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The role of sport fan community in value co-creation1
Patrizia Zagnoli (zagnoli@unifi.it) Elena Radicchi (e.radicchi@unifi.it) Sport Management Laboratory, University of Florence, Italy

Introduction The new complexity of the sport sector has a strong impact on the implementation of sport products that nowadays are an expression of manifold subjects. Planning, production, distribution and communication of sport contents involve numerous actors who participate in the implementation of sport with diversified roles and importance: sport organizations, athletes, institutions and local administrations, sponsors, media, etc. Fans and supporters are of course of central importance to sport service production. The passion, excitement, involvement expressed by the audience has a crucial role for event implementation and value creation. Due to the importance of fans as “co-producers” of the sport service, the hypothesis of this research is that a fan community is a salient stakeholder in the value co-creation process. This research focuses on a fan community of a specific professional football case, the ACF Fiorentina the Florence, Italy football club - a “rich” example for identifying and analyzing the manifold influences and interactions that fans can engage in with their team, the local context and the network of actors as a whole. The knowledge of this case study has profited from several investigations, research and theses carried out within the Master‟s Degree in Sport Management at the University of Florence. We started to monitor the football club and the relations with the local stakeholders since the year 2003 - after the club‟s failure and its “rebirth” when the team went to an owner that for the first time ever was “non Florentine” - up to the last 2009/2010 football season. To develop this case study a quali-quantitative methodology was used. The analysis of the fan community starts with an examination of the Fiorentina‟s ticket season holders database that highlights their socioeconomic features.2 One-to-one interviews and focus groups with fan clubs representatives, the local Chief of Police, sport institutions, members of the football club (coach, managers, etc.) were also organised. 3

Further information was retrieved through the monitoring of sport magazines and national newspapers, and the site searching of the ACF Fiorentina official web site, blogs and fan club web sites, in order to better explain data collected from interviews, focus groups and the database. The complex context where fans move was studied by analyzing different subjects with a specific interest in the football club. The mapping of actors who more or less are linked to the existence of the Fiorentina was guided by the stakeholder theory. Nonetheless, this analytical tool does not seem to thoroughly explain all the relations developed within the sport sector. This approach is somewhat “corporate-centred” and considers mainly the relationships activated by the “focal organization” with its stakeholders.4 It further aims to understand how a firm can create value through transactions and relations established with each stakeholder. The present research takes a different focus. It analyses the relations within the sport network by focusing on a specific stakeholder that in economic terms constitutes the demand for which the product or service is destined, in respect to the focal organization. The local fan community, the Fiorentina‟s “user”, interacts with manifold actors such as the players and coach, owners, local citizens, institutions, media, sponsors and suppliers. By drawing on the theoretical tools of the network analysis it is possible to map the relations between the football club and its fans, as well as between fans and other stakeholders.5 More particularly, it is possible to emphasize the special network of the Fiorentina both in terms of internal dynamics as well as in regard to its connections with the external competitive...
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