How Sweden’s top league defied the trend of chasing money
While most of Europe’s soccer leagues engage in a Sisyphean quest to source as much money as possible from broadcasting deals, sponsorships, and player transfers, Sweden has chosen a different model. The Allsvenskan, Sweden’s top division, has prioritized the interests and experiences of its fans over the financial gains of its clubs.
This fan-centric approach has helped the league survive and thrive amid the pandemic, which has severely affected the revenues and operations of many other leagues. The Allsvenskan has managed to maintain high attendance rates, competitive balance, and social relevance, while also increasing its global appeal and media exposure.
The league’s philosophy is based on the idea that soccer is more than just a business, but a cultural and social phenomenon that connects people and communities. The league’s slogan, “Alla är vi olika, alla är vi Allsvenskan” (“We are all different, we are all Allsvenskan”), reflects its commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as its recognition of the value of each club and its fans.
How the league adapted to the pandemic and its challenges
The Allsvenskan was one of the first leagues in Europe to resume play after the initial lockdowns in 2020, thanks to the effective management of the health crisis by the Swedish authorities and the cooperation of the clubs and the players. The league also implemented strict protocols and guidelines to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved.
The league also faced the challenge of maintaining its fan engagement and loyalty, as the pandemic forced the clubs to play behind closed doors or with limited capacity for most of the season. The league responded by launching several initiatives to enhance the fan experience and interaction, such as:
- Creating a digital platform called Allsvenskan Play, which offers live and on-demand streaming of all matches, as well as exclusive content and features.
- Offering free access to Allsvenskan Play for all season ticket holders, as well as discounted prices for other fans.
- Developing a virtual reality app that allows fans to watch the matches from different perspectives and angles, as well as interact with other fans and players.
- Introducing a fan loyalty program that rewards fans for their engagement and participation, as well as provides them with benefits and offers from the league and its partners.
- Organizing online events and activities, such as quizzes, contests, and interviews, to keep the fans entertained and informed.
- Supporting the clubs in their efforts to communicate and connect with their fans, such as by sending personalized messages, videos, and gifts.
How the league benefited from its fan-centric approach
The league’s fan-centric approach has paid off in many ways, as the league has achieved impressive results and outcomes, such as:
- Increasing its average attendance by 12% in 2021, compared to 2019, despite the pandemic restrictions. The league also recorded its highest ever attendance in a single match, with 49,967 fans watching the derby between AIK and Djurgården in October 2021.
- Improving its competitive balance and unpredictability, as the league witnessed four different champions in the last four seasons, as well as several close and exciting races for the title and the European spots.
- Enhancing its social impact and responsibility, as the league and its clubs supported various causes and initiatives, such as fighting racism and discrimination, promoting mental health and well-being, and helping the vulnerable and the needy.
- Expanding its global reach and recognition, as the league secured new and improved broadcasting deals in several markets, such as the United States, China, and India. The league also attracted more international players and coaches, as well as more media attention and coverage.
- Increasing its revenues and profitability, as the league generated more income from its digital platform, its fan loyalty program, and its sponsorships. The league also reduced its costs and expenses, as it avoided the inflation and overspending that plague many other leagues.
The league’s success and achievements have earned it praise and admiration from many observers and experts, who have hailed it as a role model and an inspiration for other leagues and clubs. The league’s president, Lars-Christer Olsson, said that the league’s vision is to become “the most attractive and entertaining league in the world”, and that the league’s fan-centric approach is the key to achieving that goal.