5G could give a £139 million boost to rugby, and improve the fan experience

15 April 2024

5G to boost Rugby revenue

We all know 5G is fast, but beyond simply allowing you to web browse and download faster, 5G can benefit all sorts of industries in all sorts of ways, and one example is rugby, as Vodafone has found that 5G-powered tech could add £139 million to the rugby economy per season from 2029.

The bulk of that cash influx would be from £115 million gained annually through sales of ‘virtual seats’. These would essentially give fans virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) views of rugby matches without them having to attend in person – so they could be sold to fans who either couldn’t make the match, or for games that were otherwise sold out.

This would be far more immersive than simply watching the rugby on TV, and it’s a tech that would be powered by “enhanced broadcasting on a dedicated and uninterrupted slice of 5G.”

If these virtual seats do generate the predicted £115 million annually, that would be a 103% uplift on current ticketing income. So that’s an enormous increase, and would also more importantly benefit fans, who would have better access to rugby matches.

The remaining £24 million of that £139 million figure would be from more efficient food and drink sales, with 5G-enabled monitoring devices and the Internet of Things used to monitor stock and demand, so that customers could be served more quickly. This could also be paired with 5G-powered apps that would allow customers to place orders in advance.

So this again should benefit both the rugby economy and rugby fans, with the latter also potentially benefitting from improved broadcast quality, powered by 5G-enabled cameras and sensors, which could for example allow you to view the action from your camera angle of choice, and get real-time player performance stats.

A benefit to more than just rugby

And while this report is focused on rugby, 5G could of course benefit other sports in similar ways, with 5G technology reportedly allowing for a 42% uplift in food and drink revenue per fixture at typical football stadiums, which would equate to £114 million per year by 2029.

This could be a vital cash influx, because three premiership rugby clubs entered administration during the 2022-23 season, while almost half of the Premier League football clubs had a negative cash flow at the end of the 2021-22 season.

Of course, none of this cash will appear without investment in 5G infrastructure, but the good news is that Vodafone plans just that, with the network pledging to bring 5G standalone to 99% of the UK population by 2034 if its proposed merger with Three goes ahead.

That pledge would involve an investment of at least £11 billion, and would see all of the UK’s 120 top rugby, football, and cricket stadiums, and the vast majority of its over 4,000 grassroots facilities, also covered with 5G standalone.

The implication of course is that if the merger isn’t approved then that will slow down 5G investment, but with every UK network working to improve its 5G coverage, it’s probably only a matter of time before we start seeing these benefits either way.

Editorial Manager

James has been writing for us for over 10 years. Currently, he is Editorial Manager for our group of companies ( 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk) and sub-editor at TechRadar. He specialises in smartphones, mobile networks/ technology, tablets, and wearables.

In the past, James has also written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media, Smart TV Radar, and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV. He has a film studies degree from the University of Kent, Canterbury, and has over a decade’s worth of professional writing experience.

Ofcom’s next 5G spectrum auction could finally deliver on 5G’s full potential

Ofcom has laid out its plans for the auctioning of 26GHz and 40GHz mmWave 5G spectrum.

As seen on:
Washington Post logo
Financial Times logo
Guardian logo
BBC logo
Telegraph logo
Forbes logo