Planning may help prevent ‘spectator rage’ at sporting events, Clemson researchers say

February 8, 2012

CLEMSON, SC – February 8, 2012 – Sports teams and stadium managers may be able to preventspectator rage that leads to violence at sporting events by creating acomprehensive plan in advance, according to a study by researchers atClemson and Stetson universities.

They may be able to design ways to manage fan’s interactions togenerate an “exhilarating, yet nonaggressive, customer experience,”according to the study, “Spectator Rage as the Dark Side of EngagingSports Fans: Implications for Service Marketers” in the Feb. 3 editionof the Journal of Service Research.

The study was co-authored by Clemson marketing professor StephenGrove; Greg Pickett, associate dean of the College of Business andBehavioral Science; Michael J. Dorsch, a marketing professor at Clemson;and Scott Jones, an assistant professor of marketing at StetsonUniversity.

Regrettably, the passion and exhilaration associated with manysporting events sometimes spawns fan violence and fury, Grove said.“When sport brings together two groups of fans and casts them inadversarial roles, the contest’s outcome can easily produce emotionallycharged, rage responses from spectators — especially when spectatorssense that they may not be accountable for their actions”

Customer rage has become more prevalent in recent years, and mostresearch focuses on rage when people are upset about a problem with atransaction or service. Spectator rage, however, can be triggered by acombination of emotional and environmental factors, the researcherssaid.

Sporting event managers should review such practices as seatingarrangements, alcohol, security and promotion. Screening and monitoringfans is critical.

Other steps they can take include:

  • Educating fans before sporting events about acceptable behavior maybe one of the best opportunities to influence spectator rage.
  • Scrutinizing promotional items given to fans to avoid those that might be thrown or used as weapons.
  • Minimizing the influence of alcohol by banning sales or limiting thenumber of times fans can leave and re-enter the venue, which may reduceconsumption outside during games.
  • Penalizing ticket-holders who display inappropriate behavior by removing them from the venue or revoking season tickets.
  • Performing random acts of kindness — giving hand-held fans tospectators on hot days, for instance — may create feelings of goodwill,alleviate sour moods and reduce anxiety.

Associated Documents

Spectator rage study