Arena audio needs to go up the ‘food chain’ – Griffiths

The importance of in-stadium audio should be amplified to top decision-makers at venues and sports clubs so that it is not forgotten amidst a flurry of video enhancements, according to Jim Griffiths, one of the sector’s most influential figures.

Griffiths (pictured), the managing director at Vanguardia Consulting, scooped the Outstanding Achievement Award at the TheStadiumBusiness Design & Development Awards 2018 in November, after having helped to deliver, maintain and refresh the audio performance at some of the industry’s most famous venues, including The O2, Royal Albert Hall, Twickenham Stadium and Wembley Stadium.

Griffiths told TheStadiumBusiness.com that although there is an increasing appreciation by stadium operators of the impact quality audio can have on spectators and sportspeople, it is vital to continue to push the case for a part of the matchday experience that is sometimes overlooked.

“We [the audio sector’s representatives] need to be further up the food chain,” he said.

“One thing I’ve done is I’ve tried to move up the food chain by meeting the directors and those who can make a difference, so I can explain to them the benefits of audio and the impact that atmosphere can make.

“I often say, as the players come out, they need to be 1-0 up with intimidation – and that is when people will start listening to you about the importance of audio.

“I think the level of recognition has changed and the amount of money being invested is definitely increasing. Architects used to say, ‘we want to hear it, but not see it’. But now there is an acknowledgement with designs that they have to allocate space for a proper sound system.”

Griffiths spent 14 years as director of acoustics for Capita Symonds before he linked up with other senior colleagues to establish Vanguardia in May 2006.

Since then, Vanguardia has become a go-to consultancy for stadium and arena acoustic issues, from licensing to design.

One of the challenges that has faced audio advocates in recent years is the explosion of investment in video technology, which has often gobbled up the bulk of the budget.

As Don Szczepaniak, president and CEO of Prismview, a Samsung company, said at TheStadiumBusiness Design & Development 2018: “There is an understanding with many venue operators now that the more screens you can put in, the more engagement there is.In the major leagues, LED is exploding… and it’s replacing other technologies.”

However, Griffiths believes that audio and video should be seen as complementary.

“The two should work together, particularly for revenue-generation and advertising,” he added. “With the quality of some of the sound systems being built now, things will change for the better.”