Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

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


CLEMSON — Sports teams and stadium managers may be able to prevent spectator rage that leads to violence at sporting events by creating a comprehensive plan in advance, according to a study by researchers at Clemson and Stetson universities.

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

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

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

Customer rage has become more prevalent in recent years, and most research focuses on rage when people are upset about a problem with a transaction or service. Spectator rage, however, can be triggered by a combination of emotional and environmental factors, the researchers said.

Sporting event managers should review such practices as seating arrangements, alcohol, security and promotion. Screening and monitoring fans is critical.

Other steps they can take include:

  • Educating fans before sporting events about acceptable behavior may be 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 the number of times fans can leave and re-enter the venue, which may reduce consumption 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 to spectators on hot days, for instance — may create feelings of goodwill, alleviate sour moods and reduce anxiety.
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