SD Huesca: A digital transformation strategy which is reaping rewards

SD Huesca, a club who currently plays in the top division of Spain, have been working on a global digital transformation strategy for the past few years in an effort to increase the club’s sustainability.

The club have begun various modernisation processes which allows them to grow globally and streamline their operations.

SD Huesca manager Luis Sanclemente explained that technological advancement is one of the club’s main priorities.

“We’ve had a digital transformation strategy that started in 2017 and it has various objectives,” he told the La Liga Newsletter.

“As well as digitally transforming the business internally and making things easier for fans and commercial partners, we’re targeting a zero-paper policy and, as far as it’s possible, the automation of internal processes.”

To support its transformation process, the club works with various apps, from those developed by in-house platforms to those developed by third parties.

Internally, the club has established a digital file tracker that monitors documents that pass through the club via a dashboard, while keeping track of all projects in progress using an open-source software.

That software has also been used to setup the structure of its online store, digital archive and fan club app.

“We then use third-party apps for some core elements to do with our internal processes,” Sanclemente added.

“We use SAGE that helps us in everything to do with accounting and invoicing, for example. We also use the classic social media apps as well as the Docuten supplier portal and e-signature platform.”

The club looks to receive all invoices electronically with this supplier portal, either through a PDF format that can be processed through an OCR system, or via other formats such as ‘Facturae’. This allows the club to sign all types of documents digitally.

“We’re starting to incorporate the signatures of players and employees and we’re talking about having everything on the e-signature platform in the next four months,” Sanclemente stated.

The club’s overall goal is to reduce the use of paper and processes that will improve their environmental footprint. The digitalisation of administrative processes is key to reaching this objective.

“Six months ago, almost all invoices were paper,” Sanclemente revealed.

“However, we have already reached a point where 95% of invoices are sent to us electronically, which saves money in postage and storage. We have 250 signed documents that were previously paper, some of them long labour contracts that can be 50 pages long.”

While SD Huesca’s digital transformation process has already brought benefits in various areas like HR, administration and purchasing, it has also increased its commercial growth.

Josan Oliva, manager of the club’s digital department, explained: “We’re working more and more with suppliers and partners who offer technological solutions. We’ve found a commercialisation channel for assets that we wouldn’t have been able to access if we didn’t have the technological portfolio that we now have.”

As part of its collaboration with La Liga, the club continues to work on ways to use technology to directly impact the fan experience.

“We were one of the first clubs to enter the data-driven programme from LaLiga, which has an objective is to integrate all the processes related to fans, season tickets, matchday tickets and marketing into digital platforms,” Oliva said.

SD Huesca is anticipating a more fluid experience when fans eventually return to their home stadium.

“Last year, we requested an upgrade for the turnstiles so that fans could enter with NFC technology, as well as their mobile phone or their season ticket card,” Oliva said. “We want entry into the stadium to be even simpler.”

“(On the day) Tickets are bought through the online ticket section of the website and the process is automatic, as we no longer gave paper tickets. Instead, we send the buyer a PDF with a QR code that can be used to enter the stadium.”

Other digital initiatives have been vital in connecting with fans of the club, wherever they may be in the world.

“In the spring we were the first club to join with LaLiga and use the Salesforce marketing cloud for newsletters,” Oliva said.

“An important part of our relationship with the fans is the new SD Huesca Fan Club, where there will be a high degree of implementation of digital activities and content.”

Sanclemente, in conclusion, believes the digital strategy organised is necessary to survive in the modern football market.

“It is very important to keep bringing technology into football,” he stated.

“We see that some public administrations in Spain have a high level of digitization in many of their processes and we believe this gives a good reference to football clubs when it comes to modernising their administration.”

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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.

FIFA trialling Video Support challenge technology

Football Video Support (VS) has been introduced by FIFA as another means of technology to review decisions.

VS is a video review system by FIFA that is the answer to member associations that cannot implement the video-assistant-referee (VAR) system because their human and financial resources are limited and very few cameras are in use in their competitions.

There are cameras set up around the pitch, either human-operated or automated that are used by referees to make decisions after a coach reviews the play.

FIFA are currently trialling VS with a goal to explore new and existing technologies to positively impact the game, especially in order to help referees to make correct decisions, while ensuring that their potential use is cost-effective, beneficial and practical across the global football community.

How does VS work?

  1. Football Video Support (VS) is a video review system introduced by FIFA as a solution for member associations that are unable to implement the video assistant referee (VAR) system.
    a. Goal/no goal
    b. Penalty/no penalty
    c. Direct red cards (not second cautions)
    d. Mistaken identity (when the referee cautions or sends off the wrong player of the offending team)
  2. VS can be utilized only after the referee has made a decision (including waving play on as a decision) and a team has subsequently requested a review.
  3. Only the team’s head coach (or, in their absence, the senior team official in the technical area) can request a review. This request must be made immediately after the incident by twirling their finger in the air and handing a review request card to the fourth official. However, each player has the right to ask their head coach to initiate a review request.
  4. The fourth official will inform the referee of the review request and, if play has stopped (and not restarted) since the incident, the referee will go to the referee review area (RRA) to review the replay footage. If play has continued since the incident, the referee will stop play when the ball is in a neutral zone and go to the RRA to review the replay footage.
  5. During the review, the referee will be assisted by a review operator, who will show replay footage on the monitor (e.g. different camera angles, split screen, different replay speeds, etc.).
  6. The original decision taken by the referee will not be changed unless the video replay footage shows clear evidence that the decision was a clear and obvious error or that there has been a serious missed incident. As the VS system involves a small number of cameras, the replay footage will often be inconclusive and thus the original decision may not be changed.
  7. The review request must be made immediately to:

– conform to the Laws of the Game requirement that a decision cannot be changed once play has restarted after a stoppage; and

– prevent unnecessary delays to the game while the team’s head coach (or, in their absence, the senior team official present in the technical area) considers whether to make a review request.

  1. After a goal is scored, the fourth official will review the footage on the monitor and inform the referee if a clear and obvious offense was committed by the attacking team. Unless the decision involves factual matters, the referee will then review the incident and make the final decision.

During the trial phase, it is expected that each team will be able to make two requests per match. If the review by the referee results in the original decision being changed, the team retains (does not lose) that review request.

The technology is not going to replace VAR, it is just going to be used as a cheaper alternative in leagues and associations that lack the current VAR technology to ensure fairness and accuracy across all levels of professional football.

FIFA state that there is no specific timeline, and no decision has been made on when the implementation will take place.

They are currently at the trial stage and after assessing the outcome of the trial will talk with the relevant stakeholders in order to decide on the next steps, including potential additional trials by FIFA and other governing bodies.

VAR to be introduced at AFC club competitions for next season

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has confirmed the implementation of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system across its revamped three-tier club structure as well as the inaugural AFC Women’s Champions League for the 2024/25 season.

The newly introduced AFC Champions League Elite, the top club competition in the confederation that comprises 24 of Asia’s best teams, will implement VAR from the league stage, which kicks off this September.

Meanwhile, VAR support for match officials in the AFC Champions League Two will be available from the Knockout Stage onwards. The competition, comprising 32 teams, is set to commence in September.

For the AFC Challenge League, which will feature 20 teams, the technology will come into play in the all-important Final in May 2025.

Lastly, the inaugural edition of the landmark AFC Women’s Champions League, which kicks off in October, will see the VAR system made available in the Semi-finals and Final, underscoring the Confederation’s commitment to supporting and developing women’s football on the Continent.

The AFC prepared for this VAR implementation for the 2024/25 season when they conducted the AFC VAR Course in Malaysia in 2023.

This Course consisted of 25 VAR officials across Asia who were taught the in’s and outs of the technology, as part of an effort to keep the Confederation’s match officials up to date with the latest technological advancements in refereeing.

Another workshop will be taking place in the coming months to ensure the VAR Information Officer’s (VIO) of each AFC country are also kept up to date with the technology.

Earlier this year, the AFC implemented the VAR system across all matches at the AFC Asian Cup for the first time, while also becoming the first Confederation to introduce the Semi-Automated Offside Technology (SAOT) system at the Continental Men’s national team level.

It is clear that the AFC have ambitions to remain a model Confederation that is always open for innovation as well as ensuring the success of its match officials on the biggest stages in world football.

As Asian club football prepares to enter a new era, it is vital that this VAR technology is introduced at all stadiums involved in the three competitions to ensure fairness.

After the Mariners success in the AFC Cup, it will be interesting to see how this new three-tier club structure allows Australian teams to compete further in these tournaments.

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