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Dig Inclusion makes digital access available for everyone 

For stadiums around the world, infrastructure has been created to cater for people with disabilities, however access to club websites and apps cannot be overlooked. 

In the past, stadiums had been designed so people with disability can still access the venues. As we know with COVID outbreaks, attention has now shifted towards how we get these people into the grounds by using apps and in particular to scan a QR code for contact tracing. 

As we have seen in 2021, the QR system has become a mandatory tool, while at the same time we have seen the need to go with virtual tickets, rather than the printed out copies we had always been accustomed to. 

For clubs and stadiums, they want to ensure that fan experience is at the optimal level, so that means they have to assess the accessibility for disabled people and ways for them to have entry to venues without an enormous amount of hassle. 

This is where Dig Inclusion can help. They are a digital accessibility service who ensures that football club websites and apps are equally available for everyone. 

For clubs, they should be asking themselves whether disabled fans have the same opportunity to buy tickets online as everybody else, while the other consideration should be if news feeds, match statistics, websites and apps are as user friendly as they need to be. 

For digital accessibility, Dig Inclusion takes into account people who are colour blind, dyslexic or have cognitive impairments (including people living with dementia). Through a club’s website or app design process – from the use of font, to language, to colour contrast – are all highly important so nobody feels overwhelmed when accessing a club’s resource. 

For example, if a disabled fan wants to buy some club merchandise, then they will have the same opportunity to browse and make that purchase just like any other person would, with tailored options available to assist anyone who needs it. 

When teams partner with Dig Inclusion, they are there for every step of the way, from accessible testing, research and strategy, to accessible development and content creation, and finally a check on websites, mobile apps, PDF documents and ebooks among some of the benefits. 

All of Dig Inclusion’s services are designed to help clubs keep pace in a rapidly changing digital age: 

Accessible design review: To highlight visual aspects of a design that need to be checked for accessibility, such as colour contrast and positioning. This looks at common accessibility pitfalls and turns this into what would be the ultimate experience for all customers. 

Accessibility help desk: Advice and support from someone who understands the company and what they do, offering fast response times and specialist knowledge for any stucks in the digital accessibility process. 

Mobile accessibility: Helping to get the most out of tablet and smartphone users, with those devices more often used than desktop or laptop. This is very important for disabled or elderly fans who would like to use mobile technology. 

Web accessibility: Advising organisations about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) in an easy-to-understand manner, as design agencies and web developers may find it difficult to grasp or keep pace with updates as they become available. 

Disabled user testing: It’s not only digital content meeting accessibility guidelines that is important, but also making sure that the experience of a disabled person using a product is a good one. 

PDF accessibility: Accessibility guidelines are not just designed for webpages, but anything that a customer downloads is also included. Dig Inclusion can produce PDF documents that go alongside WCAG with equal access as a typical website. 

Video accessibility: When businesses make advertising material, they can be supported with transcripts, captions, subtitles, or audio descriptions that they probably would have not used before on their own. 

Ebook accessibility: Tablets have been a valuable way for people to virtually read books and other publications. An accessible ebook gives all readers instant access to fit their needs, regardless of print disability. 

Dig Inclusion provides ways for clubs to navigate the challenges associated with building an app or website for equal opportunities. To learn more on Dig Inclusion, you can find it here. 

Liam Watson is the Managing Editor at Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy, industry matters and technology.

James Johnson on how the Club Licensing System is critical to progress of Second Division

On Thursday, Football Australia released their reformed Club Licensing System Regulations that will increase standards at clubs across the top three tiers of Australian football – as a key part of broader structural reform they are engineering to take the game forward.

Reforming the Club Licensing System was an agreed responsibility Football Australia took on during its unbundling of the A-Leagues to the Australian Professional Leagues in December 2020, and is something Football Australia CEO James Johnson sees as critical to unlocking standstill issues facing the game, such as the proposed National Second Division (NSD) and Domestic Transfer System (DTS).

“We have challenges in the sport, namely around player development at the moment, and right at the very heart of the Club Licensing System are standards and requirements that really need to be reviewed on an annual basis. So we’ll continue to lift the standards in club football with a particular focus on youth development,” Johnson, who oversaw the Global Club Licensing Program while at FIFA, told Soccerscene

“That’s going to align very well with some of our other initiatives, like a Domestic Transfer System that has player development at its very core. It’s something we need to fix now; it’s something I don’t think is an opinion, it’s a fact.

“These measures – Club Licensing, a transfer system, the second tier competition – are all designed to improve the level of our players, the benefit of which we will see in the years to come.”

Club Licensing has historically been managed by the Asian Football Confederation as a means of ensuring minimum standards for clubs to compete in Asian club competitions. By taking it into their own hands, Football Australia can now raise and specify standards for clubs at not just the professional level, but the levels below it.

The regulations include certain criteria that must be met to compete and continue to compete in certain competitions, broken into five categories: Sporting, infrastructure, personnel and administrative, legal, and financial – with variations in each to reflect multiple levels of the pyramid. 

“First and foremost, this new Club Licensing System will be a set of criteria that needs to be fulfilled in order for all clubs to participate in Asian club competition, but also for all clubs in the A-Leagues to continue their ability to participate in that competition,” Johnson said. 

“The second part, the more strategic football development angle, is that it is designed to become a strategic plan for club development and enhanced governance of clubs throughout the country. It really sits right at the heart of key decisions clubs would take, and how they operate on a day-to-day basis.”

The new system is designed to cater for clubs at the professional (A-Leagues), semi-professional (NSD) and state-league (NPL) levels, providing an overarching set of standards to promote uniformity between clubs and divisions. Theoretically, it could also prepare clubs for movement between divisions if promotion and relegation were to come into effect.

Johnson sees that uniformity as vital to the game moving forward, given the three tiers will be administered by three different organisations: The A-Leagues by the Australian Professional Leagues, the mooted NSD by Football Australia, and the NPL competitions by their respective Member Federations. 

“You have to set different standards for different levels of football. As we roll out the second tier competition in the coming years, Football Australia would licence clubs to participate in that competition because it would be the competition administrator,” he said.

“The next step would be to go down the pyramid. There’d be a continual evolution of the Club Licensing System where we’d set a strategic framework that the competition administrators, the Member Federations, would ultimately work under, in order to create their own criteria for participation and access to the state level competitions.

“That framework that the Member Federations would operate under would give each region across the country a good level of specificity to develop their own criteria to access their own region.”

Concerning the level of football not currently in place – the proposed  second tier – Johnson stated the Federation had the backing of the AAFC, the representative body of the clubs looking to step from the NPL into the second tier of competition, over the new Club Licensing System.

“The AAFC are very much aligned with the direction Football Australia are wanting to go. Their interest in licensing is concerning the NSD, and I don’t think there would be any issues there provided we set the criteria as the right levels,” Johnson said.

“What we’ll get once the system is implemented is the ability to analyse clubs all around the country. We’ll be able to benchmark how clubs in Victoria are performing on and off the pitch, against teams in Brisbane or Hobart or Perth.

“One of the big values of a CLS is it’s a measuring stick that helps us understand which areas clubs around the country are strong in, and which areas they need more focus on. Ultimately, that’s how we grow club football.”

Tasked with overseeing the licensing reform is Natalie Lutz, who Football Australia hired as their Club Licensing Manager in January. Lutz has considerable experience in the field, having previously overseen the rollout of club licensing across the CONCACAF Federation. 

“Natalie knows what she’s doing, she’s very experienced, she was responsible for the roll out of a Club Licensing System in 40-odd countries in the Americas. We have her in the business now, which is why this project is evolving,” Johnson said.

Los Angeles FC teams up with Foundation Fighting Blindness to host vision impaired fans

Major League Soccer club Los Angeles FC is teaming up with the Foundation Fighting Blindness to host blind and low vision fans at LAFC matches at Banc of California Stadium this season.

Leveraging the team’s partnership with audio technology Mixhalo, fans will have access to crystal-clear, real-time play-by-play in English, featuring the call of ESPN LA’s Dave Denholm and the Spanish audio featuring Armando Aguayo on 980 AM La Mera Mera.

All fans at Banc of California can now use their phone, headphones and the free mobile Mixhalo app to listen to Mixhalo’s high-quality live audio for an immersive experience while watching at the stadium.

As the first-ever MLS team to adopt the technology, LAFC announced its collaboration with Mixhalo in December 2020. With fans now returning to Banc of California Stadium at full capacity, Mixhalo audio will be available to all fans at every LAFC home game throughout the remainder of the 2022 season.

“LAFC matches are for everyone,” LAFC Co-President and CBO Larry Freedman told lafc.com.

“We are constantly focusing on improving our fan experience and making our games more accessible to all. We are proud to welcome fans from the Foundation Fighting Blindness community this season to experience LAFC matches in person through Mixhalo’s incredible technology.”

Guests from the Foundation Fighting Blindness community will attend select LAFC home games and have the opportunity to meet with Denholm and Aguayo before the game.

“We are honoured to be partnering with LAFC in making the games more accessible for our blind and low vision community,” Jason Menzo said to lafc.com, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

“We look forward to the technology rolling out into other stadiums, not only in the United States, but globally.

Mixhalo Head of Sports Doug Holtzman added:

“Mixhalo elevates the live sports experience for everyone, and we’re thrilled that vision impaired LAFC fans can enjoy a better experience at matches this season.”

“With live calls from Dave Denholm directly in your ear – it really doesn’t get much better than that.”

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