Submitted by Ali Aycan, Olcay Kiremitci, Erdinç Demiray, R. Timuçin Gençer
The purpose of this study has been to determine the relationships among gender, team identification, service quality perceptions and sport consumption intentions of professional soccer team spectators. 694 soccer spectators (female = 180, male = 514) participated in the study. T-test results demonstrated no significant difference between male and female sample groups in team identification and sport consumption intentions. T-test results revealed statistically significant difference between male and female only in physical environment quality perceptions. In the male spectators’ sample, the physical environment quality perception stands out among service quality sub-dimensions whereas the merchandising consumption intention stands out among sport consumption intentions. For female spectators, the physical environment quality perception stands out among service quality sub-dimensions, whereas the media consumption intention stands out among sport consumption intentions.
Today, sports and leisure activities continue to affect society (1). Attending sporting events, the top leisure activity, is a common interest long-held especially in modern societies (28). Despite its gradually increasing popularity, competition for spectators is increasing among sports organizations (14). Determining what variables attract spectators is important to clubs’ continued existence in this competitive environment (9, 30).
Professional soccer is a main part of the sports industry, bringing in many spectators, supporters, facilities, events, media connections, and sponsors. Shank (26) stated that “if the sporting event is the heart of sports industry, then the spectator is the blood that keeps it pumping”. Soccer clubs are the building blocks of professional soccer and draw their strength from spectators. The budget of soccer clubs depends on attendance fees, but also on media and merchandising revenues (13, 14). In this regard, rather than the behavioral intentions of the spectators, determining the factors affecting these intentions may be beneficial for soccer clubs to develop efficient strategies.
Professional soccer clubs are basically service organizations. Each exists for a specific purpose, and its success depends on the consistency of its efforts to accomplish that purpose (23). The concept of “quality” plays a critical role in the success of service organizations. Meeting and exceeding target customers’ expectations of service quality sets an organization apart (17).
Because services have an intangible character, service quality has an intangible structure. Therefore, we speak of “perceived service quality,” not objective service quality (4). Perceived service quality is the direction and degree of difference between customers’ expectations before they receive the service (expected service) and their real service experience (perceived service or perceived performance) (21, 22).
While measurement of service quality has become more advanced, very little development has concerned what is measured (2). All that sources seem to agree upon is the necessity of performance measurement. The roles of expectations and importance of service quality measurement have become the two most commonly discussed issues (24). Some definitions of quality in services have focused on what to assess. These definitions include the core service, the physical environment including service-related equipment and facilities, and the interaction among individuals in service performance (5).
These three elements shape spectators’ perceptions of service quality. The core service provided by professional soccer clubs is the game of soccer itself. A game of soccer can only become a service delivery in the presence of people who will watch it. Hence, the clubs produce each game with the spectators, who also consume it simultaneously (20). This causes interactions among the spectators, and between them and the service providers. These interactions need a physical environment in which to take place.
Although sports are an important social institution, sport spectatorship is an individual behavior that can take different forms such as attendance, watching, and listening (12). Identification with the team has been found to be the most important predictor in many studies (31). However, along with individual factors, environmental factors affect sport’s relationship with individuals as well (20). Wakefield and Sloan (33) state that attendance in soccer matches is not only a function of team performance or team attachment, but also of all the experiences of spectators in the stadium.
Understanding spectators’ intentions regarding their sport consumption is important to efficient, targeted strategy. This study aims to determine team identification levels, service quality perceptions, and sport consumption intentions of professional soccer spectators by gender. It should also specify the relationship between sport consumption and service quality perceptions of female and male spectators.
Participants in this study included 694 spectators of professional soccer teams operating in Izmir, the third-largest city in Turkey, and playing in the PTT 1.League. Among these participants, 233 (33.6%) were Göztepe SC spectators, 247 (35.6%) were Karşıyaka SC spectators, and 214 (30.8%) were Buca SC spectators. Among them, 514 (74.1%) were males while 180 (25.9%) were females. Their average age was 25.27 ± 8.66 years.
The study used the Scale of Perceived Service Quality in Professional Sport (8), Sport Consumption Behavior Intention Scale (15) and team identification subscale of the Points of Attachment Index (25, 29). The S_PSQPS, consists of 20 items within three subscales, including: (a) Interaction Quality (IQ, 6 items) (b) Physical Environment Quality (PEQ, 8 items) and (c) Core Service Quality (CSQ, 6 items). Items were scored on a five-point Likert-scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) and each item was preceded with the phrase, “In (the name of the stadium) stadium …”. Confirmatory factor analysis results (χ2 = 468.46, df = 162, χ2/df = 2.89, RMSEA = .056, SRMR = .048, GFI = .93, AGFI = .91, CFI = .94, IFI = .94, NFI = .92, NNFI = .93) and Cronbach’s alpha coefficients (varied between .83 and .88) reveal the measurement tool is valid and reliable.
The Sport Consumption Behavior Intention Scale (15) consists of three items each listed under the sub-dimensions of attendance intention, sport media consumption intention and licensed merchandise consumption intention. The Turkish version of the scale is assessed over a five-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Confirmatory factor analysis results (χ2 = 22.73 df = 12, χ2/df = 1.89, RMSEA = .036, SRMR = .012, NFI = 1.00, CFI = 1.00, IFI = 1.00, NNFI = .99, GFI = .99, and AGFI = .97) and Cronbach’s alpha coefficients (varied between .80 and .87) reveal that the measurement tool is valid and reliable (16).
Team identification is one of the subscales of the Points of Attachment Index (PAI) (25, 29) and consists of three items based on a seven-point Likert-type scale response format ranging from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (7). The Turkish version of PAI is valid and reliable (10, 11).
For the descriptive analyses of the data obtained from participants, we used the SPSS 13.0 statistic package program to make t-test and canonical correlation analyses. In the data analysis, first, we compared average spectator scores for each gender in the sub-dimensions of service quality, sport consumption, and team identification. To present the relationship between spectators’ service quality perceptions and sport consumption intentions, we applied canonical correlation analysis separately to each gender. Within the scope of this analysis, we considered canonical correlation coefficients, canonical redundancy analysis results and cross-loadings of the sub-dimensions.
Results showed a significant difference in service quality perceptions between male and female sample groups in the physical environment quality sub-dimension (p<.05). Other sub-dimensions, including consumption and team identification, show no such significant difference (p>.05) (Table 1).
In addition, we analyzed canonical correlations to determine the relationship between variable sets of service quality perceptions and sport consumption intentions to the data obtained from male and female sample groups separately. The first canonical function of both groups was statistically significant (p<.01) (Table 2).
That first function considered redundancy analysis results, presenting the explanation percentages of variable sets. For male spectators, service quality perception explains 75.9% of its variable set, while sport consumption intentions explain 6.0%. Sport consumption intentions explain 73.9% of its variable set whereas service quality perceptions explain 5.9%. As for female spectators, service quality perception explains 72.5% of its variable, sport consumption 11.2%; sport consumption intention 79.3% of its variable set and service quality perception 12.2% (Table 2).
In terms of perceived service quality, males seemed to pay the most attention to quality of the physical environment (canonical loading = -.991; cross loading = -.279) and interaction (canonical loading = -.837; cross loading = -.236); and in terms of their intentions, they cared most about merchandising (canonical loading = .963; cross loading = .271) and attendance (canonical loading = .930; cross loading = -.262) (Table 3).
Females seemed to care most about physical environment (canonical loading=-.978; cross loading=-.384), interaction (canonical loading=-.954; cross loading=-.375), media (canonical loading=.946; cross loading=.372) and attendance (canonical loading=.910; cross loading=.357) (Table 3).
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
Although female and male spectators’ media and merchandising-related intentions were high, their service quality perceptions were rather low. There was no significant difference between males and females in terms of team identification or consumption intentions. Quality perceptions of core service, interaction and physical environment may be low because these spectators’ teams compete in a lower league, and their stadiums suffer by comparison to the super league. Their directors spend most of their budget on player transfers to create a team that can move up to the super league and therefore ignore stadiums’ issues.
Physical environment quality perceptions of the female spectators participating in the study are significantly lower than the male spectators. Social interaction plays an important role in female attendance. Dietz-Uhler et al. (6) says that women often attend games with family and friends, and continue their sport spectatorship for social reasons. Although the structure of stadiums and popularity of soccer provide social opportunities, low perceptions regarding physical environment quality may affect female attendance. Physical environment does affect the quality of social interaction (3, 34).
Although males have a poor opinion of soccer’s physical environment and interaction low, they maintain their merchandising and attendance intentions positively. This situation results from their high team identification levels. Spectators with high team identification levels attend more games and watch more sports through media. They also buy more merchandise (31). Although Matsuoka et al. (19) states that the satisfaction from team identification and game experience have a remarkable effect on attendance intentions for future games, Mahony and Moorman (18) claim spectators with high identification levels attend games regardless of any other factors. However, according to Theodorakis et al. (27), high service quality raises the willingness to attend future games among those with medium and high identification levels, but does not influence those with the highest identification levels.
The high identification levels of this study’s participants and the negligible gender difference in those levels increases the importance of physical environment and interaction for female spectators. Females often attend sports for social interaction, attaching more importance to the stadium environment. Even though they have high identification levels, their poor perception of the environment and interaction makes them more likely to consume media than attend games. Media help spectators sustain their emotional attachment and feel the uncertainty of the score (7), particularly through live broadcasting. Wann et al. (32) emphasizes that spectators should not be mistaken for fans. Some fans with high identification levels do not attend games, and some spectators have very low identification levels.
In conclusion, professional soccer spectators with high levels of identification do not consider service quality perceptions very much. They continue attending the games of their teams, consume merchandise and follow their teams on the media even when the related service quality is low. Male spectators show a special interest in their teams’ merchandise despite their low service quality perceptions. However, female spectators’ high media consumption intentions compared to their attendance intentions shows the importance of the physical environment. Sports directors and marketers who wish to attract spectators, especially female spectators, to stadiums should work to improve their environment, not just identification with their teams.
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