Aviva’s “Most Passionate Fans” study sees Gloucester edge out Bath

Two weeks may have passed, but Gloucester’s fans are still celebrating their 23-6 home win over local rivals Bath on Saturday. And they’ve got even more reason to celebrate, as their fans have been scientifically shown to have been more passionate than their Bath counterparts on the day.

League sponsor Aviva have partnered with the University of Bath to scientifically investigate which Aviva Premiership Rugby club has the most passionate fans. The season-long project began at Kingsholm, where the research team undertook a variety of experiments on a sample set of 28 fans (14 from each club) who applied to take part. Their anxiety and testosterone levels were measured, as well as their heart rate throughout the match.

The university have devised an equation for passion, which is calculated from the interaction of four variables:

1) fan loyalty (commitment to the team)
2) fan match evaluation (before and after the match)
3) fan psychology (mood and anxiety levels)
4) fan physiology (hormone and heart rate changes)

The results are weighted alongside an independent review of the match by a former England player, to allow all 6 ‘crunch’ matches, and 12 sets of supporters, to be compared.

Here is a summary of the fans’ results from the West Country derby:

• Heart rate (HR) was measured before the match and compared to heart rate during the match. Changes in heart rate were indicators of high levels of passion. The average HRs (both teams, all time periods) ranged from 90-100, the upper end of the normal range.
Gloucester’s Darren Dawidiuk try at the end of the first half resulted in a significant surge in heart rate for Gloucester fans – reaching a peak of 132. Heart rate surged once more for Charlie Sharples’ fantastic late try at the end of the match – peaking at 119 for Gloucester fans.
• Commitment: Gloucester fans rated themselves as more ‘psychologically committed’ (66/70) to their team than Bath fans (60/70). But the Bath fans committed more time to following their team than Gloucester fans (66/61).
• Predictions: Unsurprisingly, both fans thought their team would win: Bath fans by 10 points (25:15 on average), Gloucester fans by 7 points (23:16 on average). Gloucester fans were spot-on when predicting their own team’s score, but no-one from either set of fans thought Bath would score just 6 points.
• Stress: Cortisol was highest before the match (the higher the cortisol, the higher the stress), dramatically reduced by half time and then dramatically reduced again for full time. This was similar for both sets of fans, whether winning or losing.
• Testosterone (T): Before the match, Gloucester fans’ T was much higher than Bath fans’ T. Bath had the most possession for most of the first half (despite going behind at the end of the half). At half time the Bath fans’ T had risen and the Gloucester fans’ T had dropped. During the second half Gloucester built upon their lead throughout the half and Bath failed to score. The T of the Gloucester fans stabilised and the T of the Bath fans dropped back down again.
• Mood-swings: Mood can be defined in many ways, but it can be considered that positive and negative moods are two general categories. Winning dramatically reduced the negative mood in Gloucester fans but did not increase positive mood. However, losing dramatically reduced positive mood in Bath fans, but did not affect negative mood. So after the match, Gloucester fans were less negative, but not more positive. Bath fans were less positive but not more negative.
• Post-match analysis: After the match, Gloucester fans thought their team had played somewhat better than usual whilst Bath had played at the expected level. They attributed the win to the way Gloucester (not Bath) played and thought that their support had impacted upon the win quite a bit. Bath fans felt their team were not as good as usual whilst Gloucester played at the expected level. They attributed the outcome comparably to the performance of both teams and felt their support had only had a little impact upon the outcome.

The result: Gloucester fans were more passionate than Bath fans by a passion score of 177-129.

The figures from each test section were combined in to a passion equation and then scaled so all 4 categories can have a possible maximum of 100.

Glos Bath
Fan Loyalty: 47 45
Fan Evaluation: 64 26
Fan Psychology:30 33
Fan Physiology: 36 25
Fan Passion: 177 129

Louisa Cheetham, Senior Sponsorship Manager at Aviva, said: “This great sport truly is a fans game – their unwavering loyalty and passion is remarkable. Aviva want to get fans as close to the action as possible, and the ‘most passionate fans’ project does just that. Around the grounds of the Aviva Premiership you will hear pockets of fans boasting that they are the loudest and the most passionate in the league. Our project with the University of Bath will help us to settle the debate, although I’m sure the dispute on the terraces won’t stop there! Congratulations to the Gloucester fans for their victory off the pitch, but it will be interesting to see how both sets of fans compare with the remaining 10 clubs in the Aviva Premiership yet to be tested.”

Aviva and the scientists continue the project at the East Midlands derby between Leicester and Northampton on 3 December. Fans of both teams are now being called on to apply to take part, by emailing avivapremiershipfans@gmail.com with their name, age, address, club, shirt size and a paragraph explaining why they think they are a passionate fan.

At the end of the season, the Aviva Premiership Passion League Table will be revealed on www.avivapremiership.com/passionate

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