Gloucester Rugby fans have been confirmed as the most passionate fans in the Aviva Premiership by scientists at the University of Bath.
In a season long experiment commissioned by Premiership Rugby’s title sponsor Aviva, the scientists conducted psychological and physiological tests on sample fans from all 12 Aviva Premiership clubs during a crunch match involving their team. The tests included continuous monitoring of fans’ heart rates, their anxiety levels and hormone release through saliva.
Results: The Aviva Premiership Passion League
Hear it for the Shed Heads
Gloucester fans achieved a total Passion Score of 177, beating off their nearest rivals London Irish (158) and Northampton Saints (156). Propping up the Aviva Premiership Passion League were Saracens fans, with a score of just 104.
Andy Hazell, Gloucester Rugby stalwart, said: “I’m a Gloucester lad born and bred, and it’s fantastic that our fans here at Kingsholm have been recognised as the Aviva Premiership’s most passionate fans. We’ve known it here for ages – but it’s great to get the official stamp of approval from the scientists at the University of Bath. The support our fans give us week-in week-out is simply incredible, and it has a huge impact on the lads out on the pitch”.
The highest heart rate measured during the experiment was by an Exeter Chiefs fan during their tense last minute win over Worcester Warriors in April 2012, who clocked up a peak of 200 beats per minute (bpm). The typical resting heart rate in adults is 60-80 bpm. A formula for estimating your maximum heart rate is: 220 minus your age. This 38 year old fan had a heart rate 18 beats per minute over what you would estimate as a possible maximum.
This fan also had a testosterone peak of 239 (pg/ml) at the end of the match when his team scored a last minute try to win the crunch match. As a comparison, during the Six Nations, the scientists undertook the same experiments on two ex-international players (Will Greenwood and Paul Wallace) who represented passionate England and Ireland fans respectively. Their testosterone levels at the end of the match were 94 and 117 (pg/ml) – so the Exeter Chiefs fan had twice as high testosterone levels watching the Worcester v Exeter match than the international fans watching the England v Ireland match.
The Gloucester v Bath derby match played at Kingsholm in September, and won by the home side, was the match which had the biggest noise levels of any match – reaching a peak of 143 decibels. The highest average noise level throughout an entire match was Worcester v Exeter, which was 95 decibels.
On the edge of their seats
Each of the matches were independently scored for its excitement levels by a former England rugby international. The most exciting match of the experiment was deemed to be Leicester Tigers narrow victory (30-25) over local rivals Northampton Saints in December 2011.
Louisa Cheetham, Senior Sponsorship Manager at Aviva, added: “One of the aims of Aviva’s rugby sponsorship is to reward passionate rugby fans and ensure that they are as close to the action as possible. We recognise that the passion and emotion is what makes rugby union such a special sport – and our experiment to find the league’s most passionate fans has been a fun insight into the science behind it. Anyone who has visited Kingsholm will not be surprised by the results, and our congratulations go to Gloucester fans – who are a credit to their fine rugby club.”
Dr. Mark Brosnan, Director of Research for Psychology at the University of Bath explained: “All the tests were formulated and set up to give the best indication of the stresses and emotions fans go through when watching a game of rugby. There’s no doubt that the more passionate you are about a team, the more involved you will be on an emotional level – and this is exactly what this experiment found. We were surprised by just how passionate some of the fans were. Some of the surges in heart rate and testosterone are the biggest we have seen. Previous research has examined these factors in players – and it’s fascinating to see that fans go through similar psychological and physiological processes as the players on the pitch”.