Professionalism in sports has brought about many changes. Whilst the changes on the field, diamond, ice or pitch are very much evident there are other changes that a modern fan now experiences and has to come to terms with.
The Blueliner team mostly grew up in Wigan, England. A town not too far from Manchester and although famous for its Pier and boiled sweets its biggest claim to fame is its rugby league team. Last weekend the Wigan Warriors played in the Challenge Cup semi-final and the Blueliner team took the opportunity to head along.
Of course the actual game was the most important but Wigan’s cup run was also evidence of how far a sport can come since a professional era has been ushered in. In their first game Superleague side Wigan hosted third tier side Crusaders at home. The DW Stadium opened in 2000 and is the model of a new modern stadium. It has around 25,000 seats, executive boxes, plush changing rooms and all the mod cons that go with it. The stadiu
m also allows Wigan to sell tickets online. So any fan at their convenience can log on and buy tickets to their matches. It also means that fans can be charged a fee for paying by card and a postage charge. However Wigan do stop short of charging for an email containing a ticket that the buyer has to print off at home unlike the Montreal Canadiens.
If you compare this to the Warriors next cup game against Featherstone Rovers. Wigan were drawn away at the second tier side and travelled to Rovers’ Post Office Road ground. The ground is not a particularly poor ground but is a disappearing example of an old style rugby ground. Opened in 1904 the ground holds 6,750 but has only 3,600 seats, tickets are available from the club shop and without the add on charges and in similar grounds rugby fans can still change ends at half time (to stand behind the try line at which their team is scoring). Po
st Office Road and Featherstone Rovers are not completely immune to the modern era as GoodFella’s now sponsors the ground.
The fan experience of going to a modern Superleague game is also not completely devoid of its more unthought-of past. Fans travelling on coaches to away games can still ring up a travel company and speak to a person. There is no press one for this and press two to be charged for paying.
The fan experience for ice hockey fans in the modern era follows a similar pattern. They are often treated to the joys of the ticketing website, automated telephone lines and undisclosed fees whether its in actually booking the tickets or on the car park.
The professional era is not all bad from a fan experience point of view. Arenas are brighter, more comfortable and safer. Plexi glass, official pena
lty boxes, television screens and electronic scoreboards are now considered the norm rather than exception. Also fortunately for the fans of British ice hockey the completely impersonal experience is not completely over. Dedicated individuals still answer phones and reply to emails so fans can order their tickets and special orders and long may this always be the case.