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How La Liga is successfully approaching digital transformation

Digital transformation is a key part of the future of football.

Spain’s La Liga competition continues to be at the forefront in this area, with administrators guiding clubs to embrace new digital tools to communicate with fans, streamline services and acquire new data.

La Liga recently shared its technological expertise with Spain’s Chamber of Commerce, to produce a paper for the country’s small to medium-sized businesses.

In the paper, businesses are provided with an explanation of the underlying principles of digital transformation and are encouraged to adopt various technologies in their operations.

The resource will also be further useful for La Liga clubs themselves, to expand on the growing culture of digital transformation in their processes.

Since 2013, La Liga has identified technology as a pillar of future growth, assisting clubs with various digital transformation projects.

The ultimate aim for the organisation is to ensure all 42 clubs (in the first and second tier) move towards the same direction.

Minerva Santana, La Liga’s director of innovation, strategy and technological transformation, explained in the La Liga Newsletter: “The first step is to generate awareness at all levels, but especially at the level of leaders and decision makers, the relevance of digital transformation as a lever for competitiveness and value generation.

“From there, it’s useful to have a self-evaluation process to work out which point in the digital transformation process a business is at,” she added.

“This creates a baseline from which you can establish objectives and a strategy. Once the objectives and priorities are established, it’s important to build a plan and to seek support internally and from external partners.”

Recent examples that have been successful and referential in world sport include, RCD Mallorca adopting technology that is wearable and remotely monitors player’s workouts; Osasuna introducing intelligent shinpads into their club academies; Real Sociedad developing smart scarves and shirts, using wearable NFC tags; Celta de Vigo installing remote video technology at their training complex and Valencia CF creating a seat delivery service which allows fans to order food and drink from their seats at the stadium.

In Spain’s second tier, La Liga Smartbank, clubs are increasingly ambitious when it comes to technological growth. Clubs in that division have grown their online presence by 23 percent since July of last year, which is a growth rate far higher than any other second tier in Europe’s top leagues.

UD Almeria, CF Fuenlabrada and Cádiz CF have recorded growth of over 85 percent, year-on-year.

“This shows that an increased focus on digital helps clubs to reach a wider fanbase,” Santana added.

“In the last year, La Liga clubs have recorded some of the highest growth rates in Europe when it comes to digital adoption, particularly within digital communications.

“Our focus is to continue building on what has been achieved and to continue working with clubs of all sizes to embrace new digital tools that will help evolve their business and support the growth of the entire competition.”

La Liga has formed alliances with technology giants such as Microsoft, building dedicated teams of technology experts in innovation, as well as data analytics.

These teams have continued to stimulate growth opportunities for clubs, through the sharing of resources and expertise.

“At La Liga, we’ve created a portfolio of digital services and integration programmes that allow us to respond to the concrete needs of each club,” Santana claimed.

“We’ve built an ecosystem in the areas of innovation, digital and data that we’ve made available to clubs to help them with their business objectives.”

Examples of this include platforms that are shared with clubs to help them build apps and websites, the use of the Sandbox tool for analysis of match data in the cloud and much more.

“The new technologies that come from digital transformation provide the flexibility to adapt to constantly evolving behaviours and consumption habits, so the appearance of new products and services, as well as the appearance of new models, will be more frequent,” she said.

“This will make the competitive environment more complex but richer.

“At La Liga we have always conveyed the importance of digital transformation to clubs and its impact on competitiveness. The success we are seeing is creating a drive for new innovation across the competition and this is something we will continue to support,” Santana concluded.

For more information on the local scene, read our piece on why digital transformation is vital for Australian football here.

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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.

Villarreal CF to open new academy in Sydney

La Liga’s Villarreal CF has announced that it will open its second Australian football academy in Sydney.

The Villarreal Sydney Academy is set to hold an ID clinic at St Ives Showground, where the academy will be based on December 12 to select players for the club’s program in 2021.

Villarreal coaches are expected to visit the academy to provide training for coaches and players when possible. Tryout sessions, offer clinics, provide coaching education, supplement programs and camps will be run by Villarreal coaches.

Opportunities to visit Villarreal’s state-of-the-art training facilities in Spain will also be offered to players who demonstrate their top-level skills, training and behaviour.

If selected participants will get to experience the life of a professional soccer player first-hand by observing training sessions, meeting professional players, practicing with the club’s elite academy players and training under Villarreal coaches.

In a video message Villarreal defender Alberto Moreno encouraged young boys and girls in Sydney to join the new academy and welcomed “Villarreal Sydney Academy to the Villarreal family.”

The club said that coaches at Villarreal Sydney will be trained under the Villarreal CF methodology, while an individual player development approach will be taken to help players grow.

“Australia is packed with untapped soccer talent and we are sure that our unique approach to the beautiful game will have an extremely positive impact on the players and the Sydney community, like it has in Melbourne,” Villarreal CF Director of International Business, Juan Antón said.

Villarreal CF’s Melbourne academy, Monash Villarreal opened in February and has over 200 players at the academy.

“We are not partnering with Villarreal only to use their name. Villarreal Sydney Academy is going to provide the best development program in Sydney and is giving a real pathway to our players. We want all of our players to feel that Sydney – Australia – is just one step away from Villarreal – Spain,” Director at Villarreal Sydney Academy, Jacobo Muñoz said.

Villareal was established in 1923 and currently sits second on the La Liga table. The club has previously competed in the UEFA Champions League.

Australian football needs to further explore the potential of Twitch

Twitch continues to be one of the world’s leading platforms to live stream content and Australian football should build their presence on the service.

The FFA launched the E-League in 2018, a competitive Esports league where professional gamers played and represented A-League clubs in the FIFA video game series.

The league is broadcast on the Amazon subsidiary Twitch, with viewing numbers impressive across the board.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the opening night of the E-League saw 138,000 people tuning into the show, a figure which was bigger than most A-League games in the past few years.

Speaking at the time of the launch, former FFA head of commercial, digital and marketing, Luke Bould, explained that the idea behind the E-League was to attract a younger audience and build awareness of the A-League’s brand.

“We’re being entrepreneurial, we’re taking a risk. We have to be there and for us it’s a strategic advantage, there’s a million plus people playing this game and we don’t have enough fans of the A-League. We can try and influence them through this media,” he told SMH.

Bould claimed the E-league’s opening night attracted a larger social media following than any other streamed event covered by the FFA (including Bert van Marwijk’s unveiling before the 2018 World Cup).

“That’s the strongest thing we’ve ever done in terms of social platforms, whether it’s live press conferences, it’s by far the strongest thing we’ve ever done,” he said.

Fast forward two years, the E-League now has over 6,000 followers on Twitch and just under four million video views.

The Esports competition has engaged fans successfully on Twitch, but there are more options that Australian football can take advantage of on the platform.

Those in charge could develop strategies to encourage the sizeable E-League fanbase to further engage with real life A-League content, on the same service.

The issue is, there is no official A-League account on the live-streaming service.

The absence of this could be seen as a missed opportunity.

La Liga recently became one of the first major European sports competitions to join Twitch.

On the service, they now broadcast behind the scene’s footage, preview and review shows, special programs on featured players in the competition and much more.

The Spanish competition’s partnership with Twitch also allows for collaboration opportunities which benefits the streaming community.

Could the A-League enter a similar partnership on a smaller scale?

Since Fox Sports has currently cut back on producing A-League magazine shows, it could address a current hole in the market.

Producing exclusive real-life content on Twitch could also see more young football fans flocking to the platform, in addition to those who are already interested in the E-League competition.

It helps that Twitch is an extremely popular platform for a young audience (a market which Australian football administrators are currently targeting), particularly male.

According to Globalwebindex, 73% of Twitch users are aged between 16-34, with 65% of all users being male.

Another possibility for the Australian game is to follow the likes of famous clubs such as Real Madrid and Juventus, as well as leagues such as the English Premier League, in broadcasting live matches on the platform.

Real Madrid and Juventus have their own channels on the service and they have broadcast friendlies and youth team matches.

The English Premier League live-streamed matches on Twitch for UK users earlier this year for the first time.

With murmurs that the FFA Cup is set to be broadcast on YouTube next season, it may not be the worst idea to showcase some of those games on Twitch instead.

It would open up potential commercial opportunities for the present and the future, on a platform where Australian football needs to increase its visibility.

It could not only benefit A-League clubs, but also maximize the exposure for NPL clubs competing in the cup competition.

If Australian football is serious about its focus on engaging a digital audience, Twitch needs to be further entrenched in its plans.

STATSports leading the way for GPS tracking

Big-name Premier League clubs have chosen to partner up with STATSportswho are industry leaders in providing GPS tracking systems and analysis. 

Up to five of the top six in the league have already made the switch to STATSports, including Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur – while the service is used by the majority of fellow Premier League sides.

These Premier League clubs have worked closely with STATSports as they developed Sonra 3.0 and Sonra Live which is the latest software upgrade that the Premier League will be set to receive – featuring marketing-leading analysis platforms and further improvement on athlete monitoring.

STATSports are widely regarded across professional football – in addition to their big-name Premier League clients, they also push further into the English FA and abroad across the world, venturing out to the likes of Paris Saint Germain and Juventus. 

STATSports were involved in the Project Restart by informing the Premier League with a Player Proximity Report, using their data to show which type of sessions would cause players to come to together more often. STATSports offers a quick and time-effective process, with download times four times faster than any platform. It means receiving results from a typical session for a squad of players would take under two minutes. 

For elite clubs, Sonra 3.0 is the ideal go-to solution and it further streamlines and enhances performance with a host of new features that will make a difference. Sonra 3.0 is the brand-new product launch by STATSports and the latest offering for anyone looking to acquire their very own GPS tracking and analysis. 

Among the key inclusions, session planning features have been added to the calendar, allowing club performance departments to map up training cycles for weeks in advance. Video integration in the Video Manager has been developed further while adding a full squad 2D positioning. There is also a Scientific Calculator, allowing practitioners to create bespoke custom metrics based upon their own requirements.

Users are now able to choose between ‘Light’ and Dark’ modes as they can customise their preferred theme when on the app. 

The launch of Sonra 3.0 has coincided with the introduction of a new iPad application called Sonra Live, enabling coaches to monitor training in real-time. 

Sonra Live’s real-time data has been independently validated to form a perfect correlation with downloaded data, making this the most accurate live-monitoring solution of its kind. Coaches can then make instant, informed and impactful decisions for anything they intended to achieve. 

Sonra Live features team-level reporting, detailed individual-player dashboards, drill cutting for precise session analysis, post-session reporting via PDF/CSV and synchronisation to desktop applications for further analysis. 

STATSports’ on-board metric processing means there will be no data drop-out and they are the only provider in the industry to give 100% identical live and post-session download data quality.  

With flawless results, this puts the power in the end users’ hands to make immediate decisions with confidence no matter what they want to do. Coaches can set multiple thresholds for individual players or full squads, while multiple coaches can each monitor their own iPads simultaneously. 

“This is an exciting day for STATSports and the many teams we work with. This is another major advancement in the level in which coaches and managers can monitor their players,” STATSports co-founder, Sean O’Connor said. 

“Technology is now truly integrated into the game and we have played our part in that. We have worked closely with those teams during lockdown and also used the time to finalise the development of our new Sonra platform – we’re confident that our clients will further benefit from working with us through the introduction of this.” 

The creation of both Sonra 3.0 and Sonra Live reaffirms STATSports’ commitment to being the industry leader in GPS tracking and innovations for this space, supplying this resource to world-renowned clubs. 

“We have really enjoyed developing this new software platform. Time is a key commodity for clubs,” STATSports co-founder, Alan Clarke said. 

“The quicker they can make decisions with reliable and accurate feedback, the greater the edge they have on their competition.  

“We will continue to push the boundaries of what is possible and ensure athletes can do the same on the training pitch and the competitive environment.” 

For more information on STATSports, you can find it here.

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