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3G pitches to help clubs in a post-COVID world

As football clubs around the world deal with the COVID-19 health crisis, the future use of more artificial pitches could help organisations navigate around these financially distressing times.

That is at least the view of former FA technical director Dan Ashworth, stating that the FIFA-approved football turf provides opportunities for clubs to host various events and pursue the development of their own academies.

In the UK, Maidstone United were the first ever English club to build a brand-new stadium using the highest quality 3G artificial surface.

That was in 2012, and since then, other notable clubs in the non-league divisions including Sutton United, Harrogate Town and Bromley have all made the move (in the National League) and installed 3G pitches.

The English Football League have considered allowing 3G fields in League 1 and 2, however, a vote in 2014 on the matter was tied.

This means that any club playing on an artificial pitch has to remove the surface if they want to be promoted into the EFL, even though 3G fields are allowed for the Women’s World Cup, Champions League and many other professional leagues in Europe.

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Joint-owner of Maidstone United Oliver Ash believes Dan Ashwoth is right in saying 3G pitches should be a prominent option for EFL clubs impacted financially by COVID-19.

He told fcbusiness: “With this terrible Covid-19 crisis affecting so many people and damaging so many football clubs, which are vital to their communities, we have to think outside the box if we are to avoid financial meltdown.

“Going forward it will all be about sustainability. Clubs will have to find ways of making their businesses sustainable in the interests of their supporters and their actual survival. One obvious way of achieving this is by installing a 3G pitch.

“We have now had five years’ experience of 3G pitches in the National League. We have seen supporters and players embrace the change in playing surface; we have seen that the highest quality 3G pitches encourage good football but also allow physical players to get stuck in; we have seen no particular injury problems, a welcome absence of postponements, and local people coming in their droves to watch and play football at our clubs seven days a week. It’s been life-changing in a totally positive way.”

Ash estimates that those clubs who decide to use 3G fields can generate a further £400,000 worth of income a year. This is the case because of direct pitch-hire revenue as well as indirect earnings from supporters coming into the club. Savings are also made on maintenance and postponements.

Using his own club as an example, Ash explained Maidstone United have registered a profit every season since the pitch was installed eight years ago.

“We know and respect the fact that some people still prefer to play on natural surfaces, even down in League 2, where pitch quality is inconsistent,” he said.

“However, the benefits of 3G pitches are so massive and the problems facing football so huge, it would be irrational not to give League 2 clubs the option to install them without delay and take advantage of the opportunity to transform their clubs into sustainable businesses capable of surviving this crisis and thriving thereafter,” he concluded.

Maidstone United, Sutton United, Bromley and Harrogate Town are the leaders in advocating for change in the EFL.

With leading experts in the game looking to restructure football in some capacity, what is generally the norm may be no more.

One day in the near future, these clubs could have access to the EFL without having to give up their 3G pitches.

On a local front, are 3G pitches a suitable idea for NPL and A-League clubs? Get in touch with us via email or our social channels.

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Manchester City teams up with Qualtrics

Manchester City Qualtrics

English Premier League side Manchester City have announced a new partnership with Qualtrics which will see the leader and creator of the Experience Management (XM) category become the Club’s Official Experience Management Software Partner.

Qualtrics empowers organisations to listen to customer and employee feedback, understand and analyse what they hear, then take action to improve experiences and design new ones, all in real time.

Manchester City and Qualtrics’ new partnership aligns with the club’s ongoing commitment to provide the best possible matchday experience for fans and will allow the club to use industry-leading experience management software to listen to fans’ feedback following each fixture.

From overall matchday experience – to catering, facilities, retail and more – Qualtrics can provide valuable insight and real-time data from fans to help the club shape their future strategic planning and decisions.

The new partnership is also expected to include further activations across wider areas of the organisation in coming months, using Qualtrics’ experience management software to listen to fan feedback and enhance the digital experience for Cityzens across the globe.

Senior Vice President of Global Partnerships Sales at City Football Group, Stephan Cieplik:

“As a club, we are continually working to improve our matchday offering for fans both in-stadium and across our digital platforms for those following across the globe,” he said.

“Through this new partnership with Qualtrics, we will be able to use industry-leading software to gather valuable feedback and insight from those at the heart of our club to help shape future decisions around matchdays.”

Qualtrics President of Products and Services, Brad Anderson:

“With Qualtrics, Manchester City can listen to and understand fan feedback in real time and take action to improve matchday experiences,” he said.

“But fan experience isn’t limited to the stadium — the digital and at-home fan experience is just as important, and Qualtrics will help Manchester City to deliver a personalized experience to their fans wherever they are.”

Bundesliga agrees partnership with digital company Sorare

Fan token

Bundesliga International have agreed a partnership in the growing sector of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) with successful digital company Sorare.

In an effort to take the marketing of the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 to new innovative heights, the subsidiary of DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga will partner with the popular fantasy football game effective immediately until at least the 2022/23 season.

Sorare, founded in Paris in 2018, is the market leader for NFTs as part of a fantasy football game. NFTs are digital assets made unique with individual encryption using blockchain technology.

In Sorare’s case, for example, limited-edition NFTs featuring professional football players can be purchased in order to create virtual teams. Sales are set to start in October, with further details to be provided soon.

The official partnership centres on NFTs in the form of digital player items that can be played in the integrated fantasy football game and also collected, exchanged and traded on the Sorare platform. Next year, Sorare will also publish NFT-based videos from the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, known as “Moments”, which can likewise be collected and played in the fantasy football game.

Robert Klein, CEO of DFL subsidiary Bundesliga International:

“We are delighted to be partners with such a dynamic and exciting company. NFTs are a digital technology of the future that should not be underestimated – especially in the sport sector.

“I am therefore convinced that this collaboration will give rise to further impulses. At the same time, Sorare will benefit from the appeal of one of the most popular sport brands.”

CEO and co-founder of Sorare, Nicolas Julia:

“Germany usually attracts the highest average attendance in football stadiums. It is football as it’s meant to be, where fans engage with their favourite players and club each weekend. We’re thrilled to allow Bundesliga fans in Germany and globally to come together online and to feel ownership of the sports they love.

“The Bundesliga is one of the best leagues in the world, home to some of the most exciting clubs and footballers on earth. We are very proud to partner with them to launch our first NFT Moments – we are building the future of fandom together.”

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