In 2018, I was commissioned by Huddersfield Town AFC to explore ways the club could grow and diversify its fan base through attracting more South Asian supporters from the local community.
As part of my MBA, I undertook a 9-month research project to explore how the club could achieve this. A copy of the full research report is available to view below.
British Asians and Football Spectatorship: Exploring ways in which football clubs can attract more British Asian supporters to attend live matches
By Tom McGovern, August 2019
“Contrary to popular belief, British Asians love football… they follow passionately the fortunes of their teams, buying replica shirts, watching games on satellite television and contributing to fan sites and message boards… yet despite their evident interest in the game, they are still rarely present at the spectacle of the ‘live’ match” (Burdsey & Randhawa, 2012, p.105).
In recent years, it has become clear that British Asians are just as passionate about football as their white counterparts. Like their peers of other ethnicities, they engage widely in various forms of fandom and football consumption and wear proudly the colours of their team. However, despite evidence of their increasing interest in football, very few British Asians ever attend the spectacle of a live football match. This research seeks to explore the reasons why this demographic has typically avoided the ‘live match experience’ and identify ways in which football clubs can address these issues and attract more British Asians to attend games.
Making use of a qualitative research approach, in-depth interviews were conducted with 30 British Asian football fans (15 that attend and 15 that do not) and three industry experts who have worked with professional football clubs to help them attract more BAME supporters. Their thoughts and ideas were intertwined with data collected from previous research on this topic to identify the following: the key barriers to attendance for British Asian fans, the key barriers for football clubs trying to attract British Asian fans, and the different solutions and initiatives football clubs can adopt to reduce these barriers and start attracting more British Asian fans.
The findings suggest that there are a number of key barriers that deter British Asian fans from attending live matches – from the threat of racism and feelings of not belonging, to the price of tickets and the lack of British Asian players – and that more often than not it is a combination of these factors that discourage them, rather than one specific issue. The results do indicate, however, that many of these factors are ‘perceived barriers’, which are built on negative stereotypes of match-going fans and past experiences of British Asians in football. The findings also suggest that it is predominantly ‘local’ football clubs that struggle to attract British Asian fans, and that there are several key barriers that prevent from doing so. The biggest barrier for these clubs seems to be that British Asians appear to be only interested in supporting the ‘top teams’ who have the most success and brand appeal. Difficulties in marketing to this demographic and the lack of visibility that they have within their local British Asian communities also appear to be significant barriers that these clubs face.
Finally, the findings indicate that there are a number of service and marketing solutions that football clubs can adopt to reduce these barriers to attendance and attract more British Asian fans to attend. Of the solutions proposed in this study, British Asian supporters’ groups, community ambassadors, targeted marketing strategies and culturally sensitive/tailored spaces within the stadium received the most support from the British Asian fans themselves. Overall, it was clear that football clubs need to take a holistic approach to tackling the barriers that exist and need to address fans’ perceptions just as much as actual issues in the match day service. The report concludes by recommending that football clubs take a coherent, joined-up approach to attracting British Asian supporters, which is developed and implemented over a sustained period.