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Real Sociedad enhances fan experience for match days

La Liga Santander football club Real Sociedad have changed the game for technology use, finding ways to continually evolve in the area of fan experience.

Having recently renovated their home ground Anoeta Stadium, Real Sociedad have made sure that fans will get an even better experience alongside an increased seating capacity and improved facilities.

Coupled with their strong top-four status in the Spanish top flight, the club is looking to provide the ideal fan experience, driven by Juan Iraola, Director of Real Sociedad’s Digital Department.

“The project of transformation started in January of 2016 and has swept over the entire club by focusing on four areas: fan engagement; sporting excellence; the stadium and physical spaces; and business processes,” he said.

With the reopening of their stadium, Real Sociedad have utilised technology to ensure they’re consistently able to fill the stands.

The club can use analytics data to look at average attendances and monitor fan behaviours over time, with new offers and initiatives coming into place if needed.

“You need to attract people to the stadium and to do that the fan experience has to be unique, so we’re working on that as a club with many activities,” Iraola said.

“In our province, with 700,000 inhabitants, we’re attracting numbers that are very difficult to achieve, this is something everyone is happy with.”

Another key pillar for Real Sociedad’s technology use is the mobile app, with new developments to boost the fan experience further – wearable technology boosts fan interaction through the use of a smart scarf and smart shirt.

Fans can scan a QR code that directs them to speak offers, discounts and experiences, while the ‘One Club Man’ scarf connects with the club app, launched in 2018 and called Realzale.

The Realzale Programme has had almost 17,000 supporters signed up, including 13,210 season ticket holders.

The club app also features a digital members card, allowing fans to access the stadium through their phone and has the ability to share a season ticket if a fan cannot make a particular match.

“Before, if you couldn’t go and wanted to give your season ticket to a friend then you had to meet them to hand it over, but now we’ve eliminated that process and made virtual sharing of the season ticket easy,” Iraola said.

With all the technology advancements mentioned, they all lead back to the club’s official website.

Real Sociedad can identify areas to concentrate on based on the needs of their fans and what they’re interested in. By adapting to constant change, the club can thrive in analysis of their data.

“The first thing we had to do was adapt the website for the new generation of users,” Iraola said.

“Recent data shows that 70% of visits to the website in the past week have been through mobile.

“We have to look after everyone, but we’re in a period of analysing things. Digital needs to be approached as a marathon and we will go little by little.

“There’s a sense of doing things differently in order to move towards a future that nobody can truly anticipate. We question everything.”

Liam Watson is the Managing Editor at Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy, industry matters and technology.

Sky Sports extends rights to NIFL

The Northern Ireland Football League has announced that Sky Sports will be the exclusive broadcaster of Football in the region once again.

The Northern Ireland Football League has announced that Sky Sports will once again be the exclusive broadcaster of top-flight football in the region for the next three years.

The Irish League has had a long-lasting partnership with Sky over the years and the agreement will see the relationship in place until the end of the 2024/25 season.

The new agreement will see four Danske Bank Premiership fixtures and the BetMcLean League Cup final broadcast live across the UK & Ireland each season.

Northern Ireland Football Chief Executive, Gerard Lawlor:

“We sincerely thank Sky Sports for their continued backing of our game and we look forward to showcasing some of the best NI Football League matches together over the next three seasons,” he said.

“To continue to have the invaluable support of such a high-profile broadcaster shows how far our league has progressed in recent years as we bring our game to an increasing audience of loyal fans.

“The NI Football League brand is continuing to grow outside of the confines of Northern Ireland, and through Sky Sports, many football fans are now becoming more familiar with the rich history of our clubs and as well as some of the household names that have played in the Irish League.”

Sky Sports Director of Football, Gary Hughes:

“As a long-term partner to the Northern Ireland Football League, we’re delighted to extend Sky Sports’ support of the league and ensure that its entertaining action continues to be available to our customers,” he said.

“Sky Sports customers will be able to enjoy the Northern Ireland Football league alongside our ever-expanding football offering in the UK & Ireland which includes over 500 live games in 2022, from the Premier League, EFL, Scottish Premiership and FA Women’s Super League as well as international action in the form of World Cup Qualifiers, and this month’s Africa Cup of Nations – placing Sky Sports as the home of live football.”

Valencia CF presents revised stadium upgrade plans

Valencia CF President Anil Murthy has stated the club will not deliver a “low-cost stadium” after holding talks with Mayor Joan Ribó over reviving the long-running Nuevo Mestella project.

Valencia CF President Anil Murthy has stated the club will not deliver a “low-cost stadium” after holding talks with Mayor Joan Ribó over reviving the long-running Nuevo Mestella project.

Valencia’s stadium, the Nuevo Mestalla, was originally under construction in 2009. However, over the last 12 years, due to financial issues and negotiation breakdowns, construction has never been completed and the situation has become known as one of the world’s most notorious stadium projects.

Murthy presented revised plans to a Council delegation led by Ribó, with the club seeking to recommence work on the stadium in order to ensure it retains the advantages granted to it under an ATE construction license given in 2012.

The plans presented to the council include a stadium capacity between 43,000 to 46,000, expandable to 60,000. The stadium would have a second ring dedicated almost exclusively to leisure and restaurant offerings, while the roof will be fitted with solar panels in an effort to drive sustainability.

Valencia Mayor, Joan Ribo:

“Initially it is proposed for a capacity comparable to that which the (Mestalla) stadium currently has (48,500), but expandable to 62,000 spectators. But I think this is not the fundamental element,” he said.

“The fundamental element is the novelty of this second ring that has seemed to me to be a remarkable element that is not in many football stadia. They propose a roof that is made of photovoltaic panels, which is an example at that level that I want to value.

“They have assured us that they have guarantees with the bank where they have the debt, which is now Caixabank.

“They have presented us with a calendar where in June 2022 the works of the sports centre would begin, in October 2022 the start of the works of the stadium and in August 2024 the inauguration of the new Mestalla. The calendar seems realistic and possible, but if it is not met, they will listen to us.”

In December, Valencia revealed plans to use funds from LaLiga’s strategic venture, with global investment fund CVC Capital Partners to help finance the construction of its new stadium. Valencia is reportedly set to receive approximately $189 million AUD from LaLiga as part of the LaLiga Impulso venture. $125 million of which is set to head to the stadium project.

Valencia CF President, Anil Murthy:

“The meeting has been very positive. After the two meetings with the Generalitat, today we have taken an important step by formally presenting the project we have to the important institution, which is the City Council,” he said.

“We have agreed on recommencing work as soon as possible, after presenting the project to the Generalitat and the City Council.

“Nobody talks about a low-cost stadium. It’s going to be a stadium that’s going to give a lot of people a lot of hope and it’s going to mean a lot of investment in the city. It’s going to be something different and something attractive.”

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