Professor evaluates match day experience

Thu, 31 Jan 2013 14:49:00 GMT

Leigh leads the way in giving the fans what they want

Leigh Centurions logo A FAMOUS rugby league club that has ambitions to return to the sport’s top flight is collaborating with a University of Huddersfield professor to help boost performance. 

David Bamford is Professor of Operations Management at the University and has specialised in applying his theories and expertise to the field of sport.  For example, he conducted a pioneering survey of the experiences of paralympians at the London 2012 games. 

He has most recently been working closely with Leigh Centurions Rugby League Football Club, which aims improve match-day experience for the fans and spectators.  The club currently operates in the Rugby League Championship and has a vision and strategy, directed by the fan base, to return to the top flight in the Super League in 2014. 

“The club were very keen to get the fans’ voice to find out what else the board could do in order to increase attendance and make the whole match-day experience worthwhile,” said Professor Bamford. 

To discover what the fans wanted, he and Benjamin Dehe, Research Analyst, devised an on-line survey consisting of 77 questions. 

Professor David Bamford “We had a response of 511, which was tremendous, when you consider that the average attendance at matches is about 2,000.  So a big proportion of the fan base took part,” said Professor Bamford (pictured right).  Once the survey had been concluded he and his colleague began the process of analysing the data and discussing initial findings with the club’s board and with the fans – 200 of whom turned up for a special debrief session. 

The broad findings of the survey are that in addition to good, committed on-pitch performances by the team, fans also sought value for money in areas such as ticket and bar prices, plus innovation in areas such as pre-match and half-time entertainment and club involvement in the community. 

Among the early innovations to result from the survey, more use is to be made of the Jumbatron, or giant TV screen at the well-equipped Leigh Sports Village, where the Centurions play. 

“It is currently used to display the time elapsed and the score; Fans suggested using it very differently and having an MC who will work with the crowd in order to get them engaged with the event,” said Professor Bamford. 

Leigh Centurions Fans He will continue to work with the Centurions and is delighted by the link he has forged with the club and its go-ahead chief executive, Trevor Barton MBE.  There is also the possibility for research in tandem with other RL clubs – especially appropriate as Huddersfield is the town where the rugby league was born – plus the prospect of finding funding for a PhD researcher in rugby league and operations management. 

Leigh Centurions stadium The advantage for a club such as Leigh in collaborating with academic researchers is the potential to gain evidence-based research which can then be used to innovate in their practice. 

The gain for Professor David Bamford and Benjamin Dehe is that they are involved in a research project which can provide valuable material for academic articles and conference papers.

  • Professor Bamford is a former industrialist and engineer who switched to an academic career in order to research, teach and write about operations management, which aims to ensure that business is run as effectively and efficiently as possible, providing the best experience for customers.  The winner of many awards for his research projects, he began to realise that his theories could be applied to the sports world.

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