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Heidelberg United FC implements interactive training system, SmartGoals

While physical performance has always been gauged using GPS monitoring, time trials and strength testing, technical attributes have traditionally been challenging to tangibly measure.

It was in his search to bridge this gap that Chris Theodorou, Football Program Manager at Heidelberg United FC discovered SmartGoals.

“It is manufactured by a Dutch company. I first came across it online where I saw the Ajax first team using it during training. It was awesome, I was totally blown away and thought we have to try and get this equipment to Australia.” Theodorou said.

The interactive training system uses a set of targets which are imbued with light signals. Once a player physically passes the goal, or kicks a ball through the goal, another SmartGoal lights up, making it the new target.

This makes the system extremely useful for physical training such as sprint tests and agility tests, but also for driving technical improvement through drills that focus on passing, shooting, or dribbling.

“It’s an interactive system that works with light signals. A smart goal lights up and becomes a target. Whether you want to run through them, shoot the ball through them or something else you do that and once that’s complete the next smart goal lights up.”

Having targets that dynamically change forces players to adjust in a split second, replicating the intensity they experience during an in-game situation.

“Basically, it trains awareness, reaction time, team play and technical skills. The target changes instantly every time a successful SmartGoal has been executed,” Theodorou said.

“It’s challenging and fun for players at all levels. Whether you are a beginner or professional you can use it, there are exercises for people of all abilities and even for people playing with disabilities. The accessibility SmartGoals provides is a huge benefit.”

All of the data gathered is recorded for coaches and players, making it enormously beneficial for identifying development opportunities as well as making it more mentally engaging for players.

“Data collection is so important in sport these days. You can keep track of how fast an individual is, how many goals they’ve scored, and determine their accuracy. The beauty of SmartGoals is that you can now measure their technical ability and watch them grow,” Theodorou said.

The App which comes with SmartGoals also includes a database that contains more than 100 filmed exercises. While originally built for football, the goals have expanded to other sports including hockey and athletics.

The database means coaches can keep training fresh by tailoring their training program to their needs. The filmed videos further assist this, by providing an easy guide on how to setup the exercise and how the player should look when executing the drill.

“The database has exercises that allow you to train individuals, or the whole team. There’s technique training, positional training, possession and more,” Theodorou said.

“They were purposely built for football and since we started implementing them at training, the feedback we have received has been absolutely fabulous.”

With SmartGoals proving a success at Heidelberg United FC, Theodorou believes it is important for more Australian football clubs to invest in burgeoning technology.

In additional to SmartGoals, he has implemented SoccerPLAY into Heidelberg FC’s football program and is a strong advocate of keeping up to date with international trends.

“Clubs must view technology like SmartGoals as an investment, not an expense,” he said.

“Australian football has been a little behind on trends and reluctant to invest. The trends are slowly changing though, we have started tapping into the types of things the leading countries have been using over the last three or four years,” he said.

For more information on SmartGoals, visit HERE.

Axess makes game day run seamlessly 

Axess serves as a leading international manufacturer for ticketing and access management systems - a trusted process for sports clubs. 

Axess serves as a leading international manufacturer for ticketing and access management systems, putting in place a trusted process for sports clubs. 

The company has already achieved substantial reach and with an office in Australia (Currumbin Queensland)their services are right on our doorstep.  

Headquartered in Austria with production taking place in the city of Innsbruck, Axess currently has 20 offices in 16 different countries. 

Axess are specialists in individual solutions for ticketing and access management, software products to integrate own business areas and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems to manage consumer data. 

As Axess are able to cater for customers all around the world, they are also versatile with a variety of industries – their solutions are used by ski resorts, fair & convention centres, stadia & arenas, leisure parks, museums, sightseeing attractions and touristic transport. 

Axess can look at the unique fields and identify how to implement their expertise, with complete resort solutions, customer registration and customer loyalty programs with social media integration – as well as numerous standardised interfaces to third-party systems. 

To meet the needs of organisations, Axess will use the very best innovative hardware and the most modern software modules. This means they can offer a tailored service for every area of application. 

The hardware that Axess offers are suitable for any sporting event at a stadium, with customised areas to ensure a smooth process on game day. 

Venues are supported from start to finish by Axess, who provide systems that includes a layer of security so that it’s easy to know who is entering the stadium. 

As people arrive, Smart Gates can be used to verify exactly who is accessing certain parts of the venue. For example, to access a VIP area, a person would only be allowed in if they have an appropriate pass or accreditation, which would be scanned to give them the green light. A venue could even look at the Smart Security Gate for extra security protection to block ineligible patrons. 

This solution can be used in a similar manner for car parks, as Axess provide entrance and departure gates for those with motorised vehicles. This allows clubs to section off a particular area of their parking and reserve it for players, coaches, match officials and media personnel. 

When it comes to ticketing, Axess can assist clubs with both printing needs and digital implementation. They accommodate for fans at a personalised level, with a range of options available to collect their tickets for an event. For example, Axess offers a Pick Up Box that is accessible for people to collect the tickets they ordered online, meaning they’re not required to line up at tills.  

The Ticket Kiosk and Smart Printers by Axess are quick and easy solution for all parties, as customers can source what they need and therefore reduces crowded areas outside ticket kiosks in peak times, especially within half an hour of a big event starting. The technology on offer by Axess can print tickets in no time, covering a range of formats. 

However, as we know it has become important for patrons at an event to ‘check in’ using a QR code to register that they were there for Covid tracking purposes. Axess provides the option for people to purchase their tickets online and receive a code to enter the stadium. This gives all clubs the chance to implement this very important technology that becomes tracking software to identify anyone with symptoms of Covid-19.  

A QR code is also present on Axess’ Smart Cards, where they are more relevant to regular visitors of a stadium – members of a club. With an integrated chip, the card stores data of an individual for fast entry and is highly durable, so there’s no need to worry about replacing it.  

Whether it be those who like it old-fashioned or now tech-savvy, tickets by Axess come in all forms to create a user-friendly experience. 

The modules and equipment that Axess brings are state-of-the-art to match the ever-growing changes to technology. They are a flexible partner of access management, always looking for ways to be innovative in how their solutions can best fit any organisation. 

For a more detailed look into Axess’ products, as well as their latest news and case studies, you can find them here. 

Why Mobile Connectivity is now a critical service in stadiums

As stadiums across the world begin to welcome back crowds, clubs are looking to improve the overall experience for fans in a post COVID-19 world.

Mobile connectivity continues to be an increasingly important utility in stadiums, with fans now somewhat expecting the service at the football grounds they visit.

UK company Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG) own and operate the nation’s largest selection of indoor mobile networks, serving over 1.25 billion visitors each year.

Working with all UK mobile network operators, WIG have direct experience in designing, installing and operating mobile infrastructure and lead the market in network deployment and management in stadiums and sports venues.

2020 saw the biggest ever growth in the UK for mobile devise usage, with users trying to stay connected whilst offices, businesses and venues were closed due to the pandemic.

These figures are expected to increase again in 2021, with mobile device usage now exceeding time spent watching live TV.

Vijay Sodiwala, Commercial Director at WIG, believes that these increases during the COVID period will impact supporters’ expectations of the matchday experience in stadiums.

“It is inevitable that fan behaviour will have changed significantly in terms of how much they interact with their mobile devices and the quality of connectivity and service they expect as part of their overall stadium experience,” he told fcbusiness.

“Fans will expect dedicated coverage and a high-speed data capability allowing them to access the internet, stream videos, interact on social media, text and make calls to friends and family before, during and after matches.

“They will be less tolerant of a poorer mobile experience, especially in venues that are charging them to attend events.”

Sodiwala explains the best possible way to address poor mobile connectivity in stadiums.

“Outdoor networks (such as masts, towers and rooftop installations) are just not designed to deliver the capacity that is needed when you have stadiums operating at full capacity and it is no longer appropriate to look to the mobile network operators to solve these problems for us,” he said.

“The most efficient solution for enabling properly dimensioned mobile services within a stadium is a distributed digital network approach.

“This is a single network deployed around the stadium that can support all of the mobile network operators and all of their technologies (2G, 3G, 4G and 5G) at the same time. It can also support private network capabilities that stadiums operators and clubs have started to use as a secure, high capacity, flexible and lower-cost alternative to WiFi and traditional wired networks.”

Leading stadium owners and clubs across the UK, including Premier League clubs, have teamed up with WIG to create their own dedicated infrastructure solution.

“Stadium owners and clubs have started to look at investing in their own network infrastructure and partnering with Wireless Infrastructure Group to design, deploy, operate and maintain their stadium networks and provide the interface to the mobile network operators to enable service.”

Sodiwala outlined that because of the rapidly changing behavioural habits of fans, it is an appropriate time for clubs to invest in technology to improve their digital strategic footprint.

“The pandemic has resulted in a seismic shift in consumer behaviour with an increased reliance on mobile devices and adoption of digital technologies,” he said.

“Think of how much our daily interaction has gone digital – from attending meetings to ordering groceries – and stadiums are not exempt. Fans will understandably be relived to return to live events, but their expectations on stadium experience will be markedly different.

“Some of our stadium partners (clubs) have seen the restrictions imposed on us by the pandemic as an opportunity to address this.

“Firstly, to use digital as a more effective way of engaging and connecting with fans through a more immersive and content rich experience. Secondly, clubs are looking at capturing operational efficiencies which have the potential to improve the bottom line – mobile ticketing, in- seat ordering, and mobile payments are the sort of things that come to mind here.

“Underpinning all of this of course is the realisation that high quality mobile service is key to a successful digital strategy.

“A desire to drive fan engagement, improve stadium experience and reduce operational costs certainly feels like a strong response from clubs in a post-pandemic environment. Investing in the right infrastructure approach with the right partner is the first step on that journey.”

More information on the Wireless Infrastructure Group can be found here: https://www.wirelessinfrastructure.co.uk/

TGI Sport lifts the stadium experience

As a leading sports technology company, TGI Sport are capable of implementing their digital expertise to improve a fans’ experience.

As a leading sports technology company, TGI Sport are capable of implementing their digital expertise to improve a fans’ experience.

Trusted by sporting organisations and brands since 1997, TGI Sport is a versatile business that delivers sports infrastructure, technology and media rights around the world. There is over 250 people employed globally across 12 offices.

Led by TGI’s chief commercial officer Patick Vendrely and director of digital strategy Gordon Campbell, they are able to help football clubs develop their very own digital identity, especially as we rebound from Covid-19.

TGI connects brands and stadiums to sports fans through their dynamic digital solutions. These include a proprietary broadcast & digital technology, infrastructure, event presentation, game day operations, fan engagement across major sporting leagues and a host of premier sporting venues.

TGI provides advertisers, sponsors, rights holders and brands with a unique and powerful platform to engage a sports audience – that shapes the future of sport event experiences on global scale for millions of people.

TGI are the digital and commercial bridge between rights holders, fans and brands. They capture valuable data, then analyse and utilise it to increase inventory, revenues and lead the industry in understanding how sports fans can relate to their club and brands.

Technology-based innovation, globalisation and rapid changes in consumer behaviour are revolutionising the ways in which sport is created, delivered, consumed and commercialised, where TGI can identify trends in markets. They offer a unique and consolidated approach built around data, technology and experience that ensures their partners engage and retain the fans, attract brands and deliver commercial value for right holders, stadiums, sporting leagues and brands, all while making sure that return on investment (ROI) can be achieved.

With a shift in focus towards what the landscape will look like post-Covid, TGI can look at how fans have become accustomed to technology. Due to the lockdown, to watch sport required HD video, surround sound, multiple screens at formats at home. For sports clubs, it means not only means they’re up against their own competition, but now it is what fans can do.

TGI aims to bring the best of both worlds together, where fans go to a game but are still immersed in the same technology at the stadium that they would be used to at home. Doing this promotes both the likelihood of these supporters returning and the potential for revenue through brands. Sports clubs can harness the power of mobile-led campaigns, with opportunities such as messaging, videos, live interaction from brands and live interaction from their favourite teams.

TGI have developed their Parallel-Ads (PADS) technology with LED screens inserted virtually, allowing for customised messaging for unique brands to different regions and geography.  This means that a broadcast for a match won’t be the exact same for each viewing audience, while it also relates to TV rights deals.

By delivering relevant advertising that people would like to see, it increases the revenue opportunities. TGI’s virtual technology means that each domestic feed is sold separately and the in-stadia feed can be sold differently to the broadcast feed. These solutions give sport organisations more control on how they want to be seen.

PADS technology also allows for TGI to send instant messaging within the stadium on LED boards. This creates a single platform to boost the value of brands. The idea is to bring a joined-up direct connection to the fan, rather than a scattering of disjointed advertising. By engaging with the customer directly, it can lead to bigger and greater growth.

For a number of years, TGI worked with FIFA on in-stadium advertising for several World Cup tournaments. TGI guided numerous partners through the transition from static to rotational advertising in countless sporting locations. TGI’s digital LED system solutions were deployed for the very first time on a major stage at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa.

TGI are renowned in the USA as a major player in stadium branding, and have also expanded successfully into Europe – now into the third consecutive 3-year-deal with UEFA. The UEFA Champions League and Europa League count on TGI for their digital advertising needs.

In 2018, TGI was acquired by leading digital media company QMS, complementing the existing sport portfolio across Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, TGI currently works with leading professional sporting codes and organisations, including Football Australia. The ambition is evident from TGI as they strive to expand its geographic footprint and diversify revenue channels.

You can find out more on the benefits of TGI Sport here.

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