Are Robots The Referees Of The Future?

Fans are in favor of tech that cuts waits and boosts interactions with their favorite teams and artists, but many draw the line at robot umpires, referees.

From their mobile devices to the metaverse, consumers are looking to tech to level-up their stadium outings, according to a new Oracle Food and Beverage survey¹. For example, 57% of stadium goers would love to pre-order food and drinks to avoid long lines and 53% think it would be amazing to engage with their favorite teams and artists in the metaverse.

“Stadium visitors want the best of both worlds; they seek the excitement of live in-person viewing but want the experience to feel as convenient as other parts of their life, such as ordering take-out,” said Simon de Montfort Walker, senior vice president and general manager at Oracle Food and Beverage.

“While providing an immersive and seamless journey presents challenges to stadium operators, fans’ increased expectations have also created opportunity to bring innovation and digitalization into the traditional stadium sphere,” he added.

stadium metaverseTech Creates A Homerun Experience

From entering the stadium to getting player stats, consumers want technology that will give them more bang for their stadium buck:

  • 53% would like to engage with their favorite teams and artists in the metaverse (virtual “backstage/stadium” tours and meet-ups, shopping for merchandise, etc.). This was especially true of sports fans (64%), and millennials (65%)
  • 42% would like to use their fingerprint, rather than a ticket, to enter a stadium
  • 38% (the #1 preference) want to view sports stats through their mobile device
  • 53% are interested in receiving special offers for pre-game activities

Digital Speed, Convenience Wins Over Fans

With staffing shortages lingering, fans believe customer service is getting worse at stadiums and are counting on tech to speed the process and shorten wait times:

  • 42% are frustrated with waiting in long lines for concessions
  • 53% would prefer a more flexible, self-serve digital experience versus interacting with staff during live stadium events
  • 57% love the idea of pre-ordering food and drink for pick at a specific time
  • 33% of people will pay extra to pre-order their meal if it means a shorter wait

“Today’s fans expect an experience that extends beyond the game,” said Bill Schlough, senior vice president and chief information officer for the MLB San Francisco Giants. “They are looking for great food, friendly service, engaging promotions and hopefully a win for the orange and black.

“Technology is playing an increasingly important role in delivering these experiences from the moment a fan begins planning their trip to Oracle Park,” Schlough continued. “For example, more and more fans are bypassing the concession lines by ordering food on their mobile device so they don’t miss any of the action on the field. Oracle’s technology is helping us bring these offerings to life and continually reimagine how we can enhance the experience for our fans.”

Robots: Friend Or Foe?

stadium metaverse
(Source: Adobe Stock by Blue Planet Studio)

Fan opinions are mixed when it comes to using robot umpires and referees across various sports, according to the survey. Many consumers are indifferent, but whether they are rooting for or against the robots largely depends on their region (fans in the U.S., China, and UAE seem to favor robots more than others):

  • 42% of consumers globally hated the idea (36% for U.S.), 29% loved it (30% for U.S.), and 29% are indifferent (34% for U.S.)
  • Leading-off for the “hate the idea” team is Germany (58%), Italy (53%), Spain (52%), Australia (50%), France (48%), Brazil (44%)
  • China (54%) and UAE (53%) “love the idea” of robot umps and refs

¹ The survey, conducted by Oracle research partner Untold Insights, polled 5,640 global consumers in May 2022. Countries surveyed include Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, United Arab Emirates, the UK, and the U.S.

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