Firstly, can we establish something before we begin? Are you paying full attention?

Can you guarantee that as you read this piece, you won't be checking your phone or your laptop or glancing at the television to see what else is going on in the outside world? You promise? OK, good, now we can begin.

There was a very valid reason for asking that, because these days it's rare for anyone to give their full, undivided attention to anything. Take Rugby for example.

Recent research revealed that 55% of Rugby fans watching a match on TV will actively 'second screen'. ‘Second screening’ means fans will watch the match on the 'first screen' (TV), but use a second screen to enhance the experience. So they use their computer, tablet or smartphone to interact with their friends and fellow fans on social media, or to crunch performance data as the action unfolds.

If you are not already second screening and you simply choose to watch the match play out on your television, you are likely to be in a diminishing minority. “The second screen experience for sports fans – and indeed generally for that matter – is huge and getting bigger,” says Mark Middlemas, director of communications at digital advertising experts RadiumOne, who pulled together the data. The fact that their research also revealed that 73% of the UK population second-screen during peak-time TV viewing seems to back up that claim.

“Technology is helping to improve the fan experience because it helps to inform, educate and inspire in real-time. All the fans want is information at their fingertips as soon as possible, to be involved as much as possible and to feel as much of the excitement around Rugby as possible. Technology makes that possible like never before and the best clubs and organisations understand that.”

The New Rules of Engagement

Second screening is nothing new of course. For as long as personal computers and mobile devices have been on hand, fans have been able to access additional information that has complemented their primary viewing experience. For example, if you have ever watched a match live on television and wanted to know the scores from elsewhere, if you logged on to a website that told you those scores, you were second screening.

You just didn’t know you were second screening because back then it didn’t have a name, but you may well have been ahead of the curve. Now it does have a name and in recent years, with the arrival of tablet computers and mobile phones as powerful as desktop PCs, the platforms that power the second screening experience have gone into overdrive.

With a highly polished Rugby World Cup 2015 website and official Tournament app, plus a very active presence across Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, SoundCloud and Vine, World Rugby – the Game’s governing body – has truly embraced the power of interactive and social media.

“With Rugby reaching and inspiring new audiences through the most-accessible Rugby World Cup ever, we are delighted to see so many people tuning in to what promises to be a very special and record-breaking Tournament,” chirped World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset as the Tournament began. And when he said 'tuning in', he no longer meant simply via their television sets. With 'social activity' across Facebook and Twitter on day one alone surpassing the total volume achieved across the whole of New Zealand 2011, it is clear that the rules of engagement have evolved.

“It’s absolutely critical that World Rugby use the technology at their disposal to improve the whole fan experience and, in my view, they have done an excellent job,” says Mark Middlemas. “Also, World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper is a great sharer of news and views around what World Rugby are doing on the RWC, on his LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. Given the audience profile of Rugby – a large quotient of businessmen and women – I like the fact that a global CEO understands the fans are in certain online environments and takes the time to share such content. More CEOs should follow his example!”

Supply and Demand

According to leading sports data provider Opta, the Game is evolving to meet the fans’ demands. “In sports such as Rugby and football, fans now expect a raft of additional information to be available to them during matches,” says Duncan Alexander, Opta’s head of data editorial. “Having that information increases the engagement they have with major events and gives them the chance to become experts on the Game.” The best second screen applications, he believes, combine live data, expert insight and the fan’s own social media channels. “Crucially though, they are built into a design that doesn’t detract from the actual event – and that is absolutely key.”

If harnessed effectively, the technology now available can also help the Game grow. “Technology opens up the sport in so many ways for sponsors and advertisers and the best ones use it cleverly to inform, educate, inspire and sell thus making Rugby more popular,” says Middlemas. “Those sponsors and advertisers are investing multi-millions of pounds into the Game and this then has a positive, knock on effect on all parties – for the rights holders, the teams, the players and ultimately for us, the fans.”

The Game is in a very healthy place right now, thanks in large part to the growth of the second screen and the power it has given you to access whatever information you want, whenever you want it. But there is a word of warning: as both Duncan Alexander and Mark Middlemas agree, technology can only ever complement and enhance the Game.

“No matter how much amazing technology improves the fan experience, nothing will ever match the ‘human’ experience of watching the Game live,” says Middlemas. “Humans and technology are evolving fast, but we shouldn’t forget real-life authenticity is and always will be best for a fan.”

Stats Entertainment

19% of fans post comments about the match on social media.

 of fans chat with friends on instant messenger about the match while watching on TV.

48% of 16-34-year-olds use their phones during the match – compared with 22% of 55+-year-olds.

48% of Rugby fans share Rugby-related content online, and 60% consume it, rising to three quarters (78%) of 16-34 year old fans.

83% of fans inside the stadium use their smartphone prior to kick-off, compared to 74% watching on TV.

Figures from The Rugby Fans & Technology Survey, conducted through research specialist TPoll, via RadiumOne (

This article was commissioned via NewsCred's NewsRoom and written by freelance contributor Nick Harper.