Spectator rage: The dark side of professional sports

Feb 06, 2012

Preventing violent outbreaks of "spectator rage", similar to the deadly riots that broke out following a soccer game in Egypt, requires assessment and action by sports team owners and stadium managers, according to a report in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Service Research.

Spectator rage is an outgrowth of an ever-increasing number of episodes of consumer rage, researchers from Clemson and Stetson universities report in an advance online version of the journal. While consumers are often upset during a transaction for a specific good or service, a combination of emotional and can trigger spectator rage.

"Unfortunately, the excitement and electricity that accompany many athletic contests sometimes erupt into volatile incidents of spectator rage," said Clemson University Professor of Marketing, Stephen J. Grove, who co-authored the report with Clemson colleagues Gregory M. Pickett and Michael J. Dorsch and Stetson University's Scott A. Jones. "When a sporting event brings together two groups of fans and casts them in adversarial roles, the contest's outcome can easily prompt emotionally charged responses from spectators."

Seventy-nine people died last Wednesday in the Egyptian city of Port Said after fans of the hometown Al-Masry club stormed the field following a 3-1 win over Cairo's Al-Ahly club. Subsequent protests left five people dead.

Fan tensions can be exacerbated when conflicting political or social undercurrents between rivals are at play, Jones said. Either a loss or a victory can spawn rampage, especially when enraged fans sense that they may not be held accountable for their actions.

Sport venues and those responsible for staging contests can and should take steps to reduce that likelihood by carefully reviewing practices and policies with respect to seating arrangements, , security presence and promotions, the researchers report. Screening and monitoring fans during an event is critical. Sometimes it's not what organizations do, but what they don't do that contributes to the possibility of spectator rage.

Boston College Professor of Marketing Katherine Lemon, editor of the Journal of Service Research, said the tragic events in Egypt should serve as a warning to teams to review the spectator experience they are trying to cultivate in order to ensure excitement doesn't shift to violence.

"The recent tragedy in Egypt is an extreme example of the increasingly frequent appearance of 'spectator rage' at professional sporting events around the world," Lemon said. "The question is how can the professional sports industry better predict, prevent and respond to spectator rage among the millions of customers who buy tickets to events across the globe? As experts report in the upcoming edition of the Journal of Service Research, sporting teams and clubs need to assess the possible triggers that can set off these incidents and create programs that ensure the exciting fan experience critical to their business models doesn't dissolve into rage-fueled violence."

Explore further: Zero hour contracts are 'tip of the iceberg' of damaging shift work, say researchers

More information: A copy of the report "Spectator Rage as the Dark Side of Engaging Sport Fans: Implications for Service Marketers" can be viewed at the Journal of Service Research website: jsr.sagepub.com/content/early/recent

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Big playoffs don't mean big payoffs

May 04, 2011

Two of Boston’s professional sports teams — the Celtics and the Bruins — have reached the second round of their league playoffs for the third consecutive season. We asked John Kwoka, Neal F. ...

The Web: 'Reality TV' online for World Cup

Jun 14, 2006

From online "reality TV" to sporting blogs to fantasy soccer games, the Internet is emerging as the new way that FIFA World Cup 2006 fans are keeping in touch with the doings on -- and off -- the field this soccer season, ...

Sports franchises have been quick to embrace Twitter

Mar 10, 2009

Sports fans are always looking for more news, insider information and opportunities for trash talking about their favorite teams. Those with accounts on social messaging system Twitter.com are getting that kind of satisfaction ...

Sports stars are no role models, say scientists

Apr 21, 2010

The loutish and drunken behaviour of some of our sporting heroes - routinely reported in the media - has little or no effect on the drinking habits of young people, new research has found.

Recommended for you

Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

4 hours ago

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 ...

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 ...

Atom probe assisted dating of oldest piece of earth

(Phys.org) —It's a scientific axiom: big claims require extra-solid evidence. So there were skeptics in 2001 when University of Wisconsin-Madison geoscience professor John Valley dated an ancient crystal ...