How football clubs can connect with fans at home

With fans unable to cheer on their teams in large numbers during the pandemic, football leagues and clubs have needed to find other ways to connect with them.

Sport is integral to many people’s lives and the experience of attending matches is incredibly popular. The 2019/20 A-League season had a total attendance of more than a million people. Until full crowds can return clubs need to find digital and virtual ways to engage with supporters.

Social media campaigns have been one opportunity for football organisations to connect with fans. Earlier this year FIFA created the #WorldCupAtHome campaign in response to the pandemic.

“When the scale of what was happening became clear, we had to quickly ask ourselves ‘what does the world need from FIFA right now?’,” FIFA’s Chief Commercial Officer, Simon Thomas said about the #WorldCupAtHome campaign.

“We have an incredibly rich archive, full of treasured football moments, and this campaign gave us a platform to experiment and innovate, as well as to support critical health messages and entertain our fans in this time of uncertainty.”

The campaign featured digital content over a range of social media platforms. Part of the campaign allowed fans to vote for which world cup matches they wanted to be streamed on FIFA’s YouTube channel.

FIFA’s campaign was incredibly successful reaching 300 million fans in 126 countries. FIFA also won the Content Creation Award from the Leaders Sports Awards for the #WorldCupAtHome campaign.

Manchester United now offers digital editions of its matchday programme United Review. The club has introduced the programme at an introductory price of $1.67 (AUD) however this will increase to $4.62 (AUD).

The current edition includes articles about the club and their opponents as well as interactive content such as videos. An interview with Manchester United’s forward Anthony Martial is paired with a video collection of all his 51 goals in the Premier League.

“With fans still not allowed in stadiums in England, the cover for this special edition – and all of our Champions League programmes this season – is dedicated to the part supporters have played in European nights over the years,” Manchester United said on its website.

English League One side AFC Wimbledon have also started using the digital magazine platform MatchDay Digital.

“Digital is a much more cost-effective and time-effective way of operating and clubs need to challenge more fans to move to digital we move into the future, because it’s better for us as businesses, and it’s better for fans as consumers,” AFC Wimbledon CEO Joe Palmer told fc business.

Official club/league websites and apps provide yet another option for organisations to provide content directly to their fans that can be accessed easily.

West Bromwich Albion have decided to move away from the Football League interactive platform and have instead decided to launch their own digital platforms to control their app and website.

West Bromwich Albion’s Head of Marketing, Laura Gabbidon spoke to fc business about the digital experience for supporters.

“Fans expect a good experience with the club whether it’s digital or physical. Fans want to be proud of the club they love, and we hope the launch of the new website and app has made them proud,” she said.

“We were well underway with this project before the pandemic hit. It’s made digital even more of a priority, if that was possible, as the primary way we can engage with fans now.”

English Premier League’s Manchester City has its own streaming service.

Although it was launched before the pandemic City+ allows specialty and exclusive content to be delivered straight to the club’s fans.

The subscription service includes live Manchester City matches and full-match replays (available for 24 hours after the game).

Feature length documentaries created by CityTV are also included on the platform. One documentary on the CITY+ ‘Made in Gran Canaria’ about former City captain David Silva.

Manchester City offers a 30 day free trial and then a $3.67 (AUD) fee per month which can be cancelled at any time.

The subscription is also easy to access and is available across online, app and tv platforms.

“Following the launch of our OTT platform last year, we wanted to continue enhancing the viewing experience for fans and offer greater flexibility to consume our content. We’re now rolling our exclusive content out across our digital estate,” Nuria Tarre, Chief Marketing Officer at City Football Group, said about City+.

“CityTV was given unprecedented access to David’s inner circle who provided a rare insight into the rise of one of the Premier League’s greatest players. Producing original and never seen before content for our fans is at the heart of our strategy and ‘Made in Gran Canaria’ will bring fans even closer to the stories of one of City’s most decorated players.”

There are many options for football clubs to connect with their fans during the pandemic.

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Daniel Foley is a sports junior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and micro industry matters.

ReSpo.Vision: AI and AR/VR that revolutionises data tracking

ReSpo.Vision is an AI & Computer Vision-based optical tracking system which automatically collects player skeletal tracking data from any single camera recording of a sporting event.

Using immersive 3D visuals, the system allows the audience to unlock performance data and insights that weren’t before available like tactical or scouting insights with AR/VR.

Respo.Vision – a Polish-based start-up founded in early 2020 started by four founders – Pawel Osterreicher, Mateusz Szala, Wojciech Rosiński, and Łukasz Grad.

These four individuals have had combined experiences in data science, consulting and machine learning engineering, and believe AI can unlock a wealth of possibilities by capturing previously uncapturable player tracking data.

The company’s mission is to bring a new depth of analytics to sports using Computer Vision.

The product merges the immersive AR/VR world with the deep analytical environment that sports is, and the company specifically specialises in football.

They leverage bleeding-edge deep learning algorithms to automatically generate 3D skeletal tracking data from sporting events and analyse it with an unprecedented level of insight.

The technology system detects 3D positions of the ball and 50+ body parts of every player, in every video frame, using a single-camera video input (which can be any recording, present or past, a TV broadcast, or a training session recording). Fully automatically, for any game, with accuracy measured in centimetres, and without any wearable sensors or expensive pre-installed cameras.

The company are scaling up their clientele (among them clubs, leagues, federations, media, or sports data companies) and are doing so by offering an unmatched depth of knowledge in a scalable, and cost-effective way.

ReSpo.Vision Head of Product Mateusz Dłużniewski presenting at the GSIC powered by Microsoft Summit APAC in Singapore.

The technology is split into two different products: Data & Stats as well as Visuals which allow the audience a chance to choose how they want to experience the game.

This is how each work:

Data and Stats

– 2D & 3D Tracking data: Uses coordinates of players’ body parts & the ball generated from any match recording, even TV broadcasts with the option to view the game in either 2D or 3D.

– Physical data: Tracks accurate physical measurements, including speed, acceleration, body orientation, or motion types

– Game reports: 3D tracking-derived analytical summary of any game. Revealing unique metrics, including player zones of control, Team Compactness, Open Passing Lanes, Pressing performance, and more – all to power better tactical decisions

Visuals

3D Digital twin of football: Recreate any real-life game in a realistic, VR-ready 3D environment with unlimited camera perspectives and full immersion.

Matchday in the metaverse: Open the gates to the virtual stadium and use VR technology to teleport fans directly into the heart of the action for an incredible immersive experience.

Data visualisations & AR Add-Ons: Enhance the fan experience or aid the player coaching process with visualized stats & insights (e.g. tactical view, pitch control overlay).

ReSpo.Vision Body Keypoints Detection.

How this technology can be used in Australia

Specifically in Australia, technology like this is severely underutilised at the top level and will be part of football in the near future, where Australia can get ahead of other Asian countries in this field.

An example to look upon is Melbourne Knights and their recent partnership with advanced data tracking system ProTrainUp who aren’t currently connected to any other club in the country.

More clubs in the country should follow in these footsteps and invest in immersive and analytical systems that give them a deeper understanding of the game, where the top European clubs first flagged as a big importance on improving on the pitch.

The founders in a recent interview with SportsPro also suggested that the system can be used by broadcast media companies to give their audience an enhanced viewing experience by allowing them to view advanced metrics, a feature that Australian football also lacks on its A-League broadcasts.

The company is truly revolutionising the AI sports realm with fans, clubs and the media being the target audience for this technology to shape the way we view and analyse football.

Melbourne Knights confirm innovative alliance with ProTrainUp

Melbourne Knights Football Club has confirmed a new partnership with leading football management software company, ProTrainUp.

This collaboration is set to enhance communication and streamline operations with the Club, marking a significant step forward in the commitment to excellence and growth.

Founded in 2013, ProTrainUp is a club management system fuelled by data driven technology, created by and for the football community. ProTrainUp combines quantitative and qualitative data to enhance club operations for both staff and participants, enabling the Club to:

  1. Enhance communication between club staff and players with built-in public and private messaging services.
  2. Simplify the organization and delivery of training sessions using plans and sessions provided by top international federations and clubs, available only through ProTrainUp.
  3. Maintain an up-to-date calendar of training sessions and matches.
  4. Gather data and statistics on players to create detailed reports on individual player development and overall team progress.

ProTrainUp is a system used by clubs around the world including European clubs such as Dinamo Zagreb FC and FC Porto, highlighting its importance in modern football.

The main objective of this partnership is to enhance communication among club staff, players, and parents.

ProTrainUp’s advanced software will deliver a centralised platform for efficient and effective communication, guaranteeing that all members of the Melbourne Knights community stay well-informed and engaged.

The system is accessible both online and through the app, allowing players and parents to enable push notifications so they never miss important Club updates.

The partnership will play a huge role in upskilling the juniors program in 2025, a huge focus that President Simon Pincic spoke about in length in his exclusive interview with Soccerscene.

The Knights will leverage ProTrainUp’s comprehensive tools for training management, performance tracking, and development planning to ‘provide the juniors with the best possible environment to grow and succeed’ as per their statement.

This will help more than just the junior players however with ProTrainUp, the coaches will benefit from this technology with seamless tracking of player progress, and enhanced training experiences, all contributing to the overall development of the junior players.

The club spoke about the future of their management through this advanced technology system.

“We look forward to a successful partnership and are excited about the positive impact it will have on our Club and community. Together with ProTrainUp, we are committed to building a stronger, more connected, and highly effective football club,” Knights said in a club statement.

This is an excellent and innovative partnership by the Knights that sees them advance forward in the development of technology.

The Knights have been vocal about the importance of junior development and have historically been one of Australia’s most successful clubs at creating stars from their system, with ProTrainUp only advancing that cause.

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