europe’s best and most historical stadiums. In-depth stadium tours at Old Trafford, Etihad Stadium, Goodison Park and Anfield showed our group of industry professionals, best practices and innovations which ensured that they could travel back home with a backpack full of new ideas to integrate in their stadiums and clubs. For those of you who had to miss out on this inspiring event, we are happy to share a couple of takeaways from these 4 unique venues. 


Manchester United - Old Trafford: History can’t be bought

The second biggest venue in the UK, Old Trafford has been home to Manchester United since 1910. With its 74,500 seats this traditional venue has been pioneering all throughout its history. While it is a traditional club, which carries its history as part of its core values, Manchester United is not afraid to be revolutionary and test out new ideas. A line of thinking that is true for the club as well as for the stadium. Old Trafford was the first in England to implement corporate boxes, the first in England to play under floodlights, the first to erect perimeter fencing, the first with a museum tour of its kind…

And even today Old Trafford is still one of the pioneering venues in Europe. With the help of partner Extreme Networks, the stadium has recently been fitted with a state-of-the-art Wi-Fi network accessible to all fans on matchdays. The system has set up the club to start its journey of data capturing which will allow them to offer fans an even better experience at their home ground.

At the same time Old Trafford is also one of the safest venues in football, with a broad matchday strategy that includes lockdown of the stadium 24 hours before kick-off, search dogs, a dedicated drone policy, body searches and dedicated bag drop-off points, the 3 layered approach protects the stadium bowl and the stadium perimeter.

Until this day it remains one of the top venues in Europe with one of the most loyal and most international fanbases. With over 55,000 season card holders, 7,000 sold out hospitality seats (with a long waiting list), 3,000 fans in the away section (almost always sold out) and just 8,000 seats available on matchday which are often chewed up immediately by United’s national and international supporter’s clubs, the largest Premier league venue still sells out almost every single game.

The combination of a heartfelt, traditional venue that is also forward-thinking and revolutionary when it must be, makes Old Trafford a unique venue and has been guaranteeing its popularity among national and international fans for decades.


Manchester City FC – Etihad Stadium: Diversification in hospitality facilities drives customer engagement

Diversification of hospitality facilities at Manchester City FC's Etihad Stadium underscores a crucial aspect of modern stadium management – catering to the diverse needs and preferences of fans. In today's competitive sports and entertainment landscape, offering a one-size-fits-all approach is no longer sufficient to engage and retain supporters. The Etihad Stadium's approach to diversification is a testament to the club's commitment to enhancing the overall fan experience. By providing a wide array of hospitality options, from premium suites to casual dining areas, they acknowledge that every fan is unique and seeks a distinct experience.

While “The Mancunian”, for example, offers a music-themed, high-end experience, with live entertainment and a view of the Manchester Skyline, “The Ardwick” – located in one of the corners of the stadium – offers more of a traditional pub experience with authentic interiors and a weekly changing selection of cask ales.

In that same spirit the “tunnel club” offers more of a high-end exclusive experience with fine dining and a behind-the-scenes look at the club and its players. While “KITS hospitality bar” is a contemporary styled sports bar adorned by City’s most famous shirts and equipped with self-serve beer taps.

Manchester City FC's Etihad Stadium has recognised that, in the modern age, it's not just about the game on the pitch; it's about the entire experience, and diversification is a vital component in achieving this.


Everton FC – Goodison Park: Don’t call it “hospitality”, Everton’s new premium experience is much more

Everton FC is set to move to a brand-new, cutting-edge stadium at Bramley Moore Dock before the start of the 2024-2025 season. The new home will boast a load of improvements over the club’s current home ground, Goodison Park. While Goodison Park is a classical, traditional venue of English football having been home to the Toffees since 1892, its facilities are no longer up to standard for the needs of the modern fan.

Everton’s new home will offer improved facilities for both matchday and non-matchday events and will bring its fans a whole new type of premium experience, which the club wants to emulate the fans’ traditional experience in bars and restaurants they would usually visit in the city. The concept offered verges away from what you typically picture when you mention the word “hospitality”, as the premium offering is set up to be accessible for all types of fans.

To test out the new premium offering Everton FC transformed part of its current hospitality facilities at Goodison Park to better fit their new concept. Even though the club will soon be leaving the historical venue, the proof of concept within their current facilities has given them the confidence to further develop this way of thinking in the new stadium.

The club then went even further in their continuous effort to offer the fans the best possible experience and built an immersive showroom in the middle of the city for potential clients to simulating the new offer.

The success of the new premium experience has been overwhelming as the 4-phased sales period is selling out a lot faster than originally expected and the retention rate of premium clients is set exceptionally high at more than 90%.


Liverpool FC - Anfield: Connection is key

For our last stadium visit of the ESSMA UK Tour, our group of stadium managers was hosted at Anfield to not only discover the traditions and history of this must-see venue, but also to discover its plans through new channels.

With a worldwide fanbase of over 150 million followers on social media, Liverpool FC is one of the largest global sports brands, but how can they leverage this huge, mostly passive fanbase into active fans? To do this Liverpool FC works with partners like Extreme Networks which can help them to increase the value and size of their audience across every single platform.

To support this strategy, Liverpool FC has created different services which are integrated into one single (digital) touch point for its fanbase: MyLFC. One of the club’s goals is to reach 50 million registrations on this platform in the future, which will take a lot of targeted activations and promotions. The club wants to reward its loyal fan base in the MyLFC platform for certain actions which prove loyalty without asking the fans to spend additional money to earn these points. The actions which they are rewarded for could be as simple as opening the app or reading an article, the fan than receives points for those actions which he/she can spend on special actions like entering a prize draw to win Mo Salah’s locker room door.

By linking different “services” to the central MyLFC profile, Liverpool can create synergies between its many different platforms and receive valuable insights which can help them grow its fanbase and reward its loyal fans. These platforms include a range of platforms from club-owned platforms (like its app or website) to club-operated, third-party platforms (like X, Instagram, Youtube…). One of the insights that the club has already gathered through this way of working was to get to know their museum tour visitors better. By knowing what percentage of museum tour visitors had bought something in the retail store before or had been members before the club was better able to offer tailor-made products to these visitors.

In the future, the club will continue to work along this strategy to better know their local and international fanbase and offer each fan an experience that is valuable for them.


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