Territorialising Urban Space: World Cup Fan Fests

Professor David McGillivray

Dr Matt Frew

Posted: June 16, 2014

Tagged: branding / events / fans / festivals

In recent years, we have been researching the relationship between major sporting events (particularly mega events), urban space and the extension of corporate brandscaping, with a focus on the (relatively) new phenomenon of World Cup Fan Fests and Olympic Live Sites (Frew and McGillivray, 2008; McGillivray, 2011). In this short article we explore the relationship between events, urban space and commercial imperatives, drawing on examples from current (and previous) FIFA World Cups.

The provision of specially designed, temporary venues located within prime urban civic space has been enshrined in host city contractual obligations since the Germany 2006 World Cup. Fan Fests are intended to accentuate the vibrancy of the host cities, for residents and visitors, providing opportunities for those without tickets for matches to participate in a collective viewing experience during the World Cup.

In the course of the last decade the sophistication of this public viewing offer has increased significantly. The 2006 FIFA World Cup held in Germany was the first time to any great degree that the spectator experience outside the official sports venues had been taken seriously. In 2006, Fan Fests were formalised as the official public viewing areas in-country for visiting football fans and residents alike, addressing in part residual concerns over potential football violence. Each of 10 host cities had a Fan Fest, officially endorsed by FIFA, attracting over 13million people during the tournament and crucially for this article, used by FIFA’s corporate sponsor family (e.g. Hyundai, Toshiba, Mastercard) to access huge audiences for marketing and promotional activities.

Though there were greater fears over crime and security in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup, again the official FIFA-endorsed Fan Fests attracted 11million visitors over the course of the tournament. The Fan Fests were promoted as safe tourist destinations, located close to urban centres (i.e. not located in unsafe locations), heavily secured and policed (barriers, bag checking, CCTV) and frequently visited by the international media.

In Brazil 2014, FIFA Fan Fests are being hosted by 12 host venues, but there has been an expression of discontent from some cities about the cost implications of hosting these events for the duration of World Cup (FIFA 2014). FIFA requires that Fan Fests are free (though they are ticketed in many areas) and this exerts significant cost pressure upon local authorities already facing huge outlays on physical infrastructure, security and transport. One of the host cities, Recife, was intended to renege on its contractual obligation to host a Fan Fest, citing prohibitive costs but FIFA threatened legal action which led to a scaled down event with greater reliance on private partners. The scale of protests in Brazil during the 2013 Confederations Cup also led to several host cities expressing concern that Fan Fests would be targeted, leading to a number of changes to venues to ensure greater security could be put in place.

The evolution of Fan Fests since Germany 2006 points towards greater choice for audiences and opportunities to experience World Cup atmospheres without having to purchase tickets to matches. However, in each case, Fan Fests are inseparable from the corporate-media nexus that increasingly defines the mega sports event phenomenon. Instead of free-flowing festive spaces, Fan Fests have themselves become carefully planned and orchestrated venues, which though free, are subject to extensive commodification processes.

Fan Fests are attractive to global corporate brands and the mass media industries because they provide these corporate actors with unfettered access to large audiences, facilitated by the resources of the host city in the form of security and promotional support. World Cup Fan Fests now operate as part of the valuable real estate that the sponsor family gains access to as a feature of their sponsorship investment. Host cities are required to subsidise financially the hosting of Fan Fests, in the process ceding sovereignty over urban civic spaces to external organisations for the purpose of brand extension. As parks, squares and buildings are opened up as commodities hosts are also required to introduce legislation to protect the rights (commercial and legal) of sponsors, whereby third party advertising and trading practices are tightly controlled across these zones during the World Cup.

Drawing on the work of Gilles Deleuze, Fan Fests can be considered striated spaces which, like any spatial structure, possess what appear to be objective boundaries. In the Fan Fests for the last three World Cups (including Brazil), visitors ar prohibited from bringing in their own food, drinks, unofficial merchandise, video cameras and numerous other items normally permitted in urban public spaces. Moreover, risk narratives are amplified to provide justification for search procedures, security and the segregation of space to organise activities within bounded walls and fences.

This trajectory of territorialisation has been evident since the Germany 2006 World Cup. The experience fits with the idea of brandscaping involving ‘atmospheric management’ (Pavoni, 2010:10). In South Africa 2010, visiting fans were directed to controlled zones of consumption in the name of security (e.g. airport-hotels-shopping malls-official Fan Fests-stadia).

Fan Fests represent yet another institutionalised commercial sphere during mega sports events. Event ‘zones’ are created within host cities to cater for visitors to mega sports events. These event zones (including, but not restricted to, Fan Fests) see public squares, parks, roads, pavements and airspace cocooned, controlled and commodified under a gaze of governance afforded by exceptional legislation. Invariably sited near official venues and in city centre prime real estate areas, event zones simultaneously sanction certain behaviours whilst rendering others illegal.





IFIFA, 2014 - [Link]

IIFrew and McGillivray, 2008, [Link]

IIIMcGillivray, 2011, [Link]

About Professor David McGillivray

Professor David McGillivray holds a Chair in Event and Digital Cultures in the Creative Futures Institute, University of the West of Scotland. His research interests focus on the contemporary significance of events and festivals (sporting and cultural) as markers of identity and mechanisms for the achievements of wider economic, social and cultural externalities.

About Dr Matt Frew

Dr Matt Frew is a Senior Lecturer within the School of Tourism at Bournemouth University. He came to academia with 15 years of industrial experience. His penchant for post structuralist theory takes him into the terrains of mega events, music festivity and the embodied impact of digital, social and transformational technologies