British Rowing Sports Presentation Workshop explores how rowing can improve its spectator experience

British Rowing hosts its first Sports Presentation Workshop to discuss how it can improve accessibility and interaction for fans

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Andy Parkinson at British Rowing's Sports Presentation Workshop

Around the world, almost every sport is trying to bring its fans closer to the action, be it creating new formats or introducing new initiatives to existing formats – and rowing is no exception.

British Rowing is continually working on ways to improve the way people access and interact with the sport, whether in person at the event, on television or on social media while on the move.

Our first Sports Presentation Workshop on 3 February gathered influential figures from the media, governing bodies and the technology industry to discuss innovative ways to improve our offering and make the sport of rowing more accessible to the British public.

In cycling, fans can now see statistics of their favourite riders, such as heart rate and cadence, on an app as they ride past on the road, while Formula E enthusiasts can give their favourite driver a 30kw boost by voting for them on social media.

Rowing still has a number of barriers to overcome to create the optimal spectator experience, whether it’s the 2,600 steps from the car park to the waterside at Eton Dorney, or the inability for the fans in the stands to see the first 1,250m of the course at the Lagoa in Rio de Janeiro last summer.

“It’s not just the racing itself that’s important,” says Julian Baker, creative director of workshop hosts Imagination, “it’s what happens around the racing, before and afterwards.”

While the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Races have their tribal fan bases, the event still manages to attract thousands of people who have no affiliation with either city or university thanks to the ever-improving spectator experience for those people lining the river or watching on TV.

Race director Michelle Dite says it’s important for the event to innovate in order to attract new fans, while also keeping the history and tradition of the nearly 200-year-old event.

“It’s all about how people can engage with the Boat Race,” she says. “[At the event] they’ll only see a bit of it, either at the start or the finish perhaps. So we’re looking at ways to potentially bring in-ear commentary to the race and increasing activities at our fan sites in Furnival Gardens and Bishops Park, and there’s a lot of interest now in Putney.

“We have find out how we can connect the Boat Races with the wider community. From a sport presentation point of view, we work very closely with the BBC and try to think of how we can create the theatre in things such as the crews coming out of the boat houses, and trying to follow their story down the whole course.”

How do you think the rowing fan experience can be improved? Send us your suggestions on Facebook and Twitter.

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