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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.

Football Queensland’s digital broadcast continues to grow

FQ

Football Queensland have continued to go from strength to strength in 2021 with more than 390,000 unique viewers confirmed to have tuned into 711 games broadcast live and on-demand.

The number of unique viewers increased by 180 percent in 2021 as fans flocked to FQ channels to engage with local football content.

FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci outlined the investment in broadcasting has generated enormous value to players, coaches and clubs throughout the state.

“We have seen huge growth in viewership of Queensland competitions, which creates fantastic visibility for our products,” Cavallucci said.

“FQ made a strategic decision to broadcast more women’s games in 2021 and we are pleased to have seen a 187 percent increase in viewership for the NPL Queensland Women’s competition.

“Players, coaches and clubs are all benefiting from FQ’s commitment to broadcasting games live and on-demand.

“High-quality broadcasts allow players to review their games and create highlights packages which can be used for identification purposes.

“We have also received great feedback from coaches who use the on-demand and highlights packages for match analysis.

“Clubs are also using the platform to advertise their sponsors which helps to grow the Queensland football economy.

“This year alone, FQ broadcast hundreds of games in the NPL and FQPL competitions as well as FFA Cup, Kappa Women’s Super Cup, F-League, community tournaments and exhibition games.

“These competitions were boosted by live calls from our fantastic team of commentators. One of these commentators, Campbell Johnson, has since been recruited to call A-Leagues games for Paramount+.

“We will continue to create value for the Queensland football community by boosting the visibility of talented individuals working in our pathways.”

How KEEPUP will revolutionise football in Australia

Late last week, the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) launched their new $30 million digital platform KEEPUP.

The main aim of the new digital hub is to convert a larger proportion of the 8 million football fans in this country into supporters of Australia’s premier domestic competitions.

“The platform was delivered to broaden and enhance the fan experience, connecting A-Leagues fans and international competition fans in one place,” a statement from the APL read.

“In its current form, the platform will focus on creating and curating content to bring fans close to the game however they choose, with significant expansion planned into the future.

“KEEPUP will feature compelling content from the best of the A-Leagues, European and world football, the Socceroos and Matildas, NPL, and FFA Cup.

“A-League clubs’ content hubs will also be integrated onto the platform to ensure fans are offered the most comprehensive football resource available in Australia.”

KEEPUP, across their website and app, have already begun producing a wide array of content from breaking news stories, expert columns from football journalists, articles on football culture, video productions and in-depth analysis features, not just on the A-League, but world football.

The KEEPUP team is led by Optus’ former director of sport Richard Bayliss, who is in charge of the editorial, social media and production practices across the platform.

KEEPUP will have a strong impetus on keeping editorial independence and not cheerlead for the APL and its clubs at every opportunity.

“Day one of the launch we had two A-League CEOs complaining about criticism on our platform, this is all about being authentic and you can’t have a propaganda site,” APL Managing Director, Danny Townsend, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Football fans are extremely discerning and the minute they see something that is not authentic…they’ll call that out.”

Alongside the diverse content on the platform, KEEPUP will look to innovate in ways which will engage new audiences and provide those they already have connected with, with unique experiences.

“This is just the beginning,” Chief Commercial Officer at the APL, Ant Hearne, said.

“We have a bold plan to evolve KEEPUP into an unparalleled global digital hub, expanding functionality beyond a content base to include gamification, e-Commerce, ticketing, second screen live stadium experiences and loyalty programs.”

Other codes in Australia such as Cricket, AFL and NRL have all invested heavily in their own digital content over time, however the $30 million digital investment from the APL is playing to the strategic advantages that football has over other sports.

“I look at what the other sports are doing and they’re very much wed, fortunately, to TV deals that mean they don’t need to do what we’re doing,” Townsend told the SMH.

“We’re in a situation where we’ve got an enormous base, we’ve got the youngest fan base of any sport in the country who are all digital natives. We’re going to get into the direct-to-consumer business and that will preserve the long-term revenues and build the football economy.”

If you register an account on KEEPUP (which is free to do so), you will receive a four-week trial to Paramount+ – the service which is showcasing the majority of Australian football games for the next five years.

This offer is a slice of things to come between the APL and their new broadcast partner ViacomCBS, with future plans for content from the digital platform to be integrated further into the Channel 10 Network and Paramount+.

“What Channel 10 and ViacomCBS bought into was our strategy,” Townsend told the SMH.

“The ViacomCBS deal was a really critical one for us on many levels financially, but equally the reach it delivers us. But importantly, the owners have continued to invest and put their money where their mouth is.

“The sports media and commercial landscape is changing and the days of sports just serving up content on television, taking a big cheque and playing sport are over. It’s changing in a way that requires sports to take the initiative and connect with their fans.

“We’ve got to become an entertainment business because at the end of the day, if we’re going to grow revenues of the sport, we need to engage our fans more effectively.”

The APL’s KEEPUP platform has only been around for just over a week, but its long-term agenda has the potential to change the perception of the game in this country.

© 2021 Soccerscene Industry News. All Rights reserved. Reproduction is prohibited.

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