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Formula 1’s Rapid Growth: The Impact on long-standing fans

There is no question that Formula 1 has experienced a rapid growth in recent seasons that has seen the sport reach a range of new audiences. This rise in popularity was emphasised by the recent visit to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The U.S has long been somewhat an anomaly in the global reach of F1, with Indycar and Nascar taking a large share of the spoils when it came to motorsport viewers. But following a 5-year hiatus from the States between 2007 and 2012, the country now hosts two races following the recent addition of Miami and are set to add a third event with next year’s inaugural Las Vegas grand prix. C.O.T.A saw 440,000 spectators through the gates throughout their 2022 event and an average of 1.3Million viewers tuning in to watch on Disney-owned channel ABC. The figures mark a clear increase in F1’s viewership in general, contributing to a 29% average rise on the 2021 season. With the U.S being such a vast market with huge growth potential, it was positive for F1 from a marketing perspective for the event to return to record breaking heights The Indianapolis Motor Speedway had previously broken the record for the best attended F1 grand prix in history at 250,000 spectator at its first event in 2000.

The Start Of The 2000 United States Grand Prix - The Most Attended Grand Prix Of All Time* : r/formula1
Comparison: the 2022 U.S. GP (below) and the 2000 U.S. GP (above) both set record breaking attendance figures for their time.The Second American Revolution - How Formula 1 finally cracked America : PlanetF1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Increased spectator numbers and fan interactions has been prompted by several factors. Netflix’s Drive to Survive series has taken the sport into mainstream audiences that would previously not have taken an interest in Formula 1. The deep dive behind the scenes into the off-track relationships and driver personalities has been a major hit with the younger generation of viewers as well as the casual fan. This, along with increased social media engagement, improved grand prix fan Zones and an increased calendar have contributed towards frequently sold-out events throughout the year.

Drive to Survive, Season 4, Netflix review - bitter rivalries on and off the track
Netflix camera crews try to give fans an insight into drivers outside of the car during the first day of pre season testing

However, with increased demand inevitably comes a rise in ticket prices. Long standing motorsport fans are, in some cases, faced with being priced out of the sport as it looks to capitalise on it’s wave of popularity. The British grand prix at Silverstone recently released ticket sales for 2023 using a dynamic pricing model, a decision widely criticised by fans and the press. Prices were seen to be increasing by the minute with some people adding tickets to their basket only to find they had increased in price once they went to purchase. To add to the disappointment, Silverstone’s website was unable to cope with the demand for tickets and there were several cases of fans being unable to purchase the tickets as they continued to rise in value. Silverstone CEO Stewart Pringle has apologised for the malfunctions and vowed to improve the system. However, Silverstone are in a position where their costs come close to matching their incomings on Grand Prix weekend. Therefore, from a financial perspective they have little choice but to capitalise on the sport’s popularity to ensure they can survive as a business and continue as a mainstay on the F1 calendar.

 

F1 Commentator David croft took to Twitter to defend remind fans that Silverstone are quick to reinvest their profits to improve the grand prix weekend. 

Granted, Formula 1 as a group are not in control of how individual grand prix circuits choose to price their tickets. However, it seems that the amount they are charging FIA grade 1 venues to host an event has increased post-pandemic. Arguably, this is forcing promoters to introduce pricing schemes that will deliver maximum profits to ensure they recoup the fees they are having to pay out. As previously mentioned, F1 is riding a wave of popularity and naturally independent venues need to take full advantage of the demand for tickets. But in a season where the on track spectacle has perhaps not lived up to the standard set in the following year, it is important to consider the loyal supporters that have stuck with the sport regardless of the competition level. Circuits promoters may consider some form of loyalty incentive for long-standing fans; a reward for contributing their hard earned money so frequently to the sport they love.

The Beautiful Game – but not for everyone

The ecstasy of a live sporting event is perhaps one of life’s most thrilling experiences. In the UK, 3PM on a Saturday afternoon is an escape for many – a chance to forget everything for 90 minutes and watch the game they love.  Football is widely considered relatively simple in terms of accessibility, opportunity to play and acquiring the resources to do so. The latest data collection clarifies that football in the UK is the most popular sport to both participate in and spectate with the Premier League alone reaching 15Million spectators in the 2021/22 season (statista, 2022). An outstanding figure and a testament to both the national and global appeal of the league.

However, for a number of UK citizens, contributing to these statistics is not as easy as most would assume. Disabled supporters, require a certain level of accessibility to support their team in person. Regardless of their desire to be in that stadium, long-standing barriers exist in society that mean this is not always possible. When supporters think of football in England, a large proportion would point towards Manchester United as top club in terms of history, success and global reach. Their home at Old Trafford seats 77,140 people, of which only 0.22% are wheelchair accessible (Age UK, 2021). If the club most synonymous with the premier league cannot lead by example when it comes to accessibility, then it is perhaps no surprise that only 7 teams offer the minimum threshold of wheelchair accessible seating in their stadium.

Of course, it is not only wheelchair users that need to be considered when it comes to accessibility. Audio commentary service, guide dog friendly facilities, and accessible entrances, walkways and toilets all contribute to how a stadium ranks as accessible for all. Additionally, there are disabilities to be considered that are not visible at first glance. Autism, ADHD, FASD and others benefit from use of a sensory room where individuals can experience live football in an environment where they can regulate their senses and emotions effectively. Different countries and sports appear to have a clearer direction when it comes to supporting these hidden disabilities. The U.S.A has been a leading force in this area both in terms of quantity and the technology level used in the facilities. Most recently, the NFL’s LA Raiders and Baseball’s New York Mets partnered with design company Nook to provide a sensory regulation escape from the overstimulation of a live sporting event. The Mets even host a ‘quiet zone’ where over 800 accessible tickets are made available for fans to experience the action with soundproofing for reduced noise, limited flashing lights and no large crowds.

TheMediagoon.com: Citi Field to add sensory Nook

The Mets provide off-field escape experiences as well as a pitch side ‘quiet zone’ to benefit Autistic fans. 

A handful of stadiums in the Premier League have installed a sensory room in recent years, supported in many cases by the Shippey Campaign. The charitable organization was founded by two parents with an ambition to revolutionize sensory rooms to incorporate sports stadia viewing. The inspiration behind the cause came from their three children, all of whom have been diagnosed with Autism. Funding provided by the Shippey Campaign has formed a platform for clubs to ensure they have the financial ability to provide a meaningful matchday experience for all fans – most notably, Autism. When such financial support is available, it remains a question as to why governing bodies do not make these essential facilities mandatory to ensure stadiums are as accessible as is possible for all. Where Premier League clubs have made progress in installing a sensory room within their stadium, there are few that provide access to viewing of the game from the environment – an element that is essential in addressing the sensory issues that come with live sport. With their alternate viewing experience, clubs such as Arsenal demonstrate the untapped potential in accessibility for the Premier With several examples across a range of regions and sports displaying the benefits fans reap from this experience, installation of such facilities should be a necessity.

The sensory room at Arsenal providing full pitch viewing from a sensory environment. 

 

Autism and Sport – the Struggle for Inclusivity in Mainstream Education

The new school term is firmly underway. However, for several young people that have Autism and additional needs the idea of returning to mainstream school can reignite several negative experiences. The nature of mainstream education means autistic children often struggle to engage in or access lessons that are key to their education. The latest data collection found that 70% of individuals with autism are currently enrolled in a mainstream setting with 74% of parents admitting their child’s setting did not fully meet their needs (National Autistic Society, 2021). 

Picture arriving for work on a Monday morning. Your manager greets you with a dirty football bib and tells you to put it on then go outside and warm up with a lap of the field. Its freezing cold, pouring with rain and you’re covered in mud. This is all in the first 5 minutes of you’re morning; would you be able to cope? To an Autistic young person, this is the reality of a mainstream school P.E. lesson. The smell of the changing rooms, noise of the teacher shouting out instructions and discomfort of often challenging weather conditions can quickly contribute to sensory overload. The video below gives an insight into the potential daily struggles of an Autistic individual.

Amazing Things Happen (2017) National Autistic Society.

 

“Yes, but it depends”

Participation of Autistic young people in P.E. appears very much conditional. There is a willingness to be involved but findings refer to themes such as sensory difficulties, fear of injury and exclusion that must be addressed before the individual feels comfortable engaging in a mainstream school PE lesson.  Interviews from this research frequently found the young people to use the phrase “yes, but it depends” when asked if they would like to be involved in physical activity. (Arnell et al. 2018) In addition, fear of exclusion, social interactions and physical ability all appear as prominent themes surrounding participation. (Healy et al. 2013)

The conditional participation model | Download Scientific Diagram

Arnell et al. (2018) 

 

Although on paper reasonable adjustments should have been made for each child to access P.E., sometimes just the simplest of alterations make the biggest difference to their experience. Changing rooms often present the biggest sensory challenge of the lesson. Is there another area where someone that struggles with the environment could get changed and keep their belongings somewhere they know is safe? Processing time is also vital. Too many instructions and demands being placed in quick successions may cause an overload and resulting shutdown. As they are in many aspects of life, first impressions are key. Ensuring the environment is clearly set out, safe and organized can instil a great sense of security in an Autistic individual. 

 

Reaping the Benefits

Despite the sensory headaches and unpredictability that P.E. brings, the benefits of participation on the individual have also been researched. Sensory processing can cause common underdevelopment of motor skills, muscular endurance in Autistic individuals; areas that physical activity can help to strengthen. (Healy et al. 2018) This area of research highlights physical activity as an evidence-based strategy for ASD support. In the classroom, academic benefits have also been displayed. Findings from interviews with four autistic secondary school pupils concluded that exercise in its simplest form, such as jogging, can contribute towards academic achievement. Nicholson et al. (2010) The findings highlight the important role exercise has in allowing autistic young people to regulate, with attention span and concentration levels being negatively affected if they are unable to do so.

3 Key Elements to Successfully Training Children with Autism

American College of Sports Medicine (2019) 3 Key Elements to Successfully Training Children with Autism. Available at : https://www.acsm.org/blog-detail/acsm-certified-blog/2019/07/09/3-key-elements-to-successfully-training-children-with-autism

With clear structure, simple instructions and time to process, Autistic individuals will find their P.E. lessons a more comfortable environment to learn in. It is important to note that high functioning Autistic individuals often wish to blend in with the crowd. Therefore, any these adjustments must be subtle to ensure their needs are being met. 

 

References:

  1. Arnell, S., Jerlinder, K. and Lundqvist, L.O., 2018. Perceptions of physical activity participation among adolescents with autism spectrum disorders: A conceptual model of conditional participation. Journal of autism and developmental disorders48(5), pp.1792-1802.
  2. Goldman, K.J., DeLeon, I.G., Schieber, E., Weinsztok, S.C. and Nicolini, G., 2021. Increasing physical activity and analyzing parametrically the effects on stereotypy in children with autism spectrum disorder. Behavioral Interventions36(4), pp.867-891
  3. Healy, Seán, Rachel Msetfi, and Stephen Gallagher. “‘Happy and a bit nervous’: The experiences of children with autism in physical education.” British Journal of Learning Disabilities41, no. 3 (2013): 222-228.
  4. Healy, S., Nacario, A., Braithwaite, R.E. and Hopper, C., 2018. The effect of physical activity interventions on youth with autism spectrum disorder: A meta‐Autism Research11(6), pp.818-833.
  5. National Autistic Society (2021) ‘School Report 2021’. Available at: https://www.autism.org.uk/what-we-do/news/school-report-2021. Accessed on 20/05/22.
  6. American College of Sports Medicine (2019) 3 Key Elements to Successfully Training Children with Autism. Available at : https://www.acsm.org/blog-detail/acsm-certified-blog/2019/07/09/3-key-elements-to-successfully-training-children-with-autism

About Me

Thankyou for visiting my blog landing page.

I create content on a broad range of contemporary issues within the sport and exercise industry ranging from digital media and fan engagement to accessibility for disabled individuals. 

I studied Sports Marketing and Management at Teesside University, graduating with first Class honours. Currently, I am using this education and experience to work with mainstream education providers to engage Autistic individuals in sport and exercise; ensuring they experience the physical and mental benefits of P.E. lessons. 

I am a proud supporter and season ticket holder of Middlesbrough Football Club and a passionate fan of Formula 1. 

I hope you enjoy reading some of my content. if you can find the time to share some of my articles it would be greatly appreciated. 

Thanks,

Josh.