Roboticket: A ticketing solution helping football fans return to stadiums safely

COVID-19 has presented the world with many challenges and football is no different.

One of the issues the game faces is bringing spectators back into the stadium, in a safe, coordinated manner.

Ticketing software development company Roboticket faced this challenge head on, creating a ticketing solution that would help its partners welcome back fans to arenas across the world.

The technology provider has clients in Germany, Brazil, UK and Germany; however, clubs in Poland were the first to use the solution.

The FA in Poland, as well as the government, outlined plans allowing only 25% of the stadium’s capacity to be sold, with a two-metre social distance buffer incorporated between different sets of fans.

Michal Pyda, Business Development Executive at Roboticket, explained the company’s thought process of how to best implement a solution around these restrictions, in fc business.

“We started to think, together with our partners, about how to do it wisely, efficiently and most important, safely,” he said.

“However, we didn’t want to implement the standard chessboard set up in the stands. We wanted to do it more cleverly, to really show that things can be done better and that technology is no limitation.

“Lockdown had been lifted in Poland…people could go to restaurants and pubs and socialise together in small groups so it made no sense to separate everyone in the stands with a two-metre distance if they were travelling to games together.”

One of the issues the company addressed with the Polish FA and its partner clubs was the necessity of allowing those people who were travelling together, who lived in the same household, to be able to sit with one another.

“Based on this assumption we would shape our algorithms to allocate people in the stands that maximised the capacity of the stadium whilst creating safe social distances between every fan or family group,” Pyda said.

“So the ultimate challenge was to develop an algorithm that allowed the creation of automatic buffers around seats according to the rules set.”

Considering the challenges of creating a safe distance between supporters and allowing household groups to sit together, Pyda and his team used viable, flexible methods to find the appropriate solution.

“Pre-COVID, the normal situation is to maximise attendance whilst minimising the gaps between fans sitting together, so we already had the mechanisms to keep people sitting tight on the stands. In order to create an automatic buffer between each transaction we implemented a reverse version of the algorithm covering complex geometrical models allowing us to shape any buffer around each transaction.

“Crucially, this mechanism is flexible so it can be adapted to work around any changes to social distancing rules that are created by law or the FA. This customisation is also required to be adaptable to the individual requirements across different territories. Today we may have a two-metre separation rule but tomorrow it might be one metre so the mechanism needs to be flexible.”

Alongside this adaptability, Pyda explained tickets needed to be personalised, especially in these current COVID circumstances, to create a safe environment for all.

“This means every ticket needs to be prescribed to an individual by name, surname and in some countries, by their social security number,” he said.

In practice, Lech Poznan was the first club to use the newly created solution by Roboticket, when fans returned to football stadiums in Poland in mid-June.

Poznan’s stadium (pre COVID) usually holds 41,000 people when full, but Pyda was unsure about the enthusiasm of fans to attend matches during these times.

“Every seat sold is precious to clubs in the current situation but we didn’t know how people would react to being able to go back to the stadium,” he stated.

“Would they really want to buy those tickets and attend the stadium or would they still be afraid? We hoped that one of the main draws would be the ability to attend games with their families.”

“The solution we created was available in Roboticket one week before the league’s resumption allowing fans that shared a household to purchase tickets together and to keep in line with the law on social distancing. Automatically creating a buffer around multi- seated transactions was key to selling more tickets in a safe environment.”

During this period overall, ticket sales increased for Roboticket’s clients by 18% when compared to those with a standard set up at other venues.

Alongside this, more revenue was derived across other matchday operations, partially due to the safe maximisation of its reduced capacity.

This is considered a financial win for football clubs, in not so normal times.

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.

FIFA and EA Sports end 30-year deal

As reported by the New York Times on Wednesday, gaming giant EA Sports and world football governing body FIFA have parted ways.

The partnership dated back to 1993, when FIFA International Soccer was launched for the SEGA Genesis.

Their current partnership was set to expire at the conclusion of the Qatar World Cup, with a new deal aiming to branch out into new areas – including NFTs.

It was reported that EA made a ‘significant offer’ for an eight-year exclusivity deal with FIFA for all of its Esports and gaming rights. However, the deal was knocked back, according to Reuters, as FIFA did not want the rights all with one company.

FIFA 23 will be the last game made in collaboration between the two organisations, set to release in late September this year, worldwide.

The FIFA series was estimated at the start of 2021 to have sold over 325 million units, according to ForbesFIFA 18 is the equal 40th highest selling video game of all time, estimated at 24 million units across all platforms.

FIFA confirmed it would still produce video games with third party developers, while EA will rebrand the FIFA series under the title EA Sports FC. The new series would include licensees such as the Premier League and LaLiga, which at this stage has authentic coverage, as all players are face scanned and the full broadcast packages akin to real life are featured in the game.

SocaLoca: Revolutionising talent identification and tournament organising

SocaLoca co-founders Lionel Foy and Sayf Ismail are providing more opportunity for footballers across the world with their innovative platform.

The concept was born in 2016 when the two first met, and now the SocaLoca app is used by national federations in Belize and Cameroon for tournament organising.

There are two main goals of the platform. Equalising talent identification and becoming a hotspot for football tournaments and data.

Foy and Ismail recognised that the pathways for footballers in some countries weren’t as equal as others. Smaller or less resourced countries and continents simply don’t have the infrastructure that the big footballing powers do globally.

The app operates in a similar way to statistics platforms like FotMob or Transfermarkt, where player profiles and stats are collated for fans and other interested parties to view. However, there is also a self-management aspect to it.

Footballers can download the platform and build their own profile, showcasing their achievements, statistics, results and more for anyone to see. This goes from juniors all the way up to seniors.

This gives those players from lesser resourced regions the opportunity to be seen and scouted like any other player, from when they’re first starting out to battling their way up through the footballing pyramid.

Co-founder Arif Sayuti.

While there are concerns around the data-sharing implicit to the platform, measures have been put in place. Players aged between 7 and 12 must be registered by their guardians and have a limit on what information can be displayed on their public profiles.

The global interconnectedness that an app like SocaLoca offers is unlike anything seen in world football to date.

The other side of the platform is its use in tournament organisation. This links in with the player profiles, where players are registered within tournaments and competitions and have their results and statistics linked to their profiles.

SocaLoca’s Competition Management Module has already seen successful use in Uganda, Belize and Cameroon, and can be used by anyone on the platform.

Football Federation Belize is now using the SocaLoca app to organise and run all regional competitions, while Cameroon’s national football academy is now a partner of SocaLoca.

Results and statistics in countries all over the world are now available to recruiters and talent identifiers, making it easier for those who would be otherwise overlooked to get their chance.

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