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Study looks at motivation for football fans


Brigid Veale
8 April 2008
What drives the tribal behaviour of rugby league and rugby union fans in Australia and the United Kingdom? That’s one of the questions being investigated in a Southern Cross University study involving more than 1600 football fans.

Rudi Meir, senior lecturer in the University’s Department of Exercise Science and Sport Management, is conducting the survey as part of his PhD research on sports marketing.

“Supporters are the lifeblood of any sport but even more so in professional team sports like rugby league and rugby union where their support through the good times and the bad can play a huge part in a club’s survival,” Rudi said.

“Yet we know very little about this aspect of being a fan. This research is attempting to find answers to questions related to what it means to be a fan and how people actively involve themselves in supporting their team.”

A survey has been distributed to rugby league and rugby union clubs in Australia including the Queensland Reds, New South Wales Waratahs, Sydney Roosters and South Sydney. In England, four teams from the rugby union premiership and two from the super league are also participating.

“The intent is to try and clarify the nature of the things that clubs can do to encourage their supporters. This is hugely important for a club’s long-term survival,” Rudi said.

“At the moment people are still completing the survey, but the things that are obviously important are wearing the team colours and the fact that enjoyment is enhanced by going with other people to watch a game.”

The long-term support of teams, passed on within families, was another key driver for fans.

Rudi said the research would have implications for all sporting clubs and could be particularly relevant with the move to introduce new AFL teams to Sydney and the Gold Coast.

“There’s a limit to how much can be pulled out of the market place. All the clubs will have to look at ways to grow their fan base in an increasingly fragmented market,” he said.

“We need to establish what is important to the fans.”

The research is expected to be complete within four months and all the participating clubs will receive a report with detailed information on their fan base.

Photo: The tribal behaviour of rugby league and rugby union fans is the subject of a study by Southern Cross University.