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City Football Group expands to India

City Football Group (CFG) have officially welcomed Indian Super League side Mumbai City as a new member of sister clubs around the world.

The owners of Premier League champions and powerhouse Manchester City have now added to their global partnerships with clubs.

Representatives of CFG was recently in India to undertake a trophy tour and have confirmed their deal with Mumbai City. This new acquisition has meant that CFG have taken a majority 65 per cent share in the top-flight Indian club.

The other 35 per cent of the club has gone to former co-owners – Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor and chartered accountant Bimal Parekh.

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This new agreement sees Mumbai City become CFG’s eighth club, who only just recently purchased third-tier Chinese club Sichuan Jiuniu FC.

Mumbai has joined English Premier League’s (EPL) Manchester City FC, A-League’s Melbourne City FC, Major League Soccer’s (MLS) New York City FC, J-League’s Yokohama F. Marinos, Uruguayan Primera División’s Club Atlético Torque and La Liga 2’s Girona FC as all the clubs as part of CFG so far.

“We believe that this investment will deliver transformative benefits to Mumbai City FC, to City Football Group and to Indian Football as a whole,” said CFG Chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak.

“City Football Group is committed to the future of football in India and to the potential for Mumbai City FC within that future.

“We are very much looking forward to playing an active role in Mumbai City FC’s fan and local communities, and working with our co-owners to further develop the club as quickly as possible.”

It’s an opportunity now for Indian football to grow as a result of this partnership, which will give Mumbai some added exposure as one of CFG’s new partners.

In conjunction with this announcement, CFG has also moved Damian Willoughby from his role as Senior Vice President of Partnerships to become CFG India Chief Executive. He will be relocated from Singapore to Mumbai in the coming weeks.

The purchase has come in the same week that CFG announced a US$500 million equity investment from Silicon Valley firm Silver Lake in a deal that sees the group now valued at US$4.8 billion.

FFA’s appointment of James Johnson is promising but where in the world does he start?

The Australian football community cheered as a collective with Friday’s official FFA announcement that James Johnson would take the reigns as Chief Executive Officer.

The primary reason for such a reaction is two fold. Many will see the departure of former CEO David Gallop as potentially the best thing to happen to the game on our shores for some time. Seen as a risk adverse, conservative and football novice by many, Gallop failed to build trust in relationships nor any belief in his approach throughout his reign.

The site of the CEO of Australian football enjoying champagne celebrations after successful Socceroo qualifications and wonderful Matilda victories only made critics and cynics irate. Most saw football as his second or third language at best, with his rather ponderous time involved in the game of rugby league also cited as another reason behind his mostly ineffectual time at the FFA.

The second reason for the broadly positive acceptance of the appointment of Johnson is quite clearly that the initial perception and hope around his ascension to the top job will bring exactly the opposite of what we currently have.

Those invested as stakeholders in the game, all the way from the local parks to the boardrooms of some of the most powerful clubs in the land, hope that Johnson’s football DNA is strong enough to bring about the structural and cultural changes that the game needs to undertake in order to grow and prosper.

Nothing brings ‘football cred’ like playing the game and Johnson’s career with the Brisbane Strikers and the fact that he also loomed on the radar of national selectors in restricted age play during the late 1990’s, gives him just that. Now a lawyer, and after a burgeoning career in sports administration and governance, where he worked with the PFA, AFC and FIFA, Johnson returns home to Australia and will attempt to clean up what many believe is a football mess

Johnson has spent his recent past as Senior Vice-President External Affairs at the City Football Group, no doubt an asset considering the group’s now global footprint in the game. His awareness of the eight different leagues into which City Football Group have become involved with will no doubt ensure Johnson sees the Australian game through the global lens required and not an A-League restricted bubble.

With a reputation for intelligence, collegiality and creating effective channels of dialogue between stakeholders, Johnson will take the reigns in January with myriad issues demanding his immediate attention. Unifying the game will be his most urgent matter of business, yet there are a number of more short term steps that will, if taken, convince people even further that he is the man to lead the game into it’s next phase.

Accelerating the creation of a national second division that brings Australian clubs under the one umbrella is vital and something that fans have seen stalled countless times by those previously charged with its implementation.

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Ensuring fans of the Australian game are permitted to support actively and avoiding the ludicrous sight of domestic supporters being escorted from stadiums for merely standing, is also key. Opening lines of communication between the FFA, stadium authorities and security companies could perhaps create some common ground and understanding.

The cost of junior football also looms on the horizon for Johnson, with an urgent need for a restructure of the expenses involved for parents of junior players. Ticket prices, stadium development and the correct expansion of the women’s game will also occupy much of his thinking in the near future.

As daunting as many of those issues sound and as difficult as the way forward may be, Australian football fans are speaking hopefully and positively about their new CEO. If he is able to use his experience and skills to implement real change and briskly, it will confirm to many that the previous CEO was doing little more than letting the game down and holding it back.

If not, Johnson will also begin to feel the pressures and weight of expectation, so clearly evident amongst passionate football fans.

Curbing facilities shortage by the power of virtual reality

It may still seem like a speculative idea that doesn’t appeal to everyone, but virtual reality (VR) could be a revolutionary way of seeing and feeling soccer and any other sport.

The potential is enormous for the use of VR – using this technology would mean watching a match for instance can become a much more immersive experience.

When fully maximised, sporting clubs can take advantage of VR technology and offer fans new experiences they have never seen before. Here are some of the positive uses of VR which revolve around simulation.

Seeing a game from a player’s point of view: If there’s a top performer in a league and their performance needs analysing, vision could be from their own point of view. Similar to GPS technology, it offers a visual demonstration and greater depth into a player’s work rate and positioning – perfect for young players coming through in need of some guidance.

Access to a sold-out game: There’s nothing worse than trying desperately to get tickets to a big occasion, only to miss out on a spot by a matter of seconds. It’s an amazing feeling going to a packed-out stadium for a final or derby clash overseas, but unfortunately not everyone can attend and instead watch from a TV. However, for the thousands that still want an equal experience of actually being there, VR can offer just that by creating the atmosphere and a 360 degree view of a ground.

Training for different scenarios: Match practice is important for testing out game plans, but requires all players to be fit at once to see how they all gel. VR could help assess what works and what doesn’t, with players potentially seeing themselves and their temmates in action from different angles. It extends further to medical staff as well, who in their training can see different situations in which they are called upon. VR can replicate different settings so that medicos are fully prepared.

The main purpose of VR is to give players, coaches, staff and fans a new perspective that they wouldn’t have seen before. It makes it easier for a sporting team to learn and ensures fans have a fair go with a similar experience to someone at a big game.

Atletico Madrid assistant connecting fans across the globe

Atletico Madrid have provided a great source for fan interaction with the use of a WhatsApp assistant that enables fans to get closer to the Spanish top-flight football club.

Fans of the La Liga side can connect via WhatsApp which has an assistant ready to communicate key information.

No matter where you are in the world, using WhatsApp is a powerful resource for direct information that helps you get closer to Atletico Madrid and gain some help along the way.

Areas that the assistant can cover are the major inner workings of the club, including tickets, membership, merchandise and an overall more immersive experience with players and coaching staff.

For example, when you first connect with the WhatsApp assistant, you will get a special welcome video message from Atletico’s Portuguese star Joao Felix.

There are three different ways to activate the Whatsapp assistant, which will work once the person first starts a conversation.

You can add the number 0023 690372769 to your contact list and sending a message to that number.

You can also scan a QR code found on the club’s official website, as well as using a WhatsApp assistant button. Everything you need to know can be found on the club’s website link down below.

Part of the digital development team at Atletico Madrid, Alejandro Ugarrio spoke about the need for increased fan support.

“We are increasingly a global club and, therefore, we have to offer global solutions to our fans worldwide,” he said.

“We realised that it was necessary to be able to respond to fans who are in other time zones and who use different languages.

“WhatsApp was the best fit for our needs, given the global reach it has.”

Atletico Madrid have committed to utilising WhatsApp are an innovative and powerful tool that already has more than 1.5 billion people around the world using the app.

For more information about connecting with the WhatsApp assistant, you can find it here: https://en.atleticodemadrid.com/noticias/atletico-de-madrid-provides-an-innovative-whatsapp-assistant-to-the-fans

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