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Swansea City – the benchmark of digital innovation in UK football?

Currently sitting seventh in the EFL Championship, Welsh side Swansea City have been the envy of clubs in English football for their off-the-field innovation.

Since ditching the EFL Digital platform two years ago, City’s focus on fan-centred technology led to the launch of a new creative website, followed by a mobile app which breaks away from the usual.

Head of Commercial for Swansea City, Rebecca Edwards-Symmons told FC Business: “There weren’t that many apps in football at the time and the clubs who had an app often just duplicated content from their website to the app and assumed that would be fine.

“That’s not what I wanted us to do, so our whole digital strategy was about taking a risk. We were a smaller club in the Premier League at the time and we were able use this and our owners’ drive to be trendsetters in the use of app technology in the UK and to take massive strides. So that’s what we did.”

In November 2017, Swansea became the first club to create an app with single sign-on and a one club functionality, giving fans access to tickets, retail and digital accounts. City’s digital partners Other Media and Sports Alliance were instrumental to the success of the app. By July 2018, the service would allow consumers to purchase in-app season tickets.

Edwards-Symmons claimed that a key part of their digital strategy was to give fans content that was suited to their needs.

“We have a very loyal fanbase in Swansea and I wanted an app that could deliver them all the short- form content they would need while saving long-form content for the website,” she said.

“But we also wanted to be able to distinguish UK fans from those outside of the UK to give that matchday experience to those who weren’t in the local area, something that other apps couldn’t do.”

The next stage for Swansea is to take personalisation to even higher levels and deliver the best experience possible for its supporters.

“Everybody is saying that it’s next but nobody has really done it yet. I want each of our fan’s app to look different based on who they are, where they are, if they’re a season ticket holder or someone who only comes to four games a season and is based in London, etc. I want personalisation to its fullest and that is our next step for the next 12 months,” Edwards-Symmons said.

“We’ve got over 50,000 downloads which is a lot for a Championship team in South Wales and these people who have our app are our most influential, they spend more than the average fan. We get optimal engagement but it’s also the best platform for us to get information out there quickly through push notifications.”

Despite these promising statistics, the club understands where they currently sit in the landscape of UK football.

“I want us to be classed as an innovative club, while realising we now have to work within the financial restraints of not being a Premier League club at the moment. Every club wants to be different and the biggest challenge a club has is doing just that. At the end of the day, we’re never going to convert a Chelsea or Liverpool fan into a Swansea City fan but what is important is to focus on the fans and the community and we should not forget that.”

Edwards-Symmons concluded: “Working with Other Media has been a pleasure – they’re not a supplier to us but a partner – they know our business inside out, they understand what we’re trying to achieve and we trust them which is a must in sport.”

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. Follow him on Twitter @PhilipPanas

City of Greater Geelong Council injects $350,000 into Corio Soccer Club facilities

The City of Greater Geelong Council have announced an initial funding grant of $350,000 into improving Corio Soccer Club’s facilities.

As a part of the Hume Reserve Master Plan, gender neutral change rooms will be developed on the site, as well as an upgrade to the team’s clubrooms.

Hume Reserve is considered one of Geelong’s largest soccer facilities. The reserve is home to three soccer pitches, two of them with lighting.

City of Greater Geelong councillor Eddy Kontelj was excited to commence the works, which have been in the pipeline for the past few years.

“Located in the heartland of soccer in Geelong’s northern suburbs, the Corio Soccer Club is steeped in soccer history and epitomises multiculturalism. This club and its community, that has contributed so much to Geelong, is about to get some back,” councillor Kontelj said.

“As a Geelong councillor, it has been extremely exciting to be working closely with club president – Mario Gregorio, the committee and also the Bell Park community over the past 3 years, to finally bring this extremely progressive and inclusive club room, gender-neutral change room development, plus the Hume Reserve Master Plan to commencement stage.

“The City of Greater Geelong Council’s $350,000 injection is a tremendous boost to kick start this ~$1 million project.

“Hume Reserve is set to be a first-class soccer facility as well as a really inclusive area for the broader community to use. Born and bred in the area, I could not be more pleased and proud of this development,” he concluded.

The implementation of the Hume Reserve Master Plan hopes to reinforce “its role as an important local level soccer facility and valued community open space,” according to the City of Greater Geelong website.

The City of Greater Geelong’s extended plan for the reserve can be viewed here.

DAZN to exit deals as Twitch launches sports category

DAZN is set to exit multiple soccer broadcasting deals, while Twitch has launched a sports category and partnered with several elite soccer clubs.

UK sports streaming service DAZN is set to exit multiple soccer broadcasting deals, while Twitch has launched a sports category and partnered with several elite soccer clubs.

SportsPro has reported that DAZN will end its contract to broadcast the UEFA Champions league in Asia.

DAZN owns the rights from 2018 to 2021 for the Champions League and Europa League for Japan, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

Bloomberg reported that COVID-19 and the major changes to the schedule caused by the pandemic are the main reasons for DAZN seeking to back out of the agreement.

DAZN only ever launched a platform in Japan. The company ended up sublicensing the rights to other providers for the other nations. Both Bloomberg and SportsPro suggested that DAZN has made a loss on this broadcasting deal.

DAZN has also exited its deal to broadcast Serie A in Brazil, SportBusiness has reported that the streaming service has cancelled the arrangement despite there being another year left on the agreement.

The English Premier League, Ligue 1 and Major League Soccer are also broadcasted by DAZN in Brazil.

Meanwhile Twitch, a live video streaming service known for Esports and gaming, has signed strategic partnerships with Real Madrid, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, and Arsenal.

Each club will have their own channel and create content for the platform such as streaming press conferences, friendlies, or youth matches.

Twitch also created a new sports category, meaning users will be able to find all of the sports streams in one section on Twitch.

These elite European football clubs are not the only sports teams or organisations to have deals with Twitch. Some English Premier League games were streamed on the platform last month, while the Ultimate Fighting Championship, National Hockey League and National Basketball Association were also broadcast on Twitch.

Twitch also has deals with England’s Rugby Football League and America’s National Women’s Soccer League.

These sporting organisations provide a range of content for the platform – whether it be live games or reruns of famous matches such as the NBA’s ‘Top Ten Games of the Season’.

Football players across Australia to #PlayinPurple for pancreatic cancer

Football players in Australia will be pulling on their purple socks next month to help raise awareness for pancreatic cancer.

The #PlayinPurple campaign was started by Isabella Di Manno in 2015, after the death of her fiancée’s mother due to the illness.

Pancreatic cancer is projected to claim more lives than breast and prostate cancer with around 80 percent of diagnosed patients to die within a year.

In 2019, over 3500 players around the nation wore purple socks to raise awareness for the disease, with the campaign raising funds for research, improving diagnosis and treatment.

“The campaign continues to grow from strength to strength each year, drawing much needed attention to pancreatic cancer,” Di Manno said.

“It’s wonderful to see the participation grow across clubs, codes and regions and reading the testimonials and talking to players, it’s clear the campaign unities communities through active participation and acts as a positive talking point between people who might not necessarily know the outcomes of pancreatic cancer.”

Avner Foundation CEO Michelle Stewart added: “We are excited to see playing fields Australia-wide turned purple for pancreatic cancer, and awareness on this scale is exactly what we need to help shine a light on this disease.

“This campaign is a wonderful opportunity to increase engagement between clubs, players and the community, all participating for a very important cause – pancreatic cancer awareness.”

The campaign has been supported by Football NSW since its inception, with CEO Stuart Hodge proud to promote the cause.

“Football NSW are proud to be supporting a wonderful community initiative, combining the wonderful code of football with truly ground-breaking campaigns such as the: #PlayinPurple – Football socks campaign for the Avner Panceatic Cancer Foundation.

“We kindly encourage our football family to do their bit in getting behind this amazing initiative.”

The Manly Warringah Football Association and Sutherland Shire Football Association have also thrown its support behind the initiative.

“The Manly Warringah Football Association is proud to support Purple Sock Day to help raise awareness for pancreatic cancer. Grassroots football plays an important role in our Community and we encourage as many teams and clubs as possible to get behind the #PlayinPurple campaign,” MWFA CEO David Mason said.

“Pancreatic cancer is on the rise and SSFA is proud to support this important awareness-raising initiative again in 2020. The spirit of sportsmanship is wonderful as local football fields become awash with purple socks, and I encourage associations across the state to participate,” claimed SSFA General Manager Jeff Stewart.

More information about the campaign can be found here.

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