Bringing fans inside sports venues



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Fadi Zouein on Coliseum MENA Image: Fadi Zouein & Al Jazira Club

Fadi Zouein, who is presently in the role of Group Chief Commercial Officer at the Al Jazira Club in UAE, is a high-performing Commercial, Marketing and Communications executive with over 18 years of experience in leading Commercial and Marketing departments, business development and stakeholder relations.

He has consistently produced unprecedented results with a proven track record of increasing revenue, profit and market share. Zouein has exceptional interpersonal and communication skills with experience in managing departments and organizations to ensure strategies and business interests are optimized.
 

Al Jazira Club, UAE

The Al Jazira Club is an Emirati professional football club based in Abu Dhabi, which currently competes in the UAE Pro League – the top professional football league in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The 38,000-capacity Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium is a multipurpose stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. It is currently used mostly for football and cricket matches and is the home ground of the Al Jazira Club.

In an exclusive with ‘Coliseum’, Fadi Zouein examines the various strategies which can be adopted to ensure that stadia are filled to the brim with fans and rubbishes the idea of luring fans to the venue fold by offering freebies which he says is not “sustainable”.
 

Bringing stadiums to life

For the up-and-coming generations of today, luring them to the stadia fold is no mean task. And Fadi Zouein asserted that “Getting fans to stadiums – especially in this part of the world (read UAE) – is quite a sweat-out job. And this applies not only in the case of the Al Jazira Club but for each and every club of UAE.”
 

Secret sauce

He pointed out that the Al Jazira Club is a top-flight today due to its leadership group who always formulates solid strategies for the club – “Our leadership group comprises business leaders who boast the business acumen to steer the club forward. We have come out with Vision 2024 coinciding with the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the club in 2024.”
 

Through thick and thin

Added Zouein, “Our partners are not only there to support us financially but they have done great work for the community on which the club’s stadium sits. They want to be part of the vision that we are formulating for the club.”
 

Top-notch

The Al Jazira Club lifted the UAE Super Cup in January this year after defeating the UAE ADNOC Pro League team Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club 5-3 on penalties at the 25,053-capacity Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, UAE.

Exulted Zouein, “We recently won the Super Cup. It’s amazing when you see a team on the ground working through the sweat of their brows. Eight players of Al Jazira club are part of the national team and it gives us a sense of innate satisfaction to see the club touch dizzying heights of success.”
 

Home of champions

He continued, “Our stadium – Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium – can accommodate 38,000 spectators. It is presently being repurposed. The 2021 FIFA Club World Cup™ was held at the facility on February 12th, 2022. It is a packed venue on most occasions.”
 

Talents galore

He informed with a sense of pride, “We were voted last year as one of the top 100 academies who shaped the cream of the crop players. Our club was crowned the new UAE Pro League champions in 2021 with the youngest squad in the league.”
 

Huge presence

The Al Jazira Club is also considered the fastest growing social media and marketing network in as clubs.
 

The below figures are all organic, no paid campaigns:

  • Digital audience – 615k+
  • Fans database – 168k+

 

Staunch supporters

The Al Jazira Club boast die-hard fans – “They are very loud on social media and can complain about anything under the sun.”
 

Packed-like-sardines stadia

He lamented that venues in the UAE region were never a full house and steps will have to be initiated in this regard.

The Al Jazira Club conducted a survey to understand ‘Why our stadiums are not full?’
 

Findings:

  • Location of stadia;
  • Parking issues;
  • Oppressive heat;
  • Lack of investment;
  • Lack of entertainment;
  • Lack of F&B – “Most of the clubs, if not all, have an issue with that and the league has addressed this problem.”;
  • Not enough international soccer giants -“The more we develop, the more we can entice international players to come.”;
  • The standard of the match leaves much to be desired -“I don’t agree on this. Football is exciting in all its forms and compared to other parts of the region, our players still demonstrate a lot of pitch prowess.”;
  • Not enough events or no events at all – “Yes, operationally. Many of them are worried whether to use the stadium, cover it or not.”;
  • Timing of the matches and live broadcast – “In some parts of the world, there is no concept like live broadcast but because matches are available digitally everywhere people don’t want to leave the cosy confines of their home and come to the stadium to watch a game.”
  • Ticket prices; and
  • No free merchandise.

 
Zouein questioned, “Even after investing hugely in stadiums – in F&B and entertainment – what if the fans still do not turn up. How do we lure them to the stadium?”

He drew a comparison between fans in the UAE region and in other parts of the world – “In other parts of the globe, the entire family lands up in the stadium to watch a game of football. It is like a ritual for them. But, the same does not happen in the UAE region. Maybe, it is due to cultural or social factors.”
 

Forming habits

  • Workshops will have to be held and Emirati families will have to be convinced to come to the venue to watch a soccer match; and
  • The freebie culture will have to be done away with – ‘Free T-shirt or prizes if one comes to watch the game in the venue’. Fans are getting used to freebies and only if freebies are on offer, are they willing to come and watch the game.

 
He lamented, “Only 300 spectators turning up in a 38,000 seater venue like ours is a very sad commentary on the state of affairs. The freebie concept will have to go because people all agog to come to the stadium for the free gifts are something which is not sustainable in the long run.”

Venues today boast a lot of tech bells and whistles – LED screens and you name it – “Will the futuristic trappings of a venue help pull in the crowd. This is something which should be examined at length.”
 

Wellness program

He informed that few companies in Dubai have introduced a wellness program wherein if an individual takes good care of his or her health, shed weight, he or she could get a bonus at the end of the month.

Zouein highly recommended that venues should adopt the above strategy. This strategy should not be for keeps, but only to help fans form a habit.
 

Scary scenario

He summed up by stating, “If for a FIFA match, only 20,000 spectators turn up in our venue, this is something which is scary.”

The intense social and digital media worlds are one big reason why pulling fans from the couch into the stadia seat will require a lot of toil.

In the day of live television, as well as being able to record and watch from mobile phones, spectators identify the opportunity cost and choose to participate in other activities while also watching or keeping up with the score. This is a direct result of the interconnected world that we live in today.

People associated with the sports venue industry in the UAE will have to chart out a concrete strategy and do their homework well to be successful in the endeavor of attracting fans to the venues.

Continue to follow Coliseum for latest updates on venues business news. Coliseum is dedicated towards building the best global community of sports and entertainment venue executives and professionals creating better and more profitable venues.

Become a member of the only Global Sports Venue Alliance and connect with stadiums, arenas and experts from around the world. Apply for membership at coliseum-online.com/alliance and make use of the 365Coliseum Business.




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