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La Liga and Verizon combine to boost US fan engagement

La Liga has agreed to a United States partnership with telecommunications company Verizon that will last for five years, in a move to connect American soccer fans with Spain’s top-flight club competition.

The deal runs through till 2024 and falls under La Liga North America, the league’s New York-based joint venture with Relevent Sports Group. The new partnership gives Verizon’s customers a chance to interact with La Liga via the Verizon Up loyalty programme.

The initiative recently began on 1st March in time for El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Bernabeu Stadium. La Liga and Verizon will host experiential events, educational opportunities, youth programmes, tournaments and coaching clinics. The partnership also allows both parties to explore how Verizon’s technology can enhance the fan experience.

“This partnership with Verizon further validates North America as a key growth region for soccer and LaLiga, and where leading companies are recognizing the full potential of the sport and the audience it attracts.” said Boris Gartner, LaLiga North America’s Chief Executive.

By introducing this new partnership, it marks La Liga North America’s latest effort to increase awareness and visibility of the league’s brand in the region. Earlier this month, they partnered with web platform, FanWide, a free service for fans to find watch parties for sporting events across the US.

“Our partnership with LaLiga gives our customers more access to the game they love with the exclusive opportunities that differentiate. We look forward to being a part of LaLiga’s US expansion and cultivating future technology innovations to enhance the game and fan experience.” said John Nitti, Verizon’s Chief Media Officer.

As well as the 15-year deal signed with Relevant Sports in August 2018, La Liga is also looking to take at least one game overseas every season. Villarreal’s home match versus Atletico Madrid last December to Miami had been proposed but plans fell through after a court in Madrid ruled against it.

Similarly, La Liga also wanted to host Girona vs Barcelona at Hard Rock Stadium in January last year, before Barca withdrew due to a ‘lack of consensus’ among their shareholders.

It shows that La Liga aren’t shy to spread their brand and capture the world’s attention, where recently the El Clasico was shown as a live screening at Federation Square in Melbourne.

Liam Watson is a Senior Journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on international football policy, industry matters and industry 4.0

SkillCorner: Connecting video and event data analytics like never before

SkillCorner have revolutionised the football industry’s approach to data analytics in a world-leading and exciting fashion.

SkillCorner have revolutionised the football industry’s approach to data analytics in a world-leading and exciting fashion.

Established by then-university graduate in Applied Mathematics and Data Science Hugo Bordigoni and business executive Charles Montmaneix in 2015, SkillCorner extracts physical tracking data from broadcast footage and generates live match visualizations as a result.

By pairing AI data collection with broadcasting, SkillCorner allows fans to see real-time stats gathered from broadcast footage. Metrics such as Sprint Count, Acceleration and Deceleration Count, High-Speed Running Distance and Total Distance are measured via a combination of computer vision and machine learning technology that aids in multi-object tracking over the course of a match.

SkillCorner has since filled a gap in a sporting landscape which had not yet embraced artificial intelligence and had stuck largely to a manual process of collecting data.

In addition, SkillCorner has developed into one of the strongest tools for clubs in their approach to player recruitment. With an access to both a growing database of football tracking data and tracking data on matches that is received instantly, SkillCorner have proven to be a major advantage for some of the world’s biggest clubs.

Whilst SkillCorner’s early days saw their analytics acquired mostly by sportsbooks, their platform came to the attention of Liverpool’s head of research, Ian Graham, in what was a landmark moment for the data analysis tool.

At the time, Liverpool already had access to excellent tracking data for all English Premier League matches – first through ChyronHego and now with Second Spectrum – but it didn’t have anything comparable when considering moves in the transfer market.

In an interview last year with SportTechie, Bordigoni reflected on the manner in which SkillCorner filled a gap in Liverpool’s approach to the transfer market.

“When we started discussing with Liverpool, it was not the plan to go into the performance business. But Liverpool reached us and said, ‘If you’re able to do it for the betting, it means you don’t have some cameras inside [the venue], you’re doing it from the broadcast and it interests us for player recruitment,” he said.

“When they want to scout players playing Bundesliga in French Ligue 1 or in La Liga, they cannot access the tracking data.”

Liverpool’s business last year saw the then reigning English Premier League champions spend $14 million for left-back Konstantinos Tsimikas, $24 million to acquire central midfielder Thiago Alcantara and $49 million for forward Diogo Jota.

Of its three new players, Liverpool had access to rich tracking data for only Jota, who competed in the same league. SkillCorner compiled data from 23 leagues for last year’s summer transfer window and expects to provide coverage of roughly 40 in the near future.

Jota

Liverpool and SkillCorner collaborated for a year to hone the accuracy of the algorithm before agreeing to a partnership.

Word then spread across Europe – prompting more inquiries – and since then SkillCorner has begun working with new clubs in the Premier League, Italy’s Serie A, Germany’s Bundesliga (including 1.FC Köln and Bayer Leverkusen) and France’s Ligue 1 (including Olympique de Marseille and OGC Nice).

For SkillCorner, event and tracking data are critical to unlocking football performance and engaging with fans. But until now, tracking data has been expensive to collect, time intensive, and not available across different leagues and competitions.

SkillCorner is changing that by providing clubs, betting operators, and media access to exclusive player and ball tracking data without the usual restrictions.

Their fully automated system allows users to access dynamic and contextualised insights that can power a club’s recruitment process or deliver unique new insights to fans. Their Live Match Visualisation is an impressive alternative to live match streaming, with turnkey animation and immediate integration ensuring broadcasts are experienced to their full capacity.

SkillCorner’s recent growth has seen partnerships unfold that will further enhance the options available to football fans and the football industry.

A recently announced partnership with Twenty3 – creator of AI sports data tool Twenty3 Toolbox – will see physical data collected by SkillCorner added to the Toolbox. Twenty3 recently revealed a new partnership with MLS club Sporting Kansas City, giving the club access to Twenty3’s set of AI tools which now include SkillCorner player tracking.

SkillCorner are illustrative of the changing of the guard in the approach to data analytics. Whilst football has embraced data collection as a necessary facet of player, coaching and overall team improvement over time, SkillCorner have established an alternative forward-thinking method that is adaptable to its multitude of user types.

Liverpool confirms expansion for Anfield Road Stand

LFC

Liverpool Football Club’s proposed expansion of the Anfield Road Stand has been confirmed.

The project, which has been undergoing enabling works throughout the off-season in anticipation, will begin with an official ground-breaking ceremony planned for next week.

Liverpool City Council awarded the club planning permission in June 2021, which included the right to hold up to six concerts and major events at the stadium for a period of five seasons.

The redevelopment of the stand will see 7,000 more seats added to Anfield, taking its overall capacity to more than 61,000. Following two stages of public consultation and feedback on the initial plans, Anfield Road’s expansion project will reroute Anfield Road itself around the footprint of the new stand.

Akin to the construction process undergone by the recently redeveloped Main Stand, the Anfield Road Stand will be worked on throughout the season while matches continue to be played.

Liverpool Managing Director Andy Hughes outlined the steps taken by the club to ensure that the Anfield Road Stand redevelopment could go ahead.

“We have been clear from the beginning that in order for this expansion to go ahead we needed the co-operation of local residents and the community, to successfully navigate the complex planning landscape, and to ensure the project is financially viable,” he said.

“We needed certainty for this project to progress and are now in a position to be able to move forward. We began this journey in 2014 and are grateful to everyone for the contributions they have made to bring the project to this stage.”

When complete, the expanded Anfield Road Stand is expected to create around 400 matchday roles in addition to the 2,200 people currently employed in various operations at each home game, of which 95 per cent are known to live in the Liverpool City Region.

The redeveloped Anfield Road Stand is anticipated to be ready for the 2023/24 season and its design will see the lower tier retained and refurbished with a new upper tier built above it.

As well as an increased capacity, the redeveloped stand will be similar to the Main Stand, with improved concourses and sports bar lounge hospitality facilities. This stand will also see the relocation of the Family Park to a covered position.

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